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March 2008 Archives


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Rating: 4.2/5 (107 votes)
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Amberial 2 banner

PatrickAmberial: Nebulosa Realms is the latest from OddGoo and sequel to the first Amberial game released last June. The mechanics of the original are put to an olympic workout; rolling a ball around has never felt so fresh. From the terrestrial furnace to the skyways, to outer space and distant nebulae, this game explores both increasingly exotic settings and increasingly clever level design.

AmberialThe [left] and [right] arrow keys move your ball. Since you lack the ability to jump you must bend the bouncing physics to your will in order to get around. There is an orange swirl somewhere in each level—similar to the one carved on ball that you navigate—and you must get there while avoiding hazards and the ever present bottom-of-the-screen. Each level throws new variations and gadgets at you, demanding adaptation, while several play with gravity, throwing you up and down in rythmic alternations.

Getting to the end of each level within the time limit gets you a bonus medal, and there is also a special exit (marked with a big "A") that represents an achievement as well. Completing all levels with all possible accolades unlocks secret content, available in the uppermost menu tab, including the Tower Of Glory.

Analysis: Amberial is to platformers as Sonny is to RPGs: the zenith of the genre implemented in Flash. There is only a small flaw to mention before I gush on the greatness: I wish the camera would scroll down a bit more so I can see where I am liable to fall and move accordingly. Otherwise, this is purity; the game takes an absolute minimal approach to mechanics. From the basic theme of a ball bouncing, with a glassy audio effect you come to love, a multifaceted gameplay is worked out in 22 finely crafted levels. One level introduces speed boosting and unfolds around that; another is based upon bounce-pads, launching you from asteroid-to-asteroid, then tops it all off with some bumper-based wall-jumping. A few more levels takes the classic maze or obstacle-course approach, but fits them within an interesting combination of impediments. You never feel like things are becoming repetitive. There's even a boss fight at the end of the "official" levels. Once you've completed all the levels you can go back and try to attain mastery of them in an attempt to finally reach the top of the Tower of Glory, which appropriately tops out your mental calibration to the dynamic and consummates it with a happy smile of accomplishment.

Dig into one of the best platform games ever to appear in a browser.

Play Amberial: Nebulosa Realms


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (31 votes)
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Fashion Solitaire

For a style-less nerd, I have some pretty intense feelings about fashion. Stripes with plaid? Socks with sandals? Bring me my pitchfork and flaming torch! So when I'm forced to match not only socks with sandals, but fluoro green socks with tan sandals, just so I can complete a level of a Golf-like solitaire game, it causes me to break out in hives.

fashionsolitaire.jpgFashion Solitaire is a surprisingly challenging blend of solitaire and dress-ups, almost in the same way Fairway Solitaire pairs golf with a card game. You must dress a certain number of models with at least a hairstyle, top and bottom garment and shoes before you can progress, and there may be conditions attached, such as including a red item. You can earn more dollars by designing your own clothes and adding them to the solitaire deck. On the solitaire side, each card represents a garment type (i.e. shoes, jewelry, skirts, etc) and features particular colors and patterns. They are stacked in piles with only the top card exposed, and you use the exposed cards to dress your model. You can stack cards of similar type (but not color or pattern) and remove unwanted cards to the reserve pile, or to a blank deck. Earn more dollars by picking up a group of cards of different types, i.e. a skirt, top and jewelry, to dress your model with one click. It's easy and fun! Well, up until you have 8 models to dress and no reserve stacks and for some reason you have four different garment cards exposed, none of which are the one you need to meet the conditions criteria, and model A is demanding a plaid dress that you've already used on the model that wanted brown a couple of screens ago.

The game seems to be aimed at people who like fashion rather than gaming, and as such, takes a little while to ramp up the difficulty. Once it does, though, it's challenging enough for any solitaire enthusiast. The feature of being able to design your own clothes is a nice touch. You can't design the shape or pattern — you unlock them as you progress — but you can match shapes with patterns and colors and swap the resulting card with one in the default deck. Strategically, you should try to keep a variety of colors so you don't end up struggling to meet that last compulsory condition before you can progress to the next round. At the end of each section, you have a fashion parade with the best garment designed in each round, as chosen by you, giving you the option to take photos and send them to friends!

fashionsolitaire2.jpgAnalysis: I have a few quibbles with the presentation. It's hard not to compare this game with JoJo's Fashion Show, and even though the gameplay is much richer, the artwork is kind of bland. The colours and patterns offered in the design screen range from OK to awful and the images are sharp and choppy. It can still look good, but the unfair tendency is to think "JoJo's fashions are so much prettier" if you've ever played that game, and of course a lot of this game's audience will have done so. There's also a fairly pointless "Buy Clothes" feature which I really haven't used — there's no scoring bonus the way there is with designing your own clothes, and you still have to swap the item with an item in the default deck. You can't turn hints off. In terms of gameplay, however, none of these are show-stoppers, just things that it would be nice to see developed further.

Long story short, this is a fun, addictive game that will have fashionistas screaming when they have to match fluoro pink with flouro green just to get a model off the screen... wait, we're in the middle of an 80s revival, it's all OK!

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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Weekend Download

PatrickA little bit of this, a little bit of that. This edition of Weekend Download throws a strange variety of games your way, but with one major headliner: Westward 2. Insert obligatory "oohs" and "ahhs" (and maybe even a "cool it's about time yay" or two) here.

Westward 2: Heroes of the FrontierWestward II: Heroes of the Frontier (Windows, 41.6MB, demo) - The sequel to Sandlot's Virtual Villagers-esque hit sim Westward has finally arrived! Strike out across the old west as you set up new towns and combat the growing dangers of the untamed land. Gather resources, survive natural disasters, and keep your citizens alive as you fight off bandits and construct over 20 new types of buildings. The story picks up where the first game left off and has you directing the fortunes of three old-time heroes. Also new is the ability to zoom in on the action thanks to entirely new 3D visuals.

RomCheckFailRom Check Fail (Windows, 2MB, free) - Imagine if you had the heroes, enemies, backgrounds and music from classic 80s games mashed together like WarioWare gone retro. What you'd get is Rom Check Fail. The game has you moving with the arrow keys and attacking with the [spacebar]. Your moves and those of your foes change every few seconds when the game remixes everything again, so you've got to meta-game a bit in order to defeat all twenty levels. Mind-bending fun.

OwlCountryOwl Country (Win, Mac, 24.8MB, free) - Owl Country is a pulp game made by a few indie folks after a creative jam session at GDC. The result is a kitschy B-game with solid production values, tricky but rewarding gameplay, and personality to spare. Press the arrow keys to fly left and right, up to flap, and hold the space bar to perform aerial acrobatics. Get those pigeons, lest they rule the night!

PerfectionismPerfectionism (Windows, 1.3MB, free) - Perfectionism is the latest exercise in gameplay as metaphor by Jason Roher. You start with 99 moves (the green number, upper left) and zero points (yellow number, upper right). Click on an arrow at the side or top, then click on another, similarly pointed arrow to shuffle a column or row. Doing this moves every yellow disc on that line, the object being to move yellow disks into the rings, scoring you a point. The genuis of the game is, you have to make a choice between spending moves trying to get more points out of a level, or moving on to the next one. It's a puzzle game that puts you in a battle with your own perfectionism.

dangeroushighschoolgirls.jpgDangerous Highschool Girls In Trouble (Win, Mac, 15MB, demo) - Dangerous Highschool Girls In Trouble is an innovative hybrid Puzzle/RPG from Keith Nemitz, the man who brought us The Witch's Yarn. The game has you controlling a gang of unruly, semi-liberated highschool girls in 1920s America. Four mini-games involve taunting, manipulating, and flirting as you socially maneuver through the den of snakes that is the secondary education system. A compelling storyline and interesting advancement mechanics makes this a classic that crosses audience boundaries.


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (23 votes)
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The Price is Right

JohnBCome on down! You're the next contestant on The Price is Right! One of the oldest televised gameshows still in production today, The Price is Right has seen several dozen seasons in the United States and is broadcast in almost as many countries. That's a whole lot of people sitting in their living room trying to guess the price of a wine rack with removable shelves. Now, developer Ludia is bringing the same formula to the casual gaming realm, dropping you front row center as one of the contestants!

thepriceisright2.jpgThe Price is Right is a gameshow centered around guessing the prices of various retail items. From paper towels to dinnerware to cars, you'll come across a huge variety of things, some easier to peg than others. Each game begins with a showdown between you and three other contestants (computer-controlled in single player mode, but you can get some friends in on the fun, too!). A fully-voiced announcer describes each product in detail along with a short video clip from the television show. Then, enter your guess for the item's retail value. The contestant who comes closest without going over wins and earns the chance to win even more money.

After the price war is over, you'll participate in one of nearly two dozen minigames culled from the gameshow. Cliffhanger is here (you know, the yodeling hiker guy), along with Master Key, Range Game, Hole in One (or Two), and yes, Plinko! Each game is a variation on the price guessing theme, and the possible winnings vary with the level of difficulty. After completing one of the games, winners will move on to the Showcase Showdown, spinning the famous wheel just before the final competition begins.

Analysis: I'll admit, The Price is Right does command a bit of nostalgia for me, as it seems the show was always on TV in the background of my youth. Part of the reason this game is so fun is because it captures the show so well, only now you can actually participate instead of just yelling at the screen. My first few minutes playing taught me something very important: apparently I'm terrible at guessing prices.

thepriceisright.jpgPresentation wise, The Price is Right gets the job done, but sometimes I shudder at the blocky, lifeless models that make up the contestants. And the audience is frightfully repetitive. Just how many people decided to wear yellow t-shirts that day? These are only cosmetic annoyances, however, and don't affect the gameplay one bit. It sure would have been some sweet icing on the cake, though...

Even though I could never verify it, the true "randomness" of some of these games seems in question. For example, when playing Plinko, the first two chips I dropped scored a perfect $10,000. Ever see that happen on the show? And I almost strangled my monitor when contestant after contestant would beat my high 80-90 score on the wheel with a single "lucky" 95. Come on!!!

So how will this game fare to those unfamiliar with The Price is Right world? You probably won't feel that same sense of excitement as you "come on down", but the challenge is certainly there, and the mini-game variety is impressive (unless price guessing isn't your thing). Unfortunately the demo is quite short, allowing you just 30 minutes to try before you buy. But if you enjoy things from the outset, the game does nothing but get better and better as the hours fly by.

Despite a slightly lacking presentation, The Price is Right game manages to capture the thrills of the television gameshow remarkably well. Each game is unique, and multiplayer is a great excuse to gather the family around the computer. As you score higher and higher in the main game, you'll also unlock the ability to play any of the mini-games right from the title screen. Who could possibly say no to playing The Price is Right games at your leisure?

Great alone, great with a friend, great with the kids, great with your wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend. The Price is Right is just... fun. Loads and loads of pure fun.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (31 votes)
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Natalie Brooks - Secrets of Treasure House

JohnBCasual adventure games are gaining ground as titles such as Azada and the Dream Chronicles series cut out the complexity and serve up a little lighthearted gaming alongside item-based puzzles. Natalie Brooks: Secrets of Treasure House follows suit in an adventure that uses optional hidden object scenes to earn hints to solve puzzles in the main quest. It's a good blend of genres that, despite its rather short length and occasional grammatical hiccup, holds your attention with an interesting story and varied gameplay.

nataliebrooks.jpgMore of a linear adventure game than anything, Natalie Brooks: Secrets of Treasure House plays out through a series of first person locales interspersed with comic-style cutscenes that progress the story. Natalie has inherited her grandmother's home and learns there's hidden treasure somewhere within. She quickly discovers the house is scheduled for demolition, however, and begins her quest to save the family house. Gather items and talk to townspeople as you try to solve puzzles in each area. Puzzles are self-contained, meaning the items you pick up in one area will be used right there, so you don't have to lug things from scene to scene.

The interesting mechanic in Natalie Brooks is the use of hidden object scenes as a mini-game of sorts. If you're stuck in the main part of the game, simply click the magnifying glass at the bottom of the screen. The area you're in will be littered with items and a short list of things to find appears. Find the items within the time limit and you'll earn a few hints to point you in the right direction. You can even hop from location to location while in hidden object mode, breaking the monotony quite well. These diversions are short and rather easy (although some of the item names are a bit too vague), so even if your mortal enemy is hidden object games, you can have a good time.

nataliebrooks2.jpgAnalysis: Natalie Brooks: Secrets of Treasure House is one of those games that grabs you early on and never really lets go. The protagonist is likeable, the characters just comical enough to make you grin, and the overall art style keeps your eyes plastered on the screen. The distilled adventure-like puzzle solving is done quite well and, despite the linearity to each quest, manages to keep you guessing without laying on too much obtuse ambiguity.

I was initially skeptical of the hidden object scenes (not my favorite genre), but they're so short and easy they become a welcome change of pace. As the game progresses you have to do more and more of them, but I honestly didn't mind. It was worth the pixel hunting to get clues for the puzzle I was solving. Also, Natalie is a bit too chatty from time to time, and some of the dialogue borders on the trite. Expect a few grammar mistakes here and there as well, which is an unfortunate blemish on the otherwise excellent presentation.

Natalie Brooks: Secrets of Treasure House is pleasing from stem to stern, with just the right balance of genres to keep the pace at a steady clip.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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JayDolly plushieWe have another winner to announce today, and we also want to thank everyone for participating in our Asylum plushie drawings!

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

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


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Rating: 4.7/5 (116 votes)
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PatrickKavalmajaKava-what? Is it a Pacific island drink of shamans and storytellers? No, Kavalmaja is the latest game from the brilliant Tonypa. A departure from his usual explorations of the abstract, Kavalmaja is a tile-based, Zelda like exploration game, except you have a wacky, randomly generated name. Unlike Zelda, it strips away combat, re-emphasizing the flow of the maze.

Movement is simple and straightforward, just use the [arrow] keys to move around. You will, however, need to familiarize yourself with the symbolic language that Tony has created. Some highlights to get you started:

  • The two-armed green block represents you, the player character.
  • The green cross icons on the top-left represent your health.
  • Red tiles will deduct one health if you intersect with it. Health recharges when you go to another screen.
  • Striped blue tiles act like ice, causing you to slide until you hit a wall.
  • Blue arrows will move you in the direction they point.
  • Blue grids toggle switch effects.
  • Blue concentric squares are teleporters that whisk you away to another area of the maze.
  • Yellow diamonds are power-ups that you collect for points. You need 50 yellow diamonds to find the final teleporter that ends the game.
  • There a few different types of door blocks, you will need to find special items to unlock them.
An included Load Game feature is both a blessed convenience and (sometimes) a tool. There's a bit more to it, but you'll find that out for yourself.

Analysis: This is a minimalist exercise in flow control; that classic, gem-like, diamondoid gameplay that fans of Metroid or Zelda-style games know and love. It's about having multiple paths and having to deduce which are passable and when the others are ripe for unraveling. The dungeon is a big puzzle that you're working toward a solution for, from the inside out. Expect nothing more and you'll be in bliss. The only knock against it is that some of the obstacle blocks look similar, but the more you play the more you become familiar with the language.

Spire in the matrix of Kavalmaja.

Play Kavalmaja


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Link Dump Fridays

JohnBEarly April Fools!!! AH HA HA HA!! HA HA!! LOL!!! HA HA HAHAHA!!! HE HEEEE HEEE!! WOOO!!! Heh heh... heh... hehheh... heh... HAAAA HA HAHAHA!!!! :-D

  • icon_marvinspectrum.gifMarvin Spectrum - A quick reflexes-based game where you duck, dive or jump through obstacles that come your way. The interesting mix-up is that you must change colors with the [ASDF] keys to match with the obstacle you're trying to pass through, else you get fried! Brain hurt owie.
  • icon_growthm.gifGrowth - A beat-based sound toy where you place three drum sounds on a small rectangular grid: snare, hat, and kick. Hit the play button and the drummer gets to work, and your music causes a unique tree to grow in the center!
  • icon_fourseasonscastle.gifThe Four Seasons of Castle - From the author of last week's Wonderful Sea, The Four Seasons of Castle is another short but adorable room escape game flavored with a little RPG fantasy. Slide through the environment with the arrows at the top of the screen, and click on items to interact. Grab every item you see and try using them everywhere!
  • icon_soundclock.gifSound Clock (beta) - Tap out a few beats with this simple sound toy. Just drag and drop dots onto the clock-like circles, adjust the speed, and you're good to go, Mr./Ms. DJ Man/Woman!
  • icon_mysterymansion101.gifMystery Mansion 101 - The first in a series of minimalistic room escape games presented in two-color wireframe glory! Is it just me, or did video games always used to look this cool?
  • JayJIG Poker Night - Every Saturday (4:00 PM) through May 17th. Join us for a chance to win fabulous prizes. Or not. You decide.

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Rating: 4.6/5 (322 votes)
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dirkvalentine.gifJohnBA brand new platforming adventure game has just been released from Nitrome: Dirk Valentine and the Fortress of Steam! Dirk Valentine uses similar mechanics as Nitrome's own Frost Bite. Move Dirk with the [arrow] keys and aim with the mouse. Press the left mouse button to fire the ricocheting chain gun. The slightly more serious tone and steampunk setting is a departure from Nitrome's usual fare, but the high quality of artwork, music and overall design remains the same.

It's 1897, and for the last five years Baron Battenberg's Steam powered war machines have ravaged Europe. Led by Great Britain, a handful of countries set out to stop the Baron. A tiny airship arrives at its destination, carrying Britain's greatest spy, explorer and fighter, Dirk Valentine. It's your job to fight off the Baron's army of soldiers and steampunk machines as you create your own platforms using Dirk's handy chain gun.

The chain gun is both your main weapon and a useful tool in this game. Not only does it dispatch enemies and collect medals, it also creates platforms that can snake across ledges. When standing on a brown-topped platform, fire the chain gun at another unarmored piece of ground. The chain will form a bridge between you and the other platform. If it bounces and hits other unarmored platforms, your bridge will continue and build up to three nodes. Later in the game it can perform a few more tricks, such as stalling platforms or zap through teleporters to take out enemies from afar.

Analysis: By far, my favorite setting for a video game is deep inside a steampunk world. The gears, the machinery, the airships, the clanking metallic gadgets. Dirk Valentine and the Fortress of Steam certainly doesn't disappoint on this front, as Nitrome manages to create a convincingly interesting story and environment without getting too serious. It's nice to see the studio's fine pixel artwork shift to a slightly new style.

Aiming definitely takes some getting used to in this game. Dirk's chain gun fires from just below the actual mechanism (in case it connects to the ground to create a platform). The result is you always fire just to the side of where you were aiming. With practice, this becomes a non-issue.

Some chain platforms you create can be murder to use, especially ones that are more vertical than horizontal. They're handled quite well, to be fair, but it's difficult to tell just how far you can move on some before falling to the ground. There's also an odd glitch that causes your character to freeze if you press the mouse button too rapidly.

As a little bonus bit of trivia for everyone, the famous Wilhelm scream makes an appearance when you take out some of the soldiers. It seems just a bit out of place, but it'll make a lot of people grin, so it's worth it. Nice touch, Nitrome!

Familiar, but fresh, and with a setting rarely seen in casual games. An excellent release from Nitrome!

Play Dirk Valentine and the Fortress of Steam

Cheers to Ashiel for sending this one in!


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Rating: 3.6/5 (133 votes)
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JessThe Final Spell

So you have Harry Potter, see? Only, ok, make him shorter. And plumper. And with a bowlcut reminiscent of Javier Bardem's Oscar-winning performance in "No Country For Old Men." This is Tom "Tucker" Crubucker, and he's a student at Hogwarts—er, Zibward Wizard School, sorry--and he needs your help. You see, he's about to take his final exam, and it's his last chance to earn his wizarding diploma. But poor Tom is so nervous and so clumsy that he accidentally trips and bangs his head against a table--and when he wakes up he's in a locked room full of magical objects and enigmatic puzzles! Good thing he has an army of veteran point-and-clickers to help him out, eh?

The Final Spell is not the most polished room escape game I've ever seen, nor is it the prettiest or most ingenious. It is, however, undeniably charming and completely good-humored. The format of the game will be familiar to anyone who has played a few of the kabillion examples of the point-and-click genre: collect objects, combine objects, use objects in more-or-less logical ways with the rest of the room, etc. No pixel-hunting, though, hallelujah! The puzzles are fairly easy and intuitive, and it probably won't take you more than 10 minutes or so to complete the game. What makes The Final Spell fun is its sense of humor, provided mainly by the many pamphlets and books scattered around the room, and sheer cuteness; an endearing amateurish sensibility is combined with just enough substance to leave you grinning.

The game does have a few annoyances, most notably that many of the necessary objects in the room are impossible to pick up until one has read the correct book or pamphlet; however, the game is nice enough to tell you that it isn't time yet. Also, near the end players might be stumped by a matter of semantics or, as I like to call it, "I have the answer but the &$&#! game isn't recognizing it" syndrome. Still, taken for what it is--a quirky, fun little adventure, perfect for a coffee break--The Final Spell does not disappoint. If the Submachine series is a marathon workout, think of The Final Spell as light calisthenics.

Help Tom achieve his wizarding destiny.

Play The Final Spell


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (149 votes)
| Comments (60) | Views (203)

PsychotronicPatchworkz!I'm not sure why developer Wellgames chose the tagline "Puzzle pattern pandemonium!", or why they shoehorned that ridiculous "Z!" into the title. This is perhaps the least Xtreme, least pandemonium-laden game I've ever seen. In fact, if you're playing it without a mug of cocoa and an oversized sweater, you're doing it wrong. For Patchworkz! is—in the popular new trend of taking an incredibly boring activity and making a fun video game from it—a game about quilting.

Each level presents you with an incomplete quilt, essentially a jig-saw puzzle with sections missing. A selection of patches sits at the bottom of the screen, and you finish the puzzle merely by dragging them one by one into the correct positions. However, the rules are the opposite of those for a regular jig-saw. Patches come in a wide variety of different shapes, and a piece will never match its neighbor in color or pattern. Therefore you must intuit, from the patchwork already in place, what the overall design of the puzzle is and how the new pieces must fit into it.

The faster you complete a quilt, the higher your score. The level numbers stretch on for quite a while, so Patchworkz! keeps track of your progress between sessions. I've had some trouble with the game forgetting my profile, though, so be warned that can happen, and always keep your hot cocoa close at hand.

Analysis: The gameplay is addictive, and the presentation is top-notch. Wellgames has included a near-endless variety of designs and patterns, and if the graphics aren't exactly soft and quilt-like, they are at least crisp and attractive. The cheery dink dink dink of correctly placed patches is sonic comfort food, like a bottomless bag of jelly beans.

But Patchworkz! is intriguing mostly because it taps into a totally different set of skills (or "skillz", as the quilterz say these dayz) than just about any other game. Often a quilt will be so fractured that you must fill in the gaps using only your sense of color and balance. I find that remarkable. When is the last time a video game tested you on your talent for visual composition?

Play Patchworkz

Note to my aunt in Reno: I am kidding about quilting being boring. Please keep sending me cozy comforters.


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (163 votes)
| Comments (247) | Views (318)

KarmenTipping PointYou've been looking for some kind of escape — a vacation to paradise, maybe, but you'd probably just settle for a nap. So, here, you now find yourself sitting in front of this screen once again. But why are you wearing those pale green socks?

Welcome to the Tipping Point, a point-and-click adventure by Dan Russell-Pinson. With serene, yet highly detailed graphics and soft music, this game is a break away from the ordinary. There are now three chapters of a slightly surreal story available now, with an unknown number yet to come.

In the first chapter, you'll find yourself stuck in front of the TV, with nothing better to do than channel surf. This will soon change, as you begin to be followed by great blue herons and answer a call for help. In the second chapter, you'll be scrambling for clues along a deserted beach. Well, deserted except for the herons. They must like you. The third chapter whisks you away to a tropical rain forest with exotic birds and bugs buzzing all around. There is even a treehouse to explore.

If you're planning to resume the 2nd or 3rd chapter without first playing through each one in succession, you'll need these chapter codes:

  • Chapter 2:

    QLOKIT

  • Chapter 3:

    FREEKL

Analysis: Tipping Point is slightly strange, moderately challenging, and intensely beautiful. The photo-realistic graphics and soft ambient noises will transport you to another place. (Unfortunately, the detailed graphics only follow long loading times, but they are entirely worth the wait.) While the storyline seems a little odd and surreal, the puzzles are straightforward and logical. Most can be solved just by exploring and clicking around, so don't be afraid to do a little hunt-and-clicking.

Check out the entire Tipping Point series, including Chapter 5 on iOS!

As soon as the game starts to seem too simple, you may suddenly find yourself stuck, and pushing towards your own Tipping Point.

Play Tipping Point

Cheers to Stelios for submitting this one! =)


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Rating: 4.5/5 (59 votes)
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10 Gnomes 3

JohnB10 Gnomes episode 3: Early Spring Garden has been released! The third installment in the 10 Gnomes series by Submachine author Mateusz Skutnik continues the point-and-click "find the gnome" gameplay that holds our attention for precisely ten minutes. The goal is simple: click your way through a photographic landscape searching for hidden cartoon gnomes. You only have ten minutes to find all ten, so speed is just as important as a sharp eye.

Photographic images, all toned down to grayscale, make up the environment in each 10 Gnomes episode. This installment drops you in a garden where gnomes have hidden themselves behind bushes and inside bamboo stalks all around the area. Using the mouse, simply pan left and right searching for hotspots that allow you to zoom in for a closer look. Explore every nook and cranny of the eerily quiet garden to find the gnomes before time runs out.

What 10 Gnomes offers is glaringly simple: a streamlined hidden object game clothed in point-and-click robes. Its premise can be summed up in one terse sentence and you can easily make your way through each episode before your coffee gets cold. But what makes the games special is the sleek, almost artsy feel to the entire presentation, right down to the grayscale photographs and dark, troubled music. But of course you're searching for happy little gnomes, so it isn't as serious as it sounds.

Another great installment in the simple but fun series.

Play 10 Gnomes episode 3: Early Spring Garden


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Rating: 4.8/5 (420 votes)
| Comments (183) | Views (477)

PatrickSonnySonny is most likely the best Flash RPG yet made. Imagine fluid battles that don't feel like a grind, complete with fluid animation and tactics that are actually interesting and fun. Now, imagine that you're a superhuman zombie. Yes, Sonny, this is it.

The interface is all mouse driven as we've come to expect with Flash. In battle, you and your allies are on one side and your enemies are on the other. Clicking on a character brings up a contextual ring of orbs representing the techniques you can use: for enemies you will see attack options, and for yourself and your allies you will see buffs and healing options. Instead of magic points you have health and focus. Using a technique usually costs focus and a certain number of turns before you can use it again. Winning battles gives you money and experience, which allow you to get better gear and level up. You can also spend points on increasing your stats and investing up the tech tree. While not necessarily revolutionary, Sonny is executed so smoothly and with such balance that it makes Flash seem as good as any other platform for a game design of this type.

Analysis: This game is a textbook example of staggered variation, which means the battles offer a lot of distinct feelings based on who you're teamed up with and who you're fighting. In some cases, you may be depending on your ally to give you the recharge, in other cases, you'll be waiting for your opponent to use a technique that puts its guard down. The game continues to feel fresh and demand tactical adaptation throughout, this is no mere climb up the experience ladder. The story is fairly shallow, but uses some interesting narrative techniques in its understated ambiguities, including the nature of the protagonist and his relationship with other NPCs. At the end of the story section (semi-spoiler) the context of the final fight left me questioning something I never looked into, and a jaunt into the inventory screen confirmed my hypothesis to chilling effect. The fourth act is a more open-ended, game-y scenario you could invest a lot of time in, at which point the system is pushed to its beautiful limits, and the major flaw of the game, the relative stupidity of your allies' AI, begins to show wear.

Created by Krinlabs, Krin has outdone himself with this one. Treat yourself to a superb RPG experience.

Play Sonny


| Comments (40) | Views (1)

Jayaudience prizeIf you haven't been keeping up with our 5th Casual Gameplay Design Competition, you should know that most of the games have gone through several updates based on feedback received since we rolled them out last week. So, you really owe it to yourself to check out the latest upgraded versions.

And now we invite everyone to take part by voting for your favorite(s). Each finalist is represented by its icon along with a "vote" button next to it. The vote button will take you to a PayPal donation form where you may donate $1 (USD) or more to the respective game. (You do not need a PayPal account to vote, PayPal accepts credit cards as well.)

We are limiting voting to only those who donate as it discourages ballot stuffing. And besides, it's only a dollar, so please show some support for all the effort these talented designers put forth for you to enjoy. No one is obligated to vote, and all we are asking for is a single dollar from each of you.

At the end of the competition (April 7th), all of the votes will be tallied and the game that receives the most community votes will be awarded the Audience Prize of $500!

All proceeds* from the vote donations will go directly to each respective game designer(s). Of course you may donate more than a dollar when you vote, though your vote will still count as just one vote. (*Your donation less any fees PayPal deducts prior to our receiving it. For reference: PayPal takes $0.33 from a one-dollar donation, but only $0.45 from a five-dollar donation.)

The deadline to vote is Sunday, April 6, 2008 at 11:59 PM (GMT-4:00).

To cast your vote, simply use the PayPal ("Vote") link next to the game icon you wish to vote for, and then enter your donation amount in the PayPal form. "Vote for this game" links have also been added to the competition page for each entry. Thank you kindly for your anticipated contributions of support!

Total from voting... $437.34!
Not quite the level of support we've seen in previous competitions. Our sincerest thanks to everyone who voted and for your kind support of these competitions!

  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (174 votes)
| Comments (40) | Views (122)

KeroBoxhead: The Zombie WarsBoxhead: The Zombie Wars by Sean T. Cooper is the fifth installment of the Boxhead series. The premise of the game is a bit self-explanatory: You are at a war with zombies and their evil friends. Zombies are actually a lot more sociable than you might think if you can understand what they mean by those grunts and moans. Unlucky for you the only ones who CAN understand them are faster zombies, teleporting vampires, golems, and devils. Unlucky for them you have a whole arsenal of weapons at your disposal, ranging from a simple pistol to nuclear based air strikes.

The primary goal in the game is to stay alive for as long as possible, but there are several ways to go about this. You can choose to take a more offensive front and plant traps for zombies like exploding barrels, or a more defensive approach by building yourself a base complete with rocket launching turrets. With eight playing fields to choose from—four of them geared towards the offensive approach, and four towards the defensive—there is plenty of room to adapt your own style of fighting the zombie horde. However, be warned that choosing the levels with defenses already built for you will start you at a higher level in the game.

The upgrade system for your weapons is quite unique in that it is based on combos. The higher your combo the more things you unlock. It starts out pretty easy, getting a combo of 5 kills will score you a shiny new shotgun, but it takes a combo of 500 to get the nuclear strike. Your Kill combo is displayed at the top right of the screen and you will notice the numbers slowly fade; each time it fades your combo will decrease by one. The higher the number the faster it fades so make sure you are killing faster than it is decreasing! Lucky for you, your explosions don't hurt you, so don't be afraid to use yourself as bait to lure a bunch of zombies into a row of barrels and blow them all up.

Analysis: Even though this is the fifth in the series, Sean does quite a good job at keeping the new ideas flowing and adding to the core gameplay of the series. With enough variety to keep fans of the genre entertained for quite a while, this really is a game that shouldn't be overlooked. However it isn't without its drawbacks. Take the game's sound, for example. There is no music in the game, and the sound of gunshot after gunshot can get pretty tedious after a while. There are also a few bugs in the game, some pretty serious, others not so much. Occasionally the game will stop after a level is complete, and never continue on, leaving you alone and desperate in a field of crimson, clover and charcoal with only the few remaining unsinged trees to keep you company. Since Sean seems to be continuously updating his games, it's likely this may be addressed and squashed soon.

Boxhead: The Zombie Wars is still a game very much worth exploring even if action based game play isn't your thing. Take note that there is quite a bit of cartoon violence and blood animated in this game, so viewer discretion is advised.

Play Boxhead: The Zombie Wars


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (60 votes)
| Comments (71) | Views (28)

KarmenNekonote Escape #7: DollC'mon, everyone is doing it! Let's tear apart the place, looking through piles of stuff or branches of plants, looking for colorful, small, and oval objects! Eggs, you say? No, no, who searches for eggs anymore? We're hunting for dolls. Ok, just one doll: Lion's doll. But we might just collect a basketful, anyways.

Nekonote Escape 7: Doll is a slight twist on the average escape-the-room game. Rather than looking for a way to open the exit, the goal of this game is to please poor Lion, who can't find his favorite doll anywhere. No wonder; someone has stuffed dolls all over, in the strangest of places. Collect all these joyful little faces and one just might turn out to belong to Lion.

This cute point-and-click game has many features common to games of this genre: a few puzzles, a mini game, and excessive pixel hunting. Most objects are collected and kept in an inventory along the right side of the screen, where they may be examined or combined with other objects. (One exception to this rule is the set of dolls; as they are gathered, they seem to disappear into limbo.)

A simple escape game can be a delight all by itself, but sometimes the greatest discovery is that it isn't by itself. Nekonote Escape 7: Doll is, as the title indicates, the seventh in a series. Each of the other games offers its own unique challenge, while following the adventures of the same crew: Lion, his doll, and a giant pink octopus. The first in the series is fairly primitive in terms of our point-and-click standards. Through the series, the scenery and puzzles gradually improve. So, played in order, it is easy to see both the evolution of escape games, as well as the difference a little practice can make.

By the time the seventh game in the series rolled around, the creators found the right combination: simple aesthetics and maddening frustrating solutions. It will be interesting to see what escapes the future will bring. For now, please enjoy yourself and

Play Nekonote Escape 7: Doll

Or, enjoy any of the other six games in the series:


| Comments (528) | Views (2)

JayDolly plushieWe have another patient from The Asylum that needs a good home, and that's where you come in.

As before, we will give away Dolly 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 (March 28, 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, multiple personality disordered Dolly. Good luck! =)

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.


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (30 votes)
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DragonStone

PsychotronicIt's no secret that the casual game market thrives on repetition. For every new experience, there are 9,184 clones (I looked it up), and eventually even the most hardcore hidden object finder is going to get bored and take up macramé. Great for the friendship bracelet industry, not so good for the starving game developers. Eventually, they'll all be out on the street with piles of colored beads, offering passers-by the chance to match three beads together in exchange for food.

dragonstone.jpgAnd that's where PlayPond comes in. With DragonStone, the studio bravely mashed a marble-grouping game with a shoot-em-up, spray-painted it with a medieval fantasy theme, and literally turned the whole thing on its head. The result is an exciting and perilously addictive experiment, with the friendly face and high production values of a casual game.

Your hero is Baldric, an armor-clad oaf in love with a princess. She loves him too, and since we can't have peasants marrying princesses, the king sends Baldric on a dangerous quest to retrieve the fabled DragonStone. The idea being that Baldric will perish in the jaws of a dragon and leave the princess single, in case any wealthy bachelors come along with a spare fiefdom. The story is gobble-de-gook, told with tongue in cheek, an excuse to send you through 8 beautifully illustrated lands containing 80 levels of carefully sculpted puzzle action.

Your weapon is a mouse-controlled magical bow that shoots two kinds of ammunition. Click the left button to launch colored stones. If you form a group with at least 3 stones of the same color, they will disappear. This is not unlike Zuma or Bust-a-Move, but in DragonStone, when you eliminate all the marbles attached to a rock outcropping or pile of earth, the whole formation crumbles away, letting you advance to the next part of the level.

Sometimes destroying a piece of scenery in this way will release prizes, which you can catch with your bow. Coins can be spent on upgrades at certain places in the game, while other objects give you extra lives or restore your health. Some objects, like spiky balls and poison flasks, can harm you and should be avoided. All the while, the puzzle is slowly advancing, and if any stone, platform, or pillar reaches the top of the screen, you'll lose a life and have to restart the level.

Clicking the right mouse button fires arrows, which are good for destroying targets and fighting the menagerie of creatures that will be attacking you. Getting struck by too many vampire bats and fire balls is another good way to lose a life. Your enemies range from giant spiders to surprisingly terrifying dragons, and seeing what new beast will come after you next is a major incentive to keep beating levels.

Early in the game you'll also learn about your magic attack. If you hold down the right button for a moment, you'll unleash a marble-vaporizing sonic blast that can save your bacon if you've messed up part of a puzzle, or if a particular baddie is too much for you. Later on, you'll be able to purchase powerful screen-clearing spells that can be used only once per level.

dragonstone2.jpgAnalysis: Perhaps the smartest choice PlayPond made was to position the bow at the top of the screen, and let your marbles fall into the puzzles according to gravity. This means they can design levels with slopes and valleys, and groups of one color of marble supported by groups of another color. If you place a stone well, you can often set off a giant chain reaction and make your life significantly easier. Of course, later in the game, that same chain reaction can release waves of stinging thorns for you to dodge, so you can never rest easy, even when you've solved a puzzle correctly. That combination of reflexes and analysis means that DragonStone will be rewarding for players who like to work their whole brain, but it might find a smaller audience than more specialized games.

At first, the marriage of shooter and puzzler seems unnecessary, even awkward. Most of the time, you can take a moment to clear out any monsters that appear, and then go back to solving the marble puzzle un-interrupted. It's like playing two separate games. But when creatures start walking around on the puzzles and sniping at you from behind indestructible blocks, everything comes together. It really feels like you're laying siege to a hostile den of mythical creatures, albeit in an abstract, color-matching way.

Reinforcing the illusion is the excellent background artwork. Levels have multiple layers of scrolling scenery, which creates a terrific sense of open space. The music and sound effects are at worst unobtrusive and at best wonderfully atmospheric.

Are there problems? Well, it's a little strange in a game with so much dodging that your magic bow is so large. It takes up a third of the horizontal playing space, so avoiding attacks usually means just hurling it all the way to the left or the right. It's easier to catch coins with a huge target like that, of course, and that's probably what the designers were thinking. But it's a little rich to expect players to dodge multiple projectiles with the massive thing.

More inconvenient is the fact that you can only see whatever marble is currently loaded in your bow. There's no way to see what color is coming up next, so you have to take a moment for your brain to process each new color before you fire. Sometimes when you're in a tight situation, you'll long to have some advance warning.

But despite those hiccups in the design, DragonStone is compulsively playable. There are dozens upon dozens of clever puzzles, featuring a variety of special objects. You'll encounter explosive barrels, color-shifting Medusa heads, treasure chests, ice blocks; the list goes on and on. Unlike many casual games that rely on random layouts to create replay value, PlayPond has simply created a huge amount of content. 80 levels is a lot, when each level is a long series of challenges itself. Add in multiple endings, a screen-full of awards for completing various tasks, more silly puns than you can shake a stick at, and two different difficulty levels; and you have a complete package.

DragonStone takes a lot of risks, but they have paid off in a unique, epic adventure that never takes itself too seriously. Well worth a look-see.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


| Comments (15) | Views (4)

Weekend Download

PatrickReady for some serious content? This week we spill the beans on two games — one brand new, the other, well, not so new. One is serious, the other... not so much. One has a pretty horsey, the other, a bench. One is in color, the other— well, you get the picture.

The GraveyardThe Graveyard (Windows/Mac, 24.5MB, free/donationware) - The Graveyard is an interactive short from Tale of Tales, the Belgian artists behind The Path and The Endless Forest. The game has you controlling an old lady as she tours a graveyard, hobbling slowly amidst chirping birds and greyscale scenery while a dog barks in the distance.

The game is an exercise in mood and theme with a minimum of interactivity. The woman can't explore the graveyard, and if she veers off the main path the camera waits silently for you to take her back around, almost impatient in it's insistence. The tank-like control scheme, so bemoaned by fans of games like Resident Evil, makes perfect sense for controlling an enfeebled person wondering at the end of her life. Down the central path lies a bench. The woman can sit down on the bench. And... that's it!

For most intents and purposes, The Graveyard is an interesting exploration of pure aesthetic — but, if you're willing to pay $5 to unlock the "full game", you'll be able to have the woman die while pondering her life in The Graveyard. Sounds like a novel upsell to me.

KQ2King's Quest II remake (Windows, 43.4MB, freeware) - For many, King's Quest II: Romancing the Throne was before their time, or simply missed, but the heroic folks at AGD remade it with new graphics and a voice-over. This is a similar treatment given by another group of good people to King's Quest III, which is certainly the more literary and emotionally compelling game. The difference here is AGD didn't just give the game a new coat of paint, they completely re-vamped the structure, puzzles and storytelling into a vibrant homage of a classic, and even modified the map to be logically contiguous.

The subtitle of this remake is "Romancing the Stones", a play off the original, appropriate since each of the game's major quests, which end with the acquisition of a magic gem, have been romanced into enhanced versions of themselves. Added map areas, wholly new puzzles, a chase mini-game with Sharkmen in pursuit, werewolves, a Vampire who is more than one might imagine, a cranky librarian you can harass for tips; it feels like a whole new game.

The overall story has also been modified to fit into the greater saga of the series, pulling story bits for later games into a vision scene, and lacing together the game's villain with villains from other installments, painting a mysterious conspiracy of evil mages in the lining. And to top it all off, they've re-done the intro and the ending, beginning with King Graham's longing for a bride, and ending with a celebration that includes every character in the game. This was truly a labor of love.


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Help SquadJohnBStuck in Dream Chronicles 2 and need a little push? Having trouble solving a puzzle in Azada and need a hint or two? Can't figure out why your villagers won't eat in Virtual Villagers 2? Casual games can cause not-so-casual problems, which is why the JIG community is always here to help. We're looking to add an extra layer of support by forming a casual gameplay help squad consisting of a few dedicated readers who can follow discussions on weekend download games and provide hints and support when necessary. It's a simple but fun job that requires you to play through games in their entirety and check in on the comments several times a day, providing feedback, hints and tips when necessary. And the best part is you get free casual games for your help!

Who we're looking for:

  • Enthusiastic casual gamers who love diving in to just about every game we feature.
  • Players who complete the games they play.
  • Someone who can check comments several times a day, throughout the week to provide feedback and support.
  • Basic web searching skills.
  • Someone reliable, responsible, and fun.

To apply:
Send an e-mail to helpsquad@jayisgames.com. Include a short paragraph about yourself, your casual gaming habits, and any relevant writing experience you may have.

Good luck to everyone who applies, we're looking forward to the responses!


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Rating: 4.2/5 (24 votes)
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Curse of the Pharaoh: Quest for Nefertiti

JohnBAnother casual game that tries its hand at blending genres, Curse of the Pharaoh: Quest for Nefertiti takes two popular game types to ancient Egypt for a fascinating puzzle-adventure experience. The game's main tricks are spot-the-difference scenes along with a few simple hidden object excursions. You'll also unlock minigames and solve adventure-style puzzles using artifacts you find and assemble in dusty old tombs. It's a relatively easy game, making it accessible to a wide range of players, but the real hook is the deliciously mysterious Egyptian setting based on the real-life mystery of Queen Nefertiti's burial.

curseofthepharaoh.jpgTo start things off: Nefertiti. The ancient Egyptian queen was immortalized in texts, statues and busts only to mysteriously vanish from the records decades later. There are a number of theories on the cause of her death, but the truth remains unknown. Also unknown is the location of her body, which is where Curse of the Pharaoh: Quest for Nefertiti steps in. The game begins with protagonist Anna receiving a letter from her brother who has run into some serious trouble while searching for Nefertiti's tomb. He warns that if she doesn't hear from him again in two weeks, something has gone wrong. Three weeks pass with no news, so Anna boards a plain and heads to Cairo to begin her search. But she just can't shake the feeling that someone is following her every step of the way...

Curse of the Pharaoh is divided into a series of worlds, each taking place in a different location within Egypt. Worlds are further divided into a handful of individual locations containing ten differences you must spot between the two pictures. Each room has a special item you must also find along with a "locked" spot where an item from another room must be placed. You can move about the rooms in a world freely, allowing you to find objects and return to areas to place them at your leisure. Also watch for coins hidden in each room, used to purchase game-enhancing items and minigames in the store.

After placing secret items and finding all ten differences in each stage you unlock the special hidden object puzzle of the world, tasking you with locating a set of items identified by their shadows at the bottom of the screen. You'll also gather pieces of a pharaoh's mask in these stages to unlock the final level. Mask in hand, enter the temple to assemble/place the items to solve the puzzle and continue your journey.

curseofthepharaoh2.jpgAnalysis: A relatively short and easy game, Curse of the Pharaoh: Quest for Nefertiti compensates with carefully designed levels, gorgeous visual design, and an atmosphere so steeped in legend you can almost smell the tomb dust in the air. Two levels of difficulty up the challenge a bit, but the main draw is the atmosphere and sense of distilled fun you feel when poking around temples in Egypt.

One feature I feel is sadly underutilized is the in-game store. Coins you find in the spot-the-difference puzzles can be used here to buy minigames and a few items that affect how you play the game. For example, if you click too many times at random on the screen, the lights go out and you must search for differences with a flashlight. The store allows you to buy a bigger light, which helps considerably when you get click-happy. Beyond one or two useful items, however, the store goes largely unused. With a full inventory of items to buy, it would be a fun (and rather exciting) addition to the game.

Curse of the Pharaoh: Quest for Nefertiti keeps things simple with casual gaming puzzles we know and love. The Egyptian theme does wonders for the title and ends up being the chief draw to the game. What it lacks in originality, Curse of the Pharaoh: Quest for Nefertiti makes up for in atmosphere and unbridled fun.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


| Comments (22) | Views (1)

JayKroko plushieWe have another winner to announce today, and we also want to thank everyone for participating in our Asylum plushie drawings!

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

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


| Comments (43) | Views (1)

Link Dump Fridays

JohnBDragons, towers of shaky steel, a pink octopus, and stuffy 18th century aristocrats. No, it isn't my last family reunion (steel girders were scarce this year), it's Link Dump Friday, the happiest weekly-occurring day of the year!

  • icon_dicingdangers.gifDicing Dangers - A free browser-based MMORPG that keeps things nice and simple with a text-based interfaced sprinkled with nice-looking artwork. Exploration, quests, character management and interactions, inventory and role playing are all handled with clickable links. Its surprisingly slick interface and casual-friendly design make it worth a shot!
  • icon_bowstreetrunner.gifBow Street Runner episode 3 - The third episode in LittleLoud's mystery adventure series commissioned by Channel 4 to promote the five-part City of Vice television programs. Set in the 18th century, you play a Bow Street Runner trying to restore order to the dirty streets of old London.
  • icon_voidskipper.gifInsurgo - Similar to Tower of Goo in concept, Insurgo tasks you with building a wobbly structure as high as you can go. Move the mouse to a joint, then slide the cursor to another joint to see if it's close enough to build a connector. It takes some practice, but once you get the hang of it, the sky is literally the limit.
  • icon_wonderfulsear.gifWonderful Sea - A much-too-cute Japanese point-and-click adventure game with hints of an RPG. Sift through the underwater environments for items you can use to free a trapped little octopus. To use an item, simply click the icon in your inventory, then the object you want to use it on.
  • JayJIG Poker Night - Don't forget the US is now on Daylight Savings Time, which means we're playing an hour earlier than usual. When is JIG Poker Night? Saturday (4:00 PM).

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Rating: 3.4/5 (61 votes)
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ArtbegottiHopickstonHopickston is the latest casual puzzle game from Tonypa, and like so many of his other games, it offers a uniquely original experience that is both simple and elegant.

Move by clicking one of the available hollow blue stars with your mouse. Your goal is to clear all of the stones from the board by moving your blue star around, traversing all of the spaces at least once. You can move a fixed number of spaces in any direction (horizontally or vertically), so long as you don't move off the edge of the board, or land on one of your gray spaces (more on that later). The three numbers above the board tell you your current move (at the left) and the next two moves in the queue, all ranging from 1 to 4 (or 5, in some later rounds).

As you move around the board, you will leave a trail of darkened stars over spaces you've landed on or passed over. While they serve as nice markers of where you don't have to hit again, they actually add to the challenge of this puzzle. You can jump over darkened stars, but you can't land on them. If you get yourself in a situation where you can't make any moves at all without landing on a dark star or going off the edge, the darkened stars will start to remove themselves from the board in the order they were laid down, until the first legal move is available. However, this convenience has a price. Every time a dark star is removed from the board, your number of remaining "moves" is reduced by one. If you run out of moves, the game is over. If you can clear the board of all stones, those extra moves are converted into a score bonus, so try not to waste too many moves.

Analysis: What Tonypa seems to have done here is create a game that has that perfect balance between strategy, luck, logic, and memory. Even if you accidentally leave yourself with a couple of moves left with more stones to collect still, it's possible to come back and win the level with the right moves. It might help to remember what path you took around the board, so you can minimize the number of moves you have to waste by backing yourself into the right corner. You might quickly develop your own strategies as you play this game which help you to keep playing up to the higher levels.

But about those higher levels... Sadly, there are only eight levels programmed into this game. After beating level eight (I did it with two moves left... whew!), the game starts back at level one, and you play through again as before. What makes this a bit disheartening is that it's the exact same levels over again, with the same starting number of moves, the same sized field to play on, everything the same as earlier (except for the random numbers and possibly your starting position). Of course, no two rounds will ever be the same, but the fact that the level of difficulty regresses back to square one puts a bit of a damper on the game.

As for the music, I know that the included track by Kevin Macleod was originally considered for the music for Tonypa's recent CoBaCoLi, but was later switched out for something else. Hopickston seems to lend itself for this vocal percussion mix better. That being said, the constant starting and stopping of the music might irritate some people (since the music starts after you've been inactive for a couple of seconds, so it might almost serve as a reason for some people to play faster!). So by all means, hop to it!

Play Hopickston

Cheers to Shannon for sending this one in! =)


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Rating: 4.5/5 (225 votes)
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KarmenPonPon HouseLittle ponpon house on the sea, what puzzles have you inside waiting silently for me?

Adorably chic and perfectly round, you lure me inside without making a sound.

I see shells of blue and red, clocks and plants, but why, do tell, is that doll on the bed?

How one into madness you send, is it simply the mystery? Or just how quickly it ends?

The PonPon House is an adorable point-and-click adventure from the Japanese game design group, Orange Biscuit. Short and sweet, this one isn't likely to take up much time or energy. However, with the soothing background sounds of a gentle sea combined with elegant scenery, the game is more like a journey through a landscape painting rather than an adventure.

Thankfully, this game does not require any pixel hunting. As you mouse over an area, the cursor will change, revealing a clickable location. Some items can be picked up and combined with other items. While the game is not too difficult to figure out, it doesn't include much English instruction. This can create a few awkward moments. For instance, it appears at first that there will be no inventory; an object can just sit wherever you leave it. So, later, when objects do go into the inventory, they'll seem to simply disappear. To open the inventory, simply click on the lettering in the upper right of the playing screen. The other awkward moment in this game comes at the rather ambiguous end. There is a typical "I've escaped!" sequence, but afterwards, you can continue manipulating at your leisure. The whole end is a bit fishy, if you ask me.

Even with its minor quirks and short length, the PonPon House makes the perfect getaway for Spring Break. Besides, unlike a beach house in Cancun, this one is free.

Play PonPon House


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Rating: 4.5/5 (158 votes)
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PsychotronicPuzzle Boy FlashYou know if your parents name you Puzzle Boy, you're not going to be captain of the football team. No, you'll be eating a lot of dodgeballs in gym class, and taking abuse from the likes of Bully Guy and Pretty Girl. You will hide behind the pages of your crossword collection, your Sudoku, your mazes; intense and lonely as the rest of them live their vibrant wild lives, unimpressed by your passion for logical solutions.

But one day justice will be served. Somehow, miraculously, everybody in the world will find themselves trapped in a warehouse. The only exit will be blockaded by a complicated network of crates and revolving doors. And you, the one with the pudgy tum and the unflattering ball cap, you will be the only one with the skills to escape. The only one left alive. Who's laughing now, Pretty Girl? Who's laughing now?

Give yourself a pat on the back if you've already guessed that Puzzle Boy Flash is some kind of puzzle game, you genius you. It is indeed, of the block-pushing Sokoban variety. Your goal in each level is to get Puzzle Boy to the exit stairs, using only the [arrow keys] to direct him. Push blocks and rotate turnstiles by walking into them. Bridge gaps by plugging them with boxes. On some levels, Puzzle Boy will be accompanied by a little clone, and you can switch control between them by pressing [shift]. Restart a level with [space], and exit back to the menu screen with [esc].

30 levels await you, split into Easy, Medium, and Hard. That may not seem like many, but the level designs are intricate and fiendish. If you are the easily frustrated type, you may need some sort of calming agent, like a cup of Chamomile, or a purring cat. Or a punching bag. Whatever keeps you from destroying your monitor with a hammer.

Analysis: Puzzle Boy Flash is a remake of an obscure Gameboy game published in Japan in 1989 by Atlus, and re-released in the USA as Kwirk. Kwirk was the sort of tragic shades-wearing, in-your-face hyper-cool mascot that was all the rage in early 90s video games (today he would have a skateboard and tribal tattoos), but this remake features the original Puzzle Boy, a charismatic little yellow blob with only a sideways-turned hat to indicate his hipness.

The puzzles are some of the best I've seen. You can't just fiddle around, hoping to stumble upon the solution by chance. You'll need to be clever to finish even the very first level, and the Hard puzzles will test your very soul.

But programmer Blawars can't take credit for the design of the game, only for his/her good taste in choosing it to translate into Flash. Unfortunately, the interface is too faithful to its console roots. You must click the mouse once to get past the opening logo screen, but after that, it's keyboard control only. Clicking anywhere after that may actually mess up your game. It feels clunky using [space] to select levels, when clicking on them would do. It would be nice, in fact, to have a mouse control option for the puzzles themselves, since it's in a browser and all. This is a faithful remake, and nothing more.

On the other hand, Puzzle Boy is a gem that you probably haven't played in its original form, and the chunky pixel graphics are a nice dose of nostalgia. If your brain likes to be teased, tickled, maybe slapped around a little, give this one a try.

Play Puzzle Boy Flash


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CGDC5 Entries are up

JayFinally, the moment we've been waiting for, the day all the finalists into our 5th Casual Gameplay Design Competition are now available to play! The extension of the deadline was well worth the wait as we now have 21 solid entries for you to enjoy.

Remember, this time we are doing things differently. We will not be introducing the entries here one-by-one on the blog as we have done in the past. Instead, all entries are available to play immediately on the competition page. There is a place to enter comments for each game, so please use each respective thread to leave your kind feedback and constructive criticisms for the game authors.

The competition period will span 3 weeks, and we will announce the winners of the competition at that time.

Thanks to everyone for your support, and especially to our sponsors for making this competition possible: Gimme5games.com, Mochi Media, and Adobe! Also, a big thanks to Sean Hawkes for the CGDC5 logo design and the paper-peeling effect for the Adobe logo. ^_^

Note: If you're a website owner and would like to host any of the competition entries on your site, there is a link to download each game included on the competition page. Please help us spread the love for all the efforts these game designers have gone through during the past 3 months! =)

GO TO THE COMPETITION PAGE


| Comments (616) | Views (22)

JayKroko plushieWe have another patient from The Asylum that needs a good home, won't you please help us? The JIG offices are buzzing with activity as we ready all the entries for CGDC #5 on Monday, so no one is available to give the care and comfort to these adorable animal plushies.

As before, we will give away Kroko 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 (March 21, 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, paranoid little Kroko. Good luck! =)

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: 4.6/5 (53 votes)
| Comments (113) | Views (600)

Magic Farm

JohnBAah, gardening. One of the most relaxing and rewarding hobbies one can undertake. There's nothing like planting flowers and watching them grow, especially when you get to sell them for loads of cash and smash gigantic snails with a shovel from time to time! This is the basic premise of Magic Farm, a resource management simulation along the lines of Grimm's Hatchery and Alice Greenfingers. As a magic-wielding gardener, you must plant, water, protect and raise a variety of flowers to sell for cash. You also have three basic skills that can be increased as you play, lending a delicious RPG flavor to the game.

magicfarm.jpgMonths ago, a young girl's parents set out to find the fabled Flower of Youth. No one has heard from them since, and a concerned villager sends word that he wishes to help. Hiring a detective to find them doesn't come cheap, though, and you must begin your gardening career to pay the bill and help find your parents.

Each round in Magic Farm consists of an arcade-style growing day and a much calmer buying/selling interlude. During the growing period you'll need to contend with a number of events as quickly as you can. Plants periodically need water, for example, and when the droplet icons appear below a plant, click it to deliver delicious H2O. Your garden variety of pests, such as slugs and bees, also make an appearance and must be clicked rapidly in order to send them packing. Flowers must be harvested, obviously, but that isn't as pressing as keeping plants safe and moist.

When the day is done it's time to sell your crop and stock up for the next day. You can sell individual flowers for a little gold, or arrange bouquets using pre-set templates (assuming you have the right flowers) for lots of extra cash. With money you can buy more water, upgrade your harvest bin or water bucket, and buy/plant new crops that fetch a higher price at market. After a few levels you'll enjoy the companionship and help from a dragon named Robin. Together you will travel from farm to farm, starting from scratch each time and discovering new enemies and plants along the way.

magicfarm2.jpgAnalysis: One of the best features of Magic Farm is its incorporation of RPG-style elements into the plot and gameplay. The girl and Robin have skills that can be increased over time, adding a low-level of customization to the game. The skills let you sell flowers for a higher price, buy things at a slight discount, and get faster at completing tasks such as dispatching enemies.

The biggest detractor in Magic Farm is its rather bland presentation and (mostly) uninteresting visuals. Some of the animated models move as if they were made of wood, and the game is missing a lot of little touches that could really make playing a better experience. A prime example of this is the bland, dated dialogue boxes that are nothing more than white text on a flat green background.

Despite its minor flaws, Magic Farm is an extremely engrossing game that has the ability to grab you from the get-go and keep you hanging in for more. Lacing role playing elements in casual games is gaining ground, and Magic Farm is a great example of the powerful addictive properties this can create.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


| Comments (18) | Views (16)

Weekend Download

JohnBHangovers, guns, and retro roguelike games. Sounds like a typical Saturday night in the 80s. This weekend, however, we're celebrating the good ole days casual gaming style, which results in less money spent, fewer blackouts, and absolutely no inexplicable bruises.

rainbowweb2.jpgRainbow Web II (Windows/Mac, 24MB, demo) - A colorful and uniquely varied puzzle game that does a great job making you forget what genre you're supposed to be experiencing. Not only do you have to line up colored orbs (which can only be swapped with other orbs connected via web), you also have to spell words, find hidden objects, and complete a sliding puzzle or two. It's an extremely varied game, especially for a match three puzzle title, all set in a beautiful fantasy world with a gorgeous storybook presentation.

gunmute.jpgGun Mute (Windows/Mac/Linux, <1MB, free) - Set in a futuristic wild west, Gun Mute is a great piece of interactive fiction that strips away a few of the genres conventions without sacrificing story or gameplay. You can only move forwards or backwards, and you don't have to worry about gathering tons of items and using them in odd ways. But puzzles are still there, they're still tricky, and you'll do a lot of shooting, which is... unusual for a text adventure.

thehangover.gifThe Hangover (Windows, 1.3MB, free) - Inspired by games such as Passage, The Hangover takes you through each stage of recovering from, shall we say, overindulgence in certain grain-based beverages. Perhaps not as deep or meaningful as, say, The Marriage, but is an interesting experiment nonetheless. Comes with a seizure warning for a very good reason.

powder.gifPowder (Windows/Mac/Linux, ~1MB, free) - A tiny, graphical roguelike that would feel right at home on the Game Boy Color. Descend into the depths of the dungeon, fighting monsters and gathering loot, until you reach the foul daemon known as Baezl'bub. Slay the beast in heroic combat, then ascend twenty five levels to the surface with his black heart.


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Rating: 4.8/5 (414 votes)
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PsychotronicQuestionautI know what you're thinking. "Oh no, not another game where your friend's hat gets carried away by a bubble, and you have to chase after it in your hot air balloon fueled by pure knowledge! When will game designers come up with some new ideas?" I understand. I'm sympathetic. But you still might want to try out the latest in the bloated Knowledge Balloon Hat Retrieval genre, seeing as it's by Amanita Design, the gently madcap Czech creators of Samorost. That's right, Amanita finally made another game, and it's awesome. Well, it's gently awesome. Amanita does everything gently, and being awesome is no exception.

Their newest game, Questionaut, is a commission for the BBC's Bitesize series of educational games, which attempt to combine video games with grade school quizzes. The goal of Questionaut is to track down your friend's aforementioned high-flying hat, but your vehicle can't reach that high until you answer enough questions correctly. On each of 8 levels, you must solve an environmental puzzle by clicking or pointing at hot-spots, and then answer 5 multiple-choice questions to inflate your balloon, so you can float up to the next sky island.

None of this is too difficult, although you might have some trouble if you've been out of school for a while. The questions are geared to students aged 7 to 11, and as Jeff Foxworthy is so happy to remind us, we don't always retain information from that era so well. If you get stuck, Google is right around the corner, and no one has to know that your brain is made from a leaky sieve. Except for you. You will know.

Analysis: Despite the fact that the target audience for Questionaut is grade school students, there is enough wonder and imagination here for gamers of all ages. As usual, Amanita has festooned its game with soothing mossy textures and rickety mechanical systems. Each level is a self-contained environment floating in the sky, with its own placid inhabitants, surreal logic, and gorgeously quirky music.

It's such a pleasure to explore these little worlds that it's almost a shame when the time comes for a pop quiz yet again. But thankfully the questions here (supplied by the BBC) are the opposite of trivia. They encompass Math, Chemistry, Physics, and even professional skills such as designing clear instructional diagrams. There's a lovely irony in being quizzed on the real world by inhabitants of a surreal fantasy world.

Even better, the individual islands often share a theme with the questions for that level. You might solve an ecological puzzle before facing a battery of biology questions, for example, or a physics-based puzzle before a physics test.

Even with eight totally separate environments, Questionaut feels like a cohesive whole. It's like stepping into a story book and becoming one of its characters. And thanks to Questionaut's memorable imagery, it feels like a living universe that continues to exist even after you've shut down your browser. Just delightful.

Play Questionaut


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Rating: 4.5/5 (48 votes)
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Escape the Museum

JohnBEscape the Museum is an utterly fascinating adventure/hidden object game for Windows/Mac that reaches into room escape territory for inspiration. You play as Susan Anderson, a museum curator showing her daughter a dinosaur exhibit when a fierce earthquake rocks the building. Falling debris knocks Susan unconscious, and when she wakes she discovers she's trapped in the room and Caitlin is missing! Find the objects you'll need to reach the exit, then recover precious museum artifacts as you work your way through the rubble searching for your daughter.

escapethemuseum.jpgEscape the Museum is a lot like Azada or the Dream Chronicles series in that it mixes adventure-style puzzles with light hidden object gameplay. Levels alternate between game modes to keep the experience from growing too dull, and the story is told through a series of cut scenes complete with voice acting. Susan is in contact with several co-workers who provide hints via cell phone, telling her which items she'll need to clear a path to the exit. These usually consist of simple assembly puzzles that require you to locate items or item components and use them in the appropriate area to continue. For example, finding a flashlight and then having to locate batteries and a bulb to make it work, all of which are second nature to room escape fans and adventure enthusiasts alike.

Once you've reached the exit, another worker asks you to recover precious museum property from the broken exhibits in a seek-and-find-style game. There are two types of item hunting scenes you'll come across in Escape the Museum. The first is the usual "find the list" fare where you have a specified set of items to locate in the rubble. The second is to find ten of a particular item in the scene. Some of the latter puzzles are a bit vague, bordering on the unfair (find ten dinosaur bones in the room with a big dinosaur skeleton?!), but the challenge level is just about right for us casual players.

In addition to puzzle solving and object finding, you'll also complete several jigsaw-style levels where you'll find and piece together precious items within the museum. And what archaeology-flavored experience would be complete without the Indiana Jones-style "grab the item and replace it with something of equal weight" gimmick? Escape the Museum has them all, and they're nicely woven into the story and don't feel too contrived.

escapethemuseum2.jpgAnalysis: The adventure/hidden object hybrid games are coming into their own, ditching the tiring lists of dozens of items to find in favor of shorter seek-and-find experiences everyone can enjoy. Puzzle elements are fairly light but still deliver a good punch, forcing you to scratch your head once or twice, then quickly rewarding you with the solution. The museum environment feels old and dusty and conveys the post-earthquake feeling extraordinarily well, complete with small rumblings from time to time. The cut scenes are interesting, but I found the voice acting and dialogue a bit too amateurish for my taste, and the "skip" button doesn't progress things fast enough.

Once you complete a task in an area you'll unlock new puzzles that will either open new rooms to explore or new puzzles in places you've already been. The backtracking isn't as exciting as uncovering a new scene, but it's handled well and doesn't feel too stale. All of this makes Escape the Museum a surprisingly long game, nearly twice the length of similar titles!

An excellent expedition into the realm of adventure/hidden object hybrids that delivers everything it should in a well-thought out package.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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

Escape the Museum is available to download from these affiliates:
Arcade TownBig Fish Games


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Rating: 4.5/5 (84 votes)
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Sling IceFunnyManGooey gooey goo! Time for another Sling review! The third full installment in the Sling series, Sling Ice, has just been released by the Edis brothers. Once again, evil monsters have stolen an element from the Oozeville power source, destabilizing it and threatening to destroy life as they know it.

Playing Sling Ice is easy, though the levels you must beat often aren't. You take control of Sling or Slingette, the one-handed blob of goo who goes to reclaim the element. Grab your character by clicking on it, drag to stretch it back, and release to send it flying across the level, hopefully to grab onto one of the other grab pegs. As you touch each peg, it turns green. When you've turned them all green, a portal will appear. Grab hold of it to complete the level. As you grab, stretch, sling, and bounce your way through each of the game's 50 levels, watch out for spikes, freezing water, special grabs, monsters, and more!

If you've played either of the previous Sling games, Sling Ice will seem very familiar. The same basic system has once again been spiced up with a few new tricks. While it's not revolutionary, it's every bit the good game we've come to expect from the Sling series.

What are you waiting for?

Play Sling Ice


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Rating: 4.3/5 (147 votes)
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PatrickOpen DoorsIf you've ever thought to yourself that casual games have something for everyone, you may now officially add Architects and AutoCad users to your definition of "everyone". Open Doors is a clever puzzle-game by Ozzie Mercado (SoapAintNice), played over a gridded blue-print of a building complete with doors and swinging circles meant to identify hinges. As you move past these contraptions, they slam shut behind you! It's like a house-of-mirrors boiled down to sheer design, and a fun one.

Controls are simple, just use the [arrow] keys to move in the cardinal directions. You're the square, you want to get to the X. Walls and doors cannot be passed through, unless you're pushing on a door in a direction that its hinges don't oppose. Note the circumference of the circles connected to doors, not only do they signify how a door moves when you push it, and what directions they can't be pushed from, but the little white lines determine where the doors will close behind you. Later in the game, you get double and triple jointed doors that fall into Jacob's Ladder like patters, filling out every possible position or coiling against the wall. The results are tricky and briskly rewarding.

Analysis: This is unusual for me, but I have little analysis to offer. It's a simple concept, simply executed and simply presented; as simple as chalk-white lines drawn flawlessly to grid. It's refreshing to see someone take such a short-form position on a single mechanic, and do it right.

To paraphrase Morpheus: I can only Open Doors, you're the one who has to walk through them.

Play Open Doors


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JaySly plushieWe have another winner to announce today, and we also want to thank everyone for participating in our Asylum plushie drawings!

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

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


| Comments (70) | Views (3)

Link Dump Fridays

JohnBIt's Link Dump Friday, Retro Sabotage edition! We here at JayIsGames love old games. You know, assuming they're good. We also like developers who try something new, which is what Retro Sabotage does with this collection of weekly-updated parodies. The humor is simple, the games are very short and are often more like interactive movies than traditional games. But you'll grin every time. And if you don't, we've still got you covered with more games below. Who loves the fuzzy wuzzy casual gamers out there? Yeees we do, yes we do!

  • icon_retrosabotage.gifOverpowered - Pong. Now with a super-charge shot.
  • The Morning After - Power-pellets. Now with a deliciously drunken rum center.
  • icon_retrosabotage2.gifWhat Next? - Pac-Man goes about his business, eating dots and power-pellets left and right. But after the third, something very strange happens...
  • icon_retrosabotage3.gifIncompatible Visions - Hey, here's a fun idea. Let's play Tetris while someone else plays Duck Hunt!
  • Samba - Space Invaders get crafty. All I have to say is this: D'OH!
  • Nice Shot - Sweet! Finally shoot that alien---oh, wait. What the... GAAAH!!
  • icon_turbomahjong.gifTurbo Mahjong - Yeah, so you know that mahjong thing? The simple, slow game of tile-removing? This is mahjong in sudden death mode. Prepare for an adrenaline rush.
  • icon_triviafanatic.gifTrivia Fanatic - A tough-as-nails trivia game with questions ranging from every subject to the horribly obscure. If you're smart like us, you'll manage to keep your score above zero... Be sure to join the JayIsGames team to compete against other JIG readers and help us rise in rankings!
  • JayJIG Poker Night - Odds of winning one of our tournaments has been pretty darn good with only 40-50 players each week. May 17th is coming, will you be playing with us? Every Saturday (4:00 PM).

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Rating: 4/5 (42 votes)
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Scramble125Contour updateIt's too soon for nostalgia, especially considering our 5th Casual Gameplay Design Competition is yet to be revealed here on Monday. Still, here's something that's worth a look in the meantime: Sean Hawkes recently updated Contour, his award-winning entry into CGDC #4 last October.

This Contour update still utilizes the same slick interface and near-flawless gameplay mechanics as before to create a serious action-puzzle challenge. If you didn't play Contour when it was first released, there's never been a better time to give it a spin. Since then, the community embraced the integrated level editor and set to work creating new levels. In fact, so many new levels were created that Sean hand-picked some of the best and updated the game. Contour now comes with an 18-hole golf-style level set (created by suho1004), brand-new bonus levels by both Sean and Brian (level design for the original award winning entry), and (best of all) an entire category devoted to levels that you, the wonderful Jay is Games community, created!

It's easy to see why Contour won the award for best use of the competition theme in CGDC4. And not only is it well-designed, it's also very pretty and a lot of fun, too. So have at it, and play Contour... again!

Play Contour


| Comments (13) | Views (2)

JayJust a quick note to point you to two new updates to previously reviewed games that you might want to know about: Amateur Surgeon and Bow Street Runner.

  • Alan Probe: Amateur SurgeonAct 2 of Alan Probe: Amateur Surgeon is now available to play from the folks at Adult Swim. Amateur Surgeon is a cartoonish and casually offensive simon-says-surgery game. Your job is to follow the exact requirements of each surgery as quickly and as accurately as possible. The game has great production values, bright, detailed environments and an ever-present sense of self-conscious irony. The violence is so over-the-top that it's not really gross, and there's still plenty of comically intense moments to go around.
  • Bow Street RunnerEpisode 2 of Bow Street Runner is now available to play from Channel 4 in the UK. Bow Street Runner is a mystery adventure series set in London's Covent Garden in the 1750s. Crime in the city has risen to such a level that local magistrates were forced to take action. The Bow Street Runners were born, created to instill order in the increasingly crime-ridden city. It's a dark and historically accurate journey through old London, presented with live actors, voice narration and full motion video for an impressive cinematic experience.

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Rating: 4.3/5 (303 votes)
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PatrickCanyonTDMiniclip's Canyon Defense is another tower defense game—I know, I know—but this one has good pixel art and does things a little bit differently. First of all, there are no upgrades. That's the genre's equivalent of Marcel Duchamp putting a urinal in an art museum. Or is it? What if I told you this heresy against form also has time-based special abilities? And support buildings?

The interface is the usual: Click on a building to select it, click on a non-path part of the map to build it. Building costs money, and you can sell them, too. This time there are tabs for basic towers, advanced towers, and buildings. Unlocking the towers and buildings involves completing "quests" like building a required number of towers, or saving up a required amount of money; there are also requirements that the towers above the one you want in the menu are also unlocked. Placement is critical, as your towers must turn to target the enemies. Buildings provide the ability to launch a nuclear strike, place walls, or freeze time, all with a long cool-down period between each use, and some buildings also give passive benefits, or "buffs" (to you WoW veterans).

Analysis: The game works despite its departure from the conventional mechanics of the tower defense genre; however, the game is also similar to its cousins in one major respect: it suffers for severe tuning issues. The speed of the projectiles is just as fast as the fastest enemy unit, meaning that your missiles can chase the bugger in a straight line, right off the screen. Coupled with the painfully slow turning speed of the turrets, a property common to every tower, and you've got a game whose basic mechanic hinges on something badly in need of oiling. Then you've got the upgrade tree's highly inelegant structure, hanging like a sickly willow on way too many dependencies to intuitively make a strategy out of. It's not too late MiniClip, tune that spreadsheet! The support building sub-system does add an interesting tactical level to the genre.

If you want some fresh TD with a Mad Max aesthetic, play Canyon Defense.

Play Canyon Defense


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Rating: 4.1/5 (79 votes)
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N riddle gameJessAh, the intriguing, maddening, URL-changing riddle game. I love thee, I loathe thee....I generally find myself stumped by level 13 of, um, thee. On the one hand I adore the enigmatic, sometimes surreal nature of the genre, as well as the astonishing creativity of the potential puzzling; on the other, the strict format and occasionally absurd leaps of "logic" necessary to find the answers can be seriously irritating. At their best, URL-changers are wonderful, mentally stimulating journeys; at their worst, migraines in the making.

The N riddle game is somewhere in-between. I really like the minimalist design (black and white never go out of style) and simple, straightforward presentation of the puzzles. The first few levels are encouragingly easy and serve as a makeshift tutorial for the new player; soon, a comfortable rhythm of gradually increasing difficulty and clever puzzling has been established. But then...BLAM! A level whose answer makes no sense at all. At least not to me. So then, with the help of a magical puzzle genie (or, *cough*, a walkthrough), you find the solution. And you go on, and you're lulled into a sense of security with a few nicely thought-out levels....BLAM! It happens again! It's a real roller-coaster ride, folks.

It's really too bad, too, because about 80% of N is a lot of fun. Still, perhaps the 20% that I find aggravatingly difficult will be cotton candy and fairy dust to you. Prove me wrong. Seriously, please prove me wrong. Level 17 is driving me batty.

Play N Riddle Game


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Rating: 4.1/5 (91 votes)
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PsychotronicNanotubeSlakinov's Nanotube is a stylish action game that tasks you with preventing an army of colored orbs from escaping the center of a circle. You have control of a wall of segments at the perimeter of that circle, and you must block each orb with a wall segment of the same color. The [right] arrow moves your wall clockwise, and [left] moves it counter-clockwise. Each level gives you a different configuration of segments, beginning with a simple block of yellow, and eventually evolving into complex multi-colored patterns with tiny zones of impact.

Luckily, one missed orb isn't enough to kill you. As you block shots properly, a meter in the center of the screen will make its way toward the positive side. And as you miss, or block orbs with the wrong color, it will go the other way; and if it goes completely negative, then your game will end. Based on your progress, you will then receive a ranking, most of which are humiliating to some degree.

There is a level select option at the title screen, but it doesn't save your progress, so expect to start over at level one if you leave the page and come back.

Analysis: Nanotube is a satisfying treat on many levels. The orbs fly at you with a regular rhythm and pop with a musical sproing, so if you're playing well, the game will automatically play a random tune for you. If you're playing poorly, then it will sound like you're hacking at the inside of a piano with a pick-axe. It's like having your own little hostile xylophone.

The visual presentation is smart, made of thick chunks of color on a black background and featuring a surprising amount of humor in the level names. It's almost like a sub-game of Spot-the-Allusion. Nanotube will be an annoying experience for the color-blind, though, as many of the levels feature similar colors on purpose, for the sake of challenge.

The gameplay reminds me of Tempest, if only because there's a swarm of thingies coming out of the middle of a geometric shape. Nanotube is certainly intense like the arcade games from the Golden Age. You'll have to be very precise and quick after the first couple of levels, planning your next move even before the current orb hits. There's enough twists from level to level to keep you interested, even as you approach a point where you can't cope with the action any more.

The disadvantage of playing such a game on a computer keyboard is that the arrow keys are a poor way to control circular movement. Inevitably, there will be a disconnect between your mind and the action, and that's when your life meter will plunge. You get used to the control scheme, of course, just like with any rotation-oriented game; but there isn't a wide margin of error here, so the issue stood out more than usual for me. Dial controls have been out of style for over 20 years now, though, so we have to make do.

Play Nanotube


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Rating: 3.4/5 (93 votes)
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FunnyManElementsJohn Cooney (jmtb02) is back again(!) Less than a month after giving the world Grid 16, he brings us Elements for Armor Games, a high-tech cross between Breakout and his own Ball Revamped series.

From the very start, you will be pondering the limits of the human eye and brain as you attempt to make sense of the dizzying landscape that is Elements. Looking through the current level, you can see the next one beneath it, and if you peer into the depths of the background, you can even make out the level after that. This soon becomes important as you reach levels with multiple paths down and are forced to choose which one you want to take. Choose wisely, or waste time taking the long way around.

The ball can destroy bricks of its own color as you make your way to the green "go down" blocks to get to the next level. Hit special bricks to change the ball's color so that you can clear the path, but beware of the purple "go up" blocks, they'll send you back up a level, costing you precious time.

As you'd expect from jmtb02, there are a few twists. The most obvious one is the way you control the game, by clicking the mouse to freeze the action and rotate the board. Use your rotations carefully; you're not limited in how many you have, but you'll have to wait after each usage for it to recharge. As you get deeper, you'll pick up scaling and panning as well, but either will break if you hit a brick.

Analysis: With its riot of color and objects, Elements can be a bit hard on the eyes, but if you can look past that, you will be rewarded with a beautiful game. Each color of ball brings its own soundtrack and background, and while the puzzles won't leave you grasping for pen and paper, you may find yourself getting lost as you try to remember where you needed to go next.

The 25 levels of Elements are short, but satisfying, and the high score board should keep competitive types replaying for quite a while as they try to shave just a few more seconds off their time. Even if that idea doesn't interest you, the first trip down is well worth the effort, because Elements is yet another solid game from jmtb02.

Play Elements


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Rating: 3.7/5 (124 votes)
| Comments (162) | Views (48)

Jayconfined.gifFor those who enjoyed the previously reviewed Ambivalence, there's a brand new game, Confined, just released today from the same author, FonGeBooN. This appears to be a fairly standard point-and-click room escape game until you dig a little deeper. From what I can tell so far, pixel hunting is minimal (though present), instead the focus is on puzzle solving, which is always a plus when it comes to games like this. And although the author is Japanese, there doesn't appear to be any language barrier in this game, which is another plus.

Play Confined


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Rating: 4.4/5 (354 votes)
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PsychotronicShift 2The original Shift was an interesting platform game that used negative space as an entertaining hook, but it came with a few problems that ultimately made it feel unfinished and experimental. Now, Tony of Armor Games has released Shift 2, which is basically the game the first one should have been. It's not enough of a leap forward to warrant the "2" in its name, really, but it refines and expands upon the original concepts to deliver a smoother, more drinkable dose of run/jump/puzzle distraction.

Once again, you take control of a hapless research subject in a monochromatic laboratory filled with spikes and blocky architecture. Move left and right with the arrow keys, jump with [space], and shift between the worlds of black and white with—well, I won't spoil that for you. That's your first puzzle. Shifting flips your hero through the floor beneath her feet, reverses her color, and turns the entire world over. Solid black blocks become empty space, mountains become valleys, pits become towering walls. Your goal in most levels is to untangle the M.C. Escher-esque landscape into a coherent pathway and escape through the inconveniently-placed door.

This time around, you'll have to contend with a few new collectible objects. The keys that rotate large platforms are back, but now you'll encounter lightbulb icons that make otherwise impassable checkerboard bricks disappear from your path. The most impressive new feature is the arrows that alter the direction of gravity, upside-down and 90 degrees. These mean that many levels are actually eight different mazes, if you count both black and white in each of the different cardinal directions. It can get quite complicated, although there are so few levels, it never feels like Shift 2 really explores all the possibilities. But the level design is much more intricate this time around, so even though Shift 2 is a short journey, it works quite a few of your brain muscles during the trip.

The sting of brevity is made much softer by the brilliant inclusion of a fully-operational level editor. You can cobble together any sadistic, trap-filled conglomeration you like, copy the code for your creation in text form, and trade it with your friends—that is to say, us. Unlike the original, Shift 2 operates on a grid-based tile system, so levels are both easy to assemble and reliable.

Moreover, Tony has rounded out the game with achievement medals and the usual sprinkling of elbow-to-the-ribs humor. It's comforting to have the voice of a cruel mastermind accompany you while you play. It makes what would otherwise be a clever but dry adventure ring with personality. Strangely, the cosmopolitan background music of the first game has been dropped in favor of generic ambient techno, but even the author acknowledges that the new score might be annoying enough to turn off. Play your own jazz, I guess.

The glitches that plagued Shift 1 have been mostly ironed out, so all that's left is high-quality platforming fun with hopefully a wave of diabolical levels to come, once fans break open the level editor. Here's hoping another sequel comes along before too long to really shake things up. One can imagine moving platforms, enemies, tubes that work as crawl-spaces in one realm and as climbable poles in the other, all sorts of things. This is a great foundation to build upon.

Play Shift 2


| Comments (423) | Views (1)

JaySly plushieWe have another patient from The Asylum that needs a good home, won't you please help us? The JIG offices are just way too busy these days preparing for our latest competition, so no one is available to give the care and comfort to these adorable animal plushies.

As we have been doing for the last few weeks, we will give Sly 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 (March 14, 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 Sly. Good luck! =)

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: 4.8/5 (439 votes)
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PsychotronicSuper Smash Brothers BrawlSuper Smash Brothers Brawl: it has arrived. After multiple delays, countless stunning revelations, and years of speculation, the third edition of Nintendo's bizarre tribute to itself has hit store shelves. Brawl is the game that will finally settle the ultra-geeky meta-question some of us have been wondering since 1991: "Who would win? Mario or Sonic?" That's right. Sonic the Hedgehog is in, as well as Snake from the Metal Gear Solid series, more Pokemon than you can scrape off you with a forklift, and the pint-sized Olimar, commander of Pikmin. It's going to be weird, folks. Weird but wonderful.

Super Smash Brothers Brawl, of course, is a fighting game featuring a smorgasbord of characters from all over the Nintendo intellectual property universe, beating each other senseless in colorful and chaotic battles of all shapes and sizes. If you've ever played Smash Brothers Melee, or the original Smash Brothers on Nintendo 64, you know it's one of the daffiest, entertaining-est romps that anyone was ever crazy enough to put on a home video game system. You get to electrocute Link with Pikachu. You get to throw Yoshi off a cliff with Donkey Kong. You get laser swords and baseball bats and fireballs and all kinds of wonderful things, woo.

Brawl is only available for the Nintendo Wii, and we wouldn't normally feature a console game on this site. It's $50 US that could be spent on your college fund, after all. But many of you have been requesting a blurb on this game, for months now, and it has one very important feature that no other Smash Brothers title has had so far: Wi-Fi battles. Yes, this time you can fight anybody on your friend list, and early reports say that it's virtually lag-free. Just like having your internet friends in your own home, except you don't have to bring them snacks.

So this isn't a review so much as a place for JIGsters who have Brawl to exchange friend codes and hook up for online battles. If you enter somebody's friend code, and they enter yours, you can start a brawl with them any time you are both online. Nintendo's ultra-paranoid method of exchanging friend codes is lovely for one reason: you don't have to be afraid to post your code here. Nobody can hassle you unless you add them to your friend list, and you can always remove them.

If enough people here like this idea, maybe we can even have regular JIG brawls. Hope to see you all on the battlefield.

Update: David Pekar has developed a Facebook application called SmashNet, which has been getting rave reviews. It allows you to search for Smash Brothers match-ups by location and skill level. If you have a Facebook account, and you are looking for lag-free brawls and an active Brawl community, check it out here.


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Rating: 4.3/5 (24 votes)
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Spandex Force

JohnBFollowing the highly-successful footsteps of puzzle-RPG hybrid Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords, Spandex Force, from KarjaSoft, combines several match-3-style jewel swapping games with a sim-like spoof of superhero life. Patrol the city surrounding your headquarters searching for thieves and citizens in need. When you engage a bank robber or intervene to save a helpless human, a simple puzzle interface appears as your challenge to complete the task. It's a surprisingly fresh take on a rather tired genre that scores major points for wearing a wacky sense of humor on its sleeve.

spandexforce.jpgLife begins as you customize your hero's attire and general appearance. Chartreuse spandex and blaze orange eyes? Periwinkle hair and white skin? The color palette is literally your canvas and you can go as wild as you like. After creating a character you're turned loose in the city. The overworld section of the game features your base near the center of town with citizens wandering the streets and buildings within your radar. From time to time someone will need help, whether it's dodging a runaway car, avoiding falling pianos, or just rescuing cats from trees. Click on distressed humans to launch a puzzle minigame. There are several match-3 games contained in Spandex Force, each one a slight variation on the Bejeweled formula. Whether you're swapping tiles, choosing groups of them or making matches to earn points to use special abilities, the goal is always the same: win the puzzle, win as a superhero.

Swapping tokens offers more of a reward than just saving an old lady's cat. You also earn gold, reputation points and clue points during these mini-games. Use the cash to buy new superpowers, upgrade your headquarters, or equip yourself with spiffy gear. Reputation points are similar to gaining levels in an RPG and allow you to take on bigger crimes, badder bosses, and uncover more goodies in the city. Clue points help you solve big heists as you continually quest for the root of evil in fair Vigilance Valley.

spandexforce2.jpgAnalysis: Spandex Force bends genres quite well, keeping the superhero management aspects to a minimum and puzzle elements short, simple and sweet. Its obvious inspiration is Puzzle Quest, but Spandex Force differentiates itself by spinning its mechanics around a wacky superhero concept. You won't find the level of depth, long-term reward or level of addiction Puzzle Quest delivers, but you will find a great game that tries (and succeeds) in doing something slightly new for the casual genre. Plus you'll laugh. Laughing is fun.

Unfortunately one of the downfalls of Spandex Force is its visual presentation. The game lacks any sort of pizazz beyond the stylized comic book-style drawings, and the developers cut so many corners it starts to show. Part of this lends a sort of campy charm (which fits the game's theme), but presentation can make or break a game, and Spandex Force doesn't push itself as a winner from this standpoint.

Another quibble is a tendency towards repetition. Sure, match-3 puzzles can be fun in small doses, but when it's your main course served over and over again, you'll long for something different. Fortunately the game keeps things moving at a fast clip to avoid going stale, but after some quality time with Spandex Force you'll be ready for a break from gem swapping.

While it doesn't excel in any particular field, Spandex Force takes a sharp jab into unfamiliar territory and manages to create something new and interesting. You won't find as satisfying of an experience as Puzzle Quest, but the irreverent humor and tasteful blend of genres will definitely draw you in.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


| Comments (23) | Views (4)

Weekend Download

JohnBShe is tolerable, I suppose. But she is not handsome enough to tempt me. Bingley, I am in no humour to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. Go back to your partner and enjoy her smiles. You're wasting your time on me. Just give me a few Weekend Download games and that's all I could ever need.

countmontecristo.jpgThe Count of Monte Cristo (Windows/Mac, 47MB, demo) - A new hidden object adventure based on the Alexander Dumas novel of the same name, The Count of Monte Cristo follows (loosely) the same mystery/crime-tinted footsteps of Cate West - The Vanishing Files and Miss Teri Tale while sticking fairly close to hidden object convention. Investigate suspects to determine who is guilty while finding items and playing mini-games in-between stages. It's a lengthy and challenging item hunter with unique locations and an engaging setting.

sevenminutes.gifSeven Minutes (Windows, 2MB, free) - From Virtanen, creator of Kaipuu and Painajainen, comes another simple yet meaningful YoYoGames' GameMaker project. Seven Minutes puts you in the shoes of a creature who has seven minutes to live. How would you spend your time? Striving to complete the game? Exploring each screen thoroughly? The game lasts exactly seven minutes, so you'll soon find out...

tohellinahamper.jpgTo Hell in a Hamper (Windows/Mac/Linux, <1MB, free) - A one-room text adventure game starring Professor Pettibone, Victorian balloonist who can't seem to reach an altitude of 20,000 feet. Soon he and his companion will be burned by an erupting volcano, so naturally its your job to save their hides. The puzzles are light, the pacing is brilliant, and the humor is... humorous! Nominated and recipient of several Interactive Fiction awards, so you know it's good. You'll need an interpreter to play the game, so grab the appropriate one before downloading the game file: Gargoyle (Windows), Spatterlight (Mac OS X), Zoom (Unix). Instead of downloading the game, you can also play it right in your browser window. But, you know, it's not the same.

doomrl.gifDoomRL (Windows/Linux, 2MB, free) - Remember ASCII-character-based roguelike RPGs? Remember Doom, the first person shooter? Remember that Weekend Download where we featured a Doom game rendered as a roguelike? (Hint: It's the one you're reading.) Imagine the gore-filled carnage of Doom flattened, pixelated, simplified, pixelated again and turned into characters on your keyboard. Poof, it's DoomRL. It's a concept so strange you just have to try it.


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Rating: 4.6/5 (40 votes)
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Jasper's Journeys

JohnBJasper's Journeys is a downloadable platform game for Windows and Mac OS X created by Lexaloffle Games. It plays much like an old-school sidescroller where exploration is essential, power-ups are sparse, speed is often encouraged, and secret areas are plentiful. In many ways it's similar to Brad Borne's The Fancy Pants Adventure games (or even Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario Bros, or Jazz Jackrabbit), though with a decidedly different atmosphere and updated look and feel.

jaspersjourneys.jpgJasper's cat, Orlando, has been nabbed by a not-so-nice witch who intends on using him as ingredient in an evil potion. Our flowing-haired hero sets out on a journey to save his feline friend, pitting him against strange fantasy enemies with nothing more than fruit-powered magic discs as a weapon. Use the [left] and [right] arrow keys to move, [Z] to jump and [X] to attack. You can also use a gamepad, which makes the experience all the more sweet.

Most of your time playing Jasper's Journeys will be spent collecting fruit and gems, the former supplying ammo, the latter coinage to buy game saves and items. You'll also pick up shields to protect you against monsters and gather golden orbs in each stage to gain access to secret treasure rooms. Explore each level as thoroughly as you can, taking different paths, backtracking, and trying out extremely difficult jumps. It seems like there's always something new to discover, whether it's a hidden room full of gems or just a few pieces of fruit tucked in an out-of-the-way space. Finding these treasures is half the fun of the game.

jaspersjourneys2.jpgAnalysis: Overall, Jasper's Journeys is a simple and surprisingly straightforward game (in terms of mechanics and design) that caters to gamers who grew up with Sonic and Mario as their heroes. The visuals are superb, capturing that retro feel we love so dearly but updating it for our graphics-spoiled eyes to enjoy. Music is missing from much of the game, which lends a rather somber backdrop to the adventure. I found myself craving a deliciously retro tune now and again, nothing too intrusive, just something to add the very slightest bit of lightheartedness to the experience.

When you first play Jasper's Journeys the controls will feel sluggish and maybe a bit sticky. The physics aren't immediately intuitive, adding a very slight learning curve to controlling our red-haired hero. Mastering a platform game means mastering the nuances of the controls, however, so one should take it as being a part of the game, not necessarily an obstacle to enjoying it. The action really heats up after ten or so levels, so if you were worried about not having a good challenge, think again.

One drawback to having a game with so many secrets is that you are often overwhelmed with things to do. On several occasions I found myself wanting a little more streamlined and, dare I say, linear progression. Secret rooms are fantastic, hidden gems are wonderful things to uncover, but sometimes I wanted that old feeling of accomplishment that can only be had by completing a stage. Sure, if you stick to the high ground and keep moving right you'll eventually get the exit, but I still want to find a few casual secrets along the way. It's a balance Jasper's Journeys gets right about three-quarters of the time.

Jasper's Journeys is a game of playful exploration and platforming timing and reflex action. A great treat for fans of classic side-scrolling games, but an excellent title anyone will enjoy.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 4.6/5 (52 votes)
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JohnBCobacoliTonypa has just released a new, updated version of the physics-based puzzle game Cobacoli. Each level presents you with a group of colored circles and a simple goal: clear the board by knocking each into a like-colored wall. Aim the white circle with the mouse and click to send it flying. Each time it touches a colored wall, you lose a shot. Run out of shots and it's game over, but perform well and you'll net bonus shots that can be saved for later use. You can't control the velocity of the cue ball, only the direction, so take aim wisely and cross your fingers.

The biggest improvement in the update is 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.

Check out our full review of the game, or just dive right in now.

Play Cobacoli


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JayDub plushieWe have another winner to announce today, but before we do we want to thank everyone for participating in our drawings! You guys rock! Keep the great comments coming, we read each and every one and we appreciate all the kind words of support!

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

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


| Comments (27) | Views (2)

Link Dump Fridays

JohnBBut the man he brought with him, Mr. Darcy as he calls himself, is not worth our concern though he may be the richest man in Derbyshire! The proudest, the most horrid, disobliging ... He slighted poor Lizzy, you know, and flatly refused to stand up with her. And furthermore, I hear he enjoys each and every Link Dump Friday! Such a disagreeable man...

  • icon_blockarelli.gifBlockarelli - A simple puzzle game from the stylish puzzle craftsman Tonypa. Click groups of three or more blocks to make them vanish. Your reward, in addition to progressing to the next level, is a series of tingling bell sounds that lend an almost musical element to the experience. No Italians were harmed during the creation of this game.
  • icon_gogoufo.gifGo Go UFO - The latest from Nitrome, creator of Hot Air 2, Twang, and numerous other games. Go Go UFO is an old-style racing game where you pilot a UFO around a series of tracks.
  • icon_bridgerunner.gifBridgerunner - Weee! Time for a walk! But oh noes, a troll is on the bridge! Answer the question, laugh at the response, then continue on your merry way... until you encounter another bridge and another troll. There are two ways to play Bridgerunner: cheating on or cheating off. With cheating off you'll have a 5-10 hour walk between bridges. A real, literal 5-10 hours, but you can tap the keyboard to gain a few points during that time. With cheating on you'll snap across a new bridge in a few seconds, encountering strange troll after strange troll. Less of a game, more of an exercise in Funinonicity!
  • icon_aquarotation.gifAquarotation - Gah, stupid leaky ocean. Looks like a series of whirlpools have sprung up around the world. Fortunately a team of really smart scientists created highly advanced corks to plug them up. Only one submarine can withstand the intense rotational force, however, and you pilot that sub through twisty underwater passageways to seal the seabed.
  • icon_wulfgar.gifWulfgar - An intense sidescrolling arcade brawler along the lines of the classic Double Dragon and Final Fight games. Bash the baddies with the [ASD] keys and unleash an awesome special attack with the [spacebar].
  • JayJIG Poker Night - May 17th is coming, and when it gets here will you be playing with us in the championship tournament where we'll give away an iPod Nano and a Nintendo DS?!! All you have to do to qualify is play with us and win during one of our JIG Poker Nights! Every Saturday (4:00 PM).

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Rating: 4.2/5 (246 votes)
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PatrickBloons 3Do you like cake? Do you like double-decker cake? We are about to lay on you a triple-decker cake, with helium! When you eat this triple-decker cake, and then attempt to speak, your voice will sound squeaky and distorted. For lo, besoothe thee, from Ninja Kiwi—the creators of Bloons, More Bloons, and a variety of other highly addictive Flash games—comes the final installment of a trilogy that may well become a tetralogy if its popularity continues at this pace: Even More Bloons.

The gameplay still features the familiar and addictive dart toss: move the mouse to adjust the angle at which the monkey will throw a dart; press and hold down the button to select the force of the throw. Your objective hasn't changed either: Pop enough balloons with the darts you have to move on to the next, more challenging level.

This third installment introduces helium balloons and bounce pads. The helium balloons are encased in glass, which must be broken with a dart. Then the balloon begins to rise into the air until it runs into something, or else it just floats off the screen! Timing becomes important in this iteration, adding to the difficulty.

Analysis: Fans of the series will find plenty to like here, as well as interesting new design opportunities with the augmented level editor. The difficulty starts off fairly reasonable, but towards the end veers into insanity. In most tricky levels you can cheat a bit: just turn on unlimited darts and have at it. At least one level is going to stump anyone who can't plot trajectories in real-time: the one involving frozen helium balloons, a bounce pad, and a one-square high, two square deep opening. The previous two games train you to carefully adjust your shots, this game trains you to do so in-time, so as to catch rows of rising helium bloons. The offending level, however, throws a completely new kind of challenge at you with no prior experience: you must make a bounce at the right angle at the right time. The added dimension of control required multiplies the challenge involved. Craig Perko calls this "stacking distractions", which for a late level in a third incarnation of a Web game franchise, is all too likely.

Highly recommended for fans, the uninitiated should start with the original. If you've got mad dart skills, play Even More Bloons!

Play Even More Bloons


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Rating: 4.3/5 (118 votes)
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JaySquare-OSquarO is a logic puzzle that is reminiscent of Minesweeper, and is simple enough to pick-up and play immediately due to its similarity to other puzzles like it. And yet it feels like a fresh new puzzle all its own.

The objective is to fill all the correct circles based on the information given in each of the squares. The squares tell how many circles around it are filled. Using your ninja powers of deduction, fill in all the right squares to win. It doesn't get any simpler than that.

A variety of puzzle sizes and difficulty levels are available to tailor your game play experience to match your own personal comfort level. It's a no-frills design that minimizes the superfluous to maximize what it does well: classic puzzle gameplay.

Play SquarO

Update: The game's author just updated SquarO by adding support for "negative markers" (for when you know a circle should not be filled. To mark circles in this way, use CTRL-Click (on Mac, use Command-Click). Very nice! :)

Cheers to Tryss for suggesting this one. =)


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Rating: 4.7/5 (291 votes)
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PatrickCaravaneerWhat do you get when you put Global Warming, Peak Oil, Nuclear War and good old-fashioned oligarchy in a blender? You get Fallout meets Elite ...in a browser!

Caravaneer is a game by Dmitry Zheltobriukhov that has you playing a caravan leader in a post-apocalyptic desert, trading goods from town to town while fending off hungry raiders. It's got turn-based tactical fighting, strategic economic decision-making, and a political storyline! Tactics, economics and politics!

The interface here is a bit complicated, but it's all based on the mouse. An overworld map allows you to click in the direction you want your caravan to go. Travel carries a risk of you being attacked and takes time, which drains water, food and forage (food for your animals). The game starts you off right near the pocito town of Poca Cosa, where the sheriff gives you an inheritance of some money, an animal and a weapon. In town, you can spend that money buying supplies like water containers, first aid kids and ammo, buying goods like leather or medicine, buying different animals like mules, camels and horses, getting carts for your animals, there is a bonanza of options. You can also hire people to follow you on tour, starting with a few ragged bodyguards equipped with rifles and pistols, but eventually building the equivalent of an army regimen, replete with grenades, bazookas and high-end machine guns. There are several tabs at the bottom of the screen that allow you to manage your caravan, check out the news or the economic stats of the town you're in, and of course save and load, which you've going to be doing a lot of. It takes trial and error to really master the complexities of weight versus speed, accuracy versus damage, action points over intelligence and all the rest, but the process of learning is so rich that it's fun to lose.

Analysis: This is the game you link-drop when someone tells you Flash games will never do anything deep. Caravaneer is a full-bodied experience that recalls classics of the 80's—like Wasteland or Elite—and reincarnates them in the era of the Web. Tactical combat can be a bit of a grind sometimes, which is why I recommend running with a single player-character with 10 agility and a horse until you get a car, and avoiding most battles. There is something of a dominant strategy in the combat, where you can just get a lot of people with a decent amount of action points, give them body armor and grenades, and have at it. You're able to do that because of the economic game; you can make a killing running commodity goods and then later, oil and fuel. What is interesting is that towns will stop producing a certain commodity, such as clothes, without the dependent commodity of textiles, and prices will fluctuate based on the supply/demand of availability. The storyline involves seeding out institutional corruption in the government. The way you're able to do that is by subverting the economic levers that very institution uses to keep itself in power, and then turning those funds against it. There is a subtle, interesting message in that.

Strap up your boots and hit the road, you're in for a brutal, but rewarding journey.

Play Caravaneer

Cheers to Dzini, John, James, Mark, Dustin, Scott, Ben and Dennis for suggesting this one! =)


| Comments (33) | Views (0)

Game Design Competition #5

The deadline for CGDC5 has come and gone, and the entries are in.

Looking over the 25 entries we have so far, although impressed, we think we could be a bit more impressed. Some of the entries need a couple more coats of polish, and many of you wished you had more time to finish up and get your entries in.

The judges and sponsors have talked it over, and we have decided to allow a bit more development time by extending the competition deadline by almost 2 weeks.

New deadline: Sunday, March 16, 2008 11:59PM (GMT-4:00)

Remember, the theme of the competition is UPGRADE, so let's upgrade those entries with some polish. See you on the 16th!


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Rating: 3.8/5 (46 votes)
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ArtbegottiJig Easy, SamI can pleasantly say that aside from going to college, I've never been faced with the burden of having to pack up tons of boxes and move my home. From what I hear, it's quite a hassle, and there's no easy way to go about it, no matter how much manpower is on your side. Getting everything into boxes and into a waiting truck takes hours, and who knows how much stuff you might break.

In Jig Easy, Sam, you've got about eight minutes to move out. You'd better lift with your knees!

While your friend is at a dance competition trying to win money to pay back Ernie, the local loan shark, you've got to move all his property out of the building as quickly as possible. Fortunately, you've discovered a method of delivering furniture, appliances, and boxes of books down to the ground in helium-filled bubbles. Also, Ernie digs the beats he hears when these bubbles bounce together, so he'll gladly pay you to write some of the drum beats for the contest. But while this sounds like a cushy job, Murphy's Law seems to be working overtime today. Not only can you not park the moving truck directly underneath the window you're dropping the bubbles from, but the truck's brakes are faulty, and the truck is inching its way down the street.

Since each bounce you make can bring in some dough, you can purchase flower pots, satellite dishes, rats, and hire moving men to bounce the falling bubbles to your moving target. Unfortunately, all of these have a limited number of times you can bounce things off of them before they disappear (the workers' labor contracts seem to work the same way). Your job is to manage your funds properly, and find a way to bounce the falling packages into the truck, while still making a profit to pay back Ernie.

To play, select your bounce implement from the selections in the top-right corner of the game, then click on the building to place it in the playing field. Rats are cheap, but can only withstand one bounce before disappearing, while satellite dishes are more expensive, but can last for twelve hits. Dropping any packing bubble will cost you money as well, so be sure you have a plan for bouncing everything you can into the truck. If you can earn $1000 before the truck reaches the end of the street, you can avoid the wrath of Ernie and your friend can move out in piece (and with some extra cash in hand).

Analysis: Jig Easy, Sam is Matt Slaybaugh's third entry into our competitions, and each time he demonstrates his ability to design compelling gameplay around the theme. The "ball physics" theme of CGDC4 is demonstrated quite nicely in Jig Easy, with appliance-filled ball-shaped bubbles bouncing delightfully across a city scene.

Even with a broken truck and a handful of money to make before time runs out, the game offers one tremendous flaw that can still make the game wickedly easy: The clock, as the most expensive item in the game, has no expiration. Once one experiments with the mechanics of how the game tallies up the scores, a player can easily rack up money with a single well-placed clock (which quickly becomes many well-placed clocks). One common technique for racking up high scores is to "trap" a falling package in between several clocks, thus racking up hundreds of dollars by the second, and allowing the player to reach scores of over a quarter million dollars by the time the truck has crossed the screen. While having an invincible tool is an appealing feature, it unfortunately makes the game quite easy when used improperly.

Clockwork issues aside, Jig Easy, Sam is a very well-designed game. The goal is easy to understand, and a humorous storyline sets the background for a veritable bounce-fest. One sad part about this game is that it only lasts for one "round" and then the game is over. I think this game could be greatly improved by adding different levels that require certain tasks to be accomplished to move forward (such as bouncing the furniture into the truck, while bouncing the moldy "food" that has stood in the fridge for several years into a dumpster, etc.). Who knows, maybe your helium balloon "moving service" could become a hit in the neighborhood, with several jobs for hire.

We thank Matt for another great competition entry, and for having the creativity to name his entry using an anagram of the site's domain name. =)

Play Jig Easy, Sam


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Game Design Competition #5Gimme5gamesMochi MediaToday is the day! The deadline for our 5th Casual Gameplay Design Competition!

It's time to finish up those games and send your entry in to us before midnight tonight. Even if you have previously filled out an entry form, we still need your game SWF for judging purposes, so don't delay!

We have received only a few entries so far, and there's a lot of money up for grabs, so get your entry in NOW! :)

Please see the main competition announcement page for specifications and details about entering.


  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (83 votes)
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zxoTrigger BallWhen classifying highly addictive games, I find that most fit nicely into two lists: Games that make zxo stay up way later than he should, and Games that make zxo stay up way later than they should. Note the subtle difference. While games on the first list tend to do things like win competitions and hold spots in my Favorite Games widget on the left, games on the latter list—though they might lack something in terms of sheer awesomeness—possess some mysterious force that compels me to finish them.

Occasionally, a game may appear on both of these lists. One of the very first to do so was Tyler Glaiel's Magnetism, primarily because it contains 100(!) levels of ball-bouncing, magnetic field-inducing madness. Now, Vadim Ledyaev channels the spirit of Magnetism with Trigger Ball.

Complete a level by bumping each black orb with a smaller black ball, which is launched with a click of the mouse. You only get one shot, so use it wisely! Use your mouse to set the trajectory, and use [left] arrow and [right] arrow to adjust your starting position, if you are allowed that luxury. A check-mark will appear on each orb after it's been struck, but another hit will take it away, and all orbs must be checked before the level is complete! Trigger Ball is more than just a game of angles though, as you'll find yourself dealing with centers of magnetism, both attractive and repulsive. Later levels also add moving targets, as well as moving magnets. Scoring is a bit unusual—you earn points equal to the number of the level, but you lose one point for each shot you take. This equates to a kind of convoluted way of keeping track of the number of shots, but it works. Presumably, you lose the game if you run out of points, but the beginning levels are so easy that this becomes a non-issue.

Ever since Magnetism (and probably before, too), the concept of using attractors to guide an object to some goal has been used numerous times, and despite having a different goal and a somewhat unique launch method, Trigger Ball feels much the same as these other games—not that there's anything wrong with that. I must admit, despite my affinity for strategy games and games that put the user in control of as many aspects as possible, there's a certain pleasure to be had in just letting go and placing yourself at the whim of gravity. On the other hand, some levels here take this concept to an extreme—sometimes you can walk away from the computer, prepare the caffeinated beverage of your choice, and return to find that ball still whizzing around the unpassed level.

The level design in Trigger Ball tends toward the simplistic. Everything—balls, orbs, magnets—is circular, which both unifies and limits the game. Collisions between convex surfaces magnify differences in trajectory, thus making it harder to find that sweet spot that wins the level. Although it would add a small amount of clutter, I'd like to see more variance in the shapes and collisional properties of the goals and obstacles. Or maybe it's just the night-owl in me pining for a more Magnetism-like experience; after all, with just 41 levels, Trigger Ball isn't likely to keep anyone playing long into the wee hours. But I bet you'll wish it did.

Play Trigger Ball


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (88 votes)
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FunnyManStrandedBart Koning ("Tsuken") brought us probably the most relaxing game of CGDC4, a game he calls Stranded, in which you play as a castaway-turned-fisherman on an almost-deserted island.

You begin by visiting Hiigara, "Our Home", where you speak to the natives to learn what fish you're after and where they can be found. After that, it's off to some body of water to go fishing. Unfortunately, in your haste to get marooned, you seem to have forgotten your fishing pole, so you adopt the local custom: throw rocks at the fish! While this might at first glance appear to be an action-packed method, the soothing music and delicate timing turn it into a Zen experience: enlightenment through fishing, patience, and especially patience while missing the fifth fish in a row.

Fortunately, as you turn in fish, you gain experience which lets you train the four essential skills of the rock fisherman: knowledge, quickness, throwing, and rowing. Unfortunately, this is also the point where the atmosphere can break down. Depending on how you place your experience, you can either find yourself becoming a fishing god or wonder why you seem to be no better than when you first started. The experience given by each type of fish decreases as you catch more, so bad choices early on can make the later portions of the game tedious as you slowly build up the points to get those essential skills.

I don't think any of us would have predicted that ball physics and fishing could go well together, and playing Stranded doesn't do much to convince us otherwise. There are a few nice surprises, like the fact that you can throw a stone up into the air, where it flies farther before plunging straight down, but in the end, it doesn't quite feel like a ball physics game, just a game that happens to have a little ball physics in it.

Still, the calm atmosphere, simple but solid music, and sometimes-hypnotic gameplay definitely make for a unique and refreshing experience. It may not have taken home a prize, but it's fun to play, and that's a victory in my book.

Play Stranded


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JayDub plushieWe have another patient from The Asylum that needs a good home, won't you please help us? The JIG offices are just way too busy these days preparing for our latest competition, so no one is available to give the care and comfort to these adorable animal plushies.

We're going to give Dub 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 (March 7, 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, little adorable Dub. Good luck! =)

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.


(18 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Miss Teri Tale

JohnBMiss Teri Tale is the first installment in a planned series of mystery-themed hidden object games. In a delicate departure from the established formula, Miss Teri Tale takes on more of an adventure guise similar to the recently-released Cate West - The Vanishing Files. The subtle shift from object finding to crime solving lends a lighter focus to the experience, and the game's hip soundtrack, gorgeous scenery and slightly satiric tone complete a surprisingly polished and entertaining package.

missteritale.jpgYou play the role of mystery/suspense author Teri Tale who leaves the big city in favor of small town bliss. Unfortunately, she can't find inspiration to begin her next novel and her publisher is getting antsy. Suddenly her neighbor's prize puppy, Jason, goes missing, and Ms. Tale jumps in to investigate. To top it off, a mysterious person is sending her e-mails threatening to blackmail her if she doesn't solve the crime. With inspiration practically pounding at her door, Teri sets to work looking for clues and evidence in her very own backyard.

Staying with the journalism theme, Miss Teri Tales uses notepads, maps and newspapers to convey all the information you need to find objects and progress the story. A small scratch pad lists items you need to find in each scene, narrowing your choices to just a few objects at once. While some find this limiting, I enjoyed not having a laundry list of items thrown in my face.

Your home base, Teri's office, serves as an information center and can be visited to find clovers that serve as in-game hints. The mystery blackmailer usually has some words of "encouragement" waiting on your computer, too. And what casual game would be complete without a few minigames? Miss Teri Tales integrates them into the story quite nicely, such as using clues to decipher a keypad code to gain entrance to a house.

missteritale2.jpgAnalysis: As you move through the story and environments in Miss Teri Tales, you'll quickly realize the atmosphere is vastly different than most hidden object games. The focus has shifted from finding items to telling an interesting story, and the locations and visuals naturally grow from the strong plot. Environments are almost photo-realistic and feature small, tasteful animations (such as a dripping sink or a ringing phone) that really bring the locales to life. You'll feel just like a snooping neighbor, without the unpleasant guilty aftertaste!

It's hard to find anything other than minor flaws with this game (such as the awkward delay between clicking items). Miss Teri Tales is a light and enjoyable hidden object/crime adventure experience that isn't afraid to tweak with conventions. And it gets just about everything right.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 3.5/5
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Rating: 3.5/5 (29 votes)
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PsychotronicKoogelThe theme of Casual Gameplay Design Competition #4 was "ball physics", and you can tell that Monsterkodi (author of the excellent 3D puzzle game Kiki the Nano Bot) was taking it seriously. So very, very seriously. You see, in Koogel, you're using six medium-sized balls to indirectly manipulate a bevy of smaller balls, in order to light up a collection of even smaller balls. This all takes place on the surface of one huge ball, displayed on a screen you are watching with your eye-balls. Meanwhile, you're living on a giant ball named Earth, which is rotating around the Sun, which is also a ball. You might even be having a ball, or be tempted to bawl, like Lucille Ball. It's enough to make your head explode, man. And if your head (which is shaped kind of like a ball) is still in one piece now, it will surely detonate when you try to process Koogel's instruction screens, which are written like the directions for assembling your own NASA satellite.

No sir, Koogel's rules are not very intuitive, and the visual layout doesn't help. Every entity in the game is a mono-colored sphere, and the three numbers in the corners of the screen don't tell you anything about your goals. You could be playing an episode of Talk to the Abstract Wart-Headed Creature and it would look exactly the same. But there's an intriguing game of color-matching skill hiding behind Koogel's poker-faced exterior, and it's worth getting into, so I'm going to spend most of my time here just explaining how it works.

You control the Koogel, a screen-sized sphere festooned with smaller spheres of various purposes. Six large spheres of different colors are distributed equally around its surface. The position of the mouse pointer controls the Koogel's rotation, and that's how you move the big spheres around. There are also a number of smaller spheres which you must knock about with the big spheres in order to meet the goals of each level. The small spheres move independently of the rotation of the Koogel, and they can't move around to its back side, where you wouldn't be able to see them. If one is about to travel out of sight, it instead bounces off an invisible boundary and returns to the play field.

The game rotates through three different types of level, which the Koogel will indicate by turning three different colors. The three variations have totally different rules, so I'll explain each in detail. I'm putting these guidelines in spoiler tags, so if you want to play around with it yourself, or try to puzzle things out with the in-game instructions, you can skip right over them.

Gray Koogel:

  • Your goal here is to link all the small spheres together. They will only link up if two of the same color touch. If you hit one with a big sphere, it will change to the big sphere's color. On the first gray level, all you have to do is make the two small spheres the same color (any color will do) and knock them into each other. On higher levels, it gets more complicated, because only the spheres on the end of a chain can form new links. Once all the small spheres are united in a single chain, you win the level.

    If two small spheres of different colors collide, both of them will change color, according to a consistent system. A red ball will always turn blue, a blue ball will turn gray, and so on. The cycle is Red, Blue, Gray, Yellow, Purple, White, and then back to Red. But it might as well be random when you first start playing, because it's almost impossible to remember, and there's no on-screen reminder. If you're trying to pass the level with a low hit score (the number in the lower left keeps track of how many times you hit a small ball with a big ball) then the color order is important, but if you're just trying to pass levels, it doesn't really matter.

Red Koogel:

  • Your goal is to light up all the little gray dots between the large spheres. For example, if there's an unlit dot between the yellow sphere and the blue sphere, you need to first hit a small sphere with the yellow sphere, then with the blue sphere. Then the dot will light up so long as the small sphere was blue when the large blue sphere touched it.

    Each time you hit a small sphere with a big sphere, the small sphere changes color, according to the same rotating system as in the gray levels. So if you need a particular dot to light up, you may need to hit a small sphere several times with your first large sphere until it's the same color as the second large sphere. Once all the little dots are lit, you win the level.

Green Koogel:

  • Again, your goal is to light up all the dots. The gameplay mechanic here is sort of a combination of the other two levels. When two differently colored small spheres touch, they bond together, and then light up a dot between the two appropriate large spheres. For instance, if a red small sphere links up with a black small sphere, the dot between the red big sphere and the black big sphere will light. Change the small sphere's colors by hitting them with the big spheres just like in the gray levels.

    Dots only light up when you form new links. So usually, you'll have to break the small spheres apart a few times, which you can do by hitting them with other small spheres of the same color. If all your small spheres are already linked together in formation, you can separate them by smashing them against the invisible horizon of the Koogel.

Analysis: The fact that it took so long to write those rules out (and that it probably didn't clear things up at all) is an indication that playing Koogel isn't a matter of instinct. The goals, gameplay, controls, and interactions are all very cerebral. You won't succeed at this game by just moving stuff around randomly, no matter how much you try, and that's seldom good for a casual game.

That's especially unfortunate because Koogel can be quite absorbing, once you understand it. You're always in direct control of six moving objects, keeping track of a dizzying number of variables and vectors, and eventually it all feels miraculously natural. But the learning curve is painfully sharp for what is essentially just a simple game with really solid physics and a unique premise. To make this work for more people, there would need to be a straightforward and visual tutorial, and much more helpful on-screen indicators. There especially should be a clear reminder of the color cycle that's so important on the red stages.

I would suggest a total overhaul of the visual presentation, except there's nothing exactly wrong with the minimalist look it has now. It's just unfriendly and distancing, which means that a lot of players didn't take the time to get to know this entry when the contest was going on. Give it another try. At worst, it will be just as confusing as the first time around, and at best, you'll discover a new and fascinating test of hand-eye co-ordination. It tickles a part of my brain that nothing else ever has, and that's enough for me to recommend it wholeheartedly.

Play Koogel


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Weekend Download

JohnBA very special treat reaches lucky gamers this weekend: a mini-release from Nifflas, author of Within a Deep Forest and both Knytt games. KnyttNano isn't much more than two tiny experiments Nifflas cooked up while trying out new ideas, so don't expect a life-shattering sequel-sized experience, just two pieces of playable art to pass the time!

sparkle.jpgSparkle (Windows/Mac, ~28MB, demo) - Another gorgeous game from MythPeople (Azkend), Sparkle builds an amazing audio/visual package and places epic items around a simple marble-popper puzzle game. The usual color matching orb firing mechanics apply, but on your quest to restore light to Crowberry Woods, you'll discover amulets and power-ups that grant game-altering abilities that are a blast to unleash. The music is an epic affair that rivals Carl Orff in terms of grandeur, and with the fantasy theme it wouldn't be out of place in a Harry Potter movie, either. Just as breathtaking as Azkend, this is how the gods of ancient mythology would play a match three game.

knyttnano.gifKnytt Nano (Windows, 5MB, free) - No, it's not an Apple-endorsed Knytt game for a certain music player we may or may not be familiar with. Knytt Nano is a mini-release from Nifflas with two experimental games that are tiny but, as one would expect, loads of fun. The usual running climbing and jumping Knytt fare is here, but the world is different and story quite unique.

GravitationGravitation (Windows/Mac/Linux, ~2MB, free) - The latest autobiographical meditation from Jason Rohrer, creator of Passage and Cultivation. Much more of a game than his previous two works, Gravitation has you struggling with the frigid stagnation and flaming mania of the creative process as you jump (with the Space bar) through rabid flights of fancy, pulling down enough ideas to put to work, and recharging with some father-daughter bonding. It uses constriction of jumping ability and field of vision to form the constraints of this cycle, and succeeds both as a game and a work of art, though in different ratio to Passage.

neverball.jpgNeverball (Windows/Mac/Linux, 10-20MB, free) - Part puzzle, part action, Neverball is one of those "tilt the game world to maneuver the marble through the stage". Disorienting at first, but with careful mouse tactics you'll be collecting coins like a pro in no time. Also included in the download is Neverputt, a multiplayer miniature golf game using the physics and graphics of Neverball.

outoforder.jpgOut of Order (Windows, 8.5MB, free) - You wake in the middle of the night to discover you've been kidnapped. And so has your bedroom. Adventure games may have taken a backseat to flashier titles in modern times, but that wasn't always the case. Out of Order is a classic adventure of a "late" revival (late being 2003) of the genre that packs more humor per pixel than legally allowed. largely created by tim furnish It's a Windows-only game, but the system requirements are so low anyone with a Mac + Bootcamp or Linux + Wine will be able to easily enjoy.

returntosector9.jpgReturn to Sector 9 (Windows, 11MB, free) - Classic arcade shooting in top form, Return to Sector 9 features nine different modes, 15 ships to pilot and tons of weapons to fire and aliens to blast. Each ship has its own special weapon, and its your job to learn which game mode each ship works best in.


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (62 votes)
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Escape from Paradise

JohnBEscape from Paradise (Windows/Mac) is a simulation/adventure game similar to Westward and Virtual Villagers where you lead shipwrecked castaways on a quest to build a tropical paradise. The interesting twist is the inclusion of minigames that help you earn supplies as well as distract you while your villagers work. It's an intriguing genre-bending concept that puts you in the role of resource manager and resident puzzle solver, and despite its not-so-polished presentation, pulls it off quite well.

escapefromparadise2.jpgThe first question I found myself asking: if this is paradise, why bother escaping from it? Around fifty passengers of a cruise ship have been stranded on this island, so I guess they're pining to get back to their posh lives of pressed polo shirts and bits of things stacked on crackers served on shiny trays. You begin with just a few castaways and a couple of run-down huts. One of the tiki mask-clad natives appears to guide you, saying that if you harvest 50 wood you'll get a surprise. Axe in hand, select your villagers with the mouse and drag them to some trees to start chopping.

As you accomplish goals set by the tiki folk you'll uncover almost 20 minigames. Some are found by exploring the island, others as a natural progression of the game. While the villagers build and harvest, set your synapses on simple games like Word Jumble, Chinese Checkers, and Towers of Hanoi, all of which earn you a handful of food and wood. You also get skill points which can be used to upgrade your castaways' proficiency in carpentry, wood chopping, and providing for the village. In addition to managing resources and minigames, you'll also need to keep an eye on each villager's needs, such as hunger, thirst, and overall happiness.

escapefromparadise1.jpgAnalysis: Ok, let's get this one out of the way: Escape from Paradise versus Virtual Villagers. The similarities aren't subtle, as both share a common story theme and setting, but these games really are two different animals. Escape from Paradise lays out challenges on a map, making progression smooth and linear by comparison. Its heavy emphasis on minigames makes it more varied than its counterpart, though it does break the immersion factor Virtual Villagers happily provides.

Standing on its own, Escape from Paradise pulls all of these disparate shards of casual genres together into a very entertaining final product. The interface and visuals are a little rough around the edges and could use some buffing up, but that doesn't detract from the game too much. The minigames are a nice addition to the village sim genre and are playable from the main menu, adding some replay value to the game. Unfortunately they're all rehashes of games we've seen before, but at least they weren't butchered beyond playability.

The game is a bit slow-paced, especially at the beginning, and relies on gathering materials to lengthen the overall experience. Fortunately the minigames allow you to pass the time, but even with the occasional word jumble you'll long for an in-game speed throttle.

A great addition to the village sim world and a light-hearted way for simulation newbies to ease into the genre.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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

Escape from Paradise is available to download from these affiliates:
(Note: Mac version is only available through Big Fish Games)
Arcade TownBig Fish Games

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