February 2008 Archives


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (56 votes)
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John BeaverMr. MothballMr. MothBall, an entry into our last competition (CGDC4), comes from the talented Polish designer Mateusz Skutnik, well known for his immensely popular Submachine series, one of which featured in CGDC1. More recently, Mateusz has introduced another popular graphical point-and-click series, Covert Front, which has been causing quite a stir on this site and in the wider gaming community.

With Mateusz' strong point-and-click pedigree, some visitors may be surprised to see him contribute a platformer. However, this is by no means his first foray into this genre and fans of this game may like to play some of his other platform games at his Pastel Games site, including the previously reviewed Mr. Mothball 2: Cotton Carnage.

Mr. MothBall is a classic piece of platforming action: using the arrow keys, roll the hero through each of 21 levels collecting as many points as possible before hitting the exit. As the game progresses, new elements such as gates, switches and push-able blocks are introduced.

Analysis: Ball physics are always going to be tricky to showcase in a platformer. In this effort, our hero rolls his way around the hemispherical platforms grabbing ball-like pills avoiding ball-shaped enemies and making his way to a spherical exit. However, as has been mentioned in the comments, all of these items could be exchanged for non-spherical objects without affecting the fundamental gameplay.

What this game does have though is charm and style. The hand-drawn backgrounds, characters and platforms give it a great look and feel and the controls and collision detections are solid. But for me, the real strength in this game is the humour used in the character animation: the outstretched arm as Mr. MothBall jumps, or the little bump he receives as a moving platform reaches its peak.

There's no huge replay value here other than beating your previous score, and many players will turn off the music before getting half way through (which thankfully leaves the cute sound effects audible). But its lovable style, finite length and gradually increasing difficulty will persuade most to play it right through to the end.

Play Mr. Mothball


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JayLilo plushieIt's not often we get to post something on February 29th, so I'd like to take this opportunity to update you on a few things that have been happening around here.

First of all, Congratulations to Skarlath(!) for winning the adorable Lilo plushie from The Asylum! Skarlath's name was drawn at random this afternoon here at JIG headquarters, and we'll be sending out little Lilo just as soon as we get a shipping address confirmation (an email has been sent, so check your inbox Skarlath!).

Be sure to keep checking the site, as we'll be giving away another Asylum plushie again soon!

Next, you might have noticed a recent change made to the Recommended icon palette in the left sidebar. We recently added a new palette, Top Rated, made possible by the ratings widget that we also introduced recently. Please note these details:

  • Simply click on the name, Top Rated or Recommended, to switch between the two palettes.
  • Each time you click on the Recommended link to view a random selection of recommended games the list will refresh quickly and automatically without a page reload.
  • Each time you click on Top Rated or Recommended, your selection will be stored in a cookie so that your preference will be displayed each time you visit.

And finally, there are just 4 days left before Casual Gameplay Design Competition #5!!! Get your games finished up and sent in before the deadline of March 16, 2008, at 11:59PM (GMT-5:00) See the CGDC5 announcement page for all the details.


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Link Dump Fridays

JohnBToday's Link Dump Friday, much like the calendar date of February 29, doesn't really exist. Well, it does, but, you know, it's just kinda thrown in there. You see, each year we have precisely 487.25 units of casual gaming love to give to the world. Since none of us are particularly good with fractions, we just express that extra bit of love every few years in the form of a (special) Link Dump Friday. What? That doesn't make sense? Well... um... lookhereatthesegamesasadistraction!

  • icon_robotterritories.gifRobot-Territories - Dah! Humans are attacking with their tanks and guns and stuff! Quick, into your giant Robotic Suit of Death® and start clicking the mouse! The more you juggle units, the higher your score, and you can hold the button for a nifty three-stage charge shot.
  • icon_gameoflife.gifThe Game of Life - Why live it when you can play it?! The Game of Life demonstrates the results of actual research on the activity levels of post-retirement folk. Paint the house while keeping the baby asleep, mow the lawn, even go hang gliding in a series of well-illustrated minigames.
  • icon_android.gifAndroid - Awww... Look at the widdle guy run! Android is a great Lode-Runner clone that squeezes everything down to pixel-perfect sizes. Run, spring and bomb your way through the levels collecting enough gold to unlock each exit. There's even a custom level editor, which is always a big bowl of yumminess.
  • icon_spy.gifSpy - What if some sort of number-related grid-based puzzle decided it was a classic game of Snake? Then it would be Spy, a simple-but-stylish game of clicking, counting, and nail-biting. Click adjacent squares to move across the board. Depending on the number on the square you click, you jump ahead that many spaces. Don't touch the bombs or your own trail!
  • icon_mazeman.gifMaze Man - Hello Maze Man, 1974 called, and it wants its graphics and gameplay back. Oh, and 2008 called as well, so you'll have to leave the stylish theme and pretty cool music here. So go collect those pellets, avoid that guy in the red jumper, and remember that a hole in the ground is perfectly safe and will just teleport you somewhere nearby.
  • JayJIG Poker Night - it's almost that time again (oh yes, it is!). Check this page each week for time of day (usually 4PM Eastern). The winner each week qualifies for a championship tournament on May 17th where we'll give away an iPod Nano and a Nintendo DS!! If you don't play, you can't win.

  • Currently 3.5/5
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Rating: 3.5/5 (44 votes)
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ArtbegottiThe Perfect ShotIf there were a television commercial for this game, this is likely how it would go:

Get the ball to green
To escape the scene!
Avoid the red,
Or your ball is dead!
Stay in bounds
And listen to the sounds
To see if you've got
The Perfect Shot!

For his first entry into one of our competitions, Dan Black created this action game of skill and finesse, perfectly titled The Perfect Shot.

To play, grab the red ball from its starting position by clicking and holding it. You'll notice an area surrounded by a dotted line pop up. From within these bounds, move your mouse and release to throw the ball toward the green target. If you make the perfect shot and land the red ball in the green target, success! You move on to the next level.

But perfection is a rare thing, and there's plenty to stop you from the glory of the green. Scattered throughout the levels are devious red walls, spears, and birds of prey that will destroy your ball with one touch. Blue holes will teleport your ball, but be careful, because your direction and momentum are preserved in the relocation. Pink, Yellow, and Blue panels require a pattern to be played before they'll disappear and let you pass. And remember, any time you are holding the ball, you must stay within those dotted lines!

While some of the levels are straight-forward (bank the ball off of this to hit that to land it in the target), a lot of levels require some more in-depth planning. Timing when one grabs or throws the ball is key, as some levels will require you to catch and re-throw the ball in order to win. The blue teleporter holes can sometimes create a maze of pathways for your ball to go (sometimes in your favor, sometimes not). In some levels, the red obstacles react to where you move your mouse, so you might need to throw the ball and quickly retreat your cursor in a different direction. Trial-and-error will be your friend when you play this game, as every level is beatable, but sometimes with a bit of effort.

Analysis: The Perfect Shot captures the spirit of the "ball physics" theme of our 4th Casual Gameplay Design Competition (CGDC4) very nicely. One of the initial complaints about the game was due to some erratic behavior when throwing the ball, but Dan has gladly fixed this problem and a few other kinks from the original entry. The result is a game that is well-polished a lot of fun to play.

There's a wide range of challenges to face in the 20 levels of this game, but some people might have a tricky time adjusting to a rather steep difficulty curve. Finding the precise "fling" to send the ball to the goal can get frustrating after thirty-or-so attempts (did I mention the game counts your tries?), but then again, that's what you've got to expect when playing a game called "The Perfect Shot." Half of the fun is that moment of glee you get when you sink the basket and get to face the next challenge. I know that when I beat the final level, I wanted more... Perhaps expanding on this project is something Dan might want to consider? (Hint hint.)

So get ready to throw your all to the goal, and play The Perfect Shot!

Play The Perfect Shot


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (73 votes)
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PsychotronicHaxed by Megahurtz(Warning: This game features some adult content.)

Making interactive Web art is a dangerous business, as Jason Nelson (Alarmingly These Are Not Lovesick Zombies), Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl (Coil) can tell you. When you dabble in the language of games, you risk the wrath of gamers, who despite their lip service to "innovation", are often terrified by anything really experimental. There is a contract to uphold when you make the jump from videos to games. When the experience requires our input, we want there to be clearly defined goals and characters, so we're not just clicking around haphazardly like gullible sheep, hoping to be blessed with random visual trinkets. We hate feeling stupid, and that's what art sometimes does when it forces you to participate. It makes you the dumbest person in the room, blindly fumbling for meaning like a Nickelodeon game show contestant fishing for prizes in a bath of green slime.

So one possible MO for developers trying to smooth out this prickly transition is to make something like Haxed by Megahurtz, a game so cracked, so exuberant, so imbecilic it could not possibly be trying to outsmart you. Hating it would be like slapping a candy raver—part of you might want to, but it's easier to just go with the flow and accept her offer of Sweet Tarts and a back massage.

Haxed by Megahurtz is the deformed brain-child of Alien Melon, whose members have been responsible in the past for Blue Suburbia and the hyper-polarizing Alexis, but it is more of a playable game than either of those titles. The hero is a manic green blob named Minibyte, whom during his nap-time in cyberspace has been haxed—quite literally—with an axe wielded by malicious blue fairy-things called Megahurtz. Enraged and bleeding important data, Minibyte goes on a murderous Megahurtz rampage, devouring as many of them as he can sink his pac-man choppers into.

Haxed by MegahurtzI may have gotten one or two details wrong there, but it doesn't really matter. All you need to do is catch the flying Megahurtz (again, they're the blue fly-like creatures) with your mouse, drag them over Minibyte (he's the crazy screaming green thing), and release. And then watch the carnage. You win by increasing your MHZ count to the goal set for each level, and you lose by letting it drop to zero, which it will do over time if you don't feed Minibyte fast enough. There are three levels proper, plus a rather substantial postscript that somehow involves armageddon and a dancing budgie.

But the interactive part of the game is almost completely insubstantial. What is impressive here is the onslaught of stimulus being thrown at you. The roots of Haxed are that of a hyperactive pixelated music video drenched in gaming and internet culture references. The beats are mixed cleverly on the fly according to Minibyte's mood, be it hungry or homicidal. Despite Alien Melon's aggressively lo-fi ideals and punk stylings, this is a technologically solid piece of work.

Whether you'll actually like it or not is something I can't possibly tell you. This is going to be a subjective experience through and through, depending on your sense of humor, your tolerance for color contrasts, your taste in music, and a thousand other factors. For my part, they had me hooked at the loading screen, where a black-and-white tabby with outstretched arms stands on the moon and proclaims the file you are loading to be "Diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis big!" But your mileage may vary. Haxed is not for everybody, just as Trix is not for rabbits. If you're not feeling the vibe, try pounding a Red Bull and come back to it.

At the very least, I can recommend Haxed by Megahurtz as an operation in expressiveness. Without worrying too much about the social implications: this game was only possible at this exact moment in history, when people's attention spans are being digitally scrambled daily, and Flash has helped wrest game creation from the control of large companies into the hands of regular people. This is what we've become, where we can take something as nonsensical as Haxed by Megahurtz and understand it as a story, however shallow and/or obnoxious.

I found it thoroughly entertaining, but any Alien Melon members who have found this review are probably laughing at me, rightly, for devoting so many words to it. I mean, I'm calling it Web art, and it's making cow noises. Maybe the point was to make me feel stupid after all.

Get Haxed by Megahurtz


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (69 votes)
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10 Gnomes 2

JohnB10 Gnomes episode 2: Walk in the Park is the second installment in the 10 Gnomes point-and-click series released by Mateusz Skutnik, creator of Covert Front and the Submachine games. 10 Gnomes tasks you with finding ten cartoon gnomes in ten minutes by clicking your way through a series of black and white photographs. In this installment you'll sift through pixels in a park, tapping hotspots to zoom in and look for those crafty gnomes.

Photographs pan with your cursor, allowing you to look from left to right and imparting a limited sense of movement. Certain areas are clickable, allowing you to zoom in or visit different locations. While the image movement is smooth, clicking from one hotspot to the next can be disorienting due to the lack of a transition. It keeps the game's pace moving at a fast clip, however, which is necessary, as the ten minute timer is constantly ticking down.

Another well-presented and simple point-and-click title from one of the best designers of the genre.

10 Gnomes #2: Walk in the Park


  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (45 votes)
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zxoroll.gifBefore there was Cobacoli, there was Roll, a game of balls, angles, spikes and terrain. Roll represents author Ben Gillibanks' first foray into our Casual Gameplay Design Competitions, where its combination of classic gameplay and delicious presentation carried it to the final round of judging.

You're put in control of a medium-sized yellow ball with a mission: destroy the enemy red orbs! It's like McCarthyism all over again! Click the mouse to launch the yellow ball in the direction of the pointer, holding the button down for more power. Use the yellow ball like a cue ball to knock the red balls into spikes or holes. There's a timer, so be fast, but be careful too – you are just as susceptible to the dangers as the red balls! Ice and conveyor belts add another layer of complexity, in ways that are both helpful and hindering.

Analysis: Roll doesn't exactly break a lot of game design molds, but it's a lot of fun to play nonetheless. The control scheme is about as intuitive as you can get, and it's very helpful to be able to redirect yourself before coming to a stop. With a little practice, you'll be able to stop on a dime, even on the frictionless ice. Plus, the ability to control your power gives players multiple options when deciding how best to execute a level – would long, deliberate strokes be appropriate or does this one call for rapid directional bursts?

Although there is no save feature, its fast pace lets you zoom through the first dozen or so of the twenty levels without too many muttered epithets. Still, it might be nice to have a checkpoint halfway through the game, or at least implement a high score board so that there'd be a reason to play all the beginning levels over again.

Roll comes to us with a high level of polish with regard to the visual and audio presentation, especially considering the development timeframe. Although the audio loop is short, it took quite a long time before it began to wear on me, and the pixel art is well-executed and pleasing. The physics seem pretty accurate too, with no collision detection problems.

Cheers to Ben for executing a fun, fast-paced, and all-around impressive game.

Play Roll

An updated version of the game is available to play at Ben's Binary Sun website.


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (84 votes)
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PatrickSolaRolaThe following review is for a game that appeared previously in one of our Link Dump Friday features:

Sola Rola: The Gravity Maze is a topsy-turvy turntable of a time, published by Gimme5Games. Wiz and Waz are two spherical buddies who are just cruising through space one day and happen to get caught in a series of mazes, a scenario we can all relate to. Together they must escape, but they only move when you rotate the maze. It's your job you roll them right into the red and blue beacons that represent their exits.

The controls consist entirely of the [left] and [right] arrow keys, which rotate the maze. There's a slight variation in the mass of the two balls, the red one is slightly heavier than the blue one, so if you give the maze a slight tilt you'll get more motion out of the red one. Corners have little studs on them that require a little extra momentum to get over. When a ball intersects with a switch all the gates of the same color open. When the two balls are sitting on the power-switch looking icons of corresponding colors, you've won.

Analysis: The Gravity Maze is the Web-based incarnation of an established mobile games franchise published by Gimme5Games' parent company, Eidos. The game shines with the same kind of consistency and polish you would expect from a publisher-supported title, and it also has character and a pretty clever execution. You can see the circular structure that the diamond-shaped maze is embedded in, and you can see bearings on its corners rolling along this hoola-hoop, a nice touch. Then there's the difference between the weight of the balls, it gives enough of a delta to squirm your way out of awkward situations, though there could be a bigger difference to make this process go smoother. The banter between Wiz and Waz does a great job of getting you familiar with the game, and lends a touch of humanity to an otherwise abstract dynamic.

So, go for a spin and become a Sola Rola.

Sola Rola


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (73 votes)
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dancemonkeySkyBlocsDominoes are those rare brilliant artifacts whose secondary use is far better than their intended use. Why play a game of dominoes when you can line them up and watch them knock each other down? Developer Tom Methven may have been in that exact frame of mind when he created the puzzle game Sky Blocs, the lovechild of youthful domino play and The Incredible Machine (and likely influenced by Pushover, circa 1992). Each level presents you with a starting block (bloc?) and an inventory of pieces to the left-hand side of the screen. Place the items, flick the domino, and watch everything come tumbling down.

Arrange your elements so that the initial toppling of the starting block causes a chain reaction that triggers the raising of a flag at the other end of the screen. After laying everything out press the "Play" button and then click the first block to set your Goldbergian contraption in motion. You have more blocks, balloons, bowling balls, and even a nuclear blast at your disposal to complete each stage.

There's a good handful of default stages included in the game, but a level editor with cut and paste codes allows you to create and share your custom stages for a real sadistic challenge.

Analysis: Sky Blocs is a great puzzle game in the tradition of The Incredible Machine, and it's just as addictive. The domino-like blocks being the main element makes the game that much more intuitive, since the physics of toppling dominoes is almost universal knowledge. It's very easy to look at the stage, look at the elements you have at your disposal, and begin to imagine a successful layout.

Easy to imagine, but not always easy to accomplish. The included levels are suitably difficult, though some I found relied more on size and repetition for their challenge rather than cleverness in design. Hey, that's what the custom levels are for, right?

One minor problem I had was the counter-intuitiveness of the starting block. Rather than clicking on the opposite side of the direction in which you want it to go (simulating the "flick" of a finger on a domino) you click on the the same side. It's small but annoying, something I kept occasionally doing wrong even after 9 levels or so. Maybe I'm just not that bright!

I also felt that for a game based on toppling dominoes, Tom missed the mark on one major design choice: speed. Most of the fun of watching a string of dominoes fall is the combination of the blur of motion and "clackety clack" of the bones hitting each other. What Sky Blocs really needed was to be greatly sped up, or at least offer a speed option.

Other than that I thoroughly enjoyed wracking my brain over each increasingly more challenging stage.

Play Sky Blocs

An updated version of the game is available to play at Tom's The First Door site.


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (123 votes)
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PsychotronicGrid16Ubiquitous developer jmtb02 (John Cooney, now a developer for Armor Games) has added another prize race horse to his growing stable of ultra-fast-paced minigame collections. While his Four Second series (so far including Fury, Frenzy, and Firestorm) stuck pretty closely to the formula established by Nintendo's Wario Ware, this new game feels like its own entity, with a unified visual style and a strong sense of purpose. Grid16 is nothing less than an exploration of our primal gamer instincts, and although it isn't a complete triumph, it's a giant step in an intriguing direction.

Your goal in Grid16 is simply to stay alive as long as possible. You start out with 16 live mini-games, each recognizable as a video game archetype. Every few seconds, the current mini-game will pause, retreat into the background, and be replaced by another game at random. Your control method is always the arrow keys, but they act differently from game to game. Your objective changes constantly as well, but it almost always boils down to either touching something or avoiding something. The whole point here is simplicity.

To keep things interesting, a speed multiplier gradually counts up as you play, eventually doubling the pace of the game, tripling it, and more, with no limit in sight. When you fail at a game it disappears from the line-up, and when you've lost all 16, you're done. Have fun, and try not to have a heart attack.

Analysis: Grid16 isn't perfect. Not by a long shot. The balancing in the different mini-games is all over the place. Some kill you in seconds without giving you a fair chance to even guess at the right control scheme, while others make you actually go out of your way to fail, at least the first couple of times you see them.

Jmtb02 has removed a lot of the helpful audio/visual cues that accompanied Wario Ware and the Four Second games. The Grid16 mini-games just zap in and zap out without explanation or warning, and if your gamer grammar can't parse the basic shapes into characters, goals, and threats fast enough, you lose. If a mini-game pauses at a dangerous moment, you are pretty much guaranteed to lose the next time it pops up, simply because you won't have time to re-adjust. The instructions that ticker-tape along the top of the screen are more distraction than aid (definitely check them out for humorous easter eggs, though), and the way the entire screen goes black every time the speed multiplier increases just serves to break your concentration.

The worst issue is probably what happens at the end of the game, when you have a single mini-game remaining: it gets terribly boring. None of the games are strong enough to carry your attention on their own; they're only fun when you're flipping rapidly between them. So when you get down to the last one—which is probably the one you're best at anyway—you just watch it get faster and faster until you can't possibly keep up. Inexplicably, that last game will keep pausing and going through the whole switching routine, even though it no longer has anything to switch with. It probably would have worked better to simply end the whole thing when there's only one mini-game left.

But despite all these flaws, Grid16 is an absolute blast. I love the distilled purity of the aesthetic, the aggressive techno score, the battering challenge. The statistics page at the end of the game rates you separately on Prioritizing, Reflexes, and Timing, and that's what it feels like Grid16 is doing sometimes—measuring the potential of your very brain.

Of course, those scores would feel more accurate if the mini-games were less wildly unbalanced, but this is still a successful neurological experiment in a fun-tacular shape. If jmtb02 produces a sequel (and this is the developer behind five iterations of Ball Revamped, so it seems reasonable to expect Grid32 at some point) with tighter design, it will be one of the best of its breed.

Play Grid16

You can also play this game at John's jmtb02 Studios site.


  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (59 votes)
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PsychotronicFluke BallIf your soul-crushing day job is making you lose your will to live—or at least your willingness to let your co-workers live—why not blow off a little steam by staging a few rounds of friendly competitive Fluke Ball? Why not? Huh? Huh? C'mon, what's stopping you? Huh? What? You say you don't know how to play Fluke Ball? That's no excuse, crazy muffin head, all you need is a few simple ingredients.

  1. An empty break room.
  2. Your co-workers.
  3. A microwave-based reverse-flux magnetic anomaly.
  4. Office supplies.

If you can't get a hold of one or more of the above (office supplies are expensive!), then may I suggest this free online computer simulation of the sport, courtesy of Andrew Paradise and Georg Pederson? It's fun, it's accurate, and it won't bring an end to civilization as we know it.*

The goal of Fluke Ball is to throw objects into the mysterious waves of force surrounding the office microwave, and knock out your opponent's objects when necessary. It's essentially shuffleboard, but sideways and with gravity. After you've each thrown five objects, the ones remaining in the anomaly will be scored based on how close they are to the center, and whoever scores higher wins a point. Best two out of three points wins the match.

First, select what type of game you'd like to play. "Tournament" is the one-player challenge mode, where you may unlock secret modes and characters. "Versus" gets you into a quick game with a number of options, including two-player matches. Choose your character from a starting line-up of corporate pawns who will immediately remind you of your own cubicle-mates, in spirit if not in morphology.

Once you're in the game, throwing stuff is a three-step process. Click on one of the pieces of office equipment sitting nearby on the table. Then position your throwing arc. This part can be confusing, because you're moving a giant weird shape around. Basically, wherever you click now is the point at which your character is directly aiming, and the shape describes the path the object will take through the air. Finally, fine-tune the object's flight path by moving the mouse up and down, and click again.

It sounds complicated, and it is at first, but it feels instinctive after some experimentation. The various characters have different approaches to the game, so experiment to find which one feels natural. Louie, for example, tries to recapture his childhood hoop dreams with an overhead jump shot, while the caffeine-distracted Fermina uses more of a lackadaisical pitch. The objects all have their own mass, which is part of the strategy. If you're trying to knock out a whole clump of your opponent's score-pieces, something heavy like a stapler is handy, but attempts at the bulls-eye might require the finesse of a rubber earth ball.

Analysis: Fluke Ball already gets 10,000 Psychotronic Points for sheer uniqueness, but the care and detail that Andrew Paradise has implemented sends the game into some kind of upper stratosphere of miracle quirk. Though they remain unseen, the break room has ceiling, walls, and floor, which you can take advantage of with the bouncier objects. The microwave anomaly operates a little bit like a floating blob of goo, but with strange magnetic properties. High-speed collisions, especially between metal objects, will sometimes provoke violent reactions and electrical discharges. Most characters have both a soft lob and a more powerful fastball in their throwing arsenals. It all contributes to a sense of depth and re-playability, which is further bolstered by a healthy dose of unlockable characters and game modes.

Enthralling as it can be, Fluke Ball does lack a certain presentational spark in spots. Sound effects are minimal, and music is non-existent. Georg Pederson's wonderful character portraits and animation could use voice effects as accompaniment, even if they were just grunts and sighs of disappointment. And some sort of tutorial would help players climb the steep learning curve. This quietly awesome game deserves to be an ostentatiously awesome game.

But at least it looks great, all decked out in expressive lines and sly humor. And once you break through a layer of initial confusion, you'll have an whole miniature world of strange physics to explore.

If you can't relate to the office environment, perhaps you'll appreciate the implications of the game's concept. Here these bored, unchallenged employees are finally facing a phenomenon unlike anything they've ever encountered, and they turn it into a pointless competition in a futile attempt to establish a microcosmic pecking order. The essence of human nature in a flash game. That's art, baby.

Play Fluke Ball


* Warning: Fluke Ball may bring an end to civilization as we know it.


  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (64 votes)
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PatrickTomb ChessChess is a classic, easy to learn and hard to master. What would happen if chess was bitten by a zombie and then rose again as an undead shadow of its former self? You'd get Tomb Chess, an intriguing variation on the dynamic, where two ghoulish armies battle across a graveyard.

The graveyard is arranged in a checkered grid, like a chess board, and when the game begins every space is covered by a grave. Players take turns by either moving a unit one space or digging up a new unit. Units have different levels of power, from the Ghostly Pawn with a power level of 1, to the Demon King with a power level of 6. Units can eliminate enemy units that have a level less than or equal to their own, and the kings can be killed by pawns. Victory means eliminating all other units, or entering into a stalemate with a higher point total derived from your active units. The interface involves only clicking: Click on a grave to overturn it, click on a unit to select it, and click on the space where you want to move it.

Analysis: While we commonly associate chess with units being equal in attack power and different in movement patterns, Tomb Chess is actually closer to Chess' Chinese counter-part, with a dash of Stratego and a unique form all it's own. It has depth and replay value beyond most games, and will keep strategy fans hooked. It even has a crude multi-player mode where two people can alternately use the mouse to give orders. The randomized distribution of units gives the game a level of complexity that keeps it fresh, and also adds a level of skill in predicting what is likely to surface, forcing you to hedge your bets against that one green pawn appearing next to your entrapped king.

This is a veritable monster mash of gaming goodness. You owe it to your cerebellum to play Tomb Chess!

Play Tomb Chess


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (101 votes)
| Comments (104) | Views (24)

JessAngular MomentumIn Angular Momentum, Robert Berrier's and Roland Ariens' entry into our 4th CGDC, players are plunged into what seems to be the innards of some sort of machine (it looks a bit like a futuristic ant farm) and must guide the requisite ball through a series of chambers. The levels boast twisty, up and down landscapes worthy of Sonic the Hedgehog; tools such as speed boosts and jump platforms will help you reach the exits, but beware of the eeeevil orange panels that will send you back to the start.

Controls are simple to the max using the arrow keys: [right] moves the ball right, and [left] moves it left (except in some later levels, where [up] allows the ball to levitate). The game is divided into six sets of levels; the first five introduce new gameplay elements, along with plenty of instruction to ensure that the player never becomes confused, and the sixth is a set of "master levels" that combines all previous components into a more challenging experience.

Analysis: Momentum, not actual interactive gameplay, is the star of the show here. Often enough the player barely has to control the ball to reach the exit; in one early level I believe I used the arrow keys all of four times, with the various added elements (speed boosts, etc) in the level taking care of the rest. While sitting back and watching the ball fly through tunnels and soar over traps is kinda neat, I'm not sure it constitutes a truly immersive gameplay experience. Later, more complex levels somewhat ameliorate this flaw, but on the whole I found the game to be much too easy.

A lack of environmental variety was also an issue for me. Each level looks largely the same: gray tunnels and walls with bright blue, orange and purple accents to denote traps and tools. While I did like the sleek lines and minimalist aesthetic, some sort of diversity would have made each individual chamber (or set of levels) more memorable. The soundtrack, while appropriate to the feel of the game, is a single loop that ultimately became a bit annoying to me.

I've made a lot of criticisms here, but make no mistake: Angular Momentum has some really great elements going for it. I thought that the ball physics theme was present and modeled excellently, and I also really liked how the individual levels were entered and exited by tubes, creating the feel of a journey through a single structure. Maybe best of all, Robert and Roland have created a really fantastic level editor/builder, where players can design and play their own creations. I did notice, however, that this element is missing everywhere the game is hosted except for the CGDC4 server. This is really too bad, as without the level builder players will miss out on a great deal of the fun.

I'd advise Robert and Roland to create some more "master levels" and shorten the tutorials, as well as consider adding a bit of verve to the look of the game. You guys have great ideas and a promising start; with some more work and refinement Angular Momentum could be really excellent. And for goodness sakes, make sure that level builder is present anywhere the game can be found!

Flawed but fun, and certainly worth a few minutes of your time:

Play Angular Momentum

JayJay - I really wanted to love this entry since it looks like it has everything going for it: beautiful, photorealistic 3D pre-rendered graphics, excellent presentation, a groovy soundtrack, and enough levels to keep you busy for a while. Unfortunately, the level design is the weakest link here, leaving much to be desired. Perhaps that was because of the relatively short development period, as 2 months is not really a very long time to create such a polished competition entry as this endeavors to be. Still, it's a fun little game with tremendous potential. I would also like to encourage Robert and Roland to take development of the title further and give us the best set of master levels they can muster. Well done!


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JayLilo plushieIf you've been visiting JIG for a while, it's likely you've seen and played The Asylum: Psychiatric Clinic for Abused Cuddly Toys before. The game puts you in the role of a psychiatrist as you attempt to cure each adorable yet disturbed little animal. It's one of the most creative and engaging Flash games we've ever seen or played.

The game is actually a brilliant marketing campaign for real plushies that you can purchase via links within the game. Each patient is available for purchase, and the creators continue to add new animals to cure (and to buy) from time to time.

The Lilo plushie in the picture above was recently delivered to JIG headquarters, except the doctor is way too busy to take care of it, so we're giving it away to some lucky visitor with a JIG Casual Gameplay account! All you have to do is leave a comment here on this entry by signing into your Casual Gameplay account. If it's a valid comment, our little mascot (the JIGsterJIGster) will appear next to your name. That's all there is to it!

We will draw one lucky name at random this coming Friday (February 29, 2008). Be sure your email address in your profile is up-to-date and valid, as we will be sending you an email to confirm your account and to request a shipping address to send you this cute, adorable little Lilo. Good luck! =)

Update: Congratulations to Skarlath, the new owner of The Asylum's Lilo plushie!

Be sure to keep checking the site, as we'll be giving away another Asylum plushie again soon!

If you're playing the game again (or perhaps even for the first time) and need some help, you might find some helpful hints, tips or even a walkthrough on one of our previous Asylum reviews.


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Rating: 4.5/5 (25 votes)
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Ghost in the Sheet

JohnBGhost in the Sheet is an unusual point-and-click adventure game for Windows that drops the conventions of item management in favor of supernatural abilities. There is no inventory, as you don't pick up and carry objects in this game. Instead you gain a battery of ghostly powers that allow you to interact with the environment just like a flesh-and-blood human. It's a refreshing take on the adventure genre with a good sense of humor, unique puzzles, and a captivating game world.

ghostinthesheet.jpgAs the titular ghost in the sheet, you play a man who was hit by a bus and finds himself in a sort of limbo, held together by nothing more than a sheet draped over his being. A ghost catching organization immediately recruits him to investigate why the souls of deceased mortals on Earth aren't reaching the afterlife. Your quest begins in an abandoned factory where you'll learn the ropes of adventuring without a solid form.

Because of your ghostly status, carrying items, pushing objects and interacting with the environment is pretty much impossible. Fortunately you learn supernatural abilities that take their place. You start with Telekinesis that allows you to move objects around a room. As you explore you'll learn how to push/pull things, light darkened rooms, and much, much more. Most of the puzzles in the game take full advantage of your ghostly limitations and are centered around using supernatural abilities in creative ways.

Analysis: Ghost in the Sheet bends the adventuring conventions at the source with the lack of inventory and direct item manipulation. This adds a great puzzle flavor to what would normally be simple tasks. For example, if you need to get an object from one room to another, most games would let you pick it up and start walking. As a ghost, however, that's no simple matter, forcing you to get creative and watch your environments very closely. Also, this is one of those adventure games where jotting down notes isn't a bad idea, so have a pen and paper ready.

ghostinthesheet2.gifIt seems like every casual game has to have minigames these days, and Ghost in the Sheet follows suit with a few of its own. Some of them are rather crude and disgusting, whereas the rest are simply forgettable. They're all easily skipped by tapping the [backspace] key, which is a feature many more casual game developers should take note of.

The atmosphere in Ghost in the Sheet is perfectly suited for the story at hand, and locations are well-drawn and pull you right in. The voice acting is entertaining (though sometimes a bit stiff), and you really appreciate the main character's sense of humor about his odd situation, reflected in some of his off-beat comments.

Ghost in the Sheet gets everything right as an adventure game and it manages to lose some of the dryness associated with the genre. The new take on an old theme works wonders. Unfortunately our affiliate doesn't offer a demo for Ghost in the Sheet due to its rather large file size, but if this review grabbed your interest, you won't be disappointed with the full version.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

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


| Comments (24) | Views (6)

Weekend Download

JohnB

The Weekend Download arrives with glee
Bringing fun games to you, from me
Just download and play
Then sit there all day
On Saturday you couldn't be more free!




thenightshiftcode.jpgThe Nightshift Code (Windows/Mac, 40MB, demo) - A hidden object/adventure game starring a young security guard, Mike, who catches a museum thief late one night and discovers the rare artifact she's after is connected to his father's disappearance. Instead of reporting her, he joins Isabel as they travel across the globe searching for items and solving cryptic messages. Along with the comic-style cutscenes, unique storyline and great presentation, The Nightshift Code throws a curveball with riddle-type item clues in every stage. For example, the list of objects might include "four tapes", but each tape is a different object -- a roll of tape, a cassette tape, etc. Even though these clues can be difficult, you enjoy them nonetheless, and they complement the hidden object game quite well.

painajainen.gifPainajainen (Windows, 5.2MB, free) - Similar in theme to Seiklus and, to a lesser extent, Knytt, Painajainen is a 2D platform exploration game about a boy who gets trapped in his own dream. The goal is to gather all the orbs to open a door, and to do that you'll need to walk, swim and fly into every nook and cranny of the surreal world.

beneathasteelsky.jpgBeneath a Steel Sky (Windows/Mac/Linux, 2-7MB, free) - Widely regarded as one of the true classic adventure games from the early 90s, Beneath a Steel Sky is set in a sci-fi cyberpunk universe and tells the story of a young boy called Robert who is the sole survivor of a plane crash in "The Gap". You'll need ScummVM as well as the game file itself, both of which run on practically every computer system ever conceived.

simontathampuzzles.gifSimon Tatham's Portable Puzzle Collection (Windows/Mac/Linux, <2MB, free) - Not one, but 27 small puzzle games ranging from number puzzles to familiar games (such as Minesweeper) to more original fare. Perfect for killing a few minutes in-between projects (or distracting yourself from homework). Windows users can download the games individually, while Mac/Linux folk will need to grab the whole collection in one file.

avernum5.jpgAvernum 5 (Windows/Mac, 26MB, demo) - The fifth installment of the highly-acclaimed role playing series, Avernum 5 sets a standard for independently-made RPGs. Sure, it doesn't look like much, but once you scratch the surface you'll realize there's so much to enjoy about this game. Warning: you'll have to abandon a bit of your casual gaming habits to truly enjoy Avernum.


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Rating: 4.5/5 (45 votes)
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Cate West - The Vanishing Files

JohnBCate West - The Vanishing Files is a hidden object game, from developer Gamenauts, that strays as far as it can from the genre without turning into a minigame-focused mystery adventure. In addition to your usual "find all the objects on the list" gameplay, Cate West weaves a number of evidence-related games that keep the pointing and clicking from getting stale. Paired with stellar artwork and an interesting storyline, the final result is something that provides the charm of a hidden object game with new experiences and lighter, more engaging gameplay.

catewest.jpgCate West is an author with a unique psychic ability: she can see places, people and things associated with an item simply by touching it. Working with the police you will investigate 15 full cases, each divided into sub-games that follow the same overall outline. Cases begin with hidden object scenes where Cate searches cluttered locations for clues. The item finding mechanics here are simple: just look at the list and search the image for the objects. You don't have to find all of the items, which is a huge relief, and hints slowly regenerate after each use (though points will be deducted and you may not see the game's best ending).

After clues have been gathered, Cate pinpoints items with strong associations to the criminal for use in the trial. In a slight variation of the hidden object theme, these items are broken into pieces and you must find every part to assemble it. Next, Cate searches for the criminal's hideout by matching a photograph with her mental image, prompting a spot-the-difference minigame. This narrows the location down to a single street where a handful of suspects are rounded up and placed before your eyes. Each profile photo has some basic information about the suspect that you'll compare against Cate's impressions from the evidence, slowly narrowing the choices down to a few. Then it's time to make your arrest.

catewest2.jpgIn court, the suspect gives his or her testimony which begins a fun spot-the-difference/hidden object mash-up game. Instead of looking for items or differences, however, you're given an inventory of items and must place them on photographs of the scene, making sure the left side matches the right. Justice has been served, and it's time to move on to the next case!

Analysis: Games with this sort of mystery-laden atmosphere have always been a draw for me, but I was hesitant to dive into Cate West - The Vanishing Files simply because I didn't want to play another hidden object game. I was very pleasantly surprised, however, at how light this game is on the item finding. Sure, it's still the center of the show, but mixing in the various evidence games really breaks up the monotony and ends up being a lot of fun.

Even though it's a lighter take on the hidden object genre, Cate West suffers from becoming formulaic in its own right. It's a rather lengthy game for a casual title, with 15 cases and almost twice as many locations to visit, but with the same few games repeating over and over it feels a little stale by the end. Fortunately the story is interesting enough to encourage you to forge ahead. Also worth mentioning are the stunning locations and art direction in Cate West - The Vanishing Files. The dialogue-driven cut scenes have an almost manga-style feel, and when you reach a new area you just want to drink in the detail.

It's enough item finding to appease hidden object fans, yet Cate West - The Vanishing files is so much more. It's a carefully crafted blend of experiences that gets just about everything right.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Link Dump Fridays

JohnBIt's Link Dump Friday: Kitchen Sink Edition! Why kitchen sink? Because that's practically the only thing we've left out of this weeks article. Seven game in all, almost twice the usual dose, and they range from hamster slingshots to soul-searching cursors to brain teasers.

  • icon_flightofthehamster.gifFlight of the Hamster - Hamsters line up. Hamsters jump. You pull the pillow back and send them flying. See how far you can blast and pilot flying hamsters in this Cartoon Network take on Nanaca † Crash.
  • icon_bluep.gifBluep - From Hero Interactive comes a quirky little hopping/shooting arcade game that feels like the confused child of Super Mario Bros., Grid Wars, and Asteroids. Move your ship around the screen, firing with the mouse button and jumping with the [spacebar]. The goal is to destroy the guns that appear around the edges of the screen.
  • icon_heist.gifHeist - An isometric action/adventure game where you play the "best thief ever" trying to steal the World Diamond. Plant explosive charges, search lockers, and avoid the building's security systems.
  • icon_soulsearch.gifSoul Search - A painfully difficult game of "avoid the walls with your cursor", but the setting and presentation are so interesting, it's worth the chunks of missing head hair.
  • icon_bricks.gifBricks - Match-3 games are about as new and interesting as a ham and cheese sandwich, but Bricks manages to add a few spicy condiments to the mix for a slightly refreshing puzzle experience. The goal is, of course, to make groups of three or more like-colors. The catch is that clicking on a square causes it to adopt the adjacent color the arrow points to. In about three seconds you'll get the hang of it, but it's still strangely compelling.
  • icon_musicinmotion.gifMusic in Motion - Another stab at integrating music into the gaming experience, Music in Motion is a great concept title that blends action and techno beats into a very interesting package. Each stage featured blocks that fall/appear in time with the music. All you have to do is avoid getting squished.
  • icon_25boxes.gif25 Boxes - A short brainteaser-type game where you use peripheral vision to find shapes and click their corresponding blank tiles. It's short and not very difficult, but fun for a round or two.
  • JayJIG Poker Night - is every Saturday! (oh yes, it is!). Check this page each week for time of day (usually 4PM Eastern). The winner each week qualifies for a championship tournament on May 17th where we'll give away an iPod Nano and a Nintendo DS!! So, join us won't you?

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Rating: 3.8/5 (87 votes)
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JayShotTaro Ito has been a favorite of ours here at JIG for several years, so it is with great fanfare that we welcome new releases from his GameDesign.jp website.

The latest of his designs is this sliding-block puzzle game called Shot. The objective is to progress as far as you can, through a series of increasingly more difficult levels, by knocking all but one of the balls from the play grid. You do this by sliding one ball into another with a simple click-drag movement with the mouse. It's as simple as that.

Always emphasizing minimalist design over clutter and complexity, Ito-san delivers yet another remarkable and addictive puzzler with randomized levels that increase the game's replay value significantly. The only downside is the inclusion of a clock that counts down limiting the time you have to figure out a solution for each level. This will undoubtedly disappoint those who require a bit more time for puzzles like this (myself included).

Still, it's a simple idea based on a familiar puzzle concept, and yet made entirely his own through presentation and implementation.

Play Shot


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Rating: 4.7/5 (110 votes)
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ArtbegottiGriddler PearEvery time we review a picross game, there always seems to be a hubbub about what site does it right. Either there's not enough puzzles to solve, not enough variety in the puzzles, it's all too easy or too hard, or the pictures look like someone sneezed on a piece of graph paper. (I'll admit to being among the gripers before.) And every time, there's at least one person who suggests Griddlers.net.

If you've never played picross before, here's how it works: On the top and left side of a grid, you will see some numbers. These numbers tell you how many consecutive blocks are to be filled in in that respective row or column. For example, a row says 4, you'll fill four squares in that row, no more, no less. If there is more than one number in a line, then you know that there is at least one blank space in between the sections you fill in. For example, 2,2 means you fill in two boxes, leave at least one blank, then fill in two more boxes. Left-clicking fills in a square, while right-clicking marks it with a blank space. Thus, blacking in the last "?" square in the picture above will finish this picture of a juicy pear.

Here is what sets Griddlers apart from the others: Not only is the site's database of playable picross games ridiculously ginormous, but they have many different variations on the genre to keep you interested. Some include:

Colored Griddlers - These are played just like regular picross puzzles, except now you have multiple colors to fill in the grid with. The same rule applies that there is one block between each string of numbers of the same color, however, there does not need to be a gap between numbers of different color. This variety allows for puzzles of up to eight colors, which means all sorts of beautiful animals, faces, and other pictures can be made in a more lively fashion.

Multi-Griddlers - These are sets of picross puzzles that when put together form much larger pictures, in jigsaw-style fashion. Some of the smaller pictures are divided into 2-4 sections, while the larger pictures can contain upwards of 100 separate sections to solve. People have gone to great lengths to use this feature to create very detailed puzzles depicting photographs, cartoon characters, famous paintings, and all sorts of amazing pictures... Can you tell that I'm hinting that this website has a lot of very artistically designed puzzles here?

TriddlerTriddlers - Quite possibly the most radical variation available, Triddlers are played on a hexagonal grid divided into triangles. You fill in the triangles with clues from the left-hand side (going across), the top (going down-left), and the bottom (going up-left). Changing the shape of picross (literally), this variation allows for more three-dimensional designs and generally provides a break from the standard square-grid picross.

With all of these fantastic features, is there any possible problem with this website? Well... yes, but it's a minor one. There is a quick and painless registration process to be able to record your progress. You're allowed to save two Griddlers and two Triddlers in the middle of solving, but beyond this requires a paid subscription (which truth be told, has a ton of extra features, including the ability to download and print puzzles for solving away from the computer).

Analysis: So have we finally found the holy grail of picross? Of course not. Actually, I can almost already predict the two largest problems people will find with these games. The controls are different from any picross game we've featured so far, particularly because of the multi-colored puzzles. It's no longer plain black and white, there's also red, green, and blue, which can pose a problem for colorblind individuals. The second problem is that all of the puzzles run on a Java interface, and I know how some people have issues with Java. But that much aside, we have a site that offers us (I kid you not) tens of thousands of picross puzzles to solve... I'd say it still qualifies as a puzzler's heaven.

So... Picross. Tons of it. Not much more to say here!

Play Griddlers


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Rating: 3.5/5 (45 votes)
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ballrooms.gifdancemonkeyAn entry from Dom Camus (The Turtles of Time) into our 4th Casual Gameplay Design Competition, Ballrooms plays more or less like a standard table-top pinball game with an added element of exploration. Really, it's a pinball adventure game where you earn points, grab power-ups, and travel between boards via a network of warp holes. The end result is a pinball universe that's as much flipper pounding as it is exploration.

Ballrooms has several control setups available, one of which utilizes the [WASD] keys for flipper control and the [spacebar] for power-ups. The [A] and [D] keys move the left and right flippers respectively, while [S] activates special flippers and [W] bumps the table. Flippers aren't always placed at the bottom center as on a normal pinball table, but it's usually quite intuitive to see which key moves which flipper.

Bouncing around the various tables in Ballrooms, you'll hit the usual set of switches and buttons that will net you points. You'll also come across warp tunnels and power-ups, which is where things get very interesting. Green-rimmed holes lead to new tables, and exploring the whole Ballroom universe is absolutely something you'll want to do. Power-ups range from boosters, quick-save moves, point multipliers, and so on, all of which are activated with a tap of the [spacebar].

ballrooms2.gifAnalysis: With a solid concept and engaging presentation, Ballrooms doesn't skimp on entertainment value. After spending some time with the game, however, you'll begin to pick up on a few minor shortcomings that stand in the way of a better experience. My biggest issue was with the gravity. Some readers referred to the game as having "springy" walls, but it seemed to me as if I was playing pinball on the moon. The actual physics of the ball's bouncing and trajectory seemed spot-on, but the crazy ball just bounced way too high and with too much power. On a typical pinball table I can direct a ball with a fair degree of accuracy to a target, but in Ballrooms I was consistently frustrated by the ball flying like a rocket off a flipper to the exact same spot every time, despite my attempts at timing the shot differently.

I also felt that each room, or "table", was just too small, and some made it extremely difficult to hit all the targets. I think this may have boiled down to a limitation of the medium, but I would have really liked to see a more robust, almost full-size pinball table for each room, allowing for a truly epic pinball exploration bonanza. The rooms as they are now are simply too small and don't last long enough for me to develop any emotional interest in them (yes, you can develop emotional interest in pinball!).

I have to say that despite the game's flaws, it's fantastic fun to play. The concept is brilliant, and I think Dom was simply limited by the time constraints of the competition and the technical limitations of Flash. He did a great job of theming each room with beautiful background artwork, though he could have extended that to the foreground elements as well and it would have gone a long way. Dom mentioned working on a sequel, which is obviously a great idea, but I can honestly see this concept working as a complete PC or console title. That would allow Dom the freedom to include photo-realistic graphics, larger tables, and more robust and detailed obstacles.

Play Ballrooms


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Rating: 4.8/5 (698 votes)
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JayGrow Nano Vol. 3Here's a game that needs no introduction around here, the next game in the amazing and wonderful Grow series from Eyezmaze has just released today. Grow Nano Vol. 3 has the same familiar gameplay, graphics, animation and soundtrack as the others, and it is sure to put a smile on your face.

The objective is to heal the little blue man that you start with. This goal follows the lead of the previous game in the series, Grow Island, and makes the sequence that is necessary to achieve maximum level for all elements logical and overall very enjoyable to play.

Play Grow Nano Vol. 3

Still want more Grow? Play the entire Grow series of games (in order of release)...


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Rating: 4.6/5 (104 votes)
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JohnBHaluz2Haluz 2, the sequel to the surreal Samorost-like point-and-click adventure Haluz, is now entirely free! When it was first released in August, players could experience the first half of the game and pay a modest fee to access the second chapter. Now the creator of Haluz, Tomas, sends word that both versions are available online for the low low cost of absolutely nothing.

Haluz 2 follows the basic puzzle-type layout of Samorost, Hapland, and Warbears where you attempt to guide a character through the environment by clicking on-screen objects. For example, in order to move a makeshift elevator to the top of a tree, you might have to wake a sleeping bird at the right time, flip a switch, or do something even more creative. It's very Rube Goldberg-esque at times, and you can't help but smile at some of the solutions to these odd puzzles.

Overall, the levels aren't very difficult to solve, it's usually just a matter of finding what to click and then clicking it at the right time or in the right order. But Haluz isn't about bending your brain, it's about the sheer delight of navigating a beautifully rendered world and grinning along the way. It's a treat for your eyes and ears, and now completely free!

Play Haluz 2.2


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Rating: 4.5/5 (139 votes)
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spintheblackcircle.jpgzxoLike it or not, you have to admit that Nitrome has managed to bring some unique gameplay to the masses. In fact, a handful of games have sprung up recently that seem to have been inspired by — or at least are similar in spirit to — previous Nitrome games, Shift, Yin Yang, Space Kitteh, and Space Hopper.

One characteristic these games seem to have in common is that they manage to improve upon their respective Nitrome counterparts, at least from the perspective of actually playing through the game. The same is true for Spin the Black Circle, by Alejandro Guillen, the latest game to join this list. It's hard not to compare Spin the Black Circle to Nitrome's Roly Poly (which in turn was inspired by one or more prior arcade games). Both require you to rotate a board while maintaining a constant gravity, and both present a variety of different obstacles, enemies, and surfaces. Yet, I think you'll agree that in most regards, Spin the Black Circle comes out ahead.

Not only is Spin the Black Circle smoother running, the physics also feel more natural and play a larger role in the level design. This could have something to do with newer and better versions of Flash released in the last few years. Inertia, all but ignored in Roly Poly, becomes the focal point for the challenges put forth. The first few levels let you practice the skills you will need later on in the game, such as navigating corners, pulling U-turns, and making floor switches. These can be tricky, because as you rotate the board, your inertial frame of reference rotates with it, but gravity always remains down. Expect to see your ball fly off into the spikes a number of times before mastering the controls. Then expect to see it fly off anyway as the levels get harder and harder. To succeed requires not just controlling your ball's inertia, but learning how to take advantage of it to squeeze through some tight spaces. To add even more challenge, Spin the Black Circle keeps track of your best times for each level, although simply finishing is achievement enough for some.

All in all, though Spin the Black Circle may not be nearly as cute as Roly Poly, but its superior performance, pleasing soundtrack, and more realistic physics do a better job of engaging the player, sucking them into that compulsive "just one more time" spiral of anti-productivity that we all love and hate to find ourselves in.

Play Spin the Black Circle

Cheers to Alejandro, Bob, L0ser, slgalt, Jacob, and Kristi for suggesting this one! =)


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Game Design Competition #5Gimme5gamesMochi MediaWith only 2 weeks left before the deadline for our 5th Casual Gameplay Design Competition, it's getting down to the wire. With more cash and prizes (over $10,000) up for grabs than any of our competitions to-date, along with a supporting $10,000 advertising campaign via MochiAds from Mochi Media, there has never before been a better time to enter a CGDC than now!

Remember, the deadline is March 16th (end of day), and to enter you will need to fill out the CGDC5 Entry Form. So don't delay!

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

  • When submitting our game to MochiAds for acceptance, will it also be published automatically to the MochiAds contest page and to other MochiAds locations? And wouldn't that be against the competition rules? - This is an excellent question. When submitting your game entry to MochiAds, it is important that you
    do not check the box titled: "Yes! Distribute my game to increase my traffic" until AFTER the competition deadline or your game will automatically appear on the MochiAds contest page and distribution system thereby disqualifying your entry. See this screenshot for the exact location of the checkbox.
  • Would posting my game entry on FlashGameLicense.com be allowed for the purpose of obtaining a sponsor? - Yes. FlashGameLicense exists solely to match up game developers with potential sponsors, and the games are not playable by the general public. However, you may wish to follow their advice about URL-locking your game and adding a disclaimer "For demonstration purposes only".
  • May we post the same game that we submit to the competition to other portals, with the CGDC5 MochiBot button and MochiAds still counting towards the viral award, but with the other portals' API implemented? - Yes, you may submit your game entry with the CGDC5 MochiBot button to other sites with transparent changes to support their API as long as the CGDC5 MochiBot button remains functional (i.e., it brings the user to the CGDC5 competition page when clicked).

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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Rating: 3.7/5 (57 votes)
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zxoRetroidTrying to describe a game using splendiferous prose just seems so... right-brained-centric. How discriminatory! Thus, as a public service to all you left-brainers out there, I hereby present the mathematical description of Retroid, by developer Harrah:

Retroid = (Pong + Gravity - 1 player + Ball2 + 3Enemy) * 4 modes + Bob

Yes, you'll see flashes of your old buddy Pong, at least inasmuch as you use paddles to keep a ball from exiting the screen. Did I say ball? Sorry, I meant balltangle. Yep, it's got corners. Plus, you have to also worry about your balltangle falling off the bottom of the screen as well as the sides. Did I mention you have to do all of this while using Bob – that's your little purple atom – to scurry around collecting point boosters and powerdowns and avoiding trienemies? Yeesh! It's a multitasker's dreamworld!

There are four different modes of play, each with its own quirks, including soundtracks appropriate to each mode's specific level of freneticism. You start off with access to two Classic modes: Easy and Normal. Easy mode is a great place to start, as it will get you used to the controls and the scoring objectives without quite so many opportunities to die. The balltangle will drop onto a white forcefield that serves as a floor and start bouncing from side to side. Use the mouse to move the side paddles up and down to prevent the balltangle from exiting the screen. Eventually, the floor will fade away, and you'll have to control a third paddle to prevent the balltangle from dropping to the floor (except for Easy mode where the floor never disappears). That's one part of the game. The other part resembles any number of avoidance games – you have to keep Bob clear of the trienemies that soon begin to crowd the screen, while collecting point boosters and powerdowns. Tying both of these tasks to the movement of the mouse adds a unique dimension to the gameplay: often, these two tasks will be at odds with each other and you'll either have to let Bob take a hit or suffer the loss of your balltangle. It's almost always better to save the balltangle and leave Bob to the mercy of the trienemies. They only cause 7 damage each, whereas you lose 25 life for each lost balltangle.

Earning a B- or better on the Classic Normal mode unlocks Defusal mode. In the place of the trienemies are bombs that must be clicked before they explode – again, while continuing to keep the balltangle in play. Speed mode (unlocked with a B- or better in Defusal mode) gets rid of enemies altogether, but ramps up the balltangle velocity pretty quickly and also makes the balltangle cause damage when it hits Bob. As if that weren't enough, you also die instantly upon the loss of your balltangle!

Except for Speed mode, scoring for the different modes is basically the same – each time you hit the balltangle or collect a blue point booster, you get points and your points per hit increase. Having an active powerdown (red dot) in Classic mode gives you a temporary score multiplier at the expense of added difficulty. In Defuse mode, the multiplier increases automatically with time. For Speed mode, you simply accumulate points for surviving, and the longer you survive, the more quickly you accumulate them.

Analysis: Like Lt. Fly and the Spiders From Above last week, Retroid successfully merges two tasks so that you must pay attention to both simultaneously. However, rather than using scarcity of ammunition, Retroid links the controls for both tasks so they cannot act independently of each other, ensuring that they are both kept at the front of your concentration. Another nice balance is struck by the powerdown scoring multipliers – they make the game more difficult, but can greatly increase your scoring rate.

As for the production values, Retroid scores both hits and misses. The neo-arcade style graphics themselves look pretty sharp for the most part, but the overall design is a bit shoddy – a misaligned button, a too-busy end-game screen, etc. The musical selections reflect each mode's pace pretty nicely, but after a couple of times through Normal mode it dawned on me exactly which mid-90s alternative rock song I was hearing remade in an easy-listening style. I know that in the world of Flash games, original music is not always made a priority, and I did get a kick out of hearing this version of the song, but overall I think it added a sense of novelty that really was not needed and only detracted from an otherwise solid game.

Play Retroid


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (212 votes)
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PsychotronicCobacoliIn his ongoing, mad quest to give us all nightmares about geometry, Tonypa has unleashed Cobacoli upon the world. It sounds like a deadly bacteria, but no, it's an elegant puzzle game based around 2-dimensional ball physics, although in many ways it qualifies as an infectious disease. Symptoms include intense concentration, swearing, and the inability to pry your hand away from your mouse. Also my left knee is itchy, but that's probably not Tonypa's doing. Probably.

Best of Casual Gameplay 2008The gameplay is similar to Shuffle, though the ball motion seems more directly inspired by CGDC3 winner Gimme Friction Baby. Each level presents you with a group of colored circles, and your goal is to clear the board by knocking each one into a wall of its own color. Move your white cue ball by simply clicking in the direction you want it to go. A white arrow line will assist you in plotting a course, but keep in mind you have no control over your shot's velocity. You have a limited number of shots — indicated by the readout in the center of the screen — and when you run out, the game is over. Be careful not to touch the colored walls with the cue ball, or your shot count will decrease by one.

The more efficient you are, the faster your score increases. And when you clear a level, your remaining shots will be divided by two and then added onto your starting allotment for the next stage. So if you perform well early on, you can build up a buffer for the later, more challenging levels.

And you will be challenged. Oh yes you will. Right from the beginning, you'll never have a straight line to the goal or even a simple bank shot. Rather, the balls start each level in exactly the most inconvenient spot possible, with improbable angles preventing you from easily ricocheting them to their goals. You will need to fully engage your spatial instincts and plan each shot carefully, or you'll find yourself caroming the cue ball repeatedly into the walls and trapping target circles in awkward corners where, despite their lack of speech, facial expressions, or writing utensils, they will mock you.

Analysis: As you might expect from Tonypa, this is a highly developed and smoothly executed game. The strong colors and elegant visual layout are present and accounted for, and the background music from Kevin MacLeod is simply spectacular. Not only is the music well chosen, but it's somewhat dynamic as well. As you advance, you'll not only be rewarded with new and more diabolical level designs, but also a fuller symphony.

It's a remarkably addictive cocktail, made even more gripping by the fact that nothing in the game is random. You always have complete control, though the math may be baffling, and that makes the search for the perfect strategy on each level compelling.

Cobacoli is full of refinements. Target circles feature a little bulls-eye to help you make precise shots. The level order gets shuffled around each time you play just enough to break up expectations. There's an interesting twist where balls shrink each time they are moved (they never disappear entirely), and although this makes it gradually harder to execute accurate rebounds, it also eases the pain of bucking a circle out from a tight corner.

I do feel like the sound effects are lagging slightly behind the rest of the package. Some of the rebound sounds feel a little off to me, and there definitely should be a unique effect when you successfully burst a circle against a wall; not necessarily a twenty-gun salute, but something that can act as a minor reward.

But overall, this is one of Tonypa's best efforts. Cobacoli will turn off some players with its difficulty, especially since some situations can seem hopeless and others can punish you severely in a short period of time. A single poorly-judged shot can wipe you out on some of the crueler boards, and that means you'll be starting over all the way from the beginning. However, this prospect shouldn't keep you from trying out one of the finest ball physics-based games available. The urge to throw a rock through your monitor has never felt so sophisticated.

Play Cobacoli

UPDATE: Tonypa has just released a new version of Cobacoli with several nice new features, including a level select screen that allows you to play any level you've already unlocked. Bonus shots are not carried over when selecting individual levels, but playing through stages in order still earns you those precious extras. High scores are also saved for each level and for your current session.


  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (53 votes)
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PatrickKaichouA great, terrible man once said: "Your flower power is no match for my glower power." That man's name was Charles Montgomery Burns, and he clearly never played Kaichou. The brainchild of Ali Maunder and finalist of our 4th Casual Gameplay Design Competition (CGDC4), Kaichou is an elegant and beautiful abstract shooter where you have to break down bouncing glower with flowery projectiles.

The screen starts blank with only a grey dot in the middle — this dot is your turret. Click the left-mouse-button to fire a bullet in the direction of your mouse cursor. When these bullets hit the black, bouncing balls that enter the screen, those balls are broken up, asteroids-style, and flowers remain. You can hit multiple balls in quick succession to create multiple flowers, complete with vines drawn between them, which amplifies your score. Another side effect of hitting a ball is that the ball's velocity changes, which also happens when balls bounce into each other. Your goal is to keep the dream alive for as long as possible, trying to propagate flowers with successful hits and avoid having a black ball collide with your grey dot.

Analysis: Ali strikes again with an abstract concept that feels oddly familiar. The procedurally drawn lines and randomly pruned flower patterns make the game feel both polished and more deeply interactive than you'd expect from your typical shmup. The gameplay of tracking ball physics becomes more or less impossible as the screen fills up with balls, unless you're some kind of savant that can count cards and juggle the trajectories of dozens of objects simultaneously. If you are, you'll have a lot of fun climbing the high score board, but if not, you'll enjoy this game for it's distinct presentation and feel.

If you sneeze, I will say Kaichou!

Play Kaichou


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (33 votes)
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Monster Mash

JohnBThe pickles are attacking! Run! And while you're running, why not set up a few defensive towers to take out the Horripickles and Fisquitoes chasing you? In Monster Mash you must protect storybook villages and their people from evil fairy tale monsters. It's a tower defense game with artwork, characters and plot taken right out of a children's book, and it's every bit as surreal (yet fun) as you might think.

monstermash.jpgTower defense games usually operate on the same basic rule set — monsters march along a specified path and you must place towers that will destroy them before they reach the end. Each enemy defeated earns you a bit of cash you can use to buy more units or upgrade existing towers to be stronger, faster, or have a wider range of attack. There's always a good variety of buildings at your disposal, each with a different strength and weakness to help stave off the hordes.

Monster Mash takes the now-familiar formula and gives it a child-like makeover. Not in terms of gameplay, mind you (although it is a bit pared-down compared to other tower defense games), but in the artwork and setting. Each round begins with a villager running out of the monster cave back to the village. Your lives are measured in people, and each runaway villager that returns to the town gives you another chance at success. Let a monster reach the end of the path, however, and expect to lose a few villagers. You don't want to kill the happy people of Curly Valley, do you?

Defeated monsters occasionally drop items that can be collected by sending villagers out onto the battlefield. Some items give you gold, while others speed up building time, slow the enemy's walking speed, or increase your towers' attack strength. There are even level-specific objects you can click on to aid your cause, such as the scarecrow that freezes enemies or the cannon that dispatches foes no matter where they are. Throw that in the pot with a handful of unique maps and you have the makings of an entertaining tower defense game.

Analysis: In a genre that's becoming more crowded as the weeks go by, Monster Mash has the good sense to set itself apart from the pack with a delightful artwork and story presentation. The gameplay itself is rather run-of-the-mill, but seeing zany monster after zany monster crawl out of the cave is a blast, and each one comes complete with a short biography.

Where Monster Mash falls a bit short is in long-term play. Each map you defend is almost completely cut-off from previous areas, as you don't carry gold between stages. Power-ups you nab are saved, but as far as an over-reaching drive to keep playing the game, there really isn't one. Also, the difficulty level is sharply increased after just a few levels, and it's quite a jarring experience.

Compared to other tower defense games (especially Garden Defense), the amount of items and towers doesn't quite stack up, leaving the experience a bit flat by comparison. But the creativity poured into the artwork and character stories more than makes up for that. It's a good tower defense game made even better thanks to a little imagination.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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

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


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Weekend Download

JohnBOf all the strange game ideas I've seen, building a platformer around hockey and Randy Savage has to be one of the wackiest. But that's exactly what we have this weekend, along with such unlikely company as a spooky horror-adventure game and a physics sandbox toy.

penumbrablackplague.jpgPenumbra: Black Plague (Windows, 119MB, demo) - After months of waiting, the second and final installment in the Penumbra series has arrived. Billed as a first person adventure, the first game, Penumbra: Overture, introduced us to a dark and mysterious world where realistic physics-based puzzles were the central gameplay focus instead of gun-firing combat. Enemies are rare, but the pervading sense of fear isn't. Black Plague continues the story and emphasizes using your brains instead of weapons, making it a rare experience in the 3D survival-horror genre. Both Mac and Linux versions are coming soon, so in the meantime you can try Penumbra: Overture to get a taste of what the series has to offer.

phun.gifPhun (Windows, Linux, 2-7MB, free) - Phun is a game about having fun with physics. Get it?! Create scenes using a simple set of tools (you can even add water!), then unleash your creation and see what chaos ensues. It's a cross between a World of Sand-style toy and Armadillo Run, and it really is as entertaining as the name implies.

bonesaw.jpgBonesaw (Windows, 59MB, free) - Created with Multimedia Fusion, the same toolset behind Knytt, Bonesaw is a platform adventure garnished with the occasional fisticuffs smackdown, Macho Man Randy Savage-style. You play the only remaining member of a hockey team transported to an alternate dimension by an evil referee. During your quest you'll lay to waste tons of enemies, flip switches, hop across platforms, trigger bomb-buttons, and occasionally break out the famous bonesaw for some serious fighting.

irondukes.jpgIron Dukes downloadable preview (Windows, 9MB, free demo) - For anyone who had trouble with the browser-based demo, One Ton Ghost has just released a downloadable version that should clear up any performance issues. Iron Dukes is a gorgeous RPG/action hybrid where you play a scientist/greedy treasure hunter in a fictional version of the late 19th century. Pilot your ship through storms, dive for gold and defeat crazy steam-powered foes all in the name of getting rich and buying more cool stuff to equip. (One level demo, contains strong language.)


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KeroWe've just finished a complete walkthrough (with images) for Dream Chronicles 2: The Eternal Maze!! Be warned: contains major spoilers, so proceed only as a last resort.


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (127 votes)
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Dream Chronicles 2: The Eternal Maze

Ms.45When I learned that a sequel to Dream Chronicles was being released, I was elated. The original is such a beautiful blend of puzzles, adventure, object finding and Myst-like environments. Now, Dream Chronicles 2: The Eternal Maze is out and continues where the first game left off. You play Faye, a mortal woman whose fairy husband has been kidnapped and daughter imprisoned by Lilith, the Queen of Fairies. By solving a series of puzzles you can reach Fidget and awaken Lyra, but the Queen is always one step ahead!

dreamchronicles2-1.jpgDream Chronicles 2 plays out like a cross between a hidden object game and a point-and-click adventure. Each area has a number of items scattered amongst the scenery, and it's your job to locate objects and use them to solve puzzles. The artwork is impeccable — beautiful, immersive, and extremely good at hiding that last item you desperately need to get to the next level.

The gameplay in The Eternal Maze is a little more involved than the original. Whereas in the first Dream Chronicles you would solve one scene and then move on to the next level, in Dream Chronicles 2 you may need to move between different scenes in order to progress. Each level becomes more complex as you advance through the game, and how you solve the puzzles will vary greatly. Dream Jewels, previously a mere bonus for high scores, now have a function, as collecting them and solving their puzzles reveals hints for completing levels, so it's worth collecting as many as you can.

dreamchronicles2-2.jpgAnalysis: It's hard not to be captivated by the setting and artwork in Dream Chronicles, and the second installment doesn't disappoint. The overall layout is essentially the same, but the addition of more complex puzzles and useful Dream Jewels scattered around the levels adds a new layer to the experience. However, whereas the first game featured strong and witty dialogue, Dream Chronicles 2 is not only flatter, it's grammatically sloppy — ok in a quick 'n' silly Newgrounds shooter, but really inadequate in a game where care in writing was a strength.

One of the criticisms of the first Dream Chronicles was that it was a bit too quick and easy to play, especially for point-and-click enthusiasts who drive the success of games like Azada. Dream Chronicles 2 improves upon this to a certain degree with multi-stage puzzles as well as more environments to explore.

New to Dream Chronicles? Read our review of the first game in the series.

Does Faye reach Fidget and Lyra? Is Lyra the Chosen Child of the Fairy Kingdom? You'll have to play Dream Chronicles 2: The Eternal Maze to find out!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Link Dump Fridays

JessFriday has arrived
Bearing games upon its back
Ah, bliss! To waste time.

  • WhaaWhaa - Bravely fire away
    At those circles, but prepare
    For a quick demise.
  • Sweet ValentineSweet Valentine - If you should tackle
    Sugary-sweet, point-and-click,
    Three ends await you.
  • WitchcraftWitchcraft - Back to Halloween!
    Choose cards wisely, and you may
    Break the witch's curse.
  • Unfair PlatformerUnfair Platformer - Impossible game!
    Traps, spikes, forty-two lives lost
    Yet I cannot stop.
  • KermixKermix - Courageous red block
    Jump, turn, collect the loot and
    Warp to the next round.

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Rating: 4/5 (47 votes)
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PatrickEntropic SpaceIn Entropic Space, no one can hear you smash planets together. It's true, sound does not travel in space. But what does travel are "fun-waves", those mysterious quanta of play that science is just beginning to understand. A submission to our 4th Casual Gameplay Design Competition from Studio Cypher, Entropic Space has you piloting a mega-scale space pod that can bump planets into each other, engineering parsec after parsec into entropy.

Slide the mouse to control your ship as planets fly into your parsec from the right side of the screen. Nudge them and slam them into bouncing vector trajectories, and when they collide they leave behind glowing space dust. Collect the dust to boost your meter and move on to the next parsec. Meanwhile, black holes float across the screen from the top and bottom. If planets collide with these black holes stars form, causing the black hole to remain on screen. Needless to say, colliding with a star or a black hole will destroy any space-pod, even one that can head-butt planets.

Analysis: Sure, the physics don't make sense. Planets going into black holes to create stars? Black holes moving in parallel lines? But then you remember this space is entropic, and the physics that are important here are ball physics. And it works. The increasing complexity of planets bouncing around, intersecting with black holes, increasing the volume of space that can't be touched, space that is literally decaying around your wrist, there is a real game here. The polish is solid and the implementation is as sound as a silver-backed currency. Take a trip into Entropic Space.

Play Entropic Space


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Rating: 4.2/5 (121 votes)
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Scramble125AquanautMhmmm. Do you smell that? That's a hot new release fresh out of the Nitrome oven. This one smells like adventure, so grab your wetsuit and let's dive to the ocean floor!

Aquanaut is a game of underwater exploration that puts you in the driver's seat of a small submersible pod on a mission to discover hidden treasures. Using your mouse, click and hold to guide the pod around a colorful undersea world. Navigate through dangers of the sea, up and around rocks and structures and, with a steady hand and a little luck, you will find the treasure chest at the end of each level. As an added challenge for additional points, collect coins and gems scattered around the levels to increase your score.

The dangers that stand in your way are the plentiful sea creatures that inhabit the world. Ranging from puffer fish — that rhythmically expand and contract, often blocking your path — to some very smiley starfish, these enemies will damage your pod with every touch. At your disposal is an unlimited stash of depth charges. Press [space] a drop charge that will go off in three seconds or when it comes in contact with an enemy, which ever comes first. Most enemies take multiple hits to destroy, but will drop precious coins and valuable gems. Just be careful not to get in the way of your own charge, as they, too, will damage your pod.

The tide also plays an important part in your adventure. Depending on the stage, the water level will rise and fall in certain areas, occasionally exposing small islands or areas that your pod can roll across, albeit slowly.

Analysis: I love games that involve underwater exploration, and Aquanaut serves up a hearty dose of this type of fun. As usual, Nitrome delivers graphically with stunning pixel art and fantastic water effects. Everything in the game, from the water line as you get near the surface to the coral lining the rock boundaries, all fits very well. The enemies are drawn in a familiar Nitrome style, and yet are fairly widely varied as the game progresses. After a while, though, the levels themselves tend to blend together because there isn't much variation in the level decor.

The gameplay in Aquanaut moves at a comfortable pace, improving on the somewhat sluggish movement from both enemies and player-controlled characters that we've seen from Nitrome in the past. In fact, I often had to slow myself down as I was blasting through the levels and slamming into enemies with little regard for safety. Needless to say, this isn't an effective strategy; around level 6, the game's difficulty ramps up and demands a lot more finesse. With this difficulty comes more frustration, and it begins to seem like three hits isn't quite enough to get through these later levels. Making good use of the depth charges becomes essential if you wish to make it to the high score table. But the reward of just finishing each level was enough for me.

If you've played Nitrome's games before, you will find some familiar elements as well as some welcome additions and improvements. If you've never played a Nitrome game before, Aquanaut is a great place to start.

Play Aquanaut


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Rating: 4.7/5 (167 votes)
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vectortd2.jpgJohnBFree up the rest of your day, David Scott has just released a sequel to the stylish tower defense game, Vector TD, appropriately titled Vector TD 2. The year is 2108 and Earth is under attack from a race called the Vectoids. The only way humans can survive is to strengthen its defensive capabilities using Vector TD, a computer simulation of Vectoid attack scenarios. Deploy and upgrade towers to zap foes as they walk by, preventing them from reaching the end point(s) on each map. Earn cash by defeating foes and keep your defenses strong to stave off the increasingly powerful hordes!

The overall goal of any tower defense game is to prevent the enemy from reaching the end of the maze. You do this by placing units alongside the path that will fire (or perform other helpful actions) when an enemy is in range. With each foe you destroy you earn cash, allowing you to purchase new towers or upgrade existing ones on-the-fly. Everything is handled with a simple mouse interface and is remarkably intuitive, even for tower defense newbies. You can even specify which Vectoids certain towers target, forcing them to focus on weak, tough or the nearest enemy.

Analysis: Combining retro-style visuals with the tried-and-true tower defense formula, Vector TD 2 preserves everything we loved about the original and multiplies it, adding new maps, more units, and additional game modes such as time attack, lightning, and a curious puzzle/sandbox mode ($50,000 budget, you don't earn cash, see how long you can survive). The basic game is the same, but the strategies you'll use to win will be quite different.

What makes Vector TD 2 especially unique are the bonus points you can spend to buy special support towers. These units can either be placed on the battlefield, such as the damage booster that increases the power of nearby units, or used immediately like the interest increase bonus. Do you go for the kill or stock up for more towers? It's your call.

More of the same great (and great-looking) tower defense strategy from one of the best games in the genre.

Play Vector TD 2


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Rating: 4.5/5 (300 votes)
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Daydream

JayI think it was just yesterday that I was looking for a new point-and-click to post following a string of arcade-type action games. We like to feature a broad range of game genres to satisfy all tastes, and yet many times we are limited by what's becoming available. Thanks to the very busy folks at Gotmail in Japan, we have a brand new escape game to play today and it's available in English, too.

The Daydream starts off with a familiar text message from your son to come play hide-and-seek in his room at the top of the building. "I want you to find me," he writes. But when you get there the room seems different, and he doesn't seem to be around. You turn to find the door has locked behind you(!) Is this a new twist to the game, or something else...? It's time to escape from The Daydream!

Play The Daydream

Kind thanks to master_flea for word about the new release! =)


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Rating: 4.3/5 (71 votes)
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dancemonkeyBalloniusBallonius, from first-time CGDC participants Aaron Cox and Graham Jans, reminds me of that old Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, and Martin Short movie Innerspace, but only in a superficial "I feel like I'm floating around blood cells" sort of way, and certainly not in a "cheated out of precious moments of my life" way.

Control a ship in a miniature-yet-epic battle against undulating bubbles and their mindless minions. Using the [left] and [right] arrow keys to steer and [up] to thrust (Asteroids-style), you must weave in and out of the bubbles in a race against the clock. Collect energy from shifting beams that connect two bubbles while avoiding being caught within the bubbles themselves or being hit by their bug-like drones. You have one defense (besides agility), and that's the ability to hit [spacebar] and fold up into an impenetrable ball while maintaining your forward momentum. Collect enough energy to fill your meter and you progress to the next stage.

Analysis: Ballonius is a fantastic action game that I was drawn to immediately and just couldn't stop playing until I had finished all of its stages. Aaron and Graham have done an excellent job of structuring each level as a sort of mini-puzzle. The main challenge is to finish each stage in the shortest time possible, offering you unlimited chances to succeed, thereby allowing you full enjoyment of the game itself without the stress of worrying about losing outright. Since you can't really lose per se, you can be more aggressive with your gameplay and really go all out to complete each stage in the shortest possible time. It's a winning formula.

The developers also did a nice job of introducing new elements at a steady pace with each new stage. The difficulty increases in a smart and interesting way, rather than just throwing more and faster enemies at you as you progress. Each level offers a unique challenge that requires some thought, quick reflexes, and just a little bit of luck.

Play Ballonius


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (125 votes)
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PatrickTreasure SeasHave you ever wondered about what happens to all the bling that gets lost in the Bermuda triangle? Wonder no more! Treasure Seas Inc. is a business that makes its profit looting the submerged caves of a remote archipelago. Created by Felix Wiesner, this game will have you driving a cruiser around, submersing a sub, and looking for treasure. Treasure buys upgrades that allow you to explore further. It's like Metroid at the waterpark!

Move around with the [arrow] keys, deploy and re-attach the sub with the [space bar]. Treasure SeasThe [A] key is the action button, with it you can pick up treasures, buy things, and make menu selections. Your sub has only so much oxygen, only so much battery power, and only so much tolerance for water pressure. When you run out of oxygen you begin to suffocate, which will cost you a life if you don't get out quick. Running out of electricity forces you to alternately press the [S] and [D] keys, like you're paddling. Too much water pressure will destroy the sub, costing you a life. Guess what happens when a shark gets you?

Analysis: This game is a lot of fun, polished and professional. Best of all, it offers a robust feeling of exploration that is a nice departure from platform games based on the same dynamic. Having to balance your pressure plating, oxygen reserves and battery supply when deciding what to buy makes the upgrading somewhat strategic. The lack of a clear end-game is somewhat disappointing; you simply snatch up all the treasure you can and try for a high score (measured in gold). The saving/limited-lives scheme is a bit awkward, you have three lives that can never be replaced once lost, and a single save point. The lives serve as a buffer against mistakes, like a deep endeavor that over-stretches your oxygen tanks, but you ultimately end up back-tracking to the save point on a regular basis. Maybe making a save point at each end-town would have been more elegant.

This is a primo release, so treat yourself to a tropical tour of tossed trinkets.

Play Treasure Seas Inc


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (106 votes)
| Comments (36) | Views (7)

PsychotronicShooot 2Let's be honest: you can't trust circles. You never know which way they're facing and you can't measure them without using irrational numbers. What's their angle? I don't know. But they seem a little too perfect and a little too curvilinear, and anything I can't draw by hand should be beaten roundly.

Luckily, Tonypa has addressed my concerns by releasing a sequel to ShoOot, his cathartic circle extermination simulator from 2005. ShoOot 2: revenge of square is more of a spiritual successor than a direct sequel, since you can now move in two dimensions and the gameplay focus has shifted from overwhelming rapid-fire madness to a more deliberate and unusual rhythm.

You can move your square avatar freely around the screen with the mouse, but you have no direct control over your gun. Instead, the square rotates on its own, firing automatically in whatever direction it happens to be facing. You can speed up your rotation slightly by holding [Z] and slow it down with [X], but barring power-ups, your fire rate is slow and constant. Therefore, you must spend the free time between shots lining up the next one. Each time you fire and hit something, your score multiplier goes up by one. Miss once, and it drops to zero.

Until you get used to it, this system feels rather weird. You don't want to get too close to your prey, since the larger circles split into smaller ones when shot, but it's hard to shoot things when you don't have precise control over your aim. So you end up lurking uncertainly nearby like a slightly drunken man swatting hornets. I eventually got so I could hit my targets pretty consistently, but it doesn't feel quite like any other shooter I've played.

Analysis: ShoOot 2 comes with Tonypa's usual handsome minimalist visual style, and a low-down crunching soundtrack that drives the pace of the game brilliantly. There's a power-up called "caffeine" that speeds up your gun temporarily, and I think it's a missed opportunity that the music doesn't speed up to match. In a perfect world, there would be an aggressive track for that and a slower one for the "nap-time" power-up. Maybe in ShoOot 3.

Although the innovative firing mechanism makes this game uniquely engaging, I can't help but feel that it isn't a complete success. The main problem is the power-ups. Only one of these is permanent, and it occurs randomly. It's possible to play through level after level without ever upgrading your firepower — which also doubles as your remaining health — and although that makes the game less hectic, it also makes it impossible to survive after a certain point. Some of the power-ups are extremely helpful, while others are near-useless, and you can't tell what you're getting until you grab one. The unpredictability keeps you on your toes, but I still would have liked having more control over my fate, especially with regard to the permanent upgrades.

But in other respects, ShoOot 2 is a smoOoth ride through intelligent shoOoter-ville. Having to plan your rotating attacks while weaving between dozens of moving obstacles is fascinating. Plus, every few levels you'll face a mind-blowingly huge boss circle, which is an unexpected coat of tangy frosting on an already tasty cake. ShoOot 2 may not be the ideal implementation of this gameplay idea, but it's still a very coOol game.

Play ShoOot 2


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (98 votes)
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ArtbegottiLt. Fly vs. Spiders from AboveFall in, troops! It seems we've got ourselves another attack on our hands. Menacing spiders are descending from the skies, and it's up to our platoon of cannons to stop them! We've got to divide our forces to gather bullets on one side, and shoot down the spiders on the other side, so you'll need to divide your attention to win the battle!

Lt. Fly vs the Spiders from Above is a combination puzzle/shooter game that will leave your head buzzing. On the left side of the screen (company, left face!) is a block puzzle with a light twist. At the top left of the board is a fly holding a block of one color. Clicking anywhere within the grid will replace that block with the color designated. If you create a cluster of four or more similarly-colored blocks, they will disappear, leaving the rest of the blocks to topple down into place, and possibly cause some delightful combo action. Also in the grid are special blocks with bullets, flamethrowers, and bombs. If you work these blocks to the bottom of the screen, they get added to your arsenal of ammunition.

That ammunition gets used on the other side of the screen (company, right face!). Using the fly-operated cannon at the bottom-center of the screen, simply aim and fire at the spiders descending from the sky! You'll have to be careful, since your cursor will disappear once you cross into the right side of the screen. Keep an eye on the angle of the cannon's elevation (or just get used to blindly mousing around), or else you'll waste precious bullets. If you defeat enough spiders, you'll move on to the next invasion, where more of the creepy-crawlies await!

Analysis: I'm a fan of multi-tasking games, and this one successfully blends together two contrasting genres: the strategic puzzle and the fast-paced shooter. My one complaint about the game is the fact that the randomness of blocks on the left-hand side doesn't seem to be very consistent (sorry, did I just mention "consistent randomness"?). What I mean is, in playing this game, I've often found myself with a whole stash of bullets one moment, then none the next, without a single bullet on the board to attempt to claim. But then again, this could be an intentional feature of the game. After all, how fun would it be if all you had to do was stock up on bullets in one level, and coast throughout the rest of the game?

So if you're ready for your first mission in insect warfare, then forward march!

Play Lt. Fly vs the Spiders from Above


  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (50 votes)
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rmvblls.jpgzxoRmvblls represents designer Eduardo Omine's first entry into one of our competitions, and hopefully not the last! It implements the CGDC4 Ball Physics theme in a fairly straightforward manner, with four kinds of balls bouncing around the screen like they're on a pocketless pool table.

At the start of each level the screen is clear except for a single ball with a star on it. Almost immediately, white balls start appearing in random locations with random velocities. Your only channel of interaction is through the star ball – click it and pull back to set your velocity vector and release to set it in motion. Colliding with a white ball will change it into a black one. When two black balls collide, they annihilate each other, a point is earned, and a red ball appears at the opposite point on the screen. A collision between red balls is worth two points because you cannot touch them directly with the star ball, you must go through a black ball, much like shooting through balls in pool. Green balls, the last and rarest type of ball, render you invincible for 5 seconds, and any ball you touch in that time disappears and gives you one point. Each of the ten levels gives you a set amount of time to earn a certain number of points.

Analysis: I must admit, I'm a big fan of simple idea games – when the idea is strong enough to sustain complex, non-repetitive gameplay and stands up to multiple replays. The idea behind Rmvblls accomplishes this goal superbly... almost. By making a dangerous red ball appear for each pair of blacks eliminated, Eduardo forces you to plan your moves carefully rather than just spastically trying to go on a scoring spree. Essentially, he's making you clean up after yourself, or at least be very very careful in navigating through your mess.

The one thing holding Rmvblls back is not that it lacks anything, but rather that it has one color too many. The green balls offer so much of a scoring advantage that it's easier just to wait for a bunch of white balls and one green ball to appear, then go on a five-second rampage, gaining huge amounts of points without having to worry about littering your screen with red balls.

It's a common decision that game designers face: Do you start to introduce powerups, or do you leave things simple? If you do add powerups, when do you stop? In the opinion of this casual gamer, you should either go all out (a la Areas) or keep them as minimal as possible to sustain a good game. In the case of Rmvblls, the green balls only served to detract from what was otherwise an expertly balanced and fun game.

Don't get me wrong – I love this game. There's nothing about it I found annoying or difficult, although some commenters did report problems with the edges of the Flash frame, so YMMV. Still, overall the game exhibits a good degree of polish. If anything, it resembled the previous contest winner just a tad too much, which may have lowered its score a touch, but in all other respects is an extremely good thing for a game to do.

Play Rmvblls


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Weekend Download

JohnBIt's old-school RPG fest here on this installment of Weekend Download! Three out of five games featured have that special "console flavor" those of us who grew up playing SNES games can't get enough of. Barkley Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden is a must-play simply for its odd setting and premise, while Legacy of Flan turns the RPG battle system on its head and Ethereal Dreams brightens your day with nice artwork. And if you aren't into the role playing scene, give BumperBlast or Teewars a shot for a little more action.

simscarnivalbumperblast.jpgThe Sims Carnival BumperBlast (Windows, 32MB, demo) - Another game in the Sims Carnival series (along with previously reviewed SnapCity), BumperBlast is a strange mixture of the Sims franchise with pinball, bumper cars, and the undeniably addictive Peggle. The goal is to tag floating Sims of the same group by blasting orbs across the screen. Performing trick shots, eradicating blocks and collecting power-ups to grant super shots are all part of the fun. Plenty of levels to play around in, although I'm not quite sure I'll ever get used to the idea of disembodied Sims heads floating around on bumpers...

charlesbarkley.jpgBarkley Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden (Windows, 62MB, free) - One of the most original storylines in an RPG I've seen in a very long time. You play Charles Barkley in a post-cyberpocalyptic Neo New York where basketball has been outlawed due to the use of a catastrophic Chaos Dunk. The basketball theme is everywhere, from famous players making appearances to basketball-based combat. It's a delicious RPG experience that's only slightly marred by timed-action button pressing sequences and copious amounts of swearing. Not for children!

teewars.jpgTeewars (Windows, Mac, Linux, free) - A great-looking side-scrolling multiplayer battle game that combines quick team skirmishes with Worms-like weaponry. Play several modes, including capture the flag, and wage ultra-cute war with several weapons and squishy Kirby-like characters. The only downside is it can be difficult to find a server with a steady connection, but when you do, it's worth every minute.

legendofflan.jpgLegacy of Flan: Flan Rising (Windows, 72MB, free) - A game that by all rights shouldn't be as entertaining as it is, Legacy of Flan: Flan Rising is an action RPG with an intriguing battle system. During combat you earn experience and can upgrade and change the color (and thus function) of flans, making enemy encounters a wildly engaging affair. The overworld sections are forgettable, the quests and storyline not very interesting, the visuals a little stark, but for some reason I found myself playing this game for a very long time.

etherealdreams.jpgEthereal Dreams (Windows, 50MB, free) - A fairly standard RPG that stands out of the pack thanks to some nicely-drawn (if slightly cutesy) artwork. Expect a good dose of turn-based battles, spells, quests, items, and equipment in this fantasy world. A unique encounter orb shows how close you are to a battle, letting you skirt around noisy terrain to avoid certain encounters. This is just a demo, as the full game isn't complete, but gives a good taste of what the final product will be like.


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (102 votes)
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Jojo's Fashion Show

KarmenThe fashion business has changed quite a bit since Jojo Cruz took an early retirement a few decades back. So, now that her daughter, Rosalind, has convinced Jojo to make a comeback, is it any wonder that she needs your help? Grab your eye for style and get ready for Jojo's Fashion Show.

jojosfashionshow.jpgGamelab's latest release takes a new twist on the time management scene, combining casual creativity with classic career simulation. The game can be played in either of two modes. "Dress-up mode" is a leisurely, virtual version of paper dolls; mix and match outfits on a customizable model, accessorize, and admire. "Runway mode" challenges you to put together stylish outfits behind the scenes at some world famous fashion shows. Half-naked models breathlessly await your choices in attire, occasionally offering their opinions on the style: "Hot!" "Ew!" or "Totally rad!"

The runway mode includes series of shows in the fashion capitals of the world: New York, London, Sydney, Milan, Tokyo, and of course, Paris. During each show, you'll have to dress up to three models at a time. Various choices in tops, bottoms, and shoes will line up on the rack at the bottom of the screen, and can be mixed and matched in various ways. Rock & Roll or racy? Modest or valley girl chic? If you're the type who has trouble picking outfits, or gets accused of dressing in the dark, don't worry. Jojo and Rosalind are on hand to give advice, and offer a detailed description of the appropriate style before you begin. These descriptions can be recalled by clicking the name of the style listed over the model's head.

Throughout each show, three complete outfits will be on display in the window behind the dressing room. If you can manage to re-create these "signature outfits" before the end of the show, you'll unlock them in dress-up mode. Each show can be replayed unlimited times, so unlocking new signature outfits can add quite a bit of additional challenge. As Jojo regains her success, your wardrobe may grow. Feel free to try your own combinations on the models, however. Some styles are intuitive (can you say t-shirt and jeans?) and will score you bonus points as you send the model to the runway.

jojosfashionshow2.jpgHigh-scoring choices may also bring helpful bonuses, which can be used while dressing the models. One may shuffle the clothing rack providing fresh choices, or change the style the model is supposed to wear. Another bonus will pick an outfit off the rack, saving you a bit of time. That's right... did I mention this was a time management game? If you can't dress the models quickly enough, they'll be sent out onto the runway in their underwear. Not only will this not score you any points, it will earn you the scorn of Claudio Maximiro, Jojo's old rival.

Jojo's Fashion Show: World Tour Now Available! Featuring photo shoots, male models, and new clothing choices! Click here for our review.

As you travel across the world with Jojo and Rosalind, secrets from the past will be revealed and scandal will arise. Just how did the feud with Claudio begin? How will Jojo react when Rosalind, who sports a trendy nose stud, wants to try some fresher styles? Can they keep their styles fresh and their audiences cheering? All will be revealed, (hopefully not on the runway!) but only with your help.

Analysis: When I first looked at Jojo's Fashion Show, I was rather skeptical (a fashion game? Puh-leaze.) yet I was hooked as quickly as I began. The game gives just enough guidance to make any outside knowledge of fashion unnecessary, while including styles that anyone should be familiar with. (This might be a good thing or a bad thing... I had a pretty harsh recoil when I spotted my first pair of leg warmers on the rack.) The cute or pithy comments coming from the models, combined with Rosalind's peppy encouragement, offer some light entertainment during the standard time trials.

I even found myself returning frequently to the dress-up mode to play. (You know how hard it can be to choose an outfit before a photo shoot... I changed the outfit shown above many times before deciding this was the one.) Rosalind can take a photo of your complete outfit and model, and save the picture to a folder in your documents file. Since the game doesn't ask before creating this folder, this might be more of a hindrance than a convenience. Still, between the two different modes, this game offers quite a bit of variety. So, whether you've been seeking an excuse to get nostalgic with decades of various styles and play virtual paper dolls or you just want to help half-naked girls in their underwear, Jojo's Fashion Show is sure to please.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (67 votes)
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dancemonkeySave The PlanetSave The Planet by Rob Gray, an entry from our 4th game competition, is a simple shooter in which you aim with your mouse, and fire by holding the left mouse button and releasing after charging the shot with sufficient power. Use the gravity of the titular planet, as well as that of the attacking aliens and even your own prior shots, to defeat the endless waves of attackers. Keep in mind that you're more likely than not to cause your own destruction by shooting the planet you're trying to defend. Oops.

One of my favorite things about this entry, and I hope this doesn't sound like a backhanded compliment, is the title. Save The Planet is a loaded phrase that I think deserves to be a competition theme all its own. The most exciting games and movies pit one lone hero against ridiculous odds and then manage to convince you to suspend your disbelief just long enough to get you to the parking lot. Hopefully farther.

While this particular Save The Planet doesn't quite live up to that legacy, it does take an otherwise simple physics shooter and inject it with an implied story line that raises it slightly above the level that its gameplay alone could not have achieved. Maybe I'm reading too much into this title, maybe it's my childhood rescue fantasies focused too tightly onto this one game, but the thought that I was saving the planet kept me playing long after the gameplay itself might have deserved.

Although the gameplay itself may be mediocre, the experience it offers is beautiful and entrancing. If you've played Elektroplankton on the Nintendo DS and found yourself wishing there was an actual game tying it all together, then Save The Planet is the game for you. I don't feel the developer explored the idea to its fullest potential but the changing tones, colors, and music as you hit more and more enemies in a row are beautiful to watch and listen to. Going further along the Elektroplankton route, introducing different enemies at higher levels that have different tonal and visual properties would be the next step in this idea that I would love to see explored.

All in all Save The Planet is a fun, simple shooter that felt a bit unfinished to this reviewer. I feel somewhat the hypocrite though since I played it so much farther beyond what was necessary to write the review, so go decide for yourself.

Play Save The Planet


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Link Dump Fridays

JohnBWhat goes better with a Link Dump Friday than a delicious fruit smoothie? But don't just fly to the produce department and start grabbing shiny melons, as it's important to consider the balance of tastes you fold into the mix. For example: too many kiwis and you might have a tart little drink on your hands, but too many ripe peaches and you'll pucker up from the sweetness. Balance your tastes evenly and you'll have the perfect healthy beverage to accompany today's serving of games.

  • icon_protector.gifProtector - A tower defense game of a different sort, Protector blends a hefty amount of RPG elements into a strategy-heavy genre. Place units to attack incoming swarms just as usual, but this time around your units gain individual experience points and can level-up to learn specific abilities. Elements also play an important role, as both creeps and your units have an elemental strength and weakness.
  • icon_hikkoshi.gifHikkoshi - It's moving day for the little old lady! What better way to help than to bring along your trebuchet? Click the mouse to start the momentum, then click again to release the object. The goal is to fling it as close to the dotted outline as possible, but the most common result is knocking down the entire house (followed by your own hysterical laughter).
  • icon_fugashu.gifFugashu - A unique number-based card game where you must stack tiles and try to make every card disappear. The relaxing atmosphere is a nice touch, and the gameplay itself is quite interesting. Going through the tutorial is an absolute must.
  • icon_linedodger.gifLinedodger - Well, what more do you want to know? Slide your glowing orb thingie around the screen collecting polygons as they appear. Touch a line and it's game over. Line...dodger, get it?
  • JayJIG Poker Night - we love poker! (oh yes, we do!) every Saturday. Check this page each week for time of day (usually 4PM Eastern). Then join us in the JIG poker lounge for our weekly tournament. The winner each week qualifies for a championship tournament in the spring where we'll give away an iPod Nano and a Nintendo DS!! Because WE LOVE YOU! \o/

I/O


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (158 votes)
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JayI/O: A Simple Andy puzzleThis just dropped in the submission box (Thanks, Jeff!) and I scrambled to get it up just as fast as I could.

I/O is a brain-teaser of a puzzle game along the lines of the fabulous Click Drag Type series that comes with no instructions. In fact, this puzzle was also designed by Simple Andy, the creative force behind Click Drag Type.

Use your skills of discovery, intuition and creative problem solving to figure out what must be done to arrive at a solution. You will have to click-drag the puzzle around since it will not all fit within the game window.

Hints and tips may be necessary, but please use spoiler tags when posting spoilers in the comments.

Play I/O


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Game Design Competition #5Gimme5gamesMochi MediaWe've just passed the half-way point in the development period for Casual Gameplay Design Competition #5, and there is still plenty of time to polish-up your game ideas that incorporate the theme: UPGRADE.

Up for grabs are cash and prizes worth over $10,000. The deadline is March 16th.

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

  • When will the required CGDC5 buttons with integrated Mochibot (for the viral award) be available? - We are pleased to report that the competition buttons are now ready. Since each button needs to be customized specifically for your entry, they will be handed out individually and upon request. We need to know a few things from each of you as part of your entry, so we have set up a CGDC5 Entry Form for you to both provide us with your entry information as well as to request your buttons. Please be sure to specify the correct Actionscript version (1.0, 2.0, or 3.0).

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


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (943 votes)
| Comments (690) | Views (2,505)

vision.jpgJohnBA brand new point-and-click room escape game, Vision, has just been released by Japanese developer neutral, creator of RGB and Sphere. For some unknown reason you're trapped in a room with no exit. Search the exquisitely rendered (and eerily silent) environment for anything that can help you escape!

Best of Casual Gameplay 2008Look for items in every corner of the room, making sure to push your nosy mouse cursor between objects and around every piece of furniture. You'll encounter several locked cabinets and drawers, both with keypad-like puzzle locks and traditional locks that look like they require a key. Each item you find can be examined using the magnifying glass icon located in the upper right corner of its inventory space. Use it often!

Like several games from the Gotmail team, Vision's environments are composed of 3D rendered objects polished to a bright shine. The lighting in this game is very soft, creating an evening candlelight dinner-type atmosphere. Vision doesn't try anything radically new with the room escape genre, instead walking the path of familiarity to deliver a puzzle experience we're all accustomed to. Not too challenging, not too easy, just another healthy installment of point-and-click puzzle solving for your casual gameplay enjoyment.

Play Vision

Like point-and-click room escape games? Find dozens more in our archives!

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Rating: 4.2/5 (219 votes)
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10 Gnomes

Jay1o Gnomes is a brand new (released only moments ago) point-and-click game from Mateusz Skutnik. His latest creation, the first episode of what appears to be an upcoming series of games, is more of a hidden object game that puts you to task of finding 10 cartoon gnomes in 10 minutes by pointing and clicking your way through a series of black and white photographs of rooftops. Clicking on certain areas (the cursor will change indicating a hotspot) reveals an enlarged view, and the scene auto-pans with your mouse movement.

A simple yet enjoyable game from one of the Flash point-and-click masters.

Play 10 Gnomes


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (73 votes)
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PatrickchaphaiComing out of Wildsnake Software, from the chilled steppes of Russia, comes an entry into our 4th Casual Gameplay competition: Chap Hai - Way Of The Dragon.

What is the "Way Of The Dragon"? Does it involve superhuman martial arts, or maybe a method of braising reptile meat? Actually, it involves flicking marbles at each other. It's Zen baby.

The game plays like the smooth trickle of a stream, always changing and always the same. You click-hold on the red marble, a white arrow appears that represents what that marble's velocity will be when you release your hold. Pulling back increases the force of your sling, and moving the mouse left and right adjusts the angle. The goal is to use the red marble to knock all the yellow marbles off the board, the catch is, you must achieve this in a certain number of shots, and without sending the red marble off the board. Marble columns and walls offer both obstructions and ricochet points, adding complexity to the physics equation. As the game progresses, you'll be required to put your intuitive, Zen-like grasp of physics to the test as you bounce away multiple marbles in a single shot.

Analysis: This is the kind of game that Ian Bogost might have had in mind when he suggested that some games should be a relaxing, "lean back" experience, instead of an intense "lean foward experience". The gameplay is turn-based, entirely deterministic, and therefore entirely owned by your precise judgements and gestures. It is tightly programmed and polished, and you can tell it's from a country that produces highly rigorous programming talent. The only fault with it, which is unfortunately a major one, is the design decision to limit the number of replays. If any developers haven't gotten the memo about the Arcade-age ending and the Internet-age replacing it, you've got it now. The tension of being limited in your exploration of the physics in each level almost completely ruins the purity that the game otherwise provides. And to think, if only you had infinite lives inner peace would be yours.

If the twin dragons don't call out to your very DNA, then let me persuade you:

Play Chap Hai - Way Of The Dragon


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (67 votes)
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Server Quest

JohnBCreated to promote Microsoft's TechNet service, Server Quest is an adventure game lovingly crafted in the style of early 90s Lucasarts/Sierra titles. From its blocky visuals, kooky musical score and off-beat sense of humor, it's like stepping fifteen years in the past without having to fire up the ole time machine. It's also one of the geekiest games you'll ever play with a number of minigames quizzing you on your knowledge of IT lingo.

serverquest.gifYou play the role of Matt Berg, the office IT guy who meets the new security officer Alicia Thornber. As it turns out, Alicia loves reading tech manuals and playing MMORPGs just as much as Matt, prompting him to ask her out for coffee. This woman's heart can only be won by the geekiest of geeks, however, and the game ensues with you earning Geekpoints to win the girl. Just like in real life!

Even though it resembles an old adventure game, there's very little adventuring to do in Server Quest. You'll only see a few rooms and there aren't any items or proper adventure-style puzzles to solve. Instead, minigames serve to challenge you and move the story along. The first of these is a short quiz about general computer knowledge, but you'll also do a little light hacking to get Alicia's wireless connection to work and participate in two arcade games, Packet Invaders and Office Chaos.

Analysis: The sense of humor is definitely the biggest draw in Server Quest, and true geeks will notice several small easter eggs buried in the game. The voice acting is surprisingly good, and if you dig old synth music you'll have the main theme stuck in your head for hours. And if you're afraid of having Microsoft's TechNet shoved down your throat, don't worry, it's only mentioned once or twice and it blends in smoothly with the rest of the game.

Unfortunately, Server Quest isn't very accessible to most casual gamers due to the tech-laden quizzes, but programmers looking for a break from staring at code will have a blast. It's also a rather short game, but there is a little replay value thanks to the Geekpoints system and the ability to jump to any chapter from the title screen.

It's the geekiest quest you'll ever undertake, all in the name of love... and TechNet.

Play Server Quest


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (137 votes)
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aseagullcompany.jpgzxoThe folks at splax.net who brought us FoolYoo and Friend Chase are back with what may be their best yet: a bizarre racing platformer they like to call A Sea Gull Company. So that's what we'll call it too! Bizarre!

At the start of a stage, you'll see a succession of little dudes in sailor caps popping out of thin air as if from an invisible clown car. Watch for the one dressed in white — that's you! Be ready to hit the ground running, because it's a mad race across a strange Nintendo-inspired world fraught with bottomless pits, spiked boxcars, moving platforms, and fireball-spewing, uhhh... whatever those things are. You may choose either the [arrow] keys or the mouse to control your guy, but be sure to specify which before you begin a stage. Touch each of the checkpoints in order, then use the final ramp to build up speed and leap across the chasm to the ridiculously gigantic finish bell. Collect flowers along the way to increase your score. You'll be competing against eleven other sailors who will show you how to get things done — and how to fail in hilarious ways. That's because each one is actually the "ghost" of someone who played the level before you. A Sea Gull Company saved their movements and recreated them as your opponents!

Because they cannot physically interact with you, these ghost opponents do not have any direct impact on your progress through the levels. However, by watching them, you can pick up on some survival tricks. You'll probably need them too, because these are not easy stages, and one wrong move will end your run like an airhorn to the ear ends your visions of sugar plums. Expect your frustrations to mount, especially during the later stages. If there's one solace you may take from your many deaths, it is that each will be commemorated in some future game by a box with your name in it marking the exact location of failure.

Analysis: The mechanic here is pretty standard for a platformer, but the added effect of replaying other players' attempts adds a new, faintly communal dimension to A Sea Gull Company. In fact, you can even leave messages for future players by pressing [enter] during play. Unless you exit to the menu, your fellow racers will remain the same with each retry, so you'll get to know them pretty well and will be able to judge how well or how poorly you are doing relative to your previous attempts. It adds a bit of artificially-enhanced replay value to the game; playing the same level with different opponents can make it feel like a new challenge, even if you're really just going through the same motions. Plus, it's kinda neat to recognize yourself from a past life, though perhaps a little depressing to see yourself die.

As for the music, I have never seen sound add so much to a game as in A Sea Gull Company. The minor-keyed trumpet fanfare in conjunction with the outpouring of sailors at the start evokes the madness of The Running of the Bulls, and the sense of urgency is maintained throughout the stage by the booming timpani. Like me, you may find yourself clenching your fist and shaking it in time with the dooming chord progression that signifies yet another premature death.

There are a couple of quirks worth mentioning, though none that drastically affect the gameplay. Occasionally, immediately after a jump, you are allowed an extra jump in midair, though I was never able to perfect the technique well enough to put it to regular use. However, the midair jump is also available just after your sailor pops into existence at the beginning of the stage, and if utilized correctly saves you a good number of seconds on at least one of the stages. Also, holding the jump button down while your sailor is off the top of the screen will give you another midair jump. It's hard to say whether these bonus jumps are bugs or features, though. Another thing I noticed is that occasionally you will change your spawn position on a restart, which can mess up your timing on certain stages.

Overall though, A Sea Gull Company makes for a real treat for platformer fans of all types, but feels enough like a free-for-all race that those who might normally pass on the platformers will find something to like.

Play A Sea Gull Company


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Rating: 4.2/5 (260 votes)
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PatrickCoilCoil is a game unlike any other; it may confuse you, it may offend you, or it might mystify and move you. It is the latest from Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl, the duo whose previous collaboration brought us a game called Triachnid.

The authors suggest carrying an open mind with you as you adventure within their creation, discovering for yourself the artistic expression they have conceived. Once you have played through the experience it offers, come back, read what we have here and discuss your conception of the game in the comments.

If you wish to know more, Coil is a short series of mini-games involving the gestation of what appears to be an alien fetus, from initial insemination through adulthood when a murky twilight leaves its fate in question and the cycle starts anew. The text between chapters is equally vague, like detached poetry that gives clues as to how to play, and yet it also suggests a possibly darker subtext to why the impregnation happened in the first place.

The game perhaps gives an idea of what this alien primal consciousness might be like, and it tells this story through exquisite art work and tight programming. Like other games from Komix, Coil features a distinctly illustrative look coupled with unusual mechanics, but he takes that kind of experimentation further, much further. If you aren't put off by its non-traditional interaction or it's chilling implications, you may have the first really meaningful game experience of this year.

Gameplay generally involves moving the mouse in circles, as clued by the initial title screen, with some exceptions. That's all I can really say without ruining the exploration. Sometimes an experience generates only strong positive or negative responses, nothing in between. And maybe that's a sign of real art, not good or bad, just distinct.

PsychotronicPsychotronic - My first instinct was to approach writing about Coil from the perspective of an art review, which suggests this is no ordinary Flash game. I thought about how the technical choices might contribute to the game's meaning and/or emotional weight; such as the the indirect means of control paired with the fluidity of movement. How it combines recognizable biological features with more fantastical elements to keep the player balanced between instinct and curiosity. Where it plays on familiar video game language and where it breaks expectations. How the gameplay ambiguities force the player to pay closer attention to the poetry, looking for clues as to how the next level is played. There is much here worthy of discussion. But most of all, I'd like to urge people to play it before they read the whole review, and then offer up their thoughts in the comments.

JessJess - Coil is a little bit like a David Lynch film to me; depending how you see it, either drenched with meaning and implication or an ultimately empty exercise in smoke and mirrors. I haven't personally decided yet which side I fall onto. A few things are certain, however; the game is thoughtful, aesthetically pleasing and sure to ignite debate. And whatever else I or anyone else may feel about Coil, that conversation-provoking quality is invaluable.

A word of caution: this isn't necessarily one for the kids. ...Or is it?

Play Coil


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Rating: 4.4/5 (106 votes)
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zxoDay of the BobtedsWhen we first rolled out Day of the Bobteds during our Casual Gameplay Design Competition #4, commenter Bobby had this to say about author Rob Allen:

"Forget the old 'on a scale of one to ten' rating system. Rob Allen is so far removed from that dated, mundane world, his creativity deserves its own scale."

Therefore, I am proud to reveal that according to our esteemed panel of judges, Day of the Bobteds has received a final and well-deserved grade of: DAVE +.

Yes, Rob continues to impress with Day of the Bobteds, a game in which you must obliterate all of the Bobteds to save the Kingdom of Implements from their menace. What exactly are Bobteds? Ah, if only it were that simple. Bobteds can take the form of a number of different Earth-objects: barbecue grills, stars, %s, even spinning LOLs! Your best bet is just to try to destroy everything — if it goes away without an explosion, it's a Bobted. If it explodes, well then you might not want to do that again.

Click to place your metallic balls on the screen. They'll start to fall as soon as the last one is placed. Then just sit back and watch them bounce around — you'll either pass the level or you won't. Sure, you could place your balls haphazardly and hope for the best, but careful consideration and a little ingenuity will save you lots of time. Well thought-out levels also work to minimize the pixel-hunting that can plague games of this type. Eighteen levels await, each with its own unique challenges, and some which are just plain unique in the way that only Rob knows how.

Don't expect Day of the Bobteds to take as long as the games from Rob's Hapland series. Fifteen minutes should be plenty of time — which is kind of a mixed blessing. While it's clear that much work and creativity went into the artwork and the theme, the gameplay is not that different from previous games, and the levels don't generally require a lot of thinking on the part of the player. Overall, it seems that at its core, Day of the Bobteds just needed a little bit more — either more difficult levels or more of them. If that had been the case, I'm certain the game would have received at least a LEONARD -.

Play Day of the Bobteds


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Rating: 4.5/5 (52 votes)
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KeroSo there you are minding your own business (as red balls usually do) when BAM BAM BAM! Boulders start falling out of the sky! Lucky for you, you just happen to have an assortment of blocks that will make a nice rubbery fortress to keep those bullies at bay.

bouldersneverdie.jpgBoulders Never Die, from Brian Campbell, is a fantastic physics-based action puzzle game. The premise is quite simple: boulders never die, and you do. If the red ball touches a boulder or any of your own blocks the level is over. Points are earned each second you are alive, and to win you simply have to achieve the point goal for that stage. Each level puts you in a unique location, from pyramids to igloos, in which you must use the environment and your handy-dandy blocks to construct some sort of shelter for your little red ball. With only two types of blocks at your disposal (initially) you must quickly figure out a basic defense strategy. After you finish a level you can go back and play it again to try and earn a high score, or try it in free play mode where you will have 20 blocks to work with instead of the usual ten you are given.

As we all know there are exceptions to every rule, and this remains true in Boulder Never Die. You will lose a level if the ball touches one of your blocks, but if it just taps a block and moves away quickly enough you might just get away with it. This tactic is very useful in several stages. Playing the tutorial will give you a good head-start on what to expect from the rest of the game as well as a chance to practice the tap method of moving the ball. While this isn't the only trick you'll have up your sleeve, it's certainly one of the most useful.

Analysis: All things considered, Boulders Never Die is a great game, but it does have a few minor drawbacks worth mentioning. With only six main levels and two unlockables it's a pretty short experience, and once you get a good strategy going it will only take a few tries to beat each stage. There is somewhat of a luck factor here as well. You may have a great structure built, but if a boulder hits a corner in just the wrong way it could cause the whole thing to tumble. Or maybe you have a not-so-great structure but the first boulder to land happens to sit nicely on the top of it providing that extra weight to keep the rest of your fortress in check.

None of these factors should prevent you from playing this game, however. If you've got a couple hours free, or if you're looking for a game that you can play on your coffee break, you should definitely try Boulders Never Die.

WindowsWindows:
Download the full version (free, 7MB)

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


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Rating: 4.5/5 (49 votes)
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The Sims Carnival SnapCity

JohnBIt's SimCity meets isometric Tetris in this new casual mash-up from Electronic Arts, The Sims Carnival SnapCity. As mayor its your job to build a thriving city and keep its citizens happy and prosperous. Three colors of blocks descend onto the grid, each one representing residential, commercial or industrial zones. When the blocks land and are connected by roads, citizens begin to move in and your population grows. Extras like puzzle zones and natural disasters keep the action lively, but it doesn't take much more than that to keep you hooked on this addictive game.

simcitycarnival1.jpgThe core gameplay of The Sims Carnival SnapCity revolves around arranging falling blocks in neat little patterns on the grid. A bulk of the strategy comes from keeping your zones small enough to promote population growth without limiting yourself spacewise. Big blocks won't fit in small spaces, but densely-packed buildings can cause long-term problems for your city. Fortunately there are dozens of block shapes that fall from the sky, ranging from single-tiled squares to more complex shapes, so if you wait long enough you should get just what you need.

As you complete zones a meter fills up on the left side of the screen. When it's full you get a special puzzle block that, once filled with more pieces, can be turned into one of many special buildings. Parks, public pools, police stations, universities, museums and more all become available, each with specific benefits and drawbacks to your city and income.

The game doesn't end with block dropping, however. Just like in SimCity citizens need to be kept happy, plus you need to earn money to build roads. SnapCity automatically balances the types of zone blocks you receive, but it's your job to place them quickly and efficiently to maximize growth. Laying a thick patch of houses right next to an industrial zone isn't the best idea, but sometimes you'll find yourself building strange things in strange places just to save time. This is, after all, a light simulation game driven by arcade-style gameplay.

In addition to the main story mode (which contains several scenarios and 25 different neighborhoods), The Sims Carnival SnapCity also features unlockable buildings and a unique Creativity mode that lets you build a city from scratch and share it with others.

simcitycarnival2.jpgAnalysis: When I first sat down with The Sims Carnival SnapCity, I played for nearly an hour without stopping. Arranging falling blocks is second-nature for just about everyone, and having the freedom to create your own areas to complete is very satisfying. You also reap the rewards and suffer the consequences of your block-stacking, which really puts you behind the wheel of your entire gaming experience.

Because The Sims Carnival SnapCity is breaking slightly new ground there are a few rough spots with the interface that need to be ironed out. After half an hour of building your city it begins to take up more than what can be displayed on your screen, forcing you to scroll. Unfortunately scrolling is a tedious process involving incremental [WASD] movements or delayed mouse movements. Neither produce the quick and smooth sliding we need, and the resulting experience is a bit frustrating. Concentrating your block stacking on one side of the screen alleviates the problem, but sometimes you just have to expand your horizons.

Despite its slight navigational flaws, The Sims Carnival SnapCity is an extraordinarily entertaining game. No two cities are ever the same, adding immense replay value to the title. The balance of action, puzzle and simulation elements is the perfect hook and will keep you busy almost all afternoon.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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

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


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Rating: 4.8/5 (933 votes)
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PatrickPowder GameWhen you think of what this medium is capable of it's easy to grab for lofty terms like "emergence" or even "organic beauty", but have nothing solid to hold onto. The Powder Game is a rare beacon of hope for those who dream of deep interactivity. It is a fondue of loose goals and free play; creation and destruction wrapped in a tumbling embrace. Oh yeah, this game is that good. The 4.1 version release, from auteur Ha55ii, is the reincarnation of a simpler webtoy we reviewed last summer. In it, you use the mouse to drop different kinds of materials, from powder to oil to ants, and let them interact. Since we last reviewed Powder Game, almost twice the number of elements are now at your disposal. The resulting possibilities will keep you engaged for hours.

The game screen is divided into two halves, the top is the field of play, the bottom half is a tray of words representing different options available to you. Clicking on a word, such as "Water", will assign that element to the mouse-button you pressed. If you then mouse your cursor anywhere in the top half and press that button, water will fall like rain. On the far-right of the bottom tray are words that don't correspond to elements, but instead allow you to change the shading (new shaders include the subtle Blur and the psychedlic Aura), change the scale of your camera view, change the thickness of your brush stroke, as well as save, load and upload different configurations. A search and rating system is in place to allow people to sample the various constructs others have built, and they include interesting contraptions like a vacuum, a hundred different explosive set-ups, zen-like gardens, and much, much more.

Analysis: The addition of key elements to Powder Game 4, such as the ants that transform and burrow into the material they come in contact with, makes the interactions that much deeper. The game has reached a level of maturity that is not only impressive, but suggests a whole new genre of similar games about creation and adjustment. The interaction between magma and ice, one turning the other into water and stone and then back again, is one dynamic that emerges. Another is the proliferation of fire, seed and water by wind, where arboreal kingdoms spread out and are then consumed only to migrate to new territory while fire gives chase. This is a game about building the circle of life. It's amazing that you can feel so much agency and ownership simply by sitting back and watching what you've put into motion. There remains one balancing issue, the viruses infect non-organic elements as well as organic ones, so once you've introduced so many to the system, there is no-way to stop them short of restarting.

There is also a big opportunity here that is merely pointed towards: the inclusion of a human element. Ha55ii has done this somewhat with the stick-figure men, who kick and jump around and are often obliterated by the chaos you effect. If this idea can be taken to the next level, with the humans engaging in basic social interactions, building little homes and communities, a potent ethical dillema comes about. You are playing the role of god by creating and influencing these systems, at what point do you let the system run on its own, and at what point do you intervene? What responsibility do you have to protect life? I'm grateful to Ha55ii for giving me the opportunity to even ask that question.

If you like creation and/or destruction, and enjoy the shock and awe of excellent interactivity, play the Powder Game.

Play Powder Game


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Rating: 4.5/5 (163 votes)
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zxoShiftNow here's something for those who enjoyed Nitrome's Yin Yang but wished it could have been just a bit more... dapper. The latest from Tony of The-Exp (who brought us the Indestructo franchise), Shift embraces the same negative-space-centric platforming concept as Yin Yang, but in a style more elegant, more minimalist, and more pulsating with sexy-sweet spy music.

Use the [arrow] keys to navigate your man of mystery along the levels; use [space] to jump. After a couple of warmup levels, you'll need to master the art of Shift. You'll never guess what button you have to press...

Shifting flips you beneath the floor on which you are standing, and reverses both your body color and gravity. Thus, if you were at the bottom of a black pit, shifting will put you atop a white mountain, from where you might have more freedom to move. It's up to you to spot the paths that are available using this mechanism, and to figure out how to make it to the exit for each level. Hindering — or occasionally helping — your progress are impassable platforms, which can be rotated out of the way by collecting the proper key.

Short but sweet, Shift shouldn't sap your surplus seconds. The best legitimate scores clock in at just over 4 minutes. However, those minimal minutes are made magnificent not just with the clever mechanic, but through its noir mystique and the little bits of funny sprinkled throughout. At times you'll feel at the mercy of the borderline sadistic but ultimately merciful god-author Tony, but you get a sweet trophy at the end, so it's definitely worth the little shenanigans he throws at you.

That's not to say Shift doesn't have its problems. There are a couple of glitches that can happen when you're near either an edge or a moving door, and there's at least one level where it's possible to get stuck without the luxury of being able to hit restart or throw yourself onto some nearby spikes. Nonetheless, these are very forgivable flaws when viewed in light of the whole.

Play Shift


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Weekend Download

JohnBThis week we've got a few mega-doses of nostalgic bliss for our seasoned gamers. At the top of the list is Excelsior, a deceptively simple-looking role playing game that doesn't try anything unconventional but still manages to deliver an excellent experience. Hurrican, on the other hand, modernizes a classic shooter by leaving the gameplay intact and giving the visuals a facelift. And if retro gaming isn't your thing, we've also included some not-old titles that are sure to please your twitching gaming fingers (and eyes).

caribbeanhideaway1.jpgCaribbean Hideaway (Windows, 25MB, demo) - What do you get when you combine pirates, a matching puzzle game and a village sim? Caribbean Hideaway, a game that attempts to mash several genres together to create something unique. As you complete puzzles you can build new structures on your pirate island that, in turn, open up new abilities and items to use in the next puzzle. It's an interesting concept that doesn't delve too deeply into either genre it touches on, creating something that can entice fans on both sides of the fence.

hurrican1.jpgHurrican (Windows, 40MB, free) - A remake of the classic Metroid-esque Commodore 64 game, Turrican. Plenty of vast, non-linear levels to explore, each one packed to the brim with weapons to find and swarms of enemies to use them on. The controls are a bit complex at first, so expect a slight learning curve, but it's all action from there on out.

nimuh1.jpgNimuh (Windows, Mac, Linux, ~60MB, free) - A wacky (but simple) isometric puzzle game that teaches players about the Spanish community of Andalucía. Don't worry, it's far from an edutainment title, but the factoids between levels are actually pretty interesting. Plus, the music is nothing short of hilarious. You won't find too much variety in gameplay, but it's a good experience nonetheless.

excelsior1.gifExcelsior Phase One: Lysandia (Windows, <1MB, shareware) - A decidedly retro RPG that only an old-school gamer could love, Excelsior is a simple-looking title with enormous possibilities. Wander the islands of Lysandia as a Fixer, a mysterious being sent to right the wrongs of a world. Choose from a number of unique classes, defeat tons of enemies, and gather items to sell in towns. Excelsior refuses to hold your hand and walk you through the adventure, allowing you the freedom to explore and experiment on your own.

reallyrathergoodbattlesinspace1.jpgReally Rather Good Battles In Space (Windows, Linux, 55MB, free) - A real-time strategy game, set in space, that is quite possibly really rather good. Control massive fleets of ships after the fall of the great Artilian empire in this highly-polished game. It's a little on the slow side with a long tutorial and fairly complex gameplay, but if you take the time to learn the ropes you'll be greatly rewarded.


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (20 votes)
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Turbo Subs

JohnBTurbo Subs, a follow-up to Turbo Pizza, is a food serving time management game along the lines of Cake Mania 2 and Plantasia. On vacation from the hectic pace of serving pizza (at turbo speeds), Rebecca and Robert travel to New York to relax. The entrepreneurial bug has bitten them, however, and when they see a small subway car they just can't help themselves. With Robert behind the sandwich counter and Rebecca serving food, the pair opens up a subway shop and hopes for success.

turbosubs2.jpgThe goal in Turbo Subs is to make at least the required minimum amount of money before closing and moving on to the next day. You earn cash by serving customers in a timely manner. A variety of different people come in your store, ranging from impatient tourists to businesswomen on cellphones to laid-back guys in trench coats. Each one needs a menu, then he or she will place an order. Look at the thought bubble to see what the customer wants, then grab the item, prepare it if necessary, serve, and collect your tip. A smart queue system allows you to line up several actions that Rebecca will carry out that order. She can also hold an item in each hand, allowing you to save a few seconds by grabbing food on your way back to the counter. Both of these features are extremely important in this game, as Turbo Subs is fast-paced and saving a second here and there is crucial.

A great feature in this game is the turbo system that rewards you for creating quick combos. For example, if two customers come in and you serve them menus successively, you'll get a small star bonus. When the star meter at the bottom of the screen fills, you enter turbo mode. Turbo mode makes everything in your kitchen run faster, allowing you to serve more customers at a quicker pace and earn more cash.

Toning the pace down just a notch are hidden object-type mini-games you'll complete after every few days of work. They're simple diversions featuring cluttered scenes and a handful of objects to find, all tied to the main game with the pretense of keeping your business neat and clean. They feel somewhat out of place, but slowing the action down for a few minutes is usually a welcome relief.

turbosubs3.jpgAnalysis: Turbo Subs really lives up to its name. This is one of the most fast-paced time management games available, and the action really heats up after just a few levels of learning the ropes. Customers tend to have a short temper and won't wait forever for their food, so upgrades become extremely important later on. Also, there's no way to refill a customer's "happy meter" while they're waiting, so it's serve fast or watch them walk out the door.

Most of the items have a distinct look in Turbo Subs, allowing you to glance at an order and quickly tell if it's chips or a bottle of soda the customer wants. Subs, on the other hand, look practically identical, forcing you to study it for a split second before asking Robert to start cooking. That wasted time can make a crucial difference in this game, and it would have been nice to have more distinct sandwich icons.

Turbo Subs is a successful time management sim that gets just about everything pleasantly right. It's a difficult game, however, so don't walk in expecting to charge through with top scores. Keep up with the game's fast pace and you'll be pleasantly rewarded.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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

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


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (66 votes)
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FunnyManParticle BlasterAs his entry to CGDC4, Gareth Thomas ("Gaz") brought us a simple yet intense space shooter. In Particle Blaster, you play as a small, triangular space ship. Your goal: destroy everything that moves.

Use the mouse for control. The ship will shoot in the direction you drag. Click the mouse to fire.

The game starts out simple, with two large circles that are drawn towards you as you play. You move the ship with the mouse, and holding down the left mouse button fires a stream of multicolored bullets. There's no hard time limit, but each enemy awards you points based on how quickly you defeat it. Don't take too long, or they'll start costing you points instead of awarding them.

The difficulty ramps up quickly as the game pits you against balls of varying size, number, and arrangement. On a few levels, you will run into indecisive squares who zip along in one direction for a while, then pick a new, random direction—often straight at you. If that's not enough for you, level 13 brings a twist that you won't see coming.

Ball physics come into play as the enemies bounce off each other and collide with your bullets. Though it's not obvious at first, enemies reflect your shots, which means that a well aimed shot can bounce off two or more of them, dealing damage with every hit. Unlike circles, squares are not pushed away by your shots, but their flat sides makes for easy bouncing. No matter which enemy you face, using your shots to their fullest is key to defeating each level as fast as possible, and can sometimes be the only thing standing between you and certain death.

At only 14 levels, Particle Blaster isn't as long as you might like, but it makes up for it with fast-paced, challenging gameplay. At the end, you'll be graded on your performance, so you'd better work fast if you want an A.

Of course, that's assuming you make it that far. I still haven't been able to finish the last level yet.

Play Particle Blaster


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Rating: 3.9/5 (134 votes)
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Scramble125OrbitaThis game has nothing to do with pollution, but you wouldn't know it from looking at the sky. It's green. In fact, it's not just the sky—it appears that in this game, everyone has become so wasteful that the smog has spread into the entire universe, tinting it a pale greenish-blue. That's got to be pollution, right?

Orbita, an adventure and exploration game by Skatehead, puts you in control of a cute little guy with a trapezoid-shaped head. Venture around the planet, visit different perilous locations, and solve puzzles to discover the three batteries that power his ship. Yes, it appears that the little guy's spaceship runs on Duracells. The wonders of science.

Controls are simple: [left] and [right] arrow keys to move, [up] to interact with objects in the environment and to talk to creatures that you might encounter. Gameplay occurs on two levels. When you are within an environment like the one you start out in, you can exit on either side of the screen. The view changes to one of the planet, where you can quickly travel between locations, represented by a smaller view of what's in the environment. These can be entered by pressing [up].

While traveling across the planet, you will come across locations that are impassible. Fear not, for the cause is a puzzle that needs solving or some bizarre death trap that doesn't seem to be guarding anything. Enter the location and solve the puzzle/avoid spikey death and continue on your quest. You will find several useful items scattered about, so explore every location carefully.

Once you have one of the elusive batteries, skip back to your ship and put it in place. Once all three batteries are returned, forgo any repairs that you might need from, you know, crash landing into a deceptively small planet—and take to the skies!

Analysis: Orbita is a short, interesting little adventure game that is lacking in story but strong in atmosphere. The puzzles are relatively simple, but vary widely and keep the game from getting dull. I enjoy the minimalist art style, and the contrast of white foreground and green sky gives the game a quirky, highly atmospheric feel. I feel the strongest part of the game is the use of an overworld-style view of the planet for travel, instead of having to go through every location over and over due to the large amount of backtracking needed to get the batteries to the ship. Also: there's an interesting surprise in store for you once you get power back to the ship. A surprise that, like much of the rest of the game, makes very little sense because it goes unexplained. But it's still fun.

However, Orbita is not perfect. While some of the puzzles are pleasing and offer a certain sense of accomplishment, others go far beyond the realm of frustration into a dimension I consider rather sadistic. This includes an unforgiving collision detection system—I would advise not going into the same city as those dang spikes. It doesn't help that the traps have to be traversed several times in both directions, making the whole adventure longer than it ought to be, since you can only take one hit before you die. Furthermore, the items that you can interact with in the world are not always clear, so you may search for a while before realizing you missed something on the other side of the world. Rawr.

Still, for its faults, it's a nice little adventure. Give it a try and for goodness' sake, help your fellow gamers out if they get stuck!

Play Orbita


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Link Dump Fridays

JohnBHappy February! The shortest month on the calendar happens to be quite special in 2008: it's a leap year! So from now until December 31, every time you see a Link Dump Friday on this website, you must leap. Not jump, not bound, not bounce nor hurdle or even canter. Leap. After all, each of these games is worth at least a tiny leap, right?

  • icon_onemanband.gifOne Man Band - Another great musical webtoy by Luke Whittaker, creator of Sound Factory. One Man Band lets you put on a show by dragging and dropping instruments on the screen and starting sound loops. You can either create a surprisingly catchy tune or throw reason out the window and make a racket. Your choice.
  • icon_ollapodrida.gifOlla Podrida - A new take on the old jigsaw puzzle theme, this time with a little touch of pseudo-surrealism. Drag the pieces with the mouse and use the arrow keys to rotate, all in the name of fitting the pictures together. It's much harder than you think to solve, but it's so much fun at the same time.
  • icon_multiballmadness.gifMultiball Madness - It's Breakout, but with a sudden-death-style twist. Blocks slowly descend from the top of the screen. You must clear them with three bouncing balls and a paddle. Keep them in play long enough to earn extra balls. Fortunately the overly simple presentation doesn't detract from the raw interestingness of the gameplay.
  • icon_flipit.gifFlip It - A simple puzzle game where you must match the mirror image using spinning tiles at the top of the screen. Sounds easier than it looks. (Or, looks easier than it sounds?)
  • JayJIG Poker Night - will make you smile (oh yes, it will!) every Saturday. Check this page each week for time of day (usually 4PM Eastern). Then make sure you're there in the JIG poker lounge because the tournament starts right away, and you can't join after it has started. The winner each week qualifies for a championship tournament in the spring where we'll give away an iPod Nano and a Nintendo DS!! Don't miss it!

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