June 2008 Archives


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Rating: 4.6/5 (376 votes)
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KarmenSmall FryWhen I heard the newest Nitrome game since Sky Wire 2 was called Small Fry, I turned to my own "Small Fry", seven-year-old Roland. Roland, you've played every Nitrome game ever released. What makes this one special?

Roland: Like most games it gets harder and harder as you go. It has cool backgrounds. But this one is special because you get four different characters: Brain, Sporty Guy, Warrior and, last but not least, Skeleton. You have to get them all to the tree house at the end of the level.

Karmen: Each Fry comes equipped with special abilities, such as climbing or smashing, much like the classic Lemmings. Nitrome has used the Lemming concept in the past, with games like Sandman and Scribble. Here, the goal is similar: rescue as many small fries as possible. The little guys will move blindly onwards until they encounter an obstacle, stop to pause on a subterranean stump or reach their final destination.

Roland: But this is different. You can lift them by clicking on them and moving them around! Unless they are in a cave, that is. That also goes for water. In those places, you can't touch them. In the caves, there is a carving that says "no mouse" to remind you.

Karmen: Grabbing the characters allows you some control over their abilities. However, many puzzles are inside caves, so the levels can be quite challenging.

Roland: There are fry-eating piranha plants, thorny vines that can stab you and gigantic bugs. Don't worry, the warrior can punch the bugs. Also the skeleton can survive any disaster that would normally kill a fry.

Karmen: Small Fry has everything I love about Nitrome games: cute scenes with familiar faces, unique twists on classic ideas, and a few difficult levels requiring much planning, practice, and timing. We encountered a few minor bugs while playing, but they didn't detract from the overall experience. I think this is one of those games I'll come back to play again and again. How about you?

Roland: Oh yeah. I'll always play this one again. It's a great game! Everyone in the world should visit Nitrome.

Karmen: Well, I'll agree, it is a pretty good place to go for family fun. Thanks, Roland! And, to everyone in the world: like he said, visit Nitrome, and

Play Small Fry


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JayBrown Dyed HotelBrown Dyed Hotel is by a group of talented Swedish students from Campus Karlshamn of Blekinge Institute of Technology who have been busy building a few games lately. The first one that caught my eye is a collection of puzzles that is one part discovery, similar to no circles, and one part riddle game, as with not pron, and it will surely give your gray matter a workout.

Work your way through each level discovering the secrets that allow you to complete each task. If you get stuck, don't be afraid to reload the browser page to reset the current puzzle, if necessary. Since each puzzle is slightly different than the one before it, the experience feels fresh and unique, if a bit short. There are only about 12 levels from what I could see. Some notes on the site hint at more, though.

The entire site is full of mystery and secrets, so when you're done with the puzzle make sure you check out the other goings on at Brown Dyed Hotel. And for the more adventurous, look for their beautiful 3D physics game, Ether, which is actually a Half-Life 2 mod with a gorgeous stylized environment.

Cheers to Aini for the link! =)

Update: The game is no longer available to play on the internet. Previously tagged as: browser, discovery, flash, free, game, linux, mac, puzzle, rating-g, riddle, simpleidea, windows


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Rating: 4.2/5 (28 votes)
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LarvaMortus

JoshHot off the presses comes a new title from Rake in Grass, developers of the ultra-successful Jets 'n' Guns. It's called Larva Mortus, a top-down shooter in the style of classics like Crimsonland and the RIP series, and the even more-recent Robokill. In Larva Mortus, you play a 19th Century ghost hunter (or rather, an "agent of exorcism"). Plow through monsters and demons with your trusty broadsword and an assortment of weapons, such as shotguns and flame throwers, to rid the land of supernatural evil forces.

larvamortusEven after scouring Google for a good 10 minutes, I couldn't find any actual meaning for the phrase "Larva Mortus," so we'll just have to assume the developers wanted to give it a spooky name. And rightly so, as it's one of the creepiest action/shooter games I've played in quite a while. Not necessarily your typical Silent Hill or F.E.A.R.-type scary; more along the lines of a B-movie horror flick. Be forewarned: there's a fair amount of "gore" (blood) in the game as you chop and blast your way through enemies, although there is an option to turn the gore off, replacing the red blood with green blood, or even no blood at all.

The story takes place in Europe, beginning in the western part of the continent. You're job as a monster hunter is to assist helpless citizens being plagued by the undead or other supernatural entities. There is a main storyline to follow that begins with you uncovering a long-lost artifact, although you won't be able to jump right into it when you first begin. You'll begin the game rather weak, with just a broadsword and a six-shooter. You can level-up RPG-style by gaining experience points for every monster you kill, letting you raise a variety of attributes including speed, health regeneration, melee power and more. You'll need to take a few beginner quests first to beef yourself up and get some better weapons. Quests are scattered across your map screen in the form of letters, with details available on each one such as objectives and difficultly level.

larvamortusUnlike the aforementioned Crimsonland and RIP, levels aren't one big area to run around in, waiting until you can kill every monster on the screen. Instead, the levels in Larva Mortus are more akin to Robokill, which features a series of inter-connecting rooms in each level. You'll have an objective in each level, often as simple as just clearing out the entire area of monsters, or something more specific like rescuing souls or destroying ritual sites. Each room you enter will feature a variety of monsters, ranging from spiders to zombies to bats, and many more. Some doors will require a key to open, forcing you to backtrack. However, if you exit a room without "clearing" it (destroying all monsters inside), they all respawn next time you re-enter.

When it comes to gameplay, Larva Mortus is pretty wicked. If you're a fan of top-down shooters already, you'll have no problem adapting quickly to the run-and-gun play style. As usual, use the [WASD] (or [arrow]) keys to move and push the left mouse button to shoot as you move your aiming reticule around the screen. The middle mouse button throws a stick of dynamite, heavily damaging monsters within a certain radius. The right mouse button cycles between your weapons. You can also use the number keys [1] to [8] to choose weapons quickly. If you need help, two handy overlays can be seen by pressing [F1] and [F2].

larvamortusAlthough your weapons are limited to eight, it's a pretty respectable number in this game. When you first begin, you might find your sword handier than you thought it would. Ammo can become scarce at times, and the sword hits surprisingly hard compared to your pistol. As long as you're not facing enemies that fire projectiles at you, it's a good idea to use your sword as much as possible, and pump a few extra points into your melee power. The first new weapon you should come across is the two-handed pistol, a semi-respectable weapon, but with an annoying frequent reload rate. The always-popular shotgun makes an appearance, which packs quite a punch if you're up close and personal. Other weapons include a machine gun, crossbow, cannon and more.

There's also a variety of items that can be picked up along the way, some of which merely boost your score, and others that help you in different ways. For example, the Lucky Charm raises your chance of monsters dropping power-ups and items, and an Enchanted Scroll provides a 50 percent bonus to the length of time power-ups last. Power-ups (or bonuses) are one-time pickups that temporarily enhance your character in some way, such as giving you unlimited ammo, beefing up your armor, increasing your run speed and more. They prove handy in a pinch, when you're a bit outgunned and in danger of being overpowered.

Analysis: Top-down shooter fan or not, Larva Mortus is one heck of a polished and enjoyable game for any action fan. Many would expect nothing less from the creators of Jets 'n' Guns, a game with a fanatical following. The graphics are spot-on for this kind of game, and the lighting and shadows add a spooky ambiance, combined with the fitting music and creepy flashes of faces or other ghost-like imagery. In some levels it'll be so dark you'll need a flashlight to see clearly (luckily auto-mounted, so you don't have to switch between it and weapons). Impressively-drawn cut scenes add even more to the overall experience and feeling of the game; a well-defined horror genre, even if it's not quite as scary as the jump-out-of-your-seat Doom 3 variety.

Once you create a character profile, the game auto-saves your progress so you can resume where you left off at any time. Difficulty can be changed at any point in the game between easy, normal and hard. For those of you score-junkies, there's even a trophy room where you can admire the artifacts you've picked up along the way. Through-and-through, Larva Mortus is a valiant effort from Rake in Grass, and one that I believe exceeds initial expectations. The blend of action/adventure/shooter/RPG elements meld seamlessly with one another to create a stylized, gratifying gaming experience.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Weekend Download

JohnBSometimes a formula just works, and in the case of the tried-and-true matching setup, we've seen it work time and time again. This edition of Weekend Download highlights a few new games that take the matching to a new level with interesting twists on the old convention.

saqqarah.jpgAncient Quest of Saqqarah (Windows, Mac, 27MB, demo) - First things first: this game is gorgeous. I don't mean just spiffy or even really good looking, I mean crisp, clear, eye-popping gorgeous. The presentation of this Egyptian-themed match-3 game is stunning on every level, from the art design to the lighting/smoke effects, the interface, and even the voice acting. Technical achievements aside, in Ancient Quest of Saqqarah you solve sets of puzzles across themed temples and unlock new spells and games along the way. No boring grids here, instead you make matches across the curvy lines to highlight every section of the puzzle. But the fun doesn't stop there, as Saqqarah packs half a dozen types of matching games, one per temple, to keep things lively. Even if matching games aren't your thing, Ancient Quest of Saqqarah will capture your interest.

puzzlehero.jpgPuzzle Hero (Windows, 32MB, demo) - After the overwhelming success of Puzzle Quest and Bookworm Adventures, several casual games have been released to help establish the puzzle/RPG hybrid genre. Spandex Force is a good example of this, and now Puzzle Hero comes along with its own style of genre mixing, though this effort is notably less inventive than its cousins. Swap tiles at the bottom of the screen to attack and defeat a string of foes. Earn gold to buy new equipment, learn spells, and level up your character to increase your overall awesomeness. The role playing elements aren't as fleshed out as they could be be, making the Puzzle Hero experience much more Bejeweled-esque than Hero-esque, but the skeleton is there and there are some interesting components that make it fun to play around with.


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Weekend Download

JohnBRecently, TIGSource held a competition centered around procedural generation, games that create their content on the fly rather than presenting pre-made areas crafted by the programmer. This gives the player a new experience each time he or she plays, opening the doors of replayability and creating some unpredictable situations. Below are the top five entries as determined by player votes. More than 60 games were submitted, so feel free to peruse the competition page for more procedurally generated goodness!

rescuethebeagles.gifRescue: The Beagles (Windows, 10.8MB, free) - A cargo plane carrying a large shipment of beagles crashed in the wasteland outside of the Amita range. It's your job to grab every dog you see before it escapes or is captured by one of the biohazard guys. This sidescrolling platformer features three levels where the action takes place and plenty of obstacles to keep you busy.

dyson.jpgDyson (Windows, 7.6MB, free) - A game of conquest, colonization and strategy, Dyson is a strangely relaxing game where you plant seeds on asteroids and send self-replicating mining machines out to conquer more. Plant additional Dyson trees on an asteroid to bolster your defenses, and send swarms of machines out to expand your territory. Everything is mouse-driven and remarkably straightforward, but a tutorial session gives you a good overview on how to play.

selfdestruct.jpgSelf-Destruct (Windows, 2.3MB, free) - An insanely intense vertically scrolling shooter where your only goal is to survive wave after wave of enemies. Move with the [arrow] keys and tap [z] to fire your weapon. The [x] button is crucial, as it activates your shield, which you'll occasionally use more often than your gun. The [c] key unleashes a nuke, which should be self-explanatory. Grab items as you destroy enemies to replenish your supplies, and good luck.

droptd.gifdropTD (Windows, 12.7MB, free) - One of the most unusual tower defense games you'll ever play, dropTD uses files you drag and drop onto the playing field to generate the level as well as each tower you build. Each file, no matter what type or size it is, creates a pattern that can then be placed around the maze to fire at advancing enemies. Drop the same file twice and you get the same shape, then remove excess blocks later. A bit awkward to keep a good list of files nearby, but very creative nonetheless.

active2.jpgEveryone Loves Active 2 (Windows, 8.7MB, free) - A colorful arena shooter where painting becomes part of the experience. As you play the background is drawn in real-time. Shoot enemies and the bullets and enemy remains slowly affect the paint behind you. Gorgeous, but a bit intense for older computers to handle.


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Rating: 4/5 (23 votes)
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Weekend Download

JohnBSick of slinging cakes in time management games? Want to build a real estate empire but don't feel like crunching numbers? Build in Time may be your answer. Combining some of the best features from big titles such as Build-a-lot 2: Town of the Year and Cake Mania 2, Build in Time blends resource management gameplay with a simple real estate theme to breathe a little life into a familiar genre.

buildintime.jpgBuild in Time puts you in the shoes of Mark Retro, a recent graduate eager to join the workforce. A large building firm hires him on the spot and Mark begins a career that spans 60 years of housing styles. As you play you'll follow the young man's life as he grows up, gets married and starts a family. Your skill at playing the game affects events in Mark's life, and the houses you build (along with the customers) reflect different decades as you play.

The basic skeleton of Build in Time sticks close to the time management formula. When a customer calls, answer the phone and wait for him or her to choose a house. Then, click the matching style and set your crew to work on an empty lot. Once the house is built you'll need to construct any additions and paint it the right color, then simply drag the customer to his new abode to collect your money. Work as fast as you can, as happy customers pay extra cash, which can be a crucial factor in meeting your revenue requirement for the level.

What resource management game would be complete without the ability to buy upgrades between rounds? Build in Time allows you to purchase faster work crews, new add-ons to increase the value of your houses, a receptionist to answer customer calls, additional work crews to build/paint several projects at the same time, and more. This is where individual playing styles can really flourish.

buildintime2.jpgAn interesting gameplay addition to Build in Time is the click assist that allows you to hurry workers by rapidly clicking on a job in progress. You can even build combos by constructing three homes of the same style or color with identical accessory (garage, pool, etc.), allowing you to click just three times to finish any in-progress construction. It shoves a spaztastic arcadey feeling to an otherwise precision/reflex-based genre, but mostly it's a welcome addition.

Analysis: Build in Time contains everything you need to know about its gameplay and theme in the title: constructing houses as fast as you can (enhanced by the frantic click assist feature), and building houses through six decades of architectural stylings. Paralleling the game's progression with Mark's life is a great touch and makes the experience feel a little more personal.

If you want to pick a few bones with Build in Time, it is a bit lacking in the graphical department and the gameplay itself could use a little spicing up. The visuals, while perfectly adequate and far from distasteful, don't offer anything special on any front. And after a few long sessions of house building you'll begin to feel as if you're doing the same thing over and over again. The upgrades change things around a bit, but you still feel a bit constrained as far as what you can do and how you can do it more efficiently.

The core gameplay doesn't stray from the beaten resource management path, but the theme leaps right out of the mold and takes a meandering walk through the daisies. I suppose a real estate-flavored game of this type was inevitable after the huge success of the Build-a-lot series, but Build in Time gets everything just about right.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 4.6/5 (55 votes)
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10 Gnomes #6

JayHot on the heels of a mention in a G4TV feature, Mateusz Skutnik unleashes more gnome-mania onto the world. This latest installment, 10 Gnomes (#6), is a hidden object game just like the others to come before it. Your task, as per the usual, is to find 10 gnomes within 10 minutes.

Play 10 Gnomes #6

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


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Rating: 4.7/5 (190 votes)
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JayAfter successfully defeating the ginormous Gi8000 in the first mission, Bowja the Ninja is back again and this time it's Bigman's Compound that is the target of ninja stealth and fortitude. Help Bowja defeat Bigman and save innocent people before it's too late in this charming new adventure from Pencilkids.

Bowja the Ninja 2: In Bigman's Compound is a series of point-and-click puzzle vignettes that are all magnificently illustrated and animated by Robin Vencel. Responding to criticism that the first mission was a tad on the easy side, Robin has included a variety of puzzles that, while still easy to complete without a walkthrough, will surely make you think. Much of the difficulty in the game is a matter of finding the correct spot to click to help little Bowja advance, with some situations that require proper timing to find the correct solution. Be alert, don't panic, and use your resources to their full advantage and you'll be neutralizing henchmen, taking control of missiles, and escaping deadly sharks like a good little ninja.

Play Bowja the Ninja 2: In Bigman's Compound


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Link Dump Fridays

JohnBYou like physics games? I like physics games. This week we've thrown in two physics playground/puzzle games to teach you valuable lessons about life. Namely, don't stack all your blocks on one side of the seesaw, and elaborate domino setups inevitably fall to the ground.

  • icon_poiser.gifPoiser - A "hand drawn physics puzzle game" where you pile blocks on a balanced beam in an attempt to reach the dotted line.
  • icon_swampescape.gifSwamp Escape - A remake of the old DOS game Perestroika, your job is to hop across the lilypads and make it to the ground on the other side.
  • icon_comblo.gifComblo - Very similar to Tringo, Comblo is a puzzle game that can be described as a blending of Tetris and Bingo. Place blocks on the board and try to fill squares 2x2 or greater.
  • icon_dominop.gifDomino-P - Created by the author of Poiser, Domino-P is a physics/dominos game where you place tiles in the right spaces then click "go" to watch it all come crumbling down.
  • icon_warfaretransporter.gifWarfare Transporter - A simple arcade game from Submachine guru Mateusz Skutnik. Slide the ship left and right to avoid bombs, then click the mouse to drop mines of your own.

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Rating: 4.7/5 (163 votes)
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zxoHedgehog LaunchWe've come to expect nothing less than excellence when John Cooney (jmtb02.com) releases a new game, and his latest project is no exception.

Hedgehog Launch puts you at the helm of a national space program with a singular goal: get off the planet! Unfortunately, the nation is Minovia Cay, a small Caribbean principality with only 15,000 people, most of whom presumably work in the rum industry as taste testers quality control. Thus you're expected to accomplish spaceflight with $50, a slingshot, and an infinite supply of hedgehogs.

Sound impossible? Ah, but you forget that Minovia Cay is the sort of place where miracles happen, where rivers of milk and honey come tumbling down from the mountaintops and money falls from the sky! Or at least hovers in the atmosphere just waiting for you to snatch it.

With the $50, you can buy some initial upgrades. Then, launch your hedgehog heavenward by dragging it with the mouse and releasing. You won't make it to space the first time, but you can use your side-mounted rocket thrusters [arrow keys] to navigate horizontally and try to bounce off of platforms or pick up coins. Either of these will add money to your stash when your hedgehog finally stops moving (marking the end of the day), but not before bonus multipliers for highest elevation and elapsed time take effect! Use this cash to buy more upgrades and give it another shot. Possible upgrades include improving the stretchiness of your slingshot, increasing the initial slingshot height, better fuel efficiency for your side-rockets, deployable emergency rockets, parachutes, radar, and spiffy goggles.

Analysis: It isn't a matter of if you'll get to space, but when. There's no way to lose money, so eventually you should earn enough to max out your launcher. The challenge lies in reaching space in as few days as possible. As we learned from Compulse, John doesn't always play his own games as well as he crafts them, and indeed it only took me a few tries to beat his best score of 9 days.

Like most of John's games, Hedgehog Launch features a great soundtrack and bright, flashy (if unsophisticated) visual effects. The gameplay deviates a bit from the finger-intensive styles he's favored in the past, relying strongly on lucky placement, but still leaving the user enough control to feel like they're actually playing, rather than spectating as the game plays itself. Though the two games are only marginally related, fans of Nanaca † Crash will probably experience a similar feeling while playing Hedgehog Launch.

So who says you need to have a Ph D in order to send cute furry animals into space? I mean, it's not like it's rocket science or anything! Cheers to John for another top-notch game!

Play Hedgehog Launch

Cheers to Psychotronic and Joye for suggesting this one! =)


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BIG LOVE for the folks over at G4TV for giving us a mention in their latest Attack of the Show (AOTS) Blog Watch feature! Wooty tooty!


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Rating: 4.7/5 (330 votes)
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Weekday Escape

JessWelcome, friends, to the first edition of Weekday Escape, your own personal portal to the wonderful world of point-and-click! Every Wednesday I will be presenting one or more such games to ease you through the dull middle point of the work week. And what an auspicious beginning for the column...a new, beautiful game has just been launched by Neutral, creator of some of the most highly rated and anticipated room escape games here at JIG! How serendipitous.

SwitchSwitch confines you once more within a stunningly rendered room (this time, it seems, a child's playroom?) and dares you to unlock its mysteries. Use your point-and-clicking fingers and your logical puzzle-solving skills, and be prepared to bend your mind and come to your wit's end before managing to escape.

We will be back with a more comprehensive review just as soon as we finish it ourselves. In the meantime, do help each other in the comments, ok? Ok!

Play Switch

The Neutral servers are, not surprisingly, under heavy load right now, so if you get a "Service Unavailable" message, wait a few moments and try again. Eventually you will get in.

Cheers to Martha for first word about this new game from Neutral! =)

Banner credit goes to Mat of Nitrome, whom we commissioned to come up with a smashing good banner for our new weekly feature! Cheers, Mat! =)


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Rating: 4.8/5 (35 votes)
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JessFinal SelectionFaithful JIG readers, I need your help. I'm being driven mad, you see. Utterly batty. This innocent-looking, seemingly simple little piece of interactive fiction has destroyed me and is now taunting my broken, weeping form. So many clues! So much information! Argh!

We have recently featured a number of pieces of ifiction, but Final Selection, created by Sam Gordon, is undoubtedly the most wicked to date (except perhaps Anchorhead, but that's another story...). The premise is quite simple: you are the prime candidate for the position of Director of the Museum and Institute for Puzzles and Problem Solving. If you secure the job you will enjoy a life (and sizable budget) devoted to the unraveling of enigmas and solving of conundrums.

There is, however, one final test: in order to prove your aptitude in this field, you must solve one "simple" puzzle yourself. To do so you must explore a single room, gathering clues and solving puzzles, until you finally reach the unknown problem's answer. Upon doing so, you ring a bell; the current Director will come in and ask you a question. If you answer correctly, the position is yours; if not, too bad, chump!

This game is a toughie. Actually finding clues is not a problem. Quite the opposite, in fact; the room is brimming with enigmatic pieces of paper, puzzles to be solved, items to be collected. And, of course, the game reminds you that some seeming "clues" are in fact red herrings. It's very easy to become overwhelmed. And, unlike many other pieces of IF, there is no handy-dandy hint system to keep the player on the right track.

Happily, in addition to being overwhelming, Final Selection is also extremely entertaining. I love the premise, love the setting, and am hopelessly addicted. The game is extremely clever and well designed; in fact, it won the L'avventura è l'avventura One Room Game Competition in 2006. It also isn't entirely unforgiving, as it provides an extremely convenient note-taking system that keeps track of all of the clues the player has collected.

If you generally like the IF genre, you will probably have a lot of fun with Final Selection. I know that, despite being stymied, I certainly have. So, faithful JIG readers, save me! Rescue me from the depths of my puzzle-induced despair. And, of course, enjoy playing this great and headache-inducing gem.

You know you want the job:

Play Final Selection

The links above point to JIG's internally developed Flash-based Z-Machine interpreter (thanks asterick!), with the story files hosted here. That means you can now play these games in your browser rather than having to download and run the game in a standalone interpreter.

If you would rather download the game, you may do so at the Interactive Fiction Database. If you choose to download the game, you will need an interpreter to read the z-file, just like most IF games: try Gargoyle for Windows, or Zoom or Splatterlight for Macintosh and Unix.

If you like "Final Selection," take a look at other Interactive Fiction we have reviewed here at JIG.


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Rating: 4.6/5 (186 votes)
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sunnydaysky.jpgJayA new Eyezmaze game and a new Orisinal game both in one day? Pinch me quick! Am I dreaming? Two Flash game pioneers, who virtually kick-started this blog in its early humble beginnings, bring me back to my roots by releasing new games today.

Immediately upon opening Ferry Halim's latest, Sunny Day Sky, you feel as if the sun has just come out, the birds are singing and all is right with the world. Grab your trusty umbrella and embark on a journey cross-country. Take a leap (by clicking the mouse) and sail as far as the winds (and your umbrella) will take you. But be sure not to land in traffic, land ON it! If you land in the road between vehicles your journey is over, and so is the game.

The game really gets interesting when you close-then-reopen your umbrella as you're floating along, giving you extra bursts to fly further. But watch your umbrella power gauge and look for a landing spot before it runs out. If you think your timing is off for a landing, you can also click the mouse again to begin your decent immediately. Avoid birds that fly by or risk dropping like a stone to the ground. Collect floating (cherries? apples?) for extra points. How high a score can you get?

Analysis: Ferry Halim has been making Flash games longer than most of us have even known about Flash games, and all of the games on his Orisinal site exhibit exceptional production values. Sunny Day Sky is no exception. His talent as an artist shines through and it feels like playing within a gorgeous painting. Add to that the uplifting soundtracks he includes and you would be hard-pressed to find a more revered collection of Flash games in the world.

If there's any criticism about his games, though, it would be that these are not deep gameplay experiences. If you're more than a casual, casual gamer that requires complex level design or a significant ramping up of difficulty as a game progresses, you won't find it in any Orisinal game. Instead, what you will find are simple, unique and beautiful experiences that are fun for a few minutes at a time. The quintessence of a casual game. And all things considered, that's not such a harsh criticism.

Thank you, Ferry, for another wonderful game in your famous Orisinal style.

Play Sunny Day Sky


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Rating: 4/5 (105 votes)
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GriffApplicateOn, the author of all our favorite Eyezmaze games has just released a brand new little puzzle game to give us something to play while we wait for the next Grow game, currently in development.

Seek Ver. 0 tasks you with protecting your column of hearts from a stampede of letters sliding in from the right. As letters appear on the conveyor belt, you must quickly find and click the matching letter in the grid below. But if you are too slow, or if you click the wrong letter, one of your hearts will be wiped out.

As you progress through the stages, the game gradually becomes more complicated. For example, stage two adds numbers to the mix, and with each passing stage, the grid gets larger.

This game is just what you would expect from an Eyezmaze game. It has low-profile, high-style graphics paired with simple, intuitive gameplay.

Play SEEK Ver. 0

Cheers to Tonypa for word about the new release!


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Rating: 4.8/5 (79 votes)
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zxoPassively Multiplayer Online Game (PMOG)We here at Jayisgames are committed to highlighting the very best in casual games. You know that. But casual means different things to different people, so just what is it that makes a game casual? Some games that we've featured require a large time investment to really get the full experience: The Kingdom of Loathing, Skyrates, The Virtual Villagers series, and of course the upcoming Spore. These games are consistently among the most highly rated by Jayisgames readers. Heck, the top-rated game (as of the time of writing) even requires a $250 console to play. Yet all of these games are considered casual – although you can play them for hours at a time, you don't need to.

So when a game waltzes around calling itself Passively Multiplayer Online Game, we tend to sit up and take notice.

Passively Multiplayer Online Game (PMOG)PMOG aims to capture the social dynamic of an MMORPG while remaining accessible to your everyday Joe Gamer. However, it wouldn't be much fun if you could just up and create a top-level character – there has to be some sort of dirty work, some progression by which you earn your stripes. This is the part of the game that usually keeps MMORPGs from staying casual. PMOG solves this problem by tying the leveling process directly to your web surfing. Yes, for every unique URL you visit per day, you will receive 2 Data Points (DP), which function as both experience and currency. You can spend your DP in the store (more on that in a bit), but the game keeps track of the total DP earned over the course of playing PMOG, which directly factors into your character level.

So how do you make surfing the internet into a multiplayer experience? Here, PMOG takes a cue from web trends such as social bookmarking. Players may create missions consisting of a series of related (or not) webpages which other players may take. Missions can serve many purposes: they can provide an introduction to a topic, they can serve as a tour of the very best websites of a certain type, they can form clues to a treasure hunt, and there are even epic missions for which the main purpose is just to rack up a lot of DP. For each player that takes your mission, you receive 10 DP. You can search for missions to take on the Missions Page, or you can let them find you! If you surf to a webpage that someone has included in a mission, a notification will appear and give you the opportunity to accept (or dismiss) that mission.

But that's not all! There are a number of tools available for purchase which add to the interactivity of PMOG:

  • Lightposts: Think of these as bookmarks that you place on websites. These are what get strung together to make missions. And that's all they do.
  • Portals: Portals are more like wormholes. Place one on a site to provide a direct link to another site.
  • Crates: Stash DP or tools in these for subsequent page visitors to loot. They can be used in a variety of ways – to trade goods, to give gifts, or even to provide a reward for solving a treasure hunt.
  • Mines: Deploy mines on webpages to damage the next visitor to the tune of -10 DP.
  • Armor: Don armor as protection against mines.
  • St. Nicks: Playing a St. Nick on a player's profile page will foil their next attempt to place a mine.

Each tool has an association tied to it, similar to a class in other RPGs. The missions you take and the tools you use determine which three associations you belong to. At first, you'll be able to purchase any tool you want in the shoppe, but once you hit level 5, you're limited to buying the tools linked to your three associations. To replenish other tools, you'll either need to change your association or trade for them.

Though it's designed to work passively as you surf the web, PMOG is undoubtedly best when played in the multiplayer realm as much as possible. Someone been give you grief? Have your allies dump a bunch of mines on their profile page! Got some friendly back-and-forth mining going on with an acquaintance? Make it official by marking them as a rival! Support your friends by taking their missions, and surely they'll return the favor.

To play PMOG, you'll need Mozilla Firefox, and you'll need to install the PMOG Toolbar Add-On. Yes, it's unfortunate to have a game restricted to a single browser, but to make your surfing a truly interactive experience requires good integration with a browser, and the open-source nature of Firefox makes it the best candidate for the purpose.

This is only a basic introduction to PMOG; check out their Help Page for more info and game resources. Then sign yourself up, install the add-on, and join the Passivist revolution!

Play PMOG

Cheers to slgalt, Jonah, Cirr, and Mike for suggesting this one! =)


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JayJust a heads-up about a major site upgrade that we've begun, so you are likely to experience a few bumps during the process, though we are working hard to keep them to a minimum. The site is getting a major overhaul to the underlying structure, as well as a much needed facelift, and therefore many scripts and templates are changing. The entire process will take at least the rest of the day to complete.

You may need to clear your browser cache when it's all over to make sure all the old scripts are replaced with the new ones. Thanks for your patience! =)


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Rating: 4.8/5 (29 votes)
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Titan Attacks

JoshTitan Attacks! is an enjoyable little retro-shooter with a modern redesign, developed by PuppyGames. Think of the classic Space Invaders mixed with a dash of Galaga and you'd have a pretty good understanding of what Titan Attacks! is all about. The classic "aliens descending from above" scenario is showcased with a stylish, blocky pixel motif featuring a richer move-and-shoot routine than classic predecessors. Titan Attacks! took the golden age concept and loaded it with a variety of new action elements and ship upgrades.

titanattacksFor those of you born after 1990 or so, the Space Invaders game genre features an onslaught of invading aliens, slowly descending down towards your planet. You control a defense ship or turret that moves left and right, firing laser beams to destroy incoming enemies in order to prevent them from getting too close. Titan Attacks! keeps this basic formula true-to-form, but beefs up the gameplay with dynamic enemies, a host of upgradeable ship functions and a few innovative twists here and there.

Move your ship left and right with either the mouse or [arrow] keys and fire with mouse button or [left control]. A combination of the two methods can be used as well for those of you who prefer, say, tactile firing with analog movement. Be warned though, when you begin a new game, your ship feels like it's stuck in molasses. The speed of your ship, along with firepower and ammo count, can be upgraded between levels for cash. Cash is earned independent of scoring for every enemy you kill, as well as other unique actions like special shots or captured enemies. You can also use cash to buy smartbombs (destroying everything on-screen), addons (additional guns) and probably the most important factor in the game: shield repairs.

In Titan Attacks!, game over means game over. There are no saves. You start with one ship and when that ship is destroyed, all level progress is lost and you start from scratch. Luckily it's somewhat easy to keep your shields up as long as you repair them with cash between every level or so. But if enemies are able to penetrate through all of your shields in one level, it's game over.

titanattacks2The enemy difficulty in Titan Attacks! is self-adjusting depending on how well you're doing. If you're getting the snot beat out of you early on, you'll be met with less-aggressive enemies in later levels. On the other hand, you won't be earning as much cash that way. There's a pretty hefty number of enemies to face, and they all have different methods of attack. From basic panning drones to mean little rapid-firing buggers, they'll keep you on your toes. Occasionally an enemy pilot will even bail out, and you can "capture" it for extra cash by touching it with your ship, or just shoot it to prevent it from reaching the ground, which will deduct cash from your total.

Analysis: The developers did an impressive job of taking the laughable graphics of old and redesigning them in a way that's not overkill. In many classic-turned-modern games, we'll see game designers go completely off the deep end, trying to re-invent the look and feel of those older games into some bloated, over-produced, 3D monstrosity. But PuppyGames kept it simple, taking the old Space Invaders theme and reinterpreting it into a colorful, shiny, pixel-inspired look. Not mind-blowing by any standard, but it's stylish and meshes well with the similarly-upgraded gameplay.

Even though you might be hard-pressed to see something you haven't already come across in one game or another, Titan Attacks! offers an enjoyable and fast-paced arcade experience. While you will find freshly unique elements in this game, no amount of upgrading can mask the fact that, at its core, it's still a Space Invaders shooter. For fans of the genre and arcade junkies, it's a definite "must check out".

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Weekend Download

AdamBSometimes you come across a game that looks amazing and receives nothing but praise from all the reviews. Everything looks positive and you just can't wait to play it — then you notice the download size. It's massive. How can you justify downloading something so large? Sure, it might be good, but maybe you'd like something that would be a little quicker to download. So here you are, five games that provide a decent experience at a fraction of the bandwidth.

ifactor.gifiFactor (Mac, 1.5MB, free) - A tiny little math game by 10101 Software that has absolutely nothing to do with the Xbox Live Arcade title of the same name. In this simple title you multiply numbers to get four in a row. Pick a number, your opponent picks one from the opposite row, the factors are multiplied to form a product. Play against the computer or against a friend.

kkrieger.jpg.kkrieger (Windows, 96kb, free) - Quite easily the most impressive game ever made - in under a tenth of a megabyte, this first person shooter has atmosphere, multiple weapons, non-human enemies, many rooms and fitting sounds. As you move through the nine rooms in this game, you'll scale a giant staircase, do away with scuttling bugs, giant monsters and face a huge, mighty contraption at the end. Note: It's still beta, so if you get stuck in a wall, press [M] and a number from 1-9 to warp. That minor bug aside, it's still an impressive package for the size.

masashikun.gifMasashikun Hi! (Windows, 240kb, free) - Usually Kenta Cho is known for his frantic shmups, but this release under the ABA Games banner is incredibly different. A collection of five mini-games, each starring wriggly stick figures on a blueprint background. Choose either one of the games, such as trampolining or high jump, or play them all in succession in attempt for a high score. Strange and somewhat addictive.

vlak.gif.jpgVlak (DOS/Windows/Mac, 31kb, free) - Clocking in at a miniscule 31 kilobytes, this is easily the smallest playable download game I've ever come across. Featuring a plethora of levels and PC Speaker sounds, this cute Snake-like game has you collecting items to hook onto the back of your train, then out through the exit. It works under DOS, so any Windows should be able to run it (if not, check out the freeware application DOSBox, which also allows Mac users to play).

minimalyahtzee.gifMinimal Yahtzee (Windows, 85kb, free) - One for the old-fashioned gamers out there, who still like their games a little more board-y than the rest. Yahtzee is a classic dice game where the object is, amazingly, to get the highest score. A lot has been squeezed into this tiny package, including smooth graphics and transitions between screens. The scoring is also quite complex and true to its real-life form.


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (73 votes)
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Hidden Expedition: Amazon

JohnBReady to scratch your hidden object itch? Hidden Expedition: Amazon has arrived! Along with the Mystery Case Files series, the Hidden Expedition games are some of the best-known titles in the hidden object genre. And for good reason. Hidden Expedition: Amazon has extraordinarily high production values, interesting gameplay that tweaks the familiar formula in very subtle ways, and plenty of crowded scenes to scrutinize.

hiddenexpeditionamazon.jpgHidden Expedition: Amazon drops you right into object hunting from the start and the story gradually unfolds as you play. Professor Mandible has gone missing while journeying through the Amazon jungle. You must follow clues left in his wake to piece together the mystery behind his disappearance and find the elusive Beetle Temple. Each area is littered with dozens items cleverly hidden amongst the scenery. Read the list at the bottom of the screen, then try and find those objects in the picture above. An optional hint system helps you if you get stuck, but otherwise its just you, your eyes, and the pixels.

Instead of just straight-up object finding, Hidden Expedition: Amazon takes a page from the Azada handbook and throws a little adventure flavor into the mix. Each location you travel to features a number of areas you can travel between. Certain items will be added to your inventory in these areas and will need to be carried to other scenes to complete puzzles and find all of the objects. Areas of the screen and items in your list that require your inventory will be shown in blue.

The most useful new feature in Hidden Expedition: Amazon is the item silhouette images that appear when clicking on objects in your list. This shows you a shadowed outline of the item you're searching for, taking every ounce of ambiguity out of the object hunt and allowing you to focus on relevant items. For example, if the list says "pizza", should you look for a round disc or just a slice? Click the item, look at the silhouette, and thank the developers for including such a wonderful feature in a hidden object game.

hiddenexpeditionamazon2.jpgAnalysis: As far as hidden object games go, you'll be hard-pressed to find anything more impressive than Hidden Expedition: Amazon. The game features a solid object hunting experience with an unobtrusive storyline told as you play, cutting out any lengthy cutscenes and annoying interludes. Mini-games play a small but fun part of the game, and the overall design strikes that difficult balance of making the game easy to play without removing the difficulty. And most of the annoyances some casual gamers experience in hidden object games have been taken care of in this game.

Several small features found in most hidden object games have been left out or made obsolete in Hidden Expedition: Amazon, the most notable of which are click penalties and a timer. Instead of docking points or time for multiple miss-clicks, all that happens in Amazon is your cursor vanishes for a few seconds. Just enough incentive to hold back on the mouse button, but not enough to invoke frustration or that sinking feeling of failure.

Although some of the animations in Hidden Expedition: Amazon have slight traces of graininess around their edges, the presentation is otherwise gorgeous on all fronts. SomaTone Interactive Audio was responsible for the custom soundtrack, working with a live orchestra in Berlin, Germany, and the results are nothing short of spectacular. Take a minute to soak in the music and appreciate the labor and care that went into scoring the game.

Everything about Hidden Expedition: Amazon is almost perfectly crafted for an extraordinary hidden object experience. Tricky puzzles that make you think without sending you to the strategy guide, smartly hidden items that aren't covered to make them practically invisible, and an interface that works with you, not against. Hidden Expedition: Amazon is easily one of the best hidden object games around!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (88 votes)
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Little HostageJessWhen we reviewed The Final Spell in March, one of developer Zibumi's previous escape-the-room games, it was met with a mixed reception; some players really enjoyed the game's levity and ease, while others criticized the lack of polish and depth. Happily, the fine people at Zibumi seem to be quick learners! Their newest release, Little Hostage, preserves the finer points of Final Spell while adding complexity and cleverness. While still not excessively challenging, Little Hostage is a fun, satisfying game perfect for a coffee break or random escape-the-room craving.

Little Hostage further continues the saga of Tom "Tucker" Crubucker, the plump, perenially-perturbed-looking magician-in-training. After celebrating the successful completion of his exams (a la the end of The Final Spell), Tom wakes to find himself locked in a small, rather eclectically-furnished apartment. He will, once again, need your help to escape (and find out who is holding him in captivity!). The puzzles are on the whole fairly simple, though the designers have thrown in a few rather clever touches that hold the player's interest and add depth to an otherwise straightforward task; one involving a mechanical hula doll especially made me happy.

While I have a deep appreciation for ingenious enigmas and love unraveling a seemingly impossible puzzle (see: Jess's next review), sometimes it's really nice to play something well-designed, entertaining but not-too-tough. Little Hostage will probably be completely by veteran escape-the-room artists in 30 minutes or so, and those new to the genre will find it to be a relatively accessible introduction to the beautiful world of point-and-click. All in all, it's definitely worth your time.

Help the hapless would-be Houdini.

Play Little Hostage


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Link Dump Fridays

JohnBToday's Link Dump Friday is brought to you by candy tins and completely hypothetical situations. If you are a candy manufacturer and you package candy in a fun-looking container, make sure you include at least one feature: the ability to open the tin and retrieve the candy inside. Children, tall people, people with feet, and Link Dump Friday writers like candy very much, and we generally do not like injuring ourselves or eating spilled candy off the floor. Hypothetically, of course...

  • icon_automaton2.gifAutomaton 2 - The sequel to last year's 2D puzzle adventure Automaton, Automaton 2 brings back the same steampunk atmosphere and [tab]-induced hotspot finding we found surprisingly enjoyable.
  • icon_mesmemarble2.gifMesmemarble 2 - A bouncey physics-based arcade game where you pilot a marble to collect stars and reach the goal in each stage. It's a boring idea until you add some rather insane power-ups and obstacles to the mix.
  • icon_drkukitchen.gifDr. Ku - The Kitchen - From the creators of Esklavos comes a great-looking point-and-click room escape/puzzle game. Similar to the Hapland series in style, click objects around the room and try to find your way out of the dirty kitchen.
  • icon_flux.gifFlux - A simple, stylish and relaxing puzzle game, Flux tasks you with chaining together bubbles to make combos that match the color of the center orb. As the timer counts down, grab as many bubbles as you can to meet your quota.
  • icon_threeattendants.gifThree Attendants - A straightforward (and very cute) point-and-click game from the creator of Wonderful Sea. Slide through the scenes and click on objects to interact with them. Use your inventory to solve simple puzzles.

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Rating: 4.2/5 (95 votes)
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floribular.gifJohnBBrand new from Tonypa, creator of CoBaCoLi, ShoOot 2, Kavalmaja, and more, comes Floribular, yet another simple yet highly engaging puzzle game. A 6x6 grid of tiles fills the screen, some of which are covered by colored flowers. The goal is to place a flower on the grid to eliminate as many like-colored flowers as possible. The catch is that matches don't have to be made by adjacent tiles, they can be three or more flowers in that row or column. Difficult to describe, but easy to play, Floribular has the uncanny ability to steal your interest and hold on for quite some time.

Floribular relies on a different sense of spacial orientation to make matches, almost like a game of sudoku. Instead of scanning the board for groups of like-colored tiles, your eyes dart left and right, up and down searching for well-seeded columns and rows where you can score serious points. To make a match, you must have three or more of the same flowers anywhere in a row or column where you just placed your flower. So, for example, if you place a blue flower on a space and at least two other blue flowers are in a row or column connected to that tile, you score a match.

After placing a tile, a number of new flowers grow in random spaces. How many depends on whether you remove any flowers during that turn. If you do, then 2 flowers will appear; if you do not, then 4 flowers will appear. The key to emptying the screen lies in placing flowers to ensure you eliminate more tiles than will be filled before the next move.

If all of this sounds a bit convoluted, don't worry, it isn't. In practice Floribular is very simple and will take you all of three or four turns to get the hang of it. As with any good puzzle game, however, it will take you much longer than that to gain a decent level of proficiency.

Play Floribular


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Rating: 4.2/5 (44 votes)
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inanimatealice4.jpgJohnBMore an interactive piece of fiction than a traditional game, Inanimate Alice: Episode 4 continues the story of the young game animator as she leaves her home in Russia and travels abroad. Inanimate Alice serves as both entertainment and a peek into the future of literature as a fusion of multimedia technologies. The haunting images and accompanying music and text weave a remarkably gripping tale that must be experienced to be believed.

The story plays out in a series of still images with Alice's words dancing onto the screen. For the most part you just kick back and watch the show, but sometimes you'll need to click an arrow to keep the narration flowing. In a few instances you'll have a choice as to what to do next, and at any time you can play back previous "chapters" by clicking the icons on the right side of the screen.

Giving away any part of the story would be a crime, so it's best to just click and dive right in. Inanimate Alice really draws you in and features just enough interactivity to take away the stagnant movie viewing affect. Get ready for thirty minutes of multimedia bliss.

Play Inanimate Alice: Episode 4

Read about all the episodes of Inanimate Alice at JIG.


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Rating: 4.4/5 (112 votes)
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Joshswingingball_screen1Swinging Ball is a new, fun little flash title developed by Gimme5games. Any guesses as to what you might control? That's right, a swinging ball! It's a fairly simple ball-physics game, much as we've seen before in which your goal is to guide the ball through a series of obstacles to the exit. What makes Swinging Ball noteworthy is the implementation of a grapple-like rope that you can use to latch onto surfaces and swing around like Tarzan.

Control the ball by using either the [arrow] keys or [A] and [D] to move left and right, respectively. At the same time, your mouse controls an on-screen cursor to aim the rope. Click to shoot and the grapple will launch out of your ball (only up to a maximum length) and latch onto any green surfaces. As long as you're still holding the mouse button down, you'll stay connected until you release. Most of the wire-frame levels are created with gray surfaces that are safe to roll on, and the occasional red spikes that you'll want to avoid. Exits are yellow; all you've got to do is touch any portion of the yellow lines with your ball to beat the level. (To help you find them, the arrow in your ball always points to the exits like a compass.)

Much of the thrill in Swinging Ball is using the rope to navigate the obstacles. In early levels you'll just have to swing around a bit, Spiderman-style. As levels progress, you'll find bigger, more complex environments—often with moving components—that will require launching yourself up, down and around with your rope. Many of the green surfaces you'll need to use are variously-shaped, rotating "pivots," for lack of a better term. If you latch your rope onto them with enough slack, they will slowly wind you up until the tension reaches critical, whipping you around with enough momentum so you can launch yourself across big distances.

Analysis: Unless you're a fan of wire-frame graphics, it's pretty obvious that the majority of fun to be had in Swinging Ball comes from the gameplay alone. The physics as a whole—not just the ball, but the spatial aspects as well—feel accurate and gratifying. Launching yourself from the aforementioned rotating pivots is great fun, as well as navigating through some pretty well-designed levels. The action could benefit from a minor speed boost; rolling the ball back and forth feels a bit sluggish at times. The game also seems to utilize quite a bit of memory, so you'll want to make sure you play it without many programs or browser windows open if your system is struggling with the FPS. Your progress is auto-saved throughout the four level tiers; easy, medium, hard and insane. There's even a level editor available to create your own levels once you master the rest. Overall, it's a commendable effort in the ball-physics genre with an innovative, addicting gimmick.

Play Swinging Ball


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Rating: 4.5/5 (339 votes)
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JessOk, I have to admit something right off the bat: I love this game. Seriously. So, I might be biased in favor of giving it a positive review, as I love it. You've been warned.

Phantom Mansion: Spectrum of SoulsThe Phantom Mansion: Spectrum of Souls series puts you in control of Hector, a little spiky-haired dude whose mission is to rescue the many spirits trapped in a giant, foreboding mansion. To do so he must conquer:

Each "color" is a separate game in itself; the complete quest spans the entire spectrum (plus black).

You must guide Hector through rooms of increasing difficulty in order to save all the souls, collecting keys, dodging spooky-yet-adorable monsters and solving puzzles in order to make it through unscathed. One thing I really like about the series is that each chapter integrates new elements in order to keep the game-playing experience fresh; for example, the Orange Library adds mysterious portals that zip you to different parts of the chamber, the Yellow Tower adds cursed, uncrossable floors, and so on. Unfortunately, the Blue Ballroom does not contain a dance studio, and therefore no ballroom dancing allowed.

Play all the Phantom Mansion series games:
Phantom Mansion: Red ChamberPhantom Mansion: Orange LibraryPhantom Mansion: Yellow TowerPhantom Mansion: Green GalleryPhantom Mansion: Blue BallroomPhantom Mansion: Indigo DungeonPhantom Mansion: Violet VaultPhantom Mansion: Black Sanctum Phantom Mansion: The Black SeaPhantom Mansion 2: The North SeaPhantom Mansion 2: The Arabian Sea

Analysis: Phantom Mansion is a great example of casual gaming in its purest, most entertaining form. I found the puzzles to be challenging but not confounding, perfect for a lazy afternoon or five minute coffee break. The game also does a nice job of introducing the elements gradually so as to not overwhelm the player. By the time the most difficult levels are reached the mechanics are almost second nature. The (admittedly superficial) story adds a bit of depth, and the adorably creepy graphics and score are irresistible.

Go ahead, add a bit of Halloween into your day:

Play Spectrum of Souls


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (231 votes)
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JaySpore Creature CreatorIn case you haven't heard, there's an exciting new game on the horizon called Spore, and it is set to release this September. The game is the brainchild of Will Wright, the father of SimCity and the Sims, and judging from what we've seen of this game so far, we're in for one heck of a ride. One of Spore's most touted and talked about features is how it leverages user-created content to populate the countless planets within the Spore universe. The Spore team accomplishes this by putting powerful and easy-to-use tools to create elements of the Spore universe in the hands of the masses. That's you.

JIG creaturesOne of those tools is being released today, the Spore Creature Creator, and it can be yours for about 10 bucks. There is a demo available that is free, but it comes with only a small subset of what's available in the full version. With the Creature Creator you can, of course, create and edit new creatures, and you can save them and share them with others, too. Creatures are embedded into a 32KB image (PNG) of the creature that contains all of the data necessary to load it back into the editor. Sharing creatures is therefore exceptionally easy, and brilliantly implemented.

You can also take pictures of your creatures within the "Test Drive" portion of the editor (screenshots included here), or take movies and upload your movies directly to YouTube from within the Creature Creator(!) Your creatures are automatically animated based on the spine and appendages you've given it. You can even make them dance, too.

I was fortunate enough to be selected to try out the creature creator ahead of time, and I spent the entire weekend last week making creatures with it (warning: it's highly addictive). Playing with the Creature Creator was one of the most amazing play experiences I have ever had, and I'm looking forward to playing with it some more. It is extremely easy to make something that looks good with the tool, and seeing your creature come to life as you add elements to it is both exciting and immediately rewarding.

The game hasn't even been released yet and we are already seeing the fruits of this thing called user-created content as it applies to Spore. I highly recommend participating in this sensation, and the sooner the better so you don't feel left out. And when Spore finally ships this September after 3 months and millions of creatures later, you'll know where to find me. ;)

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (1329 votes)
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Joshrollercoasterrush_screen1Casual gaming developers Digital Chocolate are on a roll this month, releasing yet another mobile-turned-Web game just this week. Rollercoaster Rush—originally a tiny action game for cell phones—has been revamped and upgraded to Flash, showcasing better graphics and an improved collection of levels. Rollercoaster Rush puts you behind the "wheel" of a rollercoaster brake operator. Essentially, it's your job to ensure that passengers have the thrill of their life, while at the same time making sure it's not their last. Just as any seasoned operator will tell you, the first rule in rollercoaster school is to avoid sending your passengers flying off the track to the pavement a hundred feet below. It's just bad for business.

So in Rollercoaster Rush, you control just two things: the acceleration and braking of the coaster. It's a pretty simple setup; just use [left arrow] to apply the brakes and [right arrow] to speed up. If you need to pause the action, just hit the menu button at the top of the screen. Each level presents you with a different rollercoaster track, beginning with simple ups and downs and eventually leading into severe slopes and multiple loops. A moment before each change in the track occurs, a moving yellow sign will appear on the screen, indicating the shape of the upcoming track. As the sign comes nearer to its outlined frame in the middle, the less time you have to adjust before it's too late. This usually gives you the time you need to alter speed; either accelerating so that you can climb a hill or blast through loops, or applying the breaks to ensure that you're not at top speed at the crest of a hill, which would send the rollercoaster cars flying away or crashing into a piece of upcoming track.

rollercoasterrush_screen2Scoring is simply tied to how much fun the customers are having. The passengers in the cars will display little smiley-faces when you're doing a good job of giving them their money's worth. The wider their smiles, the more fun they're having and the higher your score will be. And the happier your customers are, the more they'll spread the word about your rollercoaster skills, leading more passengers to board your coaster in subsequent levels. As a well-designed incentive, you've got to obtain a high enough customer satisfaction rating before you can move on to the next track, or you'll have to repeat the level until you get it right.

Analysis: If you didn't know any better, you might mistake Rollercoaster Rush for a Nitrome game at first glance. The action and style are similar, and judging by the popularity of most Nitrome games, that's a compliment for this game. Levels increase in difficulty at a steady pace as you're met with harder obstacles like multiple loops, mountain-like slopes and even crazy track jumps. Things get really interesting when all these elements are smashed together close to one another. It requires some pretty precise speeding up and slowing down at just the right moments, or you'll either send your passengers flying to their doom or give them a boring ride. The graphics and sound are both rendered nicely in this Flash upgrade of the original, although judging by the developer's recent work, one has to wonder if they could have designed it a bit prettier.

Digital Chocolate also offers a PC version of the game to buy; a downloadable game with 75 total levels on three continents. The free online version offers the U.S. levels only. Although the game itself is a short ride in all, it's a fun one, especially if you're a fan of action games (that goes double for you rollercoaster junkies out there).

Play Rollercoaster Rush (Flash version)

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 (34 votes)
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Eschalon: Book 1

JoshEschalon: Book 1, the debut title from Basilisk Games, will take you back to the nostalgic days of Ultima and Might and Magic. It's a turn-based, tile-designed RPG, a system that many fans of the genre are familiar with. Eschalon offers a rich, engaging and open-ended world to explore, with a similarly deep storyline. It's a modern-day tribute to the old CRPG's that fans grew up on, at a time when storytelling, adventuring and honing your character's skill took precedence over shiny graphics and cutting-edge mechanics.

eschalon.jpgEschalon is the name of the world this RPG takes place in, and you begin your adventure tucked away in a remote, abandoned area of the Commonwealth of Thaermore, the "continent" Book 1 takes place in. You awake with amnesia, virtually threadbare and unaware of your surroundings. A single note is the only clue you have to set you on your path. It's a bit cliché, but hey, it works. You're immediately thrown into the thick of it, as you explore your surroundings, defend yourself from low-level monsters and try to make your way to your starting town of Aridell. From there, you'll learn more about yourself and the world of Eschalon as you interact with NPC's and shopkeepers. You can wander the outskirts for a while, killing the wildlife and looking for scraps of treasure, or jump right in and start accepting quests from the townsfolk. And like most RPGs, quest completion nets you far more experience that monster-killing, so it's a good idea to keep your quest book full.

Much of your path will be influenced by the type of character you chose to roll. Eschalon offers a detailed character creation system reminiscent of the pencil-and-dice method. Although you can only play a human male, there's a wide variety of variables to choose from. "Origin" defines what part of the land you were raised in, with each choice having inherent attribute bonuses. "Axiom" is similar, but involves choosing between various spiritual beliefs (or lack thereof). And of course your "class" defines your combat and play style, each also possessing its own unique benefits. You can choose between a Fighter, Rogue, Magick User, Healer and Ranger. You can spend attribute points to strengthen those which will help your class the most, and even re-roll your base stats an unlimited number of times. Lastly the "skills" table is used to spend points on skills that will compliment your class, as well as uniques like Alchemy and Cartography. (I highly suggest putting at least one point into cartography, as it's the only way you'll be able to use your mini-map.)

The character creation alone gives an initial impression of how deep and complex Eschalon is; the gameplay features dozens of modifiers in combat depending on a slew of factors. Everything from lighting to distance to terrain is taken into account, and much more. There's a really complex engine under the hood, instantly running all those calculations that players used to need scribble out during combat on pencil-and-paper RPG's. Armor and weapons have their own attributes that factor into combat, although their effectiveness is dependent on your proficiency. This leads to a rather slow start in the game, spending half your time missing enemies or not doing an amount of damage that feels gratifying.

On the other hand, the interface and controls of the game are intuitive and easy to interact with. Movement is controlled by clicking the mouse button in the direction you want to go. There's no path-finding, although you can use the middle button to set it on auto-walk and course-correct as needed. For some reason, out of the eight directions of movement, walking up or down seems painstakingly slow compared to the rest. Your inventory, quest book, spell book and the rest are all accessible by a mouse click in the upper-right corner of the screen. Keyboard shortcuts are even handier, and luckily included. It's an adequate setup, overall, designed well enough not to hinder your playing experience.

eschalon2.jpgAnalysis: If you've enjoyed the new fad of games featuring quick dungeon crawls and hour-or-less adventures, but have begun craving something more — something deeper — then Eschalon is a game you'll want to try. In fact, even designating it as a casual game is a stretch, but it's designed so that you can adventure for however long you like, save your progress, and come back later.

Even though Eschalon was released just a short time ago, the graphics and overall presentation aren't anything to write home about, although it's certainly adequate to house the deeper aspects inside. This is no quick-play RPG like some of the casual flash and download games we've seen gaining popularity over the last few years (FastCrawl, Monster's Den, etc.). That's not to say that the game looks like crap, either. Gameplay graphics are obviously rendered of modern quality, and much of the still-screen art is uniquely attractive.

The world of Eschalon lies somewhere between high and low fantasy; tied together with a linear storyline but the option of non-linear play. There's a distinct overall feeling of good versus evil, although you're given the choice to follow your own path. As of the writing of this review, a sequel (Book II) is already in the works. So if you've been craving a deeper, more involved RPG — one that won't take up gigs of hard drive space or require and Oblivion-compatible graphics card — Eschalon might just be the middle ground you've been looking for.

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


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Weekend Download

JohnBWhat do you get when you cross prehistoric man with a group of combative ants and drop them in a few procedurally generated (and possibly space-themed) areas? I have no clue, but this edition of Weekend Download will probably be the closest thing to an answer you'll ever find.

overgod.gifOvergod (Windows/Mac/Linux, ~1MB, free) - A smart little shooter where you control a ship armed with a tiny gun facing handfuls of big enemies. Think classic Asteroids, only now the chunks of rock fire back. Choose from a selection of spacecrafts, each with a different ability, then fly around shooting everything that moves. Nab power-ups to stay in the game, and play it defensive for a better chance at surviving. Simple, but satisfying!

ancientantsadventure.jpgAncient Ants Adventure (Windows, 14MB, free) - An isometric shooter with strategy/tactical elements and upgradeable weapons. You are the commander of battle ants on a quest to rescue soldiers. Battle bugs using a variety of weapons, gather gold to upgrade and unlock new tools to unleash havoc on the baddies. For the record, this game is far more fun than it should be allowed to be.

cavemancraig.jpgCaveman Craig (Windows, 7.5MB, free) - Lead your tribe of caveman as they survive the harsh prehistoric land filled with dinosaurs, dinosaurs, and more dinosaurs. Train cavemen as gatherers, hunters, and preparers, then teach them their skills to turn them loose for the good of the tribe. A great blend of action adventure gaming and a lite 2D simulation.

mujakwi.gifSpace Game: Mujakwi (Windows, <1MB, free) - Imagine if you crossed old-school Metroid with a procedurally-generated shooter. Next, download Mujakwi and stop imagining, because that's exactly what it is. Explore the surface of a randomly generated planet in search of loot while taking out enemies along the way. Part of the TIGSource Procedural Generation competition.

laserbunny.jpgLaser Bunny - Adventures in the Alien Death Mines! (Windows, 4MB, free) - Give a rabbit a laser and drop him in a series of randomly generated mazes and what will he do? Probably run around shooting alien-like creatures in a sort of Pac Man-type arcade shooter. Keep moving upwards to avoid the looming water, and grab power-ups to help you survive. Another entry in the TIGSource Procedural Generation competition.


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (66 votes)
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Hell's Kitchen

JohnBA casual game that both challenges and chides you is finally here, and it's time to cater to your toughest customer yet: Chef Gordon Ramsay. Hell's Kitchen is a resource management sim based on the gritty reality-television cooking competition show of the same name. Take control of both serving and cooking as you seat customers and prepare meals to meet chef Ramsay's high expectations. Perform well and raise your rank from dishwasher to Senior Chef, but if you fail you suffer Ramsay's fiery, scornful wrath.

hellskitchen.jpgFans of the Hell's Kitchen television program will immediately recognize the stern chef whose frowning mug watches you at every moment during the game. Even if you've never seen the show, however, Hell's Kitchen serves up a challenging and unique experience. You manage the restaurant's floor and kitchen as you seat customers, take their orders, cook their meals, and clean tables after all is finished. Your goal isn't to satisfy customers and earn lots of cash, it's to appease the almighty Chef Ramsay and earn his approval. Quite a dramatic change of pace from the rather cutesy simulation games we're used to.

Everything in Hell's Kitchen is managed with the mouse, and visual cues tell you when patrons need your attention. In the serving area, click on the front desk when people are waiting to seat them at a table. Next you'll hand out menus and take their order. After the waiter slides the order down the belt, click the button on the left side of the screen to shift to the kitchen where round two begins.

In the kitchen you'll combine foods by preparing them and cooking each in the appropriate piece of cookware. A set of pots and pans are laid out on burners before you, each with icons showing what foods should be dropped inside. When the pot is filled it begins to cook and the timer starts counting down. The goal is to have all dishes ready at about the same time so you can serve warm food to the customers. Leave it sitting on the counter for too long and Ramsay will have a few words to share with you...

After the meal is prepared, return to the dining room, serve the food, clean the dishes when the customers are ready (most of the time you'll serve a second course by repeating the above process), and cross your fingers. Chef Ramsay will give you a star ranking after each round and praise/berate you accordingly.

hellskitchen2.jpgAnalysis: I never thought I would be afraid to mess up in a resource management game. In titles such as Ice Cream Dee Lites if you botch an order you get nothing more than an impatient look from a cartoon drawing. Here, however, a 3D rendering of Chef Ramsay glares at you, and one too many missteps will elicit one of his famous lines of... er... "encouragement". Unlike the television show, the game doesn't feature any objectionable language, so I suppose I still make out better than the actual participants.

The multi-tiered tasks in Hell's Kitchen sound complicated in writing, but it all works out quite smoothly when you're in the game. Chef Ramsay doesn't coddle you with a lengthy tutorial, so expect to be thrown right into the mix with only short tips to point you in the right direction. One really nice bonus that many players will appreciate is the inclusion of Chef Ramsay's recipes before each level in the game. Read, salivate, and print them immediately, or review them in the recipe book from the title screen.

The visuals in Hell's Kitchen are great, and the dark atmosphere is yet another welcome departure from cheery, cartoonish games that dominate the genre. Characters are fluidly animated with some very exaggerated mannerisms. Repetition is the only real drawback in the game, as when it comes down to it Hell's Kitchen relies too much on switching between dining room and kitchen and doesn't bother to mix up the gameplay in either area too much.

If you're ready for something different in a resource management game, Hell's Kitchen delivers without dropping you in unfamiliar territory. Hope you can stand a little slander from the master chef himself!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Link Dump Fridays

JohnBThis week's Link Dump Friday has a theme identical to the previous week's, only... different! There's also a little arcade vein running through the games, but that's not nearly as cool as being... different.

  • icon_roseandcamellia.gifRose & Camellia 2 - It's like the original Rose & Camellia, except... not! More of an update than a true sequel, part two introduces new characters to duel with as well as a final boss battle. Unfortunately you have to slap your way through the first game before playing the new content, but it's not like you won't have fun doing it...
  • icon_robotrun.gifRobot Run - A more industrial take on the popular "jump and avoid stuff in your way" arcade game, Robot Run ditches cutesy characters in favor of gritty robots. Jump to avoid blocks that slide your way, taking care to avoid rocks dropped in your path as well. Grab power-ups for temporary bonuses, such as a shield that protects your squidgy head from boulders.
  • icon_caveescaper.gifCave Escaper - Navigate your way through 50 levels and try to escape the cave. Along the way you will have to solve puzzles, bomb your way through rocks and boulders, swing from ledges, and avoid pits of lava. Can you make it out alive? This is the newest game from letsmakeagame.com and you can edit your own levels. The highest rated levels will be included in a "community edition" of Cave Escaper.
  • icon_missilecommanddoc.gifMissile Command Docudrama - It's like Missile Command, but... not! The latest from game parody site Retro Sabotage tells the tale behind the classic arcade game of defending your cities. More chilling than entertaining (see other Retro Sabotage games for a laugh or ten).
  • icon_typingninjahunter.gifTyping Ninja Hunter - It's up to you to defend the temple against an army of invading Ninjas! The only qualification: can you spell 'Ninja'? We sure hope so, because spelling correctly and quickly is the only way to stave off this martial arts onslaught. With five different types of Ninjas to defeat, a boss battle after each level, upgradeable defenses and skills and an epic final battle, Ninja Hunter is ninja hunting fun for everyone!

  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (564 votes)
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ValaraukaGemcraftHot off the presses, here comes an innovative new tower defense game from GameInABottle.

In GemCraft, you are a wizard tasked with defending the world from evil hordes of invading monsters—same old story for a tower defense game, but let's face it: we don't play these for the brilliant storytelling, do we? (though the excellent Immortal Defense is a notable exception.)

Best of Casual Gameplay 2008GemCraft mixes up the classic TD formula with several new tricks. Your defense consists of magically created gems placed atop towers near the path the monsters follow. Various colors of gem offer different types of special attacks—splash damage, poison, armor reduction and so forth. Gems can be combined to produce higher-grade gems which do more damage, and incorporate the attack types of up to three of their component colors (though at reduced potency). You can also place new towers next to the path, or trenches directly on it to slow the monsters down. All of these actions require Mana, which is your primary resource in the game; it regenerates slowly over time and you earn more from killing monsters. GemcraftYou can also invest in a "mana pool", which costs a large amount of mana to buy but increases the amount of points and mana you get from kills. Score is determined by how fast you kill everything, and you can get more points by sending in more waves at once, in the same manner as Desktop Tower Defense and some other TD games.

Here's where things get interesting: You can create gems of any grade directly, though higher grade gems are significantly more mana-intensive. However, the gem you get will be of a random color, so if you want a specific gem type you're better off producing a load of low grade gems and combining the ones you want. Combining specific gem colors can get you useful effects, but pure-color gems have stronger special attacks and bonus damage compared to multicolored ones—would you rather have two towers with different pure gems on them, or save space and combine them on top of a single tower? Gems can also be thrown directly on to the path as bombs, which is a nifty way of getting rid of unwanted extras. Another nice touch is that the gems themselves are independent of the towers they're placed on, which means you can position multiple empty towers along the path, create one super-powerful gem and just move it along with the wave of enemies.

The separate levels are tied together in a branching campaign map, and you usually have several different battles available to tackle in whichever order you choose; you can also go back and replay any of your previous battles. Your wizard's level also increases as you win more battles, giving you skill points to spend on various skills that will make you more powerful. These are redistributable at any time, making it easy to try the same battle again with a different skill-set if you're having trouble.

Analysis: On the whole, the game brings a lot of innovation to the tower defense genre, quite an accomplishment considering how crowded it already is. The new gameplay mechanics create a lot of strategic depth, and the game adds replay value by keeping track of your high score for each level, allowing you to go back and replay them for much higher scores once your wizard has leveled up and is more powerful. Each level also has a "gold frame" high score, and achieving it on many battles unlocks bonus maps to play on. If you're a tower defense fan, I foresee this game taking up a lot of your time in the very near future.

Play GemCraft


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (984 votes)
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JessBamba Snack Quest 1I can say with certainty that I've rarely run across games quite as cute as Bamba Snack Quest 1 & Quest 2. These fun, quirky little point-and-click diversions star a large-headed, unusually plucky baby who must traverse land, sea and even across the street to rescue his beloved bamba snacks from the clutches of an evil squirrel (and then, when things take a turn for the weird, from a giant mosquito). So...adorable...excuse me while I go suck on a lemon to balance the sweetness.

Happily, in addition to being charming, the Bamba Snack Quests are also clever, entertaining and well-made. The gameplay is of the "clear a path" variety, in which the player must utilize elements of each scene in the correct order and combination in order to proceed. The first quest is comprised of eight unlockable chapters, all of which are now available online; the second has seven to solve.

Bamba Snack Quest 2The Quests have a wonderful, cheerful sense of aesthetics. Cartoony characters are combined with colorful, almost photorealistic environments, creating a sort of Roger Rabbit-like juxtaposition of the lifelike and fanciful. The puzzles are, admittedly, somewhat uneven; some chapters are ingeniously clever, some simple, and others head-scratchingly unintuitive. This, along with obnoxiously long load times, is the biggest drawback to an otherwise excellent series. Still, the [tab] key cheat is always available as a last resort, and the enjoyment in playing these quirky, whimsically surreal games is more than worth the occasional annoyance.

Note: While the website is entirely in Hebrew (wow! a new one), the game itself is language-free.

Come on, the baby's hungry!

Play Bamba Snack Quest 1

Play Bamba Snack Quest 2


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (162 votes)
| Comments (104) | Views (2,149)

Jay9:059:05, by Adam Cadre, is another snack-sized text adventure that is just right for a casual audience. Even if you're new to the genre and are looking for something short and simple as a primer, do give this one a try.

The game is so short, however, that any description of what happens during the game could be considered a spoiler, and so we'll let you find out about it yourself. Instead, here's a short introduction written by the game's author: "You've screwed up on the job before, but never like this. You've overslept in a major way, and you're in for a world of trouble if you don't act fast."

If you need a little help getting started, just keep in mind that you need to examine items to view a description, and take items to add them to your inventory. Check your inventory with the command inventory. You may also use an item, too. You may even find that you need to drop an item to get rid of it. The command parser is generally pretty good about figuring out what you want to do, but try using fewer words to describe what you want if having trouble.

Analysis: Besides being very short, one of the especially notable qualities of this game is that it encourages replay. After you've played through the game at least once, you'll understand what I mean by this. An enjoyable and surprising game and just right for a casual game audience,

Play 9:05

The links above point to JIG's internally developed Flash-based Z-Machine interpreter (thanks asterick!), with the story files hosted here by kind permission of the game's author, Adam Cadre. That means you can now play these games in your browser rather than having to download and run the game in a standalone interpreter.

If you would rather download the game, you may do so at the Adam Cadre's website. If you choose to download the game, you will need an interpreter to read the z-file, just like most IF games: try Gargoyle for Windows, or Zoom or Splatterlight for Macintosh and Unix.

If you like "9:05," take a look at other Interactive Fiction we have reviewed here at JIG.


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (123 votes)
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JoshOn the RunOccasionally we let a gem-of-a-game slip through the cracks. And once we realize our oversight, we'll make it a point to feature the game even if it's not brand-new, and particularly during times like this when new releases are slow. One such title is On The Run, an absurdly fun little game hosted and contracted by Miniclip Games, developed by Officine Pixel. This Shockwave game is a third-person car racer, or rather chaser, as you spend the entire game being pursued by a mysterious, clandestine group of baddies called the "Corporation" that's trying to hunt you down and run you off the road.

You sport a little yellow coupe, while the bad guys have a fleet of cars, SUV's and vans, all of which stop at nothing to wreck your car and stop you from escaping. What are you escaping from? Why are you "on the run" in the first place? It's never really explained, and it doesn't need to be. The fun of this game isn't the story, it isn't the characters...it's the gameplay, plain and simple. You'll be surprised that despite all the flashy racing games available today, you can have such a blast trying to outrun and outwit your pursuers in a little Web game made a couple years ago.

You control the car using the [arrow] keys and [space] to hit the e-brake. Once the starting light turns green, you're let loose in a Euro-style city with no map, no Crazy Taxi-style arrow pointing you in the right direction. The city is unfamiliar and yours to explore, although you won't have much time to enjoy the scenery as you push the pedal to the metal, gunning it through intersections, tunnels, ramps and even down narrow alleys. You have only two things to worry about: your car's health and gas, both of which are measurable by meters at the top of the screen. Run out of gas and it's game over. Wreck your car and obviously it's game over.

ontherun_screen2You can replenish these meters with gas and repair power-up orbs, both which seem plentiful at first, but get tougher to find as you zoom farther along. Besides trying to find your way out of the city to the goal, you'll constantly have Corporation bad guys chasing you from behind, trying to ram you from the side, and even coming at you head-on as you turn corners. The intuitive strategy is to dodge them, although if you take advantage of the game's decent AI, you can trick enemy cars into crashing by hitting the brake at just the right moments, or pulling a 90-degree-turn out of the blue.

Analysis: On The Run is one of those diamonds-in-the-rough; a simple, small game that doesn't feature mind-blowing graphics or cutting-edge physics, it's just ridiculously fun to play. Your initial run may take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes to beat the game, depending on how many times you fail. Once you've memorized the route, the game can be beat in under 10 minutes, but even that doesn't water-down the replay value. There are always alternate routes you can take and new ways to lose the bad guys. The driving mechanic is quite gratifying, featuring simple-yet-responsive steering and accurate inertia physics. (Just the traction component alone is awesome.) Collision physics can sometimes get iffy; especially when you get boxed in (your health will often drain super-quickly without an ability to escape). But if you've ever wanted to take a few minutes out of your day and pretend you're the star of an action movie during the famous car-chase scene, you'll love what this game has to offer.

Play On The Run

Note: For those on Intel-based Macs, you will need Shockwave Player 10 and run your browser in Rosetta emulation mode to play this game.


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (85 votes)
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zxoMr. BounceMr. Bounce is the sort of game that lulls you into complacency with familiar mechanics, then body-slams the snot out of you just when you think you've gotten the hang of it. It's the latest effort from Pixelate designers, Andreas Zecher and Martin Snuggles (who incidentally have also authored a nice series on Understanding Games).

At first, Mr. Bounce seems like a simple Breakout-inspired game with a slight twist – you can control the height of your bounce by using the [up] and [down] arrows. A helpful dotted line traces out the ball's future trajectory, and pressing [spacebar] will temporarily activate slow-motion. So with all these handy features, where's the challenge, right?

Well, right about the your brain starts going on auto-pilot, Mr. Bounce delivers a hefty wake-up smack upside the head. From out of nowhere come walls, moving walls, disappearing walls, movable blocks, tracers, wind, lions, tigers and bears, oh my! OK, maybe not those last three, but I think the point's been made. As you bounce your way through the five worlds, the game presents more and more challenges to conquer. You start off with 5 balls, but good scores will earn you extras, so a miscue here and there isn't going to totally mess up your game.

cottontail.jpg

Speaking of scores, the game authors made an excellent choice to add replay value by assigning increased value to circles of the same color collected consecutively – that is without hitting the paddle or a differently-colored circle in between. This mechanic becomes particularly relevant in the early levels, when survival isn't so difficult and color clusters abound. In some cases, you can multiply your level score tenfold or more by collecting the circles in the right order. Unfortunately, the game doesn't keep track of high scores, so much of the emphasis on score is lost when the last ball slips away (or when you complete the game).

For a simple game like Mr. Bounce, it's hard to go wrong with brightly-colored vector graphics, though the soundtrack left something to be desired (namely coherence). Still, it's easy to turn off by clicking the moving bars in the upper right corner. On the whole, though, Mr. Bounce is a delight to play and replay!

Play Mr. Bounce


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Grimmrookname_screen1Welcome to my player's walkthrough guide for Babarageo's Ginormo Sword.

In general, this game can be played through using either superior skill, or through just overpowering everything in your path with massive stats. At least, that's the case for about 98% of the game. Whatever path you choose, this game does require an enormous amount of patience, and a finger that can tolerate millions upon millions of mouse clicks for long periods of time.


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (296 votes)
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Joshname_screen1Babarageo is up to his old antics again. The pixel-loving Japanese game designer responsible for Flash gems like Uchuwars, Uchuforce 2 and the adorable little STG Banner (a 15-pixel-tall space shooter) recently converted his newest game, Ginormo Sword, from Japanese to English. If you've played any of Babarageo's earlier games, you'll know this guy's got a serious pixel-fetish. He also has a reputation for developing games that end up being a lot more fun to play than you might imagine from looking at screenshots. The same is true of Ginormo Sword, a fantasy action game with subtle RPG elements drawn from the golden age of Atari and Intellivision games.

You control a pink, ninja-looking hero equipped with a sword and nothing else. There are no other weapons in this game; your sole task when it comes to upgrading your power is to make your sword bigger, longer, thicker and stronger. Obvious metaphorical references aside, it's actually an innovative weapon system. As you gather more money and items by battling monsters and bosses, you can enhance your sword in a variety of ways. There are a few different swords available throughout the game, each offering its own strengths and weaknesses (such as giving you a bonus to fire damage, but a negative modifier to water). Once you've picked a sword, you can visit your neighborhood blacksmith and spend gold to raise your sword's level, allowing you to increase it's length and width. As you'll see in the real-time combat, added length and width help you reach monsters easier, and hit them more often.

name_screen1The game presents you with a world map of 16 zones. Your starting zone features an Inn where you can access your inventory, check your stats stats and modify your save file. Other zones are covered by a "fog of war," and zones are unlocked in a linear fashion. In each zone, you have to hunt around, using your mouse cursor to control your hero. A text display above the map will indicate when you've found a "monster node." Click the mouse to enter combat, and you'll go up against a random number of monsters to battle. Move with your mouse, attack by clicking; the combat sequences look a bit ridiculous, literally resembling the action you'd expect from an old Atari game. Move your 2D hero around the monsters, dodging collisions and taking sword swipes at them to lower their health. Once you've killed all the monsters in a node, it becomes "unlocked" and visible for repeated visits. You can only move on to the next zone when you've defeated all the current zone's monster nodes and final boss.

Analysis: At first glance, Ginormo Sword might seem like some wacky tribute to retro action-RPG games, meant to be more nostalgic than entertaining. But as we've seen with Babarageo's other games, that's far from the truth. Ginormo Sword—developed with rudimentary graphics, sound and gameplay style—is able to hold its own against similar flash games in the genre today when it comes to fun-factor. There's a pretty elaborate design underneath all those blocky little pixels; you can visit temples to upgrade your base stats, learn magic from wizards to shoot napalm or water bolts from your sword, buy better armor and items to help you survive, and much more. There's even an elemental-based system of damage and protection, with different colored gems to collect that you can trade in for sword and armor enhancements. You'll probably find your share of annoying interface issues when controlling your hero, sometimes veering off in a direction you didn't intend. The choice to use the [arrow] or [WASD] keys would have been nice for those who like more tactile control, something we can only hope for in a later version. You may find combat occasionally annoying as well, with sword swipes not hitting the enemy unless you're horizontally lined up with them just right. But then again, that's why when it comes to your weapon, bigger is always better.

Play Ginormo Sword


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (35 votes)
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Tower Bloxx Deluxe

JoshNew from Digital Chocolate comes Tower Bloxx Deluxe, a PC downloadable version of its hit Flash game Tower Bloxx. Deluxe features an amped-up, graphically-superior 3D presentation to the original mobile title with more complexity and improved game mechanics. The simple one-button stacking remain intact, however, an established idea that's been seen in Flash games like Vanilla, Killawatt and a half-dozen-or-so others.

towerbloxxdeluxe.jpgJust as in the original, you operate a crane that swings blocks of a tower back and forth. Each block on the crane represents one storey of the building's height. You can either click the mouse button to release the block or push [space]. Once you drop the first block, the foundation of your building is planted. You'll try to aim for that exact spot on each subsequent drop, unless you miss (as you no doubt will). You have a certain degree of variance to miss drops so that the block will stay on top of the building without falling over. As long as you don't drop a block beyond that, that's pretty much where the life-like physics in this game stop. You can build a tower resembling the Leaning Tower of Pisa without it toppling over. Of course this isn't the objective, because the more precisely-stacked the tower, the more people you'll get inside it. An ideal tower would be perfectly stacked from ground to top, without even one block being off to the left or right. Perfect towers will net you the maximum amount of inhabitants, which is what you're striving for. If you do miss a block, or drop it in a way that causes it to tumble over the side, you'll lose one out of three lives. Once all three are gone, construction of the tower halts as-is and you can either place it or go back and re-build it.

The story is that your construction company is contracted by the mayor to revitalize certain zones of the city by building residential apartments, office buildings and even skyscrapers. Population is key, and the currency of the game. The more buildings you have in a zone (and the better the quality of the buildings), the bigger that zone's population will be. Each zone has a population goal that must be met before moving on to the next zone, so unless you get it all right the first time, you'll have to go back and rebuild some towers, maybe even shuffle some around.

Things get interesting when you get to the puzzle element of the game. There's blue residential apartments, bigger red apartments, green office buildings and yellow skyscrapers. But you can't just build any color tower anywhere you want within the zone. Each tower has a rule to it, such as the green office building, which must neighbor both a blue and red tower. This means you've got to think ahead and place your towers in such a way that allows you to fit the most high-population towers (green and yellow) as you can into the zone. Sometimes you'll have to go back and demolish a tower or two so that you can redesign the immediate area to allow a green office building or yellow skyscraper to be built. Eventually you'll unlock the "Mega-Tower," which has no limit to the number of inhabitants it can hold, but it's got to be neighbored by all four colors, so you won't be able to build many.

towerbloxxdeluxe2.jpgAlong the way, you'll get little upgrades and bonuses for your towers, like population cap increases, and specialty blocks like balconies or trophy roofs that add even more population to the tower. You can only use special blocks like balconies after stacking a certain number of blocks (usually four) exactly on top of one another. There are other score and population modifiers based on perfect stacks, such as combos and various accomplishments (20 perfect stacks in one tower, for example).

Analysis: If you've always enjoyed the occasional stacking game as they've come out, you'll probably love Tower Bloxx Deluxe. Just like many other flash-turned-download games, it takes a well-received game concept and makes it even better by adapting it to a PC game; packing in better graphics, enhanced gameplay and more replay value. The stacking mechanic is more satisfying than any I've seen in flash versions, featuring much more fluid movement and physics. The graphics are fully 3D, even while in stacking mode, as showcased by the "camera movement" feature that you can use by pressing down the right mouse button to admire your work from different angles. There are lots of nice little touches thrown in, like people filling your tower as they fall from the sky clutching little umbrellas. Backgrounds feature a typical "cute" cityscape, with planes, birds, hot air balloons and blimps flying by as your tower grows higher.

There are four modes of play available: story mode, quick play (in which you try to build the tallest tower you can), time challenge and party mode (allowing up to four players to play against each other on a single computer). Overall, Tower Bloxx Deluxe lives up to the hype of its predecessors and raises the bar once more. It's an entertaining game for all ages, whether you're an action addict or puzzle fan, as it features elements of both. The sky's the limit; see how high you can go.

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

JohnBOld and new, artistic and scientific breakthroughs, and a little bit of wacky fruit-loving robots, too. It's the most widely varied Weekend Download in the history of the universe, as verified by independent laboratory experiments!

rainslick.jpgOn the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness (Windows/Mac/Linux, ~200MB, demo) - The first installment of the Penny Arcade episodic adventures has arrived! Set in the steampunk/comic book/pulp horror town of New Arcadia, you are innocently following the narrator's suggestion of raking leaves in your yard when a four storey robot comes crashing through your perfect neighborhood. Join forces with the Startling Developments Detective Agency to fight bizarre enemies and solve sinister mysteries in this adventure/RPG game. You might want to keep the kids out of the room for this one, as it features some crude language.

bridgebuildinggame.gifBridge Building Game (Windows/Mac, <1MB, free) - An oldie but a goodie, Bridge Building Game (by Chronic Logic, creator of Gish) is similar to Armadillo Run in concept, but far simpler. Erect sections of a bridge connected to the on-screen nodes. Once you construct a solid structure, send the train across to see if it holds. The interface is basic but very usable, and some of the train runs you'll create will be downright astounding. Challenge yourself to see how cheaply you can build a sturdy bridge!

foldit.jpgFoldit (Windows/Mac, ~50MB, free) - We see lots of offerings that blur the line between gaming and art, but what happens when a game blends with cutting-edge science? Foldit is a project conceived by scientists at the University of Washington to see if human pattern recognition can outpace the brute-force computer modeling method when it comes to determining folded protein structures. Don't worry, there's no scientific understanding required to play. A few tutorial levels will get you used to pushing, pulling, twisting and tweaking the proteins, trying to find the conformation that maximizes your score. After that, take a crack at the real proteins, where nobody knows what the high score even is! After you register, join the Jayisgames Foldit Team and bring glory and honor to JIGsters everywhere! In the name of science, of course.

thejackyard.gifThe Jackyard (Windows, 12MB, free) - An artistic game of exploration and intrigue, The Jackyard exists only to tickle your curiosity bone. Use the [arrow] keys to move, [spacebar] to jump, and the [up] key to interact with objects and areas. Then just wander around and see what you can discover.


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Rating: 4.1/5 (23 votes)
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Dairy Dash

JohnBDairy Dash is a resource management game along the lines of Cake Mania and Ice Cream Dee Lites. You are in charge of a family of farmers who must feed, water, and care for a number of animals (and patches of garden) in order to harvest milk, eggs and other products. Dairy Dash eschews a number of more complex game mechanics and focuses on efficient ordering of tasks, not how many convoluted upgrades you can buy. Because of its simplicity, Dairy Dash provides one of the most rewarding resource management experiences in the genre that's familiar but with a few strokes of originality.

dairydash.jpgEach work day is comprised of basic farm tasks such as feeding hungry animals, bringing them water, preparing their food, and gathering products such as eggs and milk. Stringing tasks together is easy with the point-and-click queueing system, and in later levels other members of the Smith family join in to give you three workers at your beck and call. Complete enough chores to meet the goal for the day, and if you're fast enough you can score bonus points by reaching the expert goal.

Dairy Dash is very much about being efficient, and intrepid players will be rewarded for chaining like actions together to form combos. With a number of farm animals and related tasks waiting to be done, you won't have much time to plan your moves, so learn to recognize aural cues to quickly identify urgent tasks and let your mouse and the Smiths take care of the rest.

You'll farm your way across 52 levels and four farms in Dairy Dash, enough to keep you busy for quite some time. Each farm is bigger than the last and has a new layout you'll need to learn. One of several surprisingly entertaining minigames appear every few levels to break the strain of farming.

dairydash2.jpgAnalysis: Dairy Dash won't stand out as one of the flashiest or innovative resource management games around, but you'll love it for its simple, sweet and rewarding gameplay. Everything about this game is basic, from the simple soundtrack to the gameplay and no-frills visuals, but it all works together surprisingly well.

Simplicity is the game's strong point, but after a few long stretches of gameplay (which you will be inclined to do, as this game pulls you in with a vengeance), monotany begins to set in. Dairy Dash is all about clicking things as quickly as possible, so in theory you could breeze through the game just by clicking farm animals as they announce their needs. More arcade action, less strategy, which is a departure from the genre's norm.

Farming is tough work, but Dairy Dash is simple and straightforward. Once you get a few levels under your belt and are managing a dozen needy animals and piloting the whole Smith family, you'll realize you're completely hooked on this bare-bones resource management game.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Link Dump Fridays

JohnBThis week's Link Dump Friday game theme is... a secret!* That's right, all five games plastered on the screen below are related in some way, but it's your job to divine how. Do they all incorporate llamas? Were they made with the use of chopsticks? Dunno. It's a secret.

  • icon_snakewords.gifSnake Words - If you love the delicious honey nut taste of the classic Snake game but can't play anything that doesn't involve words, we have your fix. Snake Words puts you in control of an ever-growing snake that gets bigger every time you collect a letter. Grab tiles to spell a word to complete the level.
  • icon_unique.gifUnique - A sleek spot the difference game that throws a handful of orbs in your face and challenges you to pick the black sheep as fast as you can. Changing colors, shaved edges, similar shapes and other tricks make each level harder than the last.
  • icon_nitroplatform2.gifNitro Platform 2 - A simple platformer with a color-switching item-collecting twist. Gather stars to complete each level, and nab floating orbs to keep your special powers handy.
  • icon_orbital.gifOrbital - Collect orbs that match the color of your orb in this short mouse avoidance game. You'll have to edge through tight spaces and grab tough orbs early on, as each time you collect one you grow just a bit bigger.
  • icon_tankdefense.gifTank Defense - Strategic shooter meets tower defense in this arcade mashup. Pilot a ground-based tank and blast waves of enemies that roll in from the left. Upgrade your vehicle between rounds to keep the hurt on your foes. It isn't a very deep game, but fun nonetheless.

* Yeah, there's no theme. Unless of course you found one, in which case, that's what I planned all along...


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Rating: 4.7/5 (313 votes)
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skywire2a.gifJohnBSkywire 2, the sequel to last year's Skywire, has just been released by Nitrome and it exceeds the original in many ways. Fight three bosses across 30 all-new levels and encounter over two dozen unique enemies. New track elements also make an appearance such as gaps, breakable track, and areas where your cable car goes under water. It's more of what made the original Skywire so great with minimal tinkering of the core gameplay elements.

Three passengers are on board a small chairlift running across a convoluted path in the sky. Using the [up] and [down] arrow keys, control forward and backwards momentum to avoid enemies and reach the goal in each stage. Every time you bump into a baddie, one of the passengers is thrown from the cart. Lose all three and it's game over!

The key to survival in Skywire 2 is patience. Most of your time will be spent nudging the car forward or backward, tapping the keys to keep yourself stationary while waiting for safe passage. Enemies spring up, fly in, leap, fall and attack in a variety of ways, so taking it slow and watching their behavior is crucial to your survival. Must. Resist. Urge. To. Speed!

Also new in this Skywire is a two player simultaneous mode! Grab a friend and cozy up to your keyboard to participate in split screen chairlift mayhem.

Analysis: Skywire 2 is identical to the first Skywire in a number of ways, but Nitrome added just enough new elements to make the game stand out. Fans of the original and new Skywire players alike will be drawn in by the simple gameplay and dollhouse-style visuals that pack every pixel with originality.

As with almost every Nitrome release, the artwork and music in Skywire 2 is simply fantastic. The game has some very imaginative enemy characters (gotta love that kangaroo), objects and backgrounds. Unfortunately the bizarre scenery doesn't make its way into the gameplay beyond the basic "wait, move, avoid, wait" mechanics. There's something to be said for the simplicity of it all, however.

More of what made the original so great, but with some extra oomph to keep it fresh!

Play Skywire 2


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (143 votes)
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JayDeep Chalk 2If you have played the first Deep Chalk, reviewed it back in April, then you experienced not a game but an interactive piece of art with an objective: to discover its secrets and escape. Designer Zack Livestone has been heavily moved by the works of Mateusz Skutnik enough to be inspired to create his own interactive journey of discovery. The result was an abstract surreal world of sound and image, brought together to create a sense of wonder. And a sequel was promised.

Enter Deep Chalk: Second Phase the continuation of the journey of the crystal, the player character in Zack's black and white world. The objective is the same: discover the secrets hiding beneath the surface and escape. While you're there, enjoy the quest; be inspired.

Play Deep Chalk: Second Phase

Cheers to Mixedmetaphor and Dsrtrosy for sending this one in. =)

Play the entire Deep Chalk series...


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (44 votes)
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Emily ShortEnlightenmentEnlightenment, by Taro Ogawa, is a snack-sized text adventure set in the general neighborhood of the Zork universe, with Infocom-esque humor, sly quotes and footnotes, and a wealth of entertaining but unnecessary actions. It doesn't play like an 80s game, though: it is short, polished, and focused, with lots of clues and guidance, and probably won't take more than an hour to play.

The premise? You're a successful adventurer at the end of a long quest (just check out your FULL SCORE to see how long). The only thing left to do is get past the giant troll blocking the bridge back to the rest of the world. He's too tough for you to kill with your sword, so you're going to have to think of another way to dispatch him. You've got a sackful of tools, treasures, and weapons... but some of them are more of a liability than an asset, under the circumstances.

The design of Enlightenment is wonderfully compact and efficient, and the puzzles themselves fresh and inventive. Because the game is set in a small space with a handful of objects, the author was free to make those objects richly interactive—and you should expect to use most of them more than once on your way to solving the game. This is a piece that rewards physical experimentation more than the average work of interactive fiction. If you've ever been frustrated because an interactive fiction game wouldn't allow you to break items, take them apart, or reassemble them in new ways, Enlightenment is for you.

Though Enlightenment was written in 1998 as a loving tribute to games from the 80s, it has aged remarkably well. Familiarity with the Zork universe is helpful, but not at all required: read all the game text carefully, and you'll find clues enough to help you through your predicament. There are also built-in hints to help you out should you get stuck. And though it's possible to do destructive things that make the game unwinnable, I never found a place where Enlightenment didn't at least warn me about that I'd just done something foolish. (If this happens to you, just UNDO a turn and keep playing.)

Analysis: Enlightenment is an early and excellent entry in the interactive fiction genre of the one-room game. The restricted geography means that the player doesn't have to spend any attention on mapping; meanwhile, the author has a smaller set of objects to work with, and can afford to implement their interaction and behavior more completely. Some of these games (like Enlightenment, or the previously-reviewed Suveh Nux) are focused on a set of neatly interconnected puzzles; others restrict themselves to conversation with a single character or offer a more contemplative experience.

The most common drawback of these one-room works is a tendency to go overboard, offering so many layers of detail that the player is forced to examine every part of every object, and search an assortment of highly-detailed furniture—which becomes just as much a test of patience and memory as mapping a large area. Enlightenment avoids that excess, and manages to offer a lot of interaction depth without turning gameplay into a chore.

Play Enlightenment


The links above point to JIG's internally developed Flash-based Z-Machine interpreter (thanks asterick!), with the story files hosted here by kind permission of the game's author, Taro Ogawa. That means you can now play these games in your browser rather than having to download and run the game in a standalone interpreter.

If you would rather download the game, you may do so at the Interactive Fiction database. If you choose to download the game, you will need an interpreter to read the z-file, just like most IF games: try Gargoyle for Windows, or Zoom or Splatterlight for Macintosh and Unix.

If you like "Enlightenment," take a look at other Interactive Fiction we have reviewed here at JIG.


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (185 votes)
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JoshEpsilonThe established Flash developers at Dissolute Productions have finally released Epsilon, a casual portal-physics game that's been in production for 14 months. Originally, the developers planned its release to coincide with Valve's Portal, although it obviously stayed in development a bit longer than expected. Perhaps that's a good thing, because the result is a well-polished game with concepts paralleling the flash version of Portal, as well as other titles like Shift 2 and Cursor*10. Instead of being a simple portal manipulation game, Epsilon explores two other physical properties aside from spatial relativity; time and gravity.

Epsilon employs the same humorous test-subject theme that we've seen in Portal, Shift 2 and Falling Forever. Your job is to manipulate an orb to collect energy points and make it to the goal before time runs out. The story's a little thin compared to the heavy, theoretical physics-based theme of the game. However, the loading screen displays a brief summary of the real-life Large Hadron Collider experiment, perhaps offering the game as an homage to the research that's currently being done.

Epsilon features 35 levels across five modules (sections), not including a brief tutorial to help you get acquainted with your new wormhole-controlling dashboard. The first section is devoted to moving wormholes from place to place in order to guide your orb around, collecting energy points before you can exit the level via the goal portal. Each stage is a two-dimensional layout with open spaces and barriers. Wormholes can only catch the orb on edges of the level with an opening. The ball begins by following the traditional laws of physics, being subject to gravity and momentum. In later stages when things get a little more difficult, you'll find yourself madly bouncing the orb against walls and barriers to manipulate its trajectory with the wormholes.

Controls are simple: just use the mouse to click and grab the wormholes, allowing you to drag them around the edge of the screen. Pressing and holding [space] lets you suspend your orb in time, which serves two purposes. First, it lets you halt the action so that you can get portals in position before the orb reaches them. Secondly, it stops the level timer, giving you time to think about your next move. Since you're timed throughout levels, you've got to figure out how to complete the puzzle as quickly as you can or else the level will restart. You also have the convenient option of enabling an auto-freeze in the config menu, which will freeze the ball any time you begin to move a wormhole. It allows less button-pushing, but in later levels, you might find that you need the tactile control of using the spacebar.

EpsilonEpsilon includes an interesting element called "ghost rooms" that can be turned on or off. When activated, you'll see semi-transparent copies of the level surrounding your room. These ghost rooms swivel around your real room as you move the wormholes around, giving you a virtual view of where the orb will move based on locations of the wormholes.

In later levels you'll be able to manipulate your little space-time continuum even further, to the point of reversing time and manipulating gravity. In levels that it's allowed, you can use the [X] key to stop time and reverse all your actions back to your starting point, with the clocked rolled back to zero. Any energy points you collected will still be in your possession, allowing you to utilize the time-reversal to collect energy and make it to the goal in a time-frame that you wouldn't be able to otherwise. You'll also get to use gravity shifters, stationary rifts, and more.

Analysis: The direction that many of these Portal-inspired casual games are going in is an exciting one. We're beginning to see more action/puzzle games that think outside the box, employing real-life game mechanics like physics, space and time. Whether it's just a fad or casual gamers are hungry for brainier games, it's opening up a new genre of gaming that exercises the mind while still offering an action component instead of just solving static puzzle after puzzle.

Epsilon deserves special attention for its spit-shine graphics polish and catchy soundtrack, not to mention an intuitive control system that doesn't get in the way of solving the puzzles. The main drawback is that although your current section is auto-saved, there's no way to return to the exact level you were playing if you leave. You'll have to start that section over from the beginning, an annoying setback that could have easily been solved by an unlockable level selector. That withstanding, Epsilon marks another successful Portal-inspired flash game of its kind, attractive to any action-puzzle fan.

Play Epsilon


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (57 votes)
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Joshnonoba_screen1As the demand for social software continues to grow, it shouldn't be surprising to see an increase in online multiplayer games as well. This is particularly true in the Flash game industry as the Flash platform matures. Nonoba, a Flash game community headed by game creators and developers, hopes to ride the incoming wave of multiplayer Flash games by making its own multiplayer game API (application programming interface) available to Flash game developers.

One of the more popular games showcasing this new technology is Nonoba Racer, by Chris Benjaminsen. It's a multiplayer, top-down racing game that focuses heavily on community play and advancement via upgrades.

Each new player starts with the same car. You have the option of playing as a guest or registering with Nonoba, which lets you save your score and keep your car upgrades and winnings over time. Control the car using the [arrow] keys, [up] to accelerate and [down] to hit the e-brake. [Space] is used to fire weapons or use an item, all of which are available by spending coins that you win at the end of each race. The amount you win depends on your position at the finish line. There are only three different tracks so far, but each track can be configured with different attributes, such as how many laps it takes to win. You can either enter a game in progress via the lobby, or create your own game and let others join you.

Analysis: If released as a single-player flash game, Nonoba Racer wouldn't be anything new. Sure, it's fun to race against cars and win money to upgrade your ride, making it faster, adding traction, steering control and even things like rocket launchers and paint jobs. But it's the multiplayer element that makes this game noteworthy, as well as the technology behind it. It's fun to play with the same people for an hour or so, going from room to room, making friends that you can show off your upgrades to (and enemies, for that matter, who you can shoot at and make eat your dust).

On the downside, some people are experiencing disconnections, latency issues and some gameplay problems (bouncy collision physics, most notably). Chris assures us that he and his team are working hard to make adjustments as necessary and deal with the large load on the servers the game has been causing due to its popularity. Your mileage may vary.

Whether you're a game player or programmer, you owe it to yourself to see what's happening over at Nonoba.

Play Nonoba Racer

Note: As with any multiplayer game, make sure no peer-to-peer, instant messaging, streaming media or any other bandwidth-intensive applications are running in the background, especially if you're experiencing latency or disconnection issues.


And if you're a game programmer interested in creating your own multiplayer games, check out the Nonoba Multiplayer API and find out how to apply for their developer beta program. Also at Nonoba: a kickoff contest with $20,000 in prize money for the best games created on the Nonoba Multiplayer API.


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (29 votes)
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Stardrone

JoshThere's something about one-button games that's really appealing to some people, myself included. It's not that I'm so lazy that I enjoy playing an entire game pushing only one button, or that games like this are intrinsically simple. In fact, I believe it's the opposite. A game that's designed around just one button to control all the elements and variables of that game is one that the designers really had to put some thought into (dreadfully simple games excluded). StardroneAnd that's exactly what the folks at Orb Games did in their quietly-released new download, Stardrone. It's a multi-genre game, featuring a mix of arcade action, pinball, breakout, gravitational physics and collect-the-objects. Might sound a little confusing, but the game simply boils down to you (a ball) lighting up stars to reach an objective.

Simple? Yes. Boring? Surprisingly, not at all. In fact, Stardrone is a game that has the unique ability to appeal to both action junkies and puzzle-lovers alike. Within just the first few levels, you'll be met with a barrage of visual stimuli while a spacey-techno track thumps along. Some might find the graphics stunning, or at the very least, impressive. Effects like particle blur, shimmering and bursting effects really bring the playing field to life. Levels are painted with bright, vibrant colors set against the backdrop of deep space. You control the ball solely with the mouse button, albeit indirectly. Once the ball is launched from its starting position, it shoots through a maze scattered with "gravitational nodes" placed in key locations. StardroneWhen the mouse button is pushed, the nodes are activated, and the ball is attracted to the nearest node using a watered-down gravitational physics mechanic. This allows you to control the ball by a series of well-timed mouse click-and-releases, causing the ball to change course, orbit a node or slingshot off in a different direction. You "catch" the ball by attracting it into orbit, then wait until its trajectory is lined up with where you want to send it, firing it away towards stars or objects. Catch it in orbit again with another node and repeat, eventually finding a nice rhythm so that you can keep the ball moving from node to node without keeping it orbit for more than one cycle or so. The reason the physics are "watered down" is for the benefit of the player; if it were as realistic as some of those planetary web-toys out there, you'd have a much harder time manipulating the trajectory of the ball.

The overall objective of the game is to light up a certain number of stars (and sometimes collect gems) in each level and get to the exit portal. Missions vary from level to level, sometimes requiring you to light every single star on the level, gather gems and make it back to the portal, while other times you'll just need to target your ball through a series of obstacles to make it to the goal, lighting stars along the way to raise your score. In other levels, you won't even need to make it to a goal; you'll just need to light the stars without being destroyed. A handy map in the lower-left corner displays helpful info like star positions, your location, nodes and more. Once you're down to just a few stars left to light, a circle pulses around their location on the map to help you find them. Obstacles in the game can be as simple as the walls of the maze you bounce off of, or as deadly as a layer of spikes that destroy your ball on contact. Enemies in Stardrone range from stationary satellites to the moving variety, all of which can destroy you if you don't destroy them first. Power-ups allow you to transform into a spiked wrecking ball, letting you rip through enemies and destructible objects like tissue paper. There's a bunch of other environmental elements as well, like turbo-booster lanes, pinball-style bumpers, rails that catch your ball and shoot it spiraling down the course, and more.

StardroneWatching your ball blast through enemies, light up stars and dizzyingly zoom through spirals is a bit reminiscent of the classic Sonic the Hedgehog games. Many gamers fondly remember Sonic as a turbo-charged, enjoyable distraction from the majority of games—even today—that move at a snail's pace (comparatively speaking). On the last title screen, there's a game speed slider that allows you to control how fast the action is. To get the full experience, I recommend you set it to the max after you've played a few levels to get your bearings. Half the fun of Stardrone is the speed factor; getting "in the zone" as the background becomes almost a blur, knowing that just one slip up at that speed and you'll hit an obstacle like a brick wall, destroying your ball. There's plenty more elements to the game; too many to mention without spoiling. Just a few examples are things like traps, angle-shifters, gate passes that need to be opened...more than enough to hold the average gamer's attention.

Analysis: Stardrone is a solid game, through and through. The graphics are well above par for such a conceptually basic game, even featuring some nice emulated depth backgrounds that give you a feeling of spatial relativity. More importantly, beyond the graphics lie a fresh new game idea, one that's executed almost flawlessly, giving you the impression that the developers spent a suitable amount of time in beta testing before releasing the product to the public. It's a game that can be played and enjoyed by virtually all age groups and most importantly, the novelty doesn't wear off after a dozen or so levels. As difficulty increases, so do new game elements, so you'll always be discovering new elements throughout the game's 50+ levels. The designers were also nice enough to implement a targeting overlay that constantly displays the trajectory the ball will follow whenever it's attracted to or released from a node. It seems like just a minor enhancement, but without it, players might have become frustrated too quickly to give the game an honest chance.

It's difficult to pigeon-hole this game into a genre so that it can be suggested to a particular fan base. Most of the time, that attribute is a shining example of a game that's just plain fun, instead of merely being enjoyable for a particular type of player. It also lends itself well to periodic play; just a level or two a day when you need your tactile action fix. The best I can do is recommend that unless you only play point-and-click or escape-room games, you'll want to give Stardrone a try, if for no other reason than you haven't seen anything like it yet!

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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