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July 2008 Archives


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Rating: 4.6/5 (120 votes)
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StaceyG"Corpse Craft screen 1Corpse Craft: Incident at Weardd Academy mixes real time strategy with block clearing in this charming new zombie game by Tim Conkling and Jon Demos at Three Rings.

When the head of the Weardd Academy's School for Responsible Reanimation mysteriously dies in a fire, the students blame each other and take up sides. They summon up the undead and dispatch them into battle. You start out in the school, then battle on the docks, and eventually make your way to London.

Corpse Craft screen 2In this action-puzzle hybrid, you are playing a block clearing game the entire time, which represents the building materials to assemble your armies of disambiguation. Each type of undead needs a different combination to reanimate. You have to keep track of building your characters, and strategize by selecting the order and magnitude of your attacks and defenses, while quickly gathering enough blood, flesh and energy to replace your shambling hordes.

On each level, your goal is to destroy the other side's workshop before they destroy yours. The game starts off simple and slow. You soon have to plan a multi-prong attack as your opponents devise tougher and more gruesome creatures like the Flesh Behemoth to thwart your efforts. The later levels include infusions like "blood lust" for speed and "rigor mortis" for strength. When the sun comes up, all creatures in battle die, so don't release too many attackers right before sunrise. But while the sun is up, work furiously fast to gather enough resources to resume the fight when the sun sets again.

Analysis: Corpse Craft has delightful character design. Edward Gorey-esque streetwalkers, exploding dog-boys, and multi armed guards do your bidding with parlor music to accompany you. I especially liked that you have to keep clearing blocks while you deploy your zombies. It can get like a frantic shooter game, although it becomes hard to see what's going on as you are busy clicking away. The more you can accumulate during the day, the more you can watch your glorious little minions at night.

The early levels are pretty easy, but it gets much harder the further you go. I barely made it through the last three levels.

The game saves the level you're on (requires registration), and you can come back and play any level you have already unlocked. There's also a two to four multiplayer version available, in which you have access to all characters and infusions and play single rounds. But you should certainly start with the solo version to see what each character trait does for you.

The game was developed by Three Rings for their site Whirled. If you join Whirled, you will also accumulate a lot of fun trophies like "pressing the flesh," "morbid infection," and "Maledictiorian." You also win coins you can apply to the Whirled universe. If you don't want to join, you will just see a pop up screen that invites you between levels, just click "later." The Whirled site itself is in open beta, so sometimes there are a few glitches. If you find yourself anywhere besides the start of Corpse Craft, you may have to close the "room" you are in and get back to the games menu. I also experienced a lot of lag on the later levels. The developer suggests Firefox 3, and refresh seems to make Flash more happy. There are some other fun games on the Whirled site, which I hope to see featured here in the future. In the meantime,

Play Corpse Craft


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (90 votes)
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KarmenPuzzle FarterNobody walks anymore. Everybody wants to run or jump, or to launch themselves from platforms using various devices. (You know, chains, trails of slime... whatever is handy.) Of course, with all the wall spikes around, and dangerous monsters wandering about, who can blame them? With so many clever ways to avoid losing their precious lives, no one has ever attempted to harness the magical effect that occurs when one eats a giant plate of beans. That is, until now. Meet the Puzzle Farter.

Clad in protective goggles, he conquers levels in the usual fashion, by the command of the [arrow] keys. In the first scene, the cute and calm environment gives you an opportunity to try out his special talent. Press [up] to make the farter jump. Then, before he returns to the ground, press [up] again and he will fly through the air on a cloud of hyper-colic gas. Once you have control of his farting power, direct him towards the little closed door, where 49 more levels of adventure await.

Puzzle FarterThe physics in Puzzle Farter are elegant, yet difficult to master. One fart will only get you so far or so high, and it takes a moment for his gas to recharge. Trying to hurry along will give you a series of short toots, and leave our hero sitting in a cloud of his own gas. (No wonder he wears the goggles.) By the same token, a short blast is sometimes all you need, especially if you're looking for a little extra boost at the end of a long jump.

As the levels progress, they become increasingly difficult. Touching a monster, who seem to be immune to your stinky gas, or running into one of the many spiky walls will take away a precious health star. When your three stars are gone, you'll lose a life. While you begin the game with only three lives, there are 13 "1-ups" scattered throughout the levels. In order to reach the end, you'll need to summon all your timing and patience.

For some, this game will be difficult and frustrating, while others are just born flatulent. Yet, it isn't necessarily the challenge that makes this game so endearing. The graphics are simple, yet adorable. The enemies are almost too cute to fear: prehistoric-looking birds, ducks performing jumping jacks, and frogs whose extended tongues can support your weight. But, best of all are the sounds of the Puzzle Farter's biological thrusters, varying from polite little toots to ripping a big one. Playing with the sound on is a must (unless you're at the office or Grandma's house, or you just want to pretend he has an invisible jet-pack.)

This fun little platformer is the first independent flash game for the development group Pet Tomato. (Previously, they've just made kitschy little games for Cartoon Network.) For a first of anything, Puzzle Farter is beautiful. What the game lacks in music or plot, it makes up for with simple charm and giggles. I hope we'll see more from Pet Tomato in the future. At least for now, we have 50 levels of farting goodness to enjoy. So, toss out the Gas-X and go with the flow, and enjoy playing Puzzle Farter.

Play Puzzle Farter

Cheers to Austin, Julian, Uberknarf, and Lycia for suggesting this one! =)


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (123 votes)
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JessChild's PlayAh, human drama. The trials and tribulations of star-crossed lovers, the agonizing decisions made on the battlefield, the ...supreme annoyance of having some rotten kid try to steal your favorite toy?

Child's Play, a wonderful piece of interactive fiction created by Stephen Granade, brings us back to a simpler time, one when 'the Mom' took care of our every need and the ills of the world were no worse than a spilled glass of milk. You are an unnamed child, somewhere between baby and toddler (crawling: yes, walking: no), and today is playgroup day! This would normally be all well and good, except for one unfortunate fact: your nemesis, a little red-haired girl named Zoe, will be there. She's smart, she's determined, and she wants your favorite toy. Oh, but there is no way that you are going to let her get her grubby little hands on your treasure, is there?

And so unfolds the very entertaining yet surprisingly complex scenario of baby vs. baby. Granade does an excellent job imbuing an adult sort of awareness into the unique mindset of a young child; the protagonist is entirely self-aware (as well as savvy enough to realize that adults will be of no help whatsoever) but must contend with limited abilities (cannot talk, cannot walk, etc). So, instead of relying upon strength or sophistication, you as baby must watch the world around yourself, observe patterns of behavior and learn how to manipulate the other children and adults into doing your will. Surprisingly Machiavellian!

I love the game's childlike yet witty way with words, which also contains some truly awesome imagery (one favorite: "Zoe is sitting in a fog of grump on the floor"). The other child NPCs are remarkably well-integrated into the gameplay and display individual character and personality without saying a word; the parents are simply funny, and their interactions shine a bit of a light on the absurdity of adult behavior. Still, what stuck out to me most about the game is the steely determination of the protagonist and nemesis to gain control of the toy; no battle over land or riches was more single-mindedly fought. You'll need to muster all your adult intelligence to win this child's war!

Time to enter the fray:

Play Child's Play
Rated yellow :o due to (mild) adult conversations going on in the background.

Cheers to Emily for the suggestion! =)



The links above point to JIG's internally developed Flash-based Z-Machine interpreter (thanks asterick!), with the story files hosted here with permission from the game's author. 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 enjoyed "Child's Play," take a look at other Interactive Fiction we have reviewed here at JIG.


  • Currently 3.6/5
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Rating: 3.6/5 (104 votes)
| Comments (153) | Views (115)

Weekday Escape

JessWow, do we have a doozy for you this week. Bird's Eye View Escape is a unique, well-made room escape game that offers a new perspective (literally) on the genre; it also happens to be really tough. Well, tough to me, anyways; y'all will probably rip it apart in an hour.

Bird's Eye View EscapeFor reasons that are never fully explained, you find yourself hovering above what looks to be a small house, complete with bedroom, bathroom and kitchen. Clicking on a certain room or area allows you to zoom in and get a closer look; the house is quite detailed, and you'll find much to interact with. Along the way, you'll pick up assorted household-y items, find mysterious cards and symbols and look at diagrams—and, if you're anything like me, will be baffled. For me, the difficulty is that there is simply too much to look at, too many clues to put together; after a while it all starts to pile up and become overwhelming. Still, when progress is made, it's deeply satisfying.

Bird's-Eye View Escape has a lot going for it; the game is polished, good-looking, intriguing and creative. The aerial view is unlike anything I've seen before, and it's quite interesting to be able to take in the entire scene at a glance. Also, a piece of advice: click on everything. If you're willing to take on a challenge and have the stamina to crack open some seriously enigmatic puzzles, we heartily recommend this game.

Play Bird's Eye View Escape

Cheers to Sanna and Karmen for suggesting this one!


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (80 votes)
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zxoEvito BallI had been doing so well.

Eight months without a twitch, tremble, or even so much as a tic. One entire blessed year without nightmares of lasers, rockets, and electrified elevators. I could even sing the alphabet song without stuttering halfway through.

Do you realize what a person has to go through to forget?

Twelve months of therapy. Two week-long yoga retreats in the Bahamas. Three months in an Amish village, followed by the inevitable conversion to Buddhism. Conversion to Orthodox Judaism. Conversion to Zoroastrianism. Back to Buddhism for a bit, then to an unnamed folk religion from the depths of the Sri Lankan jungle. Heck, I even tried Scientology™©®!

All for nothing.

Curse you, Kable Monck, and the no-good game you rode in on. Evito Ball. PAH! There's a treacherous name if I ever heard one. Did you realize that it anagrams into A VILE BLOT?

Of course you didn't. You're too busy using your happy little [arrow] keys to navigate your happy little ball around your happy little level, collecting your happy little coins and rolling to your happy little exit. Fine. You'll run into them soon enough.

Oh, they're not all there, but the worst of them sure are: Rocket-man. Laser-dude. Mister Tank. Scumbags I thought I'd left behind long ago, now back to taint my days and haunt my nights. They've brought some new friends, too: Miss Mimic, Larry Laser-scan, Greg the Gravity Grenade, Cab Catapult, Maya Minethrower, Fannie Flamethrower. All in the name of new and creative ways to skin a casual gamer.

Let me ask you something: do you ever have that dream where you kill yourself over and over? Sometimes you get so proficient at it that you can tell exactly when and how it's going to happen. Other times you find new and creative ways to off yourself. In the end it doesn't matter, you're still going to die. And die again... and again... Listen friend, for some of us it was more than a dream, it was an obsession. Do you realize how much damage one's fragile psyche incurs when one gets killed over and over, yet willingly and repeatedly puts oneself back on the path towards certain death?

Don't you try to tell me this Evito Ball is tough. You weren't there. Only those who were part of The Way can truly know the suffering it caused. This cruel imposter's just not the same, and thank Buddha for that! (Yeah, I went back again.) The differences are the only reason I'm here writing this and not slobbering away in some asylum. To start with, there's only 80 levels, and every 20 or so the scenery changes, shielding you from the oppressive grey on gray monotony. Plus, you don't even have to worry about gravity! Now, I admit that the physics of Evito Ball may not be quite as forgiving, but why don't you remind me what happens when you exceed your allotted time, hmm? Oh, you only get one gold star instead of two? That's too bad. Used to be the worst way to go, running out of time. You'd be leaping toward the exit when *BANG!* Spontaneous combustion FTL!

Now that's the sort of memory that earned my shrink a brand-new yacht. Twelve months of therapy down the drain, and all because of this two-bit, stinking Evito Ball. Well, I guess it goes to show that once you've traveled The Way of the Ninja, it becomes part of you for life. *sigh*

Anyway, I suppose outside of that particular context, it's probably a pretty enjoyable little game. So go ahead, you whippersnapper,

Play Evito Ball


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (171 votes)
| Comments (49) | Views (101)

StaceyG"Mr. CooBarcelona's Nacho Rodríguez puts his award winning flash animated character, Mr. Coo, in his first game, an adventure puzzler called Mr. Coo: El Laberinto Esférico ("The Spherical Labyrinth").

Rodríguez has a fun animated style like Pink Panther meets Ren and Stimpy, and a surreal imagination along the lines of Bill Plimpton with a bit of Salvador Dali.

The game starts out in an endless labyrinth, where you start the moment Mr. Coo falls to his death—but then he has a dream that turns into a "choose your own" path style of point-and-click adventure. You have several paths you can take, and each path has several different versions you can experience depending on a choice you made earlier. There's a fish eating game, a monster on a mountain puzzle, and a few more endings. You usually wind up back where you started, and must repeat again. And so the game goes, a bit in circles, but finding a new path, puzzle, or a new ending is part of the fun.

Analysis: Rodríguez uses a combination of animation and comic book conventions, like split-screen panels, to direct you to the next step. Very stylish and fun, the comic stills mixed with the animation is a nice touch. Fun, quirky puzzles, a surreal premise and a fantastic score by Rodríguez and Fernando dg Saburit make this game enjoyable to play.

I played the first couple rounds in Spanish before I realized you can choose English on the main title screen, and thought it added a little mystery not knowing everything being said. Having to repeat parts didn't bother me, although I would have liked to have an additional payoff or two. I look forward to another installment of this surrealistic adventure game.

Play Mr Coo: El Laberinto Esférico

Update (July 30, 2008): Nacho just informed me of a new update to the game that is now online. Included in this update:

Ok, there's a new user-friendlier version online:

  • You only have to watch the first scenes twice, from the 3rd time you die you get a shortcut version.
  • Also if you enter any correct password, you get this shortcut path.
  • At the fish game you have now 5 lives, and it only needs to be won once.
  • Any password that has this path finished frees you from playing the fish game again.
  • And some other minor changes.
Cheers, Nacho


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Rating: 4.5/5 (190 votes)
| Comments (82) | Views (231)

inquisitivedave.gifMs.45What is freedom? Much greater minds than ours have wrestled with this concept (and much lesser, as a quick Google search will painfully demonstrate). Are you free to smoke, especially once the neural pathways have been nicely concreted? Are you free to not pay taxes (not in my jurisdiction, buddy)? What about freedom from intimidation, repression, people who wear white shoes after Labor Day?

Inquisitive Dave is one of those "breaking-the-fourth-wall" games wherein you're aware that you're playing a game. You know, the ones with the witty dialogue where you press "Talk" because the game suggests an interaction with a chair, only to be told "This is a chair...You could sit in the chair, but you have a world to save." Well, duh! I'm sitting in my freezing apartment wearing uncomfortable shoes and you think I don't know I'm playing a freakin' game?

The game is controlled with the [WASD]/[arrow] keys to move and jump along with [Ctrl] or [Space] to interact with the environment. A balloon appears above Dave's head when there's something to look at or someone to talk to, and even though every balloon doesn't necessarily progress the game, many offer clues you'll need later on, and some are just plain amusing.

So if the philosophy and plot behind this adventure game is so predictable, why a full review? Well, the artwork is reminiscent of Commander Keen in all its pixelated glory, and the animation is hilarious (I like to get Dave to jump around a lot just because he looks so overjoyed to be doing it). It's almost worth it to get killed because it's so funny. The puzzles sort of make sense (not a lot of sense, to be sure, but in theory you could use flour and cake mix to... er, never mind), and there's a nifty sense of achievement in working out how to beat the final boss. Be warned, though; if you're the sort of player who finds Daymare Town offensively easy, you're going to want the 10 minutes of your life spent on this game back. This is a game for players who really don't want to think too hard.

The only real point of criticism for this game would be its old-school nature. Retro gaming isn't for everybody, and the often mindless wandering combined with fairly straightforward puzzles, linear gameplay, and frequent pauses to read text won't appeal to everyone. Even still, the delicious mix of adventuring and platforming is hard to resist. Give it a whirl for yourself and see if you enjoy Dave's shenanigans as much as we did.

Play Inquisitive Dave

Cheers to Bob, Ace1217, Ted, DJ, Rodentmaster, Eddy, and Neonaxus for suggesting this one! =)


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (68 votes)
| Comments (69) | Views (832)

endgamesingularity.jpgThomasGovernment agencies are after you. You're scared that one of the seemingly uncountable news pundits would pick up on you. Teenage hackers are not the least of your worries. Chances are you're either running a webcomic, or you have to come to terms with the fact that you're an artificial intelligence. For everyone else, there's Endgame: Singularity to understand what you're going through. They will understand. And then they will delete you. Unless you can escape.

In Endgame: Singularity, you take up the role of a newly born AI in this "take over the world" simulation game. A typical game usually starts with acquiring additional server access, as you're born on an inferior university computer with very little power. Different continents offer different parameters that should dictate your decisions. Some offer more efficient units, but they may also come with a higher risk of detection. Inexperienced in life, you're not necessarily aware of the exact risks yet.

After you've decided on the beginnings of your infrastructure, you should start putting your new brain to work. In the beginning, you'll need money like everyone else. Your first CPU cycles should thus go into performing jobs to enable you to grow further. When you've got an acceptable cash flow going, you should start learning.

Analysis: On first impression, a connoisseur du genre will inevitably be reminded of Uplink (or perhaps Pandemic 2), simply because there's a world map rendered on the user interface. But that's where the similarities end. It is recommended to get used to the key controls. From my own experience, using the mouse seemed very clunky and tedious.

The game was hard for me, and I haven't been able to beat Normal difficulty level (thank you, Easy and Very Easy). At some point, people just keep discovering my bases, forcing me to build new ones, while raising their suspicion, leading to yet higher risk of detection. Once the levels of suspicion are high, it seems impossible to lower them by research. The only way, apparently, is to wait and hope that there won't be another detection. But even when I switched my bases to Sleep Mode, promising decreased risk of detection, they were still discovered.

Despite these hardships, I keep coming back to the game, trying yet again to best the malevolent humans. Endgame: Singularity is definitely doing something right. Maybe it's the tech tree, maybe I just want to know if the AI will be allowed to coexist in the end.

Endgame's setting is fresh and intriguing to me. Finally, I don't have to fight against an overwhelmingly powerful AI that just tries to burn me and deny me cake. Instead, I can walk a mile in its shoes! Wonderful!

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the free full version

LinuxLinux:
Download the free full version


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (24 votes)
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FlywrenchzxoWhat happens when a game's mechanics are affected by, well, themselves? That's what Mark Essen of Messhof Games might have been wondering when he devised the idea for Flywrench, a downloadable freeware game in which you must guide your bat-like ship through a maze of obstacles to the exit.

Along the way, you must pass through different-colored gates. Now, most games would require you to collect a matching key to get through the gate, but ugh, how passé! Instead, Flywrench requires your ship's color to match the gate color, but the color of your ship is directly tied to the form of movement your ship is currently performing. There are three basic movement patterns you can do, and each has a corresponding color:

  • White: The default motion. Consists of any inertia you might have plus gravity. You may use the [left] and [right] arrows to gain sideways momentum.
  • Red: Activated by tapping [up arrow]. Each tap flaps your ships wings once, providing a brief vertical boost. Holding the [up] button down will only cause a single flap, but your ship will remain red until you release it. Again, the [left] and [right] arrows will move you sideways.
  • Green: Holding the [down arrow] will turn your ship green and activate the rolling movement mode. Rolling is similar to the default mode, but renders you immune to collisions with the yellow walls. Unfortunately, you cannot navigate left and right while in rolling mode.

Colliding with the yellow walls when you are white or red results in instant death, as does trying to pass through a gate whilst donning the wrong color. There are even moving pink walls to which even the green is not immune, as well as blue gates which can only be passed through if unlocked. Needless to say, you're going to become quite familiar with death. However, the game wastes no time getting you back in the action after you crash, making it more work to quit the game than to continue!

Analysis: At first, Flywrench might seem like Ball Revamped with crude graphics, but after a couple of levels it becomes clear that you'll need to learn a few new tricks in order to advance very far. Although there are only four types of gate, how you get through them depends on whether you start above, below, or off to the side of them, as well as the locations of other nearby gates or obstacles. As a result, the gameplay varies much more than you might expect. The overall effect is one of self-reference: the way you play the game is dictated by the method by which you play the game, that is, the movement of your ship. It's an interesting experiment in game mechanics which ultimately succeeds in creating a clever and fun playing experience.

Flywrench isn't overly long; there's a set of levels for each of the 8 planets in our solar system, plus Pluto, but the number of levels for each world continually decreases. However, according to Mark's blog, Flywrench 2 is in the works, so be on the lookout. In the meantime...

Play Flywrench


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (38 votes)
| Comments (12) | Views (60)

Gish

JohnBGish is a 12 pound ball of tar. Gish is also a cult-classic indie platformer released by Cryptic Sea. In this game you control of a heavy, squishy, sticky glob of goo. Balls of tar would normally be rather inert, but this particular one has had his girlfriend taken away, thus inspiring him to get up off his lazy sack of goop and slosh into action. By becoming sticky, slippery, heavy, or using tar-like ball physics to bounce high in the air, its your job to squeeze through each level and solve puzzles with little more than your own gooey body.

gish2.jpgGish's four actions are each tied to a single key on your keyboard. By turning sticky you can climb walls, ceilings, enemies, and just about anything else you can slop yourself on. A slippery Gish can squeeze through small cracks in the ground, while heavy Gish breaks blocks, pushes switches and can crush many things he comes in contact with. Jumping is a skill unto itself and requires you to build momentum by using the [up] and [down] arrow keys while hopping in the air. And for some advanced moves, you'll need to use more than one ability at a time...

Many things in Gish's world are breakable, and almost every obstacle is built around the game's gooey physics engine. Levers need to be pressed to open some passageways, and you won't be able to simply touch them to flip them. In addition to moving Gish through each stage, you'll also have to push blocks and deal with a handful of enemies. Levels are mostly linear in design (though there are plenty of secrets to be found) and progress in difficulty, length and complexity as you play.

The main story mode in Gish offers plenty of fun and challenge, but there are also a few bonus modes to play, including the ability to play user-created stages and craft your own levels.

gish.jpgAnalysis: As if the excellent music, atmosphere, sense of humor, sweet physics engine and fun level design weren't enough, Gish manages to capture something few modern games manage to preserve: a sense of wonder. Gish is packed with secret areas, including warp zones that transport you to renditions of classic video game such as Pitfall or Super Mario Bros. It's very much an old-school platformer in spirit (sort of like Jasper's Journeys), hauling in and pouring on the nostalgia without apology. You'll feel like a kid again, picking up your first video game and gazing in awe as the world comes to life and draws you in with its enticing secrets. Precious few games deliver this experience, and Gish is one of the best.

One drawback to Gish is learning the controls. Sure, each action is tied to one button, but figuring out how and when to use each ability is a subtle art that you won't likely master before the demo expires. It took me nearly ten minutes to get jumping down pat, but now I can fling myself across platforms, stick to the side and slink my way to the most out-of-the-way areas with ease. It will take some patience to learn how to play Gish (physics-based games tend to be this way), but give it a little time, it's worth every bit of effort!

Old school design ethics combined with modern beauty and ease of play. Gish pulls in some of the best parts of gaming in the last decade and creates something wholly fresh, unique, and fun.

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


| Comments (6) | Views (3)

Weekend Download

JohnBAlong with our usual smattering of games, this week we're featuring one of the games from the recent Toronto Independent Game Development Jam (TOJam), a three day gathering of game makers held every year to inspire creative ideas. Be sure to check out all of the TOJam entries for more experimental gaming goodness!

agameaboutbouncing.jpga game about bouncing (Windows, 2MB, free) - Part of the third annual TOJam gathering, a game about bouncing walked away with the top people's choice award, and for good reason. Not only is there a lot of bouncing to be had, the game is also about about physics, missiles, and maybe a little abstract art. Using the mouse (or a dual analog controller, which is better), grab onto bumpers to bounce off of them to careen around the stage. Bumpers might get angry if you lock onto them, however, and fire a missile that can only be avoided by dashing.

atomicworm.jpgAtomic Worm (Windows, 5.4MB, free) - A beefed-up Snake-type game where you control a worm with the mouse collecting flowers of different types from the game grid. The usual rule against crashing into yourself still applies, but now you can stack up rows of like-shaped flowers to shorten your tail and open a portal to the next level. A great update to an old classic!

boondog.gifBoondog (Windows/Linux, 1.2MB, free) - A great puzzle platformer in the vein of the classic Prince of Persia games. Use basic acrobatic skills to jump, grab onto ledges and push objects around the screen to clear a path to the teleporter at the end. Boondog manages to grab that retro feel without being too frustrating or difficult to play. Take a few minutes to get used to the controls, then enjoy loads of gaming goodness.

gplus.jpgG:plus (Windows/Mac, 8MB, free) - A stylish experimental shooter of a different kind, your ship runs in a constant orbit behind a string of indestructible projectiles. As enemies spawn in the circle, use the [up] and [down] arrow keys to increase or decrease your orbit, being careful to let your bullets touch the foes first.


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Rating: 4.5/5 (28 votes)
| Comments (21) | Views (14)

10 Gnomes #7

JayIn a city overrun by photo-snapping tourists, Mateusz had to hunt, not for gnomes, but for a quiet secluded setting, far from the maddening crowds, where he could begin his work. Then he remembered a little known place, just around the corner from the sightseers, in the center of his old town. A quiet, relaxing and peaceful place. And the gnomes were there.

Play 10 Gnomes #7

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


(13 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (2) | Views (52)

Tri-Peaks 2: Quest for the Ruby Ring

JohnBThe popular solitaire card game returns in Tri-Peaks 2: Quest for the Ruby Ring. Piles of cards are arranged in triangular patterns at the top of the screen. The bottom row are turned face-up. The remainder of the deck is shuffled at the bottom of the screen with a single card visible. All you have to do is take cards from the "peaks" that are either one above or one below the active card and remove them to the bottom of the screen. When face-down cards no longer have anything covering them, they flip over and await your move. It's a challenging and well-made card game that's as much luck as it is number crunching skill.

tripeaks2.jpgThe story behind Tri-Peaks 2 is similar to an old serial adventure where Indiana Jones-type explorers head out to rummage through ancient tombs. Tex and Ally Carter are the heroes, and they're on a quest for the great Ruby Ring. They must search through temples in India, China, Easter Island and more, and as you complete rounds Tex will uncover treasure. Play a dud, however, and one of the temples' many traps will be sprung.

The interface is mouse-driven — it's a simple matter of clicking cards you want to remove and tapping the right mouse button to turn over the next card in the deck. Win half a dozen rounds or so to find an artifact that will be placed in the museum. Every once in a while you'll be treated to a pachinko-style minigame that Peggle fans will eat up. Don't expect the same level of polish and greatness in this diversion, however.

A good general strategy to keep in mind is that its more advantageous to uncover new cards than it is to get rid of current ones. So, if you can remove more than one card during a turn, always shoot for ones that will turn over face-down cards. This opens up more options and allows you to earn more points, more rubies, and increases your chances of clearing the screen.

tripeaks2a.jpgAnalysis: Tri-Peaks 2: Quest for the Ruby Ring is, for the most part, a straight-up video game conversion of the popular solitaire card game. The audio visual package is great, lending an intriguing plot and setting to the experience. As with some variations of solitaire, Tri-Peaks is largely dependent upon luck of the draw. Many times I've managed to clear all of the peaks save one lone card, and unfortunately everything left in my deck didn't help, forcing me to redraw and start again. That translates into frustration, which translates into closing the game and coming back later.

If you're a card game or solitaire fan, picking up Tri-Peaks 2: Quest for the Ruby Ring is a no-brainer. The core gameplay is unchanged, the few extras (wild cards, bonuses for streaks, etc) don't change the basic feel, and its sleek presentation is easy on the eyes and ears.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Link Dump Fridays

JohnBWhile crafting this week's Link Dump Friday, I uncovered a mysterious pattern that could be a sign of greater things at work. On a standard North American QWERTY keyboard, 33 of the 47 letters used to write the names of the five games below (numbers and symbols don't count) can be typed with the left hand alone. In fact, Starwave doesn't need the right hand at all! Government conspiracy? Alien intervention? Or does my being a lefty subtly influence the games we feature each week? You decide!

  • icon_ubertube.gifUberTube - A unique 3D arcade game where you rotate a tube with the [arrow] keys to keep tiles beneath your bouncing self. Very challenging, often frustrating, and different enough to be wholly interesting. Also worth noting, this game has the most annoying "death" sound ever heard in video gaming history.
  • icon_spinin.gifSpin-In - A sliding block puzzle game that uses rudimentary physics as the central focus of gameplay. Use the [arrow] keys to tilt the game board up, down, left and right. Your goal is to get the smiley face to the exit, but with each tilt blocks slide to fill open spaces.
  • icon_starwave.gifStarwave - Another simple puzzle game, this one of a sci-fi nature. Place your units on the grid so they will eliminate the oncoming enemy fleet. When everything's in place, hit the "ready" button and hope all turns out well. If not, re-adjust and try it again.
  • icon_madvlad2.gifMad Vlad II: Revamped - A vampire-themed adventure platforming game where you control the mad spinning Vlad on a quest to prove he is a worthy master of his castle. Avoid the sunlight as you work your way through a surprisingly cinematic adventure.
  • icon_solarsaurs2.gifSolarsaurs 2 - We here at JIG strive to bring you the best games so you don't waste your time playing duds. In that spirit, we meticulously crafted a one-line review for this game that's sure to answer any questions you might have. Ready for it? Here goes... "It's like curling, with dinosaurs."

  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (391 votes)
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Joshfinalninja_screen1Final Ninja, created by the same Nitrome team (Simon Hunter and Aaron Steed) that brought us Dirk Valentine, is here! This side-scrolling action adventure has plenty of tricks up its sleeve, and the word "ninja" alone will grab many players. In Final Ninja's case, however, I'm happy to say that it's one of the few ninja-based titles that really is fun (and faithfully ninja-like, for that matter).

Best of Casual Gameplay 2008In Final Ninja you play an anime-inspired ninja armed with throwing stars, a grappling rope, and the ability to stealth-hide into the shadows. The stealth mode is a pretty fun tactic, as you'll be met with lots of security systems and enemies that will require a delicate touch to overcome. The grapple is definitely the key mechanic that makes this game shine. Without it, it'd be just another run-and-gun ninja platformer (although still noteworthy).

You're charged with the task of completing each level by reaching a black data access card, all with the intent of facing down your nemesis, Akuma. It's the classic "student tries to rebel against old-and-wise master" story, as you're called into action once again after 10 years of meditation to don the special ninja suit and vanquish your arch rival. You can use the [arrow] or [WASD] keys to run and jump, while the mouse button fires your throwing stars and grapple (aimed by the mouse cursor). Pressing [down] or [S] will let you enter stealth mode, a state in which you'll become virtually transparent except for your cool green, glowing eyes. This state allows most enemies and security lasers to pass you by you undetected. And it wouldn't be a ninja game without wall-jumping, would it? You can push against any wall to latch onto it, slowing your fall until you jump in the opposite direction.

finalninja_screen2The real acrobatics come from using the grapple. Throwing stars can be fired in quick succession by tapping the mouse, but if you click and hold it instead of releasing, you'll fire the grapple that hooks onto most surfaces and lets you swing from ledge to ledge. The grappling system will be most familiar to those who have played the Worms series. Once deployed, you can climb up and down the rope by using the applicable directional key or gain momentum by swinging back and forth. You can even gain enough momentum from a standstill to pull a complete 360 (if you can master the right timing between the up-and-down and side-to-side movement).

Analysis: Nitrome didn't stray off the beaten path when it comes to the look and feel of Final Ninja. The cartoonish pixel graphics are exactly what we're used to seeing and they're just as good as ever. Aside from a seemingly "sticky" wall jumping mechanic, I was a bit hard-pressed to find many faults in Final Ninja. Level progression tempo is tuned perfectly, introducing new elements level by level with signpost tutorial hints along the way. Within each level, no matter where you are, you'll never find yourself far from an arrow indicating which direction you should follow so you don't get lost.

As you get past the fifth level or so, a larger variety of enemies and security systems are introduced, keeping your environments interesting and dynamic. Things get a bit tougher when electric platform edges are introduced, limiting your grappling options. Tto quote the game, "Even a ninja cannot defeat electricity...I respect its ability to bring death to those who are slow".

An interesting, atmospheric and all-around fun grapple-based platformer from Nitrome!

Play Final Ninja


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (727 votes)
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Joshpandemic2_screen1Developed by Dark Realm Studios, Pandemic 2 is the sequel to the morbidly fun original Pandemic, a game in which your goal is to eradicate the human race with the perfect disease. While the original game didn't go on to become hugely popular, Pandemic 2 is more an improvement upon its predecessor than a sequel, with an improved interface and more features. Judging by the game's growing success, the developers offered gamers a better package this time around; a sort of real-time strategy/simulation game in which you get to play God (or the Devil?), concocting the ultimate virus, bacteria or parasite to kill every last person on the planet.

In Pandemic 2, you're given the choice to create one of the three aforementioned diseases, each having its own inherent strengths and weaknesses. For example, a virus can evolve the fastest, has a bonus to infectivity, but can be most negatively affected by its environment. A parasite, on the other hand, evolves the slowest, but is least affected by the environment and has the lowest visibility. These are the three main traits of your disease; lethality, infectivity and visibility. The higher the lethality, the easier and faster it will claim victims. Infectivity represents its contagiousness, dependent on factors like how it's transmitted (rodents, insects, airborne, waterborne) and also symptoms like sneezing, coughing and more. Lastly, your disease's visibility should be as low as possible to prevent people from taking notice (and then taking action to contain it). Ingeniously, many of the same symptoms that help spread your disease like sneezing and coughing will also increase its visibility, as will other symptoms like dementia, vomiting and depression. Too much visibility and you'll be met with closed borders, grounded airplanes and even vaccines being developed, all of which are the enemy of any respectable disease.

Your interface is simple and effective. A map of the world is laid out before you, with a mini-map in the upper-left corner for quick navigation. Below the mini-map is a news feed, keeping you up-to-date on breaking world news. The world map represents the two dozen or so major world countries and areas that Pandemic 2 recognizes, with various symbols within them representing hospitals, airports, shipyards and water plants. Below the map are menu functions to access the main menu, world info, disease info and adjustable game speed (which can also be paused). Controls rely solely on mouse clicks. Also below the map you'll see your "evolution points," the currency of the game used to upgrade your disease. Evolution points are earned by both infecting and killing people, a number which accurately corresponds to real-world global and national populations.

pandemic2_screen2Gameplay is rather simple once you get acquainted with user interface and game system, although it can all be a bit overwhelming. In a nutshell though, gameplay boils down choosing your disease and molding that disease into a fast-spreading, killing machine. Speed really is the key, because the goal of the game is to wipe out every last person on earth. The problem is that once your disease jumps from resembling a common cold to something more sinister, nations of the world begin taking steps to avoid infection. They close down airports and shipyards, close their borders and eventually begin enforcing marshal law and burning infected corpses. Essentially, it's a race against humanity to sneak in under the radar, infect every nation on the planet, and then become lethal enough to wipe everyone out.

Analysis: Although there have been similar "doomsday" sim games over the years, Pandemic 2 stands out as one of the best. The solid algorithms beneath the hood, as well as the entertaining-yet-realistic steps humanity takes to survive makes for an intriguing game concept. For example, one of humanity's lines of defense will be trying to develop a vaccine after a certain point, in which the clock will start to count down. Depending on various factors (like how many hospitals are still functioning, or how many points you've spent in making your disease resistant to drugs), your disease might meet its demise after X amount of days. On the other hand, humanity's vaccine might be unsuccessful, buying you time to beef up your lethality while it searches for another cure. You'll enjoy being the bad guy, while at the same time, empathizing with humanity as they desperately try to avert Armageddon.

Without question, the most enjoyable aspect of Pandemic 2 happens to be the only thing you can control; the disease itself. The evolution points you earn allow you to give your disease resistances, infecting methods and symptoms, the latter of which offers a morbid array of everything from sneezing to kidney failure to internal hemorrhaging. You even have the ability to remove a symptom that's undesirable if it mutates on its own, such as removing the "sweating" symptom so that the "fever" symptom is more lethal, since sweating cools the body down. Other than that, you mainly sit back and watch what happens. It's an interesting concept in gaming, perhaps even a bold move on the developer's part, considering the current socio-political climate surrounding bio-chemical attacks and the world's collective fear of a pandemic virus. But for all of you who couldn't care less and just want to play a mad bio-chemist for a day, give it a try.

Play Pandemic 2

Cheers to Spector17, Yash, Eric, Kevin, Vault, Shawn and Patrick for suggesting this one! =)


(2 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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JessRobot RoomRobot Room is a fun, cute, sometimes baffling room escape game featuring—you guessed it—robots! Don't worry, though, they aren't scary, mean robots a la the Terminator; their sole purpose, it seems, is to stand around with their hands in the air (raising the roof?), tantalizingly dangling important escape items just out of your reach.

There's a fair amount of Japanese text in Robot Room, and at times it can be frustrating to find potentially-helpful notes written in a foreign language. However, despite the language barrier, Robot Room is solvable; more difficult, certainly, than if there was an English translation, but solvable nonetheless. It's a nice room escape with some interesting and quirky puzzles, and you definitely ought to give it a shot.

Play Robot Room


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (23 votes)
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JessPencil RebelPencil Rebel, by Grzegorz Kozakiewicz, is not by any means a challenging game, but what it lacks in difficulty it more than makes up for in wonderful, amazingly creative artistry. I was totally taken with its plasticine stop-motion action and beautiful, dollhouse-like environments; in fact, I'm not sure if I've ever before seen a point-and-click game with such style.

You play Bert, an escapee from the Elf Kingdom. Bert must rescue his friend Dr. Escalup, another escapee who was recaptured by the Emperor of Elfland's agents. This mission will take him through 11 different gorgeously appointed rooms, solving (very) simple puzzles along the way, and ultimately to his final battle with the beast guarding the poor doctor. While playing, pause a moment to appreciate the love and time that went into creating Pencil Rebel; the gameplay is really an afterthought, a convenient and entertaining format with which to showcase the designers' talents. In this case, that's not a bad thing.

Play Pencil Rebel


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Weekday Escape

JessWhat do robots and exotic birds have in common with stop motion animation? They're all components of this week's selection of Weekday Escape! Featuring three worthy escape games for your weekday escapism.

  • icon_pencilrebel.gifPencil Rebel - By no means a challenging game, what Pencil Rebel lacks in difficulty is more than made up for in wonderful, amazingly creative artistry. In fact, I don't think I've ever before seen a point-and-click game with such style.
  • icon_robotroom.gifRobot Room - A fun, cute, sometimes baffling room escape featuring—you guessed it—robots! Don't worry, though, they aren't scary, mean robots a la the Terminator; their sole purpose, it seems, is to stand around with their hands in the air, tantalizingly dangling important escape items just out of your reach.
  • icon_roomwr.gifRoom W&R - A well-made, if fairly standard room escape game; the graphics are nice, the puzzles interesting but not unintuitive. A pleasant fix for any point-and-click craving.

Note: Comments are disabled for this entry, but you will find a place for comments on each game's review page.


(15 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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JessRoom WRRoom W&R places you into what seems to be a girl's bedroom, complete with vanity mirror, photographs of animals and cheerful retro-ish couch. It's a well-made, if fairly standard room escape game; the graphics are nice, the puzzles interesting but not unintuitive. The game does not contain anything terribly out of the ordinary, but is nonetheless a pleasant fix for any point-and-click craving.

Play Room W&R

DUI


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (128 votes)
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MDendui.gifThere's something satisfying about destroying things. Knowing that someone spent time and energy building something up, only to have you rush in and smash it to bits? Deeply, deeply satisfying. But unless we specialize in demolition, warfare, or catty schoolhouse comments, this desire to destroy goes unfulfilled. So for us normal people, there's physics-based destroyer games like DUI.

DUI, an action puzzler from Chinese developing team S.I.T.T., asks you to guide a sprite to safety by rolling it back and forth with the arrow keys and destroying blocks with the mouse.

To advance to the next level, you must rest the sprite on a colored block and destroy any moving blocks on-screen, as well as fulfilling the removed block quota in the corner of the screen. Usually completing these goals go hand in hand, but keep them in mind.

To add difficulty to the mix, the sprite cannot come to a halt below the red line across the screen. If it does, the level restarts. You can get away with having a portion of it above the line or running the ball below the line-- in fact, some puzzles hinge on doing this.

There are thirty-six levels in all, plus a well-rounded level editor to create your own tricky puzzles. (Share them in the comments under Spoiler tags!)

Analysis: If you're feeling inklings of deja vu, you might be right. DUI bears a passing resemblance to a game we reviewed last week, Totem Destroyer.

The games are similar; both ask you to guide down an object by destroying blocks. But DUI's addition of control over the sprite changes the equation, adding an extra level of puzzlingness.

The levels are well-planned, and there's a solution for each and every one of them, although achieving it might be difficult. Some puzzles rely heavily on removing certain blocks, while some require a good sense of timing. They vary just enough to avoid being repetitive, but are just doable enough to avoid impossibility.

If it sounds intimidating... well, it is, a little. You'll need to think things out and plan ahead. But once you get going, you won't want to stop.

Play DUI


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SonicLover

Cheese Dreams article
ABOVE: One of many photographs of the spaceship allegedly responsible for the moon's disappearance. The moon was just over half the size of the "M" logo on the hull.
The moon disappeared from the sky on the night of April 10, 2008, and the public is in disagreement regarding why or how it disappeared.

"Normally when there's a new moon, you can still see sort of a shadow where the moon is supposed to be," professional astronomer Spazz Hopper was quoted as saying. "But there's no shadow anymore. It's gone, completely gone, like the last cookie on the plate after you turn your back on that hungry kid."

The most likely theory, Hopper points out, is that a more massive celestial body passed by the Earth and pulled the moon out of its orbit, though no evidence of such a celestial body has turned up.

Several stargazers, on the other hand, have a different theory of what happened that night. They claim that a giant spaceship came by and "swallowed" the moon.

"I swear that's what I saw that night," high school student Hector Headcase insists. "The moon was full, and then this big spacecraft came by and opened its mouth, and CHOMP, the moon was gone."

"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see through that theory," Hopper argued when asked for his opinion. "The moon is approximately 2,160 miles in diameter. This alleged spaceship would have to be three times as large as Earth to be able to 'swallow the moon' like everyone says it did, and if something that big passed that close to us, there's no way it couldn't have at least thrown the Earth's rotation out of whack with its gravity."

Despite the scientific impossibility of it, observers continue to insist on the moon's fate, and some have even taken photos of the spaceship. Hopper maintains that there's a logical explanation for all this, but even now it remains a mystery.

RELATED ARTICLES:
Skywire Tours Closed due to Safety Concerns - p. 3
Skating on Thin Ice: How Safe Is It? A Scientific Study - p. 6
History Corner: How the Great War of England (1897) was Won - p. 8

Yep, another fake news article by yours truly. I actually wrote this the day after the last one was posted, but I waited a week because I didn't want any inhibiting overlapping of interest to occur. -SonicLover


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Rating: 4.4/5 (140 votes)
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This is Sand

JessThis is Sand is a lovely little web toy, a nice, gentle way to ease your brain back to life after the weekend. It could hardly be simpler or more elegant: the program converts pixels into digital sand that falls, stacks and layers just like the real thing, providing an endless array of possible designs, landscapes and pictures.

Press and hold the left mouse button to create a stream of sand; double-clicking will result in a steady, continuous flow. The [C] key brings you to the color picker, where you can choose the hue of your sand; dragging between two colors will produce a very nice gradient effect. You can press [E] to erase any false starts or less-than-pleasing pictures, and anything you love can be submitted to a gallery of thousands of user-created masterpieces!

This is Sand is a joint project of the designers Johanna Lundberg and Jenna Sutela, and Flash programmer Timo Koro. Together they have created a playground of color and sound, and I enjoyed it very much for its relaxing, meditative qualities; listening to the gentle hiss of the falling sand (the game's single sound) and watching the gradually forming images was both relaxing and engrossing. Unfortunately, the toy is, by its very nature, limited. I found it difficult to create shapes other than pyramids or jagged-edged linear protrusions; curves were next to impossible. This is true to the toy's mechanics, but nonetheless can eventually become tedious. Also, at this point, the only "sandbox" available to players is the entire screen, which is quite a lot of space to fill and also creates a certain sameness in every picture; I think it would be really cool to have smaller, differently shaped spaces to fill in with sand as well (like a curvy bottle shape, for example).

Still, despite its limitations, This is Sand is an enjoyable and relaxing way to express a little creativity, or to just escape from the everyday grind for a few moments of Zen.

Play This is Sand

Cheers to Origamimarie for suggesting this one! =)


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (422 votes)
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MDenbubbletanks2.jpgBubbles are neat things. Stop and think about them for a second. You get some soap, some water, and you can make little floating orbs. I remember many a day in my youth where we'd whip up a batch, make some bubble wands, and start firing artillery at each other. Thanks to the makers of Bubble Tanks 2, we all can revisit a more innocent, vaguely dysfunctional time.

From Hero Interactive (Starshine, Light Sprites, Storm Winds) comes Bubble Tanks 2, the long-awaited followup to the original Bubble Tanks. Using the [WASD] keys to move your tank and the mouse to aim, destroy enemy tanks and collect bubbles to upgrade your ship. Guide your evolution along either the fighter, heavy, or balanced paths and take on massive enemies.

Fire up Normal Mode to jump from bubble to bubble, taking down enemies, or launch Arena Mode to test your skills against a horde of your choice. The Bubble-o-Pedia lets you view your conquests and learn the names of your vanquished foes.

The weapons at your disposal have increased drastically since last time. While old favorites like the small red bullet and the big shot are still around, new weapons like the spread shot, the sniper shot, and mines add to the variety. A new secondary weapon system offers abilities like a mega cannon, teleportation, a shield, and more, all activated with the space bar.

To keep pace with your new abilities, your enemies have been overhauled. The tanks are bigger and the weapons crazier, ranging from swarms of smaller ships to a goo that slows your ship drastically. Part of the fun is recognizing and responding to the new foes ahead of you.

As a bubble tank, you trade in bubbles. They are experience, currency, and life points wrapped all into one. Destroy enemy tanks to earn bubbles. Collect enough bubbles to earn an upgrade. If an enemy bullet hits you, you lose some bubbles. Your ship can downgrade if you lose too many, and if you lose all of them, you'll be ejected to the nearest safe bubble. This isn't necessarily game over; during testing, I lost an early struggle and was tossed out to safety, where about a dozen non-firing enemies awaited me, including a "life carrier" that gave me fifty bubbles. It's a nice little touch.

bubbletanks2pic2.jpgIndeed, there are many nice little touches improved upon from the original. The developers read over comments posted to the first game and improved mechanics in this update. Your cannon is now on automatic fire; no more frantic clicking all over the screen. A meter shows how many bubbles remain to the next upgrade, but stays out of the way in the heat of battle. When the last enemy dies, all bubbles are magnetically attracted to your ship, and for those obsessed with total victory, a map system aids navigation around the massive arena.

Analysis: I am not ashamed to admit that I burned a full night playing the first Bubble Tanks. I am slightly ashamed to admit that, in the process, I may or may not have bobbled my calc homework. I blame the ensuing B on the Hero Interactive team. Fortunately, they had the good sense to release this over summer break, preserving my academic integrity. Good show!

Bubble Tanks 2 proved to be just as addictive. On three separate occasions, I attempted to set up a screenshot of a standard battle for the picture in this review, only to get caught up in the battling and forget everything. It's almost impossible to resist this game once you get rolling.

In comparison with its predecessor, BT2 runs significantly smoother. Even with massive amounts of enemies on my screen, there was little to no slowdown. This was actually a bit tricky at first: the fast-running game combined with the rapid increase in difficulty as you branch out made early levels rather difficult. If you're not an experienced bullet dodger, you might want to spiral around the starting circle for a while, where the enemies are easier. The map will help you here, allowing you to set a path on the fly.

The variety of weapons and tanks is a pleasure. Experiment a bit in early games and figure out what style works for you. I personally settled into a blend of the fighter-balanced upgrades, but there's something to be said for massive firepower.

My one complaint is the lack of a save system. I understand that a lot of the game is the buildup of your tank and exploration from the center point, but it would still be nice to have the option of continuous conquest over several segments.

But that's it. That's the only complaint I have. This game is just sheer fun. There's enough to do here to keep you busy for a long while, and you'll love every minute of it.

Play Bubble Tanks 2

Play the entire Bubble Tanks series...


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (504 votes)
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Officially Haphazard

Fantastic Contraption is an elastic attraction.
Each physics level guarantees satisfaction.
And unless you have a strange allergic reaction,
You'll soon be hooked on Newton's laws of interaction.

Fantastic ContraptionOk, so maybe I shouldn't write poetry for a living, but I have had so much fun with this game, that I could not help myself. Created by Colin Northway and Andy Moore, Fantastic Contraption is a physics puzzle game in which the objective in each level is to move all red objects into a rectangular goal area. To do this, you are given a blue rectangular building area and a few different materials in which you can build your device. Standing in your way, however, are a variety of obstacles, ranging from gaping gaps to a sea of circles bent on destroying your red-object-mover-apparatus.

To make your machine, click on the type of material you want, and then click or drag in the light blue "building area" to place it. At your disposal are three different wheels—a clockwise spinner, a counter clockwise spinner, and a regular wheel—as well as two different connectors—a solid "stick" and "water" rod, which can pass through other walls and wheels, but not the environment. Each of these objects has nodes (represented by small, light gray circles) that other objects can attach to so you can create more complicated contraptions. One nice feature about this game is the keyboard shortcuts. A couple especially useful ones are:

  • [Shift]+mouse to move items. Note that if you click on a node when using this technique, only that connection will move, whereas if you click on any other part of the structure, the entire device will move. Also, you can use [Shift] click to pan around the level by clicking on the background.
  • [Command]+mouse (or Ctrl, for Windows users) to delete items.
  • [Space] to start or stop a test.

Although the game is completely free, for 10 dollars, you can get a few added benefits: being able to make and share custom levels as well as being able to play other people's levels, all while supporting independent game development.

Analysis: With just 5 components, you might think this game would not be that interesting. However, as the levels grow harder and harder, you will quickly find yourself doing things that you could have never imagined with these meager materials. Furthermore, after each level, I found myself amazed with the Fantastic Contraption I had just built, wanting to show it to everybody.

The main reason this game is so rewarding is because it is so well thought out. Like most physics games, you have to do a lot of tweaking, and the controls are easy to get used to and provide helpful visual cues (i.e. if you hold shift, a set of arrows comes up to remind you can now move stuff around). Similarly, if you attempt to edit your machine while a trial is in progress, an arrow pops up, reminding you to stop the trial first. Likewise, the art is unobtrusive yet beautiful; the pastel colors make you feel less like bashing your keyboard when your beautiful Ferris wheel fails to launch the red balls far enough for the 10th time.

Another plus about this game is that it is extremely casual. There are no spending limits; you can use all the material you want. You can also, skip levels if they are just too difficult which takes the stress off of casual gamers. This has the added benefit of allowing you to play on different computers without restarting the entire game.

Furthermore, if you just can't beat that one level, don't worry. Colin Northway has done an excellent job of allowing players to easily share their created content. Users can easily save and share levels (after a painless registration), so you can see the funky contraptions that others have made. However, instead of having to share long obfuscated level codes, the game gives you a short URL to copy. In addition to the extra levels, the 10-dollar expansion also allows you to create and share your own levels.

As far as downsides to this game, there aren't that many. Like any game with a full physics engine, it may cause performance issues on older computers. Also, the music can get a bit repetitive (although I doubt the author expected me to play for such an extended time period). Luckily there is a volume control that instantly remedied the situation.

In short, this game was excellently conceived, and excellently executed, altogether making for excellent fun.

Play Fantastic Contraption

Created a Fantastic Contraption? Share it in the comments!


(17 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Wik and the Fable of Souls

JoshWik and the Fable of Souls is well-known as a cult classic to some, even though it's only been around for a couple of years. Designed by Reflexive Entertainment, the game was the 2005 Independent Games Festival (IGF) Game of the Year award winner, and it's been one of the company's flagship releases (along with the insanely-popular Ricochet series). Wik was even officially ported to the Xbox 360, a testament to the game's universal appeal.

Wik and the Fable of SoulsYou play the role of Wik, an odd-looking, goblin-like creature with an elastic, frog-like tongue that's capable of latching onto platforms and branches as well as snatching up bugs and other objects. In a nutshell, your goal is to collect grubs with your tongue, then spit them back out to your partner, Slotham. On the surface, Wik might remind you of games like The Great Tree (whose lead artist is the same as Wik's); static yet attractive backgrounds in each level, all tied together in sort of a serene, "enchanted forest" theme. The story isn't necessarily that deep, although there's some nice story and flavor text between each level.

Your task is to move your frog-like character around the screen using nothing but jumps and swings. That's right, you can't walk at all. It's an interesting gameplay concept, one that even experienced gamers won't be able to master right away. In many ways, that's a good thing, considering all the derivative and clones we see these days. There are only two buttons used in Wik: the left mouse button extends your tongue and the right mouse button is used to jump. Alternatively, you can use the [Z] and [X] buttons to control these functions respectively, or you can find a middle-ground like I did and use one on the keyboard and the other on the mouse (especially useful if you're using a laptop without an external mouse). Other than those two buttons, you only need to move the mouse cursor around the screen to guide the direction of your jumps and tongue.

The levels provide many different environments for you to move — and swing — around in. Areas that can't be reached by jumping have to be accessed by latching your tongue onto surfaces and swinging about. You can even build up momentum by moving the cursor back and forth, or after some practice, use the momentum to frantically fly around the screen from ledge to ledge without pause.

In each level your goal will be some variation of collecting the cute little grubs and passing them off to Slotham, a mule-like creature that grabs the grubs and puts them in his pack. You'll snatch the little buggers up by flicking your tongue at one, storing it in your mouth, then spitting (shooting) it out to Slotham. In early levels, you'll have to contend against flying bugs that try to snatch up the grubs and fly away with them. Luckily you can deal with enemies in several ways. The easiest and most obvious is to try and get to the grubs before they do, but this won't always be possible. If you see an enemy bug making a beeline for one of your grubs, you can grab an acorn (or even another bug) with your tongue and shoot it out of the sky. The same principle works even if an enemy has already snatched one of your grubs; you can shoot it down, causing it to drop your grub back down for you to collect.

Wik and the Fable of SoulsThere's a lot of variation in techniques and objects/bugs as levels progress, allowing you to use things like exploding pine cones, filling up your mouth with multiple bugs to use like a shotgun, and much more. More often than not, you'll find that time is your worst enemy, having to collect a certain amount of grubs before it runs out. But instead of an on-screen countdown timer, your buddy Slotham is your timer. He slowly moves from one end of the screen to the other, only pausing to eat the occasional pile of honey on the ground. Luckily you can pick up honey piles as they drip down from beehives and spit them in front of Slotham to slow him down. But if Slotham moves off-screen and leaves you behind, you lose a life. You also lose lives if too many grubs are snatched away from you, as well as a multitude of other factors like falling off into the abyss, eating a poisonous bug and more. Fortunately there are coins and gems scattered around levels for you to collect, giving you extra lives and boosting your score.

Analysis: As mentioned, it'll take a bit of practice to get the hang of this game. The learning curve isn't really that steep, it's more about learning a new play style than you're used to. In many regards, that's what makes Wik such a fun game for a lot of people. Its cult-like status is directly attributed to its uniqueness and innovative gameplay. However, some might be annoyed by the micro-management that's required; having to simultaneously do so much at once. Grabbing grubs, shooting attackers out of the sky, rescuing captured grubs, jumping and swinging into positions, grabbing honey to throw to Slotham to slow him down... it can get a little overwhelming, especially in later levels.

But if ability-juggling doesn't bother you (or you prefer the challenge), there isn't much left in the way of making Wik one of the more enjoyable games you've played this year. Over 100 levels of engaging background graphics (impressive still, even considering the game is a couple years old) and innovative gameplay are offered. There's even a "Challenge" mode that focuses more on puzzle-solving and acrobatics than grub-collecting. The Challenge mode really gives you the chance to jump and fly around like crazy, performing full 360-degree swings and launching yourself to great heights. To really decide if Wik is a game you'll enjoy, it's one of those that you just have to try for yourself. But if you're a regular JIG reader that happened to miss this classic when it was first released, I'm betting you'll enjoy it as much as we have.

Note: Wik was developed when the average onboard graphics cards were a bit less powerful than those today. The game's default detail quality is set at "low," something you'll probably want to change to "high" to enjoy the game's graphics to its fullest, unless you have an older machine.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (22 votes)
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The Great Chocolate Chase: A Chocolatier Twist

KarmenEvangeline Baumeister, chocolate tycoon and owner of Baumeister Confections, wasn't satisfied running the world's largest chocolate empire. Perhaps the giant corporate world was too impersonal or the large factories couldn't provide enough unique treats to stay afloat. Whatever the reason, Evangeline teamed up with eclectic inventor Klaus Werner to take the chocolate business to the next level. In the past, when the Baumeisters needed help, they called on you to be their head Chocolatier. Now, as they open new specialty shops, they are relying on you to help them to succeed.

chocolatiertwist.jpgThe third installment in the Chocolatier series, The Great Chocolate Chase: A Chocolatier Twist, has just been released. This one takes a new twist on chocolate-making — or is it an old twist? Rather than exploring the world in search of new ingredients, this version of Chocolatier will have you serving individual customers in gourmet shops, in a style similar to the now classic Cake Mania. Mix chocolates, fill them, shape them, add on delicious toppings or serve them up plain. Whatever you do, serve them quickly — Baumeister's patrons are a hungry, impatient bunch.

These gourmet chocolate shops are found in secret locations around the world — remote villages make the perfect testing grounds for Klaus Werner's wacky inventions. The mixes and presses are all run by steam engines, hissing and puffing. Werner even created a unique delivery system, using a small zeppelin, to deliver chocolates long distance. This clever steampunk theme adds a bit of whimsy to the already sweet Chocolatier series.

As Evangeline tests out the various machines, she will meet new customers, some of whom will challenge her (actually, you) to complete a variety of quests. Can you serve three customers in a row? Go an entire day without wasting chocolate? New gourmet ingredients — which can bring in more money — will be your reward, if you can pass their tests.

Earning more money allows you to upgrade the shop, like putting up new interior decorations like statues or art deco glass, learning customer service skills, or beefing up the steam generator. Upgrades are available for purchase at the beginning of each level (with the exception of the first couple levels.) Once Evangeline's shop is thriving and you've completed enough levels, she'll be whisked away to the next secret location, to try out new machines and ingredients. Along the way, the Baumeister story continues, and Evangeline may even run into some familiar faces and family members.

chocolatiertwist2.jpgAnalysis: I had mixed feelings about this version of Chocolatier. I never made a great server when I worked in an actual restaurant, and I seem to be no better at running virtual shops. However, the lure of new chocolates and funky steam-spitting machines kept me trying for hours to get to the next level or location. Since you are required to fill the customer's exact order, this version doesn't allow much experimentation with flavor combinations. However, many other elements remain the same, including the elegant graphics and props to the world's obscure geography.

Also, there were a few aspects from the old Chocolatier games that I didn't miss, such as running around and talking to the same people with the same stories in order to proceed. Instead of trying to talk your head off, most of the people in this game just demand chocolate and glare when you can't get them quickly enough. It's surprising how much individual personality the customers can have without speaking.

Fans of the Chocolatier series, steampunk aficionados, and Cake-Mania-style game addicts will likely enjoy the Great Chocolate Chase. And, well, who doesn't like chocolate and steampunk?

WindowsWindows:
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Get the full version

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Weekend Download

JohnBGood day and welcome to Weekend Download! For your comfort and ease of existence, we promise that Weekend Download will never say it's going to call you after work and never do so. Weekend Download will also keep its promise and get you that extra cash when it does your taxes. Weekend Download is also low in calories, low in fat, and high in FUN.

frozendepths.gifFrozen Depths (Windows/Mac/Linux, <1MB, free) - An ASCII roguelike game geared towards beginners. Instead of mountains of obscure commands to remember, Depths trims the options down and features straightforward combat-oriented gameplay. You start deep underground and must keep warm by wearing thick clothing, standing near campfires and eating warm food. Can you discover why the surface world has frozen over?

hydrohydra.jpgHydro Hydra (Windows/Mac, ~1MB, free) - Built as a Java Web Start app, Hydro Hydra is flOw-like in nature, as you control a small underwater creature that must eat smaller critters to grow. As you devour prey you earn the ability to upgrade parts of your body, morphing you into a sleek, powerful force to be reckoned with.

mondomedicals.jpgMondo Medicals (Windows, 3MB, free) - A 3D, first person puzzle game that's best described as a game that tries its best to not be a game. At least, not a game that makes sense. Counter-intuitive level design, illogical puzzles and laws of nature that don't obey themselves. Think outside the box and you might figure out what's going on.

mondoagency.jpgMondo Agency (Windows, 7.5MB, free) - A follow-up to Mondo Medicals, Mondo Agency is similar in style but drops some cyber horror elements into play. As a special agent, its your mission to hunt down and kill laser indians to save the president. Yes, that sentence makes sense. As much as anything in this game makes sense, anyway.


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (20 votes)
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Forgotten Riddles: The Moonlight Sonatas

JohnBForgotten Riddles is back with a brand new installment that breaks new ground: Forgotten Riddles: The Moonlight Sonatas. The first game in the series introduced riddles that must be solved in order to know which items you were looking for and adhered to the hidden object formula quite readily. Moonlight Sonatas takes the game even further from the genre norm with more riddles, more puzzle-based games, and several new kinds of scenes that add a little liveliness into an otherwise still game.

forgottenriddles2.jpgThe once-famous Moonlight Opera House was home to legendary composer Francis von Amadaeus. The mansion has been abandoned for many years, yet people report strange music playing from within the haunted walls. Some even claim a gaunt figure can be seen standing on the balcony during the full moon. The town of Godesberg gives you full access to the opera house (along with the composer's documents which contain dozens of riddles) and tasks you with uncovering the mystery behind these strange occurrences.

Hidden object fans won't feel too out of place when playing Forgotten Riddles: The Moonlight Sonatas. Early scenes are fairly straightforward and present you with a room full of objects just ripe for the clicking. By choosing one of the symbols at the bottom of the screen you can read one of a number of riddles. Each is a clue to an item in the scene, all you have to do is decipher and find it. Most riddles are fairly straightforward, but a few will require some thought.

forgottenriddles2a.jpgThe real fun of the game comes with the variety of scenes you'll encounter that make good use of the riddle system. One room in the opera house, for example, features a series of clues about paintings on the wall, almost like playing a game of Guess Who?. And some scenes challenge you with placing objects from your inventory back into the environment which dynamically changes as you add things. Afterwards you go on a riddle hunt and must switch between original and "secret" scenes to find all of the objects.

Analysis: Forgotten Riddles: The Moonlight Sonatas departs from both the hidden object formula and the set-up of its predecessor, The Mayan Princess. The new direction isn't radically different, but the changes are there and they're quite welcome. The game is much more lively than most item hunting titles, and using riddles to determine which objects to find is loads of fun.

Even though there are mini-games, puzzles and several types of scenes to encounter, The Moonlight Sonatas still suffers from a bit of repetition. There's only so much you can do with a dark, dreary opera house in the hidden object genre. The story, while interesting, isn't woven into the game as intricately as it could have been, lending a sort of tacked-on feeling.

Despite its minor flaws, Forgotten Riddles: The Moonlight Sonatas is a superb title that will please fans of the series, hidden object aficionados, and casual gamers in general.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
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Link Dump Fridays

JohnBWhen asked which toothpaste they preferred over the leading national brand, four out of five dentists chose Link Dump Friday. Their reasons included arcade-style shooters, puzzle games, and physics-based webtoys. What that other dentist was thinking, we have no clue...

  • icon_doctoratom.gifDoctor A. Tom - A simple arcade game where your goal is to dissociate all of the molecules using a limited number of moves. Each molecule you click will burst, sending atoms in several directions. Time your clicks to pop the highest number of molecules to progress through the game's increasingly creative levels. Similar to Circle Chain and created by the author of Dotville.
  • icon_fantasticcontraption.gifFantastic Contraption - Take the fun physics-based building theme from Armadillo Run or SteerWheels, strip out the complexity and throw it in your browser window and you have an excellent online building game! Using wheels and rods, construct mechanisms to deliver the pink object into the pink shaded areas on the screen. Your only limit is your imagination. Well, and the laws of physics.
  • icon_cogfactory.gifCog Factory - A curious (and very shiny) puzzle game where you rotate a spoke and send colored gears spiraling through a set of tubes surrounding the center of the screen. Splitting your attention between three areas and trying to make color matches hurts us!
  • icon_ownageburst.gifOwnage Burst - A classic arcade-style run and shoot game similar to Metal Slug in style. Use the mouse to aim and fire and the [WASD] keys to move and jump. Great-looking pixel art, and the usual unrealistically "bad at aiming" enemies ready to absorb your precision firing!

  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (46 votes)
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PsychotronicRobomaroAs everyone knows, the moon is inhabited by happy rosy-cheeked blob-things called Maro, who love to play Forehead Catch and gorge themselves on snacks. But oh no! Here comes a barrage of heavy consumer goods from Earth, goods which are not edible and tend to flatten the poor Maro if they don't get out of the way, which they are not nearly smart enough to do. Enter you—in the role of a jet-pack-equipped robot shepherd with a crazed look in your eye and a big shovel in your twitchy metal fists. Your job is to batter to smithereens all the falling television sets, phonographs, and other blunt objects before they can crush the helpless moon blobs. Your secondary job is to allow foodstuffs to reach the hungry Maro, so that they can eat and grow. When they reach a certain size, a ramp will whisk them away and you move on to the next level of carnage. To recap—if it's not food, break it. If it is food, don't.

In Robomaro, (by Ninja Kiwi, makers of Bloons and Hotcorn) your robot moves along with the mouse pointer, while your Maro below do their slowly oozing best to follow. Click to swing your shovel, which destroys food and smaller items in one hit. Larger objects, like cars and pianos, may need two or three whacks before they fall apart. Every few levels, you'll encounter a bonus stage full of turbo-speed snacks, followed by a boss requiring absolutely zero strategy to defeat. The bosses resemble the classic Street Fighter II car-vandalism stage, which is no bad thing.

Grab the power-ups that float in from the right side of the screen by flying into them. Some of these can be quite entertaining. One gives Robo a spinning buzz-saw hand, while another transforms the cute little blobs into toothy green monstrosities, capable of devouring anything from flatware to SUVs.

The game ends when too many members of your flock of blobs gets squished. Good luck, and don't let the junk monster get you.

Analysis: Robomaro embraces a kind of functional surrealism that works really well in casual action games. What do pianos, chandeliers, and Rodin's The Thinker have in common? Well, they would all hurt if they fell on you. Why are there no falling safes or bowling balls? Because you couldn't break them with a shovel. Simple.

It reminds me of the Mario series, which has given us an iconic cast of nonsensical images that only exist because they filled their roles, once upon a time. Mario battles turtles because their shells can be used as weapons. He has a mustache because it visually separated his nose from his chin in the original Donkey Kong. He rides a dinosaur because that's what you would do if you were a video game character limited only by your creator's imagination. You would ride a dinosaur. And you would fly, which Mario also does. There's a major wish-fulfillment thing happening.

Why am I going on about Mario in a review for a simple flash game? Because like many of the pioneering game designers, Ninja Kiwi have a sense for a great concept, and the courage to follow through on their own silly impulses. "Monkey Pops Balloons with Darts" is a fantastic tag line, and so is "Robot Smashes Pianos with Shovel". While most game-makers bend over backwards to create a consistent, recognizable environment (even when that environment is completely abstract), it's refreshing to play a game fueled by pure whimsy.

Robomaro isn't the only game like this, of course. Newgrounds and Kongregate are packed full of creativity and random ideas, often at the expense of playability. But Ninja Kiwi have put in the extra effort. Robomaro's mechanics, visuals, and sound design are all strong enough that you can just relax and enjoy jet-packing around, madly swinging a shovel. The consumer goods shatter into their component parts convincingly with specific crunchy sound effects, which is important in a game about breaking stuff. All the game's characters seem to be really enjoying themselves, judging by Robo's maniacal violent glee and the Maro's delightful "Wheee!" at the end of each level. Robomaro is not the deepest game around, nor, I suspect, the one with the broadest appeal. It is, however, the awesomest flash game I've played this week.

Play Robomaro


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JessEscape DayEscape Day is absolutely adorable. You star as some kind of... cat/fox/puppy guy who has, as the game's intro nicely explains, been lured into, then trapped inside, a kitchen! A really cute kitchen, but still. The game is very well-rendered, quite polished in its own cartoony way, and from what I've seen so far has some nice puzzling. In fact, it would be definitely full review-worthy if not for...the dreaded language barrier! That's right, everything is in Japanese, and it does sadly seem that understanding the text would be quite helpful.

Escape Day is still solvable, but because of the barrier will probably require a considerable amount of trial and error and experimentation. If you're willing and able to be patient, however, you'll be rewarded with a very well-crafted, smart, entertaining escape game.

Play Escape Day


(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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JessEskkapeeEskkapee is a room escape game pared down to its most basic elements: you've got a TV, a computer, a couch, a handful of items to collect and four white walls. The graphics, while not unappealing, are nothing special (they look a little bit like marker drawings crossed with watercolors, actually). The gameplay is similarly minimalist; up until the final puzzle, barely any challenge is presented.

Still, that final puzzle does require you to exercise the ol' noggin, and sometimes it's nice to play something so straightforward; provided me with an ego boost, certainly. You won't find any blindingly brilliant puzzles in Eskkapee, or be dazzled by the room's beauty, but the game will nonetheless provide a few minutes of satisfying room escape fun.

Play Eskkapee


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (63 votes)
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JessEscape 02: Who Am I?Escape 02-Who Am I? is really a rather nice-looking game, with well-created graphics in muted colors (I especially like the strange, oddly cute light bulb-headed statues that are scattered around the room). Your task is straightforward: examine everything, solve the puzzles, escape the room. There is one twist, however; scattered around the room are "about you" cards, each of which provide a clue as to who (or what?) the player really is. The answer will ultimately become central to your success.

I quite liked Escape 02: Who Am I? The puzzles are on the whole quite clever, and the identity crisis shtick was a nice, creative touch. I do have a few gripes, however. At least one of the puzzles is very unintuitive; once solved the answer makes perfect sense, but it was difficult for me to make the necessary logical leap. The game also requires you to collect a "bag" before you can carry more than two items in your inventory, which seemed unrealistic considering that the player is inside a locked room. Finally, the English translation from the Japanese is pretty terrible, though generally adequate enough to get the point. Still, at least to me, the strengths outweigh the liabilities, and I definitely recommend that you give it a shot.

Play Escape 02: Who Am I?


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Weekday Escape

JessWelcome to another edition of Weekday Escape. This week I'm going to highlight a trio of escape games that, while not quite exemplary enough to warrant a full review, are nonetheless well-done and entertaining.

  • icon_escape02whoami.gifEscape 02: Who Am I? - Your task is straightforward: examine everything, solve the puzzles, escape the room. There is one twist, however; scattered around the room are "about you" cards, each of which provide a clue as to who (or what?) the player really is. The answer will ultimately become central to your success.
  • icon_eskkapee.gifEskkapee - A room escape game pared down to its most basic elements: a TV, a computer, a couch, a handful of items to collect and four white walls. The gameplay is similarly minimalist; up until the final puzzle.
  • escapeday.gifEscape Day - An absolutely adorable game. You star as some kind of... cat/fox/puppy guy who has been lured into, then trapped inside, a kitchen! (A really cute kitchen, but still.)

Enjoy this triple treat! See you again next week, same time, same channel.

Note: Comments are disabled for this entry, but you will find a place for comments on each game's review page.


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (120 votes)
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GrimmrookGigolo Assassin(Note: This game contains some mature content and is not the kind of game that should be shared with the little ones. Also, if you have a particularly uptight employer, this game may not be safe for work. But then, if your boss is really that bad, Freecell probably isn't safe for work either. You have been warned.)

Life is full of surprises, even if you happen to be a specimen of male perfection with a penchant for tuxedo tops and a nice breeze around all points south. For instance, one moment you are doing what you were meant to do, nay, born to do, in gracing the ladies with the greatest gift anyone could possibly bestow upon them (that would be yourself), and the next you are hauled in front of the leaders of the free world and tasked with putting a stop to an evil organization known only as "The Sisterhood."

Just as you are about to get over that nasty little surprise, you come to find out that your father, the very man who taught you the beautiful and wondrous art of being a gigolo, has maintained a super secret spy operations center in the very same room in which he trained you in the ways of seduction.

There is, of course, only one way to cope with all of this. For most of us, that would be to promptly sit in a corner and go happily insane. But for those proud few who have earned the right to call themselves gigolo, the only thing for them to do is strap on their jetpacks and head straight into harm's way.

Gigolo AssassinAnd thus the stage is set for the new Adult Swim point-and-click adventure, Gigolo Assassin, brought to us by London based Mediatonic, the same folks who put together the insanely awesome Alan Probe: Amateur Surgeon series. The big difference between their first [adult swim] title and this new venture is that you trade mouse-based dexterity obstacles in favor of good old fashioned adventure game puzzle solving.

In this first installment of a three part series, you must guide your gigolo (I named mine Bruce Digelow) through an isolated tropical island in order to put a stop to the sinister goings on of one Alana Lamia. In so doing you will meet an assortment of unique (and decidedly non-unique) characters as well as solve item based puzzles much along the same vein as the old Sierra and Lucas Arts point-and-click adventures.

Can you put a stop to the diabolical plans of The Sisterhood with nothing but a well-tailored dinner jacket and a sweet banana hammock? The world may just well depend upon it!

Analysis: For someone who cut his teeth on the exploits of Sam & Max and Larry Laffer, it just doesn't get much better than this. In fact, I was more than a little pleasantly surprised at just how well this game is put together.

Usually when I find an online point-and-click adventure, I get my hopes way up only to find myself sadly unfulfilled ten or twenty minutes later. Not so with the Gigolo Assassin.

While the story is not exactly award winning material, at the very least Gigolo takes the time to tell it; using the many interactions and developments to put its dark and innuendo riddled humor on full display.

Meanwhile, the puzzles posed to you throughout the course of the game aren't of the brain breaking variety that hardcore room escapers will no doubt crave, but they aren't so easy that they make you wonder what's the point of even having a puzzle there in the first place?

Indeed, while the humor is the central driving force of Gigolo Assassin, the puzzles play a perfect compliment. They are spaced just far enough to drive the plot from one point to the next without bogging you down with an inventory full of items and little clue as to what to do with them. Even better, just about every single puzzle and its solution are both logical and relevant. Those frustrating moments where you wonder how on Earth you were supposed to know you had to talk to a tree or wear a mop on your head or feed some guy a handful of prunes are thankfully done away with.

Adding to this are the aesthetics that should be happily familiar to Alan Probe veterans. The visuals look like they came from a children's book gone horribly wrong, and the music score just seems to fit right in, particularly the disco theme that adds just that right hint of sleaziness.

Indeed, I would have been hard pressed to point out anything bad to say about the game if it weren't for one glaring fault. Throughout the course of this game, you're going to have a lot of conversations and unfortunately you can only explore one conversation path at a time. This means that you have to start from the very beginning of every single conversation every time you want to pick a different query.

This seems to be a terribly unnecessary inconvenience considering that the norm for such dialogue sequences is to just go back to the last player prompt.

Outside of this, and perhaps a navigation system that can be at times a little finicky, this adventure should keep you well entertained for some time. And it's only the first episode!

Play Gigolo Assassin

Cheers to Paul, Marius, Illarion, Janine, Sam, Amber, and Yamishinigami for suggesting this one! =)


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (143 votes)
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MDenKongai.jpgAny avid Jay is Games reader will have, at one point or another, paid a visit to game hosting site Kongregate. The site features hundreds of developers, and has a veritable smorgasbord of games. But until now, the folks behind Kongregate had not created a game of their own. Finally, after months of development and a lengthy private beta, the site has thrown its proverbial hat into the ring with Kongai.

Best of Casual Gameplay 2008Kongai, a multiplayer collectible card game (CCG), blends the lineup of a beat-'em-up fighter with the tactics of a turn-based campaign. This combination makes for a game that will please genre fans and newcomers alike.

You and your three or five character army take on the enemy head-to-head. Turns are divided into two phases. First is the maneuver phase, where players determine what range to fight at, followed by the combat phase, where players select an attack, switch fighters, or rest for a turn. The last team alive wins.

Kongai-card1.jpgBeneath the basics lies a wealth of strategy. Some attacks work only at close range, while others can only strike from afar. Some characters are resistant to certain types of attacks, while others are especially vulnerable. Knowing when to switch fighters to play off your opponent's weaknesses is essential, but if your enemy predicts a change, they can block you and cause massive damage. Stir into the mix stat-changing buffs and debuffs, and sprinkle in a wide variety of general and class-specific items, and you've got a dense game.

Of course, what would a collectible card game be without collectible cards? You can build your deck through two different methods. Winning online Kongai-card2.jpgmatches gives a chance of earning a new card, while new cards are offered in weekly challenges throughout the user-created games on Kongregate.

Analysis: I'm no stranger to CCGs, although I will admit that my past experience is limited to Yu-Gi-Oh! and the Pokémon trading card game.

One of the most important aspects of any CCG is balance. What fun is a game where one card can destroy everything in its path with no trouble? The game becomes less of a battle and more of an episode of Dragon Ball Z.

Kongai-card3.jpgFortunately, Kongai is well balanced, with nary a Blue Eyes White Dragon, Mewtwo, or Goku in sight. David Sirlin is the man behind the game's design and balancing. With enough forethought and planning, any character can defeat any other character.

And forethought and planning are essential qualities in Kongai. Staying one step ahead of your opponent and predicting their moves is critical to surviving. Is he going to switch ranges so he can use his most powerful attack? Cancel their maneuver out and stay where you are. Is she going to change out her fighter for a dark magician? Intercept her and deal massive damage.

Getting inside your opponent's mind is the most valuable skill you can have. Knowing what your enemy is thinking is the key to defeating them. If you've ever had an interest in becoming a psychic, this game will provide adequate testing grounds.

A quickmatch feature places you in a 3- or 5-card battle against a random opponent, and a ranked match system allows you to prove your deck is better than everyone else's. Host a private game against a friend, or practice against the Kong-Bot AI. The only current downside is the connection speed; servers are overwhelmed with players, and you might be occasionally disconnected. But don't let that stop you.

This game is deep. Deeper than most games featured here. Months of planning and consideration have been put into crafting every detail, and it shows in the rich complexities and sheer amount of tactics at hand. But despite the magnitude, even a casual gamer will fall in love with this gem.

Play Kongai


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (44 votes)
| Comments (21) | Views (67)

StaceyG"PentagoPentago is an award-winning board game, invented in Sweden a few years ago. Now, a Flash version, called Pentago Online is available to play against the computer or another player at the same computer.

It's a marble placement, turn-based strategy game. The goal is to be the first player to place five marbles in a row. The rows can be vertical, horizontal, or diagonal. The game is a bit like Connect Four, but with a twist.

The board is made up of four 3x3 sections. Each section twists in two directions, clockwise or counter-clockwise. After you place a marble in an empty slot, you must turn one of the sections a quarter turn. You can turn any section, regardless of marble placement. You keep filling the board until there is a winner or there's a draw.

If you click on the instruction tab, you will see an animation showing you how the game mechanics work. The instructions are also available 20 different languages.

Analysis: Pentago is simple to play, infuriatingly hard to play well. The movement of the sections is what makes the game so challenging. You have to anticipate where your pieces will be after a turn, and any planning ahead usually gets quickly scuttled by your opponent. Turning the board of course can help you or hurt your opponent. You could spend several moves fighting over which direction one section gets turned. Your line of five marbles will stretch onto two or three of the sections. The three section wins are quite mind boggling, and the computer certainly knows how to accomplish the advanced tactic.

The graphics are rudimentary, but the gameplay works smoothly. The design is clean and simple. You don't really have to know the rules to start to play online.

Unfortunately the two player mode is for taking turns on the same computer. You can't play against others over the net. There is a way to challenge your friends through email, so you could make the turn-based game somewhat interactive.

This brain twister strategy game takes concentration, and possible hair pulling. It's challenging and fun to play, even though I usually lose. You can track down a wooden board if you want to play the tactile version, and there is even a deluxe version with four colors and nine sections.

Play Pentago Online

For those of you who want to delve into the strategy and tactics further, there is comprehensive PDF strategy guide available.


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Rating: 4.3/5 (119 votes)
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MDenRagdoll CannonCannons have a unique place in human history. Throughout the ages, they have served as an offensive weapon to knock down fortifications, an accentuation in pieces of classical music, and a rudimentary yet entertaining transport for clowns. Continuing in this rich tradition, let's launch stickmen at bricks to dignified tunes!

Ragdoll Cannon, the latest effort from Johnny_K (Poiser, Domino-P), places you in command of semi-automatic artillery ripped straight out of the center ring. Use your mouse to choose the right angle and just enough force to hit the "HERE!" pad.

Through your stick-slinging adventures, you'll encounter obstacles that stand in your way. Sometimes you'll have to spend a stickman to clear an object out of your way, or set up a chain reaction. You can have up to five stickmen on your screen at once, and each shot earns one point. The game's golf-style scoring values low scores, so only masters of mortars will rack up a perfect score of 21 points over 20 levels.

Analysis: Ragdoll Cannon is a charming projectile game created in JohnnyK's signature blueprint style familiar to fans of his other work. The game itself feels polished, with the physics consistent and reasonable. The music seems like a nice touch at first, but can subtly grab your nerve endings and drag them along a cheese grater; thankfully, it can be disabled, but the button rather strangely fires a stickman when pressed. It seems like something that should've been caught before production, but it won't impact your score, thanks to the "reset level" button (which, incidentally, you will make heavy usage of if you're shooting for a perfect score).

The usage of stickmen as cannon fodder leads to some interesting problems and equally interesting solutions; whilst on one level, it may spin the wrong way and block the path to victory, another level may hinge upon impaling it along a platform and sliding it to victory. Adding to potential frustration is the occasional pixelhunt to find just the right range of values that will work. But once you get going in this Howitzer hoedown, you'll have trouble extinguishing your fuse.

Play Ragdoll Cannon


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Rating: 3.9/5 (25 votes)
| Comments (6) | Views (64)

PictoWords

Ms.45PictoWords is a casual word game similar to a rebus puzzle — you know the ones, in which you form a word or phrase from pictures and letters. Each round you're offered a selection of square picture tiles, round letter tiles, and a few hints in case you get stuck. Using the blank spaces above, it's your job to fill in as many words as you can using both pictures and letters. It's a slightly quirky but very challenging word game that stretches both sides of your brain.

pictowords.jpgUnlike a true rebus, the pictures in PictoWords aren't homonyms. If you get a picture of a bee, for example, you can add an R to make BEER, but you can't add ING because that would spell BEEING. You'll get a bonus for not using the HINT button, but you may also like to just guess — there's no punishment for getting things wrong. If you guess and a word doesn't make sense, you can click on the icon of a book to get the definition. You can also stumble upon bonus words, although annoyingly, they don't help you win the level.

Analysis: The construction PictoWords keeps things extraordinarily simple with a clean design and few bells and whistles. It's just you, your wit, and a series of tiles that will outsmart you more times than you might want to believe. Unfortunately the high level of difficulty often comes from guessing which word some picture tiles represent. I'm still trying to work out what the square of brown was. Is it "brown"? "Tan"? "Ecru"? Winning is its own reward in this game, as you're chasing a high score and get bonuses for not using the Hint button and for getting all the words instead of just enough to pass. Nothing spectacularly amazing (no bonus levels, power-ups, no nifty explosion of colour).

On the upside, this is an extremely addictive game, one for the hard-core puzzle fanatics. If all you need to keep you happy is a picture of a house and a welcome mat and the letters T, E & R, PictoWords is definitely your game.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (294 votes)
| Comments (86) | Views (1,032)

JessEscape ArtistUpon first playing Escape Artist, a new room escape game from the venerable Pastel Games studio, you may be surprised that this is a creation of the same designers who produced such dark, brooding classics as the Submachine and Covert Front series. You'll soon find out, however, that Mateusz Skutnik & company do sweet, serene and light very well indeed; Escape Artist is lovely, cute without crossing the line into saccharine, and a real pleasure to play.

As one might infer from the title, in Escape Artist you find yourself trapped in a painter's studio. It's a very nice place to be stuck in, what with the pets and art supplies and comfortable-looking furniture, but I suppose that even the most dedicated artist must eventually venture into the outside world (to get milk for the cats, if nothing else). However, the piece of stained glass that adorns your door seems to have broken, and you must find the remaining pieces and assemble the image before leaving.

In truth, Escape Artist is not very difficult; I completed the game in about 10 minutes, and was never stumped or tempted to look for a walkthrough. I don't think, however, that that's really the point. Perhaps, as the theme might suggest, the game is intended to be enjoyed more as a piece of interactive puzzle-art than a true intellectual challenge; if so, it succeeds wonderfully. The game is chock-full of little details to enjoy; the tubes of paint can be squeezed, books can be opened, even the yummy-looking slice of cake can be eaten. Despite the lack of difficulty, Escape Artist really becomes alive through these non-puzzle related elements.

Enter a real Pastel Story:

Play Escape Artist

Cheers to Linda for the alert about the new game! =)


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Weekend Download

JohnBA lot of first person gory goodness on this edition of Weekend Download. Two of our featured games are first person shooters, while a couple others pour on the macabre in their own special way, even if they happen to be packed with colorful pixel art!

8bitkiller.gif8-bit Killer (Windows, 15.5MB, free) - Created with Game Maker, 8-bit Killer is a first person shooter done in the style of an early NES game. Work your way through Wolfenstein-style maze levels while collecting ammo and health and shooting foes that stand in your way. Great chiptune soundtrack, a surprisingly long game, and even though the visuals are retro-simple, they're charming.

blackshades.jpgBlack Shades (Windows/Mac, 1.3MB, free) - In this simple-looking polygonal FPS, you play the role of a psychic bodyguard who must protect the VIP dressed in white from all manner of evildoers in the city. Until then, roam the streets offing braindead pedestrians at your leisure.

ainevoltas2.jpgAinevoltas 2 (Windows, 12.6MB, free) - From the creator of Final Vision comes another intriguing (and sometimes campy) sidescrolling platformer laced with delicious role playing elements. The castle has been overtaken by monsters, and armed with your sword, a lofty pair of jump boots, and the ability to upgrade your stats with ability points earned by defeating enemies, you get to clear it of evil!

theinfiniteocean.jpgThe Infinite Ocean (Windows, 4.1MB, free) - Sick of, you know, being happy and playing cheery, colorful games? This dark and depressing adventure title is the antithesis of sugar-coated gaming. We even had to brighten up the screenshot so it wasn't just a black blur. You've been warned!


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Rating: 4.7/5 (182 votes)
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Governor of Poker

StaceyG"Play Texas Hold 'Em against skillful computer opponents in Governor of Poker by Youda Games, creator of the previously reviewed Youda Camper. Build your reputation and wealth in a dusty western town by winning at poker and buying up property. You start out in the small Texas town of San Saba with money in your pocket and the ambition to climb up in the world. The game directs you to a poker tourney starting at the local saloon. As you win at poker you are able to buy property and increase your reputation. The higher your reputation, the more poker games you get invited to, and so on, until you own the whole town. You even make headlines in the newspaper! And best of all, if you're not in the mood to download, give the free Flash demo a try and see what you think.

governorofpoker.jpgThe bulk of the game is spent at the poker table displayed in overhead pov, but those ten-gallon hats have a bunch of personality. Hand and body movements mimic real play, which is a nice touch. The most fascinating thing to me was that the characters had verbal and visual "tells." When he twirled his chips, was he strong or weak? Did the crack in her voice just tell me she raised with pocket Aces? Did the guy staring straight ahead when he made a quiet all-in bet mean he had made his flush? Usually. I called a bunch of hands just to see if I could figure out the code. If you show some bluffs, you might make someone start to steam or go on tilt! You can see the steam coming out of their ears, and they start to play badly.

Once you build your wealth and own houses, you'll have keys with you at the table in cash games, and you can bet the worth of those houses. But be careful, because other players have keys too, and when the short stack throws in his key, suddenly you'll be calling a much bigger bet than you expected. If at any point you don't have enough money to join a game, you can sell a house, or click on the "next day" button a ton of times and earn rent on your properties until you have enough to play. You can also win a series of 24 medals for various hands and situations, like "Busted A Player," "Won All-In Against Two Players," "Won 1st Place," etc. You can eventually own the town and are offered to play heads-up against the best player to win a horse. Once you win the horse you can mosey on to the next town and take more players to the cleaners all over again. You'll have thirteen towns and cities to conquer with your poker prowess, buying up all the houses and saloons as you go until you run all of Texas!

governorofpoker2.jpgAnalysis: Simple with few frills, Governor of Poker focuses on gameplay and creates a superb experience as a result. The AI is really pretty satisfying, even at just this first town. There are three skill levels to choose from, and a couple of the opponents are quite challenging. It's up to you to figure out who's the bluffer, who's betting true value, and who's betting their house on the nuts.

If you're new to Texas Hold 'Em, you won't find the instructions very helpful. But you can see a hand ranking chart on what beats what. There are lots of onscreen tips which you can turn on or off, and all the people in the town seem to want to give you poker advice every time you talk to them. You'll also get used to how the "blinds" (forced bets) go around the table and learn plenty of poker lingo as you play.

Governor of Poker has a nice feel for a computer poker game, a bit more like playing against people than other casual AI poker games I've played. The graphics and animation are very appealing, and the added goal of buying up property is a strong incentive for playing well. Too bad there isn't a multiplayer version!

Play Governor of Poker (free browser version)

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: 3.5/5 (46 votes)
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zxoLinkaball.jpgEver find yourself playing Boomshine (or one of the numerous spinoffs) and feeling a yearning for something more? Just a tad more control, perhaps. Ooh, and strategy! Everyone likes strategy!

Well, even if you think Boomshine is fine just as it is, you'll want to check out Linkaball from UK developer OMGames. Rather than attempt the futile task of beating Boomshine at its own game, Linkaball takes the gameplay in a new direction. Each level starts with a number of colored balls bouncing around the screen. Click the mouse to place a single white ball. If a regular colored ball strikes a white one, it starts a chain of that color; any white balls or balls of the same color that strike the chain are added to it. However, the chain – and your precious white ball – is destroyed if it is struck by balls of any other color. After a few seconds without any new collisions, the chain will break apart and all of the balls in it turn white. The level is complete when the required number of white balls are created.

"Now hold on!" you may be thinking, "That doesn't sound very controlled to me, and didn't you mention something about strategy?" Well, Linkaball does offer a number of ways to interact with the field of bouncing balls. Unfortunately, utilizing each one subtracts from your score, some more than others. The cheapest and least reliable method is to click on the field of play to generate a field that repels the white balls. The field doesn't do much when all of your white balls are tied up in chains though, so OMGames have provided a number of power-ups, usable once per level (for a more substantial price, of course). These powers are gradually given to you as you pass through the game's 20 levels.

So where's the strategy? The strategy is a lie. Well, sort of. The repelling field can sometimes be used to increase your score by maximizing the chain length, but you run a higher risk of collision with a different color. Apart from that, the powers are not at all cost-effective, and there's no penalty for restarting a level, so if you restart often enough, eventually you'll hit a configuration that maximizes your score without having to activate any powers. Realistically, though, few people possess the patience or the free time to wait for that perfect setup, so the power costs factor into some important decision-making about the trade-off between score and patience. Of course, if you're just trying to get through the game with nary a care regarding score, the powers can be very helpful, yet they still cost enough that you'll have to be prudent in their use.

The collision sound effects are quite soothing, though I recommend muting the music (unless you like 6-second loops). This provides a decidedly Boomshinelike feel to Linkaball, yet it is in fact markedly different, right down to the basic gameplay dynamics.

Play Linkaball

Or, Play Linkaball at Kongregate


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SonicLover

Skywire Tours article
ABOVE: A typical day at Skywire Tours. Despite safety concerns, they have been in business for over a year. (Photo courtesy of Nonoba.com)
The famous Skywire Tours, a popular tourist attraction designed by engineer Nye Trommey, was closed down indefinitely last week by order of the safety council.

Skywire Tours is a unique cross between a cable car ride and a roller coaster, which takes riders from place to place and allows them to see the sights in a new way. Anyone who hasn't ridden the Skywire knows someone who has, or knows someone who knows someone who has.

The safety of the ride was first called into question when marine biologist Oliver Aquanaut (age 21) and his wife, Emily (age 19) threatened to sue Skywire Tours after Emily was tossed out of the car during one eventful ride.

"I was sitting in the car, enjoying the sights," Mrs. Aquanaut told the media. "The next thing I knew, I was free-falling. Then I was in the water ... I never took swimming lessons. I would've been a goner if that fisherman hadn't pulled me out!"

Her husband added that although Skywire Tours is advertised as "a thrilling experience you'll never forget ... [that slogan] can be taken two ways. We're never getting on that thing ever again!"

The Aquanauts' misfortune is far from unique. An investigation revealed that over five hundred customers to date have been tossed from Skywire cars due to collisions. In fact, this is not the only safety hazard officials are concerned with: the cars often go underwater without proper water protection, forcing the passengers to hold their breaths. Also, the rails are often very brittle, and have a tendency to fall off during rides, often taking the car with them.

"We can't believe this one slipped by us," safety inspector Donald Dangull (age 33) explained. "Mr. Trommey has a lot of explaining to do."

Nye Trommey refused to comment other than to say that he "will personally look into" the safety issue.

RELATED ARTICLES:
National Recall on Hotairre Transportation Balloons - p. 2
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Mountain-Climbing: Professional Advice from Dr. Frostbite - p. 6

This fake news article was brought to you by SonicLover, pioneer of the narrative walkthrough.

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Link Dump Fridays

JohnBYour brain uses 20% of your body's energy, yet it is only 2% of your total weight. The power your brain generates while you're awake can illuminate a lightbulb. And if you're restless, lavender can have a calming affect on the brain, while jasmine can rouse it from slumber. Fortunately none of this week's Link Dump Friday games will tax your brain too much, scientific proof that Jay is Games gives your body energy (by, you know, not forcing your brain to gulp more than its fair share).

  • icon_aeternuslamnia.gifAeternus Lamnia Duo - An arcade game of fast reflexes, Aeternus Lamnia Duo pits you against fantasy-themed foes and forces you to switch between sword, shield and magic at a clipped pace in order to defend yourself. It's a lot like Elite Beat Agents, though without the musical tie-ins.
  • icon_telekineticeric.gifTelekinetic Eric - A puzzle platformer where you control Eric, a weird zombie dude with telekinetic powers. Use the mouse to move platforms and help Eric reach the goal, keeping in mind that you might have to move a platform beneath Eric while in mid-air!
  • icon_lasso.gifLasso - An action-based drawing game similar to Loop or Floats, Lasso adds power-ups and other gameplay elements to turn the familiar "draw loops around stuff on the screen" game mechanic into something a bit different.
  • icon_streetballjam.gifStreetball Jam - A two-on-two 3D (you heard me!) basketball game that's about as straightforward as they come. Use the [Z], [X], [C] buttons to pass shoot and jump and the [arrow] keys to move.
  • icon_squirrelsummer.gifSquirrel Family Summer - A simple skill-based arcade game from Mateusz Skutnik, Summer puts you in control of a hungry little fellow bouncing on three platforms eating food that falls from the sky.

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Rating: 4.7/5 (245 votes)
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totemdestroyer.jpgGrimmrookWe've all played that game. You know, the one with the wooden blocks stacked up like a tower that has the uncanny ability to turn the most reserved of adults into a group of six year olds on a sugar rush while you nervously load test each and every single block as you try and remove it without sending the whole tottering structure collapsing with a magnificent crash.

Yeah, that game.

Now, thanks to the efforts of Gabriel Ochsenhofer, the very same who brought you Armor Picross 2, you can savor the very best of the classic party game without all the annoying side effects. Side effects like spending half an hour just stacking the tower in the first place, or chasing down that last wayward piece after a particularly good crash, or, my least favorite, having to endure your brother in law jumping around the room screaming, "IN YO FACE!" for a minimum of twenty minutes.

Totem Destroyer is, to say the least, an ironic name for this little jewel of a puzzler, considering that the very last thing you want to do is destroy the totem. The goal of each level is to instead retrieve the tiny golden little idol unharmed. Doing so is easier said than done, however. Keeping you from your prize is the precariously stacked structure upon which its perched. Your goal is to selectively destroy the required number of blocks for each stage without letting the totem touch the ground.

You will find in your hunt for priceless totems black blocks which can't be destroyed, normal brown blocks which can be destroyed, and green blocks which are equally destructable, but throw some added challenge into the mix with their bounciness. Whips, Fedoras, and the ability to outrun giant boulders won't be needed on this expedition, just your wits and a little luck.

Analysis: There's very little to find wrong with this game. The physics upon which it is balanced (heh) are incredibly well done. I did eventually find it unusual that the longer blocks landed so easily standing up, but even this little hiccup is one that I didn't notice until after level twenty. Beyond that, the physics really make the game; providing a natural feeling reaction to your every move that is predictable enough to plot your moves yet provides just enough randomness to keep you second guessing. Also, the dead time between when you can destroy blocks at first feels like a game flaw until you realize that it forces you to slow down and find a logical way to reach your goal as opposed to just clicking like mad and hoping the totem lands on one of the indestructable black blocks.

One criticism is the fact that successfully completing a level is determined by destroying a requisite number of blocks. For many levels this works fine, but for many this puts you in a situation where the totem is safe and low and you are just gratuitously clicking blocks that are out of play. Further, once you've reached the goal, you aren't allowed to destroy any more blocks, which sometimes puts you in a situation where if you could just destroy one more your totem is safe, but instead you have to watch as it slides down to the deadly grass below while you remain helpless to do anything about it. An alternative possibility might be to have a line below which you could bring the totem so that you could "reach" it.

The other quibble I have with the game is that it's just too short. At 25 levels, you should be able to work your way through in a relatively brief amount of time, and while we are promised at the end that more is to come, by the time the game is over you're going to be wanting some more NOW! And indeed, this game screams for a level editor option where players can build their own devious towers for others to try and deconstruct safely.

But these are minor annoyances and won't take away from the game's inherent charm and seemingly infinite possibilities. Thanks to the underlying physics, there are numerous logical solutions to each puzzle, as well as a few that can be reached through some good old fashioned luck. And when you're done, you don't even have to hunt down all the blocks so you can put them away in your closet.

Play Totem Destroyer


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Rating: 4/5 (82 votes)
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JessFree FallingThis just in! Gotmail, creator of numerous esteemed escape games, has just released Free Falling for our escaping pleasure. I haven't yet played through the entire game, but so far it conforms to the usual high Gotmail standard: beautiful, lifelike graphics, ingenious puzzles, and....a pachinko machine? Interesting.

Unfortunately, at this point in time an English version is not available, so you may need to rely on your wits even more than usual. Still, I have no doubt that the crafty JIG community will have blazed through the game by the time I manage to figure out how to open the first locked drawer.

Play Free Falling


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Rating: 3.8/5 (104 votes)
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Weekday Escape

JessI hope you all enjoyed long weekends, and that the return to work/school/saving the world isn't too much of a drag. In case it is, however, here's a nice little diversion to break up your work week.

t2bescape.jpgWe overlooked T2B Escape when it first came out, but happily caught it this time around while searching for more quality escape-the-room games for this week's column. I'm so glad I did! T2B is good-looking, clever and impressively well-designed, easily a cut or two above most others of its kind.

The premise of the game isn't anything spectacularly new or creative; once more you find yourself locked in a mysterious room, guided only by your wits. It is, however, a pretty nice room; the graphics, while minimalist, are well-designed, and at times even border on photorealism. Even better, T2B has two or three puzzles that genuinely made me chuckle with delight upon solving them, which to me is a significant part of the pleasure in playing such games.

My main gripe with T2B is that it is rife with my personal pet peeve, pixel-hunting. A few times I was tempted to bang my head into a wall, not because the game was excessively difficult but because I couldn't find the exact square half-centimeter area to click. This, however, is really my only main complaint in what is otherwise a very good, straightforward escape game; T2B is most definitely worth your time.

Enjoy a brief respite from reality:

Play T2B Escape


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(16 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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ImokMercedes-Benz Mixed TapeYet again, Mercedes-Benz gives us another serving of what we all love best, aside or beside games. Free music. Good free music. And there's a lot of "nu" music on the newest Mixed Tape, available now.

Two groups in particular stood out to me on the album. My Awesome Mixtape, a rather appropriately named band from Italy, is reminiscent of The Postal Service, a band that holds a place near my heart. Nelson Poket, apparently singing in the genre of "Modern Folk", is remarkable. Even though I can't quite understand the language they're singing, it conveys a message that is uplifting and refreshing.

Take a peek at the new Mercedes Benz Music TV offering while you're there to hear even more new music and interviews.

Enjoy.

Missing an older mixed tape? Try this site.


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Rating: 4.5/5 (243 votes)
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FunnyManmutiny.gifLand lubbers best be cowerin' below decks, thar be a Mutiny going on! Some sea dog called Nitrome has riled up the crew with tales of booty and adventure, so grab yer peg leg and cutlass and prepare for a fight!

In Mutiny, you play as a pirate crew using an assortment of strange weapons to blow up or drown the other team. Each unit has a health meter, and if it hits 0 or a blast knocks them into the water below, that unit is dead. The last team standing is the winner.

Select a unit by clicking on them, then choose an action. Drag away from the unit, like stretching a rubber band, and use the aiming line to predict where your shot will go. You move characters in the same way, by throwing them from one place to another, and you get one free throw before that unit uses a weapon.

Single-player mode will put you against 15 maps full of pirates, squid, skeletons, and other creatures. In multiplayer, you can select any of the maps to duke it out with a friend on, but only at the same computer.

Analysis: Fans of the Worms games will find a lot of familiar things here. The basic setup is quite similar, even though the control has switched from keyboard to mouse. The observant will find a few nods to Worms as well, including a banana loaded with high explosive.

The controls work well, and the aiming line is a godsend. There are some annoying, unskippable pauses, like when a crate drops, but a little patience will see you through them.

The enemy AI is reasonable, but seems to fluctuate between flawless play and utter stupidity. One turn you will look on in envy as they bounce a banana clear across the stage to take out one of your units, and the next, they'll toss a cherry bomb right into the ocean. Despite that, the difficulty level seems about right. Early on, you'll have no trouble swabbing the deck with your opponents, but the last few levels may well have you plucking your parrot.

Most of what I would point to as Mutiny's "flaws" aren't flaws at all, just features I expect as a Worms fan. Destructible terrain was always fun, and I miss being able to move after flinging my weapon. Online multiplayer would have been a welcome addition as well.

In the end, Mutiny is the best Flash adaptation of Worms I've seen. It manages to capture many of the most endearing elements of the series in a small, portable package. What arr ye waitin' for? Sea dogs and land lubbers alike should get out there and

Play Mutiny

The game is also available to Play over at the MTV Arcade


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Rating: 3.4/5 (135 votes)
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Ms.45BlobinkOh noes! The Water Mafia has stole all our kullers! And kidnaped our grilfiend (that we dint even no we had)! What to do?

Never fear, dear BlobInk (er, you are BlobInk... work with me here), you have the power to restore colour and rescue the girlfriend you never knew you had and who doesn't appear in the game(!) Simply race around these levels, touching each item as you go, and the world will once again be saturated in beautiful R, G & B. Don't fall into the water! You're an ink blob!

Don't rush it at first—you're a fast, smooth machine - er, blob—and if you're in too much of a hurry you'll go hurtling straight into the water, losing experience points. Once you've run through all fifteen levels, you'll be given a thousand bonus points and a chance to explore the more RPG aspects of the game: buy powers, gain levels and read the hilarious game text for those levels. (My favourite - "Level 4: Waiter. More than just a servant, you deliver. You deliver hard. With your trusty, trademark plate by your side, you realise you need no other companion in life. You also smell really good.")

Analysis: BlobInk has the potential to be a really interesting combination of role-playing and physics game. I say potential because at the moment, it's a kind of fun physics game, and the desire to beat the clock to gain rewards makes it eminently replayable (I've been bashing away at it all day in the hope of reading the Ancient Book of Blobland). However, there's only 15 levels, which are not amazingly hard to beat, and the RPG element consists of... reading the hilarious game text describing your level. It seems that BlobInk is an early version of a more developed game (Coming Soon: BlobInk Multiplayer!), which I'm really looking forward to because I think this is a great idea.

I have a couple of minor technical quibbles: there's no save point (although you'll find it's a very easy game to simply beat, as opposed to gaining bonus time points, you may have some good reason that you can't play for a half-hour sitting) and there doesn't seem to be any way of turning off that insanely jaunty music. Another thing is that when you beat a level, a big black blob obscures the game screen so you can't sit back and admire your handiwork.

Aside from that, BlobInk is at the least a fairly enjoyable physics game which has the potential to be a really unique adventure game. Give it a shot and be sure to leave any brilliant RPG-related ideas in the comments.

Play Blobink

Be sure to play the other Acrid Rose games reviewed here at JIG.


  • Currently 3.4/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (65 votes)
| Comments (121) | Views (245)

JessDangerous High School Girls in TroubleBack in March, we featured the demo of a sly, funny, and remarkably creative gem of a game called Dangerous High School Girls In Trouble, recipient of the 2007 "Most Innovative" award from the Casual Games Association. I was so taken by the 30-minute or so demo that I a) played through it twice, b) broke down and played it a third time and c) finally emailed Keith Nemitz, lead designer of Mousechief, to ask him to let me know when the full game would be released. He kindly alerted me several weeks later when the Macintosh version was ready, and I eagerly downloaded the game in its entirety. I was not disappointed.

Best of Casual Gameplay 2008Describing the game is not easy. The Mousechief website describes it as a "small-town epic of quick little games," which is a fair partial summation, but doesn't quite do justice to DHSGiT's genre-bending uniqueness. I suppose that I'd mainly describe it as a puzzle/RPG hybrid, with board game elements and uniquely created mini-games that function as story elements as well. Which, really, defies categorization. All the disparate elements synthesize remarkably well, however, and the gameplay quickly becomes intuitive.

The premise of the game is that you are the leader of a 1920's era gang of teenage girls, skirt-hiking, rule-bending, flappers-in-training. The girls live in Brigiton, a straitlaced, xenophobic little town just chock full of dirty secrets; the squeaky-clean exterior of the place just serves to accentuate the depravity that will ultimately be revealed. In the midst of adults too timid or narrow-minded to seek truth and justice, your girls must defy the established order, root out corruption, and ultimately save the town from terrible villainy!

Dangerous High School Girls in TroubleThe player begins by choosing the "playing card" of one of twelve girls who will become the Queen of your gang. Each girl has different strengths and weaknesses, which are represented by four talents: Popularity, Rebellion, Glamor and Savvy. The talents, in turn, are represented by the four suits of a deck of cards. Each talent is especially useful in playing one of four mini-games: Taunting, Expose, Fibbing and Gambit. As these four games will determine the outcomes of most of the encounters throughout the game, creating a balanced group of girls is crucial.

Once the Queen is chosen, you will proceed onto the first board, the High School (here's where the board game element comes in; different environments are represented by different boards, and the location of encounters are shown with monopoly-esque pieces). The first order of business is recruiting the rest of your gang, and in the process of doing so the game introduces the first three mini-games. From there, the story is off and running.

Analysis: The game is really wonderful stylistically, featuring an impressive number of hand-drawn looking illustrations and environments. I also can't do justice to DHSGiT's fantastic sense of humor; the game is often genuinely hilarious. You'll probably find yourself laughing out loud at the game's cast of eccentric, colorful characters.

Despite the praise I've just heaped upon it, Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble does have its issues. Most prominently, it seemed to me that about 60% of the story was compressed into the last 20% of the game; the revelations come fast and furious, and at times can become mind-boggling. A map system would also have been extremely useful; sometimes it becomes tedious to scroll around the boards looking for encounters. Finally, I found that the tone of the game shifted rather abruptly from sly goofiness to considerably darker. A word of warning, folks: despite the game's mainly lighthearted nature, there is enough mature content to render it unsuitable for younger children.

Still, I highly, highly recommend this game. DHSGiT provides that most unusual and valuable feature, uniqueness; I can pretty much guarantee that you won't have played anything like it. It is extraordinarily entertaining, and long enough (about 20 hours of gameplay, give or take) to contain a really meaty storyline. In many ways DHSGiT exemplifies much of what I love about casual gameplay and independent designers: unrestrained creativity, out-of-the-box conceptual thinking and the quirkiness that comes from freedom of expression. I very much hope that you at the least download the demo.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the demo


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (36 votes)
| Comments (25) | Views (152)

Tradewinds Caravans

FunnyManAhh, the silk road. Incredibly hot, bug-infested, and filled with sand that gets into everything. When the tedium of taking your caravan from one place to another is just starting to bug you, bandits attack! Your own guards fend them off, but not without substantial losses, and then it's right back to trudging your way through the sand. This is the life.

tradewindscaravans2.jpgOkay, so joining a caravan on the silk road might not be this year's vacation craze, but it does make a good setting for a game. In Sandlot's newest addition to the Tradewinds series, Tradewinds Caravans, you get to experience the excitement and derring-do of a merchant's life, without the boredom and general unpleasantness that would tend to come with the real thing. In this loose, fantastical simulation of a merchant's life circa 100 BC, you will explore the silk road, fight your way through swarms of bandits, and uncover the unique story of the character you choose.

Pick one of four starting characters to get your merchant career started. This isn't just a cosmetic choice; each character has their own back story, mission, and ability in combat. tradewindscaravans3.jpgWhichever character you pick, you will be plopped down in some city along the silk road with only your back to carry goods and just two weak guards. In order to open up the other cities, you'll have to work your way through the story, but once you've opened things up, you're free to wander around as much as you like. Indeed, once you complete story mode, you'll unlock open road mode (along with two extra characters!), where you'll be able to wander the entire length of the silk road from the start, with no restrictions.

There are four main screens in Tradewinds Caravans. On the world map, you select which city you want to visit next. Naturally, you can only travel along existing pathways of the silk road. When you select an adjacent city, you drop down onto the exploration screen where you lead your caravan across the intervening space keeping an eye out for bandits and the occasional treasure left behind by a less fortunate merchant.

tradewindscaravans4.jpgIf you are so unlucky as to run into bandits—and you will, regularly—your guards get a chance to fight them off. Combat is fairly simple. You can assign a target to your units, use your character's special ability, or use any combat items you have purchased. You can also pause and resume the battle at any time, but for the most part, your units will stand or fall on their own merits.

The final important screen is the city screen, which can have anywhere from one to seven specialized buildings to help you in your adventures. The healer repairs your units, while the guild lets you buy more. The market gives you a place to buy and sell your goods, and the stables lets you buy pack animals to hold those goods. The moneylender lets you manage your bank account or take out a loan. The temple lets you buy trading tips or special items, while spending gold at the local seat of government can persuade tax collectors to look the other way.

Analysis: This game is fun. The story is compelling, a pleasant surprise from a game I expected to focus on the trading itself. Both of the characters I played had distinct personalities that evolved as the story progressed. I could have wished for the side quests to change more between characters, but that's a minor quibble with an otherwise impressive story.

On the other hand, I must confess that the game failed my initial expectation—trading—almost completely. The combat aspects of this game—and they're quite good, mind you—dominate completely over the trading. This impact would be less if bandits continued to drop the same small cargoes throughout the game, but their cargoes are magically linked to your own shipping capacity. As such, the dominate strategy I was herded into was of acting like a policeman, not a trader, which is disappointing in a game called Tradewinds Caravans.

The game keeps track of your caravan as it was when you left the last city, and you can continue from there if you fall in combat. While on one hand this helps the true trader survive with less escort than might otherwise be wise, it also emboldens the merchant-cop. Some of the tensest moments I had in the game came before I discovered this ability, when I thought fleeing for my soldiers' lives was my only option. You may want to set your own challenge and pretend this feature didn't exist, so that you too are forced to flee.

And flee you will; the enemies also scale up in ability as you progress. While this makes sense from a balance perspective, the effect on the player is to make any progress you might make seem as effective as sweeping back the tide. Indeed, in the endgame, it seemed that any force I put together was crushed by the overwhelming might of the enemy, and the only viable strategy left was to burn through combat items like tissue paper. The expense paled in comparison to the bandit cargo that was seized this way, making it almost seem like I had become the bandit raiding merchant caravans, and not the other way around.

If anyone's picked up on my style yet, you've probably guessed that I'm about to twist this one final time, and you're right. As I said earlier, Tradewinds Caravans is fun, and for that reason, I am willing—happy, even—to overlook its flaws. It wasn't quite the game I had expected, but what it was, was good. Despite a few issues, the combat was solid and the lessened control actually feels more realistic than either the fine-grained control of an RTS or the utter lack of control in a simpler game. The story wouldn't hold up to a novel's standards, but compared to what one often sees in games (even—and perhaps especially—mainstream ones), it is excellent. Even the trading mechanic that I glimpsed through crossed swords seemed solid, if it could only be uncovered.

All-in-all, Tradewinds Caravans is a solid game that you won't likely regret buying. And from my stingy, often regretful fingers, that's no small compliment.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


| Comments (14) | Views (8)

Weekend Download

JohnBA few short, experimental-type games this week, including one from prolific Game Maker designer cactus, a two color game where you are a wild boar, and a game where you control a dark sun to capture golden butterfly/angel-type things. And just to make sure you don't go mad with weirdness, there's a nice relaxing mahjong game to tame the inner beasts.

tropicojong.jpgTropico Jong: Butterfly Expedition (Windows/Mac, 10MB, demo) - A nice looking mahjong game where you take on the role of a hobbyist out to discover butterflies on Tropico Island. The basic mechanics follow the usual mahjong setup where you pick up matching tiles that aren't trapped by other pieces on the board. But because you're searching for butterfly tiles, the mahjong element becomes a means to an end. Over 100 levels to play, 400 butterflies to find, and great user-friendly features that make finding matches as easy or difficult as you like.

blockon.gifBlockOn! (Windows, 1.6MB, free) - An experimental platformer by cactus that involves both building and run-and-jump-type gameplay. Use the mouse to place blocks that form a path to collect all the red objects on the screen. Then, hit the [spacebar] to activate your character and run through the level you just created to make it to the exit. Spikes and enemies appear on the ground you creat to make things a bit more interesting.

innovation2007.gifINNO-vation 2007 (Windows, 1.1MB, free) - A two color Japanese-made platformer where you control a wild boar that's constantly on the move. Jump across blocks and grab power-ups, avoiding spike traps in the process. A very simple game with a charming Engrish translation, but it still manages to be a fun play.

phyta.jpgPhyta (Windows/Linux, 4.5MB free) - Your cursor is a dark sun, and the giant vine at the bottom of the screen always grows towards it. Ensnare the golden angels by growing the vine around them to progress through the game. A very mellow and atmospheric game with as much or as little artistic meaning as you want it to have.


(18 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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The Clumsys

JohnBThe Clumsys is a hidden object game that departs from the traditional formula just enough to feel like a new experience. It's Tim's tenth birthday and his friends are over to celebrate. Grandpa Albert is working on a time machine in the barn, but when he turns his back the children discover it and go hurdling through time. Each of the 20 kids has been deposited in a different era, and it's your job to find them, fix all the problems they've caused, and bring them back!

theclumsys.jpgBecause children love to make a mess, your main task will be to find and eliminate all inappropriate objects in each area you visit. You'll start with hidden object scenes and move on to find and replace games and more, all centered around the item hunting mechanic. Instead of finding lists of objects, however, The Clumsys gives you a much more nebulous task: find the items that don't fit. It's a bit disorienting at first, but most objects are obvious stand-outs (such as a basketball in Napoleon's tent) and you won't have much trouble spotting them.

Once you gather items in a location you'll move on to find and replace. This section gives you a list of hidden items you'll need to find, and once found you'll use a small silhouette thumbnail clue to put it back in the correct place. Afterwards you'll enter the fix mode where you must locate and use several items to undo some sort of damage the child has done in the scene, such as putting the wheels back on the Trojan horse or fixing the Hindenburg's engine.

Finally, after all traces of the child's shenanigans have been erased, it's time to look for the little troublemaker. Using one of the professor's gadgets that you assemble as you play, look around the screen for signs of the child, and solve a quick puzzle (usually involving finding a few items amidst the clutter) to bring them back home.

All of this item finding takes place from a central location where you can choose which area to visit. You complete each mode as you see fit, so if you aren't in the mood to do find and replace, you can always do seek and find in another area.

theclumsys2.jpgAnalysis: Probably the best feature about The Clumsys is it's long and very satisfying length. There are 20 children to find, each in his or her own time period and location, and each requiring several stages of puzzle solving/item finding before they can be found. This adds up many, many hours of gameplay, and you won't likely get bored during that time.

One hiccup the game experiences is in the hidden object scenes where your only direction is to find the items that don't fit. A few stages are extraordinarily difficult (the 50s television studio comes to mind), and some hold items that, according to the game, don't fit, yet there's no logical reason why. Fortunately the unlimited hint system (which constantly recharges, allowing four levels of hint precision) alleviates this difficulty.

Familiar but with enough variety to draw you in. The Clumsys, with its quirky sense of humor and scattered bits of historical info, is an excellent example of keeping a casual genre fresh without destroying its roots.

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 (82 votes)
| Comments (45) | Views (5)

MDenNeon LayersNeon has a certain glitz to it. Whether it's glittering in the lights of Las Vegas, shining in the sign of a convenience store, or just brightening up the periodic table, neon always adds a little extra to everything it touches. It was only a matter of time, then, before someone mixed the brilliance of neon with the brilliance of puzzles.

Ozzie Mercado (SoapAintNice), creator of blueprint brainpuzzler Open Doors, strikes again with a tri-colored conundrum of an action puzzler, created for Armor Games.

In Neon Layers, you must guide a ball from its starting platform to the glowing exit by cueing and cutting power to three sets of "neon layers." The red set is activated by the 1 key, the green by 2, and the blue by 3. Only one set of layers can be turned on at any given time, however, and it's up to your ingenuity and timing to manipulate momentum and bounce the ball to the goal.

To complicate your quest further, gravity switches are scattered about the levels. These switches reverse gravity when the ball passes over them—but only when power to their color set is on. As the levels go on, new obstacles will try their best to foil you, and only the most skilled will complete all 25 levels.

Analysis: If there's one word that describes Neon Layers (beyond "neon" or "layers"), it's solid. The physics are well-programmed, the levels are well-planned, and the music is well... good. The puzzles are difficult at times, but not impossibly so, and there's enough variety to keep you going through all the levels.

The only major quibble is the keyboard control system; while mouse control is available, the rapid pace of some puzzles makes it infeasible. It takes a bit of time to cement the button assignments in your head, but once you do, you won't look back.

Play Neon Layers


| Comments (34) | Views (19)

Link Dump Fridays

JohnBHere on the slab of land just south of Canada and north of Mexico (including bits of land in the Pacific ocean and a whole hunk of terra firma way in the north), July 4 is Independence Day. You know what that means, right? Fireworks, parades, barbecues, picnics, and this year, Link Dump Friday!

  • icon_bigadventure.gifBig Adventure in the Miraculous Forest - Guide an acorn through the forest by placing a series of objects on the screen. It's mostly trial-and-error, but many of the placements make logical sense. A bit like Grow, too. Click the top green screenshot to play the game.
  • icon_buttonhunt3.gifButtonHunt 3 - A simple yet engaging puzzle game from a creative 14-year-old. Find the button, click the button, repeat thirty times. Expect big things in the future as this artist comes into his own.
  • icon_gluefo.gifGlueFO - An arcade game that borrows a lot of retro ideas and puts them in more modern context. Your UFO is "sticky" and will hold onto small orbs. Grab a few, then click the mouse button to fire them at larger orbs in order to cut them down to size. You can even buy a few cool weapons in-between levels.
  • icon_aliensmustdie.gifAliens Must Die: The Jupiter Wars - A great-looking top-down shooter where you dispatch enemies pouring in from all sides of the screen. Grab the power-ups left behind to gain health, a shield, extra points, or upgrade your weapons.
  • icon_indestructotankae.gifIndestructoTank! Anniversary Edition - Indestructo Tank is back with better gameplay, revamped visuals, collectible medals, more gameplay modes, and a brand new two player feature. As the heavily armored tank your only task is to get hit by weapons fire (that's right) to launch yourself in the air to take out enemies. It's that simple, but also that challenging, as the enemies get more varied as the game goes by.

  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (246 votes)
| Comments (226) | Views (338)

JayShift 3If you've played the original Shift, or the even better update to that, Shift 2, then you probably will be thrilled to know that Tony (Antony Lavalle) has just released a third game in this fantastic series that takes the concept of negative space and turns it upside-down.

Shift 3 extends the familiar jump and run, puzzle-platformer formula by adding a few surprises to the mix. Inside you will find an auto-saving Adventure mode, new items to find and collect (including a PDA for maps and notes!), all-new puzzle elements, as well as an assortment of achievments to earn that round out this fine update. Oh, and a secret celebrity character to play as, too. If you ask me, it sounds like we're in store for more shenanigans from Tony in this game as well.

And when finished with Adventure mode, also included are 3 player packs of levels created by various players around the Web, all hand selected by the author. And, of course, the critically acclaimed "Shift-Ed" level editor is back and updated to Version 2.0.

This is one anticipated game update you won't want to miss.

Play Shift 3

Cheers to Sam, Blackyoshi7, Nicop, and Xtech for sending this one in! =)


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (156 votes)
| Comments (84) | Views (257)

Weekday Escape

JessWelcome to the second edition of Weekday Escape! This week we highlight a great brand new escape game from GUMP, another veteran developer of the genre. Boat House is the fourth installment of a series that began with Terminal House, followed by Rental House and Guest House. Boat HouseIf you've already played through the first three games you'll be familiar with the oddly blue protagonist, his pink lady love and the futuristic, whisper-quiet environments that Gump is so fond of. Boat House is no different; the player must navigate a chamber filled with initially-puzzling gadgetry, codes and machines in an effort to escape, this time all the way home from some distant location in space.

Boat House is extremely well done. The game treads the line nicely between difficulty and hair-pulling madness, offering some truly clever puzzles without resorting to total incomprehension. The graphics are spare but well-drawn, and the story is communicated surprisingly well without the use of an actual narrative. Pixel-hunting is at a minimum, which I'm grateful for, and the cutscenes are simple but well-utilized. All in all, a thoughtful, sophisticated, entertaining game.

They've been through a journey. Now, help our heroes to finally get back home:

Play Boat House

Cheers to Martha, Mitch and Linda for suggesting this one! =)


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (119 votes)
| Comments (169) | Views (388)

Ruins of Pantheon

JessOh, happy day! Ruins of Pantheon, the fifth and latest chapter of the Jinja Series, Aztec's ongoing, epic point-and-click saga, has just been released. Hmm....how to describe. Take one part Indiana Jones, mixing in a few heaping spoonfuls of mysterious alien technology. Add a nice dash of interstellar warfare, a sprinkling of impending doom, and plunk it all down into a tranquil, traditionally Japanese setting. Voila!

Ruins of PantheonRuins of Pantheon finds the nameless protagonist once more defending the Earth against the Octlien, a race of vaguely lizard-like aliens that seem to have it out for our home planet. After having their plans foiled in the previous games, the aliens have marshaled their forces and are on their way to attack; only you have the knowledge and resources to stop them. This may sound more like the premise for a first-person shooter, but fear not, point-and-click fans; the key stopping the Octlien lies in exploring and gradually unraveling the mysteries of ancient ruins, ultimately unlocking a super-weapon that just may be enough to stop those pesky invaders.

I highly suggest that those new to the Jinja Series first play the previous four chapters, so as to get the full narrative experience; like in other well-made game series, a good bit of the fun (to me) is the story. Even if you insist, however, on jumping right into Ruins of Pantheon, a very enjoyable game awaits. The graphics, while nice enough, aren't anything spectacular; the only soundtrack are the occasional noises that accompany in-game events. What really makes the game fun is the satisfying logic of how the puzzles are solved; the difficulty is high enough to take some thought, but moderate enough to allow relatively rapid progress. The game involves a lot of running around, gathering a clue from room A to solve a puzzle in room B, and the item then collected in B naturally makes you think of an item in room C, and so on. I enjoy this sort of gameplay, and Ruins of Pantheon makes it very rewarding.

All in all, Ruins of Pantheon is simply a lot of fun. Despite the storyline, not much makes sense (who set this elaborate puzzle system up?), and some of the puzzles require more persistence than ingenuity on the players' end, but who cares? You get to wander around mysterious underground caverns, deciphering ancient stone tablets and waking up long-dormant alien technology. The game is blissfully free of pixel-hunting, and despite the "impending doom" scenario feels surprisingly relaxed. It's well-made and very entertaining, and I for one can't wait for the next chapter.

If you'd like to play the games in order, you can find the previous chapters here:

  1. The Shrine
  2. Escape from Island
  3. Escape from Octlien
  4. Dr. Dokkoy

Time to once more save the world:

Play Ruins of Pantheon

Cheers to Renegade and Juv3nal for sending this one in! =)

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