November 2006 Archives


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (41 votes)
| Comments (29) | Views (53)

armagetron.jpgDerekWAnyone with fond memories of the old arcade days will remember TRON, though few seem to remember the film. The movie-inspired arcade game Light-Cyles spawned a host of clones and actually earned more than the movie during its initial release.

ArmageTron Advanced is one of those clones. Fortunately there are a few things about this game that set it apart from the others:

  • It's free and available for every OS.
  • It's in 3-D rather than the classic top-down arcade style.
  • It also has a free, easy-to-use online multiplayer option.
That last bullet point is the one I'd like to drive home and is the reason this program is so darn fun.

The object of the game is to not hit a wall, though there's far more to it than that. The player pilots a Light-Cycle and can neither speed up nor slow down, only turn left or right using the Z and X keys. As the Light-Cycle moves it leaves behind a solid trail called a wall. Any other players (including yourself) that run into the wall die.

Walls never disappear, so you'll have to be careful not to work yourself into a corner and use your walls to work other players into corners. The last cycle left standing wins. It's also important to note that the closer the player drives to a wall, the faster his Light-Cycle will go. The result is an exiting, fast-paced game full of strategic planning. ArmageTron Advanced also comes with an offline mode for those of us with a slow connection. The AI and gameplay are still completely customizable, so you aren't losing too much.

Speaking of customization, that brings me to another of this program's high points: you can change pretty much whatever you want about the game. When you combine that fact with a wealth of different game modes and possibilities, you have yourself a very addicting and entertaining arcade game.

ArmageTron Advanced is a free multiplayer game with simple, casual-oriented gameplay. What've you got to lose?

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the free full version

LinuxLinux:
Download the free full version



  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (27 votes)
| Comments (35) | Views (118)

musicovery.gifJohnBMusicovery is an interesting little web app that blurs the line between interactive toy and radio. Musicovery lets you choose and explore music by mood, style, genre, decade and much more. Mix and match filters and customize your internet radio experience to suit your tastes, even if that happens to be dark energetic pop or jazz from the 80s.

Each time you change your preferences in the nav bar the music selector jumps across the screen and plays another song. Genres are color-coded and really add to the aesthetic appeal of the experience. There's a large selection of music to listen to as well, from jazz to classical, hip hop, world, rock and so much more. You can even scroll around the map and choose songs manually. For users with a good internet connection there's no lag or song loading time, so you can expect smooth listening from start to finish.

The downside about Musicovery is that songs play in a noticeable lo-fi format, reserving the better quality for paid users. Subscriptions are reasonably priced but the registration process is confusing and hints at a number of hidden sign-up fees. It's much better to stick with the free version and enjoy the thrill of musical exploration. For a really interesting experience, try unchecking the "hit" box and select "discovery". You'll unearth a ton of obscure bands you just might learn to love.

Musicovery is a great way to find new songs and play with different styles of music. It isn't really a game, but it's got the same sense of exploration and fun as any web toy on the internet.

Play Musicovery

Cheers to Gexx for sharing the discovery!


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (42 votes)
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John Beaverprojectpravus.jpgWith Halloween now a distant memory, and some recent cute offerings on this site, I figured it was time for something a bit more frightening. Enter Project Pravus. In this creepy point-and-click adventure, you take the character of Emily Mason, a real estate agent with a mission to find out why a particular house has been put on the market for an unfeasibly low price. It features sepia-toned location photographs and requires you to explore the house and its environs to discover an unsavoury secret. There are some brief moments of minor gore, so this game will not suit everybody.

Analysis: Although this is a short and relatively simple game, the use of sepia photographs combined with the consistently eerie music and sound effects make for a brief but absorbing playing experience. The concept of utilising real-world photos in a graphical point-and-click adventure is not a new one and this site has previously featured examples such as NFH Propoganda and 99 Rooms. In terms of look and feel, this game is also reminiscent of the recently reviewed Purgatorium although, in Project Pravus, the action takes place in a larger space and there is a more to explore. Whilst this game does not offer anything radically new or different in style or gameplay, the overall package of stylish visuals, creepy audio and some credible voice acting make this worthy of the ten minutes or so it should take you to complete. I recommend playing this at home, alone, in the dark, and with your speakers turned up!

Play Project Pravus

Cheers to Jaime for suggesting this one.


  • Currently 4/5
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(13 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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floatpoint.jpgJohnBFloatpoint is a science fiction-themed text adventure game by Emily Short. It was entered in the recent 2006 Interactive Fiction Competition and walked away with the first prize. The game features classic text adventure puzzles with a superb story that slowly uncovers new and exciting mysteries about the game's world.

Text adventure games started in the mid-70s with Will Crowther's game Colossal Cave Adventure. They grew in popularity for nearly a decade before graphical games began to steal the spotlight. Although no longer a mainstream phenomenon, countless writers and programmers enjoy working in the medium thanks to its emphasis on storytelling, adventuring, and puzzle solving.

In Floatpoint you play the role of a newly appointed ambassador traveling to a planet colonized by humans from Earth. The cold, icy world of Alehart is home to millions of people, but as you keep reminding yourself, you're not here to sightsee. A massive glacier threatens to overtake the planet's chief settlement and your job is to negotiate a deal with the colonists to bring them back to Earth. But as you quickly find out, there's a lot more going on here than a little bit of ice...

To play Floatpoint, you'll need to download an interpreter, a small program that allows you to run text-based games. A common multipurpose interpreter for Windows is Gargoyle, while the MacOS counterpart is Spatterlight. Both the interpreter and the game are small, free files. Playing games is as simple as opening the interpreter and finding the file on your computer, then you're ready to explore.

Analysis: The heart of an interactive fiction game is the narrative, and Emily Short weaves a surprisingly detailed world in Floatpoint with exquisite storytelling. The colony on Alehart immediately springs to life and the characters feel full and complete. And as for the game itself, it is well-paced and never feels stale. I particularly enjoyed the memory flashes that filled in the backstory. The main character also keeps a running to-do list that periodically pops up to keep you on task. A great inclusion that's perfectly integrated into the plot and really helps out when you're feeling overwhelmed.

Floatpoint does a fantastic job of creating a full and complete world inside your head and the game kept me begging for more. An excellent work of interactive fiction by Emily Short, and congratulations on her well-deserved prize!

Download Floatpoint (mirror)
Get an interpreter to play the game: Gargoyle (Windows), Spatterlight (Mac OS X), Zoom (Unix)

Note: If you have trouble running Floatpoint with the above listed programs, try downloading a Glulx-specific interpreter for your system.


(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (15) | Views (16)

JayTrick HoopsTrick Hoops is simple game of making hoop shots with a basketball. It is a multiplayer game that can be played one-on-one with a friend over the Web, and it's another shining star in the growing collection of creative and original games from Gamesheep.

A free and easy registration is all that's necessary to get up and running, as this allows you to password protect your user name so that no one else can log-in with it. Once logged on, create a new game or join one waiting for a second player.

One player selects a shot by clicking one or more of the buttons that describe the different types of shots possible, such as regular shot, off the wall, swish, off the back board, etc.

To attempt a shot: (1) move the ball with the mouse to position it, (2) click-drag the ball to select the direction and power of the shot, (3) release the mouse button.

If the shot is successful precisely as selected, a challenge is made to the other player to duplicate the exact same shot. To help with this, the ball is automatically positioned in the exact same spot for you. If the challenge shot is made correctly, no points are scored. If the challenge shot fails, a point is scored to the challenger (the one that successfully made the shot).

Play continues until one person scores 3 points and wins the game.

Analysis: This game is a lot of fun and I found myself wanting to play over and over again. The physics are realistic enough for a game of this type and there are enough different shot combinations to keep the game play interesting. The mechanic is a simple one and won't take long to become familiar with how to do it. Perfecting shots, however, is another matter entirely and that's what makes this game so much fun. Kudos to the folks at Gamesheep for coming up with another great one-on-one Web game.

One word of advice: If you are the one being challenged, be sure to look in the upper right portion of the game window to see the type of shot you need to make. Also, watch the angle and power with which your opponent shoots the ball if he/she goes first, as you may have to repeat the same shot soon after.

Play Trick Hoops


(12 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (31) | Views (171)

Reader reviewWubbzy's Wow! Wow! Ring CatchThe following is a reader-submitted review by Marc:

Some of the reviews on this site are tagged as "kidsafe", but a few months ago, when my 2-and-a-half-year-old was begging me to find him some fun games to play on the Internet, I couldn't really find very much at Jayisgames that he would enjoy.

So, I had to scour kids' sites to find stuff. The problem with a lot of the sites is that they are poorly designed—they might have a good game here and there, but they are buried under so many links (and dead ends) that my son would get lost on the site, trying to find the game.

We're down to 6 sites that I would say are well-designed, and which actually have content that a toddler would enjoy. In no particular order, they are:

Many of these are Canadian sites, but that may be because I got a lot of suggestions on a Canadian parenting forum.

My son started with toopyandbinoo.com (he taught himself to use the computer mouse, so that he could navigate this site) and has moved on from there. I'm not going to go into detail about all the sites. Most of them are of limited interest to adults.

Some of the games, though, are actually kind of fun, even for me. The one that I will highlight is Wubbzy's Wow! Wow! Ring Catch. We don't actually get Nick Jr. on tv up here, so while we've certainly seen a lot of the shows highlighted on the website (Dora and Diego, for instance), Wubbzy is not a character I'm familiar with. Nor was my son, but that didn't stop him from exploring that part of the website (after playing through all the Dora games, of course).

In any case, Wubbzy's Wow! Wow! Ring Catch is very simple: use the mouse to move Wubbzy and try to catch falling rings on his tail. The more you catch, the higher your score. Blue balls also fall occasionally, and you get bonus points for bouncing these off Wubbzy's head, up to five times for each ball (the bonus points increase after each bounce). Acorns and books should be avoided, but all they seem to do is stun Wubbzy for a second or two. On the later levels (there are only 4), the real challenge seems to be maximizing the number of bonus points you get with the balls, and trying to sneak in an occasional ring along the way. My top score is a paltry 657.

The game won't entertain forever, but I think that it demonstrates an important gameplay element for "all-ages" games—it has to be simple enough for tiny tots to play (the most important aspect for this, I think, is that you cannot lose, and you cannot get stuck), but it's interesting enough for adults to try to get the highest score possible. Another Wubbzy game on the site, Wubbzy's Amazing Adventure, shares the same benefits, although it's a completely different game. (My top score on Amazing Adventure is 1006, but I think I could probably get that up to 1020 or so.)

So, probably a link of limited use for this site, but on the off-chance that anyone else out there has a 3-year-old (or so) who likes games as much as WE do ... there you go.

Play Wubbzy's Wow! Wow! Ring Catch


| Comments (43) | Views (4)

JayAs the US prepares for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I have my own chores to do in preparation for a house full tomorrow with family and friends. Therefore, unless one of the other contributing authors comes through with a review to post, things will likely be quiet around here until Friday. But be sure to check back just in case. =)

Zelda on the WiiIt doesn't help matters that after a long 16-hour wait in line Saturday at WalMart I managed to bring home a Wii, and on which I have been playing the remarkably sublime Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess during most of my idle time away from administrating the blog and working on my masters thesis project.

Hopefully I will have some time soon to reflect on the best (and worst) experiences with the Wii so far, but I will say that there haven't been many disappointments, if any at all. In a nutshell, the Wii offers an amazing new way to interact with video games, and it does so in a mass-market device that is as exceptionally easy to set-up as it is to pick-up and play. My best advice is to pick one up as soon as you possibly can, as demand will likely exceed supply for much of the immediate future.

Have a happy holiday, and let us never cease to remind ourselves that we have much to be thankful for. =)


(4 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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PatrickBullet CandyBullet Candy is a frenetically paced shmupper's shmup ("shooter" to the casual folks out there), a purified genre piece that thrills in its simplicity—you can download a fairly meaty demo for Windows and Mac OS X.

Moving your ship around a single screen fighting space, and aiming with the mouse, you control a blistering battle with all the grace of a figure skater armed with an AK assault rifle. The simplicity of the controls is inviting even to those uninitiated to the top-down shooter genre, and pretty soon you'll find yourself dancing through bullets and careening to a x10 score multiplier.

Created by a one-man development team, Bullet Candy is a highly polished example of "scratchware", a quality game produced on a scratch budget. The man is selling his creation for ten dollars, which is a real bargain considering the number of modes and replay value in the game. Asteriods mode is like the arcade classic amped on crystal meth, surviving even two minutes in there is an intense, heart-pounding achievement. Survival mode is more, well, survivable, but becomes similarly heated. An international high scores table invites players to strive for greatness, extending the replay value considerably and driving the truly hardcore to train like Rocky Balboa in front of the computer screen. The only real flaw is that the controls, as elegant as they are, could be further improved: the mouse targeting adjusts only on a rotational axis, the distance of the cursor from the ship is immaterial. If the targeting cursor was constrained to the immediate rotation of the ship it'd be easier to aim in a clinch, instead of having to drag your targeting cursor all the way across the screen.

Bullet Candy's controls might qualify it to be a "casual" shoot-em'-up, but its not for everyone. Those who can sip their own adrenaline like a twelve year old Pinot wine should definitely consider giving it a try. For fans of the genre, Bullet Candy is a game you can come back to years later.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the demo
Get the full version


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (144 votes)
| Comments (110) | Views (1,178)

ThomasClimate ChaosRabbits are blue and red, seals enjoy sea shells, and foxes make successful hotel owners. Those are just a few of the lessons we learn from Blue Rabbit's Climate Chaos.

The gorgeous adventure by Super Flash Bros is set on a group of small islands, which are presented with pretty looking, quasi-3D graphics. The main character is Blue Rabbit, who, like your average rabbit, equipped with a digital camera, sets out on a quest to help the natives of the various islands to solve their problems with the local weather.

Upon your arrival on the island, you are greeted by the island's hotel's owner, who advises you to check in. You can take that advice, or you can talk to the locals first, to get a feel for the game. Some people will only appear after you have checked in, so don't forget to do that. From there, it's up to you to follow the enjoyable storyline. Don't miss this gem!

Analysis: A brief tutorial at the beginning introduces you to the intuitive controls as well as to the nicely done symbolic language that is used throughout the game. Climate ChaosWith just 3 icons, Dancing Seal tells you that he loves the sea. The system is vaguely reminiscent of Tork, though it aims to make communication easy as opposed to making it part of the riddles.

Music by Dustball and voice acting by Egoraptor both fit in very well with the general ambiance of the game.

If critique can be applied to this game, it would have to be on a very high level. The whole piece has a very professional feel to it, leaving no improvements to be desired. I only got stumped once, very briefly, in the tutorial, when I had already talked to Dancing Seal, and the speech bubble still asked me to do it. I hadn't seen the green arrow which would let me advance the tutorial manually instead of automatically. I have also encountered a small bug, which made the hotel disappear after I ran around it. I was unable to make it reappear, nor could I replicate the circumstances after reloading, so maybe it was a one-time problem. However, should you run into this issue as well, you can still enter the hotel, if you walk up just right of the hotel's sign.

But those are really the only things I could find. Everything else is close to perfection, sound, music, graphics, story, character design (Dancing Seal wins the Cuteness Award!).

Play Climate Chaos


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (21 votes)
| Comments (20) | Views (94)

ElliottYosio Ishii's love of cats is the basis of the Neko series, an adorable (if a bit bland in appearance) collection of games starring cats (pronouced "neko" in Japanese). And while his previous work was exclusively Shockwave games, it appears that he has made the switch to Flash with his more recent efforts.

Neko JuppikiNeko Juppiki is one of his recent Flash-based designs. In this Lemmings-like game you start out with a large group of cats on the top platform of the stage. The object of the game is to get as many of the cats as possible down to the bottom, by manipulating traps and trap doors. Each time you click the screen about half of the trap doors will open, but also about half of the traps will also activate trying to bring your kittens to a spiky demise. The cats will often end up on different levels, so you have to juggle keeping them safe with delicate timing to keep them all alive. Two modes of play are available: the first allows you to lose up to 10 cats before it's game over; the second mode a bit more hardcore, in which the death of a single cat means game over. Click.

Kumo NekoKumo Neko is one of his older Shockwave games and it is a lot of fun to play. In this game you have to swing around on a rope and interact with various pegs dotted around the stages as you try to collect jewels and avoid diamonds (the shape, not the jewel). Just press the mouse button and the cat repels and swings from the stretching rope. On some levels it becomes necessary to move the fulcrum to another peg, by pressing a key (any key will do) just as the rope hits a peg, as the entire play field for a level may be much larger than the game window. It is in this way that you can make your way around the level.

Once you've gathered all the jewels a 'goal' will appear that you must then make it to before you can move on to the next level. Sounds easy, right? It isn't. The diamonds are located precariously near the jewels, and at points in the game you may swing to places you cannot even see. You will have to make split second moves, or guesses, to avoid diamonds lurking near the sometimes elusive jewels. Click.

Analysis: The Neko series of games isn't very amazing with respect to graphics and supporting sound. The graphics are comprised of only two colors throughout, though the use of the grayish blue was somewhat reminiscent of an old Nintendo game, so I was able to appreciate it. The sound is just as basic, with only a few sound effects in Kumo Neko and none in Neko Juppiki. But since the sound only plays a supporting role to the gameplay, it doesn't pose much of an issue at all. However, I would like to see improved graphics in the future.

The games are so simple that they do not leave a lot of room for flaws in the game play. A few times the game was a little inconsistent about whether I could swing through the diamonds when traveling at higher speeds in Kumo Neko, and my cats sometimes went a bit too far beyond the walls in Neko Juppiki; but other than that they ran extremely well.

As with all games in the Neko series, the games were simple yet attractive, and perfect for a quick pick-me-up during the afternoon, or during a lunch break. I recommend not only checking Juppiki and Kumo, but also the other games in the series, too.

Happy Gaming!


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (54 votes)
| Comments (49) | Views (58)

JaredMissile Game 3DHave you ever had that weird feeling that you are a giant, controllable, seeker missile flying down a long tunnel avoiding obstacles? What?! You say you haven't? Then you must not have played The Missile Game 3D by Damien of DX Interactive.

The gameplay is very simple, as I alluded before, you play a giant, controllable, seeker missile flying down a tunnel avoiding objects in your path. These objects consist of different rotating circular discs with shapes cut out of them. As you play you go through 9 levels which increase in difficulty as you progress. By the later levels, if you're like me, you'll actually be moving your body, dodging and ducking, trying to avoid those rotating doors. The game also has several interface features that show you your speed, progress, and the like. However, if you don't want to blow up you'd best be watching the road.

WARNING: This game is known to cause seizures in patients suseptible to them. Please use caution if you have a similar health condition.

Analysis: For a fun and simple game that's taken a simple concept of "avoid the object" and infused some life into it, look no further. The Missile Game 3D is something you'll be able to jump right into and enjoy—perfect for a work break. But a bit of warning, you'll be coming back later to take more stabs at getting through the levels. I'd also advise not playing this game at work, because you'll look like a fool as your body convulses as you try to dodge the discs by moving your body with the mouse.

Overall, great game! (Wear a helmet!)

Bonus: Wow, another review with a bonus! (I spoil you guys.)

I got in touch with Damien and asked him about any possible sequels. He had this to say:

"This game was always just a side project, it went from start to completed in about a month and the point of it was to eventually learn how to code full 3D in flash. I have almost finished the full 3D code now, ready for a space age 3D police chase style racing game that will eventually get done. Which I suppose could sort of be counted as a sequel, although the only thing they'll have in common is the black-and-white visuals and very fast gameplay.

"A couple of people pointed out the similarities to another game called Tunnels of Armageddon. I recommend playing that one too, if I knew about this game before I finished the missile game, I would've added in some motion blur because that looks sweet!"

I'd personally love to see a space age 3D chase game! My only wish though is that the game has a little more color instead of just black and white, and some more details would be nice as well. A pause button and ability to turn off the music would be nice as well.

Play The Missile Game 3D


(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (99) | Views (45)

Fizzball

Ms.45A downloadable game for Mac, PC, and Linux, Fizzball is the latest game from Matt Parry and Ryan Clark of Grubby Games—who gave us the perfectly adorable Professor Fizzwizzle. It was described to me as "a combination between Breakout, Arkanoid, and Katamari Damacy," which pretty much makes it compulsory playing.

fizzball1.jpgAll the features of great brick-breaking games are there—power-ups, unbreakable objects, tricks to manipulate the ball without hitting it—with an added requirement of needing to rescue all the animals on each level. Yes, animals. As you hit the ball over objects such as apples and coins, the ball will collect the objects and get bigger. When it gets big enough you can collect animals ranging from bluebirds right up to elephants!

As the game advances, the stakes are upped by including targets that you should not hit, like drums of toxic waste, and the need to fight off an alien infestation. On the way, you can pick up trophies such as Chicken or the Egg (by picking up a chicken before picking up one of its eggs), play bonus levels with all sorts of various requirements and, on the kid's level, answer mini-quizzes about animals, some of which are surprisingly hard. (Which animal do you think is called a "zeal" in a group?)

Analysis: This game is gorgeously animated and illustrated, with a fun storyline and great gameplay. The one problem I had with it, and it's a big one, is that the Regular mode takes a long time to ramp up in difficulty. Unlike BreakQuest, where each level is very distinct, all of the levels looked and felt pretty similar—I never got that feeling of "ooh! I love this level!" Having said that, you can pick up your saved game whenever you feel like it, so if it all gets a bit boring you can go and do some real work and come back to it later. The demo lasts for 60 minutes, after which you have to buy the full version to keep playing.

Jayfizzballtrophies.jpgJay adds: Fizzball is a joy to play for people of all ages, and yet it is very apparent the care and attention to detail that went into creating an especially delightful experience for younger game players. That being said, I had a ball playing this game! Perhaps because I am a kid at heart, or even that I'm a casual gamer to the core, the simple, light-hearted gameplay won me over immediately. The Katamari influence is especially nice since it becomes quite satisfying when the ball reaches critical mass and the animals begin to get sucked up into the bubble all at once. I also enjoyed trying to earn all the trophies in the game, and I still have a few more to go.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the demo
Get the full version

Fizzball is available to download from these affiliates:
Arcade TownBig Fish Games

We are pleased to announce that Ryan has given us full versions of Fizzball to give away to five (5) lucky visitors. Throughout the weekend we will be drawing names from those that leave a comment detailing one (1) of the following:

  • The name and description of one of the trophies, or
  • The question and answer from one of the kids' quiz screens.

Only the first comment posted for each trophy and for each quiz question will be eligible for the drawings, so be sure to download the demo and play straight away. And please, only one entry per person, and per email address. Click.

Update: The contest is over. Congratulations to Manders, Pladin, Slgalt, HopefulNebula, and Gamzu for all winning full versions of Fizzball courtesy of Ryan and Matt of Grubby Games. Thanks to everyone for participating!! =)


Rating: 4.8/5 (89 votes)
| Comments (39) | Views (173)

Reader reviewAnimator vs. Animation IIThe following is a reader-submitted review by Hilary:

While Jayisgames is primarily about casual gameplay, many visitors to the site are Flash developers or, like me, just casual gamers who enjoy a good work of Flash now and again.

You may recall Jarod's review of Animator vs. Animation back in June. Well, I'm here to say that a sequel to the first cartoon has been released over at Atom Films: Animator vs. Animation II. The Flash animation series was made by 17 year-old Alan Becker, who, using some clever manipulations of screenshots, has managed to depict the battle of the animator vs. the animation.

The stick figure is back, and this time... it's personal.

Play Animator vs. Animation 2

If you enjoyed this, you might be glad to hear there is now a game made from this amazing idea: Animator vs. Animation Game

  • Currently 4.9/5
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Rating: 4.9/5 (64 votes)
| Comments (261) | Views (3,334)

ThomasSlave HackIn the browser-based DHTML game, Slave Hack, you take on the role of a vaguely tech-savvy Internet addict who has now decided to make a living out of his/her own talents. If your ethics do not prevent you from pretending to infiltrate other computers to use them as spam relays, warez-sharing nodes, or even as tools to bring down an enemy's computer with a massive DDoS attack, then you are excellent material for the world that is portrayed in Slave Hack.

Starting out at the lowly rank of "Script kiddie", with nothing but a small computer and a slow connection to the Internet, you begin surfing the Internet. Your home base will be the WHOIS server at 1.1.1.1 until you grow a little more advanced. As you browse through the list of servers, you will notice a server which is conveniently labeled as Freeware 4 All. On this machine, you find a hacker's starter kit of programs essential for gaining access to restricted areas.

This is where the fun of hacking other servers starts. Both NPC servers and other players' servers can (and will be) hacked, but only other players will try to follow your traces back to your own (virtual) machine.*

*Note: Slave Hack is a virtual hacking simulation game. Your 'server' exists only in the game itself and is given a fictitious IP to use while playing. Other players do not actually hack into the computer that you use to play the game. Moreover, neither the game nor this site encourages hacking outside of a safe, harmless environment such as the one offered in this game.

If you start your hacking career at the 1.1.1.1 server, you will notice a main trait of the game. In the form of a text file, a puzzle is started, commonly referred to as a riddle trail. Riddle trails are the only reliable way of getting more advanced in terms of software. Typically, you solve the riddle in the text file, which will give you a new IP address. And when you follow that trail, you will either find a new riddle or a reward for solving the entire trail (i.e., new and advanced software for your hacking convenience.)

While going about your business, you always need to look over your shoulder, as other players might be lurking on any server you're currently infiltrating. Your actions will leave entries in the server's log files, which can be accessed by everybody else. Covering your steps is essential if you want to minimize the risk of being infected, or, even worse, of having all your precious software deleted.

Analysis: Slave Hack is a game that I had expected to surface on the Web long ago. It is, no doubt, heavily influenced by Introversion's revolutionary Uplink hacking game, which was released in 2001. Uplink's player base has often asked for a multiplayer functionality, which has always been politely declined by Introversion. M2H, Slave Hack's solitary developer, has taken it upon him to port Uplink's framework to a browser-based game, and to enhance it with said multiplayer support.

The game needs registering with a valid e-mail address. While starting out, you should be reading the Beginner's Guide, which will help you over the initial steep learning curve. Should you get stuck on one of the less logical riddles, the forums also offer a helpful section called Riddle Help. Be careful, though, as asking for help on a specific riddle might give away which server you're currently frequenting. It is not unusual for advanced players rush to that server to collect your IP address from the logs.


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Virtual Villagers iconAs those of us that played the original await the coming of Virtual Villagers 2 (sometime this Winter), you can get your fill of some news about what's in store for your little islanders by visiting Gamezebo and reading the Developer's Diary they have up about it. Cheers to Joel, Gabe and crew over there for the news on this highly anticipated sequel!


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Digging for DS iconVH1 Game Break currently has a promotional contest running, Digging for DS, in which you can win yourself a DS (yes, the DS is still cool even with the imminent release of the Wii). Just head on over there and do yourself a little digging through the archives for your chance to win!


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CDX iconAs I mentioned a few weeks ago, the BBC has just 'opened the flood gates' to CDX for a limited time to iron-out and debug issues with its technology that restricts access to UK IP addresses only. Therefore, this may be your last chance to play the game if you live outside the UK.

Update: After much on-again, off-again with the BBC restrictions allowing only UK players to experience this game, the very kind, talented and generous folks at Preloaded are now hosting the game themselves! So, if you are located outside the UK and wish to play this fantastic piece of work, you now may do so. Please visit the CDX review page for the link.


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (43 votes)
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JayScribbleWith drawing games being all the rage lately—evidence Line Rider, Paintball, Paths, and Draw Play, to name a few of the more recent entries—we really have to acknowledge the raw creativity that Nintendo inspires with its innovative consoles. As the world prepares for the coming of the Wii—no, Nintendo, I still haven't received my Wii yet and it looks like I'm going to have to stand in line with the rest of the masses—those of us left standing out in the cold can at least warm-up with the fun packed inside these innovative new browser-based games that are coming from some of the best Flash game designers around the world.

Nitrome does it again with its latest entry, Scribble. This drawing-based arcade action game is a little bit platformer and a whole lot of Lemmings. Use the mouse to draw paths to get your little "blots" from start to finish flag with the fewest of casualties. Each level's finish flag indicates how many blots must escape to unlock and move on to the next level.

And just like Lemmings, blots don't really care about where they're headed, they just keep walking forward until something blocks their path and forces them to do an about-face. Knowing this, use your limited ink to draw ramps, bridges, and other mechanisms to help your blots arrive safely at the finish line.

Analysis: There are many excellent ideas crammed into this fantastic new Flash game from Nitrome, as well as a few minor annoyances, too. It's a highly ambitious title, as is per usual from Mat, Heather and company, and the game succeeds on many levels, not the least of which is the fact that it is nicely polished and a lot of fun to play.

The game starts you off with the basic mechanic and gives you the chance to become comfortable with it before moving you on to the next. Each new level introduces you to a brand new concept that forces you to think differently about what has come before. This helps keep the game feeling fresh and exciting. Some levels may seem rather difficult at first, and will likely cause you to retry several times before you get it right.

I did notice a couple of minor issues that will cause a bit of frustration in some players. First off, if you draw a line over top of another one, when the first disappears it will take part of the second one with it. Also, there is no way to erase lines you've drawn by mistake or improperly. Therefore, while getting used to drawing lines efficiently, you will be playing the "waiting game" a lot while the lines go through their normal life cycle. Likewise, the blots movement is slow and therefore the overall pace of the game may be a bit too slow for those looking for a fast-paced action game, which this is not.

Still, minor issues aside, Scribble offers a lot of fun for anyone that enjoys drawing games, Lemmings, or both. Great new stuff from the Nitrome crew!

Play Scribble


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Rating: 4.7/5 (67 votes)
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Ms.45CrosswordI've often thought that Jayisgames doesn't have anywhere near enough word games for my liking, and this almost makes up for that lack. This is a quick, clever Flash crossword puzzle from Taro Ito of Gamedesign, who brought us the recently-reviewed White Jigsaw and other addictive favourites of this site (Dice Wars anyone?), and it lives up to his previous standard.

Crossword works without clues. Instead, a partially-completed crossword is shown, with the remaining unused letters in a panel to the right. To put a letter where you think it belongs, click in a space on the crossword, then click the letter that you think it is. The letter will be moved from the right-hand panel to the puzzle, but watch out—it will appear in ALL the spaces where an identical letter is to be found. In other words, if the clue is _ _ Y, and you decide this must be SAY, click on the first space. All spaces with that letter will turn orange, and you can then click on the letter S to fill in those spaces. However, if you're wrong and the word is really FLY, you can click on S and then F in the right hand panel to replace it. Alternatively, you can click on the space bar in the right hand column to clear any letter already placed.

The game starts you out on Beginner level, and as you beat each level, lets you progress to Easy, Normal, Hard and Expert. If you get stuck, you can click Give Up, which will solve the puzzle for you—you can then click Reset and get a new puzzle on the same level.

Analysis: I love this game! I really like the fact that all the words seem to be real words that an English speaker would use, not those horrible jargon words that only ever get trotted out for word puzzles (Text Twist really gets my goat in this respect). It's easy to pick up, but still challenging.

The only very minor quibble is that I would prefer to have separate buttons for Reset and Give Up—I'd like to be able to Reset the puzzle I'm playing now if I've dug myself into a hole of wrongness, and only Give Up if I'm finding it genuinely impossible. If you've a hankering for word puzzles, speak fluent English and have five minutes to spare I think you'll really like this.

Play Crossword


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Rating: 3.5/5 (21 votes)
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Noahpaths.jpgPaths is an intuitive Flash game from the prolific Tyler Glaiel over at Glaiel Games. The goal is simple: use your mouse to draw a path connecting a red circle to a star, while avoiding walls and other obstacles.

Left click the red circle to begin drawing a path, and press the [space bar] to begin moving. If you make a mistake, click the circle to clear the path and start over. Green or red obstacles on the screen can be moved or rotated with the mouse. It is usually necessary to arrange a level properly before releasing the red ball and, eventually, you will even need to manipulate the obstacles while the red ball is in motion. There are no enemies in Paths, but beware of the big button marked "Menu" in the bottom-right of the screen. Clicking it will end your game and send you to the main menu without asking for confirmation(!)

Analysis: Paths puts you in control of both your position and the position of (parts of) the environment you move through. At times it feels a little bit like Super Monkey Ball crossed with the wood game Labyrinth. I especially enjoy how each level demands your attention twice: First while planning and drawing your path, and then again rotating and shifting obstacles out of the way at the appropriate time. Paths could use a bit more polish, but the game behind the ugly vector graphics and obnoxious breakbeat loop is solid.

Play Paths


(8 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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ElliottWiredWired is a classic-style puzzle game, and one that Vlad Kvitnevski, of Ontario, Canada, has taken and molded into something new and entertaining. The concept itself is one that you've probably seen before: Connect wires from one location to the next. It is a casual game perfect for a rainy day, as it's something you can get hooked on and complete without the hairs on your head going gray, or being ripped out.

The graphics are good for a game of its style, not so flashy as to take away from the experience of puzzling, and yet not too basic, either.

The game does have a few flaws, most notable being that at times I could not tell whether wires were lined up properly. Another game play issue was the awkwardness with which wires connected to the walls, and this became a bit of a detriment to my progress; at times I found myself focusing so much on that more than anything else that I was actually moving backwards instead of forwards.

Overall, Wired was a solid entry into the competition, and one that will likely appeal to all ages and has only a tiny learning curve, if any at all. Vlad succeeded in turning a basic theme into something more and I look forward to more from him.

Play Wired


(12 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Ms.45Enchanted ForestThose of you who enjoy a stripped-down text adventure game and don't mind a bit of repetition will get a bit of fun out of these HTML-based Enchanted Forest games. The point is to get as much gold as you can.

They are extremely basic—a field of dots, trees and you. Move in the permitted directions by clicking North, South, East or West, encounter monsters guarding treasure, gambling ogres, and find stores and chests which may or may not be trapped. All sorts of surprises await you—watch out for those condors!

The trick is to stay alive and accumulate gold, and, as in real life, these two aims may contradict each other. You need to work out whether the hit points you'll lose from fighting the monster is worth the gold from the treasure. All monsters are the same level whenever you encounter them (i.e., an orc will always do only 10 damage) and all treasures are worth the same. Hint: if you see an orc guarding a pile of gold, kick that orc's butt!

For such a simple game it's surprisingly addictive, but don't worry—if you're a true casual gamer, you can leave your game at any time and when you return, it will be waiting exactly as you left it. I've recovered games that were months old, usually just to get beaten up because I forgot which level monster a beefhead is. It's good fun that doesn't require much more investment than a simple free registration and the ability to press buttons.

Play Enchanted Forest


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (22 votes)
| Comments (20) | Views (138)

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PatrickPlantasia is a charming and addictive downloadable game about gardening from the folks at GameLab, creators of Diner Dash and other excellent games previously reviewed here. The game requires you to dig up rocks and soil, plant a variety of multi-colored flowers and vegetables, water them, and defend your garden against malicious bugs. These gardening chores earn you mana to spend on upgrading tools, moving plants and buying new seeds. Unlike the back-breaking labor of real gardening, Plantasia's flora grow back in moments, and they have faces, which is cute in a game but traumatizingly creepy in an actual garden. The storyline puts you in the role of a forest pixie charged with repairing the gardens of an old estate, and there is a love story involving the pixie's relationship with the isolated young Lord of the manor. The game sports a lot of content to keep you content: five garden regions each with about ten gardens in need of repair. The visuals are lush, the colors vibrant, and the gameplay pulls you in like a weed in rewind.

Plantasia screen 1Plantasia, like Diner Dash, is a queue based game that encourages the player to line up material actions at the same sequential step. You get more points for harvesting a bunch of flowers at once, just like the combo bonuses Diner Dash gives for chaining the same kind of actions in consecutive order. Plantasia's queue-based gameplay also incorporates a spatial element like Diner Dash's restaurant layout; you are rewarded for harvesting plants at the same time only if they are next to each other.

There are also colored spaces that amplify your score for harvesting plants of the same color from them, like Diner Dash's bonuses for seating customers in the same seat as the color of their outfit. The main difference in the two systems is in the user interface: Flo's great ordeal in life was moving around her restaurant, there was always a delay between the click and the action; Plantasia's fairy is only slowed by the speed of your mouse, a click brings an immediate action. By limiting the impact of spatial organization Plantasia lets you focus more on bringing groups of plants to harvest simultaneously, and it lets you think about these groupings as you plant them. You're encouraged to make the garden beautiful and try to get the high score—the two go hand in hand.

Tip: sometimes there's more than one type of seed you can buy, the more expensive seeds grow into plants that yield more mana. The trick to affording these seeds and raking the big points is to go ahead and buy the cheaper seeds, plant them in the appropriately colored soil, and use their mana to fill out that color section with the more expensive counterparts. The bonus you get for grouping plants together is based on color, not species, so lilies and daisies can group together to propel you past the expert goal.

Plantasia screen 2Plantasia does have two interface issues. The game forces you to manually switch the seed type to plant by choosing from a button column at the top of the screen; sometimes plant a flower of a color other than what you intended, with a cost in correcting the error. A solution would be providing a sub-menu of plant icons every time you click on plantable soil, requiring another click on the desired plant to get it in the earth. Since planting is one of the most infrequent actions that could be an elegant alternative to the static menu. The other issue is that plants give you fair warning when they begin to wilt, but blossomings happen in an instant with no visual warning. While blooming might seem universally good, sometimes you try to water a plant and it suddenly blooms, causing you to harvest too early. Adding a simple transition cue might have fixed that issue, a few frames of animation or even flashing the bloomed graphic would do the trick.

Despite its minor flaws, Plantasia serves as an example of what casual games should be: an inventive setting with conceptually integrated gameplay and a positive vibe.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the demo
Get the full version


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Rating: 4.6/5 (35 votes)
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RobPaintballPaintball is a simple time waster, created by Claxor, that should prove a fun diversion for an hour or two. Or three.

The playing field consists of: a ball, which drops under gravity and bounces; a square, which the ball is trying to reach; pre-set platforms which the ball will roll/bounce on; and custom-made platforms which you draw freehand on the screen. Simpler than some games with this feature, Paintball is unlikely to elicit gasps from its players with advanced physics, but what it does it does very well.

A quick tip—you can draw over the ball (to a certain extent). It will "jump" above the line you draw, allowing you to create slopes with greater height. You will need this when the target square is just below or at the same height as the ball's starting point. Kinetic energy isn't free in this game, and you will need all the advantage you can get.

Analysis: The physics of this game feel "right". The bounces are predictable; hitting even a 1-pixel slope either way will advance or retard the ball's motion. You will find yourself staring at the screen, hoping the ball will keep bouncing just long enough to hit a tiny declination which will allow it to complete the level.

Advice: When you become very frustrated, don't forget that you are simply trying to get a red ball onto a coloured square. It doesn't ultimately matter.

Of course - I'm kidding. Go get it.

Cheers to Kevin and Ced for suggesting this game!


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Rating: 4.5/5 (22 votes)
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JayHousesSimilar to a tangram, Houses is a short and simple puzzle game that was an entry in our recent game design competition, and it was created by Sean of California, USA.

In keeping with the competition theme, Sean designed Houses to require little in the way of instruction, but there are hints to help you along if needed. The objective is to build 3 houses using all of the pieces given; however, a few rules dictate valid placement for each of the puzzle pieces, and I'll leave them for you to discover on your own. Click the check box on the right side of the game window to have the game verify your solution and to see which pieces are incorrectly placed.

It's a fun little game with multiple solutions. Just right for a lazy rainy afternoon diversion.

Play Houses

Be sure to play Sean's other engaging puzzle games: Clack and Weight.


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(5 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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PatrickAlexis is a girl invented by Nathalie Lawhead and her colleagues at her zing-zang web dev firm, Alien Melon. AlexisShe's basically, like, a sweet girl, but she's just misunderstood, most of all by herself.

Like the more elaborate Blue Suburbia, Alexis isn't so much a game with goals and clear objectives as a rhizome open for exploration, with a human subject poised in its center. After an opening cinematic you're able to click on different underlined words in the girl's aloof break-up letter and get a sub-cinematic as a result. Its really weak interaction design, in contrast to a really robust gamer's game, but its interesting for a few minutes even as the hamster choir and tweaked out teeny-bopper voice grows excruciatingly irritating. This is in part due to the sonics, but mostly due to the archetypal experience of being dumped by someone more attractive and less intelligent than yourself, which if you haven't experienced directly, you've probably experienced vicariously through some form of popular culture.

What is most interesting about Alexis from a designer's point of view is how its subject exudes socially meaningful feedback in her motions and eyebrow twinges and talk-to-the-hand theatrics—if only there was an interface and algorithm to account for that kind of personality (not necessarily Alexis', but any personality expressed so vividly). Most designers chasing that grail would, lacking the necessary conceptual tools, construct elaborate puzzles with social dressing and tie in a plot twist to the logic of the solution, adventure game style. The Alien Melon aesthetic wouldn't have it though, closure isn't in their vocabulary, so clicking on the continue tab gives you all the closure that an almost completely random close-up of a plush moose doll can give.

Whatever. Click.


(6 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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DR3I version 3

JayVolker of Mach Parat sends word that a new version of his now classic mouseplay game is available, Dr3i Version 3, and it contains a surprising new addition to the gameplay.

Arguably one of the best (if not the best) Flash game series of its kind, Dr3i is more than just a game of avoidance. As before, collecting small positive and negative signs speeds up and slows down the rotation of the obstacles that you must make your way past. However, this 3rd version in the series introduces an animated "beast", an engaging cloud of black smoke that follows you in pursuit.

The beast is also affected by the positive and negative signs. Positive signs will make the beast grow larger and faster, negative signs will reduce the size of the beast and make it move slower. A smaller and slower beast is essential if you wish to finish this game.

Play Dr3i v3

Try also the other games of this series: Dr3i, and Dr3i Version 2.


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Rating: 4.6/5 (34 votes)
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JayDouble WiresAnother unique new game appeared recently on the amazing blog of DofI, a Japanese game developer that generally uses Processing to cast his magic, however this game is in Flash.

Imagine being like Spiderman and able to shoot sticky strands of web out from your hands. Using those elastic strands you just might be able to attach to surfaces and propel yourself forward.

Well, that is just what playing Double Wires is like, and it's a lot fun, too.

Simply click the mouse to shoot a wire straight towards the mouse pointer. If close enough to a colored surface, it will adhere to it temporarily and yank you toward it from the elasticity of the string. You can have two wires in use simultaneously, hence the name of the game. Use them to keep moving forward because the game window doesn't stop scrolling. If you go too far outside the game window (in any direction) the game ends.

This side-scrolling, arcade physics game has a very simple objective: make it as far as you can. I managed 185 yds. What's your record?

Play Double Wires

Cheers to Wistan and Evan for the heads-up about DofI's new game. =)


(16 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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JayNo. 5 Part 4If you haven't yet played Mink's adorably cute animated point-and-click puzzle games at 3Wish.com, you owe it to yourself to check them out. (Previously reviewed here.)

If you have already played them, then there is still a reason for another visit: No. 5 Part 4 is out.

Play No. 5 Part 4

Cheers to Relic for the alert. =)


(17 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (40) | Views (35)

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JohnBSubpoena Power is a politically-charged side-scrolling Flash game by NoEvil Productions. Your mission is to eliminate corruption on Capitol Hill by circumventing lobbyists and serving subpoenas to Senators and Congressmen to separate the Honest Tribunes from the Perfidious Scoundrels. The game does much more than just entertain, it shows you how easily the government erodes into a corrupt establishment and how adhering to the laws it was founded on can maintain order.

subpoenapower.jpgSubpoena Power has a bumpy learning curve if you aren't familiar with the terms. Fortunately, underneath the jargon and fancy wording is a nice and simple game. Green-suited lobbyists use their money to pay sycophants to sway politicians and gain favorable votes. It's a practice that, frighteningly enough, happens in the real world every day. Watch and listen for lobbyists prowling the halls of Capitol Hill, then pounce and serve them a subpoena to force them to drop their cash. Each briefcase of money you find decreases the corruption meter on the left side of the screen, preventing sycophants from getting paid to do their dirty work and allowing politicians to function on their own. Keep the corruption level low and you'll find more honest Congressmen and Senators as you continue handing out subpoenas.

Another key activity in Subpoena Power is gathering evidence. You have a limited number of subpoenas to serve and will run out quickly if you use them against toadies and sycophants. Search behind doors, on bookshelves and in potted plants to find evidence, then watch for the Judge and show him what you've found. For every 1000 evidence points you have he'll give you a subpoena. There's an intricate system of gaining evidence points for almost every action you take, so read the in-game instructions to learn more.

If the description seems complex, don't worry, the game is remarkably easy to get into and ends up being quite a lot of fun. Use the [A] button in combination with the arrow keys to search for evidence, [S] to serve subpoenas and [D] to jump. Register for free and you can save your progress, an absolute must if you want to serve subpoenas to all 535 Senators and Congressmen on Capitol Hill.

NoEvil has done a great job turning a complex political topic into an entertaining game that still manages to educate while you play. It's an eye-opening fact how easily corruption seeps into politics, but fortunately there's a system in place to keep things in check. Subpoena Power reminds us that government is run by laws, not people, and at the end of the day that's what will hold it together.

JayJay adds: Kat Caverly of NoEvil Productions was very kind to send us a genuine Subpoena Power T-shirt that we'd like to give away to the first person that serves subpoenas to all 535 Senators and Congressmen in the game. At the end of the game you will receive a message from the Judge. Be the first to post the entire text of that message here in a comment, and be sure to include the email address you used to register with the site so that we may validate your achievement (Privacy note: your email address will not be published.) If you correctly (and considerately) hide the text within spoiler tags we'll also throw in a limited-edition Casual Gameplay T-shirt as well. =)

Update: There are now 2 additional t-shirts up for grabs! In addition to being the first to complete the game today, Kat will also award a t-shirt to the best score of the day, too!

Update 2: Congratulations to Yany, Aaron, and Wiser for all winning t-shirts and for helping to save the Republic! =)

Play Subpoena Power


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Rating: 4.6/5 (155 votes)
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PatrickCost of Life Things don't feel right out here... despite the optimism.

Ayiti: the Cost of Life is one of the best political web games released this year, right up there with The McGame and the comic genius of Airport Security. You control the activities of a Haitian family trying to get by, the experience is like Oregon Trail meets Wyclef Jean ("if I was president..."). Health, education, community service and just making ends add up to a compelling strategy game thats easy to play but hard to beat.

Unlike most games with a political message, such as September 12th or 3rd World Farmer, Cost of Life actually has a strategy that works, but it's buried in a heap of revealingly faulty approaches. The balance of the game's randomized elements shows the designers subtly imbued their message; where health risks can be marginalized and hurricane disasters rare, unlike 3rd World Farmer's frustratingly even spread of bad luck that ensured you'd lose it all every few turns.

Here's a strategy guide diverted from fanboy tradition to become incisive analysis:

If you live poor everyone gets sick quickly, preventing them from working and incurring health costs to get well, which effectively spirals the family into a negative feedback loop that kills everyone. You need to keep the living rates at a decent level to keep the health profile going, but that alone isn't enough. If you help build up the local community center (run by Unicef, which also had a hand in producing the game) you'll get health and educational benefits more frequently. Volunteering also increases eduction for free, as opposed to paying for school in addition to not earning money. Having at least one educated family member able to work as a secretary (for an NGO office, hmmm, fingerprints of the producers?) is the mid-game breakthrough that lets you live good (where health doesn't deteriorate on a seasonal basis; mmmmm, delicous middle-class stasis). The trick is getting the wife up to education level-four before the negative feedback loop pulls you under the tide.

It took me about six or seven plays to hone-in on the precise winning strategy that lets you break into middle-class stability: self-education. Spending the fifty goul every season on books will earn the whole family educational points much more cost effectively than schooling (since they can also work), so you only need to take Marie to vocational school a handful of times. Schooling the children is a good bet, but only through home schooled books, the Christian schools are too expensive and affordable public schools require an artificial barrier of purchasing a school uniform.

Nothing demonstrates hypocrisy more sharply than losing at the game. Reading on your own time, because you want to, is the cheapest and most effective way to learn and better your earning prospects. The political message seems to be then: where there's a will and a library, there is a way. A counter-message seems to be: where there's an NGO proliferating the availability of libraries, the odds of people having the will to better themselves are higher because the means are presently available. The first message is implied from the game's material constraints (books, cost economy) and seems to be decidedly conservative (get a job! read a book! American Pie discourages loveless sex!). The second message comes from the game's formal constraints (the progression of an explcit reward cycle deriving from macro-scale mechanics) and is seemingly quite leftist (NGOs are the answer, hurrah!). The beauty of the play's resonance, of the messages only games can imply, comes in the gap between these constraints, and orthogonally, from the gap between the game's representations and its simulated mechanics of economy and randomized interdiction. In that quiet space, you are not a pawn in an agenda, but a family, and holy flavin, thats art.

Its also kind of fun as you figure out how to get ahead, if you prefer fun to preachy political subtext. I'm not sure which was more compelling, the later feelings of success as I worked that dominant strategy, or the early feelings of anguished sympathy as these people helplessly struggled with no way out.

Play Ayiti: The Cost of Life


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Rating: 3.5/5 (24 votes)
| Comments (31) | Views (143)

dancemonkeyAirport SecurityWhile drawing up my packing list for an upcoming trip, I quickly became confused. What's allowed on-board aircraft these days?

Can I bring a bottle of water, or is that still banned?

Will my laptop be confiscated at the border?

Will I need to remove my pants before boarding the plane?

These questions and, well, pretty much questions just like these are posed in Airport Security, a fast-paced and thoughtful Flash game from Persuasive Games ("We design, build, and distribute electronic games for persuasion, instruction, and activism").

You play the role of an airport security agent screening passengers at a security checkpoint. As they pass through your scanner you can see what they are wearing and carrying, and what is packed in their carry-on. You must confiscate the banned items before you allow them to pass through. You lose if you let too many insecure items through, confiscate too many items that are not banned, or let the line get too long. Simple enough.

The catch is that in the game, as it sometimes feels like in real life, what is banned can literally change by the second. Via a little ticker at the bottom of the screen you are notified of which items are banned and which items are then once again allowed. There is also a row of reference boxes at the top of the screen that shows the banned items' icons.

In this simple package Persuasive Games has managed a scathing indictment of our current state of "security theater," highlighted most recently by this posting about an Average Joe asked to remove his sunglasses at an airport, then flagged as a security threat when he declines. The ridiculousness of our airport security policy is lampooned in this game where you find yourself removing passengers' pants and sunblock, but allowing the packed snake on-board.

Though the game has three levels of difficulty, the easiest one was embarrassingly hard for me to get very far. I must admit I never played for longer than several minutes at a time, though I tried several times. The banned items icons are nefariously placed so far in game real-estate terms from where you must make decisions that I never found myself referring to it. I would just chant my list to myself, something like "no pants, no hats, toilet seats OK".

This game is not intended to be won, it's intended to be played in order to "persuade and instruct", and in this goal Persuasive Games has succeeded. Airport Security is a fast-paced and fun game that also manages to raise thoughtful points about a serious issue.

Now go forth and confiscate.


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Rating: 4.4/5 (20 votes)
| Comments (23) | Views (43)

Oil GodJaredHave you ever harbored a secret desire to see gas prices soar? Have you always wished you could manipulate the politics and economies of the world to double the cost of fuel? Who hasn't? Now with Persuasive Games' new simulation, Oil God, you can!

Not only is doubling the price of gasoline allowed in Oil God—it's your goal! You have 5 years and 8 godly wraths to wield on the puny world below you to double the cost of fuel in a target country. As I said above, you can also switch the government types and economy types to make countries more susceptible to war or natural disasters, or just make them inefficient in moving out the oil. To keep you from dropping all of the disasters at once, you're given god points over time which can be used to cast disasters. Some take more god power than others—dropping down aliens to rain chaos upon a country is particularly draining.

Oil GodThe game is fun and offers a lot of interesting choices and options to play around with. The first few times you'll play you're likely to spend your time trying to find out which actions do the most damage. The music is fantastic, it's the perfect mix to put me right in the chaos spewing god mood.

Analysis: Oil God is a great new game with a cool art style and a fun perspective. It takes on a topic that has lately been on our minds and gives us a fresh look at how it all works. It also features a pretty intense market model and its interesting how everything in the game ties together- there are a lot of ways to win the game.

My only complaint is that it can get a little too easy once you figure out which disasters work best. Even on medium difficulty, I was able to beat the game in under 10 seconds to get the weekly high score.

But that was only after a while of playing and experimentation. For the first half hour I was trying to invest my money and god powers into alternative fuels. :)

Play Oil God


(14 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (55) | Views (108)

JaySeptember 12As the US readies to go to the polls for the mid-term elections on Tuesday, the phones have been ringing off-the-hook from campaigners trying to earn votes for their candidates. I usually try to avoid politics since my single vote seems so minuscule in this world dominated by corruption and greed. As they say, "you can't fight city hall," right?

Wrong (get out and VOTE.)

News this weekend from Iraq is that Saddam Hussein will be put to death for his revenge against a town north of Baghdad, in 1982, after a failed assassination attempt left him unharmed. And while the timing of the verdict was no doubt influenced by the current Administration, for the Iraqi people it is largely being seen as a non-event since it certainly won't mean an end to the violence that has become their lives.

So why is the US even in Iraq? We had no business being there; not then, and certainly not now. Was it WMDs? Terrorists? Oil? And what gives US the right to play the World's police when there is plenty about US that remains unjust and corrupt? As Lauryn Hill sings, "How you gonna win when you ain't right within?"

This post began as a mention of Newsgaming's 2003 Shockwave game, September 12th, A Toy World, which simply and effectively illustrates that "violence begets more violence." And following the wrath of the current Administration, are we really any safer? And at what cost?

Play September 12th, A Toy World

This country has a lot of making up to do with the World after George W. Bush's massacre of our dignity, integrity, and of our own democracy. Let US begin the long and arduous healing and mending process with this November 7th mid-term elections. Save the Republic!

The views expressed above are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the other contributing authors.


| Comments (14) | Views (2)

JayPersonal Universe 2One of the most creative entries in our August game design competition was a modest appearing title with a relatively big name: Personal Universe (review). It was created by Damir, a game designer from Slovenia, and his game was an audience favorite. Many asked for more levels and a way to share levels with others. Today he delivered an update that makes that all possible.

I am pleased to announce the latest development in Damir's Personal Universe, complete with all-new user-created levels to play, and a level editor that allows you to upload your own levels to share.

A password feature allows you to edit previously saved levels should it require modification for any reason. Simply enter a password in the space provided when first uploading your level. The password will be ignored on subsequent edits, so be sure to add one the first time.

Much appreciation to Damir for being so very receptive to requests and suggestions and with implementing them so quickly. If you have some constructive criticism or feedback to share, please post a comment. I am sure Damir will be close by.

So what will your personal universe look like? There's only one way to find out.

Update: This game has been taken down for now. Previously tagged as: browser, community, creativity, damir, flash, free, game, leveleditor, linux, mac, original, puzzle, rating-g, sandbox, unique, windows


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Rating: 4.7/5 (125 votes)
| Comments (178) | Views (350)

ThomasTriachnidTri-achnid is a new action/adventure platformer created by Florian Himsl and Edmund McMillen, with sound effects by Anders Gustafsson (Gateway).

You are one of—as the author calls it—an "endangered species of exopod on the verge of extinction." It is your goal to find a safe place for your brothers and sisters, who are tucked away in a portable cocoon. You learn in the introductory cut-scene that your parents are killed, and that you alone must save your siblings. So you carry this egg sack around through the various levels on your quest for your species' survival.

Your protagonist is a three-legged arachnid-esque creature. Movement is controlled by moving the three feet through clicking and dragging. You may also use WASD keys to position the Triachnid's head for balancing. Like any self-respecting wall-crawler, your feet can attach to almost every surface.

This even includes your egg-sack, which you can carry around the levels in your mouth. If you get hurt by falling rocks, menacing enemies, or by hurting your limbs on sharp edges, you can get back to full health by catching some of the smaller insect-like by-fliers, and (surprise surprise!) eating them!

How do spiders catch flies?

In their web of deceit, of course! Naturally, you can construct your own webs, and use them just like any ordinary spider. You can attach them to walls, you can sit on them, you can cut them off again, and you can just watch potential prey getting caught in them. Using just a single thread, you can descend from one platform to another, as later levels require you to.

Analysis: The graphics are simple, yet appealing, the music enhances the atmosphere perfectly. Controlling all aspects of your beloved exopod might seem overwhelming at first, but the game introduces them quite gently during the first few levels.

Just to apply a little bit of criticism, the only feature that the game is lacking would be a save feature.

All in all, Tri-achnid is a very fresh and original title, well-designed by Florian Himsl and Edmund McMillen, both of whom have found their way into the right-click context menu of the flash application.

Play Tri-achnid


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Rating: 4.3/5 (23 votes)
| Comments (167) | Views (70)

JayOne-Off REnjoy a remixed version of GotMail's recent One-Off game, and this one (like their previous efforts) is sure to please point-and-click fans everywhere.

As in true escape-the-room style, the objective is to get the motorcycle out of the locked garage by looking for clues and combining items you find to solve puzzles.

Play One-Off R

For other games like this one by the same development team, try The Privacy, Il Destino, and The Bar.

Cheers to Biorad for the heads-up about the release of this remixed version. =)


(15 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (37) | Views (2)

RobDouble JeuWant a very quick diversion? Try Double Jeu. It's in French. The two words you need are: jouer (means play) and rejouer (means play again). This is a very, very simple game. Your aim is to keep playing as long as possible. It may drive you round the bend.

Halfway up the screen is a Pong-style bat which moves horizontally. Use it to keep a small bouncing ball within the top of the screen. This is controlled by the mouse.

You also have a horizontal bar, which pivots around its centre, three-quarters of the way down the screen. A ball on it rolls left or right depending on which way the bar is tilted. Your aim here is to keep the ball on its bar. This is controlled by the mouse.

Yes. Two things, one controller. Try it.

I found my first few tries to be fraught with failure, as I learned how to control two things at once. My first decent go (I proudly announced it in an IRC session as lasting 32.823s) ended with the ball on the pivot staying roughly in the middle, and the top ball bouncing madly almost vertically at the centre of the screen. When you first are in this situation, laugh along with me.

The one tip I can think of is to predict where the Pong bat will need to be, then keep it over the other side of the screen to that for as long as possible. This allows the pivot ball to have a chance to roll one way, then the other.

Analysis: Either half of Double Jeu would be incredibly easy to play indefinitely. Add them together and you have something which seems to be either positively reinforced (if both games want you to move the mouse right, for example) or negatively reinforced by their combination. The trick (and my tip tries to achieve this) is to try to keep the games positively reinforcing each other.

Go on. Have another go.

Cheers to Ebenclaw for suggesting the game!

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