May 2008 Archives


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Out of Your Mind

ArtbegottiAre you anxious? Nervous? Fidgety? Are you tired, listless, unpopular, and poop out at parties? Do you have any strange quirks or behaviors that you just can't explain? Forget Vitameatavegemin, the best way to cure these problems is by getting rid of Nega-Tics in your brain with a simple process known as Mental Flossing.* The Blissful Brain Holistic Luxury Spa is now open for business, and can help you drive these annoying Nega-Tics Out of Your Mind...

outofyourmind.jpgSo goes the premise behind GameLab and Curious Pictures' game, appropriately titled Out of Your Mind. You play the role of the spa's newest employee, helping patients rid their brain of festering Nega-Tics and nasty brain gunk. While your clients may end up walking away with a new lease on life, something suspicious is going on between your employers, Belinda Blissful and Dr. Stroganoff...

In each level, you'll find some brain gunk and some Nega-Tics to be cleaned up. Nega-Tics are pesky little critters that come in a variety of forms, each with their own personalities and abilities. To clean the brain gunk, click on one of the colored spools of mental floss provided for you, and drag the line to thread a Nega-Tic of the same color. Then, form a loop around the gunk on the ground to clean it up. Remember that the loop must not have any other Nega-Tics inside it, or else the cleaning can't take place.

You'll quickly get the hang of mental flossing and the quirks of the Nega-Tics, but as you dig deeper into each patient's mind, more obstacles will hamper your efforts. Colored gunk can only be cleaned up by the matching colored thread. Mental blocks in the brain act as barriers to work around, sometimes creating a maze to trace or dividing the brain into separate compartments. Nega-Tics that are left to grow too large will explode in a blast of brain gunk. And to top it all off, Mega Nega-Tics can plague your clients by the dozen, and require extra efforts to floss out.

Don't worry though, there's help on your side! If you can floss up at least five Nega-Tics on one thread and form a loop, a Posi-Tic will appear in the brain. Each Posi-Tic has its own abilities, from the game-freezing power of the StaTic to the deep-cleansing scrubbers of the TherapeuTic. Use each Posi-Tic wisely to help clean the brain and eliminate the Nega-Tics.

outofyourmind2.jpgAnalysis: It's interesting to think that about a decade ago, GameLab first introduced us to a game called Loop, which made one of the first displays of the use of drawn lines as a gameplay tool (in a browser game). Over the years, many other games have used a similar mechanic, such as Line Rider and Nitrome's Scribble, and it's nice to see it finally come around full-circle once again in another GameLab game.

However, this "string theory" is nowhere near perfect. You need to learn how the floss works rather quickly, because there are some slight flaws in the system. Threading a Nega-Tic right next to your spool sometimes registers as a loop right away, even if you haven't made one. Stopping and starting while pulling a thread can also have a similar effect. Nega-Tics and Mega Nega-Tics can be pushed around using the tip of the floss, but sometimes, they may jump over the floss line, ruining your empty loop.

Despite these problems, the game still overflows with fun. It's clear that the designers of the game had a fun time designing all of the Nega-Tics and their quirky behaviors. While some levels might get frustrating after a few tries, I assure you, every level is beatable. And after you've cleared all of the levels once, the addition of the "Expert Times" gives you a second gunk-clearing challenge. If you want more of an endurance challenge, Try "Neverending Nega-Tics" and see how long you can last against constantly appearing brain gunk. With over 70 levels of gameplay, you'll probably be flossing for a long time.

So put on your rubber gloves, grab some floss, and get that gunk Out of Your Mind!

*Disclaimer: JayisGames.com does not recommend putting anything larger than your elbow in your ear.

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

JohnBAah, text adventures, interactive pieces of fiction that take you on journeys few graphical titles could hope to match. Games such as Colossal Cave Adventure and Zork defined the genre many years ago, but thanks to open source development languages, the interactive fiction community is still alive and thriving to this day. This edition of weekend download highlights a few notable IF titles. All you need is a computer and the ability to read English and you're good to go!

Note: To play the games below you'll need the file itself as well as an interpreter for your operating system: Gargoyle for Windows, Spatterlight for Mac, and Xoom for Linux are all excellent choices. All downloads are less than 1MB and are free.

  • Delightful Wallpaper (by Andrew Plotkin) - Delightful Wallpaper walked away with several awards in the 2006 Xyzzy competition, including best writing and best puzzles. You play a "conceptual entity" carrying a notepad examining and readying the mansion for an impending drama. The game has a wonderfully crisp narrative with an unusual main character who interacts with the world (or doesn't interact, rather) in unusual ways.
  • The Traveling Swordsman (by Mike Snyder) - A journey in three chapters that begins in a simple field where the tall grass seems to hide something of interest. What really captured me was the game's simplicity and palpable setting. You can almost feel the grass-scented wind in your hair. The first few puzzles are very straightforward, no wandering around endless corridors searching for one last item. What keeps you plugging forward is the sense of mystery the text conveys so well.
  • Galatea (by Emily Short) (play online) - No foray into the realm of interactive fiction would be complete without playing this game. Created by Emily Short, Galatea retells the myth of Pygmalion, the sculptor whose statue came to life. It's just you and Galatea in this one room game, but interacting with her is as complex, interesting and rewarding as any game out there. There are no puzzles, per se, just intricate conversations where moods change, answers vary, and the conversation progresses to one of a number of conclusions.
  • The Elysium Enigma (by Eric Eve) - As a diplomat, it's your job to remind the natives that the Empire hasn't forgotten about them. However, with an interstellar war threatening to rear its head, your routine visit carries a bit more weight. The Elysium Enigma is a sci-fi themed game with a complex, interwoven plot filled with danger and espionage.

  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (669 votes)
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JayDaymare Town 2We are beginning to think that Mateusz Skutnik never sleeps anymore with the never-ending string of game releases we've been seeing coming from him and his talented Pastel Stories crew. Case in point, and back by popular demand, we can now put our point-and-click fingers to work with a sequel to his well-received Daymare Town, previously reviewed last summer.

Daymare Town 2 returns you to the daytime nightmare of a place complete with new puzzles to solve, new characters to meet, more creepy creatures peering at you around corners, and more items to find (this time he has you looking for coins). The place has an unsettling atmosphere and it's a bit scary, so make sure you play it late at night.

You can't help but enter this freaky town, but can you escape from it?

Mateusz sends word that this latest game sports his newest, slickest game engine ("the float ver.1.0") that will be used for most of his upcoming games.

Play Daymare Town 2

Play the entire Daymare Town series...

Similar games:


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (39 votes)
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Women's Murder Club: Death in Scarlet

JohnBBased on the James Patterson novels (and the subsequent television spin-off), Women's Murder Club: Death in Scarlet is a murder mystery wrapped in an adventure game spiced with light hidden object scenes and a few simple minigames. Investigating crimes is the central focus of gameplay, with heaping doses of clue sniffing, murder scene scrutinizing, and some light labwork here and there to keep the story moving along. You don't need to be a fan of the series to enjoy the game, and even if you are, Women's Murder Club: Death in Scarlet weaves a completely new tale (penned by Patterson) that stays faithful to the original characters' personalities. This time, however, you're in charge.

womensmurderclub.jpgWith each crime you're presented a scene with a small list of objects to find and points of investigation to cover. Not only will you need to grab items, you'll also examine the body and a few key points of interest in the murder scene. The interesting twist is that you play different characters, each with specialized knowledge that will uncover new facts in the case. Everything you discover is catalogued in evidence and information tabs that can be reviewed at any time.

Many scenes come with a simple inventory puzzle that pulls the object finding into an adventure-style riddle. In the first investigation, for example, you must locate items to block holes in a rock so you can capture a key item from a feisty crab. Simple, but an effective diversion from the streamlined pattern of the game. The rest of the game is divided between short dialogue sequences, quick mini-games that are integrated into your investigation, and character specific tasks. Claire, for example, spends a lot of time in the lab mixing chemicals to discover the type of poison used on a victim.

womensmurderclub2.jpgAnalysis: Hidden object adventure games are the new bag, and titles such as Miss Teri Tale, Cate West - The Vanishing Files, and Agatha Christie: Peril at End House set a high bar for aspiring crime-themed games to reach for. Women's Murder Club: Death in Scarlet comes across as a smartly written, interesting, and altogether fun casual game that divides its focus brilliantly between adventure, mystery, and minigames.

As far as the hidden object chunk of the game goes, items are usually easy to find and a hint system can give you a nudge if necessary. You aren't timed, and mis-clicks offer no penalty, so take your time and use the mouse button liberally. Objects are usually quite small and difficult to pinpoint, but at least your poor eyes aren't sifting through several hundred images to find what you need, just scrutinizing groups of pixels here and there.

Production values are suitably high, with a nice visual presentation underscored by a good soundtrack. The only real downer in Women's Murder Club: Death in Scarlet is that the uniqueness wears off pretty quickly as chemical mixing, object finding and rote labwork become little more than chores. Click here, click there, fill in the check marks and you're done, there's little challenge and no reason to complete the tasks other than obtaining the information.

A good genre-bender that reels you in with intrigue and keeps you hungry for more.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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

Women's Murder Club is available to download from these affiliates:
Arcade TownBig Fish Games


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (165 votes)
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JayApplicateOn has just released a brand new game over at his Eyezmaze blog, and it's a sign that he's feeling well and back to his usual self. Applicate is a unique and original puzzle game with unusual rules. I won't spoil it by explaining it here since there are, at present, only 5 levels and the thrill of discovery is part of the fun.

Thank you, On! Please give us more levels as soon as you can.

Play Applicate


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Link Dump Fridays

JohnBDoo doo doo doo, doo-doo, do-Wah! It doesn't matter what comes, fresh goes better in life, and Link Dump Friday is fresh and full of life. Nothing gets to you, staying fresh staying cool, with Link Dump Friday, fresh and full of life. Fresh goes better, Link Dump Friday freshness, fresh goes better with Link Dump Friday, fresh and full of life!

Link Dump Friday, the freshmaker!

  • icon_nanowar.gifNano War - A simple Risk-like game with a slight real time strategy slant. Click on one of your purple cells to send half its number to any green cell. Defeat green by overwhelming it with attacks. If King Mania were a simplified Flash game, it might be something like this.
  • icon_gogoplant.gifGo Go Plant - One of those basic "duck, jump, avoid" sidescrolling reflex games, but with a wacky cartoon slant. Instead of simply jumping over, say, gigantic dragonflies, your character, a potted plant, grows a propeller and flies in the air. It's fast-paced and will take several tries to work through each stage, but it's worth the effort and just wacky enough to hold your attention.
  • icon_boomblox.gifBoom Blox - A free Flash sampler of the Steven Spielberg-produced Wii game Boom Blox. Click on blocks to throw a ball and send the structure toppling to the ground. Try and keep the dark ones from falling off-screen or touching the ground, and smack the bonus blocks for extra goodies. The goal is to eliminate all of the blue cubes. Don't speak German? Just start clicking, you'll get the hang of it.
  • icon_getsmarttd.gifGetSmart Control Defense - Built to promote the upcoming GetSmart movie, this game pulls film references together into a nice little tower defense title. Build structures to stop the onslaught of Kaos operatives and keep your control center safe. Use cash to upgrade and buy new towers to defeat an increasing variety of baddies.
  • icon_platformracer2.gifPlatform Racing 2 - A multiplayer racing/platforming game, complete with power-ups, exploding blocks, and online opponents you must defeat. Customize your character and head out into the world to begin the mad dash for the goal!

  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (141 votes)
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JayMystery of Time and SpaceFor room escape fans, Jan Albartus, the grand-daddy of all room escape games, has added an all-new level to his continuing series, Mystery of Time and Space (MOTAS). Fans of the genre will already know that this series has been around since 2001, quite a lot longer than most people have even known about room escape games.

For the uninitiated, MOTAS is the original, the blueprint from which so many (too many?) others have tried to follow. What sets MOTAS apart from most, however, is that its puzzles are generally original, rooted in logic and not in exasperating pixel-hunts.

But why are we repeatedly placed into the scenario of being in a room with no apparent escape? To unlock the mysteries of time and space, of course! You see, in order to perceive the mysteries of the universe, we must first be stripped of our own memories and experiences so that we may see the bigger picture. That's the role you play in MOTAS: a human with unique abilities capable of seeing parallel universes and who has agreed to help further our understanding of life as we know it.

Analysis: The interface and graphics remain much the same as they were back in 2001, and yet resemble much of what we've come to expect from the genre even today. The interface has grown over the years to include some pretty tasty features. For example, the new "full screen" feature scales everything to fit the size of your monitor, filling it to the brim with escape-the-room goodness. This feature may also help solve some puzzles, so be aware that it's there. Graphics and interface aside, though, the appeal of MOTAS is definitely the puzzles.

One significant shortcoming is the lack of an integrated level select that allows you to skip past levels. Jan explained to me that he purposely does not provide this capability because he wishes everyone to play through his rooms in sequence. After you solve a room, the next room is unlocked for you, and you can skip directly to it next time you play by clicking on the floppy disk in the game's menu. However, for those of us who have already played the game a long time ago and who may not have the saved game files still present on our computers, or for those who get stuck on one room and wish to just skip it rather than have to resort to a walkthrough, cheats, or to stop playing entirely, a level select feature is sorely needed. In other words, don't expect to pick up the game and play only the latest level unless you have all 19 completed MOTAS levels still saved in your Flash local storage; you'll have to play through them all again first.

And one slight disappointment is with the newest level itself, Level 20. Although it continues along the same logical path of the others to come before it, I felt the level was just a little too easy and fell into the trap of including puzzles that feel all-too-familiar. Innovation and originality were clearly not the motives for the latest level of MOTAS. It was, none the less, enjoyable to play as is the case with the entire series.

Still, MOTAS continues to entertain and delight puzzle fans to this day, and continues to be updated periodically by its gifted and loving creator. Fans of room escape games simply can't go wrong to

Play Mystery of Time and Space

Note: MOTAS was previously reviewed here at JIG in 2005, and again in 2007, in case you're interested in looking back over the comments.

Virtual Villagers 3 Walkthrough

pineappleWe have just finished a massive walkthrough guide for
Virtual Villagers 3: The Secret City. This Hint-through guide will provide gentle nudges in the right direction to help you get the most from your experience with the latest Virtual Villagers game. Be warned: This guide does contain some spoilers, so proceed with caution and as a last resort!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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

For those who require more than just hints and nudges, you will find a more complete walkthrough and strategy guide available in the comments section below.


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (473 votes)
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 Virtual Villagers 3: The Secret City

JohnBVirtual Villagers is back, and we're so excited we couldn't wait until the weekend to tell you! With Virtual Villagers 3: The Secret City, the surprisingly addictive real-time simulation game sticks with its proven formula and makes a few minor tweaks to freshen up gameplay. With new secrets to uncover, new technologies, real-time weather effects and a whole new island to explore, Virtual Villagers 3 has all the ingredients that made the first games so compelling, plus more.

virtualvillagers3.jpgThe people of Isola have prospered over the years, but they're quickly outgrowing their villages. A small group sets out over the sea to find a new part of the island to inhabit. A mighty storm hits and blows the raft off course, setting your people in the ruins of a once-great city. Explore the new corner of Isola, rebuild the structures rotting on the land, and unravel the mysteries within.

If you're unfamiliar with the Virtual Villagers series, here's the scoop. Your goal is to help the village thrive by keeping its occupants fed, healthy, happy, and busy. Train villagers to perform tasks by dragging and dropping them onto different areas on the map. Placing a character over berries, for example, sets him or her to harvest food, while dropping someone on an unfinished structure puts them to work building. As each villager performs a task, his or her skill in that area increases, creating a faster, more efficient worker than before. Technologies can also be researched to give your villagers more powerful skills that make your job easier to accomplish. They're also the key to uncovering over a dozen hidden secrets of the ancient ruins...

Virtual Villagers takes place in real-time, meaning even when you aren't playing the game your villagers are eating, drinking, gathering food and carrying out other assigned tasks. If you leave them alone for too long, you'll return to find starving villagers or worse, a town full of skeletons. This creates a wonderful virtual pet kind of feeling and makes you want to hop on and check your villagers' progress several times a day. It's great for short spurts of gaming and has loads of replay value.

virtualvillagers3-2.jpgThe third game in the series doesn't mess with the established formula, keeping the drag and drop interface and basic tasks unchanged. The technologies are tweaked slightly, and new Nature and Magic factions allow you to increase food production or scientific research, altering the flow of the game. One fun new feature in Virtual Villagers 3 is real-time weather effects such as rain, clouds, fog, thunder and sunshine. These play a role in uncovering the game's secrets and can cause your villagers to change their behavior, such as scampering for cover when it begins to rain. There's even an in-game achievement system that rewards you for hitting certain milestones.

Analysis: It's no secret that Virtual Villagers is one of the most entertaining and loved casual game series around. The combination of simple but rewarding village management tasks, real-time gameplay and long-term mysteries to be solved creates a strong bond between player, game, and villagers. The result is something you can't wait to check up on a dozen or more times throughout the day and keep playing week after week. The down side to this consistent gameplay is that many times you'll run out of things to do. Often you'll set a few villagers to work and run out of tasks, forcing you to take a break even though you just got started.

Play all the Virtual Villagers games:

Virtual Villagers 3 shows some improvements over previous games in the series, but I feel it's evolving a bit too slowly. Some crucial villager management tools — like the ability to zoom or group multiple people to assign tasks — are still missing, and when compared to the first two games the engine is practically identical. The series could use a little stirring up at this point, though the third installment doesn't show any signs of going stale. Graphical refinement is by far the most needed upgrade, as the tired visuals and jerky animations are showing their age the third time around.

Virtual Villagers 3: The Secret City is more of the same casual strategy from previous games, which is definitely a good thing. Whether you're a Virtual Villagers veteran or a new player looking for something unique, engaging and fun, this game is sure to captivate you for weeks on end.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (326 votes)
| Comments (87) | Views (514)

Joshrobokill_screen1Those of you Crimsonland fanatics are in for a treat. And if you've never heard of Crimsonland or the RIP series (top-down [WASD] shooters), you're in for an even bigger treat. Rock Solid Arcade's newest release, Robokill, is an extremely well-polished shooter game that's as fun to play as it is easy to learn. You play the role of a mercenary robot hired to investigate and eradicate the hostile forces that have taken over Titan Prime, a space station orbiting Mars. On arrival, you're dropped off in the first level of the station, equipped with dual miniguns attached to your shoulders. Sound enticing? It only gets better...

Each level of the station features around two dozen rooms where all the action takes place. You have a mission objective in each level (such as destroying a particular target or finding a vital component to progress). Your job is to blast through room after room, destroying everything that gets in your way, all while gaining experience to boost your stats, and finding money and upgrades to enhance your robot. Any fan of top-down shooters will embrace the familiar controls instantly: [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move and the mouse aims and shoots. For those of you not familiar with this style of shooter gameplay, you have a top-down view with the ability to move in all directions while simultaneously aiming with the mouse and shooting enemies while you move. As always in this kind of game, if you stand still, you die. Veteran players know the key to staying alive is to keep moving, especially in a game like this where most of the enemies fire projectiles back at you. The key is keeping a bead on your enemies as you fire at them while strafing around the room to dodge incoming fire. Luckily some of the rooms in Robokill provide non-destructible cover for you to hide behind if things get too hot. On the other hand, lots of barriers can be destroyed, sometimes revealing items or traps.

Each room in a level is kind of like its own mini-level. Once you enter a room, all the doors around and behind you slam shut and won't open again until you've destroyed everything in the room. Enemies are varied and unique, with a decent AI. Some enemies like little robot spiders merely chase you around, trying to damage you by exploding on impact. But most of the enemies are equipped with some heavy firepower, from mini-gunners to rocket launchers to flying drones, there's a sizable array of bots trying to take you down. There's even some stationary turrets thrown in for good measure. As you blast apart these enemy bots, you'll need to collect drops such as shield power-ups, wads of cash and even new weapons and items (more info on these later). In some rooms, enemies spill out of spawning nodes that resemble holes. Even though there's only a limited number of enemies in each node (eventually they run dry), you'll want to destroy them as quickly as possible or you'll find yourself overrun and out-gunned.

robokill_screen2As mentioned, each level consists of around a couple dozen inter-connecting rooms, some of which have doors you can move freely through, while others require a key to open (usually found in adjacent or nearby rooms). You can bring up a snazzy-looking map by pushing [M], which shows your location relative to the entire map, as well as other areas of interest. Checkpoints in Robokill are lighted tiles that you'll find in certain rooms. Before the checkpoint is activated though, you'll need to clear the room first by destroying all the enemies in it. Once you've cleared the room, the checkpoint is activated so that if you die, you'll respawn back at the nearest one. The checkpoints also give you the ability to instantly teleport to and from each other, accessible via the map screen. This is a convenient feature so you don't have to waste time re-tracing your steps through empty rooms. You can also teleport back to the shop, which is available in every level to sell weapons and items you pick up, and buy new ones.

The items, upgrades and level progression of your character by experience is what launches Robokill above and beyond the myriad of Crimsonland clones released in the past. First of all, your robot has a total of eight slots available to equip guns and items. Four of these slots are reserved for weaponry, such as a couple miniguns mounted to your shoulders and a grenade launcher and shotgun on each arm. The four lower slots are for items such as shield boosters, health-regeneration packs and more. All of these weapons and items can be obtained either by drops from enemies or purchased at the shop with the cash you collect in each level. Some items even have enhancements on them, like a boosted rate-of-fire, a knock-back effect or the ability to freeze enemies in place briefly. Access your inventory by pressing [I] to see what you've got and swap out items. You can also upgrade your base stats (like shields and damage) by gaining experience to level up, which you're awarded by killing enemies and progressing through rooms.

Analysis: Robokill is one of the best top-down shooters I've seen in a long time, maybe since Crimsonland itself. The graphics are great for a two-dimensional game, giving an emulated 3D depth effect in some rooms where you can accidentally fall off the floor and into space below. Graphics aside, the game just plain rocks. Our main man Jay said it best when he played it, describing the gameplay as amazing and gratifying. The controls feel just right; even projectiles hit with satisfying accuracy and damage. The only negative thing I could find after a few hours of playing is that the death penalty might not be strong enough. Once you die, you're returned back to your nearest checkpoint with full health. Sometimes half the enemies you destroyed in a room before you got killed will still be gone when you return. So what's your incentive to stay alive? Just a few seconds of wasted time as you walk back from the checkpoint? The developer might have considered taking away a percentage of cash with each death, or re-spawning all the enemies in rooms between where you died and the checkpoint. Other than that, it's hard to find many flaws in Robokill. The progression of new enemies, items and weapons keep things fresh, and the level designs (in terms of difficulty and the attention-span factor) are spot-on.

Play Robokill

Note: This version of Robokill is actually a demo, although many people will probably enjoy it as if it were a full version. The full version features all three episodes, which span over 10 levels. It also includes the full range of weapons and items that would be discovered in later levels. The free demo consists of the first episode, featuring four levels (an hour or two of play). You have the option of unlocking the full version by clicking the link in the lower right corner of the main title screen, available for $9.95 via Paypal or credit card at the time of this review.


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (294 votes)
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PsychotronicMusic CatchMusic Catch, a daring experiment from Reflexive Entertainment, is a game based around the simplest of simple mechanics: collecting stuff. All you do is move a little orb around, grabbing the shapes that pour forth from a rotating white line. Green/blue shapes are worth points. Yellow shapes increase your point multiplier and make your orb grow larger ("Yellow shapes are good!" the game yelps at you during the nearly unnecessary prologue). Red shapes cut your multiplier in half ("Red shapes are bad!") and shrink you back down. Purple shapes are the Holy Grail—they temporarily grant you a vortex that sucks in all the good shapes and gives your score a massive injection. Your goal is to pull down the highest point total you can within the game's four-minute life span.

That wouldn't be much of a game by itself, but the whole thing is set to music—a transcendent classical piano piece (by Reflexive staff member Isaac Shepard) that could hold your attention single-handedly. The shapes appear in ebb and swell to the accompaniment, diving from foreground to background in a shifting aquamarine rainbow. You'll never catch them all; the most you can hope for is to ride the wave, soaking up as much as possible, darting for extra substance where it appears. In other words, the gameplay is much like listening to an enriching piece of music.

No, really. The gameplay is like listening to music. Having to avoid the red shape ambushes is a bit of a stretch, maybe, but the rest of the metaphor is fine. Really great music forces you pay attention, to follow the thread of mood, to surf. If you move through the music skillfully, you gradually swell up—with emotion in real life, with mass in the game—even more so if you can anticipate where the composition is going next. Perhaps the red shapes represent a loss of concentration, the way you can lose your grip on a song and work to re-attach yourself.

Now available:
Music Catch for iPhone/iPod Touch!

Maybe there's no intended metaphor at all. The high score medals, and the overly enthusiastic words that appear when you get a special shape ("Yikes!" "Fantastic!" "Purple Power!") suggest that the whole thing is meant pretty lightly; or else Reflexive lost confidence at some point and decided to make it more traditionally game-like. But regardless, there is something deeply stirring at the heart of this shallow, four-minute excursion; something that says

Take as much as you can from this. Nothing more. Take your deepest breath, and it will move you.

Play Music Catch


  • Currently 3.5/5
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Rating: 3.5/5 (117 votes)
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PsychotronicFalling ForeverFalling Forever is a simple game of survival by highly motivated new game developer Pixelante. You can tell Pixelante is highly motivated because he says so, repeatedly, in his hilariously bitter and egotistical diary/mission statement at Pixelante Game Studios. It's hard to get noticed at a crowded house party like the casual game industry, but sometimes the solution is to be the loudest guy in the pool.

Anyhoo, it turns out that his inaugural Flash game is pretty good. In Falling Forever, you control an unlucky black silhouette of a fellow who gets dropped through a trap door into a tall empty room. Empty, that is, except for the DEADLY LASER stretching across the floor. Your job is to stay alive as long as possible by launching yourself off the convenient but fragile bubbles rising through the room. Steer yourself using the [arrow keys], and press [up] to jump from the surface of a bubble. Press [down] if you feel the need to approach your death faster. The [WASD] keys serve the same purpose as the arrow keys.

The trick to getting altitude is timing. When you make contact with a bubble, a white circle will start to shrink from the outside of the bubble to the center. The smaller the circle is when you press jump, the further your jump will propel you, but be careful not to wait too long, or the bubble will pop and drop you like a stone. A grade will appear to tell you how accurate your timing is; a high percentage of perfect jumps (hit the button right before the circle completely disappears) will help your score in the end.

Analysis: Falling Forever attacks your pleasure centers on two fronts. Firstly, the gameplay has more depth than you'd expect. You can jump at different angles depending on where you touch a bubble, and while most of the time you'll want to head straight up as far as possible, there are times when you need to hit a bubble from the side and fling yourself laterally. The algorithm driving the bubbles keeps a delicate balance between chance and skill, so you will die often, but always with a feeling that you could have prevented it.

Secondly, in what is becoming a tradition for Mad Scientists Observing Test Subjects (see Portal and Shift 2), the game taunts you with a seemingly endless supply of trash talk and laser puns. It's hard to concentrate on the jokes at first, or even notice them down there at the bottom of the screen, but this is some of the sharpest stand-up material I've seen in a Flash game. It might have been better to have voice work, rather than distracting you with written text, but then distracting you is kind of the point. The writing may be good enough to keep you playing even if the basic gameplay doesn't grab you.

I can't say that Falling Forever has a lot of longevity. Your death is inevitable, and nothing evolves or changes from the first drop to the final burn. If you're not into high scores or the game's somewhat geeky, nihilistic style of humor, then there's not much here for you. Also, the choice of background music strikes me as odd. I'm not saying it should have been something really aggressive, and it's a nice piece, but it doesn't quite match the tense situation. The frightening sizzle of the laser when you get close to it, on the other hand, is a nice touch.

To sum up: this is a unique, addictive distraction with plenty of character; a fine addition to the Sadistic Mad Scientist genre. It had me at "I find your explosion to be satisfactory."

Play Falling Forever


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Rating: 4.6/5 (25 votes)
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Wonderland Adventures banner

JoshThere's a newer Wonderland in town, rounding out the 3D action-puzzle series by Midnight Synergy. Our previous review in this series was the well-received Wonderland Secret Worlds, in which a storm rolled through and blew all the little Stinkers away. In Wonderland Adventures, you fill the shoes of the hero once more, this time trying to save the entire Wonderland realm, which is being threatened by a dark, matter-destroying void.

Wonderland Adventures screenIf you've played any of the earlier Wonderland games, you'll be met with the familiar grid-based movement system as in previous versions, but with a much-needed graphics overhaul this time around. The 3D modeling and rendering showcase a considerable upgrade with a gorgeous and colorful world to explore. In fact, a small part of what makes Wonderland Adventures such an enjoyable game is experiencing the new landscapes and scenery as you progress through the levels.

Wonderland Adventures is a top-down (more like 45 degrees) action-puzzle game with subtle RPG elements. Whether you've played earlier games in the series, most casual gamers will be instantly familiar with the lever-pushing, block-moving, key-placing aspects of this game. Don't let that fool you into thinking that this is just another action-puzzle clone though. Wonderland Adventures offers a respectable array of new concepts and game mechanics that are entirely unique.

Wonderland Adventures screenYou begin your journey in Wonderland with a few tutorial stages where you learn to control your Stinker (yes, that's what the citizens of this Wonderland are called). Controls are as simple as moving your mouse and clicking where you want to go, or you can opt to use your keyboard in tandem. You'll be met with initial tasks like standing on switches to raise bridges, stepping on colored tiles to activate platforms...the usual. But once you've gone through the obligatory motions to learn your way around, you're thrown into the heart of the game rather quickly. Your first quest is to save some little Stinkers who've been trapped by a cave-in. Once you gather the little tykes up, you'll have to take control of them to help you make it through the cave. For example, you can grab one of your little pals and make him stand on a certain pressure-sensitive platform to raise a bridge so you can reach a lever. This is just a tiny example of the unique gameplay mechanics you'll be offered as you explore Wonderland.

Wonderland Adventures screenIn later stages as you make your way toward the main town, you'll learn that there's a dark magic beginning to rip Wonderland apart. You'll come across fellow Stinkers who you can interact with, some of which you can chat up for info and others that give you missions, which is where the subtle RPG elements come into play. It's this mixture of genres that makes Wonderland Adventures so entertaining; you're never confined to a particular task for so long as to make it repetitive. There's always something new just around the corner.

You also have magic at your fingertips to help you along the way. As your journey progresses, you'll acquire a host of magical artifacts that help you solve puzzles in interesting ways, such as a pair of gloves that grants you the gift of teleportation. You can collect coins and gems along the way, the former of which you can use to buy useful items in town, and the latter to beef up your score.

Analysis: Wonderland Adventures is without a doubt the best of the Wonderland series so far. Even on its own, it stands as one of the most enjoyable and well-polished action-puzzle games to hit the scene. The developers did a wonderful job with the 3D graphics this time around, a huge step up from even the most recent in the series. The musical score parallels the cute, whimsical nature of the game, never overpowering yet fitting for each environment you stumble into. As mentioned, controls couldn't be simpler; just a click of the mouse to move from A to B, or you can hold down the mouse button to continue following the pointer, a convenient feature for traversing longer distances.

Although Wonderland Adventures epitomizes an all-ages "cute and cuddly" adventure game, it shouldn't be dismissed as a kids-only game. While it makes a great educational and problem-solving game for children, it also offers its share of head-scratchers for adults. Even if you're a veteran of this genre, it's not a game you can blow through quickly without having a few do-overs. You'll encounter puzzles you've never seen, enemies you've never imagined and an environment that's enticingly unfamiliar. Over a hundred levels are featured with dozens of characters to interact with, a solid storyline and unique, non-repetitive environments to explore. Unless you're a long-haired, sleeveless death-metal fan with an flaming pentagram tattooed on your back, don't dismiss Wonderland Adventures as a simple kiddie game. If you're a fan of any of the above-mentioned genres, give it a whirl for an hour or so and you just might find yourself immersed in your latest gaming addiction.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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

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


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Rating: 4.5/5 (40 votes)
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10 Gnomes #5

JayThe photography of Mateusz Skutnik appears again in this latest installment of 10 Gnomes (#5), a hidden object, point-and-click game series from the Submachine creator himself. This time we adventure in the shipyard, which has been an inspiration for him when creating the Submachine series since the very first installment. So much so that he decided to share it in this set of photographs he took on a covert mission there.

If you're new to the series, the objective is always the same: find 10 gnomes in 10 minutes. Ready. Set. Go!

Play 10 Gnomes #5

If you enjoyed this, be sure to play all the 10 Gnomes games.


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Rating: 4.3/5 (26 votes)
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Zen Puzzle Garden

KarmenThe Zen garden: a carefully arranged collection of rocks and sand. Does it remind us of islands in the ocean? Dogs in the water? Does it teach patience and wisdom? Is it meant to bring enlightenment—or enigmatic madness? If you are in the Zen Puzzle Garden, chances are, it is all about the latter.

Zen Puzzle GardenIn this simple, yet challenging puzzler from Lexaloffle Games, your goal is to help a happy little monk rake all of the sand in his Zen garden. Using the arrow keys or by clicking hovering arrows, you direct the monk onto the sand where he promptly begins to rake. With the gentle scenery and calming music, you might be lulled into thinking this will be easy. But then the monk keeps raking. He won't stop until he reaches the edge of the sand, or an obstacle, such as a rock or a stone lantern.

Step carefully! If he reaches the edge of the sand, you will be rewarded with the pleasing strum from the shamisen. If he rakes himself into a corner, he will turn to dust and be blown away on the wind. It may take some careful maneuvering in order to rake around each edge of every rock and fill in the gaps without getting stuck. As some Zen master somewhere may have once said, without the struggle of the mind, one cannot gain enlightenment... or the cheery fireworks that celebrate the completion of each garden.

Zen Puzzle GardenYou'll begin in the spring, practicing your raking skills around basic rocks as cherry blossoms fall in the background. As the seasons progress, the puzzles become more challenging. The gardens begin to include different elements, lanterns and fallen leaves, which must be approached in a different manner than the rocks. Lanterns may be gently nudged across the sand into the ideal position, while the leaves can be raked up—but only in order, yellow first, then orange, and finally red.

Analysis: Zen Puzzle Garden includes 64 puzzles (16 per season) which may be played in any order. This is a useful feature, as the early levels grow a little dull. It is simple to jump ahead into autumn and start raking leaves. Then, when you start getting stuck, you can return to the spring for practice. The game also includes a level editor, which allows you to create your own gardens. Newly created gardens can be saved and swapped using a tool which converts the layout to ASCII. These features, added together, provide many hours of casual gaming pleasure.

The game was created in 2003, so the graphics and sounds might seem a bit simple by today's standards. However, the beauty of this game lies not in graphics, but the sheer simplicity of the setting. This minimalist approach is counterbalanced by the difficulty and variety of puzzles. Altogether, it is an endearing game. Also, the Zen Puzzle Garden is perfect for those of us who always wanted a desktop Zen garden, but couldn't deal with sand in the keyboard or the cat suspiciously eyeing the sand.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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AdamBAs you well know, new games are released everyday. So many, in fact, that it's impossible for anyone to play them all. This week we present a selection of downloadable platform games, one of the most popular genres of all-time. These aren't new games, however—they're just four nice games you may have missed before there was a Weekend Download.

Janitor Dan screenshotJanitor Dan The Spaceman (Windows, 2.2MB, free) - Really two games in one - a platform game where you spend most of your time in a hostile space station, cleaning the toilets, scrubbing mirrors and defending yourself against weird aliens. In between levels, you hop your spaceship between stations - choosing your own to fly to, and then clean. The pixelart graphics are top notch as well, adding depth and griminess to the levels.

Zep's Dreamland screenshotZep's Dreamland (Mac/Win/Linux, 3-5MB, free) - A puzzle/platformer which takes building blocks, logic and maybe even trial-and-error to complete the games 40 included levels. Construct helper blocks used to reach higher platforms, across ditches and through the mazey levels. This scores bonus points for having a level editor and an array of user-made levels for your additional downloading pleasure.

Worminator III screenshotWorminator III (Windows, 6MB, free) - An open source explosive platformer featuring a mean, gruff, take-no-prisoners main character who happens to also be - a worm? Yes, in this post-apocalyptic run down world, the one shining beacon of hope is a squishy, pink, sunglasses wearing, machine gun wielding soft bodied invertebrate. Featuring deliciously decaying pixel art over a 15+ levels, Worminator is one not to miss (again).

Keith Goes Painting screenshotKeith Goes Painting (Windows, 20MB, free) - The developer of this java-based downloadable painting/platform game appeared for just long enough to release the game, then disappear completely. Fortunately, mirrors of the game survive and hopefully further exposure will resurrect whoever made it for a sequel. Like Janitor Dan, your mission is a simple one made complex - paint the furniture and objects in a house. Unfortunately, tight passages, strange "pets" and very odd things lurk inside, under and on top of this house. Full exploration can only be achieved with all balloons which give the ability for higher jumps.


(17 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Ice Cream Dee Lites

JohnBIce Cream Dee Lites is a resource management game that separates itself from similar titles in the genre with catchy art work and gobs of personality. At its heart the game is composed of the same food serving skeleton casual players are quite familiar with. The music, sound effects, setting and artwork display a classic 1950s motif, and the customers are so filled with charm you can't help but love the game.

icecreamdeelites.jpgIt's the hottest summer in years, and Dee is just itching to work in her grandmother's ice cream parlor. Before she can start the job, however, Dee must prove she can sling cones with the best of them. Starting with a small ice cream truck, Dee begins her own business and serves countless customers one by one.

Dee needs to deliver exactly what each customers wants as quickly as possible. Each person who enters has a row of ice cream cones to his or her left that shows how long they are willing to wait. After giving them a menu, wait for each customer to make a selection, then scoot over to the ice cream machine (or yogurt/milkshake dispenser) and choose the right cone and the flavor of ice cream. Add toppings if applicable, then deliver the treat and collect your cash. Easy!

After each day ends your earnings can be spent on upgrading existing fixtures or buying new installations. A yogurt machine serves up a less profitable treat than ice cream, but it dispenses more than twice as fast. Milkshakes, new toppings, different flavors of ice creams and more let you increase profits while adding to your repertoire of frozen treats. What you buy is entirely up to you, so choose wisely to make the game progress as smoothly as possible.

icecreamdeelites2.jpgAnalysis: A resource management game at heart, what really won me over about Ice Cream Dee Lites was its 50s-style presentation and collection of zany customer characters that come into the store. Grumpy emo kids? Love bird couples? Giant robots? Check, check, and check. Each person is introduced with a short summary of likes and dislikes that creates a basic personality. There are 16 unique customers you'll meet, each with a different ice cream preference and patience level, and when you see them march into the store you know exactly what to expect.

I was initially turned off by the flat, lifeless appearance of the main part of the game. Everything looked lively and cartoonish until you step into the shop, then things suddenly feel stiff and a little rough around the edges, almost as if you went back a few years in computing technology. It didn't take long before I forgot about any shortcomings in the animation and jumped into ice cream making.

A surprisingly charming resource management game that scores huge points for its classic design. The artwork, music and wacky characters alone make it worth playing.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Link Dump Fridays

JohnBSome of the best browser games are also the simplest. Take an interesting idea, make it accessible to everyone, give it a spiffy interface, polish everything to a gleaming shine and you might have a great coffee break game on your hands. This week we have a handful of games that do just that, presenting a simple idea in a nice-looking package.

  • icon_shooot3.gifShoOot 3 - The 3rd in a series of simple shooters from a game designer who perhaps understands simple browser games better than anyone else, Tonypa. Use your mouse to shoot all everything you can while your little ship bounces helplessly around by itself.
  • icon_boomstick.gifBoomsticK - A shooter with a conversationalist angle, in BoomsticK your worst enemy is your own trigger-happy finger. Blast enemies as they fly on the screen, then collect the ammo they drop. If you run out of ammo you lose, so try taking out several foes with one shot to increase your bullet economy.
  • icon_bubblepop.gifBubble Pop - As simple as the name implies, you play a fish swimming around popping bubbles with its nose. Avoid the mines, grab the power-ups, and, well, don't die!
  • icon_pickies.gifPickies - It's make-your-own match-3! Cute lil pickies appear in the order shown at the top of the screen. Arrange them on the grid squares and try to put groups of three together so they'll vanish. Equal parts strategy, forethought, and old fashioned puzzle goodness.
  • icon_crumbs.gifCrumbs! - Mmm, cookies. Crumbs is an arcade-style game where you're trying to eat as much of each cookie within the given time limit. Click and hold the left mouse button to start the circle expanding, then release to take a bite.
  • icon_canyonshooter.gifCanyon Shooter - You are parachuting out of a plane, guys shooting at you from the cliffsides, and wind keeps blowing you in every direction. Not your most relaxing rainy afternoon. This vertical shooter has some nice pixel artwork and extremely dramatic music to go with its intense action.

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Rating: 4.6/5 (314 votes)
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PsychotronicThe Several Journeys of ReemusThe Several Journeys of Reemus is a point-and-click game with a medieval fantasy setting from talented flash artist Zeebarf, who brought us the engaging horror adventure The Visitor. Wanna-be hero Reemus must put a stop to a local infestation of giant ants, armed with only his dubious wits, a kickin' walrus mustache, and his faithful purple bear sidekick Liam. By applying your skill at pointing, clicking, and problem solving, you must guide Reemus unscathed to the final confrontation with the towering ant queen. But between all the cantankerous sleeping bat-things, autonomous giant tongues, and flowering vines that shoot cannon balls, you've got your work cut out for you.

Analysis: If you played The Visitor, you'll recognize Zeebarf's signature style: vibrant artwork, punchy animation, and a blood-dark sense of humor. This adventure is much less restrained than the last, full of imaginative and surreal set pieces. The puzzles are more complicated and, unfortunately, not entirely logical. It will take some trial and error—and quite a few deaths—before Reemus can finally face the ant queen, but there's more than enough graphical detail and amusing death animations to keep you entertained till the end. If you get stuck, the bear Liam serves as a hint system. Click on him for occasionally helpful advice.

Zeebarf (his logo is literally a "Z" made out of barf, by the way) is still figuring out how to make a great puzzle. The first room in The Several Journeys of Reemus is a spectacular combination of experimentation and logic, but none of the rooms after that feel quite as inspired. As you go on, there are more ways to die, and more ways to get stuck, both requiring you to restart the chapter and redo everything up to that point again. The repetition really takes the shine off the gameplay, although the visual design and humor remains entertaining throughout. If this developer can find a way to consistently marry his formidable imagination with solid, intuitive puzzle design, I will be looking forward to his work for a long time to come.

Play The Several Journeys of Reemus

Cheers to Pixieash, Siriusxdremus, Federico and Jay for submitting this one! =)


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Rating: 4.5/5 (53 votes)
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JoshTBA TwoReleased just a few days ago, TBA Two is the sequel to the well-received action game TBA, developed by John Cooney (jmtb02.com). Fans might remember TBA as the ultra-fast-paced, eye-popping, ball-shooting game with an insane techno soundtrack, all of which blended together quite nicely to create a surprisingly simple and fun game. TBA Two grows from the same roots as its predecessor; just hit [space] to launch the ball through a series of "basket launchers" to the goal, collecting stars along the way. On its main menu screen, the developer wrote of the game, "TBA has no meaning. It came out of confusion." While the game itself isn't confusing, you might find yourself agreeing with its developer that the TBA series doesn't offer much substance in the way of plot or story, but that doesn't keep this sequel from taking you on one hell of a fun ride.

As mentioned, the space bar is the only key you'll need. This launches your ball from the starting basket to the next, from that basket to the next, and so on and so forth. Baskets have different properties to them. Some are completely static and only point to one direction. Others rotate 360 degrees, stopping at each axis for a brief moment to let you launch the ball in the direction you choose. Others will rotate and launch the ball in its own direction regardless of what you do. Luckily the color and patterns of these different baskets are each unique, so it shouldn't take you long to memorize the function of each one.

Your goal is pretty simple and relies on just two objectives; get your ball from its starting point to the goal (the red basket) as fast as possible, and collect as many stars as you can on the way. If you accidentally shoot the ball into a wall, it "dies" (resets). Scoring is based purely on time, which is measured in seconds. Each level has a par to it (12 seconds or less, for example) so you can judge your skill. However, you don't need to hit par to move on to the next level, although you always have the option of coming back later and trying again.

TBA TwoSo that pretty much covers the obligatory info for those of you who haven't played the first TBA. Now let's dive in and take a look at how this sequel compares to the original, and why it took the developer weeks to create as opposed to just a few days, as he did with the original. TBA Two was designed with more of a progression/reward system than the first. Instead of just individual progressing levels, there are at least seven different "realms," all containing a handful of levels. There's no skipping around this time; you've got to move from realm to realm in a linear direction, with the difficulty increasing in each realm. As a twist, you can't just blindly blast through the levels to keep progressing. Each realm needs to be unlocked by spending a certain number of stars (the same stars that you collect on the way to the goal of each level). Since the fastest route to the goal won't always let you collect a star, you've got to bust out a bit of puzzle-solving prowess in order to figure out how to collect stars and still make it to the goal as quick as you can.

Graphically-speaking, TBA Two surpasses its original in several ways. Each realm introduces a new photographic-meets-CGI background, as opposed to the original's simple cloud background with varying shades of color. The game takes place on an island, and each realm takes you to a different area within the island. From beaches to jungles to caves, there's a great amount of diversity here that rewards you a fresh background in each realm.

The techno soundtrack offers a separate track for each realm as well, which is a nice upgrade from the original. Those of you who might have been annoyed by the Happy Hardcore techno song that accompanied the original will be pleased to know that there's much more variety in the TBA Two's soundtrack, composed by Mohammad Ahmed Fikree. On the other hand, if you loved the 200+ bpm, finger-twitching track of the original, you might be a little let down by some of the more down-tempo tracks in TBA Two.

Analysis: Any way you cut it, TBA Two is a successful upgrade in virtually all aspects of its original. The backgrounds are prettier and more eclectic, the soundtrack is diverse, the level progression system has matured and most importantly, there's more fun to be had with all new levels and even some new game mechanics. The game auto-saves your progress, and there's even a new "achievements" section which serves as a trophy room for completing various feats, such as beating a level in less than five seconds (and ironically, things like dying within two seconds). The break-neck speed of TBA Two may slow down your FPS if you're running an older machine, or if you're browser doesn't have access to enough free RAM. If you're having trouble, right-click anywhere on the screen to bring up a menu allowing you to reduce its graphic quality, among a few other handy shortcuts like restarting a level or muting the sound.

If you're a fan of the original, it's a safe bet you're going to love this sequel. If you've never played the original, it's a game that's definitely worth checking out.

Play TBA Two


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Rating: 3.4/5 (169 votes)
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JaySteer WheelsAnother quickie review up next, this one for SteerWheels, a fun little physics-based action puzzle by Tudway. The objective is to move the little yellow ball to the yellow goal of each level by pushing it with a set of wheels.

Control is with the keyboard. Press the [left] and [right] arrow keys to move the wheels in either direction. Press the [R] key to reset a level if you fail, or if you fall off the screen. Press the (II) button on-screen (using the mouse) to pause.

You have a limited time within which to complete each level. If you fail, within the time allotted, you lose one life. Lose all 5 lives and it's game over.

Analysis: If you're like me, you love physics-based puzzle games like this. We've seen more and more of them lately as Flash has matured, and I never tire of playing them. Tudway gets the physics right in his implementation of the open source APE (actionscript physics engine), but the interface suffers from some bugs and glitches. Not so much, though, to ruin the experience. However, all Flash game designers should keep in mind the casual audience these games are popular with. Casual gamers generally prefer to play without being pressured with a clock ticking. For gosh sakes, don't we get enough of that in real life? Please don't extend that pressure to our recreation time, too. At least provide a "no pressure" infinite lives option to maximize the potential audience for your game design efforts. Agree or disagree? Sound off in the comments. In the meantime,

Play SteerWheels


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Rating: 4.7/5 (362 votes)
| Comments (83) | Views (253)

JaySix DifferencesI've been working long hours the past couple of weeks on a significant new update to the site that I hope to be able to roll out soon, including a fresh new look and larger layout with plenty of room for all the new features we have planned. Thanks for your continued game submissions and suggestions. They help to keep me focused on development projects to move the site forward. We have Nicop to thank for this one today:

The latest from Case, creator of Red and the original 5 Differences previously mentioned here, 6 Differences is another spot the differences game that incorporates gorgeous and surreal, animated graphics and images. Just click on a difference when you spot it, either side will work, to change the difference into a matching set.

Not a very long game, but an enjoyable one from beginning to end. And if you haven't tried the original, 5 Differences, you're in for a double treat today.

Play 6 Differences


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Rating: 4.5/5 (113 votes)
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PsychotronicKnuckleheadsKnuckleheads is the latest pixel-licious platforming fiesta from Nitrome, the creators of Dirk Valentine, Cheese Dreams, and 9,372 (roughly) other colorful Flash adventures. This time, you guide a pair of grimacing heads wearing Mexican wrestling masks as they bash their way through 25 levels of bats, spikes, and deadly lava. Why are they so angry? Maybe it's because their only method of locomotion involves constant trauma to the skull. Why are they wearing Mexican wrestling masks? I ...don't know.

The Knuckleheads are tethered together by a unbending chain, so controlling them is a bit like steering a giant dumb-bell. Hold [right] to rotate clockwise and [left] to go counter-clockwise. One of the heads will grip the earth, allowing you to pivot the other through the air; they travel end over end, taking big, clubbing steps across the ground and plowing along sticky walls and ceilings. You can extend the chain linking them together by pressing [up] or retract it with [down], in order to bridge gaps or step between spikes. The [WASD] keys serve the same purpose as the arrow keys.

Combat involves bashing enemies with either the green Knucklehead or the purple one. Conveniently, almost every character in the game comes outfitted in purple and green as well, so you know which head they need to be pummeled with. The south-of-the-border visual style extends to the creatures, but not to the industrial factory setting, which makes me wonder if the concept for Knuckleheads was fueled by a short but intense experience with tequila.

Analysis: I've never played anything quite like Knuckleheads. Obstacles that would be trivial for an agile hero like Mario are mind-warping when you have to steer an awkward pair of stomping galoots through them. But that doesn't stop Nitrome from throwing scads of Mario-esque traps at you—rotating fire sticks, rising lava and all. If in the past you've complained about Nitrome launching their games' difficulty into the stratosphere after the first 8 levels, then welcome to another nightmare. But if you're in the market for unusual skill-based challenges, then pull up a chair. The combination of quirky physics and unforgiving pitfalls will keep you entertained for a while.

Where this game really lets me down is in the destruction department. You'd think that a pair of POed bowling balls would get to smash up the environment a little, but besides crushing a handful of glass bonus capsules for points, our heroes feel surprisingly light and vulnerable. Because every enemy in the game is poisonous to at least one Knucklehead, you never get to just wantonly rampage through dozens of puny challengers. Instead, this is a game of precision—one tense, precarious situation after another. Fun, yes, but it feels antithetical to the premise. If I have a heavy, powerful protagonist, then I darn well want to feel heavy and powerful, even if it takes an army of helpless cannon fodder to make the point.

Play Knuckleheads

You can also play the game at the MTV Arcade.


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Rating: 4.8/5 (242 votes)
| Comments (82) | Views (909)

Monsters' Den: Book of Dread

PsychotronicIn a sense, every video game is a Role Playing Game. You're playing the role of Mario, you're playing the role of Niko Bellic, you're playing the role of Pac-Man. Many modern games labeled "RPG" are actually less about stepping into the shoes of another person and more about going through the motions which allow that person to tell his own story. They should be called Story Assist Games, or "SAGs". But I can hardly complain about it, since the point of the original Dungeons and Dragons was never actually about Playing a Role. It was about finding a +5 Dragon-Tooth Chaos Blade of Enchanted Slaying and then splitting a troll in half with it. In fact, the troll part was optional. Many players were perfectly happy just wandering around being handed sacks full of armament like they were Hallowe'en candy corn.

Monsters' Den: Book of DreadMonsters' Den: The Book of Dread, from Monstrum Games, gets that. It understands your insatiable clawing lust for magical super-trinkets, and it does what it can to free the acquisition process from bureaucracy. The story is a perfunctory mash-up of cozy familiarities. The interface is like silk on leather. You don't even get experience points. Monster's Den clears the busywork out of your way so you can collect and wear your new Anti-Venom Magesteel Cloak of Resilience with no more than a few mouse clicks. Oh, and there are indeed monsters to battle, but in a stunning twist for the RPG genre, combat is fun.

This is essentially a turn-based, tactical dungeon crawl. The first time you enter battle, make sure you drag your team members to appropriate positions. Warriors and other short-range fighters should go in the row closest to the enemy, rangers and spell-casters in the rear. When a character's turn comes around, his portrait will be highlighted, and you can simply click on a creature within range to attack it. You can use special abilities (healing spells, special attacks, and the like) from the grid on the left by clicking on the ability and then on its target. Those who played the recently-reviewed Brute Wars will recognize the basic concept, which was probably inspired by the first Monster's Den.

There are three unique quests: the original Den of Corruption quest from the first edition of the game, now playable with the updated interface; the new Den of Terror quest, which features an extra boss fight on every level and a selection of rare but intriguing random events; and a survival mode where you get to massively power up your party and fend off endless waves of attackers. You have a choice between three difficulty levels and a number of other options to fine-tune your playing experience. "Hardcore" mode, where your game just plain ends when your party dies, is where it's at.

Monsters' Den: Book of DreadThe pop-up instructions do a fantastic job of explaining the ins and outs of the interface, so I don't need to explain every little thing here, but rest assured this is one of the most considerate, user-friendly games you can play for free in a browser window. Almost everything in the game offers additional information if you mouse over it. If you have any interest at all in collecting some +4 Elf-Hewn Parrying Daggers of Staggering Wisdom (or whatever), just take a deep breath and dive in.

Analysis: Somewhere between the silvery-smooth interaction and the classically engaging creature portraits, Monster's Den becomes the epitome of casual browser-based dungeon crawls. You have extensive options for customizing your party, with a decent variety of skills for each of 7 different character classes. The enemies have a smart selection of special abilities that keep you on your toes, even during easy encounters. The boss battles especially brim with personality and strategy, and there are plenty of different ones. You might want to skip some of them when your party is weak, but remember that they yield the rarest and coolest equipment. The battles with legendary monsters such as the Gorgon or Hydra are not to be missed.

The graphics and sound are as good as you can reasonably expect. No, there isn't any combat animation, and you're basically telling little cards what they should do to other little cards, but the visual and sound effects still manage to excite the imagination. Since each level is randomly generated, replay value is ridiculously good. The Den of Terror quest does have a final boss, but you can continue to delve deeper indefinitely, growing more powerful and facing harder challenges.

If you played the first Monsters' Den, you should know that Book of Dread has gone over the top in fixing its problems. You can now click anywhere on the map, and a quick path-finding algorithm will take your party there immediately. There are more ways to order your possessions, including an incredibly useful "Recommend" tab that displays a short list of equipment you should be strongly considering for any given character. The recommendations are not completely reliable, but it still makes your life easier 99% of the time. Finally, a certain scroll lets you access a shop where the gruff owner will begrudgingly purchase your useless overflow and occasionally sell you unique items.

There are still a few quirks to be ironed out in the next sequel, to be sure. It's strange that Clerics can't heal outside of combat (potions only on the map screen), and there is probably still too much fiddling with the inventory. But the nit-picks pale in the face of such overall quality. If you are staunchly anti-materialistic or the classic D&D setting does nothing for you, then you can safely skip this one. But if the promise of powerful enchanted do-dads gets your blood pumping even a little bit, then Monsters' Den will have its generous claws in you for quite a while.

Play Monsters' Den: The Book of Dread


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Rating: 4.6/5 (170 votes)
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PsychotronicArachnophiliaFrom Teale Fristoe at Littlegrey Media, Arachnophilia is an arcade-style simulation of a night in the life of a spider. Your goal is to survive as long as possible, your venue is the empty midnight space between tree branches, and your method is to trap and devour the hapless insects who blunder into your web. It's a simple but sophisticated game, made with a deep love for both arachnids and early 80s arcade games like Tempest. There have been other games about spiders, but never one that so thoroughly celebrated the beauty and deadly elegance of their work.

Control your eight-legged heroine with the mouse. Click on a part of your web to scurry there using the shortest available path. To spin new strands of webbing, just draw a line from one strand to another. You can design your web any way you like, but you have a limited amount of web fluid available, indicated by a gauge on the right. To replenish it, you must eat bugs, who fly in more or less randomly from the background. Once an insect has caught itself on a piece of your web, click on it, and the spider will feed. Meal time also restores your life gauge, which is constantly depleting. If your life reaches zero, your game is over. To help you keep pace with the action, the game keeps your commands in a queue, like Diner Dash, displaying blue circles on bugs yet to be eaten and blue lines where webs are yet to be spun. Press [space] to interrupt the queue when you need to react to new events.

ArachnophiliaThere are ten different species of edible critters, all with a different effect on the game. Flies are your staple diet, reliable and unlikely to damage your web unless you neglect to clear them away regularly. Most of the others are larger and stronger, more nutritious if you can catch them, but requiring a stronger weave to hold them back. The first time you encounter a stag beetle, for example, he is likely to shred your web pretty handily, and you can hardly afford to have your livelihood shredded. Successfully trap and nosh such a monster, however, and you'll be temporarily blessed with extra-strong golden webbing. Each type of flying pest is balanced nicely between threat and reward, except for the bees, who grin like maniacs and are just bad news in every way.

If you get tired of having your hard weaving work destroyed by the passing horde, you can always indulge in Art Mode, where you have unlimited webbing and an undisturbed canvas, as well as total bee control, for when you do want to delete a web strand. Come to think of it, more games should have "total bee control" as a feature.

Analysis: Fristo, who is responsible for everything in the game but the music (a welcome relaxing country number supplied by Dig Your Own Grave webmaster Oliver Marsh) is an excellent craftsman. The crisp, luminous graphics serve the needs of the arcade action while highlighting the natural geometric beauty of your web designs. There could be more detail in the creatures, but they animate nicely, and too much texture would have been distracting.

The gameplay balance is superb. The more of the screen you canvas with webs, the more food you can ensnare; but also the more territory you must maintain and defend. The variety of enemies keeps things fresh throughout, although it must be said that the action is not exactly nail-biting. It's more of a game of rhythm and strategy, rather than reflexes. A single hasty new web line is unlikely to stop a charging dragonfly, but planning a solid structure for your sticky home will keep you flush with tasty insect snacks over the long haul.

But Arachnophilia's greatest strength is in its ability to transform you, to make you cunningly aware of the fears and hopes of a creature totally alien from yourself. You are role playing a predator, an icky, hairy-legged murderer of thousands. Yet if you refuse the massacre, you die. This might very well color your next real-life spider encounter with a dot of sympathy or even respect. Glowing with the bright, competitive soul of a vintage arcade game, Arachnophilia doesn't take itself too seriously. It doesn't posture as an "art game", yet it expands your world in a direction that isn't marked on the compass. "Love of spiders" indeed.

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Rating: 4.4/5 (29 votes)
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Wonderland Secret Worlds

JohnBWonderland Secret Worlds is an isometric puzzle adventure similar to Mr. Robot. In it you take control of several characters who push boxes, flip switches, roll boulders and build bridges to make it to the exit in each stage. The setup is nothing new in the casual gaming world, but somehow the combined package is an extraordinarily fun play. If you don't mind the dated visuals and rather cutesy presentation, Wonderland Secret Worlds will be one of the most enjoyable and satisfying games of its genre you'll ever dive into.

wonderlandsecretworlds.jpgOne day in the realm of Wonderland a dark storm covered the sky and shook the seas. The wind carried all the little Stinkers away, leaving only Stinky and a few of his friends behind. Stinky immediately sets out on a quest to rescue the little ones, his friends joining him along the way to help solve puzzles.

Wonderland Secret Worlds follows a very simple setup that everyone should be familiar with. Each level contains a gold star sealed behind a metal gate. To unlock the bars you must find key tokens scattered around the level. To get them you'll need to shove boxes into the water to make bridges, step on switches to open barriers, push heavy objects onto round buttons to hold them while you pass, outsmart enemies and much, much more. The game introduces plenty of new twists and turns as the levels progress, keeping the experience fresh and interesting for hours on end.

wonderlandsecretworlds2.jpgAnalysis: More often than not, this style of adventure game tends to get on my nerves. Color-based button/gate puzzles usually frustrate me because I already know how to solve them, so why should I go through the motions? Isn't that more of a chore than play? That's certainly not the case with Wonderland Secret Worlds. The game manages to preserve a sense of joyful puzzle solving even though it employs well-used gaming conventions at every turn. Yes, I had to slide a box across a narrow bridge while avoiding fire cannons just to hold down the red gate button so I could collect the blue key that allowed me access to the green button that held a token, but man, I had fun doing it.

The only drawback to Wonderland Secret Worlds is its dated visuals. Games used to look like this more than a decade ago, with stiff 3D models and blurry, repetitive textures on every tile. The game doesn't look bad by any standard, but it's an acquired taste every gamer might not find as appealing.

Simple, gratifying, and much more entertaining than I had expected. Wonderland Secret Worlds is a surprisingly great game with enough levels and content to keep you busy for weeks. If Wonderland Secret Worlds really did it for you, be sure to try the original Wonderland, a game that's very similar to its sequel but with totally new levels to experience.

Cheers to Shalar for letting us know about this one!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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

Wonderland Secret Worlds is available to download from these affiliates:
Arcade TownBig Fish Games


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Weekend Download

JohnBBrimming with bushes around its perimeter, the park at the center of town looks like a muffin erupting from its pan onto the surrounding streets. Not exactly the quietest place to relax, but at least there are a few trees and enough grass to spread out in the shade. But as you pass a worn dirt path something catches your eye. There, perched atop a building on the outskirts of downtown, is a brightly colored billboard. Scrawled across its neon front are three simple words pressed in a white sans serif font: "Got Weekend Download?"

hiddenobjectshow.jpgThe Hidden Object Show (Windows/Mac, ~85MB, demo) - Like hidden object games, but wish they would take themselves a little less seriously? The Hidden Object Show flies in for the rescue. Instead of dark tales involving circus carnies or mysterious happenings in the middle of the night, this game throws you into a game show where the object is — wait for it — to find hidden objects! It's a lengthy game for its genre and the game show theme is a great change of pace. Some of the mini-games are a bit ho-hum, but otherwise it's a nice romp through item hunting territory.

debrysis.jpgDebrysis (Windows, 5MB, free) - An arena shooter along the lines of GridWars, only this time you're in control of a wheeled vehicle in a series of landscapes. Move with the [arrow] keys, aim and fire with the mouse. As usual your only goal is to stay alive and shoot the bad guys, but the plethora of power-ups are both helpful and cool to use.

oecake.gifOctave Engine Cake (Windows/Mac, 5MB, free) - Like webtoys such as Powder Game but also love building games like Armadillo Run? Consider this your downloadable alternative! Play in the sandbox with elements such as rice, mochi, fire, fuel, powder, jet, gas, and much more. Build rudimentary structures using the materials, then set the elements loose on them. You can even drag and drop your own images to play around with or use as textures. There are over 40 pre-made levels to try, some of which are downright hilarious.

karoshi.gifKaroshi 2.0 (Windows, 8.7MB, free) - In most video games you succeed by staying alive, beating the bad guys, and generally just keeping yourself out of trouble, right? Not in Karoshi. This quirky platform puzzler tasks you with killing the main character by any means possible. Not only will you solve puzzles only to find that they kill you, you'll want to do it, you'll keep doing it, and you'll laugh just about every time. The game has a great sense of parodic humor, so expect some gaming conventions to be turned upside-down. Scroll down and look on the right side of the screen for the download link.

j20.jpgJ20 (Windows, 14MB, free) - Created using Game Maker, j20 is a relaxed shooter-type game that draws heavy inspiration from flOw. Choose a jellyfish and swim around each stage attacking enemies with your tentacles to power-up. You'll also fight a few bosses along the way. The game is relatively short and not nearly as impressive as flOw, but you'll still have a great time gulping smaller fishies in the ocean.

obake.jpgObake (Windows, 7.5MB, free) - Obake is an exploration-based platformer where you control a ghost that can turn into any enemy it comes across. Beyond that, I can't tell you much, as the game is in Japanese! Despite the mid-sized language barrier, Obake is remarkably playable and lots of fun. Use the [z] key to attack, [x] to jump, and [c] to discard your guise and return to normal ghost mode. To absorb an enemy, simply hop on its head and press the [down] arrow key.

icon_amazingbraintrain.gifAs an extra special post scriptum bonus, I'd also like to mention that previously reviewed The Amazing Brain Train is now available from BigFishGames! The same crew behind the Professor Fizzwizzle games put together a superb brain teaser/puzzle title where you help animals solve problems by flexing your grey matter through fifteen brain teasing puzzles.


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Rating: 4.5/5 (20 votes)
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Pet Shop Hop

Dogs, cats, fish, bunnies and birds. It seems like everybody wants one, and it's your job to provide! In Pet Shop Hop you play Cassie, a zoology major working to preserve her family's pet store against the might of the Megapet Superstore. It's a resource management game along the lines of Airport Mania and Magic Farm, but tasks are separated into distinct categories and the atmosphere is a bit more relaxed and, well, cuddlier.

petshophop.jpgCustomers mosey into your store and a thought bubble soon appears overhead. Sometimes he or she will want a specific animal — say, for example, a blue fish or a brown rabbit. Others know what kind of pet but don't really care about the color, while a select few are willing to be sold anything. All you have to do is grab the pet each customer wants, provide any accessories or extras if necessary, and make the sale. The faster you move the happier each customer will be, and happy customers pay top dollar for your services.

In addition to selling cute furballs (pretend "fur" includes scales and feathers) you'll also need to mind the animals' needs. Cages must be kept clean and you also need to make sure there's enough food for the animals to eat. A few other small tasks are introduced later, further dividing your attention between customer service and managing your store.

As with most resource management games, Pet Shop Hop lets you buy upgrades between levels to give you an edge over picky consumers. Buy better food to keep animals fed longer, or pick out decorations to help customers feel at ease while waiting for their new pet. You also have to choose how many of each pet to buy, being careful not to underestimate the demand lest you send customers away with a frown on their face.

petshophop2.jpgAnalysis: Resource management games tend to follow a strict pattern of behavior, introducing you to new products, grumpier customers and more upgrades as you play. The experience generally gets more hectic as you progress, but in Pet Shop Hop I found the speed remained at a steady clip, never throwing too many things my way at once (beyond the initial introduction of new gameplay elements).

It's a little frustrating having to divide your attention between caring for customers and caring for animals, but certain upgrades relieve some of the pressure. The extra gameplay mode, Challenge, is a welcome addition that allows you to hop right in and play a more complex game to earn as much profit as you can.

Pet Shop Hop falls a little short in the visuals department. Animations and character models are stiff and mostly lifeless. The art direction is good and the overall design pleasing, but the game won't impress your eyes by any means. Also, some of the pets and icons you have to click are awfully small, leading to some frustrating pixel hunting moments when the store is crowded.

There's a surprising amount of depth to Pet Shop Hop, and despite its lackluster appearance you'll find it's a winner on almost every front. And who can resist a cuddly wuddly bunny, anyway?!

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: 4.2/5 (36 votes)
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AdamBJetpack BrontosaurusFlashBang Studios is back! The creators of the entertaining and CPU-intensive Off-Road Velociraptor Safari have just released an alpha version of their next game that also uses the Unity browser plug-in: Jetpack Brontosaurus. Please note, the game is still in the alpha stage of development.

To control the dinosaur, use the [WASD] keys and the [space] bar for engaging the jetpack itself. Pressing space while stationary allows you to raise directly up and the mouse can be used for camera movement.

So far, the game sports various time and skill related missions to complete, such as landing on pads within a time limit and flying through rings. There are presently two difficulty modes: 1) simply complete the mission, and 2) expert challenge, which is, as the name suggests, is against the clock and is therefore much more difficult. Completing missions unlocks "portals", the purpose of which seems unclear at this time.

As with Off-Road Velociraptor Safari, some have experienced framerate/performance issues. Please, please remember that this is a very early version of the game and—as with Safari—will continue to be updated and optimised as time allows. For now, though, and for those whose computers have the guts to run it, take a trip skyward and

Play Jetpack Brontosaurus


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Link Dump Fridays

JohnBMateusz Skutnik, the sultan of Submachine, the curator of Covert Front, has recently polished up a few of his older skill games and re-released them with better visuals, a high score system, and numerous tweaks here and there. Each one is a single idea carved into a deliciously challenging arcade experience.

  • icon_octopus.gifOctopus - The big mean octopus is guarding the treasure, and its your job to sneak past his tentacles to nab the gold. Move when its limbs are retracted, grab as many coins as you can, then high-tail it back to the boat to tally up your score.
  • icon_crazycruise.gifCrazy Cruise - Hold the mouse button to fly higher, let it go to sink lower. Keep bobbing up and down to avoid the rocks and make it as far as you can without crashing!
  • icon_twiceasbounce.gifTwice as Bounce - Two monsters, one red and one yellow, are bouncing on like-colored trampolines. The catch that one is on the wall, the other on the ground, and you must control both at the same time!
  • icon_deadlydash.gifDeadly Dash - Press the [up] arrow to do a small jump, the [spacebar] for a big one. Avoid the obstacles by skillfully linking jumps.
  • icon_zenplants.gifZen Plants - What? A non-Mateusz game? Sure, why not! Similar to Mastermind, Zen Plants charges you with raising a young flora by setting the light, water and temperature conditions to the right levels. Each turn you guess what number each should be, then find out if your guesses were correct.

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Rating: 3.1/5 (48 votes)
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JaySpace WalkerA simple jump-and-run platformer with style, Space Walker is the latest Flash creation from Yohei Shimomae of DYSPXL.

Use the [left] and [right] arrow keys for movement, press [space] to jump. Collect the air capsules to replenish your ever-decreasing supply while avoiding all the aliens that bounce around the planet. Jump into the vortex of each level to move onto the next.

Increase your score through combos by collecting capsules without hitting an enemy. Your combo score goes up with each consecutive capsule collected.

Analysis: Space Walker shows that a very simple concept paired with simple graphics can be made into an enjoyable and very pretty casual game experience. Variety in enemy type, enemy movement, and gravity for each level provides an increase in challenge, while a randomized color scheme provides something new to look forward to. Nothing earth-shattering or all that innovative here, just a well-designed package from tip to tail.

Play Space Walker


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Rating: 4/5 (72 votes)
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JoshToriFlashRecently featured in a Weekend Download feature, Toribash is still making headlines more than two years after its release. Its creator, Hampus Söderström (a.k.a. "Hampa"), a Swedish software developer, recently converted this fan-favorite to a simpler flash version, aptly named Toriflash. For all you hard-core Toribash fans, this means you can enjoy a quick rumble from any PC with Web access, perhaps if you're at work and you'd like to pretend you're sucker-punching your boss in the face. And for those of you newbies who haven't played the original yet, Toriflash might serve as a lighter introduction into the whole Toribash phenomenon. (Just search "Toribash" on YouTube to see what I mean; fans have made hundreds of videos of their favorite face-smashing, limb-ripping moments, reminiscent of the Line Rider phenomenon.)

The objective and gameplay of Toriflash is nearly identical to its predecessor, although obviously toned-down in both graphics and physics so that it could be ported to flash. Two fighters stand side-by-side. You play Tori, the red fighter, and your opponent is Uke, the blue fighter. By manipulating eight different joints (shoulders, elbows, hips and knees) target attacks toward your opponent to score as many points as possible. Just as in Toribash, the characters are subject to rag doll physics; the goal being to contract or extend various joints in order to spring your warrior into action. Just a click of the mouse extends or contracts each joint, causing a number of different actions when used in combination.

In each match, you have 500 "frames" in which to fight your opponent. After setting your initial joint manipulations, a single tap of [space] will begin the match. The timer will freeze every 30 frames (or one second) to allow you to re-adjust your joints and attempt to perform new moves, or perfect one in progress. If you'd like the action to speed up, just hold down [space] and the frames will go by without stopping.

Analysis: Toriflash is currently still in its beta stages, which will probably be apparent whether you've played the original or not. Newcomers to the game may find the learning curve a bit steep. Oftentimes your character will just flop around a bit, arms and legs flailing, unless you have a specific, intentional strategy worked out. (Ironically this can still rack points up, as any offensive tap to the opponent scores.) The majority of moves available in Toribash just aren't possible in Toriflash, including the ability to grab your opponent. To sum it up, yes; Toriflash is a watered-down version of the original, missing most of the features that turned Toribash into an overnight classic. However, that doesn't mean that you can't have fun with it, whether you're a Tori-fan or not. Half the fun is inventing your own moves, discovering what combinations of body manipulation will cause the most damage to your opponent. My suggestion is to remember that Toriflash is still in the early stages of development. If you don't bother questioning it's worth as a fully-functional game yet, you just might just have a blast.

Play Toriflash


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Rating: 4.5/5 (224 votes)
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JessCrazy Doors of Rainbow ColorsCrazy Doors of Rainbow Colors, by Shanben Izakamakura, is an excellent room escape game and more than innovative enough to be considered "fresh".

A rapidly growing number of escape games have been created. Some are exceptional, a bunch are ok, and a quite a few are pretty feeble. However, even the best of the genre tend to offer similar gameplay structures: [insert protagonist here] wakes up in a room/apartment/house, finds that the exit is blocked, and must use an assortment of useful, enigmatic or seemingly random objects and mechanisms to find a way out. This model is fairly malleable and has allowed for some truly ingenious puzzling. A classic.

What makes Crazy Doors of Rainbow Colors so special, however, is that it begins with the same basic premise—getting out of a room—and takes it in an entirely new, playful direction. There's no clutter in this room, no furniture to click behind or wastebaskets to search; all you begin with is seven bare white walls, a blue key (with no apparent door) and a vase of lilacs. Lonely, stark white walls... they just seem begging for some color, don't they? Without giving too much away, let me just say that you will soon find yourself creating many crazy doors, and they will all indeed be in rainbow colors. Each door provides its own charming little vignette, from which the remaining objects required to escape the room can be found. Lest you think the game is all cute and no cogitation, however, let me assure you that Crazy Doors does provide a solid challenge. While not as exactingly mind-bending as some, it does straddle the line between whimsy and difficulty rather well.

Above all, I think what endears me most to Crazy Doors of Rainbow Colors is the way that the game allows the player to temporarily detach from in-the-box thinking; in order to escape you must find and follow a new sort of logic, one that is strange yet intuitive. That quality, along with the game's simple and colorful appearance, made me feel like a little kid. When I finally finished I had a huge, silly grin on my face.

Go ahead, have some fun:

Play Crazy Doors of Rainbow Colors

Cheers to Grant for sending this one in! He adds: "Without all the common or obvious ploys of most escape games, you should probably be able to solve this one by yourself with a creative mind, and without a walkthough, good luck!"


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Rating: 4.4/5 (152 votes)
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JoshPostal PanicIf you've been itching for a new, fun side-scrolling shooter, Postal Panic is a game you don't want to pass up. Developed by independent designer Isaac Williams, Postal Panic takes the side-scrolling action of an arcade shooter and throws in some upgrading, a wacky storyline and an even wackier set of enemies. Instead of the typical outer space setting, you play the role of a postal worker (in some crazy alternate dimension) who pilots a fully-armed, mail delivery ship. Your goal? Deliver mail to citizens despite rain, sleet, snow...and in this case, an onslaught of mutated, Cthulhu-looking (yet somewhat cute) monsters gunning to burn you out of the sky.

The plot in Postal Panic is a bit thin: deliver some love letters back and forth here, serve as a communique for a mad scientist there...all that typical jive. Controls aren't groundbreaking either, although in this case, that's a good thing. Use [arrow] keys or [WASD] to move and [space] to shoot. Where the controls do get a bit interesting is when it comes to aiming your cannon, which is controlled by the same keys as movement, although the cannon is locked in place when you're firing. At first, it can take some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it, this mechanic proves useful and unique. Most side-scrollers limit your firing trajectory directly in front of your enemy, and once that enemy passes above or below you, it's out of your reach. In Postal Panic, you can pivot your cannon a full 360 degrees, aiming at enemies above and below you, and even behind.

Game play is pretty straight-forward: advance from stage to stage (delivering letter after letter) with a slew of enemies between you and the finish line. Once killed, enemies drop coins or gems that you can pick up to add to your score. At the end of each level, you can access a "blueprints" menu and use your winnings to upgrade your ship. Spend points on your engine to move faster, buy better armor to increase your resistance to attacks and pick from a buffet of weapons. As you advance through the game, you have a total of eight different "slots" that you unlock each time you buy a new weapon. (Each slot also represents a firing angle from your ship.) You can place different weapons in different slots for a variety of strategies, such as rapid-fire bullets shooting in a narrow cone, with missiles firing in a wider-angled cone.

Analysis: Once you get past the minor learning curve and slow start of the first few levels as you build up some cash, Postal Panic starts getting really addictive, mostly because of the upgrades. It's fun to see what weapon combos are just around the corner. The graphics are more than sufficient for this type of game and the wacky-looking enemies, environments and storyline provide a nice vacation from the norm. Difficulty progression is tuned perfectly and you'd be hard-pressed to find any bugs, controls or otherwise. If anything, the game ends too quickly (one hour or so), sometimes before you'll be able to unlock that last weapon. Sadly, a difficulty setting is missing but there is a survival mode if you get bored with the story mode. Overall, this little game packs a big punch, especially considering it's designed by an indie developer.

Play Postal Panic


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Rating: 4/5 (44 votes)
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zxoAlphaboxA game that combines wordplay with Sokoban-style block pushing? Are they mad?!?

Or am I in love?

Yes, it's a banner day for puzzler fans. Guilherme Töws—you may remember him from Bisection Dominion in CGDC4—has released a game which combines the joy of jumbles with the befuddlement of block-pushing. It's called Alphabox, and here's how it works: see those boxes with the letters on 'em? You've got to arrange them so they all spell out something, and so that all of them touch. They can be horizontal or vertical, just as long as each set of neighboring blocks forms part of a complete, valid word.

There are three parts to each level: figuring out how to arrange the letters, figuring out where they need to go and then actually getting them there. The first part is usually the easier task, but if you do need help, you can always click the hint button to get an idea of the word(s) you need to spell. Then,you have to decide where to put them—it's not always obvious right away and you might sometimes play around with the blocks for a while before realizing that you're just going to have to put the words somewhere else.

Luckily, Alphabox recognizes solutions apart from the one intended, so sometimes you can get creative and mix the letters around, saving a few moves. If you do screw up, there's both an undo and a reset button, although since the [arrow] keys are used for movement, it would be nice if there were hotkeys to match. There's also an easy-to-use level editor, so the possibilities are as endless as the English language. In fact, I challenge you to make a puzzle that, when solved, spells out a complete sentence! So what are you waiting for? Get cracking!

Play Alphabox


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Rating: 4.7/5 (23 votes)
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ImokMercedes-Benz Mixed TapeSometimes, when it's raining, I go outside and sit where I'm sure to get wet. Aside from the free shower, sitting in the rain is a great way to de-stress if Yoga just isn't your thing. Unfortunately, unless you live in Seattle, it doesn't rain every day; but rain or shine you can always find something to help you relax in the latest Mercedes-Benz Mixed Tape, available as a free download and updated every 8 weeks.

From hip-hop to soul-pop and even folk, you're guaranteed to find at least one song in this eclectic mix that resonates within your soul, and you're far more likely to find harmony with all of them.

Now, along with the bimonthly Mixed Tapes, Mercedes-Benz now features a monthly music magazine that focuses on a theme. Brief but informative narration tells you a little bit about each of several artists in the featured genre, sometimes including an interview and some behind-the-scenes footage, before you are treated to a music video. Unfortunately, the music featured on the show is not available for free download, so don't get your hopes up. There have been 3 music magazines released so far, and you can still view them all:

  1. Modern Vintage (March, 2008)
  2. Soul (April, 2008)
  3. Modern Folk (May, 2008)

So, come in out of the rain and listen to the latest Mixed Tape.

JayJay - If you've been visiting here for quite some time, these mixed tape posts will be familiar to you. And while we have featured many of the previous mixed tapes here at JIG, I have dear sweet Elouise ("Weez") to thank for first introducing me to this very soulful collection of free music.


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Rating: 4.2/5 (86 votes)
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Attack of the Buggles

ImokAttack of the Buggles, the newest game from Paul Preece and David Scott (the Casual Collective), is not like the rest. You control a lonely grey buggle (an imaginary creature from another game in the Collective, Buggle) just trying to make it in Buggle-Land. Or whatever. I just made that up. It is a fast-paced, single-player mouse avoidance game where your only goal is to survive as long as possible. There is no story. There is no thinking. There is only doing. And you'd better do your best to avoid the deadly red buggles flying haphazardly around the plain, white purgatory you're stuck in.

Attack of the BugglesTo make matters worse, you not only have to dodge these angry red fiends, but you must collect mysterious blue boxes to keep you from growing out of control. The boxes pop up, one at a time, on alternating sides of the room. As soon as you get one, another appears and begins to count down from ten. You get a number of points for each box you touch, equal to the amount of time left on the box. You also add one red buggle to the room for each box you touch and incrementally speed up all of them.

It would seem as though the difficulty would ramp up quickly. And it does. But the kind people at the CC have put in a couple of measures to extend your game time a bit. One is a slow motion meter. Every box you grab fills up one of the twenty slots in the meter, and once you have ten (at least) you can click your mouse to activate bullet time for a few seconds. This helps you get out of tight spots, which are abundant later in the game.

The second boon is a little green buggle that comes flying from the left of the screen every twenty boxes you collect. He (I say "he" because it is okay to arbitrarily assign genders to buggles—they don't mind) gracefully traces out a serene sinusoidal path to the right of the screen. Attack of the BugglesIf you manage to catch him (which isn't a hard thing to do, generally) you became the mighty devourer, destroyer of red buggles! Watch as they cower before your divine retribution—eat them, eat them all! In this enraged state the innocent and, prior to being eaten, happy, green buggle puts you in, you may eat as many red buggles as you can catch in the few seconds your anger lasts. You get a congratulations for every multiple of ten red buggles you manage to swallow in one go, but no real boost to your score—just your confidence. Paul has promised awards for the game soon: you can bet this will be at least one of them. Aside from relieving stress, it also clears up the screen, giving you a little breathing room as the game gets more hectic.

To the right of the playing field, a scoreboard updates live showing the five newest scores, the top six scores among the people on your friends list, and the top twenty overall scores. I do recommend registering for a free account: aside from allowing you to create a buddy list and post on the forums and in groups, you can save your high score for all to see.

A highly enjoyable little game, the first of many mini-games promised from the Collective, Attack of the Buggles quickly eats up all productivity. Check it out, if only for a few minutes... you'll be hooked into playing even longer.

Play Attack of the Buggles


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Rating: 4.2/5 (99 votes)
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Brute Wars

Patrick

If you've ever longed for a game to bring it on with animal-on-animal warfare, as in the tradition of Redwall, you've come to the right place. Brute Wars is a turn-based RPG tactical strategy game, and the latest game from Distraction Beast, where you pit your team of six creatures against opposing squads. The placement and order of their attacks adds up to a highly nuanced and rapid game of tactics that you won't want to miss.

Brute WarsAs the game begins, you have to choose what kind of creatures you want composing your unit. Six portraits are lined up, you can click on one, and then click on another to swap places, or click on the "?" icon to randomize that creature's type. Mousing over each portrait shows a list of stats, and directional arrows show the way that creature can attack. Some creatures can only attack from two spaces away, while some can attack multiple times and some can smash against enemies in multiple directions. The assortment you choose goes a long way toward the ease of combat.

In battle, simply by clicking on one of your animals causes it to attack. Each turn that passes fills up your magic meter, which allows you to perform a few special moves during your turn. You can also order creatures who haven't yet attacked to swap places. Every battle you win levels up your surviving units, but they also lose a level every time they are knocked out. Between battles, you'll be able to heal and revive units, and then move around a overworld map containing shops and special treasures. The goal is to conquer all 7 castles on each map segment, and then proceed to a final destination.

Analysis: Brute Wars is a great example of a game with high production values, elegant interface design, and complex dynamics emerging from simple rules. The graphics are crisp and iconic and the interface flows very smoothly, making seemingly complex rules and numbers intuitively simple. A few arrows, attack power levels, hit points and attacks per turn ends up evoking some fairly interesting tactical decisions, with the magic mechanic serving as a nice garnish. The only significant issue in the harmony of the gameplay comes from the level adjustment mechanic. There's a nasty feedback loop where any weak links in your team end up de-leveling more and more as they lose levels. A big part of winning the long-term games comes in sparing your animals from being K.O'ed whenever possible. However, the problem there is that swapping them out of harm's way is too expensive, taking up an entire turn. The solution to this design issue would be to allow swapping to occur between an animal that hasn't attacked and a unit that already has—currently both creatures must be fresh in order for the swap to take place. There's also a rare bug on the Exp. screen that causes the game to effectively freeze, so make sure you save regularly and don't lose your progress right at the end of the game, like I did.

Treat yourself to a smorgasborg of tactics and well-drawn portrait art,

Play Brute Wars


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Arcadia Remix

ArtbegottiIf something considered "retro" gets remade, is it still considered retro? Such is the question to ponder while playing Arcadia Remix, the juiced-up retro remake of Gamelab's multitasking classic, Arcadia. This newer version adds to the retro insanity with more mini-games and gameplay features to make your head explode in a neon rainbow.

arcadiaremix.gifFor those not familiar with the original Arcadia, the premise is simple: a small mini-game appears in one window to play. The games aren't too difficult, so playing one game for a long time would get boring. That's why you'll be given up to four games to play simultaneously, requiring your attention to be divided four ways to stay alive. You're given ten lives to begin each level, and a loss in any individual game will take away one of your precious ten lives. Lose all ten, and it's game over.

Instead of playing the same four games 'til kingdom come, your goal is now to beat a series of cycling mini-games, each with its own target score to clear. Each of the 50 levels of the game has its own total points target to beat, dominating the high scores board one slot at a time. It doesn't quite give the same feeling you get from smashing someone's score at the Ms. Pac-Man table, since the level ends once you meet the quota, but seeing your initials take over the entire high score list does give you a sense of geekish pride.

And what about these mini-games? We now have a whopping 16 games to play, which is double the eight in the original downloadable Arcadia (which is still double the four games in the online version). The games tackle more genres than before, with the classic space shooter, the martial arts brawl, the word puzzle, the walk-down-a-tunnel RPG, and the basketball shoot-out games all joining the pixelfest.

One definite advancement over the original Arcadia games is that the games that pop up at any given time are blended to make your brain sweat. Games with contrasting goals (move the ship to shoot the rocks versus move the ship to avoid the rocks) are often subtly paired against one another, forcing you to divide not only your attention, but your mind as well. And it hits you all of a sudden, when you're playing the same game on four screens at three different speeds, that you realize, "Hmm, they really want my brain to explode, don't they?"

arcadiaremix2.gifRemember the rainbow orbs from the original Arcadia? They're back, but with a different little purpose. Instead of instantly doubling the point values of the games, rainbow orbs that you collect go into a gauge at the bottom of the screen. Collecting more orbs means you can trigger more powerful boosters, ranging from the 2x-4x multipliers, free extra lives, the ability to slow down games, all they way up to "God Mode," where you can play without fear of losing a single life for a limited amount of time. Certain powerups will be more helpful to you at different times in the game, so you've got to keep your eye on the gauge to know when to hit the button activating the current power-up.

Analysis: True to the original retro style, Arcadia Remix delivers a throwback to the Atari games of yesteryear, complete with all the pixels and "blips" you remembered. On somewhat of a paradoxical downside though, the music and sounds have barely changed since the last Arcadia came, which strikes me as odd. Maybe they're trying to force another sense of retro on us?

The change from four-games-forever to cycling-sixteen was a very good move, in my mind. Instead of staring at a rarely-changing screen playing only two games (because you've built up enough lives in the other two games that you can basically ignore them without worry), you're now forced to divide your attention to all four games, because you're not only concerned about playing each game, but also about quickly redirecting your brain to a new set of rules when a new game pops up. However, this still leaves something to be desired, since there are very few adjustable options for gameplay. There's no choice between easy/medium/hard difficulty, or no way to customize how many points constitute a "win" in the Endless Mode, so the game is very linear, straightforward, and "here's what's next, so deal."

Small concerns aside, Arcadia Remix shoots a new flurry of rainbow stars into the multitasking genre, and is definitely worth the try. Quarters were meant for arcade games, not laundry, right?

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Weekend Download

JohnBTwo heavy-hitting detective games hit the casual scene this weekend, one a re-release of a classic point-and-click title, the other an exclusive from a seasoned adventure development studio. Each one spins an unforgettable tale using famous crime novel monikers everyone should recognize. Although the titles take strikingly different gameplay approaches, each one offers a deep mystery experience wrought with hidden agendas, misleading clues, and plenty of riddles to solve.

sherlockholmespersian.jpgSherlock Holmes: The Mystery of the Persian Carpet (Windows, 82MB, demo) - From Frogwares, the developer behind a number of Sherlock Holmes adventure mysteries, comes a casually-oriented game that puts a new spin on the series. The famous Sherlock Holmes receives a letter from Scotland Yard detailing a murder where the body was rolled into a rare Persian carpet. Not ones to turn down an unsolvable crime, Holmes and Watson set out to gather clues and piece together a suspect list.

Similar in gameplay style to Escape the Museum, you'll travel to various locations via an overworld map, hunting for items in each area and solving light puzzles and minigames along the way. The hidden object and adventure themes are well-balanced, but the game is strangely linear and performs a lot of the detective work without your intervention. The story is where the meat of the game is at, and if you can look beyond the often less-than-stellar writing quality, this almost plays like a Sherlock Holmes story meets Mystery Case Files.

agathachristieorient.jpgAgatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express (Windows, 1.2G, no demo) - A train stalled on the tracks due to an avalanche. A man murdered in his room. Footprints leading through the snow away from the crime scene. All of the pieces of the puzzle are there, but it's your job to put them together. Play as the young Antoinette Marceau following the vigilant guidance of the famous detective Hercule Poirot. Speak with passengers, gather evidence and assemble clues (both verbal and physical) to find the culprit.

Agatha Christie: Murder on the Orient Express's strengths are rooted in its narration, setting, artistic direction, and wonderful storytelling. Some of the puzzles are a bit trite and end up being little more than miniature fetching quests. But the game has withstood the test of time quite well and can proudly deliver a delicious adventure mystery experience to a whole new group of gamers. Unfortunately there isn't a demo for this title, which is a significant drawback, but if your interest was excited by the words "mystery", "adventure", or "classic", this is a no-brainer for you.


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Weekend Download

JohnBReady to fill your hard drive to the brim? This weekend we've got several commercially produced games released as freeware. That means you get all the polish and production value of a big studio title without shelling out the cash. You'll have to be patient while they download, and the games aren't as friendly to casual gamers as we'd like, but you can't beat paying nothing for a game that used to carry a retail price tag.

trackmanianations.jpgTrackMania Nations Forever (Windows, >500MB, free) - Ooh, big commercial-type racing game... for free! The successful arcade racing series includes track-building, stunts, and a few puzzle-type elements thrown in for good measure. Play in solo mode on 65 new tracks, or join the legions of TrackMania fans in online multiplayer races.

savagenewerth.jpgSavage: The Battle for Newerth (Windows/Linux, 151MB, free) - What what what?! Another commercial game that's now free?! Savage is an online-only multiplayer real-time strategy/first person shooter hybrid. Take on resource management and building your technology tree, or lead other players into fierce battle. Combat is fast-paced and action oriented, and the sci-fi fantasy setting is epic. (Note: Torrent download only.)

psychonauts.jpgPsychonauts (Windows, 1.5G, limited free play) - Another gargantuan download, but this one is well worth the wait (and the price). Psychonauts is a cult favorite 3D platformer available for free via the GameTap client. Follow the exploits of Raz, a young boy who escapes the circus and sneaks into a summer camp for kids with psychic abilities. As you enter the strange minds of various characters to help them overcome their trauma, you'll realize just how odd this game is. Once you jump through a few hoops to download it, Psychonauts is pure gold.

mubblytower.jpgMubbly Tower (Windows, 11MB, free) - The Mubbly Kingdom has been formed! To celebrate, King Mubbly wants to build a tower. Unfortunately the neighboring Wobblies have the nasty habit of bringing down towers (oh the bad luck!). Drop blocks and try to build the pile above "Teh Line". Spend "Moneh" to defend your tower with special Mubblies that have arrows, spears, and other abilities.


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (101 votes)
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Eye for Design

JohnBDecorating your home is loads of fun. Assuming you have a huge budget, unlimited resources, and all the time in the world. Sandlot's new casual game Eye for Design drops you into the interior design chair with near total control over the inside of each house. You play Halle, the top grad from a prestigious design school in Paris, working with clients looking to spruce up their abodes. Choose and arrange nearly every element in each room to make the customer happy and earn respect in the interior design world.

eyefordesign.jpgAt the outset Halle gets simple decorating jobs that involve little more than dropping a few pieces of furniture and calling it a day. Your goals for each room are listed to the left, furniture inventory at the bottom, and an isometric view of the room fills the rest of the screen. Simply drag and drop items onto the floor. Most rooms display helpful guide marks to show you where the furniture can be placed. You earn points for fulfilling listed goals and bonus points for completing "secret goals" and hitting color combinations with your selections.

Each job usually consists of several rooms in a home, and groups of homes create a neighborhood. As you progress through the stages you move on to bigger and posher areas where the customers' tastes are bigger, more expensive, and more difficult to satisfy.

eyefordesign2.jpgAnalysis: Eye for Design takes itself a lot less seriously than Home Sweet Home, dropping the concept of a budget, loosening the design guidelines, and foregoing the arcade-style building sequences entirely. Instead, what we get is a super-stylish game that focuses on simple goals and color coordination. Sure, you won't get points deducted if you cover that beautiful painting with a lamp, but if we wanted stringent decorating rules, we'd try moving furniture at aunt Agatha's house.

A drawback to this freer approach is a game that is lighter on actual design and heavier on furniture placement. At times you'll feel more like you're playing a warped version of Tetris trying to pack furniture in limited spaces within the room's four walls.

The best thing going for Eye for Design is its presentation, which has more attitude than you might expect. The visuals are good, the interface works well, and the game is as enjoyable as any casual game should be. Walk in expecting only a minimal amount of actual design and you'll walk away a very happy gamer.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (36 votes)
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AdamBPararalyzerWhether you refer to them as the "manic shooter", "curtain fire" or "blanket shooter", the undeniable fact is that it produces some of the most intense responses a genre of games can. Both on an impressive visual scale, and the more personal, adrenaline-based impulse reaction level. And it cannot be denied that the Japanese have a stranglehold on all things "manic shooter".

The Flash-based Pararalyzer, from Japanese developer Heriet, is no exception. From the opening screen, there is action galore and soon enough amazing bullet patterns criss-cross the screen in a dazzling kaleidoscope of colour. Through it all the [Z] key will be your best friend, as you unleash a seemingly endless stream of bullets toward the equally endless droves of enemies who are bent on destroying you.

Every so often a boss turns up, usually with three different stages of destruction to battle through before it is dispatched. The action never lets up as the ballet of enemies and their bullets once again resumes with you, the star, caught in the middle of it all. Fortunately, the intensities can be alleviated somewhat with the [C] key, which provides temporary relief in the form of a shield, provided you have some in stock. The [X] key not only provides sweet bullet respite in its main form as a spray of electric enemy disabling bombs, but as a multifaceted tool for organising pick-ups.

By launching the [X] bombs into the pick-ups, they change in a sequence through life>shield>vanish>force and back again. In order, "life" increases your health, or 200 points if your health is already full. "Shield" gives you another stock of shield (mentioned above and deployable with the [C] key) or 200 points if that stock is full. "Vanish" is the most immediately useful as it clears the screen of any bullets. And "force" temporarily increases your attack power. Another, "Extend" is only available at the end of a level and gives you the ability to hold more health. Playing with all these rules in mind not only deepens the gameplay, but adds another layer of strategy. Quite an achievement for a fast paced flash shmup.

Analysis: It's not difficult to understand why games like this continue to be so exciting. There is something inherently gratifying about being stuck in a surely deadly situation only to suddenly find a few pixels of maneuvering space and escape. Then it happens all over again. With the unique option of being able to double the screen size, or to turn the background to black, this shooter, despite its relative length, provides a very intense and exciting game play experience. I'd love to write a bit more about it, but for now, it's back to this incredibly enjoyable game.

Play Pararalyzer


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KarmenGood Things Should Never EndThey say that good things should never end. Take orange, for instance. The orange is infinite. Scroll down into the orange. It's ok, the orange won't hurt you. Use the scrollbar, use the little nubby thing protruding from your mouse, it doesn't matter. You can drag it and fly across the orange like a satellite map or you can stroke it with your finger on your fancy new iwebophone. Any way you dive into it, it is orange.

Look in to the orange, marvel in its rainbow endlessness. If you're confused, you might ask the one of the robots that keeps asking you for a chat. You might learn quite a bit. The robots won't tell you the object of the game, you say? You could try creating a better robot, using zygotic manipulation. Or, you could try seeking the end of the orange, the horizon at the edge of the rind. Or, you could stop and guess. They're waiting for you to try.

Perhaps it would be best just to give into the orange. Play. Grow things, drop things, poke things. Create something: scribble it, arrange it, mix it up with sprinkles on top. You can do it just like you were ringing a bell. If you want to keep the orange and pass it around, you can pick up a little tag and paste it up wherever you call home.

This strange orange webtoy is actually an advergame for the UK phone company Orange Unlimited. For those in the UK, that means freebies like sim cards and text messages. For those of us in other places in the world, that means "Orange" is a rather ambiguous thing. For everyone, it means a chance to play with a nonsensical and surreal landscape. Whether you are interested in phone service or not, give it a try, and I think you'll agree: good things should never end.

Update: All good things should never end, but they always do, don't they? This fun diversion is unfortunately no longer online. Previously tagged as: advergame, browser, flash, free, interactiveart, macwinlinux, rating-g, webtoy


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Link Dump Fridays

JohnBMy goal for this Link Dump Friday was to feature five games with one word titles. Did I succeed? Nope. Does that mean my mutant powers are waning? NEVER! It's just due to the position of Jupiter in relation to Capricorn, you see... And besides, one word or two, all the games are still fun, right?

  • icon_sinta.gifSinta - A new entry from Ninja Kiwi, creator of Bloons, that has nothing to do with monkeys or balloons! Instead, Sinta is a platformer involving a kitty and bows and arrows, so the concept is equally as cute/strange.
  • icon_topple.gifTopple - Inspired by Avalanche, Topple uses simple controls and bouncey physics to create a fun little arcade experience. Rings fall from the sky and gradually fill the screen. Control your ring and try to stay on top of the pile, avoiding the rising water at all costs!
  • icon_shirk.gifShirk - A colorful mouse avoider game where the landscape scrolls down onto your unsuspecting cursor. And is it just me, or is that background music one of the happiest tunes ever created?
  • icon_digitpuzzle.gifDigit Puzzle - An advergame touting a web hosting service, this little puzzle title is nonetheless intriguing. Rearrange the tetromino-like pieces so the treasure tile is completely uncovered. Click the mouse to grab blocks, then click on the board to rotate them or off the board to flip them.
  • icon_brainbones.gifBrain Bones - A dice throwing game where you try to fill score slots with random rolls. Occupy a space once and the number is negative, occupy it a few more times and you start earning. The game ends when your discard pile gets too high.

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Rating: 4.5/5 (721 votes)
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Alan Probe: Amateur Surgeon

PsychotronicUpdate: 3rd and final chapter now available to play!
(Warning: This game features excessive cartoon violence, adult themes and potentially offensive language.)

The story goes like this. Alan Probe is a slovenly pizza delivery boy obsessed with pipe dreams of becoming a master surgeon. One day, while distracted by thoughts of doctorly fame, Alan smacks his delivery van into a staggering hobo, shattering the poor man's rib cage and inadvertently launching them both on a new and fateful career path. Alan Probe: Amateur SurgeonThe fallen vagrant urges Alan to perform emergency surgery on him with whatever tools are handy. Open him up, drag his ribs into place, and sew him back together, easy as pie. Convenient pizza cutter in hand, Alan obliges, directed at every step by his patient and new mentor.

Who is this mysterious hobo? If he was once a successful surgeon, how did he fall so far? What secrets hide in the underbelly of this corrupt and vicious city? Why are everyone's mouths drawn so big?

These are the enigmas of Adult Swim's Alan Probe: Amateur Surgeon, a cartoonish and casually offensive entry into the simon-says-surgery genre made famous(ish) by Atlus' Trauma Center. The gameplay is wide open the same way ducks are eloquent. They are not, and it isn't. Your job is to follow the exact requirements of each surgery as quickly and as accurately as possible. A dashed yellow line means you need to select your pizza cutter and draw along it. An object stuck in a wound is your cue to get out the tongs. An open laceration needs to be stapled shut.

That's right. Instead of surgical stitches, you use a stapler. And your operating surface is a bloody pool table. One of your patients is a man who has attacked himself with a nail gun in order to sue the tool company. His name is Insurance-fraud Claude. If that made you chuckle, or if you're already a fan of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming line-up, I think you'll enjoy Amateur Surgeon. If it sounds totally stupid, or gratuitous cartoon violence bothers you, you should probably skip this one.

Alan Probe: Amateur SurgeonThe game will give you instructions as you play, but the gist of it is this. Choose your off-beat surgical implement from a menu at the top of the screen. You can either click on it or press the appropriate number key, which is much faster, and soon becomes necessary since you'll be under time restrictions. When you've dealt with all of your current patient's injuries and stapled him shut, you win the level. If his heart rate drops too low, either because time ran out or you've done the wrong thing too many times, the patient dies, and you'll have to start the level over from the beginning.

When this review was first written there was only the first chapter out of a planned trilogy. Now all 3 Acts are up and available to play with each one comprising about ten episodes and promising many wacky adventures, including secret levels. If you enjoyed this one the first time around, you won't want to miss the conclusion!

Analysis: Amateur Surgeon is blessed with the finest production values a second-tier television network can buy, with bright, detailed environments and an ever-present sense of self-conscious irony. There's even a halfway interesting story, although obviously we're not talking Shakespeare here (unless you mean Titus Andronicus). The violence is so over-the-top that it's not really gross, but there's still plenty of comically intense moments to go around. Especially the stuff with the chainsaw.

Most of your interaction with the game should go pretty smoothly, except for a handful of places where you'll need to be unreasonably fast and precise, touch-pad operators be warned. The game's biggest flaw otherwise is that it's too repetitive. Most of your time is spent searing wounds closed with the lighter and then glopping a numbing gel on the scar, and you have to do it over and over and over again. Most patients are just covered with gashes both inside and out, and while this can be justified by the ridiculous nature of their injuries, it still feels like an artificial method of making the levels longer.

But what can you do? The point of this game is to tell grisly visual jokes and amuse you, not to supply multi-layered strategic gameplay depth. It does its job well, and the gameplay is actually better than it needs to be. Some of the surgeries have a crazy, inventive edge to them that bodes well for the coming chapters. The developers aren't taking themselves at all seriously, which is enough reason to give this a try even if you've already played both Trauma Center and the Dark Cut series. I give it two severed thumbs up. Get to slicin'.

Play Alan Probe: Amateur Surgeon


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (157 votes)
| Comments (59) | Views (186)

JoshChronotronIf you're a fan of time travel theory, or if you enjoyed any of the amazing time-based games (Timebot, Time Raider, and Super Earth Defense, in particular) from our replay-themed game competition last summer, then you'll love Chronotron, developed by Scarybug Games. Chronotron is a platform puzzler with a really innovative (and addictive) twist. Here's the angle: you play the role of a clunky-looking robot who's apparently the pilot of a time travel machine. This "time pod" runs into trouble, sustains damage and needs to be repaired. Thus in each level, you need to snatch up one of your missing "time circuits" so your gizmo can eventually be repaired. Unfortunately for your robot, the levels are designed in a way that makes it impossible for you to collect the pieces on your own. However, since your time pod is still semi-functional, you can just go back in time to help yourself!

While it's true that time travel or a "rewind" concept isn't necessarily cutting-edge anymore when it comes to casual games, the concept is refined—and executed almost to perfection—in Chronotron. First off, the controls couldn't be simpler. Move, crouch and jump with either the [arrow] keys (or the [WASD] configuration), and use [space] to interact with your time machine. Traveling back in time is the key to completing each level, since the levels are designed to require two, three or four (and even more) copies of yourself to work in unison, collectively allowing you to reach your goal and return to your machine. For example, in the first level, your circuit board is on a platform that's too high for you to reach. There's a pad nearby that you can stand on, which raises an elevator, allowing you to reach the circuit. However, the second you step off the pad, the elevator lowers back down. Hence, you need someone to stand on it for you. Why not yourself? Just stand on the pad for a few seconds, then go back and enter your time pod. A duplicate copy of yourself pops out, mimicking your previous actions exactly. Since the "previous you" is standing on the pad, the "current you" (always marked by a green arrow above your head) is free to hop on the elevator and retrieve the circuit board.

As you'd expect, the levels progress and the puzzles become increasingly more difficult, so you'll need to re-enter your time pod numerous times in order to accomplish certain tasks. The game requires a lot of lateral thinking; sometimes you'll be able to beat a level by thinking a few moves ahead, while other times trial-and-error becomes a necessity. As if that weren't enough, you've got time paradoxes to worry about, which is where the game really gets interesting. You can't beat a level unless all the past copies of yourself are able to re-enter the time pod. If one of the past versions of you gets stuck in a pit or trapped in a room they can't get out of (thereby not making it back to the time pod), then you wouldn't have been able to make it back to the future. And, as the game puts it, if you couldn't make it back to the future, you wouldn't be able to prevent your past self from making it back to the time pod.

Analysis: Chronotron is a game that draws you in, inspiring you to keep beating level after level just to prove to yourself that you can. As mentioned, the execution of the time-travel gameplay mechanic is great, but not perfect. There are some complaints about past selves not reacting exactly the way they did (for example, missing a jump that was previously successful), although this reviewer hasn't encountered that problem yet. On the flipside, the developers give you the chance to "rewind" your actions (pretty much like an "undo" on your PC), accessible by pushing [R] or using a neat little display at the bottom of the screen resembling the controls of a CD player. You can also restart the level, pause, mute the music (a funky sci-fi beat) or even hit "eject" to return to the main menu. Thirty-five levels and five bonus levels are available via the menu, as well as a walkthrough and your basic game settings. Bottom line: Chronotron is a game that's just as interesting as it is fun, which makes a great combination. If you enjoy platformers, puzzle or logic games at all, this is one game you don't want to miss.

Play Chronotron

Cheers to Joe for sending this one in! =)


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Rating: 4.6/5 (48 votes)
| Comments (34) | Views (99)

FunnyManM.I.L.O. Waking UpMeet M.I.L.O., yet another marvelous entry into our our recent upgrade-themed Casual Gameplay Design Competition, by Studio Cypher. M.I.L.O. stands for Mildly Intelligent Living Organism, an odd name for a robot to be sure, but the one carried by the robotic main character of this puzzling game.

Naturally, I say the game is puzzling not because it's hard to understand, but because it's full of puzzles. You play as M.I.L.O., who wanders through the sixteen levels of this game pushing buttons, carrying items, and avoiding the deathtraps set for him. The controls are simple: arrow keys or WASD to move, [space] to pick up or drop items, and [Q] and [E] to turn M.I.L.O. without moving.

The goal of each level is standard: reach the exit in one piece. As you'd expect from this kind of game, there are plenty of buttons to push, enemies to dodge, lasers to avoid, and items to use. Enemies and lasers kill you, bombs blow things up, and crates and doors get in your way, but that's about where the conventional nature of M.I.L.O. ends.

To help M.I.L.O. on his way through the dangerous warehouse, his father has kindly thought to give him some spider bots as friends. Spider bots are simple critters, when you set them down, they run in the direction you're facing until they hit an obstacle or something kills them. On their own, spider bots are fairly dull, but later levels also come equipped with an Upgrader, which allows you to fuse another item to a spider bot. Bombs make them useful for combat, mirrors let them deflect lasers, rockets make them pushy enough to move boxes, and batteries let them power things. You'll have to make full use of all of the spider bots' forms if you want to make it through M.I.L.O. in one piece.

As you go through the game, you'll read the notes left behind by M.I.L.O.'s father. Some of them give you clues to progress through the game, and others simply add to the backstory of the game. Keep a sharp eye on what the notes say, because there's more to this game than fits in a single browser window. If the ending you see isn't very satisfying, you need to look deeper and think outside the box.

Analysis: When a game is entered into a competition and doesn't win anything, there's a strong tendency to think that it was boring, badly-made, or just not very good. M.I.L.O is another in a long line of reasons why you should fight that impulse with all your might. There's still a bug or two hiding under the surface, but M.I.L.O. is a quality piece of work. The puzzles are ingenious, the story fun, and the parts of the game that live outside the flash will keep you busy for a while and enjoying every head-scratching moment.

In fact, the biggest shame about M.I.L.O. is that even with the extensions, you eventually reach the end. Studio Cypher, we hope to see the next episode of M.I.L.O. very soon. And we'd love to see a level editor to go with it, so that we're not brought to a standstill when we finish the official levels.

Play M.I.L.O

Or play M.I.L.O. at StudioCypher's Mildly Intelligent website.


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Rating: 4.7/5 (199 votes)
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PsychotronicMusic BounceMusic Bounce, the latest release from Rowland Rose (Scorching Earth) at Let's Make a Game, is a bit like Breakout, but with an unlikely musical twist. Each level presents you with a different layout of colored bricks. Your job is to wipe them all out by striking them with ammunition from an array of gates on the left side of the screen.

The gameplay is set to an 8-beat musical loop. Click on a gate once to activate it, and once more to deactivate. Once you turn on a gate, every 8 beats it will release a destructive ball, which will travel from left to right, ricocheting off bricks as it encounters them. Destroyed bricks regenerate over the course of that same 8 beats, and you can only pass a level by keeping them all inactive simultaneously, even if it's only for a moment. Therefore, if you set the correct gates to fire at the correct times, the bouncing trajectories should hit every target, all within the same short period of time. Each level imposes a limit on the number of gates you can activate, indicated in the sidebar on the far left.

There are a hefty 50 levels to tackle, but the reward for completing a level in Music Bounce goes beyond the mere satisfaction of victory. Each rectangle you strike releases an instrumental tone or drum sample, and thus their rhythmic destruction can produce a back beat, a bass line, or a melody, depending on how the level is designed. Each level is both a puzzle and a musical arrangement. Like all the games at Let's Make a Game, Music Bounce comes with a level editor, so you can compose your own brainteasing soundscapes.

Analysis: Music Bounce is not a pretty game. The colors are probably paler than they need to be, and the graphical detail is the bare minimum required to get the point across. It might actually have looked better if Rose had gone for a completely retro style like classic Breakout, solid rectangles of color and all. The audio sounds great, of course, although if your computer runs Flash with any lag at all, your experience will be marred by scratchy sound effects and synchronization problems. It's not much fun playing a rhythm game that can't keep a beat, and I can't help but wonder if the code could be better optimized for slower processors.

But if everything is running properly, Music Bounce can be magical. It's great fun discovering the hidden melodies in each new configuration of blocks, and you have some freedom to syncopate the different sections of a song to your own liking. The real challenge sometimes, rather than just completing the level, is to get the track sounding just right. It would be nice if a puzzle could last longer than 8 beats, to allow for more complicated compositions, but there's still a fair amount of variety. If you got hung up on the first level of Scorching Earth, you'll be happy to find a much smoother learning curve on this game, but watch out for the occasional difficulty spike after the first 10 levels.

Play Music Bounce


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (152 votes)
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JoshArmed with WingsOne of the most aptly-named casual games ever, Armed with Wings, by Sun Studios, is an enjoyable platformer with some innovative twists. You play the role of a fallen hero, brought back to life from the "blackmist" in search of vengeance, armed with a katana and an eagle. That's right, an eagle. Designed to augment the typical start-to-finish run of platformers, you have control of an eagle that helps you reach your goal in a variety of ways. In most levels, that goal is simply to make it to the end flag by chopping your way through enemies and solving various environmental puzzles, like getting bridges to extend, distracting enemies and more.

You will want to run the tutorial stage your first time playing because there's a slight learning curve (mainly using the controls) to this game. The first thing you'll notice is the monochrome environment, reminiscent of the classic N. The levels are stylish enough to hold your attention without getting tiresome, especially when you consider that according to the story, you and your eagle are manifested in the "blackmist," an alternate reality of sorts. Controls take a bit of getting used to: move with the [arrow] keys, [Z] to attack, [X] to block, while the [A], [S] and [D] buttons control your eagle.

Armed with WingsThe sole aspect of this game that sets it apart from any other typical action/puzzle platform games is your pet eagle, which lets you to interact with both the environment and enemies in some fun and interesting ways. You release the eagle by pushing [A], allowing it to fly around under your control for a certain time before it's summoned back to you. Using [S] allows the eagle to pick up various items like rocks and keys; things that you need to advance through the level but can't reach yourself. [D] sets the eagle to an idle mode, returning control to the hero while the eagle stays in place. All of this adds up to a variety of uses such as distracting enemies while you slice-and-dice them from behind, scouting locations up ahead, picking up items you need to advance, and much more. In early stages, reaching the goal flag can be as simple as cutting your way through a few opponents. In later stages, you'll have to rely on your puzzle-solving skills, even when it comes to certain boss fights. The attacking mechanic is pretty fun; basic attack is a three-swipe sword combo. There's also an uppercut swipe that leaves enemies reeling, giving you some breathing room. Then there's the ultimate; a charged attack that can devastate enemies (as well as some objects in the environment).

Analysis: At its core, Armed with Wings is an action/puzzle platformer, and no amount of glitz and glamor is going to change that. But even if you're sick to death of platformers, this game offers something special: an innovative game mechanic with polish and style. Snazzy cut scenes before and after boss fights add some great eye candy, while an evenly-progressing difficulty system keeps you from throwing in the towel. Control would have been better if configurable (for fans of WASD movement), but it works. The ability to jump would also have been a nice addition, although many of puzzles rest solely on your inability to do so. Check out the built-in walkthrough on the menu screen if you get stuck and again, be sure to check out the tutorial stage in the "How to Play" section or you'll be flying blind.

Play Armed with Wings

TimWWan Hazmer has been very busy. Entering two of our latest competitions, Hazmer and his studio Easy Only! Games placed third with Ballistic Wars and more recently took the top prize with The Last Canopy. What's next for Hazmer and his pals? Read on to find out.

wanhazmer2.jpgHi Haz, can you introduce yourself for the benefit of our readers?

Sure thing! I'm Wan Hazmer, a Malaysian independent game developer. I have my own little set-up called Easy Only! Games. Now EOG has only one employee: me!

Thanks to my background in Computing and IT, I program all of my games, and I'm the main game designer as well. I can't draw to save my life, so I usually get my wonderful cousins and friends to be freelance artists.

People tell me that I'm a happy-go-lucky guy with a knack for entertaining others. I do not know as much about game design concepts and terminologies as many other game designers do, but I do know how to make games entertaining. I just happen to have a very simple view of how games can be fun.


Are you doing game development full-time?

When I'm not scratching my head for the next game idea, I work as a part-time lecturer in The One Academy, teaching interaction design and Flash programming to budding young multimedia designers.

I've always believed that everyone can understand programming, since everyone's logical in some way or another. The One Academy got to know of this passion of mine and decided to hire me to teach programming to multimedia design students. Since I have experience in Digital Advertising, I also teach interaction design and supervise students on their multimedia final year projects.

It's also my passion to teach others anyway, so I'm really enjoying myself at the moment.


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Rating: 4.8/5 (1024 votes)
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zxoDino RunThis is it. Are you ready for the big one? The fine folks at Pixeljam have really managed to outdo themselves this time, bringing us an outlandishly retro, high stakes (as in pedal-to-the-metal ZOMG! apocalypse-is-coming high), mad multiplayer dash for survival called Dino Run.

Yes, the meteor which is to wipe out all dino-kind is imminent, and a perilous race across the crater-pocked, lava-spewing terrain towards a distant underground paradise is your only hope of survival! Luckily, as a velociraptor, you're better equipped for such a journey than just about any other thunder lizard. Use the [arrow] or [WASD] keys to move, jump, and attack. Along the way, collect eggs, tunnel into volcanoes, catch rides on larger dinos and rolling meteorites, and snarf down anything smaller than you for score bonuses, but be quick about it, for rushing up behind you is the Wall of Doom—the oncoming fiery blackness through which nothing living may pass!

Although there are three modes of play (Challenge, Speedrun and Multiplayer), the idea is basically the same: run as fast as you can. Though that might not sound like a particularly deep game construct, Pixeljam keeps it interesting with four levels of difficulty and scads of unlockable features (including new Speedrun levels and downloadable extras), most of which must be purchased with bones. Bones are awarded for various game achievements in all three modes. Besides bones, you can also earn DNA points, which you can then use to upgrade your raptor: make them faster, stronger and more agile. Also hidden throughout the levels are super eggs, which grant large bonuses in all areas: score, bones and DNA. They are tricky to find, though, and no amount of bonus is worth getting fried to a crisp over!

What I love most about Dino Run is neither the perfectly captured retro feel (although the last time I saw pixels that big, I had to call them from a DOS prompt), nor the immense replay value, but the total interactivity your dino has with its surroundings. Pterodactyls will carry you for a short while, boulders and meteorites can be pushed into other dinos and ridden down slopes, flowers and little creatures are for eating, and big dinos are for riding or pushing out of the way. You're being literally bombarded with action, and just about all of it affects you in some way. The cumulative effect instills a sense of franticness in the player appropriate to the apocalyptic nature of the game.

A game that can successfully coax the player into the same mindset as the character is a rare gem. Pixeljam pulled out all the stops with Dino Run, and delivered in a gargantuan way.

Play Dino Run


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Rating: 4.6/5 (362 votes)
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JayBowja the Ninja on Factory IslandArmed with nothing but a bow and some arrows, Bowja the Ninja is on a covert mission to Factory Island to take out the menace to humanity that is the Gi8000 (otherwise known as Randy the Robot). Help Bowja defeat the factory workers and save humanity once and for all, before it's too late.

Created by Robin Vencel, Bowja the Ninja on Factory Island is a charming point-and-click adventure in which you must find the appropriate spots to click to make little Bowja advance, solving puzzles and besting foes along the way. The animations, little voices, and scenery make this game a pleasure to play through. And when you complete the game, you're even treated to some game art downloads as a reward.

Play Bowja the Ninja on Factory Island

Cheers to Justin, Robin, and Bob for sending this one in! =)


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Rating: 4.5/5 (96 votes)
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JayPolcarstvaPolcarstva is a gorgeous piece of interactive art that comes from the amazing talents of Denis Stepkin and U Studio of Russia.

Travel through a surrealist's world, using standard point-and-click mechanics, and enjoy the music and scenery along the way. Not too difficult to get through, and yet just the right kind of diversion for an afternoon tea. Open the windows and let the spring air in while you

Play Polcarstva

Cheers to Graeme for the link. =)


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Rating: 4.7/5 (23 votes)
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Professor Fizzwizzle - The Amazing Brain Train

JohnBFresh from Grubby Games, creator of all things Professor Fizzwizzle, comes a new brain teaser/puzzle title with a huge dose of cute. The Amazing Brain Train features a heaping handful of brain games woven together with a series of quests given to you by furry animals in distress. In order to traverse the board game-style overworld, you need to unlock sections of track and power your train with—what else—brain power! It's a well-made puzzle experience that puts the "fun" back into "brain teaser" (trust me, it's there).

amazingbraintrain.jpgThe Amazing Brain Train features three modes of play: Quest, Test, and Practice. Test and Practice let you jump right in and play the brain teasers whenever you want with no goal other than besting your previous score. You can even play with time limits turned off for a less-frantic experience. In order to unlock all the games, however, you'll need to head over to Quest Mode, the heart of the game where you take and complete quests and power the train by completing puzzles.

There are five categories of brain teasers, each containing three games: number, memory, spatial, planning, and search puzzles. Most of what you see you've probably seen before, either as simple online diversions or mini-games in another casual title, but the signature Professor Fizzwizzle style puts a slightly new spin on them all.

Quest Mode dishes out the teasers whenever your train runs out of juice. When you speak with one of the animals beside the tracks you'll get a quest. Click "Travel" to start moving towards the destination, and when you need fuel you'll jump into a mini-game. The game types appear to be random, and if you get one you're not in the mood for, you can cancel out and re-enter to start a different one. Completing the task earns you fuel that allows the train to chug along to its destination.

amazingbraintrain2.jpgAnalysis: Visually gorgeous, the Professor Fizzwizzle style is certainly slathered on this game without reserve. The animations are fluid, fun to watch, and I simply can't get over how cool those animals look on the blocks to the right. The high scores and trophy achievements, while not integral to the game, add a nice little touch to the overall experience.

The puzzle variety in The Amazing Brain Train is good, but there aren't very many new ideas here, mostly classic brain teasers. Each is well crafted, easy to play and fun to master, but by the time you travel across the board half a dozen times, you'll be ready for something new. Or just a break from the game.

A superb casual brain teaser game that's perfect for short bursts of play. You can't go wrong with Professor Fizzwizzle, no matter what strange feats he undertakes!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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

LinuxLinux:
Download the demo
Get the full version


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (23 votes)
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Agatha Christie: Peril at End House

KarmenImagine what gaming was like in your great-grandmother's day, before instant downloads and online puzzles. (Don't worry, we're just imagining—you can hold on to your mouse!) You might turn on the radio, or even more simply, open a book: a mystery book. Say, one by the legendary Agatha Christie. Let's say, "Peril at End House." As soon as you open the book, you find yourself sitting alongside Hercule Poirot in a quiet coastal resort, one filled with odd characters, art deco signs, and Victorian nostalgia.

agathachristieperil.jpgSoon, you meet a beguiling young woman who calls herself "Miss Nick" and claims, rather nonchalantly, that she's come close to death three times in as many days. As you and Poirot listen, glancing about the scene, you realize something isn't quite right. Stories don't quite match up. Odd clues are scattered here and there. Suddenly, there is a murder. Before you know it, you have a mystery on your hands.

Intrigued? Well, luckily, you won't need to scrounge through the used bookstores to solve this mystery; Peril at End House is only a click away. Adapted into a hidden object game by Oberon Media, Agatha Christie: Peril at End House is a classic mystery for the 21st century.

At first glance, Peril at End House may seem like a typical hidden object game, complete with mini-puzzles. As you enter a scene, you are given a list of objects and 25 minutes to find them. However, unlike many games of this genre, you are not searching for random bits of clutter. You're looking for clues: bits of shredded newspaper, knick-knacks which disguise secret compartments, murder weapons and motives. In the meantime, you'll find yourself drawn into a twisted plot, presented as clue cards and comic book panels. As you piece together these hints and clues, a surprising story emerges — one that could only have been conceived by a master of mystery like Agatha Christie.

agathachristieperil2.jpgAgatha Christie: Peril at End House is a pleasant blend of casual gaming and classic mystery. Often, hidden picture games can seem dull and repetitive, with contrived plots that quickly fall flat. This is not the case with Peril at End House. Even if you guess the solution to the mystery early in the game, Christie's clever twists and turns might lead you astray. The blend of art styles (detailed landscapes that are not quite still, period objects with art deco details, interrupted by comics and mini-games) gives the game a clever, eclectic feel—not unlike Christie's strange characters.

If you aren't quite curious enough to download this blend of modern gaming and classic mystery, consider this: In 1932, when Peril at End House was first released in the U.S., a copy of the paperback novel cost $2.00. Adjusted for inflation, that same novel would cost over $27 today. For the mystery lover, the price would be worth it. For the frugal gamer, this quick download is a bargain. Please, enjoy: Agatha Christie: Peril at End House.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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

Peril at End House is available to download from these affiliates:
Arcade TownBig Fish Games


| Comments (25) | Views (16)

Weekend Download

JohnBYou awake rather late in the morning, the sun bursting between the blinds it's been banging on for hours. Your head hurts a bit, and your stomach aches ever so slightly. What was that you ate last night, anyway? Veggie lo mein? Groggy, you pull yourself out of bed, flip on the trusty computer and connect to the Internet. Your favorite website immediately opens, and your dreary face brightens as they rest on the sanctuary that is Weekend Download.

toribash.jpgToribash (Windows/Mac/Linux, 16MB, free) - A slow-paced, turn-based fighting game that lets you sculpt a battle one muscle movement at a time. Choose whether the points on the ragdolls will contract or expand to set up some pretty amazing stunts. It takes practice, but when you get the hang of it, you won't put it down for a very long time. Needless to say, there's a lot of blood and violence in the game, so keep the kids in the other room while you plan out your next uppercut.

inthewoods.gifIn the Woods (Windows, <1MB, free) - A short text adventure with a setting and story that might seem a bit familiar. Or maybe it's just your imagination? Either way, why not grab that basket of food and head out into the woods to deliver it to grandmother's house? Watch for wolves, and don't think there aren't a few surprises to be found in this grim game.

fwutang.gifThe Sewer Goblet - The Wu-Tang Clan and the Wu-Tang Baby (Windows, 9.5MB, free) - From the same twistedly parodical minds that brought us Barkley Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, Sewer Goblet is a roguelike RPG that casts you into the depths of a dungeon to rescue the Wu-Tang Baby. Hunt down treasure, defeat enemies and gather equipment to make your journey possible. As with many roguelikes, once you reach the bottom you have to work your way back up before declaring yourself the victor.

thepower.gifThe Power (Windows, 4MB, free) - An action platformer that ditches the puzzles in favor of shooting and exploration. Expect loads of weapons, boss fights, items, upgrades, and a neon-lit visual style that, if you ask me, is pretty cool.


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Rating: 4.8/5 (23 votes)
| Comments (8) | Views (258)

Gazillionaire III

Ms.45Many casual gamers immediately dismiss Gazillionaire III for its complexity and rather ugly presentation. In fact, when we decided to feature the game, I could hear one of our JIG writers turn his nose up from across the Pacific. Gazillionaire's characters have certainly got faces only a mother could love, but if you just get to know this addictive lemonade-stand game you'll come to appreciate its inner beauty. Build your business, explore new worlds, and make a fortune in this quirky strategy game.

gazillionaireiii.jpgYou play a budding entrepreneur in the galaxy of Kukubia. The object of the game is to reach a certain amount of wealth, depending on the length of game you select. At the beginning of the game, you can decide the nature of the economy you'll be playing in by selecting which planets are available to you. Want access to engine upgrades? You'll definitely need to include Pyke and probably Xeen for the ship upgrades. Want a good deal on a commercial loan? Be sure to include Stye so you can beg your bank manager to lower the interest rate. If you're not sure, try hitting "Randomize Planets" and see what happens. Then you can select your ship. You can choose one of 12 models, each calibrated differently in terms of speed, fuel efficiency, cargo space and number of crew.

Now you're good to go! You start out in debt to Mr. Zinn, your financier, and you'll have to eventually pay him off to make any progress. You may need to borrow money from the bank to do anything important, such as buy stuff, advertise for passengers or commodities, take out insurance, or after a couple of turns, paying your taxes and crew wages. If you think you're up to it, you can buy stock on each planet's stock exchange, but only on that planet. Once you've bought stock and decided where to sell it—or, alternatively, decided to take an empty ship to a planet that has plenty of commodities—click through to the galaxy map to visit that planet and sell your goods, pick up passengers and check out the planet special. Rinse and repeat until you've made the required amount of kubars. You'll run into many different folks on your travels, and you'll just have to work out who you can trust. (Hint: It's generally good to invest in the arts.)

gazillionaireiii2.jpgAnalysis: I've left out a couple of steps in the above description—you also choose the difficulty of the game, and you can select the intelligence of your AI opponents or even have a multiplayer game. Put it all together and you can see why John B finds it discouragingly complex. There's a lot of things you can do before the game even starts, let alone during the game. However, it's up to you how complex you want it to be. For instance, I never play the stock market in-game, and I don't use the warehouses or buy utilities when they're offered—it's rarely worth your while in a really short game. You can set shortcuts so you just buy gas, insurance etc from the main menu rather than entering the gas or insurance screen. But if you want to make use of the game's complexity, you can fine-tune your loans, gas and stock purchases, ticket prices and so on to make good use of credit and stay ahead of the competition. You can check the news on each planet to see if it's subject to extreme weather or crime... or, like me, you can just buy insurance and cross your fingers. It's not essential to win the game, but in the Explore Planet screen you can read the history of each planet, which is often quite entertaining.

Visually, the game is simultaneously crusty and beautiful. The interface, I must confess, looks like an economics game you would have played in high school, and the animated characters are brilliantly coloured and spectacularly ugly. It's not schmick, but it's fast and easy to use.

I've played previous versions of Gazillionaire and I find it to be addictive, amusing and a good way to kill an hour on the easiest and shortest level. The one-hour demo gives you plenty of time to find out whether you agree that Gazillionaire is quirky, fun and infinitely replayable or an overly difficult pain in the assets.

One last piece of advice: If Emperor Dred Nicolson asks for a "donation" to the Imperial coffers... don't argue.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (80 votes)
| Comments (17) | Views (31)

PsychotronicTwizzle"Twizzle"—a rather prosaic title for a work with such philosophical ambitions. This is the newest action puzzle game from Philipp Seifried and Markus Mundjar, the authors of A Good Hunch and Drifts. It is available to play at their just-launched new site BobbleBrook, a showcase for their particular brand of sophisticated game design and stunning artwork.

Each level in Twizzle is a circle, made up of a series of rotating concentric rings. Your aim is to transport a small orb from the innermost ring to the outermost, but you only have limited control over the orb's movement. Press [up] to shift it one ring outward, and press [down] to shift it inward. Whenever you occupy a warm (orange or yellow) orbit, you may switch freely from path to path; but as soon as you enter a cool (gray or blue) orbit, your sphere will be at the whims of fate until an arrow icon bounces it back into your zone of control.

Over the course of the game's 17 levels, you will encounter a number of new icons that complicate matters. Much of the fun of Twizzle is in exploring the effects and ramifications of each new element, but suffice to say that the later levels offer some very twisty and intricate maze-works indeed.

Solving Twizzle involves a subtle mixture of observation and experimentation. It often pays to just throw your orb at the puzzle from every which way and see what happens, but eventually you'll need to develop a specific escape plan. None of the levels take too long to solve once you've figured them out, but you will occasionally need some patience, since your movement speed is limited by the rotation of the rings.

Analysis: Seifried and Mundjar's skills seem to have improved. With Twizzle, instead of simply putting a twist on a common genre and then slathering it with pastels, they have created a unique game with an introspective soul of its own. The goal of the game—to occupy the most expanded ring—mirrors the gentle mind-expanding nature of the puzzles. Underscoring the seriousness of Bobblebrook's intentions, each level comes with a quotation from some luminary, usually concerning geometry. Perhaps we are meant to ponder the essence of a circle and all the philosophical implications of nature's purest two-dimensional form. Or at least let our subconscious tangle with the issue while we get on with enjoying the game.

The presentation is simply gorgeous. Between levels, the player gets to go on a little ride through a handsome world of calligraphy and watercolors before arriving at the next circle. The backgrounds almost overwhelm the actual gameplay in fact, but when the levels get more difficult, the transitions serve as a rewarding breather between bouts of concentration. I would also be remiss if I didn't mention how well the pastoral music sets the mood; although you are free to turn it off if you'd prefer to throw on some Kruder and Dorfmeister, which would also be appropriate.

I won't say that this is a masterpiece. It's a little bit too short, there's something haphazard about the design of the puzzles, and some of the aesthetic elements may be superfluous (the quotations didn't really do anything for me.) However, there is so much talent here, and such a strong sense of mood and direction, that I'm eager to see what Bobblebrook comes up with next. The world can always use another mature, expressive video game.

Play Twizzle


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Link Dump Fridays

JohnBIf you're like me, it's time for a distraction from Mario Kart Wii. This week's collection of Link Dump Friday games successfully stole me from kart steering just long enough to allow me to drive a real car without reaching for my stack of turtle shells in the back seat...

  • icon_floatylight.gifFloaty Light - Did you enjoy Nitrome's Hot Air games? Ha, trick question! Of course you did! Floaty Light is a similar affair involving a bubble, an arrow, a goal, and pokey sharp things you must avoid. Plus, everything is lavender and white, which is very soothing to look at.
  • icon_roku.gifRoku - A rather large (15MB) implementation of two puzzle games based on cellular automata written in Processing. Roku's modes play like your typical "lights out"-type game or a matching puzzle title where you hop from hexagon to hexagon. The full description goes into a lot more detail.
  • icon_ultimatecheckers.gifUltimate Online Checkers - Almost true to its name, Ultimate Online Checkers presents a pleasing interface complete with multiplayer support and even a few game-changing power-ups. As you capture pieces you earn cash that can be spent to king checkers, destroy, or even buy new pieces. A subtle twist on an old game makes it fun all over again, and the single player computer opponents are surprisingly tough.
  • icon_comboll.gifComboll - Control the bouncey ball with the [arrow] keys and try to keep it on the moving platforms. Score extra points for stringing together combos of the same color!
  • icon_seascape.gifSeascape - Explore underwater levels in search of treasure and solve a few simple puzzles along the way. Features some adventure-style gameplay along with hidden object finding and some photography for bonus cash.

  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (70 votes)
| Comments (25) | Views (13)

PatrickTwin Hobo RocketFrom the deranged minds of Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl (Komix), creators of Coil and Triachnid, comes the most important game about vagrant hallucinations ever made: Twin Hobo Rocket. You control a rocket to which are tied twin hobos as they hustle change from floating balloons and irritated aliens. Topping off the insanity is a crucial song by Kadaa and hilarious voice-over dialogue between the two bums.

The game begins on a picket-fenced street, overlooking what appears to be the night time vista of the Hollywood Hills. Controls are simple, just push the arrow keys to move the rocket around. There is some subtlety to your movements, however. Asteroids abound threatening to dent and eventually destroy your craft. A great strategy for avoiding them is to merely tap the [arrow] keys, instead of holding them, so that your forward momentum is lower and you'll have more time to react to things as they fly on-screen. You will want to follow that arrow to a UFO that drops change if you hang around without bumping it. The trick to soliciting change from extraterrestrials is to tap the [down] arrow key, keeping you just under it's cargo bay doors. Balloons full of coin also randomly exist throughout space. Overall objective: Try to get the high score!

Analysis: Another crazy, brilliant, and slightly-offensive-in-a-good-way title from this dynamic duo. These guys really know how to push the novelty button, and cleanly. Twin Hobo Rocket is another example of a short-form game that does exactly what it sets out to do; polished and complete. The carrot that keeps you going, more than the high score board, is the brilliant dialogue. The quip about the stolen camping gear is my favorite; at GDC this year I gave $20 to a hobo who claimed his sleeping bag was stolen at the laundromat—classic. The bit about the NSA makes sense in the context that the NSA began as an organization called SIGMA, whose task involved the investigation of UFO phenomena and/or the perpetration of a PsyOps where a UFO hoax might be leveraged as a 20th century version of terrorism. I love it that a game about hobos touches on these kinds of obscure, geekalicious references.

Strap on, forget that you're actually lying in an alley, and fly to the moon!

Play Twin Hobo Rocket

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