August 2007 Archives


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (25 votes)
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PatrickMagic TouchThe latest from prolific, UK-based Flash developer, Nitrome, Magic Touch is a "mini-game" that allows you to pop balloons by drawing corresponding symbols with your mouse. Why? Because you're a wizard, and your castle is under attack by robots. Obese robots. Si, si, claro...

The game is "mini" in the sense that, unlike most of Nitrome's other clever titles, there isn't a level progression, or any new elemental additions like new enemies or objects. The same seven symbols you'll see in the first two minutes will be remain stable over the next ten, but the speed of descent will shift. The game gets progressively difficult for this reason, but odds are you won't be done in by a sheer deluge of skill-taxing tasks.

The main problem that underlies Magic Touch is the same problem that underlies all games that rely on gestural input: an unreliable analogue to digital conversion. In other words, games like this demand a symbol that can be drawn in an infinite number of ways, yet boils down to a single command. And while the way you drew the symbol might be perfectly fine to your eyes, it might not be to the very specific method the game employs for interpreting your mouse-scratch, and then you die. The designer at Nitrome knew this, and designed the symbols accordingly; they're all exceptionally simple. The more complex ones—the 8 and the half-8—are really forgiving, you can draw them lop-sided with tiny loops and it still counts. Yet one of the simplest symbols in the history of symbols, the circle, will drive you mad with the precision required to pop its balloon. Odds are that when you lose, it'll be because you failed to draw the circle properly for the third time in a row.

Additionally, the game suffers from an easily correctable flaw; sometimes a robot will float down underneath another robot, and that first robot's balloon will be blocked from view by the second robot. So you've got to wait until you can see what that second bot's balloon symbol (or symbols!) are before popping the more imminent threat. Giving lower bots priority in layering would solve this largely petty, but occasionally disastrous issue.

All in all though, this is worth giving a try, even if the magic touch hasn't yet been completely applied.

Play Magic Touch


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Link Dump Fridays

ArtbegottiI have this lamp in my room. It's not an unusual lamp, it's just a typical lamp with a 3-way bulb in it. But on the lampshade (which is terribly over-sized for the lamp itself), I hang all sorts of stuff. The top and bottom of this lamp is littered with clothespins to hold things in place. At the top, there are a couple of key chains that light up, a pass for a free movie at the local theatre, a string of green Mardi Gras beads, and a few colorful candy canes from years ago. At the bottom, there are letters from employers, a bio-hazardous specimen bag from a hospital, a pedometer, and a reminder to pick up a friend from the airport. I don't even remember if I picked him up or not...

So what's the deal with all this stuff on my lamp? Yes, it's all a huge fire hazard waiting to happen, and a lot of random, all in one place. It also reminds me of LINK DUMP FRIDAY!!!

  • Guardian Popon - Guard the castle and blast away the advancing boats with your arsenal of brown bears. (They oughta look familiar...)
  • Grand Slam - Based on the GSN show, answer four rounds of trivia and puzzles as fast as you can. C'mon, if Ken Jennings could do it...
  • Square Divide - Shoot the square to break it into two pieces. Then again. And again. And again. Seeing a pattern here? (Cheers, Kristi!)
  • Descent - Tilt the environment to control the descending ball and find the flag to advance to the next level. (Cheers, TheLaw13!)
  • Tucogas Room 2 - It's an escape-the-room game, yada yada, you know the drill. (Cheers, John & Ryan!)

And, I suppose Link Dump Fridays could be fire hazards as well.


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (336 votes)
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JohnBThe Sea of GlompThe Sea of Glomp is an adventure- themed Flash game created by Paul Kramm that draws heavy inspiration from old-style adventure games such as ... Adventure! You play a young fish whose egg has been stolen by a creature that looks like a bat. An underwater bat. You set out on a quest to find the egg, a task that takes you through some of the strangest parts of the sea you could imagine.

This is an old-school figure-it-out-yourself adventure, meaning once you start playing the game, you're on your own. Tutorials won't magically appear telling you how to progress, you just have to experiment and see what happens. This leads to remarkably open-ended gameplay and more than one possible solution to most of the puzzles.

The Sea of GlompI won't ruin any of the game in this review, as part of the fun of Sea of Glomp is wrapping your head around the mysteries and finding creative solutions to each problem. If you're stuck, try exploring other parts of the sea for clues. And remember that your chomp ability does more than bite, you can also use it to pick things up and carry them around...

Analysis: Sea of Glomp really pulled me in with its imaginitive creations, gorgeous visuals and fun gameplay ideas. Little touches like biting the fish hook and having to swim to a new body when you die bring a smile to your face, and figuring out puzzles is a challenge I was always happy to undertake.

On the down side, navigating the massive sea can be a chore, as you're never quite sure what's an obstacle and what's part of the foreground. The solution? Swim forth and see if you bump into it. As always, Sea of Glomp encourages you to try things out in order to see the results. Unfortunately for gamers who weren't raised on the tough-as-nails adventure games of yore, frustration may set in early on. If you stick with it, though, Sea of Glomp won't fail to reward you.

Inventive, compelling and stuffed with creative ideas. Welcome back, nostalgic adventuring!

Play Sea of Glomp

Cheers to Mandypoo and Brendan for sending this one in!


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Mindistortion at JIGManuel Fallmann of Mindistortion had to move his site's domain recently due to losing his friend and colleague to cancer, the person the previous domain was registered to.

Previously at Mindistortion.net, the site, his animations and his games can now be found at Mindistortion.tv.

BubblesMany of Manuel's previous game design efforts have been featured here at JIG, dating all the way back to 2004 with the release of Bubbles, an excellent and addictive little game of collection and avoidance.

MindscapeMore recently, Manuel delighted us with his creative twist on the platform genre with Mindscape, a game that will certainly turn your world upside-down.

If you have linked to any of Manuel's animations or games before, please make sure you update those links to point to the new site. Manuel thanks you for it. :)


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (28 votes)
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lonelyhousemoving.jpgPatrickHikkoshi, or "Lonely House-Moving" as we gaijin might say, is the latest social metaphor driven arcade game from Nigoro, the folks behind every one's favorite slapping game, Rose and Camellia. You play a lonely shmuck who, after watching his girlfriend leave him in a moving truck, suddenly gets the inspiration to act and—for perhaps the first time in his life—goes ahead and gets what he wants.

You control the guy as he runs after his girlfriend's truck, with her casually staring on ahead, the wind blowing through her hair, not noticing that her former lover is performing an act of physical endurance on Olympic par. Control the guy with the [left] and [right] arrow keys and press the [space bar] to jump and to avoid hazards like birds dropping poop bombs, cyclists, gophers, and various junk that tumbles out the back of the moving truck. Get hit and lose some life, grab some food that is occasionally thrown out to get some back. Jumping over things yields a point bonus, jumping onto things (as long as they're alive) yields more of a point bonus. Stay in the running for long enough and you win, simple as that.

Analysis: Lonely House-Moving is more than just a simple run, jump and dodge game, it's a meditation on love and what a person is willing to do for that love. The setting sun that marks your progress through the game implies a subtle sense of loss, like the sun has set on the relationship, while simultaneously all the junk that imperils you gradually lightens the truck. Eventually, it becomes so light that the girlfriend notices, and sees you, so she jumps right out the back of the truck. When you see this happen, you're suddenly jarred out of the conventional arcade-score triumph you might expect from similar games in the genre, and you're inspired with a sudden moment of ownership: you are this man possessed by a sudden exuberance. I jumped right up to catch her in my arms. The feeling is genuine.

(Note: I don't know what happens if you let her hit the ground.)

Lonely House-Moving doesn't appear to be an artistically borne game at first. Instead you'll probably think its a game trying to be artistic while having pretty basic gameplay. Once you beat it, you'll realize that the dodging of material possessions—not the cause but the mode of the girlfriend leaving—is a pretty good metaphor for the state of the relationship at that point. The gophers, birds and cyclists are a bit of a distraction from this, diluting what otherwise would be very pure, thus making it a bit more cartoonish. They could have devised junk from the truck that has similar vector patterns, maybe not identical, but similar, and had more consistency to the overall gameplay/aesthetic slipstream.

Oh, and the "art" is also high quality, lush digital painting style, great color cascades on the sunset; nice production values on the interface and pretty good character design.

Lonely House-Moving is something worth trying and sharing with your significant other.

Play Lonely House-Moving

Cheers to Psychotronic for suggesting the game!


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (1618 votes)
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towerbloxx.jpgJohnBFrom developer Digital Chocolate comes a web adaptation of the immensely popular mobile phone game, Tower Bloxx. All you need to play is one button — either the mouse or [down] arrow key — and a sharp pair of eyes. A swinging crane holds a section of a tower above a platform. Press the button to drop it, then try and stack the following pieces on top as neatly as you can. Residents are eager to move in and will float to the windows as soon as a block lands. Drop too many pieces and it's game over.

Two game modes in Tower Bloxx — Quick Game and Build City — give something for both the casualest of casual gamers and anyone who wants deeper satisfaction from their games. The Build City mode puts you in charge of constructing an entire metropolis one skyscraper at a time. Piece together towers, then place them on the grid in an effort to increase the town's population. Upgrades and new types of towers add to the strategy, but you still have to have a good eye for dropping blocks while building. Quick Game, on the other hand, lets you hop in and build a tower where your only concern is when to click the mouse button.

A combo system lets you rack up a high score by dropping pieces at the dead center of the block below. Tower Bloxx isn't too strict with its physics, allowing you to build a wavy tower that would never stand in the real world. The more lopsided your building is, however, the more it will sway in the wind as you gain height. A moving tower is a tough target for a swinging crane.

If you love Tower Bloxx, then check out the downloadable game, Tower Bloxx Deluxe!

Analysis: Such a simple game, but Tower Bloxx managed to hook me from the first time the screen rumbled when I dropped a block. The combination of the Quick and Build modes creates a near-perfect atmosphere to keep just about any gamer coming back for more. And the game is so immediately gratifying you'll want a few more rounds before you call it a day.

A little something for just about any kind of player, Tower Bloxx is one of those rare games that hook you right from the start.

Play Tower Bloxx

Cheers to Shaun and Adamus for suggesting the game!


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (172 votes)
| Comments (260) | Views (735)

knyttstories.jpgJohnBNifflas fans (and anyone who enjoys a really good indie game) rejoice! The creator of Knytt and Within a Deep Forest has unveiled his highly-anticipated Knytt Stories several days earlier than planned! For anyone unfamiliar with Nifflas' signature style, prepare yourself to be dazzled. The main focus is atmosphere, environment and exploration, not complex gameplay and a barrage of media. With Knytt Stories you'll spend most of your time wandering around sparsely populated worlds looking for a few rare items, enjoying the beautiful visuals and ambient music the whole time. It's a unique experience in gaming and will pull you in from the moment you start playing.

Knytt Stories follows a slightly different formula than the previous game. For starters, the main character has over half a dozen new abilities that include a double-jump, the ability to make a decoy, and an umbrella that lets him float safely to the ground. Abilities now come from power-ups that are scattered throughout the game.

Rather than crafting one huge game, Knytt Stories is a collection of shorter adventures, each set in a different world. A level editor is included that allows anyone to create their own stages, and the community has already started to work on add-on levels. Be sure to grab both level packs from Nifflas' website when you download the game.

Knytt Stories is loaded with atmosphere and adventure, and with fans creating their own levels the fun never has to end.

Note: Make sure that you get the official expansion "A Strange Dream" too, since it contains four original levels with over 55 minutes composed by Nifflas himself.

Thanks to Hapk_percar, Nifflas, Chironex and Psychotronic for sending this one in!

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Not available.
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.


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Game Design Competition #4ArcadeTownFree World GroupArmor GamesSierra OnlineJust a quick reminder that there is still plenty of time to come up with an idea and to get your game design underway for Casual Gameplay Design Competition #4. The theme is ball physics and up for grabs are cash and prizes worth over $6000. The deadline is October 1st. Please see the competition announcement page for full details on entering.

Highlights of questions that have come up during the past week include:

  • Are there any file size restrictions for competition entries? - No. However, you should be aware that games that require excessive load times may be marked down in the usability category.
  • Would a game requiring a webcam be allowed? - Yes. But again, you can expect some loss of points scored for accessibility as well as usability.
  • My country does not allow PayPal withdrawals. Is there a way to send money by other means? - If your game entry is one of the prize winners, then we will make every effort available to be sure you receive your prize money. For Audience prize donations that cannot be sent via PayPal, however, there is a $25-$30 fee for wire transfers, depending on the country it is going to.

Note: Comments are disabled for this entry. Please continue to use the main competition announcement page for posting questions and comments. Cheers!


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (31 votes)
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PatrickBeethoven's HairBeethoven's Hair is a psychological vignette of a game designed by Alex Mayhew. The piece is, according to the author, "part of a cross media project based on the true story of a lock of hair that was cut from Beethoven's head and the story of how it passed down through history."

The game starts out mildly interactive, which might make you think "oh, another one of those 'New Media', self-smug clap-traps." But once you unlock the keyhole you'll discover a thoughtful and intriguing take on the escape-the-room genre that infuses the usual search dynamic with free-form exploration and historical fiction.

At the start, you unlock Beethoven's tomb, your "spirit", or as they say in America, "mouse cursor", is projected in the form of a Butterfly, and must hover over a 'scape of sheet music in order to resolve issues in the composer's restless soul. The interaction is extremely simple; just move the cursor around to control your avatar and press up and down to fly higher or lower. Follow the notes and clues and figure out the rest.

The journey takes you through Beethoven's life, his music to a lesser degree, and down through the history of Germany in his passing. The end result is an interactive trip, the kind of experience you can only find on the Web. Its not highly re-playable, and its not highly fun (though kinda fun). What it is, however, is compelling, it goes beyond fun. Take the trip.

Play Beethoven's Hair


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (32 votes)
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JessMuseLockI have a confession to make. My name is Jessica, and I'm a point-and-click addict.

Curse you, Pierre Gauthier! You have fed my pixel-hunting, puzzle-solving, key-finding need and I am hopelessly hooked. And what's more, you've made it playable in both French and English, bringing forth my latent guilt about neglecting my college francais. Why, Pierre? Why?

Ok, enough absurdity (for now). MuseLock is a good-looking, highly enjoyable little point-and-click room escape game with creative, interesting puzzles that only occasionally venture into the illogical. As I mentioned before, Pierre has provided both French and English versions; this offers a nice opportunity for players to practice another language, and the English adaptation is surprisingly good (avoids becoming "Frenglish," so to speak).

Surprisingly enough, the player wakes up in a room with no recollection of how he/she got there and an odd collection of objects as clues. Happily, pixel-hunting is mainly avoided (I have to admit, though, that I made good use of the tab key) and, at least for the first part of the game, necessary actions are straightforward enough for the player to make some progress without too much random clicking and item-combining. A word to the wise, however: you can (and probably will) die with one misstep, so use some caution.

Analysis: I liked this one a lot. I especially enjoyed the game's use of light (you'll see what I mean), and I appreciated how easy it was to navigate around the room. I really only have a few gripes: a save feature would have been really nice, as you can not only die but pass a "point of no return" when the game is unfinishable, and one crucial action in the game seemed to me to be a bit arbitrary. Besides theses minor issues, however, MuseLock is an excellent example of the genre.

A true pleasure for any point-and-click aficionado, this one will have you puzzling for quite a while:

Play MuseLock


(1 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Mythic Marbles banner

JayIn case you weren't aware, I'm an old-school gamer. Really old-school, as in I was playing casual games before many of you that grew up with video games were even born. Marbles and dominoes were among my favorite games to play, as were most card games and board games. Mythic MarblesAnd like the marbles and dominoes I grew up with, there is no form of entertainment I prefer over casual gameplay. That's why my eyes grew large as agates when I recently stumbled upon this little gem of a game.

Mythic Marbles is an action puzzle game of skill that is very simple to pick-up and play. It offers an engaging and rewarding experience to anyone that can appreciate the simple and subtle strategy of a good game of marbles. And even if you've never played marbles before, you're in for a treat. :)

In marbles, the objective is to knock all of your opponent's marbles off the playing field by shooting your own marbles at them, and while keeping your marbles in play. Mythic Marbles shares this same basic premise with a few additions that make the gameplay an even richer, more rewarding experience.

Mythic MarblesYou are given 8 marbles to start each level with, and each level is represented by a unique arrangement of of marbles and 'wall' obstructions. Just click on a marble to select it, aim with the mouse cursor, and click to shoot. It's just that simple.

Once you get comfortable with the mechanics, you may want to begin refining your shots to maximize your scoring potential. A power meter on the left of the display allows you to choose the power behind each shot. You can click-drag to select a precise setting; or, while aiming, click and hold the mouse button down until the desired power is displayed, then release to shoot.

After you complete each level, you are awarded a score. The number of points you earn is based on your accuracy, the number of marbles you have remaining, and the maximum combo achieved. A "combo" is the number of marbles removed with a single shot. All things considered, combos are supremely important to achieving a good score.

Mythic MarblesTo add some spice to the mix, you will have to navigate through teleports and around black holes as you progress through the game's 100 levels that, more or less, increase in difficulty as you go. Fortunately, there are also a variety of power-ups that can make your task easier: one that prevents your marbles from falling off the board; one that makes all the obstructing walls disappear; one that shows the trajectory your marble will take; one that will turn your marbles into fireballs, and one that charges them with electricity thus repelling and scattering all others from it. Taking full advantage of the power-ups can increase your maximum combo substantially, as well as getting those hard-to-reach marbles. But you'll have to hurry, power-ups are time limited and begin to count down immediately once you knock them off the board.

At the conclusion of each set of 10 levels, you will enter a turn-based challenge against another marble master, with each trying to knock the other's marbles out of play as in a real game of marbles. There are no power-ups available to you in these challenges, however, so you will have to plan your shots carefully and keep a cool head if you are to succeed.

Analysis: The game has a nicely polished presentation and feel to it, with responsive and intuitive controls, and very nice ball physics(!) And as a fan of the game of marbles, I enjoyed this game a lot. It held my interest from the minute I picked it up, and it was compelling enough to keep me playing until I had beat the grand master at the end. Achievement medals add a reason to go back and play through again, as does arcade mode with which you can select any of the game's 100 levels to best your previous score.

The game may seem rather easy to some since extra lives are easy to come by and most of the levels are easy to complete. However, if all you're getting is a couple of thousand points for each, then you have a lot of room for improvement in your strategy. Some levels I was able to score 60 or 70 thousand by concentrating on maximizing my combo.

On the other hand, the existence of power-ups in the game makes getting a good score somewhat dependent on luck, but that's a smallish complaint overall considering the casual nature of the game.

All things considered, Mythic Marbles is an enjoyable implementation of the classic casual game of marbles with the addition of power-ups that only a video game can provide. The result is an engaging game that can be picked up easily with enough depth to keep you coming back to it again and again.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Not available.
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.

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


Rating: 5/5 (20 votes)
| Comments (26) | Views (330)

Gemsweeper banner

JohnBGemsweeper is a casual game that combines elements of picross ("picture crossword") and minesweeper, created by Lobstersoft. Your goal is to uncover hidden treasure by breaking rocks to help Topex reconstruct the temples of El Dorado. Gemsweeper closeupStones are arranged in grids with sets of numbers above and to the left that serve as clues as to which tiles contain gems and which are cursed. Bash cursed tiles with a hammer, then grab gems from the rest of the grid to complete each puzzle and re-build the temple, one brick at a time!

Picross puzzles are one part Minesweeper and one part crossword puzzle with a dash of sudoku-style flavor thrown in for good measure. The numbers outside of the grid are your clues to which tiles should be filled in and which should be blank (in the case of Gemsweeper, filled tiles contain treasure, while blank ones are cursed and should be smashed). For example, if a column shows "3 2" at the top, there will be three filled squares in a row followed by at least one space and then two filled squares afterwards. The challenge is to find out which tiles are filled and how many spaces are between the groups. Confused? Don't worry, Gemsweeper has a thorough tutorial system to ease you into the game. It's quite simple when you see it in action.

gemsweeper1.jpgYou have two tools to use to complete puzzles: a hand icon and a hammer. Use the hand to grab treasure from tiles that should be filled and swing the hammer to smash cursed tiles with a satisfying crunch. If you try and grab treasure from a tile that's cursed, you'll lose a chunk of precious time. And if you break a tile that holds a gem, Professor McGuffog appears to patch the gem together with glue. You only have a few pots of glue available, so keep your cursor cool and think logically. Unlike most picross games, Gemsweeper requires you to fill in tiles as well as eliminate cursed ones.

Gemsweeper's levels are divided into temples, each with twelve puzzles to complete. The difficulty level remains extremely low for the first several temples, so picross masters may get bored early on. Fortunately action-oriented bonus stages are available between temples that let you complete a constantly regenerating picross grid. These are also available as a separate arcade mode from the main menu, which is a nice touch.

gemsweeper2.jpgAnalysis: Picross is one of my favorite pen-and-paper puzzle games, so naturally any computerized form will tickle me addicted. Gemsweeper doesn't add anything new to the picross game scene, but that simplicity works wonders for it. Instead of crowding the interface with unnecessary options or crummy mini-games, Gemsweeper streamlines the picross experience to make it easy for anyone to play. Believe it or not, I've seen games that ruin picross with a clunky interface and bad design. Gemsweeper is not one of those games!

One great feature of Gemsweeper is how you can mark rows and columns of tiles with a quick sweep of the mouse without hitting neighboring squares. The game recognizes when you drag the mouse and confines the click to your current row or column, preventing adjacent tiles from being touched. When you're trying to knock out a whole area of tiles with a quick swipe, you'll want to give the designers a hug for including this feature.

The story behind Gemsweeper isn't much to speak of, neither are the sound effects and overall visual package. Most of the dialogue is horribly cheesy, but it adds a kind of B-movie charm, enough to make you crack a grin between intense puzzle rounds.

If you're a picross nut like me, Gemsweeper will (eventually) give you an excellent challenge in a pleasing, easy-to-use package. There are over 225 puzzles with the larger ones spanning 30 or more squares. Plenty to keep you busy for quite some time. Newbies to the picross scene will find a gentle introduction to the fascinating genre of puzzles, all wrapped up in a fun casual package.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Not available.
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.


| Comments (41) | Views (10)

Human Brain CloudJohnB

From Kyle Gabler, one of the brains behind the Experimental Gameplay Project, comes an equally experimental massively multiplayer online word association "game", Human Brain Cloud. To play, all you have to do is read the word (or words) on top, then type in the first thing that pops in your head. Don't censor yourself, just think, then type. Human Brain Cloud collects associations made by players around the world and dumps them into an interactive database. It's a fascinating experiment that just so happens to be an addictive "game" to boot.

As you type words in the box, Human Brain Cloud maps out your associations on the right, displaying each phrase with the number of other people that formed the same connections. The leaderboard, accessible from the top of the screen, displays a handful of stats such as the most words submitted, users who are most "in tune" with the rest of the players, and the strongest connections so far. Click "view the cloud" to see a goo-based display of a word with its associated entries. Click one of the blobs to explore a new word to see what connections the rest of the world made.

To date, over 3 million associations have been submitted, connecting over 300,000 unique words and phrases by over 200,000 people. That's a lot of random human thinking. While it's far from fool-proof scientific, Human Brain Cloud is an interesting experiment that could yield some thought-provoking results. Plus, it's really fun to play around with.

You might also like to keep tabs on Kyle's latest efforts, as he has recently launched a brave new indie game studio based in San Francisco named 2D Boy.

Update: Human Brain Cloud is no longer available.


| Comments (19) | Views (1)

Link Dump Fridays

John BeaverHello. You've reached Friday. I'm not around to take your call at the moment, so please leave your message after the beep and I'll call you back.

While you're waiting, here's a sports sim. I scoured the latest in motor racing, soccer, and baseball sims but none of them could come close to the realism in this interpretation of the healthy pursuit of Acrobatic Mud Wrestling.

You know how it is when you wander on to a construction site and find yourself suspended on a girder several hundred feet above the ground? No? Then try Construction Maze.

Ever wondered what it would feel like to conquer the world? Well, now you have a chance to play as Genghis Khan and do just that.

Do you Facebook? If so, you might want to join the JIG Facebook Fan Page. There's even a JIG Casual Gamplay widget to add to your profile. Personally, I don't think that this Social Networking thing will ever really catch on.

Control small green fellow. Progress as far as possible. Avoid countless giant red balls. Simple. You play now (thanks, Psychotronic).

Here is a cute, simple game, but it's pretty brutal if you die. If this is how hard it is to get a piece of cheese, imagine buying a full meal. Try Adventures of Alex.

Do you like Kitty Cats? I Like Kitty Cats.


BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (249 votes)
| Comments (129) | Views (513)

animatorvsanimation.jpgJohnBLast year, Alan Becker created two clever Flash animations about an invisible animator battling his stick figure creation. Both Animator vs. Animation clips were big hits, and now with the help of Charles Yeh, the episodes have taken the interactive leap to become a full-blown fighting game: The Animator vs. Animation Game.

You can play as either the animator or animation (after unlocking the latter), each trying his best to eliminate the other player. Your arsenal is composed of common drawing tools found in the Flash development environment. Each tool has a slightly different effect depending on which character you play. For example, the line tool allows the animator to fire "arrows", but if the animation grabs it it becomes a staff.

As the animator you control the cursor and have two objectives: torture the stick character, and preserve the timeline at the top of the screen. Your arsenal is weak compared to the animation's weapons, but they're flexible and give you a wide range of freedom. As the animation, your goal is to attack the cursor and, secondarily, the timeline. The stickman's moves are much more destructive than the animator's, though your target is much more difficult to hit.

Analysis: The Animator vs. Animation episodes expressed what we feel like happens every day: the computer fights back. It was hilarious to watch the struggle between animator and animation as each used everyday tools to turn the desktop environment into a battlefield. Now that the war is interactive, it's even more entertaining. The Animator vs. Animation Game follows the episodes closely in terms of style, attacks, and overall design. It's a perfect game adaptation of the animations.

On the down side, there's a lot to learn before you can really get into The Animator vs. Animation Game. Moves are often intricate and require precise clicks and motions to get just right. In the heat of battle, it isn't always possible to pull off these fantastic stunts, forcing you to rely on simple but reliable attacks most of the time. Playing as the animation can be overwhelming at first, as this character uses a dozen keys for movement and attack. With a little practice, however, it becomes second nature.

The Animator vs. Animation Game preserves the grin-inducing fun of the episodes and makes it completely interactive. It's any desktop warrior's dream come true!

Play The Animator vs. Animation Game


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Rating: 4.8/5 (40 votes)
| Comments (34) | Views (41)

JonahZeta FlowNow here is a game that makes you say "ZOMG LASERS!" — the mark of a great shmup. Zeta Flow, from Matthew Dirks, who has graced our previous competitions with Jelly Fusion and Colour Connect is quite a shmup indeed. In Zeta Flow, you control an innocent little turret gun ship as you fight off giant mechanical enemies.

Each level pits you against one evil ship, getting progressively bigger and badder from level to level. Moving is simple, just move the mouse. Shooting is simpler: hold down the mouse button. Aiming can be done automatically or manually (for "experts only").

Enemies are constructed of different parts (i.e., building blocks and weapons) attached to a core. In order to beat a level, you must destroy the core. You can think of it like the top bubble in Bust A Move: If you destroy the core, all of the other parts below it will fall off and you will beat the level. As in Bust A Move, you can also lop off lower parts of a chain. Likewise, you can cut off segments by destroying the part that connects to the core. While the core can shoot only a few bullets, other weapons will aim to thwart your advance, such as turret guns, homing missiles, lasers, and force fields.

Also included in the game are optional keyboard controls, which can be mapped as desired. In fact the entire game can be navigated with just a keyboard. Good news for all you guys who don't own mice. But wait, theres more...behind door number three...IT'S A NEW CAR!! (and by that I mean level editor!) The best part about the level editor is that it lets you see the way the parts of the ships are connected.

Analysis: This is a fun game. Looks great (clean, minimalistic), sounds great (the shooting noise is very satisfying), and most importantly, plays great. While the game is a bit short and a bit easy at first glance, both of these problems are addressed by the inclusion of the level editor. You can also play levels designed by other players in the level gallery, which provides a possibly infinite supply of levels as long as there remains interest in the game. Also, the two different aiming schemes provide two different difficulty levels, thus increasing the replay value of the game as well.

Also, advanced players may develop a certain strategy based on their individual playing style. For instance, if you are a good shooter, you may want to pick off all of the weapons and then have an easy battle. On the other hand, if you are good at dodging, you might try to take out the core early on while avoiding all the bullets and lasers. Better yet, you can combine both styles. A quick glance at the level editor will enable you to find out which parts of the enemy are crucial, so you can take them out first (however this will send you back to the start of the game, so on second thought, maybe don't do that).

Maybe the worst part of the game is having to sit through the advertisements after some of the levels. But that's a minor complaint considering the game is free to play. So go play it and support Matthew Dirks so that he can create even more fantastic games like this. Watch out for the lasers!

Play Zeta Flow

JayJay - As many of you have indicated in the comments, yes, this game is heavily influenced by Warning Forever, a downloadable game for Windows we reviewed here last year. Matthew is looking for some constructive criticism for his efforts here with Zeta Flow, in creating a similar game with Flash. Cheers!


(16 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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dancemonkeyTimebotOne of my first ever "favorite" games was a little isometric action puzzler called D/Generation, where you led a little delivery guy through successive floors in a building by stepping on switches, opening doors, and collecting weapons. Does anyone else remember this? My friend and I had such fun playing this game that years later I tracked down a copy on ebay and gave it to him as a birthday gift. Yes, I am that cheap.

Timebot by David Durham is in a similar vein to that old chestnut, but with one noteworthy exception: his interpretation of the "replay" competition theme. Using the arrow keys you must guide a robot throughout several levels. The key mechanic is to roll onto switches that open doors or materialize platforms, but the doors and platforms block your progress again once you move off of the switch. What's a player to do?

In this case hit [spacebar] to jump back in time to the start of the level, allowing your "current" robot to wait patiently while your "past" robot once again heads over to the switch to open up the door and let you through.

Have I blown your mind? There's more: you must accomplish this before you run out of energy, while simultaneously collecting little gold gears for extra points. Had enough? Good, because that's about it. The game itself is fairly straightforward, but the levels obviously get more and more difficult as you progress. You're allowed only a certain number of "time jumps" each level but usually end up using them all, sometimes overlapping your robotic instances so much that your brain threatens to explode from the combined effort of temporal distortion.

Analysis: The replay mechanic in Timebot turns what would otherwise be a simple platform puzzle game on its head and creates something truly outstanding. Not only do you have to know which buttons to press in the right sequence, but you have to mentally track your past movements over several iterations of your robot, replaying in your mind how each one will move and when it will land on each switch. It caused a real brain meltdown for me around level 8, where I had to hit the comments for some help.

The graphics are nice and remind me of a more refined update to the graphics in the aforementioned D/Generation. I think the lack of music is always a good choice in games like these since you could wind up spending so long on a particular level. Unless the music or background sound effects are truly superb, it's better just to do without them lest you drive your audience mad.

My only quibble with the game is very minor. You gather the gears for points, but I'd rather see the gears be put to another use. I personally have never been driven to gather anything purely for points or achievement, though I know that those gamers exist. Perhaps they could bump your energy up to give you more time (and for particularly evil level design, some could actually cost more time to fetch than they give you)?

The game as it stands doesn't really need much refinement, but it would be great to see it further developed with more obstacles, more levels, and eventually maybe a level editor? That's a lot to ask, I know. For now I'll just enjoy what David's given us.

Play Timebot

JayJay - David's creative interpretation of the replay theme here applied to a puzzle game fits like a glove. He focuses on a few core concepts and keeps it relatively simple; the end result is a game that is lot of fun to play. Timebot feels like a complete game, polished in many respects and yet there are a few rough spots, too.

Some people experienced difficulty grasping the concept of time travel (myself included), and I believe the choice to describe it as such represents a fundamental flaw in the design. After all, the player isn't doing any time travel, but rather establishing a program for subsequent bots to follow as the player continues along the same time continuum. This burdens the player with a paradigm shift, necessary to experience before the game can be played as it was intended.

And for a game that is entirely keyboard controlled, forcing a mouse-click between levels causes unnecessary additional effort. Also, the lack of a save mechanism to store progress reduces the likelihood that the player will come back to finish if the game is not solved in one sitting. I would have liked to see a keyboard hotkey (spacebar perhaps?) to advance to the next level, and a level select screen with perhaps levels unlocked as the player advances.

All things considered, Timebot is one of 4 entries I had chosen as personal favorites in this competition, and it is a game design with enormous potential. I'd love to see David develop it further with all the polish of a game afforded ample development time. It is an exceptional idea executed almost perfectly, and it is indeed a pleasure to have it included among the other entries. Well done, David!


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (23 votes)
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Adventure of CatJohnBJust released from Dofi blog, creator of the World of Sand games: Adventure of Cat, a sequel of sorts to Cat with Bow Golf. In Adventure of Cat your goal is to guide a hapless gray kitten to the end of the stage. Your only mode of transportation is an extendible stick that you can use to push against the ground, propelling the cat forward.

Everything you see in the game, including clouds and the "goal" signs, is solid and can be used to push yourself forward. You have precise control over your angle, but the physics are wobbly enough to add a little unpredictability to the mix.

Adventure of Cat consists of only one stage and will take you just a few minutes to complete. Just like some of Dofi's other recent releases, it's a simply-made and compelling game idea to help you get through the day.

Play Adventure of Cat

Cheers to videogamefreak for sending this one in!


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (214 votes)
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John BeaverDolphin Olympics 2One of the features of many of the games in the recent Casual Game Design Competition #3 (and particularly the winning entry) is that compulsion to have "just one more try" when the game ends. And one of the games that has certainly always had that effect on me is Dolphin Olympics, by Alan Rawkins, reviewed here just over a year ago. Every time the clock runs down, there's that nagging urge to try and score that little bit more, or jump that little bit higher.

Well, Dolphin Olympics 2 is a much anticipated sequel with some great new features. Firstly, other sea creatures will now interact with you. In fact, you can earn more points by getting other fish to follow your lead and jump out of the water. Magic rings both above and below the water give you a quick speed boost and can help you reach the dizzy heights of outer-space (complete with 1950's sci-fi-movie-style music). There are some new tricks and secrets to discover as you try to swim, leap and tail-slide yourself onto the high score board.

Analysis: I was a big fan of the original Dolphin Olympics and the sequel does not disappoint. Although the mechanic and aim of the game are pretty much the same, this has a slightly different look to it, with significantly more detail added to the sea bed and background. Once again, the challenge is in chaining together strings of successive tricks to boost your multiplier and amass some impressive scores. And the trick to that is ensuring that your re-entry to the water is perfect every time.

Whilst this is a great way to spend your five minute coffee break, this game will reward replay with new moves and ever higher places to explore. I'll leave you to discover most of the secrets that are hidden in this game, but if you run the game at different times of day or night, you will be pleasantly surprised (change your system clock and re-load the page if you don't believe me).

Play Dolphin Olympics 2

Cheers to Alan, Tala, and Jack for sending this one in!


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (67 votes)
| Comments (89) | Views (183)

PatrickPillage the VillagePillage The Village is the spiritual successor and prequel to Defend Your Castle, one of THE original web-game classics from back when there were only so many good web-games on the whole Internet. One might say it's the Super Mario Bros. of Flash games, but it was certainly the Super Mario Bros. of then-burgeoning XGen Studios, one of the first companies to dive into the Flash scene with gusto and not a look back. Now, years later, XGen is back with Pillage The Village, a smashmortion of click-tastic mayhem.

In contrast with its predecessor, the game indicates how far browser-based games have come over the course of this decade. Pillage the VillageThe graphics of Defend Your Castle were simplistic, single-shade color fields populated by stick figures, while Pillage the Village offers lushly illustrated backgrounds and stylized character designs. The funny thing is, you're more reticent to, you know, commit genocide against a race of human-like characters than you are against generic stick-men, but you get over it once you start collecting cash from their corpses. This leads into a deeper macro-game of upgrading your magic and abilities as you face greater numbers and challenges. You even get to choose between a hilarious moral dichotomy, the "good" path involves spells like euthanasia (killing them softly) and bending time, while evil is more directly aggressive, involving anvils and power gauntlets. Little details, like the windmills and the sheep, the roll of the thrown hut, the scaling of the globe sprite between saving, the fact that there is a good save system (rare for a browser-based game), or the voice-acting in the intro add up to a holistically charming experience.

Despite its polish and solid gameplay, the game does suffer from some control issues; however, since this review was first published, XGen Studios has informed us that many of the issues that made the game frustrating to play upon its released have now been addressed.

XGen founder Skye Boyes provides the writing and design of the game and delivers a certain zany panache in his descriptions of why euthanizing people is moral. The variation in the spells and villagers only ripens the further along you get, keeping you pegged for the long haul. This may not be the Super Mario Bros. 3 to Defend Your Castle's franchise original, but its definitely better than Mario 2.

Play Pillage the Village


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JayHaluz2

Continuing the Haluz saga, a Samorost-like surreal point-and-click adventure from a year ago, Tomas sends word from Slovakia that he has just released a sequel, Haluz 2.

The bird that flies away with the newspaper in the first chapter is back and gets caught up in the electricity to your house causing the lights to go out. And it's your job to make things right again. Travel through stunning scenery and solve puzzles in this charming and delightful new graphical adventure.

Borrowing a page from the book of Samorost 2, this particular chapter spans two parts: one free and one downloadable "full version" for purchase. I will add more once I see the whole thing for myself. In the meantime,

Play Haluz 2

Or, play the original Haluz.

Haluz 2 is now FREE!

  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (110 votes)
| Comments (134) | Views (119)

JohnBStrawberry TomatoStrawberry Tomato is a brand new room escape game from the Gotmail team of Japan, the same folks behind Il Destino, The Privacy and The Shochu Bar. You begin locked in a vacation home trying to find a way out to meet a mysterious woman. The layout and general design of Strawberry Tomato is similar to Gotmail's previous releases: move around the room using the arrows on the side of the screen, and click on objects to examine them. Puzzles force you to look in every conceivable corner for items and clues, so keep your eyes peeled for suspicious spots in the distance and objects that beg to be moved.

Expect the same great-looking 3D visuals as before, but this time you're trapped in an Arabian-themed room and must hunt for clues to escape. Investigate cabinets and drawers, look behind chairs and piece together number puzzles all in search of an elusive key that leads to freedom.

Analysis: The Gotmail point-and-click games all offer very pleasing eye candy including 3D rendered models and elaborate environments. It should be no surprise to learn their games keep increasing in popularity with every release. This is not necessarily a good thing since the Gotmail servers don't seem to be able to keep up with the load. We had to wait the better part of a day just to get a browser to load the game. Once the game was loaded, however, it was smooth sailing.

In terms of gameplay, there were several moments that the game seemed like a click fest while attempting to find all the hidden hotspots, which aren't always obvious. Pixel hunting is alive and kicking in this Gotmail production, but if you can get past that there is an engaging game with some challenging puzzles in the usual Gotmail style. It's a game that will surely please point-and-click and room escape aficionados around the world.

Play Strawberry Tomato

Note: To those having difficulty getting the game to load: if at first you don't succeed, reload, reload, reload. You know you're getting closer when you are asked to choose a language, Japanese or English. If, after selecting a language, a white percentage indicator does not appear (give it a few moments), reload again or you may be waiting all day for naught. Total download size: 10MB.


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (112 votes)
| Comments (76) | Views (1,047)

JessBloond Tower DefenseBloons and More Bloons, wonderfully addictive and beautifully conceived little games from NinjaKiwi studios, have been two of the casual gaming community's biggest recent hits. Now, in a decidedly different vein, comes Bloons Tower Defense.

Bloons Tower Defense takes the Bloons concept—popping balloons, preferably with monkeys involved—and spins it in a new and intriguing direction. Players start with an aerial view of a winding path. At the start of each level, a stream of balloons enters from one side and, unless popped, will escape out the other end. Balloons come in red, blue, green, yellow and black flavors; blues move faster than reds, greens faster than blues, and so on. Also, increasing the complexity of the challenge, higher "ranking" balloons contain lower ranking ones inside them. So, blue balloons, when popped, reveal reds, greens contain blues which contain reds, and so on.

And what can one player do against such a mighty horde of bloons? Build towers, of course! And by "towers," I mean bombs, dart-shooting monkeys, tacks, and so on. Each type of tower has two possible upgrades, such as increased shooting radius, piercing darts, bigger bombs, etc. Each category also has significant strengths and weaknesses; one of the joys of the game is discovering the perfect combination to maximize popping potential and beat the seemingly endless flood of bloons.

Analysis: I was rather disappointed with Bloons Tower Defense. Not because it's a bad game; quite the opposite, in fact. It just, well, feels unfinished. With a little bit more work and time, the designers could have turned a fun game into a truly exceptional offering. Chief among my complaints is the lack of a save function (playing 37 levels over again becomes very, very tedious), and the absence of music. The "restart" button literally means just that; a button that could replay the previous level would make more sense and save a lot of time. As much fun as I found Bloons Tower Defense, ultimately the tedium overcame the enjoyment.

A flawed but engaging title, an amazing amount of potential fun wrapped in a frustrating presentation. And yet still likely to please die-hard Bloons fans.

Play Bloons Tower Defense

Also check out NinjaKiwi's first two in the Bloons series, Bloons and More Bloons.


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Game Design Competition #4SwitchballSierra OnlineWe are just two weeks into the development period for Casual Gameplay Design Competition #4, and I am pleased to report that we have even more prizes to give away(!)

Sierra Online, lead sponsor of the competition and publisher of the amazing new game, Switchball, will be awarding a free copy of the game to all 5 prize winners!

Switchball is a gorgeous casual game download for Windows that includes realistic ball physics and 4 different types of balls, each with its own unique behavior. The game requires you to switch between the various balls to solve puzzles and to complete each level. Look forward to our review of the game as the competition deadline approaches.

Highlights of questions that have come up during the past week include:

  • Are 2D circle collisions and reactions acceptable in this competition? - Yes, of course. Your game need not include realistic 3D ball physics like that seen in Switchball. As with prior competitions, you are free to interpret the competition theme any way you choose.
  • How can we avoid name collisions with shared objects? - If you plan to incorporate saving of data to the local shared object, please prefix the name of your shared object with your game name. For example, if your game is named "BallsOfun" and your shared object is named "savedGame1", then your shared object could be: "ballsOfun-savedGame1".
  • Are new stubs available? - Yes! I have just finished readying new stubs based on the final UI from the previous competition. You may download them from here:Please use the appropriate stub for the version of Actionscript you are using for your game.

Note: Comments are disabled for this entry. Please continue to use the main competition announcement page for posting questions and comments. Cheers!


(5 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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linus.jpgWhat Linus Bruckman Sees When His Eyes Are Closed (Windows, freeware, 42MB) - The answer, surprisingly, isn't "blackness". Linus is an adventure game created by Vince Twelve that takes the dual screen idea to a different level and tasks you with playing two different games at the same time: a space comedy and a medieval Japanese story. Your cursor is split into two parts, one for each half of the screen, and they track each other. When you move on one half you move in the other, likewise with clicking objects. To solve puzzles you have to rely on information from each half of the screen, putting clues together to figure out what's going on. Linus is a genuinely great game that deserves a look from everyone, not just die-hard adventure gamers.

NOTE: Some comments, from when this game was first mentioned on the site, may be found on this page.


(11 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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JohnBA Good HunchA charming platformer with a healthy dose of puzzle elements, A Good Hunch! by Philipp Seifried and Markus Mundjar is an entry into our third Game Design Competition. Each level puts you in control of Harvey and Tina, two brightly colored goats who are trying to reach the exits in each stage. You only control one character at a time, but after the first goat reaches an exit, his or her movements are repeated as you move the other character through the level. Hopping on the back of your friend lets you bounce higher than your normal jump, opening up a wide range of gameplay possibilities that Philipp and Markus explore with (adorable) artistic style.

Using the spacebar to jump and the arrow keys to move, your first goal in each stage is to take one of the goats to an exit. As you hop across platforms and explore the layout, take note of key points that seem inaccessible at first glance. To traverse these puzzles, you'll need to take advantage of the repeat function of the game. For example, if an exit is just out of reach, maneuver the goat below and stand there for a few seconds before finishing your first run. Then, when you take control of the second goat, the first goat's actions will be replayed and you can hop on the character's back to get a boost to the top of the platform. Timing the moves can be tricky and often requires several attempts before you get it right. A Good Hunch! lets you undo a turn and switch goats with a simple click of the mouse, so frustration is usually kept to a minimum.

Analysis: Although it's extraordinarily cute and illustrates a creative use of our "replay" theme, A Good Hunch! isn't without a few minor flaws. Both the physics and the hit detection feel a little spongy, creating some frustrating moments trying to land on platforms just right. This is exacerbated when timing is an important issue — one slip-up and your whole scheme could be ruined. Sound effects are noticeably missing, but given the time constraints of our competition, we'll let that one slide.

The levels and puzzles never get too complex in A Good Hunch!, and fast reflexes and lucky timing are usually emphasized over brain power. The cartoonish art style definitely adds to the game's appeal, and that piano background music fits the atmosphere perfectly.

Overall, A Good Hunch! is a well-designed game with a superb presentation, solid gameplay and an engaging concept. Cheers to Philipp and Markus for the entry!

Play A Good Hunch

Update: Just released! Play the Gold Version

zxozxo - A Good Hunch is one of those charming casual games that just makes you smile, which helps smooth over the frustration you might feel with the physics. Still, it's hard to fault the authors for the physics, considering the short preparation time. The collaborative replay was a great idea, and the level design exploited a full range of solution techniques. I would love to see a sequel with three goats (although I think three's the limit without getting overly complicated)!

JayJay - Although one of several entries with a similar interpretation of the "replay" theme, this particular implementation is creative and done very well. A Good Hunch is a gorgeous game with an appealing charm that pulls you in and doesn't want to let go: it just gets prettier the further you get with it. A new version of the game is in the works that addresses the criticisms with the collision detection and the sound support. Look for an update here soon. Well done Philipp and Markus!


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weekend_download.gif

JohnBOn this edition of Weekend Download, we pose the questions that plague your gray matter the most. What would happen if you could rewind time with the touch of a spacebar? Who owns Majesty Manor? What would happen if the rolling rocks from Indiana Jones got a mind of their own? And just what does Linus Bruckman see when his eyes are closed? For answers, check out the games below, or combine the following words in any order and interpret the meaning yourself: pastry, Madagascar, treeline, Harukio, with, running, a, spleen.

ghost1.jpgG.H.O.S.T. Hunters: The Haunting of Majesty Manor (Windows, demo, 86MB) - Games named with A.C.R.O.N.Y.M.S. (Always Creating Really Obscure Names Yields Mind-numbing Sentences) bug me, but I managed to look beyond the title thanks to a very attractive number: $2,500. G.H.O.S.T. Hunters is your typical find-the-object casual game set in a haunted mansion, but the icing on this cake is a contest for anyone who completes the game and solves the mystery of who owns Majesty Manor. Find objects in each scene to uncover possible suspects, then piece together clues and send in your guess by October 16th for a chance to win. Full contest details are available on Aisle 5 Games' website, so be sure to read the fine print before getting too excited. But uh... don't expect to beat me, 'cause I'm so going to win.

linus.jpgWhat Linus Bruckman Sees When His Eyes Are Closed (Windows, freeware, 42MB) - The answer, surprisingly, isn't "blackness". Linus is an adventure game created by Vince Twelve that takes the dual screen idea to a different level and tasks you with playing two different games at the same time: a space comedy and a medieval Japanese story. Your cursor is split into two parts, one for each half of the screen, and they track each other. When you move on one half you move in the other, likewise with clicking objects. To solve puzzles you have to rely on information from each half of the screen, putting clues together to figure out what's going on. Linus is a genuinely great game that deserves a look from everyone, not just die-hard adventure gamers.

timetravel.gifTimetravel Bloboid (Windows, freeware, 2.6MB) - If you're hungry for Jonathan Blow's hotly anticipated Braid, Timetravel Bloboid might quell the fires a tiny, tiny bit. The platformer drops you in the shoes of a little character who must collect every coin in a level to activate the exit door. Spikes and perilous perils stand in your way, and your only real weapon is a limited rewind feature that lets you backtrace a few seconds of movement. Surprisingly challenging, but a level editor lets you create easy-as-cake stages to give you that sense of achievement.

QuinnQuinn (Mac OS X, freeware, 2.8MB) - Believe it or not, it's a game exclusively for the Mac(!) This tetromino game, from Simon Härtel of Germany, looks gorgeous and plays as great as it looks. The level of polish present in this title is impeccable. Play solo or with a friend at the same keyboard, or start a server and invite others to connect over a LAN or the Internet. Quinn supports a wide variety of multiplayer rules, global and local high score tables, and it even allows you to customize the pieces and backgrounds for the game. And if all that wasn't enough to persuade you to download the game, this exceptional production can be yours for the very low price of... free. If you have a Mac, Quinn stacks up quite nicely on it.

boulder1.jpgA Tribute to the Rolling Boulder (Windows, freeware, 5MB) - Another short experimental gameplay project by Kloonigames (creator of Crayon Physics), Rolling Boulder puts you in the granite-encrusted shoes of a rolling rock protecting artifacts from Indiana Jones adventurer-types. Simply roll around and smash the little dudes to keep them away from the statues at the top.


(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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AdamBThe Apocalyptic Game About PenguinsJust released from Penguin DT is a downloadable action packed platforming extravaganza (Windows). After three and a half years of development - TAGAP is out. What's TAGAP? It's The Apocalyptic Game About Penguins.

While a scientist in "a distant research facility" (New Zealand) discovers a penguin genome, one of the penguin test subjects breaks loose. Soon he's blasting his way through the waking army of undead mindless zombie penguins in a struggle to overthrow the impending penguin apocalypse. The story fills itself in from there, but the crux of the game centers on good old fashioned platform jumping, and the decimation of penguins.

Use the mouse to aim, left-click to fire; use the keyboard to move. You will come across eight weapons, each with its own secondary fire (accessible by a right-click). The twin Uzi's can fire in two directions at once. The shotgun is also a grenade launcher. The plasma gun acts as a shield. Using the flame thrower, you can set the floors on fire and oh, so much more. That's even before you get to pilot a helicopter.

TAGAP has great graphics, and enough violence to be satisfying but not enough to be gory. It has thumping tunes from start to finish. It's difficult, its challenging and is ultimately rewarding. TAGAP also comes with a level editor with which you can build your own levels and even cut scenes. With an optional (and also free) download, you can get the 70-minute original game soundtrack, and there's still more.

Analysis: From the moment the game begins, it becomes obvious just how much work has been put into this game. On the downside, however, I also get the feeling that the developers themselves played it all through testing, increasing the difficulty as they progressed to keep it challenging for them. That leaves us with a very steep learning curve, even in easy mode. A lot of the levels become swamped with all manner of creatures and as a novice, it's easy to use up your "cool" ammunition too soon and be left with the dangerously underpowered Uzi.

That said, there are definitely breather portions in the game and the satisfaction of overcoming such difficult sections is incredible. The game frequently surprises and there is always something new to experience just around the corner. Perhaps the easy mode could have been just a little more so, but never the less, TAGAP is a highly recommended game play experience. And it's free. =)

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Not available.
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.


(2 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (7) | Views (17)

zxoTorus Games PoolNo, I'm not talking about the game developer behind such titles as Carmageddon TDR2000 and Shrek Smash and Crash Racing. And no, Donut Games did not change its name in order to attract a more intellectual crowd.

Torus Games from Jeff Weeks and Geometrygames is the name of a free downloadable set of 8 simple games for Windows and Mac that, rather than being played on a 2-D plane, are played on the surface of a torus. Here you will find a twist on classic games like tic-tac-toe, pool, Minesweeper (called Apples here), and even a bizarre version of chess.

But what exactly is a torus and why do these classic games suddenly play differently on the surface of one? Glad you asked! Simply put, a torus is a fancy mathematical term for a donut. If you want to get technical, it's the 3-D locus of points that are some distance X away from a circle (provided X is less than the radius of the circle and probably a couple other technical yadda-yaddas too). What this means is that the surface is never ending, and that you can do some neat wraparound tricks with these games.

Torus Games ChessWhile it might be nice to actually see the torus while you play, in reality it would probably be pretty clunky to work with and would take a Herculean programming effort to pull it off well. Instead, the surface of the torus is transferred to a 2-D plane, where the playing field wraps around both vertically and horizontally. If you prefer, each game can also be played using a tiled view, where the game board is replicated on each side, saving you the mental difficulty of trying to figure out the wraparound yourself. This is especially helpful for judging angles when playing pool. Incidentally, you may also choose to play each game on the surface of a Klein Bottle as well. The difference is that the vertical wraparound is also reflected about the vertical axis

Although it's kind of neat to play jigsaw puzzles or word finds on a torus, these and most of the included games are best described as nice diversions. However, two games for which the torus shape significantly changes the gameplay of the original are pool and chess.

Pool is a scaled-down version of 8-ball, with three stripes, three solids, a black 4-ball, and a single pocket. On your turn, move the mouse to change direction and power, then click to shoot. It may take a while to get used to the fact that there are no rails, and that you can use the wraparound to shoot at a ball that might seem to be blocked off from you.

Chess might seem scaled down at first: you start with just a king, a queen, 2 rooks, a bishop, 2 knights and 2 pawns in a 3x3 square. However, since the rook, bishop and queen can now wrap their moves around the board, their attack capabilities are greatly increased and the game morphs into an offensive showdown where you do your best to keep your opponent in check and off guard. This one is especially crazy to play on the Klein Bottle!

Best of all, there are multiple difficulty levels for most games and the option to play against a friend. So search out your inner geometry geek and gear up for Torus Games!

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the free full version


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cubex.jpgJohnBOne part shooter, one part visual/audio toy, Cubex by RoboJAM is a stunning Flash game reminiscent of the Dreamcast/PS2 musical shooter Rez. The first person view sends you flying through a futuristic corridor defending yourself against polygonal enemies that appear in the distance. With the mouse, simply move the target around the screen and pelt your foes with weapons fire. The throbbing techno beat in the background keeps things running right along, and each time you fire and destroy an enemy you add to the music.

Between levels where the only goal is to destroy everything you see, Cubex adds a little brain twist action to keep you alert. Instead of randomly destroying enemies, the game asks you to shoot the shape that doesn't match, throwing a handful of similar foes at you and forcing you to decide and fire within a few seconds. These require split-second decision making but add a nice pseudo-puzzle touch to an otherwise reflex-based game.

Where Cubex really shines is the audio and visual presentation. You couldn't ask for more svelte graphics, though after a few levels they feel a tad repetitive. The techno backbeat is excellent, and the subtle interaction between your playing and the game's music helps draw you in.

Analysis: Cubex is a simple game with widely varying difficulty levels. Sometimes it's easy, and the rest of the time it's extremely difficult. Hit detection in Cubex is a bit ambiguous, and I was never quite sure when and where I would take damage. Enemies turn red when they're about to hurt you, but by that time it's too late to defend yourself. In the end, the best strategy I could come up with was to keep covering the screen with weapons fire between targeting stray foes. Odds are I'd come out on top.

A gorgeous presentation wrapped around a sometimes relaxing, sometimes hectic shooter.

Play Cubex


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Link Dump Fridays

Kero

I'm not much for long introductions. It's the end of the week and that means good times and the weekend just around the corner. And because it's the end of the week, that also means:
It's LINK DUMP FRIDAY!!!

  • Shield defense - So you have this base and tanks are shooting at you. What do you do? Shoot back? Nope. Just use your shield to reflect enemy fire back at them. Buy upgrades in between levels, and bonus upgrade every few levels depending on what difficulty you choose.
  • Avalanche - Bricks are falling! Water is rising! Jump as best as you can to keep your ... Pillow? Marshmallow? Whatever it is, keep it from getting crushed or touching the water.
  • Qwerty Warriors 2 - TYPE TYPE TYPE GO GO GO!! Keep typing, never stop typing! If you get rampage every letter is the right letter!
  • Kickflip - A free-skating skateboard game with lots of tricks supported. The most important ones are probably manuals since you can use those to chain together air, ground and rail tricks. The game features backgrounds from various artists and selectable custom-made beatbox soundtracks and effects that build up to a beatboxing tune when landing a longer combo. Good stuff from Stimunation.
  • Turret Defense 2 - There are guys invading your oil field or something. Shoot them. Click to shoot space for rockets.
  • Skill stack - Press space to stack the blocks on the other blocks. You get more points if none fall off. Keep stacking until... Well it seems to be a topless tower so just keep stacking.
  • Cat Face - Cat Face, he's got a big cat's face. He's got the body of a cat and the face of a cat. He flies through the air cuz he's got a cat's face. He's Cat Face. Also watch 2, and 3.

Well, how's that for my first LDF? Great huh? Yeah, I though it was great, too. If you think any of these are worthy of a full review leave a nice comment, please. :)


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JessBall Revamped 5: SynergyOk, so there's this ball. And then there's this square. You gotta get the ball to the square. How complicated could it get?

Plenty complicated, it turns out, in this absurdly fun and addictive game from John Cooney and his prolific jmtb02 studios. What sets Ball Revamped 5: Synergy apart from other physics-based games is how well-executed each element of the game is; the ball responds beautifully to the lightest of touches, the levels constantly change themes and add in new and creatively frustrating obstacles, and the controls are simple and self-explanatory.

The structure of the game is simple: 10 levels of increasing difficulty, based on a common motif, is followed by a "maze" in which the player finds the portal to the next set of 10. What keeps this from becoming repetitive is the constant introduction of clever and often confounding twists in the form of little, harmless-looking stars floating in the levels. Passing over those stars may turn your ball into a rock (with the corresponding increase in "weight"), a bomb or a daisy, surround the ball with a pool of water or start a fierce wind blowing. Expect to die. A lot. The game helpfully keeps track of your number of deaths—I'm up to 33!—and once in a while will even reward you with cheerfully-worded "achievements" celebrating a particularly egregious string of failures.

Analysis: This game is some serious fun, a simple concept dressed up with some ingenious ideas and a lovely dose of humor. My only criticism is that a few of the levels are a bit too difficult and may cause some players to quit out of frustration. Right now I'm stuck at level 53, trying to get my rock-ball to make it over a spike without hitting the ceiling, and it's just not gonna happen. Unfortunately, if after another few (read: few hundred) tries I don't make it, I may have to move on.

For those of you who do finish, however, you may be pleased to find available a full-featured level editor nestled within the game's main menu. Use it to create and share entirely new levels of your own design to confound and frustrate your friends with. Replay. Ball physics. Hmm, recognizing a theme here? ;) Prepare to be addicted.

Play Ball Revamped 5

Check out other games in the Ball Revamped series.


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zxoAsteroids Revenge 3Ladies and gentlemen, what I'm about to reveal may shock and alarm you. It may astonish and disgust you. It may even rock (ha!) you to your very core!

Yes, it turns out there's a great injustice that hearkens back to the very roots of casual gameplay. What we thought was a mindless enemy bent on destruction turns out to actually be a peace-loving sentient race that only wants to be left alone. But people kept coming back again and again just to wipe more of these beings off the map; we pushed them too far, and now they are back with a vengeance!

I am referring, of course, to the seemingly unassuming Asteroids. It turns out they really don't like being shot by spaceships, and now one of them is taking action! In Asteroids Revenge III, you play the role of a blue-tinted asteroid up against all sorts of human enemies—shooting ships, repelling fields, space mines, and many others. Your goal is to wipe out the treacherous human fleet by crashing into all the ships while avoiding getting hit by their fire. Use either the arrow keys or the mouse for movement.

After each wave of ships, you get to choose one power-up. In addition, you can collect "ally" power-ups on some of the levels. These allies are fellow asteroids that circle around you, shielding you from enemy fire and extending your killing range. You can keep your allies close to you or send them circling further out with the Z and X keys, or with the mouse wheel if you have one. In addition, you can venture out without your allies by holding down C or the left mouse button. You'll need to use all of these tricks, as some enemies affect you and your allies in different ways.

Progressing through the levels is pretty easy, and you'll probably make it up to and past the 25th (boss) level without a lot of difficulty. After the boss, you'll enter an endless level, where the goal is to destroy as many ships as you can until you die—a final stand, if you will. After this level, your performance will be evaluated for high scores in three different areas: time taken to defeat the boss, total mass (life) at the time the boss is beaten, and total number of enemies destroyed.

Analysis: Apart from being a tad easy, this game is really fun to play! The variety of enemies you face is high enough that you'll have to employ a number of tactics to pass each level. However, the real test is at the end, when you have an unending onslaught of enemies thrust at you, forcing you to use all of your strategies on the fly.

Depending on how well you perform in the final level, you'll get one of four different endings. This gives Asteroids Revenge III a fairly high replay value. Trying to get onto each of the high score lists requires a different strategy, further enhancing the replay value of the game.

This is usually the point where I list off the things I dislike about a game, ways it could be improved. Truth is, I can't find any downside with Asteroids Revenge III. The gameplay is a good mix of fingers and strategy, it's complex enough to offer multiple playing styles, the replay value is high, and I haven't noticed any bugs or other annoyances. So major props to the designer, Adam Schroeder, for putting together such a great game!

Play Asteroids Revenge III

You may also Play the game at the author's site

Note: Asteroids Revenge I and II are available to play on Kongregate as well, although you will find them rather one-dimensional compared to the third installment.


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Emily ShortCommonplace Book ProjectMuch interactive fiction requires a time commitment of an hour or two, and sometimes quite a bit more. Not so with the text adventure entries in the Commonplace Book project, in which each entrant took a line from a notebook by H. P. Lovecraft and spun it out into a game. This was an international competition, drawing entries in English, French, and Spanish, as well as a couple of graphical point-and-click adventures.

The English-language text entries include:

In "Ecdysis", by project organizer Peter Nepstad, the player wakes to find himself suffering from something that feels like a fever. "Ecdysis" toys with the player's perceptions in ways that only a text-based game can: the environment reflects two realities at once, and the challenge for the player is to negotiate both and bring about an ending that suits his increasingly divided persona.

This may sound confusing, but it really isn't: game-play is well-guided, and both possible endings make sense and feel suitably horrific.

"The Cellar", by David Whyld, is a fast-paced, grotesque story about what you find in the basement, drawn from Lovecraft's line, "A man's body dies, but corpse retains life...". There's much more to the story than the tag-line implies, though; Whyld has taken the original concept and turned it into a significantly longer narrative.

"Dead Cities", by Jon Ingold, won best-in-show with the most ambitious piece of the three:

"The letter you received from Arkwright's nephew Carter was clear enough: when the old man dies the inheritance tax will be too great. To raise some capital, the nephew has set up buyers for Arkwright's collection of rare and old books..."

Ingold's work is strange and challenging, evocative and opaque like Lovecraft's own stories. I first played "Dead Cities" weeks ago, but its central imagery has stuck with me. One of my favorite lines: "Thunder rolls around the house as if trying to open up the roof with a boot-knife."

As in "Ecdysis", there are several possible outcomes, though I have yet to find one that I would exactly call happy.

These are great pieces of IF to play during lunch or over a coffee break: they reward replay, but a single playthrough feels satisfying and won't take more than ten or fifteen minutes.

There are no online versions currently available, so you'll need an IF interpreter to play the downloaded game files, but the following programs will run each of these games (and most other IF you may want to try in the future): Gargoyle (Windows), Spatterlight (Mac OS X), Zoom (Unix).

If you enjoy these, I also recommend Andrew Plotkin's "Shade" (for short, disorienting horror) and (for a longer dip into Lovecraftian IF) Michael Gentry's superb Anchorhead.


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Rating: 4.6/5 (27 votes)
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zxoTime RaiderMany of the games from our "replay" competition presented us with the challenge of playing through a level multiple times with multiple (or split) characters, and most of these games did receive high marks for their theme interpretation and originality. However, one game in particular did a fantastic job of wringing this mechanism for all it was worth. Not only that, it managed to dress itself up with some spiffy animation and graphics, set the perfect mood with its inviting music, and even squeeze in a little wry humor. Yes, that game is none other than Rey Gazu's Time Raider.

After watching (or skipping) the introduction, you'll find yourself along with two of your time clones in a Tomb Raider type temple fraught with poison-dart shooters, giant flames, and other booby traps. You don't have any explicit instructions, so if you're the type who likes to figure things out on your own, please skip down to the Analysis section.

Rotoscoping for Time RaiderBegin by selecting a Time Raider to control. Use the arrow keys to move, jump, and duck, and the spacebar to interact with items in the game. When you inevitably reach a point where you can't go any further (either you're blocked or you're dead), click the Time Rune in the lower right corner to rewind and start again. Now select a different Time Raider. Note that the first Raider you selected proceeds to do exactly the same things you told him to! This is very important, because most of the booby traps must be deactivated on a different level than the one they are on. Additionally, Time Raiders on one level can set off booby traps on another, so you'll have to use all three collaboratively to make sure than they all survive their passage through the temple.

The Time Rune undoes all, which is good and bad. It's good because if you inadvertently kill one of your clones, no biggie. Just keep on playing with your current Raider until you've done all you need to with him for the moment. It's bad because when (not if) you need to replay a certain Raider, you'll have to remember and repeat any weird little timing quirks you might have had from the first time 'round, or else risk killing one of the other Raiders prematurely.

If you're having trouble grasping the concept, it might help to think of each Time Raider as a robot that you "program" by pressing arrow keys. Every time you play a different Raider, the other ones will execute the last program you gave them, even if there are now new obstacles in the way. When you go back and replay a Raider, you overwrite the program you had before with a new - and hopefully more complete - one.

A hint for those who are having trouble getting the timing down: before you do anything that requires precise timing, send a signal to the other Raiders by ducking or pressing spacebar to give a little wave.

Analysis: I personally really dig anything that has to do with chaotic, recursive cause-and-effect, from the books I read to the movies I enjoy to games like Time Raider, where every action has a reaction somewhere. I also have a soft spot for narratives where the characters all have to play some part in order to reach their goal, where failure would result if even one member were missing. So it's natural that I should enjoy Time Raider as much as I did.

But it's not just these elements that make Time Raider so compelling. In truth, it's a multifaceted game, part puzzle, part timing, and part reflex, where no one of these parts dominates over the other two. As a result, it has a broad appeal to fans of different types of games. It also did a fantastic job of incorporating the Replay theme, not simply going through the level again, but making each replay interact with previous replays, in ways that are both constructive and destructive, unlocking new areas but also introducing new dangers.

Intriguing, complex, well-planned, fascinating, fun; yes, all of these. But not perfect. Particularly flawed was the rope-swing puzzle. First, the behavior of the bottom Time Raider while riding the rope was not intuitive. I had to play through a few times just to figure out how the interaction between character and rope really worked. Even when you think you have gotten the hang of it, the timing is so critical that you can easily fail to cross the gap if your middle Raider starts lowering the rope a split second too soon or too late. It was a nice idea, but probably should have lowered a bridge instead, or made the bottom Raider actually grab onto the rope as it swung. Also, the punishment for putting in the wrong statue code was rather harsh, making you replay nearly the entire level. My final complaint is that to this day I still am not sure exactly what deactivates the bubble-blowing lizard thingy, though I have my suspicions.

Still, Time Raider presents a mind-bending gameplay experience, and we look forward to seeing more from Rey in the future!

dancemonkeydancemonkey - Wow, what a truly amazing game. This combines all of my favorite childhood "let's pretend" concepts into one tricky game; Indiana Jones, Pitfall, alternate time-lines. The only thing it was missing was pirates. It was rough around the edges for sure, but my main complaint was having to constantly go all the way back to the beginning. I mean I know the theme was "replay" (brilliant implementation here, by the way, did I mention that?), but did we have to replay from the beginning? Perhaps instead a "rewind" button, and you could then hit "play" and start from wherever you liked. All in all, a wonderful game that could stand a little refinement and perhaps even sequels.

JayJay - It is remarkable what Rey Gazu accomplished in a very short period of time. He told me the idea came to him after reading a discussion about the replay theme in the competition announcement thread, which left him very little time for: creating the animation and cut scenes, designing the levels, and putting it all together. The character animation was produced using rotoscoping techniques, and he shared with us a video showing highlights of the process. That alone could have consumed a significant portion of the time available for development.

And though some things were rushed and rough around the edges, overall Time Raider is a highly ambitious effort and one that will likely make your jaw drop in amazement once you realize how to play. I hear that Rey may be working on polishing up the entry for a re-release sometime soon, and he is even working on a level editor to create your own time-bending games with. Truly exceptional work, Gazu!

Play Time Raider


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Reader reviewPrime ShooterAnd for those who just cannot get enough math, the following was submitted by JIG reader, Hanoj:

The numbers are falling! Fortunately, you've got the fundamental theorem of arithmetic on your side!

In Prime Shooter, a math game of prime numbers created by Philip Dorrell, press [P] to destroy prime numbers directly, or press 2, 3, 5, 7, E, T, S, or N to reduce composite numbers by dividing them by prime factors less than 20 (E for 11, T for 13, S for 17, and N for 19). Each number you destroy scores you one point, and the numbers get larger and fall faster as your score goes up.

Tip: When fighting off a 256, shout "two two two two two two two two!" in a high-pitched voice, so that "two!" rhymes with "pew!" It won't help you win, but it's fun to say.

Play Prime Shooter


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Ms.45Math MountainFile this one under brain training games: Math Mountain is an addictive arithmetic game wherein you climb a mountain, competing against another person or the computer, by answering math questions correctly.

It's only BODMAS (without any brackets - Happy Bodmas!), so you don't have to worry about remembering high school algebra, and the questions vary from very easy (1 / 1 = ...) to fairly hard (123 - 75 = ...). You may be able to answer the questions easily, but you are being timed and you also have to choose the correct answer from a multiple choice, which, believe it or not, makes it harder. (A few times I've worked out the correct answer quickly, but the mouse slipped and I selected the number next to the one I wanted.) In the meantime, you're racing the CPU to the top of the mountain and collecting power-ups such as the ability to stop the opponent from moving or to remove all but two of the multiple choices. If you answer incorrectly or not at all, you'll slide backwards, proportionate to the difficulty of the question.

As you play through the levels, your side of the mountain will get longer and less steep, so that you have to answer more questions faster than the CPU. You'll have a larger number of multiple choices, making the chances of quickly clicking the wrong answer higher. However, if you do lose, you have a number of lives, so you can opt to "Continue" after the level has been lost. When you lose, you get to keep any power-ups you haven't used for the next life, so I suggest you save power-ups as much as you can—if you know you're going to lose badly, you may as well save that Stop power-up for the next life!

If you're not very good at arithmetic, Math Mountain is a fun way to practice; if you're already good, then why not give your brain some exercise? You can even turn on "Unlimited Mode" in the options by deselecting "timed" but that disqualifies you for achieving a high score. I haven't tried the multiplayer version, so if you give it a go, tell us about it in comments!

Play Math Mountain


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Game Design Competition #4ArcadeTownFree World GroupArmor GamesSierra OnlineJust a quick reminder that we are just 1 week into the design and development period for Casual Gameplay Design Competition #4, with plenty of time left to come up with an idea and to get your game design underway that incorporates the theme: ball physics. Up for grabs are cash and prizes worth over $6000, and the deadline is October 1st.

Highlights of questions that have come up during the past week include:

  • Can a commercially developed physics package be used? - Yes, we see no reason to exclude these since we do not examine source code while judging. That being said, we also feel that the winner of the competition need not be the one with the best physics implementation. Please refer to the judging criteria to understand what we will look for in your entry.
  • Can a game entry load external data or other SWFs? - Yes, your game may load external data or SWFs. However, if you plan to write data to an external site, as with a high score table hosted at your site, then you will need to add a Cross Domain Policy XML file to your site for it to work properly. See the comments for information about getting one set up. (Thanks, Daniel!)
  • Are new UI stubs available? - Not yet, hopefully with the next update. In the meantime, please don't let that hold you up. The stubs made available for the previous competition contain all the code you need to test your game within the competition UI framework.

Note: Comments are disabled for this entry. Please continue to use the main competition announcement page for posting questions and comments. Cheers!


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JayJIGorbitFrom DDams of France, designer of Liquid Colors from CGDC #1, comes this entry into our 3rd competition and winner of the "most creative use of the JIG logo" prize.

JIGorbit is an action puzzle game that incorporates simple gravitational force as the basis of its gameplay.

The objective is to reunite the scattered limbs of the JIGster logo by propelling the body around the gravitational field created by the JIGster's 'head' while avoiding any vortexes—a vortex looks similar to the swirly head, but it's larger, white and rotating. Collect all the limbs and land safely in the center to advance to the next level.

Competition award winnerControl is with the mouse in this game. Just click and drag on the body, pull back and let go to propel it like a slingshot and send it flying. A small mark will remain on the display indicating your previous attempts, with your most recent attempt being marked in red.

There are 15 levels to this wonderful little game.

Analysis: I was very pleased to learn that designers were incorporating the JIG logo into their games, and I had no idea what to expect. Little did I know that an entire game would be made up using it, which was a very pleasant surprise. The simple graphics and sound effects of JIGorbit suit the game perfectly, and the gameplay concept is virtually universal in appeal. Together these elements combine to create a highly playable and enjoyable casual gameplay experience.

There are a few minor flaws with the game, though, and the issues I experienced with it were echoed in the comments when the game was initially rolled out (included below). Specifically: 1) an uneven progression of level difficulty; 2) the invisible rectangular area that constrains aiming is awkward and causes issues when near the boundaries of the play field; and 3) a couple of levels are so difficult that finding the correct solution is sometimes the difference between a single pixel.

The first of these issues can be addressed by simply rearranging the levels into a different order. The second might be addressed by constraining to a radial shape instead, and by making it slightly visible to the player only as long as the mouse cursor remains inside of it. And to address the pixel hunting problem, the gameplay needs to be more forgiving to get around the precision it requires of the player. Perhaps adding a gravitational 'pull' by the body itself—to attract limbs instead of requiring contact—might be worth trying. Doing so might also disrupt the balance in design of the present levels, making the game much easier than it is at present.

These rough spots, however, are usually addressed when polishing a game for release, a luxury not afforded to the participants of this competition with its extremely short development period of just 4 weeks. Nit-picks aside, the game is an excellent achievement, enjoyable to play, and a pleasure to have as part of an amazing collection of entries.

Yes, I am somewhat biased with respect to JIGorbit since it incorporates a logo that I created myself during my coursework at RIT. That being said, however, I don't think anyone can argue that it is a highly creative use of the JIG logo entered into our recent competition, and therefore deserving of the prize, a Nintendo Wii! Congratulations and thank you, DDams!

dancemonkeydancemonkey - I was unsure of JIGOrbit when I first started, but after a couple of rounds I was hooked. The simple concept is complemented nicely by the clean presentation and spare sound effects. Some of the more difficult levels do tend to get monotonous though, since by its nature it's a game of trial-and-error. I'm also not sure where the Replay theme fits in, other than you have to replay some levels many times before solving them. All in all I found it to be one of the most polished games in this competition, and it clearly made the best use of the site's logo!

Play JIGorbit


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KeroHarvestHarvest is an upcoming game by Oxeye Game Studio currently in open beta and available for Mac and Windows. It is survival-based game that combines elements from tower defense and other real time strategy games. Those familiar with these types of games should feel right at home.

Click on a building-type to select it, then place it anywhere on the map. It's just that easy. You should initially focus on establishing income for you to afford to keep building.

The level progression is measured in Threat Levels, which are displayed at the top of the screen. You will get a couple of minutes before the alien waves start to pour down on you so you're going to need to set up some defenses quickly.

To build any sort of building you are going to need two things:

  • Energy - which can be produced using the solar plants, and
  • Minerals - which can be mined using the harvesters.

While minerals are stored in some sort of time space-flux until you are ready to use them, your energy is quite clearly visible, bouncing around your base and putting on a pretty show. To transfer energy to where it's needed you will need to build a series of energy links to create a chain or web of energy around your base so all your buildings will have the power they require to function. Also when placing each tower it will show you the range that tower was to connect with energy links, so there is no guess work involved.

There are only 6 buildings to choose from, and yet most of them have a secondary function that will help you in your cause. The energy link is also able to force itself to overheat and explode in a pretty powerful bomb, which may be useful for damaging larger groups of units for a low mineral cost. The basic defense towers can focus their energy on other towers to make one tower much more powerful than the rest giving it increased range and damage, however the towers that are focusing their energy are always active even when the main tower is not firing, and thus will take a lot of power to sustain. The missile towers can be upgraded into one of two other towers, the Eagle Cruiser turret, which fires a very powerful long range missile, or the Tempest Turret which fires a cluster of weaker missiles at your foes.

Overall, Harvest is a great alternative to the traditional tower defense, and a lot of fun and refreshing to play. The graphics are very nice, and I just can't help but sit there and watch all the energy bouncing around. So if you are looking for a new twist in the Tower Defense genre I'd definitely recommend downloading Harvest and take advantage of the open beta period.

WindowsWindows:
Download the open beta

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the open beta


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weekend_download.gif

JohnBThe prototype Crayon Physics (Windows) from Kloonigames is part of Petri Purho's ongoing experiment to create games in less than a week to test new ideas. Crayon Physics is one part Armadillo Run, one part Line Rider and tasks you with guiding a ball through a handful of stages by drawing shapes with a crayon-like cursor. Because of its rapid development time, Crayon Physics is a bit rough around the edges. But this downloadable title is stuffed with creativity and shows that with a good idea, anything is possible.

crayonphysics.jpgIn each of the seven levels in Crayon Physics, the ball starts on one side of the screen and one or more stars are placed across the stage. Obstacles sit in your way, of course, but your main enemy in this game is the vast open space that threatens to swallow the poor little ball. Your weapon is the cursor and you can draw strange shapes (that usually revert to square/rectangle-ish once complete) to push items on the screen or provide platforms for the ball to roll across.

Dealing with the game's physics will be your chief goal, and you'll need to stack drop, slide and quick-draw to make it through each stage. The main game only has a few levels, but Crayon Physics fans have pieced together a handful of new stages to extend the experience. Check out the first four fan levels, then dip your crayons into some extremely creative themed levels.

Analysis: For a five-day project, Crayon Physics is very impressive. There are naturally a few glitches here and there, and the physics feel a little loose at times, but it's to be expected from a prototype game. The concept is shown off quite nicely with the charming crayon visuals and simple game mechanics. Everyone seems to love physics-based building games these days, and Crayon Physics nestles itself alongside some of the most creative titles with ease.

Get a little taste of creativity in its rawest form. And cheers to Kero for suggesting the game!

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Not available.
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.



| Comments (28) | Views (1)

Link Dump Fridays

ArtbegottiOh dear, where did the summer go to? Everyone's heading back to school, and I didn't get half the things I wanted to do done! I wanted to take a bike ride through the state park, and I wanted to have that water balloon fight with my friends. I also wanted to fill a kiddie pool with banana pudding and read through all of my Berenstain Bears books once more. Now I'm kinda sad. Maybe some delicious Link Dump Friday would cheer everyone up!

  • Red Wire - Retreat back to your days at the fair when you spent hundreds of dollars trying to win a stuffed animal by moving the wire loop around the maz--TZZZZD!!! Rats...
  • Pac Mondrian - Everything you enjoy about the classic arcade game, but with a modern art twist. A cultured experience for java.
  • Transmigration - A simple shmup where you play as a diver in th-- wait, no, you're a dragon flyin-- no, a skydiving robot who-- Aw, just play it.
  • Thor Towers - A simple one-button game using the [spacebar]. Build a tower by dropping blocks and without tipping over. Somewhat reminiscent of Eyezmaze's Vanilla game. Simple and fun.
  • Peace Plane - How long can you last against the attacking planes and ships, when your arsenal mostly consists of weapons made of feathers?
  • Where's an Egg? - Brush up on your Russian and give this detective search game a try. Pixels so thick, you have to chew it.

Give these games a shot and let us know what you think. Anything here worth a full review?


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Rating: 4.1/5 (24 votes)
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JessThe Desperate DadA desperate man grips the detonator of the explosives belted around his waist, his thumb hovering ever so slightly above that little, harmless-looking red button. On the other side of the room a cop stands, gun drawn, his finger trembling over the trigger. And you, dear reader? You are the invisible observer, responsible for helping the cop find some way out of this seemingly impossible situation. Can you find a way to walk the fine line between the would-be bomber's hope and despair and emerge with your life?

So begins The Desperate Dad, the first chapter of ZAP Dramatics' online interactive mystery series, Ambition. This is not your ordinary Jay is Games offering; as their website says, ZAP Dramatics produces "serious games and dramatic simulations to entertain, educate and influence opinions." Ambition is ZAP's most, well, ambitious effort to date, with a complex storyline spanning 10 episode and featuring a colorful cast of suspects. Other simulations offer more mundane scenarios, such as convincing your boss to give you a raise or obtaining a refund from a grumpy customer service clerk.

Each simulation proceeds in essentially the same way: a scenario is set up, the conflict develops, and then periodically the player chooses a response/action from a menu of choices. Each choice will then lead to a new set of options, and so on. Only a few correct "paths" exist to attain the desired conclusion. Expect to meet many dead ends before navigating your way through the crisis, and to spend a fair amount of time replaying the successful choices before finding your way back to the fork in the road.

Analysis: I was delighted when Jay offered me the chance to write about ZAP Dramatics in my inaugural review, as I've long been a fan of their intricately plotted, psychologically compelling simulations. While most games rely upon reflexes or intellect, ZAP's offerings forces the player to use his or her empathy; only by understanding the antagonist's motivations will you be able to develop a rapport with him or her and ultimately defuse the conflict. Some nice voice acting and simple but effective graphics add to the level of immersion experienced by the simulations, and the variety of situations, from mundane to potentially fatal, emphasize that the same psychological tools used to extract a confession from a murder suspect can also help you get a raise.

A few flaws do exist in the simulations, most notably the tedium that can result due to the constant replay. Overall, however, ZAP provides entertaining, compelling and educational simulations that you may just find yourself addicted to.

Play The Desperate Dad

Be sure to visit the ZAP Dramatic "Dramas" page for access to other episodes. You can also find more free episodes on Newgrounds.

Note: While a number of the simulations are free, full access requires paying a membership fee.


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Rating: 4.6/5 (40 votes)
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toxic.gifJohnBWeeks after the mega-release of Hot Air 2: All Blown Up, Nitrome has unveiled another slick Flash game titled Toxic. It combines your standard adventure platformer with ... bombs! Destructible environments! And ... more bombs! Imagine a roaming platformer game sprinkled with elements from Bomberman and you have a pretty good idea of what Toxic is all about.

Controls are simple, just move with the arrow keys, jump with [up], and place a bomb by tapping the space bar. You can also wall jump by tapping the opposite direction of the wall you're sliding down. As you pick up new types of bombs, you'll discover new ways to destroy the landscape around you and defend yourself from mechanoid creatures throughout the game's 20 stages.

Levels are mostly straightforward with a slight emphasis on puzzle solving rather than quick reflexes. Often you'll need to use a certain type of bomb to reach out of the way areas just so you can find the right kind of bomb to get you to the goal. Once you're familiar with each bomb type, it's a breeze figuring out how to make it through each stage, though that doesn't mean it will be an easy task getting there.

Analysis: Same high-quality presentation as Nitrome's other releases, but Toxic has a much dirtier feel to it, probably because of the, you know, industrial waste theme. Toxic also feels as if it were designed to appeal to a broad audience by keeping everything familiar to veteran gamers. Piloting a chairlift is unique and off-the-wall, but controlling a guy in a Hazmat suit dropping bombs is something we've all done in a video game once or twice. Toxic doesn't quite live up to Nitrome's more creative releases, but it still gets the job done extraordinarily well.

The only real bone I have to pick with Toxic is the hit detection. From a design point of view, it's a delicate situation to let players destroy the environment. That can create all kinds of unpredictable situations. In the case of Toxic, narrow ledges or leftovers of destroyed wall may look suitable for standing, but often you clip right through. It's a similar feeling when you stand back from a bomb blast only to realize you weren't far enough away.

Despite its more mainstream design, Toxic manages to reel you in with a good mix of action and puzzle gameplay.

Play Toxic

The game is also available to Play at MTV Arcade.


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Rating: 4.7/5 (404 votes)
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Rob Allen banner game

JayI am very pleased to be able to (finally!) share with you something that Rob Allen has been working on for some time now. A while ago we asked him to come up with a banner game for us, something reminiscent of his amazing Hapland series, with which visitors of the site could interact and have fun with while here. We thought of a goal-oriented game that involved lighting all of the letters of the Casual Gameplay logo, and he took the proverbial ball and ran with it. The result is a banner game that you play in the header of this site when the appropriate stylesheet is activated.

Rob Allen's banner game

It was designed to be played a little at a time, rather than consumed all in one sitting. It will save your progress along the way, so there should be no hurry to finish. Included are a few tricks and twists that Rob is so very good at. Take your time with it, and we hope you enjoy it. ^_^

You can visit his site at foon.co.uk.

And thank you, Rob! \o/

Play Banner game by Rob Allen

Note: Please limit peeking at spoilers and the walkthrough only as a last resort. The game is not all that difficult and is so much more rewarding to do on one's own. And if do you like the game, please help us spread the word about it. =)

Game Design Competition #4ArcadeTownFree World GroupArmor Games

Update: the competition is over. Thanks to all who entered!!

Following is a list of finalists into our 3rd Flash Game Design Competition (in order of appearance). Click the game icon to go to the review page for that game.

Note: Some developers have chosen to update their entries based on feedback they received from the community, indicated by "(updated)". Please refer to each entry's comment thread (link provided) for details.

Competition Finalists:

Factory Balls Factory Balls
...by Bart Bonte
Roll Roll
...by Ben Gillbanks
The Tall Stump The Tall Stump
...by Team MAW (Adam Wilkinson, Alex May and Handre DeJager)
First Place &
Audience Award
Absolute Awesome Ball Game Absolute Awesome Ball Game (updated)
...by Felix Reidl
Second Place
Day of the Bobteds Day of the Bobteds
...by Rob Allen
Mr. MothBall Mr. MothBall
...by Mateusz Skutnik
Save the Planet Save the Planet (updated)
...by Rob Gray
The Perfect Shot The Perfect Shot (updated)
...by Dan Black
Stranded Stranded
...by Bart Koning
Angular Momentum Angular Momentum
...by Robert Berrier and Roland Ariens
Kaichou Kaichou (updated)
...by Ali Maunder
Koogel Koogel
...by monsterkodi
Osmosis Osmosis (updated)
...by Phillip Reagan
Space Kitteh Space Kitteh
...by Zach Archer and Miles Johnson
Rmvblls Rmvblls
...by Eduardo Omine
Contour Contour
...by Sean Hawkes
Best Use of Theme
Sky Blocs Sky Blocs (updated)
...by Tom Methven
Ballonius Ballonius (updated)
...by Aaron Cox and Graham Jans
Balancing Act Balancing Act
...by Carl Foust
Jig Easy, Sam Jig Easy, Sam
...by Matt Slaybaugh
Ballrooms Ballrooms (updated)
...by Dom Camus
Ballistic Wars Ballistic Wars (updated)
...by Wan Hazmer
Third Place
Chap Hai - Way of the Dragon Chap Hai - Way of the Dragon
...by Wildsnake Software
Particle Blaster Particle Blaster
...by Gareth Thomas
Fluke Ball Fluke Ball (updated)
...by Andrew Paradise and Georg Pedersen
Bug Bug in Sky Tower Bug Bug in Sky Tower (updated)
...by Aqui Griffin
Bisection Dominion Bisection Dominion (updated)
...by Guilherme S. Töws
Entropic Space Entropic Space
...by Will Emigh, Ian Pottmeyer and Rory Starks

Other entries submitted:

Event Horizon Event Horizon
...by the_Corruptor
Roped! Roped!
...by Damir Srpèiè
Brownie Motion Brownie Motion
...by Lopsidation
Moon Duster Moon Duster
...by Jorge Goyco
Backfire Backfire
...by David Durham
Asteroid Pilot Asteroid Pilot
...by Sebastian Mayer
Jabo Jabo
...by Eugene Karataev and Artem Popov
JayIsAdventure JayIsAdventure
...by Ugur 'tomsamson' Ister, Chris 'daydream' Hildenbrand, Aleksander 'T1ger' Mork Strand, Desi A.K.A. 'Psykopig', and David 'Phreax' Hansen
Spin Ball Spin Ball
...by Rey Gazu
Heavy Metal Goreblood Extreme of Death 800X Heavy Metal Goreblood Extreme of Death 800X
...by Martin Jonasson
Decon Decon
...by LTD Studios (Kevin Mintmier and Mutizwa Chirunga)
Break Into Break Into
...by Derek Brandao
Lynz Lynz (updated)
...by Eric Whitmire
Explode Ball for High Score Explode Ball for High Score
...by Ian Barber and Ben Gray
Mathematigolf: The CGDC Open Mathematigolf: The CGDC Open
...by David Beers
Bubbles 2 Bubbles 2
...by Manuel Fallmann
Bounce Bounce (updated)
...by Daniel Vandali
Two Ball Two Ball (updated)
...by Jerry Liu and Charles Zinn
UFootball UFootball
...by Luís Lampreia
Nightmare Nightmare
...by wonderwhy-er

Sierra Online

Together with Sierra Online we're hosting our 4th Flash Game Design Competition!

(Wooty tooty flip-bam-booty!)

Here we go again: you, casual gamer / game designer / Flash whiz, design a game in Flash (at least AS 2.0) that incorporates our theme (see below). It doesn't have to be complex nor large in scope, in fact since you will have only 8 weeks to complete your design, simple ideas are probably the way to go.

For the 4th Casual Gameplay Design Competition, we are asking for entries that incorporate this theme: BALL PHYSICS. As before, you are free to interpret that any way you choose; however, the extent to which your game addresses the theme is left up to the competition judges to decide. Also, your game must not have been in general release (publicly available to play on the Web) prior to the deadline of the competition.

Use your imagination and be creative. We will create a collection of the best entries submitted to the competition just like we have done before. Impress us with your game design and production skills and you will score fame, recognition, prizes, as well as a proper review of your work by the JIG Casual Gameplay review staff.

Every competition is a learning experience for us here at JIG, and we do listen to your feedback. Judging, however, is a highly subjective process and we work hard to score every competition fairly and to the best of our ability. You may be pleased to learn that we are going to try something new this time:

We are introducing an additional (and separate) prize to be awarded to the entry that makes best use of the competition theme...

The Prizes

  • 1st place:
    • $2,500
    • (1) Adobe Flash CS3 Professional license
    • (1) Swichball game from Sierra Online
  • 2nd place:
    • $1000
    • (1) Adobe Flash CS3 Professional license
    • (1) Swichball game from Sierra Online
  • 3rd place:
    • $500
    • (1) Swichball game from Sierra Online
  • Best use of competition theme:
    • $500
    • (1) Nintendo Wii* - (*subject to availability. If the prize is unavailable at the time it is awarded, a substitute prize or the retail value of the prize will be awarded instead.)
    • (1) Swichball game from Sierra Online
  • Audience award:
    • as before, determined by JIG community popular vote and worth at least $200.
    • (1) Swichball game from Sierra Online

See below for a list of judging criteria and additional specifications including stage size and a few simple API calls your game must support.

To Enter
Like previous competitions, your game will appear in a collection for the site, so it must support our specifications and our very simple API listed below. If you do not know how to support our API even after reading the specifications below, you will need to send us the final .fla file 48 hours prior to the competition deadline so we can add the appropriate support for you.

By submitting an entry to the competition, you grant Jayisgames.com and CasualGameplay a permanent, non-exclusive license to host the game, either individually or as part of a larger collection. We will always include credit to the original author and display a link to you or your sponsor's site, if desired. Please provide us with your name, shipping address, preferred link (optional), and PayPal account name (for Audience prize voting) when submitting your entry.

Once you have your game polished and ready to go, send it to: competition4@jayisgames.com

Deadline
The deadline for entries is
Monday, October 1st, 2007 at 11:59PM (GMT-4:00).

So, start the brainstorming and get ready to wow us!

Flash Game Design CompetitionFriends of Jayisgames: Please help spread word of this competition by posting a note along with a link to this entry on your blog or website. Feel free to use this banner to link back to us. Thank you kindly!

Our warmest appreciation and kind thanks to our other sponsors of this competition, all of them generously supporting the indie Flash game development community and helping to make this competition our biggest one yet:

CGDC3 sponsorsArcadeTownAdobeNitrome

Free World Group

Armor Games

Please help us by visiting each of them to show your support as well.

Judging criteria, specifications and the finer details of submitting an entry follow...


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Rating: 4.6/5 (39 votes)
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JonahTrappedIt's not everyday that you get to see a game designer mature through his games, but the Trapped series provides a window into the Flash experiences of its creator Matt Ruggia (AKA lost50). This series of 5 adventure puzzle, maze games starts with a minute long "training level" and progresses to 30 minute long (if you play it ten times and memorize the maze) high quality casual gameplay experiences.

You are a lonely little arrow, trapped, as the title suggests, in a maze full of simply-shaped enemies set on keeping you there for eternity. Using the arrow keys for navigation, you must battle and puzzle your way through many rooms, sometimes with the aid of a map and your trusty, upgradeable weapon: the bomb.

Various installments feature everything from boss battles to fellow trapped arrows. The games feature a wonderful host of bad guys, each with its own attack pattern, abilities, and health. Often an unlocked door will pit you against an ambush full of various enemies. Strategy comes into play as you must keep in mind your own health level to get a good score at the end. Also nice is that you can choose between five music tracks instead of listening to the same loop over and over.

Although the fourth and fifth installments are really the most developed in graphics and in gameplay, it is worth playing the first three to get the full experience.

Play Trapped Then play level 2, level 3, level 4, and level 5.

The entire collection can be found here.


(7 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (15) | Views (39)

Ricochet Infinity

Ms.45I was skeptical and wasn't expecting much from Ricochet Infinity at first. There are a lot of Breakout clones out there, including a lot that use dynamic targets, the most impressive of which is Break Quest. And while Ricochet Infinity is no Break Quest, it is a highly engaging and addictive game that should satisfy both breakout and shmup fans alike.

Ricochet InfinityRicochet Infinity continues the space theme of previous Ricochet games, whereby your paddle is a spaceship and the quest features the ability to be promoted to "Pilot", "Commander" and similar spacey things. In addition to the basic breakout formula, you can (and should) collect golden rings hidden throughout the levels, which will enable you to get different ships. Aside from aesthetics (they're pretty cool-looking ships), each ship has a specialty which will be triggered when you collect the Ship Special powerup. This is a combination of regular powerups, which become simultaneously better and worse as you earn more advanced ships—for instance, a high level ship special may give you a fireball and a wider bumper, but also make the ball faster and smaller.

Powerups available include our old familiar friends: the fireball (destroys all bricks), the rail ball (goes through all bricks), and the sticky paddle; and yet there are a few that offer fun variations such as the EMP (electro-magnetic pulse—blow it up when the ball is near a cluster of bricks) and the Blossom (trigger to cover the screen in explosive stars). Another neat trick is the freeze powerup—normally you'd want to avoid this as it traps your paddle in ice for a few seconds, but if you can survive those seconds, you get a thousand-point bonus.

Ricochet InfinityMoving targets are nothing new in themselves, but Ricochet Infinity features some extremely cool dynamics. The Recall facility enables you to "recall" the ball back to the paddle by right-clicking. Big deal, you say. But wait, there's more! The Recall function is integral to many advanced levels, including levels where moving your panel actually moves the entire game board, so you have to hit the ball and then manipulate the bricks to where you've just hit the ball. It's a lot harder than it sounds.

The maps included with the game are incredible—even the easy levels are pretty good, but at higher levels they really shine. Many require strategic thinking to solve, as the breakable bricks are hidden behind metal walls with no sign of a trigger. Some even include full animations, if you're patient enough not to release the ball—for instance, in Jail Break, an animated brick guy blows his animated brick friend out of jail by attaching exploding bricks to the bars, then they both run away, and you see the brick police car speed into view to chase the fugitive! And when you've played all the levels in the game, you can download user-created levels as well as create your own.

Another aspect of the game that I haven't checked out is the Mouse Party feature—you can add another USB mouse and play multiplayer, either competitively or cooperatively. If any of you use it, tell us about it in comments!

Ricochet Infinity is a bit like the Rolling Stones—not necessarily very original, but heaps of fun. You can, in fact, get what you want.

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: 4.7/5 (22 votes)
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zxoReMazeOne of the best things about all three competitions so far is the sheer range of game types. Just look at the subset of games in this competition that featured replaying a level multiple times: you have a platformer (A Good Hunch), a shmup (Super Earth Defense Game), an avoid/collect game (Rerun), a puzzler (Replay 2: The Sequel), a card game (Parley), two action puzzlers (Time Raider and TimeBot), a micromanagement game (Turtles of Time) and something I'm not even sure how to categorize (Karma). There's truly something for everyone!

Competition honorable mentionSo if you found the pace of Gimme Friction Baby too leisurely, or if Rerun required just a bit too much manual dexterity, then chances are you'll like the CGDC3 Honorable Mention: ReMaze. Like Rerun, it has many strengths and hardly any weaknesses. In fact, the two games are similar in many ways: both adapt a classic popular game type to incorporate nicely the Replay theme; both use polished visuals and carefully selected music and sound effects to set a mood that reflects the gameplay; both are well thought-out and bug-free; they both feel like finished products.

Despite all these commonalities, Rerun and ReMaze are two of the most oppositely-styled games in the competition. ReMaze is dark and deliberate where Rerun is light and spontaneous. It sucks you in with its spooky soundtrack, disorients you with its flickering mazes and cryptic messages, and roughs you up a bit with its fiendish sudden-death levels. Just when you thought you had seen the last of a maze, it comes back to haunt you in the next level. To persevere, you must be wily and thorough.

ReMaze starts off easily enough, with only one corridor down which to guide the white squares. Then there is another, and another, and soon you are caught up trying to navigate several mazes at once, not just to reach the goals, but to reach them simultaneously. Then comes the red death. One misstep and you're toast!

On the later levels, the ones filled with those fiery red squares, your best weapon will often be logic. Eliminate all of the directions you can't go, and often your path will be nearly worked out for you. However, the clever way the levels are designed does NOT make this obvious. That's the real strength underlying ReMaze—the level design. It offers a nice learning curve, teaching at the beginning, then piquing your interest, and finally throwing at you everything it's got. Despite the repeated maze segments, each level is unique unto itself, which only serves to bolster the effectiveness of the Replay theme and the quality of the gameplay.

So while our top two runners up may look similar on paper, don't think even for a minute that they will play the same way. Rerun and ReMaze together show that excellence is excellence, no matter what form it takes. Congratulations again to Felix for delighting us and earning an Honorable Mention with his fantastic puzzle game!

JayJay - It may be interesting to note that the top 3 games in this competition were all based on very simple ideas. In fact, ReMaze includes little in the way of instructions at all, apart from the introductory: "Use spacebar to reset; don't get lost." And you don't need them. The objective is clear immediately upon seeing the first level and after a brief experimentation with the arrow keys on the keyboard. This is the hallmark of exceptional casual gameplay design.

There were many excellent games in this competition, and ReMaze ranks among my personal favorites. The atmosphere is mysterious and moody, the implementation of the replay theme is brilliant, and the level design is excellent and ramps comfortably in difficulty. The only areas where points were not awarded in full were in usability, due to its rather heavy requirement on the CPU for its nice (but unnecessary) ripple effect, and in replay value. It would have been nice for the game to calculate the frames per second on-the-fly and adjust whether the ripple effect was to be used. Or even an option for the player to turn it off, if desired.

Overall, an exceptional game, a worthy contender, and a pleasure to have amongst the other entries in this competition. Well done, Felix!

Play ReMaze


(12 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (76) | Views (31)

JayRerunAnother simple idea executed almost perfectly, Andrew VanHeuklon's Rerun is a unique mouseplay game of collection and avoidance. And though we have seen this core gameplay mechanic in other games before, it is the creative implementations of the "replay" theme that elevate this title above others of its type.

Simply click "Play" then choose a level to begin, though only the first is unlocked initially. You will have to achieve at least a bronze medal to unlock each new level in succession, which represents 70% of the total points available for the level you are on. A silver medal is awarded for 80% and a gold medal for 90%.

Competition runner-up award winnerTo play, just collect the 'disks' of the same color as your pointer while avoiding all the other disks. Once you're done collecting the first color, you will repeat the level with the next color—up to a maximum of 4 on the later levels. However, with each new color turn, you will also have to avoid the pointers of your previous turns as they whiz around the play field collecting disks as well. Points are lost (equivalent to 3 disks) if the mouse pointer comes in contact with any of your previous pointers.

It's just that simple. But to do well and to reach the higher levels, a bit of strategy, planning, and perhaps even a replay or two will become necessary. There are also some very helpful power-ups to earn and extras to unlock as well.

For each disk of the correct color collected, a meter at the bottom of the screen increases. Every time you collect 50 disks a "Jaybomb" is awarded. Jaybombs allow you to collect all disks of your color currently on-screen when you click the left mouse button during play. Each may be used only once.

By accumulating medals you can earn a few extras that are very helpful in attaining higher percentages in later levels. For example, earning 15 bronze medals allows you to begin each level with 2 Jaybombs instead of having to earn them first. But even more powerful than the Jaybomb is Prediction, unlocked with at least 15 silver medals, which actually shows the paths of your previous turns before they happen, thus making them much easier to avoid.

Analysis: As with a few other entries in the competition, Rerun approaches the concept of replay from the perspective of replaying previous attempts, or turns, in real-time as you progress through a level. And while most of these implementations took a cooperative approach, Rerun goes the other way and turns your previous turns into additional elements to avoid, thus turning you against yourself.

And while the core concept of collection and avoidance is one that we have seen and played before, the reason it performed better over other more original entries in the competition is due to its overall implementation. Rerun is a full-featured, well-polished game that performed well in every judging metric except for accessibility—the version submitted to the competition did not include colorblind mode. Those lost points, however, were not enough to pull it down below 2nd place, and for that Andrew's competition entry has earned the runner-up prize, and well deservedly.

Rerun is a very simple idea executed exceptionally well and turned into a polished and enjoyable game that not only implements the "replay" theme in a uniquely creative way, it includes several extras and unlockables that serve to increase its replay value as well. Good job, Andrew, and congratulations!

dancemonkeydancemonkey - I'll admit it: I didn't quite get this game when I first played. I mean I understood how to play and played through most of it, but I wasn't quite sure why exactly it was supposed to be fun. After seeing how well it did in the competition (due also to my scoring, which ironically was pretty high; that's the nice thing about scoring based on objective metrics!), I went back and played it again all the way through. I get it now, at least I think I do. You have to just give in to the insanity of increasingly complex and chaotic levels. Let yourself go, live free, collect the colored dots and laugh on the inside as your prior hectic movements are replayed again and again. Seeing my prior pointers collect the colored dots I realized I need to drink less coffee. A well-deserved runner-up win.

zxozxo - Usually, having a great idea for a game is not enough to make it a great game; you also need a proper implementation of that idea. If I could sum up Rerun in 3 words, it would be "high quality implementation." Like dancemonkey, I was a bit surprised when the dust settled and Rerun stood in second place (showing once again how many great entries we received), but looking back at the scores Rerun attained, I see that they were all justified. The theme was well-incorporated, the gameplay was reasonably unique (having to avoid yourself four times over was a nice fresh idea). It may not have had the sheer ingenuity of something like Time Raider, but it was also without all of the flaws, and truly that means something. With the extended prep time for the next competition, I hope that most of the games will have visuals that are as vibrant, audio that is as appealing, menus that offer as much control, and gameplay that is as completely thought-out and complex as these things were for Rerun. And no bugs, no annoyances, not even a perturbation! With his second-place finish here, added to his being the inspiration behind our first competition, Andrew proves that he is one of the premier casual game designers on the web today.

Play Rerun


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Rating: 4.6/5 (294 votes)
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JayGimme Friction BabyIt should come as no surprise to hear that great things often spring from the simplest of ideas. This is also true in game design, and especially true in casual game design. After all, casual games, by definition, should provide simple, easy to pick-up and play experiences.

Gimme Friction Baby, by Wouter Visser of The Netherlands, is also based on a very simple idea, even though it may at first seem more complicated than it really is. Perhaps this is due to how the game starts you off without even a clue as to what to do. But the omission of instructions was deliberate: Wouter believes that including instructions on such an abstract concept could potentially be more confusing than just letting the player figure it out for herself. In case you need a little push to get over the initial inertia, however, here are a few simple rules to keep in mind...

Competition first place award winner1) Click the mouse.

Clicking the mouse fires the swinging turret and blasts a white orb up into play. Notice that when the orb comes to rest it will expand until it touches a boundary edge or another orb. Each and every orb you shoot behaves in this way.

The objective is to score points but to do that you must never, ever let an orb bounce back down and cross the dotted line. Ever.

2) Click the mouse again, but this time try to aim your shot while keeping in mind the warning just given.

Competition audience award winnerNotice that when the orb in motion comes in contact with a stationary orb, it reduces the counter on the stationary orb by 1. Once an orb's counter reaches 0 it explodes and is removed from play, and you receive 1 point for doing so. This is the only way to earn points.

And that's all there is to it. But like any classic casual game, the rules may be simple but mastering the game is not. Every game begins the same, there is no random luck to blame. It's all you, baby.

Analysis: I admit that I was confused at first about what to do, but only until I realized what triggered the 'game over' condition. I kept firing orbs up into play expecting to destroy the ones already there. But when they bounced back down thus ending the game immediately, I began to wise up.

There is a certain paradigm shift that must occur when playing this game for the first time before the light goes on and the player 'gets it'. I believe this is due to a sort of cognitive bias we have as gamers: when firing a turret we expect things to explode... and to go fast.

However, this game is anything but fast. The gameplay forces the player to slow down, think first, and to plan each shot carefully. Each game therefore becomes a careful placement of orbs rather than a quick-fire session to arrive at the end result. The slower pace gives way to excitement as an orb inches ever so close to that fearsome dotted line, and strategy emerges as the key ingredient to an award winning recipe. Those who don't experience the paradigm shift may never appreciate the subtlety and the genius of this very simple gameplay design.

GFB is an easy and accessible game, but it can be difficult and frustrating, too. Earning points is a rare pleasure and you may soon be experiencing a nagging, addictive compulsion to play, to best that score that seems so ridiculously low. It has all the trappings of a classic casual game: something to pick-up and play for only minutes at a time, and to replay again and again. As mentioned in the comments the day it was first posted, "the way it plays is so subtle and different from game to game, the replay value is way higher than it has any right to be." -Psychotronic.

Congratulations, Wouter, on a truly excellent, original, and now award winning casual game design. This is a game that I will be playing for a very long time to come.

dancemonkeydancemonkey - This is a nice take-off on the bubble-shooter genre of games, with a great twist. Part of the fun of this game was just discovering how to play, and its simplicity in gameplay and presentation kept me playing for a long, long time. I actually like that you can't aim the turret, since I think otherwise it would have been far too simple. Points in Gimme Friction Baby are hard-won and very much appreciated, a welcome return to simpler times where scoring in a game was the beginning and the end of your reason for playing. Wouter deserves tremendous credit for creating a simple, elegant, and fascinating game that somehow manages to rope you in for days at a time.

zxozxo - It might be easy to write off after only one game, but the UI makes it sooooo easy to replay that you can't help but click again to give it just one more shot; before you know it, you've spent another hour shooting those little orbs around the game space! I think the aspect that really sets GFB apart is the orb expansion—a few pixels difference when you shoot can mean a final circle that is hundreds of pixels larger. It's what makes each replay different from the last, and ensures that the player doesn't get bored. Other games (not necessarily in this competition) might have as much replay value, but none offer so much with so little—almost always they are heavy in the randomness element. Here, you start with a blank slate and each game is completely defined by the user—in theory, you could make each replay exactly the same, something that cannot be said for other addictive games with high replay value (e.g. Nanaca Crash). Could GFB be improved by adding power-ups and obstacles? At first I thought so, but lately I've been leaning towards no. The strategy comes as much from where the orb ends up as from the path that it takes, and adding collectible power-ups would upset that balance and would only detract from the purity of gameplay.

Play Gimme Friction Baby

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