November 2009 Archives


  • Currently 4.1/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.1/5 (103 votes)
| Comments (43) | Views (262)

Grinnypmandrake1_skeleton2.jpgWhat does many years of marital bliss and working together get you? If you're Helga and Helmut Van der Doom, it gets you the achievement of a lifetime—the creation of a singing mandrake—a magical and biological breakthrough of epic proportions. It gets you fame and glory. It also, apparently, gets you sudden marital strife topped with breakage and defenestration. Welcome to Mandrake 1, a little point-and-click adventure set in a magical and mystical world that never was. Created by 3dpi Games, makers of the Tortuga series, Mandrake 1 begins a new series on the foibles of the Van der Dooms and their increasingly bitter dispute.

After a quick little intro cut-scene you wake up in a room, dizzy and disoriented. Point and click your way through the space, to discover what is going on and even who you are. Navigation around the rooms is accomplished with a strange, spinning 360 degree rotational system triggered by bringing the mouse pointer to the left or right of the screen. The cursor changes into a hand when it passes over things that can be manipulated, examined, or places that you can go.

The artwork has a nice, stylish hand drawn look done up in shades of black, white, and gray with just a hint of color here and there to liven things up. There's lots of things to find and lots of use of found objects, with some cute tricky little puzzles thrown in as well. Eerie music and sound effects round out this fun casual gameplay experience, which can be shut off with the help of a handy little button in the upper right of the game screen.

Mind you, there are a few drawbacks. One of the major puzzles is a color puzzle, which makes the game difficult for those with color blindness. The story is a little confusing as well. Perhaps later installments will shed more light on what is going on and what the ultimate goal is. Some of the use and combining of found objects is not necessarily the most intuitive. The odd 360 degree navigation is fast and a little nausea inducing at first as well.

Still, point-and-click adventurers should still find this quite a fun little game with a quirky sense of humor. How often do you end up drinking buddies with an animated skeleton, after all? What we have here is a promising beginning to a new series. Spooky, atmospheric, humorous, challenging, and fun, Mandrake 1 is a great start. Here's looking forward to more magic!

Play Mandrake 1


  • Currently 3.9/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 3.9/5 (81 votes)
| Comments (11) | Views (12)

sideeffect.jpgAdamBImagine a game that is part Tetris, part Solitaire, and part Minesweeper. It combines arcade-style graphics and gameplay with forethought and straight-out Tangram-style puzzling madness. Next, imagine a world where any of that makes any amount of sense and you've got a rough idea of how the brilliant Side Effect works.

Developed by The Game Telegraph, this game about putting coloured squares onto a grid is at first hilariously simple, then deviously contrived as you become a victim of your own "that block will be OK to sit there" mentality. The idea is straightforward enough: A glowing box sits in the center of the play area and glowing barriers line the field. You score points by strategically placing blocks on the grid and ensuring they form a continuous same-coloured line to the edge of the barrier.

But making a line touch the side doesn't come without a price, hence the title of the game. Completing a line causes the colours of the walls to change, altering the usefulness of partial lines you've constructed. Sometimes you'll have to build a line from scratch, making the screen cluttered with abandoned structures after only a little time. Placed pieces become more and more important as you progress in the game, and later you'll get frugal and strategic with dropping those blocks.

Should this method of play become too cathartic, the more relaxed mode of play offers a grid with colours already populating the playing field. By carefully placing your given five pieces, you must cause a cascade which connects every colour simultaneously to their outside eges. Though utterly frustrating in its levels of crafty difficulty, the soothing music plays on, urging yet another replay.

sideeffect2.jpgAnalysis: Side Effect is a simple game, though its depth becomes apparent fairly quickly. The design of the levels and how complicated the game becomes is up to you and how randomly you decide to place pieces or how carelessly you place a piece that has just one bit of another colour. The puzzle mode is mind-bendingly difficult but ultimately satisfying, especially those levels with only enough room to comfortably house each piece.

The only drawback is the randomness of the border pieces. A planned path can come to naught if you manage to create a different one elsewhere, should the connecting edge suddenly turn into a different colour. Also, while we see pieces magically appear on the board in later levels (along with the immovable concrete blocks), there are no pieces or special moves available to clear a part of the field in order to provide more playing space. This is frustrating as the board becomes more cluttered by natural piece positioning, though, fortunately, the game does provide a custom play, where the game can become much simpler, if one should desire.

Ultimately, the game is cute, charming, very neatly presented and the simplicity with which the games graphics and layout are handled gives Side Effect an immediate draw of appeal. The hook comes when the underlying mechanics unfold and the rules, boundaries and tricks you will need in future games are slowly revealed to you. It's gorgeous to look at, easy to pick up and frustratingly difficult to put down. Just as a puzzle game should be.

Play Side Effect


| Comments (6) | Views (31)

Mobile Monday

JohnBI promised myself I wouldn't make this introduction all about the hyper-addictive sequel to the hyper-addictive loot gathering game I Dig It. But I did anyway. To be honest, when I made that promise, I secretly knew I was joking with myself.

idigit2.jpgI Dig It Expeditions - I raved about I Dig It when it was first released, and now I'm fully prepared to rave about the sequel! The loot-based digging game is back and completely captivating all over again. Instead of digging in the farm's backyard, now you're traveling around the world to discover tons of new treasure and complete a variety of new challenges. Dig your way below the surface in search of valuables, then haul them back to the light and sell them for cash. Use the money to upgrade your machine with a faster drill, larger fuel tank or cargo hold, better radar, etc., allowing you to dig deeper and discover even more valuable loot. The interface has been revamped based on player feedback, allowing better access to information (such as the new inventory and map screens), and a number of small improvements have been made for better playability. You'll also have to contend with hazards such as pockets of methane gas, although you can often use them to your great advantage. Expect around ten hours of gameplay, including new missions, challenges and an irresistible freeplay mode. Don't let your digging addiction suffer, I Dig It Expeditions is here to help.

auditorium-iphone.jpgAuditorium - An interactive aural experience, Auditorium is an iPhone port of the browser game released earlier this year (the preview build, released in 2008, was chosen as our Best Browser-Based Puzzle Game of the year). Your goal is to create a convergence of light, color and music by guiding waves of sound to "fill" bars located around the screen. You do so by manipulating orbs that can attract or repel the flow to various degrees. The touch controls are a perfect fit for a game like this, and don't forget to plug in headphones for an even better experience. The free Auditorium Lite is also available.

crossfingers.jpgCross Fingers - From Mobigame, makers of EDGE, comes a simple and stylish puzzle game of the tangram variety. Your goal is to complete the shape shown somewhere on the screen. To do that, however, you'll need to slide geometric shapes around, contending with solid walls, immovable obstacles, and other puzzle pieces as you slowly work towards your goal. It's a bit like a cross between a sliding puzzle and a tangram, and it plays like a dream.

NOTE: Games listed may not be available outside of North America. Prices are subject to change and are therefore unlisted. Please see the individual game pages for purchasing info.


  • Currently 4.4/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.4/5 (32 votes)
| Comments (9) | Views (65)

Weekend Download

JohnBAre you an adventurer who just can't seem to adventure? Are you a villager whose name is Villager? If so, you'll find the perfect home in Wildhollow, a well-crafted RPG/adventure/simulation game from KarjaSoft, creator of Spandex Force. In this light-hearted, humor-filled game, you play the role of a young boy/girl returning home to find your parents missing and your family ranch destroyed. Don't frown, though, as this game takes itself about as seriously as a clown working at a pie factory.

wildhollow.jpgGameplay takes place in three main areas: clicking around the overworld map, spending time caring for your animals at the ranch, and adventuring in towns, which is equal parts talking to villagers and poking your nose in every corner. Everything takes place on still screens and is handled with the mouse, so if you see sparkles under the cursor, click it and see what happens. Bet it's something cool!

Most of your time will be consumed by completing quests townsfolk send you on. Barber lost his glasses? You can find them. Villager want some berries? I'm sure you can rustle up a few. Missions aren't always a simple A to B to C progression, of course. Often you'll accept a quest but will have no idea where to go or what to do. In these situations, as with any role playing game, talking to people will open up a clue or two.

Apart from all this conversation reading, role playing and adventuring, Wildhollow is also a simulation/farming-type game. Your ranch is accessible from the overworld map as well as a shortcut icon on the menu bar. You can stock the ranch with animals from early in the game, and as you progress you unlock more and more beasts to purchase. Caring for them is a simple matter of keeping their health and mood high, each accomplished with food and brushing respectively. Animals have different food preferences, which is a great incentive for you to head out to go fishing, berry hunting, apple picking, etc. Before long you get to breed animals, which often produces preposterous creatures you'll have the pleasure of nurturing. But hey, that's why we play these kinds of games, innit?

Speaking of gathering stuff, Wildhollow uses an assortment of simple reflex/arcade mini-games to provide challenge when you're working for a reward. Grabbing apples, for example, requires you to charge at a tree and quickly click the fruit as it flies off the screen. Berry hunting is as much luck as it is fast mouse action, and fishing is all about stopping a sliding bar at just the right time. Nothing too complex, mind you, but the contrast between the sim/RPG core of the game and these old-style mini-games is greatly appreciated.

wildhollow2.jpgAnalysis: Wildhollow is fully aware it's a fantasy-themed RPG/sim, and as such it takes itself about as seriously as games like Ben There, Dan That! and Fairy Godmother Tycoon. Humor is drenched over every conversation, every situation, and every character you run across, from the grumpy town greeter to the blind barber. Referencing modern events and situations is common, as is chipping away at the fourth wall, so prepare yourself for an uncommonly different kind of experience.

Wildhollow is full of little surprises, which is one of the many charming aspects of the game. Statues are scattered throughout the land, sometimes appearing in odd spots during your adventure. What's their purpose? Better nab them all to find out. You can also click seemingly innocent parts of the scenery such as bushes, trees, and barrels, often getting a small cash reward for your curiosity. I love it when a game rewards me for exploring.

Wildhollow does feel somewhat artificially lengthened by forcing you to do a little mini-game grinding to earn cash, but it wasn't anything so bad that I wanted to quit playing. Any "work" is greatly overshadowed by the charming atmosphere and never-too-serious gameplay. You're always aware you're in a somewhat absurd set of circumstances, so those drab moments that set in with some "serious" casual games never find a foothold in Wildhollow.

Before I say HOORAY FOR WILDHOLLOW and send you on your way, I think it's worth mentioning the music and visuals. Most of the character artwork is clean and anime in style, but they're set in front of watercolor backgrounds that could have been lifted from a portrait on your wall. Excellent touch, KarjaSoft! The music, while sometimes stiff and stock in nature, has this lilting sort of charm that almost makes you want to bob your head along with it. If you're the kind of person that would bob your head while riding in an elevator.

It's got captivating gameplay that makes you want to keep pressing on, a great sense of humor with crisp writing, and a visual package that's worth its weight in paint. Wildhollow has all the ingredients of an addictive casual game, and this is one game you'll want to devour over and over again.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.6/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.6/5 (93 votes)
| Comments (749) | Views (2,827)

westwardiv_banner.jpg

GrinnypHowdy pardners! It's time to head to the old west again for a heapin' amount of fun and time management. Yes, Westward 4: All Aboard by Sandlot Games is here just in time for holiday season activities! This sequel to Westward 3 continues the same style and premise of the previous two games: a casual simulation/time management set in the fictional Wild West. This time around the game captures the story of the railroads, the iron horse that tamed the west. Play as Anne or Henry Turner, a pair of siblings with a few problems on their hands, not the least of which is a disappearing father.

westward4a.jpgAs the game begins you choose which sibling to play, the rough-and-ready Anne or gearhead Henry. The first few scenarios are a basic tutorial which walk you through the control structure and set up the story. Pretty soon you will arrive at Turner Railroad, the place where your main city will be built. Their father, the man who built the railroad, has been gone for six months and the place is a disaster, as is the old homestead. Whichever sibling you are playing must first work to build a solid base from which to accomplish all of the other missions. Although there are a lot of quests contained in the Turner Railroad location, you will also visit many other places as you push to extend the railroad, encountering a myriad of obstacles and attempting to find out what happened to dear old dad.

The controls of Westward IV: All Aboard are basically all in the click of a mouse. Move characters around, set tasks, buy upgrades, and basically perform all tasks necessary with the cursor. Movement through the scenes is accomplished by scrolling as your cursor moves to the edge of the screen. Left click and drag a character to where you want them to go, or left click the person then right click the destination, it's all very simple and easily explained in the tutorials for those who have never played the game before. The views can change from a long, top-down bird's eye view to a lower-angled close up with the use of the mouse's scrolling wheel.

Although a great many scenarios take place in the Turner Railroad location, there are a multitude of other areas to explore, shown on a map as you move your railroad onwards. Each location has its own unique scenario and obstacles to overcome, whether it be bandits, kidnappers, poor terrain, or a mayor with very sensitive ears. Each new location increases your skill level and unlocks new buildings, upgrades, and other fun things. Take time to really explore each area, as there are also fun side quests involving hidden objects, buried dinosaur bones, and lots of other surprises. Just watch out for wolves. And bears.

And of course, as this is a casual sim, you must pay attention to resources at every turn. Gold is needed to buy supplies and blueprints for buildings, coal is necessary to keep the trains running, timber is needed to keep building, and of course there's food and water for your townsfolk. You also need to keep an eye on labor as well, as folks who don't have jobs will become upset and leave for greener pastures, damaging the happiness rating of your growing town.

westward4b.jpgAnalysis: Westward IV: All Aboard is a solid addition to the ever-increasing Westward pantheon. There's not a lot of change from Westward III, but why mess with a winning formula? If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Of course, Westward IV offers new characters, new scenarios, new upgrades, and the same casual gameplay fun of its predecessors.

The graphics haven't changed much, but are still in the beautiful 3D style of Westward II and III. The mouse-controlled swooping camera angle is nice whether panning to see more of the terrain or coming in for a close up to watch the antics of your working townsfolk. Movie Western-style music and sound effects add a nice touch to the old west feeling.

It can really take a while for the game to get going in the beginning, especially as there is only one playing speed. As it is a time management you will sometimes sit back and twiddle your thumbs waiting for enough resources to accumulate to accomplish certain tasks. But eventually, like a locomotive gathering steam, the story begins to speed up as your town grows larger and you build farther and farther along the map. The little bits of dialogue your characters spout when you first start working them are cute, but after a few hours get a little wearying.

Still, you are looking at hours and hours of fantastic casual gameplay with Westward IV: All Aboard. Slow down and take the time to explore, and enjoy the wonder when you have a large, fully populated, functional town with a saloon, clothing store, and many other fun places. You could waste hours alone just watching your little people work without worrying about pesky things like goals and such. It's time to ride the rails and enter the wild, wild west!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


| Comments (10) | Views (12)

Weekend Download

JohnBRUUUNNNN!!!!! Escape games of the non-point-and-click variety are well-represented in the indie gaming community. What could be more basic than "get away from the thing that's chasing you"? Three of this weekend's titles focus on running away from something really scary (or, er, being that scary thing). And you'll have a good time doing just that!

restrainingorder2.gifRestraining Order (Windows, 40MB, free) - Earlier this year, we featured a lovely little game by the name of Restraining Order. Well, now the game's all grown up and ready to impress with bigger and better everything! This running-type game is more about chasing, as you play a monster of a character out to break his restraining order. Leap over cops or attack them with your claws as you slowly close the gap between you and your target. If you get caught, you don't have to start the level over, removing that pesky feeling of failure, and each level something new is added, like new police with different abilities. There's a lot of wild music, a lot of crazy visual effects, and even more wacko stuff once you charge through a level or two. So. Worth. Beating!

rcomplex.jpgrComplex (Windows, 47MB, free) - Similar to Canabalt in a number of ways, rComplex is one of those "jump and slide to avoid stuff" games where your character is constantly running to the right. This time, though, you're running from a mass of tentacles and you've got a shotgun (with only twelve bullets) to fend it off temporarily. Created by two people in about a week, this proof-of-concept demo is surprisingly full of style and polish.

themarionette.jpgThe Marionette (Windows, 95.7MB, free) - A first person adventure game that puts you in the role of Martin, a sculptor about to complete his latest work when he receives a mysterious package. After opening it he loses consciousness, waking up later to find himself outside an unfamiliar house. Point and click your way through this dark game, gathering items and answers as you do. It's a full length game, so expect to drop a few hours into it and do a fair amount of reading and exploration. The payoff is a rich atmosphere and intriguing puzzles.

igneous.jpgIgneous (Windows, 114MB, free) - Imagine you're a cube sitting inside of a volcano. Now imagine a ball of fire is chasing you. What would you do? Run, of course. Igneous is a beautiful game where your only goal is to run away from the ever-present ball of flames. Level design is a bit bland, and after a few run-throughs you'll wonder if there's anything more to the game than simple avoidance (there isn't, really, but it does get much more exciting). The lighting effects are beyond gorgeous and must be seen to be understood. Worth a (free!) romp or two just for that! Created by a team of students at DigiPen.

Note: All games have been confirmed to run under Windows Vista and are virus-free. Mac users should try Boot Camp, Parallels, or CrossOver Games to play Windows titles, Linux users can use Wine. If you know of a great game we should feature, use the Submit link above to send it in!


  • Currently 4.5/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.5/5 (41 votes)
| Comments (9) | Views (173)

Hotel Dash: Suite Success

JohnBIt's more Flo and more of the finely-tuned time management action we've come to love in Hotel Dash: Suite Success! Flo's friend Quinn is expanding her wedding business by offering honeymoon packages, but the hotel she's booked is a bit of a lemon. Enter Flo and her uncanny ability to turn any business from failure to success in the course of one casual game!

hoteldashsuite.jpgRunning a hotel can be, in the world of video games, boiled down to a simple chain of events. First, patrons will enter and wait for you at the desk. Drag and drop them onto a room to get them settled in, then bring up their luggage. Guests usually want something to eat shortly after that, sending you off to the kitchen to fetch some food. Some customers will have other needs, such as fresh towels for trips to the pool or wake-up calls, but otherwise all you need to do is gather payment, take out the dirty laundry and you're good to go!

Guests come in a number of different varieties, including large parties which must be matched to bigger rooms. They also have unique personalities which have to be taken into consideration. Some customers have lower patience levels than others, forcing you to tend to their needs first, while others make frequent visits to the pool or bring along several suitcases you'll have to carry to their room. Guests also wear colored clothing that can be matched to room colors for an extra bonus. Who said the service industry was easy?

Upgrades play a more important role in Hotel Dash than most other time management games. You can beef-up the usual suspects in the hotel lobby, such as buying better carpet or improving the scenery to keep customers happy. Now, though, you can add stars to individual rooms which will earn you a star buck each time someone stays there. This special cash is used to upgrade the honeymoon suite, which, if you'll recall, is the reason you're playing this game in the first place!

hoteldashsuite2.jpgAnalysis: It's hard to overlook the enormous success of the Dash series and the impact it's had on casual gaming. Where would the time management genre be without Flo and her various outings? Somehow each game finds that sweet spot between retreading old material and introducing something unique. Hotel Dash: Suite Success is no different, tweaking that time management formula just enough to draw you in for level after level of fun.

Colorful customers are another staple of the series, and Hotel Dash doesn't skimp on the character. They may not have the outlandish charm of the people in Ice Cream Dee Lites, but you'll grow to loathe the fashionista, the ghost, and the business people for their own unique quirks all the same.

The chief drawback to Hotel Dash: Suite Success, other than its lack of originality, is the low-level of difficulty. You can charge through the story mode in a long afternoon, scoring "expert" on nearly every level without breaking a sweat. Endless mode, available from the main menu, offers a challenge if you're craving one, but otherwise its calm waters from level one all the way to the end.

It may be short-ish experience, but Hotel Dash: Suite Success scratches that time management itch you have with style. It looks great, it plays smooth, and it dials up the complexity ever so gradually, compelling you to keep playing even when you have to, you know, work or go to school or something.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.4/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.4/5 (203 votes)
| Comments (69) | Views (305)

Dismantletea_title.jpgGrinnypIt's dismantling time again! Yes, gam.ebb.jp has brought us something new to tear apart in a frenzy of violence! Or, you know, just to calmly pull to pieces layer by layer. Welcome to Dismantlement: Tea Canister, another great point-and-click puzzle game where you can have fun reducing something to its basic components. Mind you, there's usually not much to dismantle when it comes to a tea canister. Open the lid and find tea, that's what usually happens. But if you happen to find a strange sort of device? Well, that can't be good news. Never mind that it's a bomb. Surely it's not that dangerous.

As the instructions so lovingly point out at the beginning of the game: you only have a screwdriver. Good thing you have one, otherwise this game would be more like Stare at Things: Your Lunch. Simply click on screws to remove them, and click on other things to manipulate them. You'll figure it out, you're a smart gamer, you.

Like its predecessor, Dismantlement: Radio, Dismantlement: Tea Canister is an exercise in patient deconstruction and puzzle solving. There's no moving around from front to back in this one, instead you are proceeding layer by cautious layer through the cylinder of the canister. Trickier puzzles await the intrepid explorer as they work their way towards the bottom. Can you get there without blowing up? Only time will tell.

Analysis: Oh happy day, a sequel! For all those gear heads who had fun the first time around, taking apart a tea canister is just as intriguing as a radio. This one's a bit trickier than the original, and once you hit a certain point, you're working against a timer, so be ready to work fast. Fortunately, if you blow yourself up, you don't have to restart the game, just the countdown.

Dismantlement: Tea Canister isn't without a few flaws, though. The music puzzle, for example, requires both sound and a keen ear, making it rather inaccessible to those hard of hearing. Some of the puzzles also require some dexterity, so if you're working with a touchpad, you might have a rough time with this one.

Still, it's nice to tear things apart without getting into trouble, so go for it. Take a break from the everyday and start dismantling! Just try not to blow up so much, okay?

Play Dismantlement: Tea Canister


| Comments (19) | Views (1)

Link Dump Fridays

DoraSurprise! It's Link Dump Friday!... what do you mean, you weren't surprised? Well, okay, sure we do this every week, but would it have killed you to look excited? Sheesh. And after we went through all the trouble of renting the acrobatic ponies. Oh well, at least we're together, and that's what counts! We missed you, did you miss us?... well, now, that's just rude. Lucky for you, we've already got these games ready, and we're too bloated on Thanksgiving leftovers to take them back.

  • OnonminOnonmin - Although it sounds like someone trying to read a LOLcat caption with a mouthful of peanut-butter, Ononmin is the latest from Tonypa. You've got sixty seconds to rack up as many points you can using nothing but the awesome power of your ricochet. You know, like He-Man, but less running around bare chested. Unless that's how you like to play. I don't judge. I merely stare in chilly disapproval.
  • Magic FactoryMagic Factory - I shouldn't even have to tell you why you should play this spot-the-difference-meets-jigsaw-puzzle game. Just listen to that music. Listen to it. It is wonderful and whimsical and you are going to enjoy it and be delighted or so help you. Any similarities to factories manned by small green-haired, orange-skinned men are purely coincidental. Probably.
  • ShapelyShapely - I'm a simple girl. I like bright colours, sparkly things, addictive gameplay, and heavy weaponry. Three of those things are in this puzzle game that lets you play at your own pace to reach the objectives. While the difficulty curve is non-existent and the game runs out of new things to show you moments after hitting the start button, it's a well made and relaxing puzzle to fill your afternoon with.
  • Revert to GrowthRevert to Growth - Robots and plants are normally natural enemies, like yours truly and carob cookies. However, in this pleasant but easy puzzle platformer, machine and mulch have learned to come together for a common goal. Assembling a space ship. Admittedly, plants from outer-space have a bad reputation, but then not all of them are quite so lovely to look at as the visuals offered here, Seymour.
  • Glow CutGlow Cut - Essentially Tetris by way of fast-paced knife skills and a detour through Nervous Breakdowntown, Glow Cut sees you slashing swiftly falling shapes down to a more manageable size. Or else. While it does sport a few different mechanics to keep you on your toes, it doesn't have quite enough meat to it to be anything more than an afternoon fling. But oh, what a passionate and tempestuous romance it will be while it lasts, mon petit chou.

You Are Games

JayDay after day we deliver recommendations for worthwhile casual gameplay experiences—and while we don't always hit a home run, we do get it right most of the time—and the directional flow of all this goodness is predominantly from us to you. You Are Games is our attempt to balance that equation, to put you into the role of producer and challenge you to create for us.

RiddlerFor this week's You Are Games, we want you to put on your green leotards and level design tin foil hats and dial them to "R-I-D-D-L-E". Then sit back and let your eyes roll around to the back of your head to see the mental images that your brain displays across its high definition widescreen display. We want every brilliant idea that you see, so be sure to take notes! We don't want to miss even one usable puzzle.

If you're unsure of what we mean by a "riddle game", just take a look through other riddle games we have featured here at JIG. Some are better than others, so be careful what examples you allow to inspire you. Many of you have already played riddle games and know the kinds of things that don't work very well. There are plenty of examples of those. In fact, we featured a riddle game recently that started out pretty good, but soon diverged into the Territory of the Obscure. We want to avoid that territory, instead keeping to the Domain of the Universally Understood.

What we are looking for are one-panel riddle puzzles that yield a solution that can be typed in with standard ASCII printable characters on a keyboard (case insensitive—all solutions will be converted to lowercase before being checked). We have even provided a few examples in the prototype below to help you envision how things may work once we get all the ideas compiled:

Entry LinkOnce you have your idea(s) jotted down (images, sketches, text explanation, or even a FLA file if you're talented with Flash), send them to the address on the right with the subject "JIG Community Riddle". Sign your entry with your JIG handle, or, if you don't have one, with the name you'd like to be listed in the credits inside the game if we use your riddle(s). The deadline for puzzle ideas is Wednesday evening, the 2nd of December, at midnight Eastern Standard Time.

We also have 25 prizes to give away in the form of coupons good for free games and even some t-shirts, too. If we receive more than 25 usable ideas, then we will draw names at random. Please include a statement that you're at least 13 years of age or older if you wish to win a prize. Offer void where prohibited. T-shirts will be shipped to US residents only.

If you have any questions at all, fire away and we'll try to address anything that comes up. Let the brainstorming begin!

The entries are in, the puzzles selected and now available to play online here: JIG Community Riddle Thanks to everyone who contributed (even if yours wasn't selected)!! :)


  • Currently 4.6/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.6/5 (157 votes)
| Comments (172) | Views (1,091)

mcfdg_banner.jpg

GrinnypThere's something deeply disquieting about a snow storm. The muffled sounds, the diffuse light, the eerie stillness... beautiful, yet silently deadly. It's in the midst of one such raging storm that you will find yourself in Mystery Case Files: Dire Grove, the much-anticipated follow-up to Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst. Once again Mystery Case Files has produced a stunning adventure/hidden object hybrid that will send shivers of cold up and down your spine.

mysterycasefilesdiregrove.jpgThis is, as you might expect, a sequel to all of the previous Mystery Case Files games in which the player plays the role of the Mystery Case Files detective. Dire Grove picks up as you are driving home from the events that transpired during Return to Ravenhearst. And although it continues the over arching story line, Dire Grove is a standalone game that incorporates little shout-outs to the titles that came before it. The story begins as you, the anonymous detective, find yourself traveling through an unexpected and unseasonal snow storm. You come across the small hamlet of Dire Grove, closed for the season, and a mysteriously abandoned car. Cue spooky music...

A quick search of the car reveals no living person, only a handy video recorder and a deeply disturbing note. Continue your explorations and you will begin to come across video tapes scattered in various places, each tape a short vignette into the story of four college students and their trip to Dire Grove. What happened here? Where are the students? Where are all the people? Why is it so darned cold? Perhaps you'd better explore further.

Mystery Case Files: Dire Grove, like its predecessor, is built around three things: point-and-click exploring, puzzle solving, and the classic hidden objects scenes the MCF series is known for. Navigation is simple, just move your mouse cursor around and directional arrows will appear. The cursor changes to a magnifying glass when something needs to be looked at closer, or a hand-shaped cursor if you've passed over something that can be taken or manipulated. Objects or places of interest will catch the eye with a brief single sparkle, and hidden object scenes are denoted by a shower of sparklies.

mysterycasefilesdiregrove2.jpgUpon entering a hidden object scene, you will be confronted with a list of items to find, one of which will end up in your inventory and be useful later. It can be surprising, sometimes, which objects end up in the inventory. Some items you will find a use for pretty quickly, and some you will be toting around for quite a while before you discover their purpose.

And, of course, there is always the handy Detective's Casebook, which jots down information as you come across it, remembering everything that you might not. The hint system works with a refilling timer in your mystery crime computer. Use them to find hidden objects or to skip certain puzzles. Some puzzles involving found objects or information cannot be skipped, so be warned.

Analysis: Yes, after a long wait, the newest Mystery Case Files is finally here! How does it stack up against its predecessors? Well, let's start with the visuals. The developers have gone all out to make the look and feel of Dire Grove something to behold. The locations, the hidden object scenes, the puzzles, everything is flat-out gorgeous. Bright, vivid, and three dimensional, Dire Grove even manages to capture that eerie diffuse light you get during a snow storm. And boy, is it snowing. The video tapes, incidental sounds, and musical score that ranges from plaintive to creepy to dramatic, all heighten the immersive factor of the game. Play Mystery Case Files: Dire Grove for very long and you will begin to feel the cold creeping in.

mysterycasefilesdiregrove3.jpgThe hidden object scenes, like everything else, are sharp and clear, reducing the graininess and clutter of scenes from previous Mystery Case Files games. Those with older eyes will appreciate the clarity which will reduce eye-strain significantly. The story hangs together well, told in dribs and drabs by the video tapes, correspondence, journals, and other found items as you make your way in and around the town. Yes, it's all a bit Blair Witch Project, but compelling nonetheless. Although the story is original to the game, you can still find slight shout-outs and references to previous Mystery Case Files adventures, especially the return of the lovely mysterious, morphing objects from Mystery Case Files: Madame Fate. See if you can find all of them hidden in the scenery as sort of a bonus side quest.

The puzzles... well, here's where Dire Grove perhaps fails to meet expectations. The Mystery Case Files series have long been known for their tricky, original, elaborate puzzles. Although there are some nice brain-teasers here, much of it is pretty familiar. Perfectly enjoyable, mind you, but if you've played a lot of hidden object games, you won't encounter a lot of original puzzle designs. A small off note in what is otherwise an excellent game.

Although Dire Grove is perhaps not as long as Return to Ravenhearst, it still manages to buck the current trend of ever-shrinking gameplay time now seen in most adventure/hidden object hybrids. Between the exploration, the hidden object scenes, and the puzzles you are looking at hours of fantastic casual gameplay.

Why are you still reading this? Go play Mystery Case Files: Dire Grove!

A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains bonus gameplay, more hidden objects to find throughout the game, strategy guide, and more. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions (or 2 club credits), and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version
Also available: Collector's Edition

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the demo
Get the full version
Also available: Collector's Edition


  • Currently 4.7/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.7/5 (337 votes)
| Comments (45) | Views (527)

Weekday Escape

GrinnypWell, it's almost holiday time. Time for overeating until you burst; time for family; time for that creepy uncle to get sloshed again; time for grandmother to tell that same story one more time. In short, it is a time for stress. Major stress. So this week's room escape will be something calm, soothing, simple, a relief from all of the family "fun" that is to come. Welcome to The Water Well by no1game, the solution to all your holiday troubles. Well, perhaps not to all your troubles (hi cousin Marge!), but certainly an oasis of calm in an otherwise frantic holiday season.

waterwell_well.jpgEscape from this quiet little room depends more on use of found objects and simple puzzle solving than anything else. No math here! Just quiet little puzzles and a mysterious well. Navigation is accomplished by arrows at the sides and bottom of the screen. There's even a handy changing cursor to help eliminate all that pesky pixel hunting. There's a surprising amount to find and do in what is essentially a basic four-walled room with minimal furnishings.

Done up in a simple 3D style, The Water Well soothes with its gentle pastel color palette. Nothing sharp edged or shiny here. The style is slightly reminiscent of Robamimi's work, but less "plastic" in feel. Although there are sound effects there is no music to jar you or make you tense, thereby adding to the Zen feeling of the space. Inventory control is very simple with nice gray question marks on inventory items controlling the close ups.

Analysis: This may be one of the easiest escapes ever featured on Weekday Escape, but hey, who needs more stress and head banging at this time of year? Simple it may be, but it is also quite fun and very relaxing at the same time. Experienced escapers should be out in less than 10 minutes, hopefully with a lighter heart and able to face the holiday with a little more equanimity.

There's a lot of combining found objects involved, so those who disdain "construction" puzzles for pure mental effort might find the game a little lacking. And since much of the central puzzle depends on color the game is not very accessible for those with color blindness. Although it is a Japanese game, there is an English version, so no worries there. There's also a way to turn off the sound, but both settings for mute and English must be set before you begin the game, so if you miss it you will have to reload and start again as there are no controls inside the body of the game.

The Water Well is perfect mid-week casual gameplay. When you finish you will be treated to some lovely music and a nice animated scene that is sure to put a smile on your face and enable you to face the holiday ordeal to come. Just remember, good things come to those who wait. Kick back, relax, and take time to plumb the mysterious depths of The Water Well.

Play The Water Well


  • Currently 4.2/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.2/5 (77 votes)
| Comments (43) | Views (108)

MarcusFantasy of the SordFantasy of the Sord is a classically styled adventure game and a finalist in our 6th Casual Gameplay Design Competition. In answer to the call of the competition, Klint Honeychurch has taken the theme of "exploration" and given us a sweet little nugget that harkens back to the early days of console gaming; a time when a flurry of pixels was as well-designed as the high-polygon count, 3D models of today.

The story behind Fantasy of the Sord is a simple and familiar one: the gods have selected you as their champion to rid the land of an evil that has come over it. No questionable motives or complex character development, just good versus evil. Begin your quest by selecting a character, the choice of which is inconsequential and purely for aesthetics. Use the [arrow] keys for movement, [X] to use your equipped weapon, [Z] to cast the selected spell, and [S] for the in-game menu. The menu is where you can select your weapon, select the spell you want to use, or save the game's progress.

Traversing the world is achieved in a standard platform style. You'll have to negotiate ladders, jumps, moving platforms and other hazards that will hinder your progress through the game. You will face creepy-crawlies such as spiders in the trees, bats, and big bugs. Luckily, a couple of swipes with your weapon, and they're history.

A variety of weapons are sprinkled throughout the land that you will find. Some that will deal great damage and recover slowly, others that are quick to use but deal only a small amount of damage. Learn to know which is the right tool for the job at hand. Spells are much more elusive, though, becoming available only after defeating one of the boss creatures in the game. Some spells will allow you to heal from damage and even teleport from one part of the screen to another. These spells are a nice addition to the game, and you will have to learn to use them well if you are to be able to collect all the different weapons in the game.

Fantasy of the SordAnalysis: Those who might turn their noses up at the retro appearance of the game will miss out on an extremely enjoyable adventure that embraces the theme of "explore" with all its might. The design affords the player some freedom of choice where to explore, and yet does a good job to nudge in the direction necessary to complete goals. Fantasy of the Sord so perfectly emulates classic adventure games in both graphics and gameplay that it will feel nostalgic to anyone familiar with them. This game could have fit in very well with other adventure games on the consoles of the 80s.

The creatures follow predictable paths, there is no complex AI hiding underneath the surface. Spiders move down out of the trees when you hit a certain point on the screen. Bats slowly come down to your level and follow you. Bugs simply scurry back and forth along their platforms. Everything you find is true to its classical heritage and serves to create the illusion of a true retro-fantasy displaced in time.

Aside from a couple of grammar issues, the only real criticism I have is the choice to hide the relative strength of each weapon from the player. With such a large number of available weapons, some visual indication of the characteristics of each weapon is needed, even if it was apparent only after the weapon was collected. While some of the fun may be to try different weapons out on the various denizens of the world around you, some sort of damage scale would have been nice.

For an excellent exploration experience and a flash back to a simpler time, look no further than Fantasy of the Sord. The retro-styling, excellent game design, and spot-on controls really make this game shine bright.

Play Fantasy of the Sord


  • Currently 4.3/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.3/5 (74 votes)
| Comments (16) | Views (33)

ZxoGridzChris and Jeremiah, the talented guys behind Atomic Cicada, are back with a follow-up to Grid, the puzzler that first launched them onto the casual gaming radar. Gridz features 40 levels of the glyph-turning, energy-channeling goodness you've come to expect from the original, without falling into the classic Hollywood bungle of rehashery.

The basic premise of the original remains: you need to turn a jumbled mess of pipe segments into a complete closed system, flowing with energy. Clicking a circular glyph will rotate it, but only if it's connected to an energy source, a condition that sets the games apart from the plethora of related pipe-style games. Where Gridz diverges from the original is in the introduction of two colors of energy — a glyph can hold either color, but the two energies must never be combined, lest an apocalyptically bad movie be summoned from the bowels of Some Picture Studios. We don't want that to happen again, right?

With the dual colors comes new glyphs designed to channel multiple streams without having them ever cross. These glyphs can be turned even if some channels are not powered, as long as there is energy flowing through at least one part. Neat!

Analysis: Often, sequels to puzzle games turn out to be nothing more than new level sets with a graphical face-lift. Sometimes this is a good thing — messing with a successful formula rarely yields positive results. When I first heard about Gridz, I knew such a strategy would not find much success. Not to take anything away from the original, but you could tell by the end of 40 levels that the base mechanic had run its course in terms of level design.

Sure enough, after a brief tutorial, the game introduced the pink and blue streams and multi-channeled glyphs, setting the stage for a gameplay experience that builds off the original while becoming its own entity altogether. It's a subtle, yet undeniable shift: where the original sometimes felt like trying to clean up after an octopus mosh pit, Gridz has a distinct puzzle air about it. There's still a fair amount of fiddling around, but the new elements provide more points of attack into the tangled mess of pipe.

The guidance offered by these new elements serves to make the game accessible to a wider audience by reducing the potential for frustration. Now, if you get stuck working on one stream you can simply switch to the other one for a while. Also, though the multi-channeled glyphs seem imposing at first, they're really one of your best tools, since they allow you to change the flow of the streams without much risk of cutting yourself off. Oh, and that face-lift I mentioned earlier? It's another welcome ally in the fight against frustration: it's a lot easier to tell which way you're turning a glyph, and that dizzying churn of a background has been replaced by a microbial Coruscant.

The scoring system remains the same as the original (-1 point per move and -2 per undo) with the exception of a 5 point penalty for restarting the level. One could argue about the necessity of this new penalty, but I'm more surprised they even kept the scoring system at all. Playing towards the objective of a high score takes away from the flowing, exploratory style that suits Grid so well and replaces it with extensive forethought and mental gymnastics. Thus, it's doubtful that many actually pay attention to the score anyway, instead playing toward that shining moment of accomplishment when the grid is complete and elegantly self-contained. Unfortunately, Gridz doesn't give you much time to sit back and admire your handiwork, which is disappointing, but ultimately easily excused.

So if you liked anything at all about the first Grid, give the sequel a try! It successfully merges the qualities that made the original a success with just enough fresh ideas to satisfy old fans while attracting new ones.

Play Gridz


  • Currently 4.7/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.7/5 (3049 votes)
| Comments (33) | Views (1,348)

DoraThe Forest TempleReady to bend your brain a little? How about your fingers? FireBoy and WaterGirl: The Forest Temple, from Oslo Albet, is a platformer with a twist. Join the aptly-named WaterGirl and FireBoy as they plumb the depths of the Forest Temple for... diamonds, apparently? Because... well, honestly, when have you ever needed a reason to get diamonds? Now you're just being difficult.

Instead of one hero, in The Forest Temple you've got two, and you'll need to use them both to get through the levels. Control WaterGirl with the [WASD] keys, and direct FireBoy with the [arrow] keys. At the same time. You'll be collecting diamonds as you make your way to the exit in each level; blue diamonds can only be grabbed by WaterGirl, and red ones are reserved for FireBoy. You'll need to get them both safely to their exit doors if you want to progress, which is easier said than done. Both characters are vulnerable to their opposing elements, such as pools of water or lava, and green pools are deadly to both of them. One wrong move and you'll have to restart the level. (Or click the green button at the bottom of the screen to restart manually if you get stuck.)

But there's more than just running and leaping over watery/fiery/green-y death. You'll have to utilize some gold ol' fashioned teamwork, using one character to hold down switches or platforms to open the way for the other, and then finding a way to reunite them both at the end. Some levels simply want you to make your way through as fast as you can. Others will require you to move both heroes simultaneously. And still others need you to collect special items before you can leave. At the end of each, you'll be graded on your performance. (Or lack thereof.) If you like, you can go back and replay older levels to improve your rating, or practice your water and fire skills.

Of course, you could simply conscript someone else into manning the other side of the keyboard for you, but there's probably no quicker way to fall out with someone than to put them in charge of your potential success... or failure. I say this as your friend, dear reader; you wouldn't want me playing this with you. I can do no greater damage to you than when I am trying to help you. Unless you have someone who you think is a good enough friend to put up with being blamed for everything that goes wrong, you'll have to warm up your fingers and get to work.

The Forest TempleAnalysis: If using both hands to do different tasks at the same time is a challenge for you, you'll probably find The Forest Temple more frustrating than fun. Considering that putting a wrong foot forward could force you to restart the entire level, accidentally nudging FireBoy into a pool of water when you meant to move your watery heroine instead is... displeasing. Admittedly, the game rarely feels as though it's calling on you to do two unreasonably different things at the same time, but still. Years of mindless one-button pushing have rendered by brain a simple pile of mush that responds to bright colours and cheerful music. You're sort of asking a lot for me to be responsible for two characters at once when they both need to be controlled independently.

But is that a failure on my part, or on the game's design? It winds up feeling like a little of both. For the most part, the levels are fairly simple in their design, and the difficulty level winds up coming down to how well your right hand gets along with the left. And of course, people without a QWERTY keyboard are probably going to find this much more difficult than most. Stripping back this mechanic, however, you'll find an enjoyable, if standard, platforming experience. Timing and reflexes are key, and there are a lot of levels to refine your skills on.

Play all the Fireboy and Watergirl games:
Fireboy and Watergirl: The Forest TempleFireboy and Watergirl 2: The Light TempleFireboy and Watergirl 3: The Ice TempleFireboy and Watergirl 4: The Crystal Temple

If you have the patience and dexterity required to master The Forest Temple's controls, it offers a large number of levels for you to leap, grab, sizzle or fizzle your way through. Whip your hands into finely polished platforming machines, or grab a friend to man the controls with you. While the Forest Temple doesn't offer much new beyond its unusual control scheme, it's a cute and enjoyable experience... when you're not yelling at the screen, that is. Not that I do that. Now, don't you have some diamonds to gather?

Play FireBoy and WaterGirl: The Forest Temple


  • Currently 4.7/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.7/5 (720 votes)
| Comments (161) | Views (2,759)

DanTheArcher The Company of Myself I have to admit, I've never before played a game that so candidly displayed my sentiments on the preloader before. And for someone who's had the occasional introverted streak every now and again (such as myself), it won't be the last moment where a thought you've had is displayed on the screen. This is no run-of-the-mill puzzle game. No, this is a thoroughly psychological romp, equal parts replay-themed platformer and character study. This is The Company of Myself, from Eli Piilonen (Spewer) with artwork by Luka Marcetic and music by David Carney.

Best of Casual Gameplay 2009It all starts with a thought-provoking little monologue, fleshing out the protagonist and his mentality. Shortly afterwards, you're dropped into the game itself, where the controls are familiar to anyone remotely acquainted with the platform genre. Arrow keys get you from place to place, with [Up] for jumping and the [A] key for flipping switches. [P] or [Esc] will pause your game, and [R] will restart the current level, an action you'll get to know quite intimately before you're done. And then there's [Space], which starts out as the button that gets you through the green door at each level's end. However, a couple of challenges in, [Space] becomes a bit more interesting.

All of your actions (right up until you hit [Space]) are being recorded, as though by an invisible video camera. As soon as you reset the clock, the level starts anew, except now there's a phantasmal double of yourself scurrying about, re-enacting your first playthrough move for move. Press [Space] again, and add another one to the mix, this one also moving according to the steps you laid out. Some levels will place a restriction on the number of ghostly doppelgangers you can conjure, and these are the levels where you'll have to see just how adeptly you can work with...well, yourself.

The Company of MyselfAnalysis: The first thing you'll notice is that a lot of this game is in the narrative. Ethereal white words coalesce in the background frequently, portraying the character's self-reflective musings. Much is said on the subjects of loneliness and how people cope, all framed within one man's story. I wasn't a tremendous fan of the ending, which puts things in perspective, but the character had me enticed throughout.

Oh, and the gameplay! We've all seen games in this vibe before (coulda sworn there was even a competition about it...), but this adventure does a great job of coming up with puzzles where you're truly forced to team up with your past incarnations. The funny moments are the ones where your timing wasn't split-second-perfect on your first run, and as your past self mistimes a switch-flip that sends you plummeting to your doom, you'll find yourself becoming quickly frustrated at...yourself? It's an odd sensation, but it's certainly in line with the themes of the game.

In terms of overall game length, it's not particularly long, and none of the levels (with a couple of near end-game toughies) ought to put up too much of a fight against your powerful, puzzle-trained mind. But if you were to get stuck on any level for too long, I'd think that would impede the monologue that reads alongside the entire affair, and that's against what the game designers would have wanted. It's a mighty fine platformer, a well-told story, and a fantastic distraction when you've got some time to enjoy the company of yourself for just a little while.

Play The Company of Myself


| Comments (2) | Views (49)

Mobile Monday

JohnBOh, happy day! It's a bunch of games I get to play! From bombs to swords to ghosts in a maze. Now its time to sit and be laze. Er, lazy. Lazey. Laz— oh, forget it.

implode.gifImplode! - Physics puzzle games shouldn't be allowed to be this fun. Working in a visual environment that looks like an architect's blueprint, your job is to bring down the frame structures using a few well-placed pieces of dynamite. Take out support beams, weaken critical areas to reduce the carefully-crafted structure to a pile of twigs hovering below the target line. Loads of levels, three difficulty settings, and a personal favorite feature, lefty mode, make Implode! one of the best physics puzzle games on the iPhone.

minimae.gifRPG Quest: Minimæ - Like RPGs but hate all that reading, questing, item management stuff? Minimæ is here to save the day! With retro-style pixel art and chiptune-like music, venture through the kingdom searching for hidden stashes of gold as you try and locate eight missing rings for the king. Minimæ is a straightforward grind fest where you balance combat and damage with earning gold and buying new, more accurate weapons. Surprisingly fulfilling for such a simple concept.

hauntedmirror.gifHaunted Mirror Maze - Here's a puzzle game that will take you a while to wrap your brain around. Zombies, ghosts and vampires inhabit a maze. Using number clues around the perimeter of the grid, you must determine where each spook is located. The catch is there are mirrors that affect what you can see, and to top it off, ghosts can only be seen if reflected by a mirror, and vampires are invisible to mirrors. Make sense? Once you see the game, you'll have a better idea what's going on. Mastering the concept is challenging, but a wealth of levels ensures you have plenty of room to practice. The free Haunted Mirror Maze Lite is also available.

NOTE: Games listed may not be available outside of North America. Prices are subject to change and are therefore unlisted. Please see the individual game pages for purchasing info.


| Comments (4) | Views (12)

machinarium-ep.jpgJohnBStill can't get enough Machinarium? Me neither! Amanita Design, creator of our favorite little tin can robot, has just done everyone a wonderful (and free) favor. Now available for your listening pleasure: five previously unreleased MP3 tracks from the Machinarium soundtrack! In addition to being one of the most visually impressive games around, Machinarium has a great musical score crafted by the talented Tomáš Dvořák. Add these five pieces to your collection, and if you haven't played (or beaten) Machinarium yet, head over to our review and get crackin'!

Listen to and download Machinarium Bonus EP.


  • Currently 4.8/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.8/5 (35 votes)
| Comments (13) | Views (527)

Gratuitous Space Battles

MarcusOne the surface, Gratuitous Space Battles, from Kudos developer Positech Games, looks like your run-of-the-mill space RTS, something in the vein of the Homeworld series or Star Wars: Empire at War. But when that glance turns into a longing stare, you'll realize it's very different from both of those series and isn't really, in fact, a real time strategy game at all. Gratuitious Space Battles has a whole new system of gameplay going for it that, in many ways, feels more like a tower defense game than anything else.

Gratuitous Space BattlesThe basic goal of Gratuitous Space Battles is to create an armada of ships capable of taking out the enemy fleet. This sounds simple enough until you realize what's missing from the equation: player control. You don't actually participate in the battles. Once you set your armada loose, it's up to your starship design, placement, and initial orders to decide the outcome. It's like the old table-top games where once the battle has commenced, you roll the dice and hope for the best. No reinforcements if things look grim, no chance to take other ships and force an end-run in the middle of the battle. Once you set things in motion, all you can do is sit back and enjoy the show. And what a show it is.

Once you've gotten a handle on the basics of gameplay with the included tutorial ships, it's time to get down and dirty with your own designs. You start out with a number of hulls, each with its own base power requirements and costs. Each hull has a fixed number of slots into which you can insert various offensive and defensive technologies. Some slots will allow for the placement of weapons, while others will only allow defensive and operational technologies, such as shield generators, crew quarters, or reactors for powering the ship. The key will be to create a balance between the amount of power required, the number of crew members required, and the amount and type of weapons and defensive technologies you want on-board.

Gratuitous Space Battles really lives up to its name. The visual feast to be had while combat is being played out is superb. Imagine the space battles from Stargate or the recent Battlestar Galactica series. Now imagine that you can view any part of the battle, zoom in on any ship, see anything in the skirmish that you want to see. You can focus tight in on one of the enemy battle cruisers, ready to buckle under the heavy fire of your battalion of gunships, or watch as a squadron of small fighters swarm a larger enemy vessel like wasps slowly picking at their prey. Beam weapons slice through starship hulls like a hot knife through butter, and concussion missiles rock the area with blasts that would rip a hole through anything but the toughest of armor plating. There's more explosions here than the Fourth of July in Washington, D.C. It is truly a sight to behold.

With the visuals go some very powerful audio elements, as well. Now, one may argue that, "in space, no one can hear you scream," but that's just no fun. We want bangs and pows and zaps with our space battles. Gratuitous Space Battles delivers on this front, as well. Concussive explosions, electrifying bolts of ECM impacts, the piercing sound of pulse weapons ripping through shields, they're all there. The sound effects are actually interactive to a point. If you are zoomed out on the battle, the effects from the entire area sort of meld together and are quieter. But, once you zoom in on a piece of the action, the sound effects for that region become amplified. All of this is accompanied by a fully orchestrated background score that completes the gratuitously epic nature of the experience.

Gratuitous Space BattlesThere are two types of battles for the single player to work through. The main skirmishes start with a pre-defined enemy armada placement which you have to match with your own ships. You are limited by the number of honor points available for any particular scenario. The more honor points you have left over after placing ships, the more you will gain if you win the battle. Honor points are used, in turn, to unlock new technologies and upgrades to old ones. There are also two endurance levels that pit your armada against a constant onslaught of enemies of unknown configurations and numbers. Defeat for these levels is a certainty. The question is, how long can you last?

There is also a form of multiplayer gaming available with Gratuitous Space Battles in a sort of play-by-mail kind of way. Users can post various armada configurations to the online boards and from there you can pick any configuration and attempt to beat it with your own armada. The results for each battle are then uploaded back to the boards and displayed with every entry, allowing you to see which armada configurations seem unstoppable, and which ones crumbled under the slightest pressure.

Analysis: I really cannot say enough good things about Gratuitous Space Battles. I've been playing with it ever since it went into public beta a number of months ago, and have watched it mature into an excellent, deep, seriously fun space battle game. There is so much more than appears on the surface, and that's what makes it so great. It's more than just throwing some ships into the mix and watching what comes out in the end, although you can do that just to see some quick action. For those who want to master the game, it goes much deeper.

Not only do you have to concern yourself with proper balance when creating your ships, you also have to take into account how those ships will operate when on the battlefield. By giving certain ships orders to either protect other ships of the armada, or to stay in formation with other ships, you can start to combing the forces of certain ships to make a mightier armada. Design a gunship with beam weapons and ECM pulses for taking out the shields and systems of an enemy ship, and group it with a cruiser loaded with missiles and missile tracking systems to obliterate the enemy once the shields go down.

For all of the detail that there is in the design of the ships, there is even more involved in the orders that can be given. You can give orders for ships to stay in formation with other ships. You can give attack orders, telling your ships to retaliate against ships that are attacking them, or to go to the aid of another ship if it gets attacked. You can tell certain ships to retreat from battle if they take too much damage, or even give multiple orders to ships arranged in order of importance. You can literally spend more time designing the perfect armada than the ensuing battle will take. And, truth be told, in order to get really good at this game, that is what it takes. It is an extremely tactical experience.

There is a lot of fun to be had here for fans of space battles, and strategists looking for a unique outlet. The addition of the play-by-mail multiplayer works quite well for how the game is laid out. And silly touches like the names of the ships (Monetarism makes the world go round) and the communications chatter going on throughout the game ("Hull breach on decks four and six. How about lucky deck five?") make this game a must-have for fans of those huge space battles from the movies. Just remember the words of a wise old smuggler: "Good against remotes is one thing. Good against the living, that's something else."

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 3.9/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 3.9/5 (26 votes)
| Comments (14) | Views (447)

Cute Knight Kingdom

DoraYou, there. Yes, you! You want to be a pretty princess, don't you? No, don't look so uncomfortable, we understand. Sometimes we, too, like to wear fancy dresses (pretty ones) and dream of princes (pretty ones as well). And, of course, we enjoy simulation role-playing games where we pretend to be magical pretty princesses in pretty dresses who grow up to marry pretty princes. Cute Knight Kingdom, the sequel to the original Cute Knight from Hanako Games, is a fantasy RPG sim that fits the above criteria, and then some. People who do not enjoy dress up or tea parties need not apply.

Cute Knight KingdomAs it happens, your Cute Knight du jour happens to be a Mysterious Girl. In standard fantasy RPG parlance, this means she's got a mysterious origin nobody (including herself) knows about. She finds out on her eighteenth birthday that her parents aren't really her parents at all; they discovered her outside one night as a baby, and a magical being asked them to watch over her. So she's got three years (or less, depending on your actions) to figure out what she wants to do with her life. Because, apparently, if you don't figure out your destiny before you turn twenty-one, you're basically stuck. But this is where you come in. You'll guide her throughout the world, help her find adventure, and battle dangerous beasts. Or not. Don't like fighting? Then forget about it. You can just as easily make your mark on the world through any of the classes or job opportunities you'll find everywhere.

The Kingdom part of Cute Knight Kingdom is actually fairly small, consisting of several dungeons and towns. You can move around with the [arrow] keys, or simply click on where you wish to go or who you wish to speak to. You'll find people all over who'll offer to teach you things or give you jobs based on your skills... which may open up new opportunities. When you begin a class or job, both of which take seven days to complete, you'll be given the opportunity to exert yourself, mentally or physically, to improve your performance. Perform well in the areas that interest your heroine, and you'll not only see her skills improve, but she'll remain hopeful in her dreams for the future.

Analysis: Fantasy life sims have enjoyed a small but dedicated audience for some time now. Cute Knight Kingdom doesn't really do anything terribly new to stand out from other titles, but it gets most of what it sets out to do right. The pacing of the game means it's easy to fall into the "just one more day" trap and find yourself looking blearily at the clock past three in the morning. You'll probably spend more time pursuing people and events than you will monsters, since the dungeons are, to put it gently, pretty darned boring. Fortunately, busying yourself with learning new skills and opening up new quest chains will easily take up most of your time, and with so many endings to discover, the replay value is very good.

Cute Knight KingdomThe problem is that getting all these endings takes a lot of footwork and a little luck. Most plot triggers depend on you being in the right place at the right time, or seem to just randomly occur depending on what job or class you're taking at any given time. You wouldn't think this would be much of an issue, taking into consideration how small the areas are, but it's frustrating to waste time going back and forth between areas, trying to figure out what you should be doing to advance a particular bit of dialogue or relationship, when there's frequently very little indication of how to do so.

Cute Knight Kingdom is, in many ways, a spiritual successor to Princess Maker, but without the tedious micro-managing. You don't have to worry about whether your green-haired heroine is getting enough to eat, or if she's going to run away to spite you. All you need to do is explore at your leisure, keeping an eye on her hit points and magic points, and let her sleep somewhere whenever they get too low. The rest of the time can be spent doing whatever you please. Once you start earning money, you'll find more and more possibilities open up, and more characters will have things for you to do. While not a fantasy epic, the writing for the dialogue is at least clean and well defined.

Is it worth the price tag? That all depends on you. If you like Cute Knight Kingdom's casual approach to time management and role playing, you might very well find it eating up large chunks of your time. Collecting all the endings takes some dedication, and some gamers may find the gameplay too repetitive after several plays through. And it is, after all, exceptionally girly.

Cute Knight Kingdom lives up to its name with adorable visuals and a sweetly optimistic outlook. Despite some repetitive grinding, it's still a fun and enjoyable fantasy life sim that can potentially keep you busy for days. Give the demo a try, and remember; real pretty princesses game with their pinky fingers extended, ladies.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.8/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.8/5 (68 votes)
| Comments (49) | Views (1,348)

Delicious - Emily's Holiday Season

JohnBDelicious: Emily's Holiday Season is a fantastic time management game from Zylom Game Studio. Much like the often-forgotten Miss Management, this game plays like a TV sitcom, complete with incidental music and cheesy sense of humor! The variety of gameplay is a welcome addition to the genre, and unlike most games that make the same attempt, it doesn't come across as forced innovation.

deliciousemilysholiday.jpgThe peaceful town of Snuggford is covered in a blanket of snow, and Emily has decided to stay here for a while with her family. The hotel is a bit on the dusty side, and as Emily fixes a vase her friend Francois knocked over with a sneeze, she finds herself with a new job. Customers come in, order food, and Emily must fetch it, deliver it, and take their cash. Sometimes the postman will arrive with a package which must be signed for, and the occasional hotel patron will appear to turn in or pick up his or her room key. Everything is handled with a simple click and go interface, and you can queue several tasks for Emily's busy hands to accomplish.

Between the main tasks you'll also have a few extra chores to do, such as dusting off the cobwebs, picking up a random item or two, or catching spiders. These aren't necessary to complete the level, but if you're going for an expert score, you'd better start dusting. After each level you'll get a chance to spend some cash buying upgrades that make Emily's job easier, customers happier, and the hotel more profitable.

Not content to keep things in one location, Emily's Holiday Season takes place across several areas, including Winter Fair and a farm. The change of scenery does a surprising amount of good for the experience, and the soft, cozy visuals never cease to summon that holiday feeling we love so very much.

deliciousemilysholiday2.jpgAnalysis: You might be inclined to write off Delicious Emily's Holiday Season as just another time management game. If you do, you're missing out on a wonderful gaming experience. Casual to the core, this game is about mood, setting, storytelling, and variety. It doesn't smack you across the face with a forced collection of different gameplay elements. Instead, you feel like each departure from the norm is a soft, fuzzy gift that you open and gratefully accept. It's a difficult experience to convey, but if a time management game can make me speechless, you know there's something special there.

Here's another genre oddity: storytelling. Not only does Delicious: Emily's Holiday Season buck tradition with its gameplay, but before and after each level you'll be treated to a short scene that furthers the plot. Beyond that, you actually find yourself interested in what's going on, as the characters are likeable, funny, and do some genuinely witty things over the course of the game.

Emily's Holiday Season isn't stressful, it isn't particularly challenging, and the game doesn't go out of its way to impress you with NEW!!! and FANTASTICAL!!! gimmicks at every turn. Instead, you just have a few bowls of cranberries to deliver, a couple of spiders to catch, and a handful of other miscellaneous tasks to complete. The gameplay and setting are so rich you can't help but be drawn in, and the variety in both storytelling and locations keep you in for the long haul. Delicious Emily's Holiday Season is one of the few time management games you owe it to yourself to play.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


| Comments (17) | Views (14)

Weekend Download

JohnBTwo things the indie gaming community thrives on are experimentation and nostalgia. Some developers push their concepts so far the resulting experience is unlike anything we've ever seen. It may be fun, it may be frustrating, but we love it for the boundless innovation. Other developers take classic concepts and reinvent them for the modern player, resurrecting proven gaming mechanics for everyone to enjoy once again. The selection of games below illustrates both concepts quite well, with a few games blending both nostalgia and experimentation in equal parts. Gotta love indie game creators!

harmony.gifHarmony (Windows, 41.7MB, free) - A great retro-styled first person shooter made by Thomas van der Velden using the ZDoom game engine. Arm yourself with weapons to take out enemies as you work your way through almost a dozen massive areas, collecting passkeys and slowly opening more rooms to explore. Secrets are everywhere in this game, so keep your eyes peeled for anything that looks out of place. You'll also want to visit the options menu to config the controls to your liking. Eight years in the making (wow), the game is packed with original graphics, music, and level designs. Monsters were even molded from clay figures! An impressive accomplishment that's especially awesome for us gamers who grew up with the likes of Doom and Duke Nukem!

featherweight.jpgFeatherweight (Windows, 15MB, free) - Another bite-sized release from adventure game creator Ben Chandler. You play as Thadd, a scout for a rebel group fighting against not-so-nice robots. One of your fellow non-robots has been captured by the machines, and he sets out to rescue her. The game is set up like most adventure games with a point-and-click interface, and any shortcomings in the puzzles or story are minimized because the game is so short. It's an excellent way to get a casual taste of adventuring without settling in for a marathon gaming session. Also check out some of Ben's other adventure games: Awakener, Heed, and Annie Android.

dungeon-cactus.gifDungeon (Windows, 3.5MB, free) (direct download) - A tough, minimalist platform game created by indie stars cactus and Mr. Podunkian. Run through the green dungeon, avoiding spikes, enemies, and falling into that flowing pool of lava (who keeps lava in their castle, anyway?). A story is pieced together at the top of the screen as you move through each area. Be ready to die multiple times in this game, but fortunately you respawn only a few screens back, so frustration never really kicks in.

devilstuningfork.jpgDevil's Tuning Fork (Windows, 42.9MB, free) - Created by a group of DePaul University students, Devil's Tuning Fork is an experimental design that plays on your sense of visual space and sound. Trapped in an illusory world, you play a child who mysteriously falls into a coma. Other children have suffered the same fate, and as you wander around the pitch black world you must collect stuffed animals to help set them free. Using a tuning fork, you can emit sound waves to temporarily see your surroundings. Different kinds of sound waves can be used to see different things, all shown with a gorgeous water-like flowing motion. The controls are a little sticky, and sometimes it gets annoying being immersed in a completely dark space, but the atmosphere of intrigue is intense and you'll be compelled to see the game through.

Note: All games have been confirmed to run under Windows Vista and are virus-free. Mac users should try Boot Camp, Parallels, or CrossOver Games to play Windows titles, Linux users can use Wine. If you know of a great game we should feature, use the Submit link above to send it in!


  • Currently 4.5/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.5/5 (24 votes)
| Comments (17) | Views (122)

DoraBroken LegsLottie's got a problem. The night of her big audition at Bridger Conservatory, the culmination of seventeen years' hard work and cutthroat tactics, her voice gives out on her. But rather than comfort herself the good old fashioned way with a bucket of ice cream and a three-way phone call to her Best Friends Forever, Lottie has another plan. She's not ready to give up, you see. And in this darkly funny piece of interactive fiction from Sarah Morayati, it's not whether you win or lose... because losing isn't an option. Broken Legs is a catty, clever little adventure whose writing elevates it above its technical difficulties.

If you've never played a piece of interactive fiction before, Broken Legs might be slightly overwhelming because there's very little handholding. Useful commands include "examine", "ask/talk to (person's name) about", "inventory", and, perhaps most importantly, "call mom". Typing "save" will let you save your game, something you may want to do often. As Lottie will proudly inform you, she only thinks in compass directions now, so you'll need to "go north" rather than "up". This is actually a little frustrating, since there doesn't appear to be any way to make Lottie repeat the available exits in a room after she enters, and trying out every available direction is tedious.

You're not looking to find a way to fix Lottie's voice or convince the judges to give her a second chance. You'll need to think outside the box to find ways of ruining the other auditions, or turning the others against each other. Yes, it's mean, and you probably wouldn't want Lottie babysitting for you or acting as any sort of role model. But Lottie's teenage cattiness is so over-the-top exaggerated (at least, one would hope) that it's impossible to take her as anything other than satire, and the scant profanity that pops up now and again means this one isn't for the kiddies anyway.

Analysis: There's a good chance you knew someone like Lottie when you were growing up. And if you can't think of anyone who fits the bill, there's an even better chance that it's because there's a little Lottie in you. She's not a bad person, exactly; just more than a little self-absorbed. Still, I doubt she'd be half so reluctantly likable if not for the writing of Sarah Morayati, whose snappy dialogue and snarky prose skewers the teenage stereotype. You're probably going to enjoy Broken Legs the most if you were ever once a teenage girl. (Or if you've ever played one in a Lindsay Lohan movie.) I remember that time, and I miss it, because then? I knew everything. And so did everyone I hung out with.

There are times when I almost felt like Broken Legs would have been a better novel than a game. The writing might be top notch, but the puzzle design is, unfortunately, not. A lot of it is based upon knowing who to talk to (and what to say to them) at the right time, and you can quite easily miss your chance . You'll probably come to rely heavily on calling Lottie's mom for hints (and sometimes flat-out directions), but should you have to? Part of the fun of interactive fiction is figuring out what to do with the situations presented, and unfortunately quite a few of the puzzles in Broken Legs are unintuitive.

But is Broken Legs worth a look? If you find the bratty antics of a selfish teenage girl offensive, you may want to give it a miss. But for those of us who are fans of mean humour, or can just take it in the satirical spirit, you'll probably enjoy it for the exceptional writing. Players looking for high action and adventure will be disappointed, but Broken Legs is a clever story with a protagonist you just may love to hate.

Download Broken Legs (Mac/Windows/Linux, 1MB, free)

Note: In order to play Broken Legs, you'll need to download an interpreter for your operating system. Try Gargoyle for Windows, or Zoom for Macintosh and Unix.

If you like Broken Legs, take a look at other Interactive Fiction we have reviewed here at JIG!


  • Currently 4.4/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.4/5 (23 votes)
| Comments (20) | Views (197)

escapemuseum2_banner.jpg

GrinnypFans of Escape the Museum rejoice, for a sequel is finally here! Gogii Games has brought us Escape the Museum 2, which, like the original is an adventure/hidden object hybrid that draws heavily on the room escape aesthetic for its intricate, logical gameplay. In this sequel, you are not escaping the museum itself, but escaping to the museum in an attempt to find your family. Yes, this time around it's David's story.

escapemuseum2a.jpgPlayers of Escape the Museum know the story of museum curator Susan who ended up trapped in her own workplace with her daughter when a massive earthquake struck. When Escape the Museum ended, young Caitlin had escaped the museum even as her mother, Susan, went back to rescue more artifacts. But what about Susan's husband and Caitlin's father, David? All we know from cell phone calls is that he made his way to the museum, at one point escaping police custody to do so. Now, in Gogii's sequel, Escape the Museum 2, follow the intrepid David as he attempts to run to the rescue of his family. Unfortunately for David, however, the earthquake damaged more than just the Museum. Power lines are down everywhere, bridges have collapsed, and there are a multitude of obstacles between one brave man and his family. A brave man with a blood pressure condition. Now isn't that a recipe for disaster?

To start, David must find a map (he doesn't know the way to his wife's work?) and his cell phone. Then he goes out the door and on his adventurous way. Well, he goes out the door and meets a homeless person who immediately lets him know the situation and gloms on for the rest of the game. Each scene plays like a mini-escape game. There is always a main goal, whether it be making it to the next scene over or around some obstacle, or helping some civilian who has been trapped by falling debris. Hover the cursor around the area until a question mark or gears appear, marking the hotspots. Click on the correct hotspot(s), and you'll get a clue as to what needs to be done, as well as the appearance of sparkles indicating a hidden object scene. Collect items from a list in each hidden object scene, many of those items will end up being ones you need to solve the main puzzle. Figure out the main puzzle and use your handy map to navigate to the next area.

escapemuseum2b.jpgHints... well, the hint system in Escape the Museum 2 may be the most original ever featured in an adventure/hidden object hybrid. Remember the homeless guy? He will follow David constantly and act as a guru. Confused as to what steps to take to complete the main puzzle? You can click on a photo of the homeless dude and he will give you step-by-step instructions. Reached an area that is impassible? Homeless dude will offer to show you the way over, through, or around, in exchange for you finding 10 objects for his many precious "collections". Can't spot that one item in the HOG scene? Click on a picture of the homeless dude and a bottle will fly into the scene, shattering where the object in question resides. Yes, you heard me right. The homeless dude actually chucks bottles at things to show you where they are! Best. Hint system. EVER!

Each area that David visits has more than just the main puzzle. There are other hidden objects to find that will become very important later, as well as several side quests involving toys, lost pets, lost children, and worried adults. Stars will appear at the beginning of the scene by the menu/inventory area and will light up when a task is completed. So take time to explore! Oh, but be careful with the excess incorrect clicks. Remember, David has some sort of blood pressure condition, and multiple quick wrong clicks will drive his heart rate up into the danger zone, causing the screen to go a lovely shade of red while the sound of his rapidly beating heart overwhelms the background music.

Analysis: Escape the Museum was a pioneer in the Adventure/HOG field, and Escape the Museum 2 goes all-out to top the original. Better graphics, more tension, more adventure, and one of the funniest hint systems ever seen in a game. You might say, "but practically every hybrid coming out today has great graphics," and you would be right. Where Escape the Museum excels is in the gameplay as well, creating a tense, tight, wonderful adventure that can be enjoyed by the entire family.

escapemuseum2c.jpgThe artwork in the original Escape the Museum was good, but suffered from an unfortunate "graininess" which made it sometimes difficult to distinguish items in the dark, cluttered rooms. No such problems in Escape the Museum 2! The adventure and HOG scenes are bright, clear, sharp, and photo real. The story of David and his family is told in pretty, watercolor type cut-scenes in-between the adventure sequences. Appropriately frantic music and sound effects round out the gameplay experience.

As is the recent trend, Escape the Museum 2 is shorter than the original, although it still contains a full 30 escape scenes, each with its own puzzles, HOG scenes, and side quests. Not as long as Escape the Museum, but not as short as some games on the market today, Escape the Museum 2 should still deliver a good 2 - 3 hours of fantastic casual gameplay. And as with many games of the genre, a lot of the items from the HOG scenes have absolutely nothing to do with the ongoing story. You need to find a seagull to keep a gas station from blowing up? Really? Well, no, not really. The final big puzzle is quite intricate, but the game practically holds your hand through the whole thing, making it much simpler than it could have been.

Still, the adventure/escape gameplay is something to behold. Have fun as you try to escape downed wires; keep a gas station from exploding; escape from the back of a police cruiser using only chewing gum, a bobby pin, and and a dime; and rifle through some person's wallet and use their credit cards as well. What? They shouldn't have written down their PIN and left it in their wallet, should they.

Lapses in logic aside, Escape the Museum 2 is a colorful, wild ride that tops the original in just about every aspect. So buckle up, find that map, charge your cell phone, unleash your inner MacGuyver, and get ready to navigate your way through a collapsing city. Just ignore the homeless guy following you around like a lost puppy. Really, he's there to help.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


| Comments (41) | Views (15)

Link Dump Fridays

DoraIt's that time again! Yes, that day of the week where you make us homemade cards telling us how wonderful we are in prose and send us muffin baskets themed like... oh. Wait. That's tomorrow! How silly of me. Today is Link Dump Friday, where we show our appreciation for you with a snack pack of new games to start your weekend off right. Because we care. We care so much, there's a bonus game this week, we don't even mind if you forget our muffin baskets. (Although, I am awfully fond of carrot spice... hint, hint.)

  • Cargo Bridge: X-Mas Level PackCargo Bridge: X-Mas Level Pack - If you felt the original Cargo Bridge needed to be about twelve levels longer and prominently feature a nervous looking reindeer, rejoice! It's never too early to start thinking about Christmas, and it's never too early for building flimsy structures designed to send tiny workmen plummeting to their doom in the most hilarious fashion possible. Well, at least, that's how I play it.
  • HiRoadsHiRoads - Inspired by ye olde Sky Roads (... e), here's a 3D platform game where you guide a ball through a series of levels resembling the bonus stage in an old Sonic game. While the game features 27 levels, registering for a free account gets you access to the level editor and every level your fellow players have made. If cars aren't your thing, and you instead pretended to be a small round ball when you were running around your yard as a child, then this is the game for you. Weirdo.
  • Fly Squirrel FlyFly Squirrel Fly - We know what you're thinking. "Not another one of those games where you buy upgrades and fly as far to the right as you can!" Well the joke's on you, sucker! Because this is a game where you buy upgrades and fly as far to the left as you can! It also features squirrels and the unreasonable flinging about thereof. So, you know, there's that.
  • R.I.F.T.R.I.F.T. - Remember that scene in Star Wars where Luke had to appease Jabba by bringing him deliciously fattening bakery treats?... or was that just a dream I had after eating one too many pixie stix?... huh. Either way, this physics puzzle platformer is a lot like that, only with more robots and less repulsive alien beings. A slightly sloppy collision detection engine makes for bumpy going, but it's cute as the proverbial button.
  • Beastie BurgersBeastie Burgers - With gameplay undoubtedly inspired by Order Up!, slick graphics and audio, and an off-beat sense of humour, Beastie Burger combines the joys of time management with the satisfaction of cooking for customers who don't appreciate a single thing you do and would just as soon eat your face off. (Just like real life!) While not without its issues, and falling prey to repetitiveness, it's still an enjoyable diversion. Just as long as you don't mind hairs in your burgers.
  • SketcharooSketcharoo! - Bonus Game! Because this online version of Pictionary relies on actually finding another player online, and because they ask that only those 21 and over participate, it didn't seem right to bump another game off the list for it. Also, we might crush the servers with the mighty hammer of our community. Hopefully, you, our dearly beloved audience, will be able to find each other in the sea that is the internets to play against each other. Sadly, I likely won't be joining you since everything I draw winds up being the same thing. "Misshapen stick creature bemoaning its tortured existence."

  • Currently 3.2/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 3.2/5 (134 votes)
| Comments (76) | Views (666)

JayWhat You SeeHow good are you at following instructions? What if the instructions are rather cryptic or even misleading? I'm sure we have all experienced instructions like that in the real world. Just go down to Walmart and purchase something that needs assembling before you can use it and you'll know exactly what I mean. In What You See, a new point-and-click puzzle game, sometimes what you see isn't what you get (understand).

Just follow the instructions for each level, trying to figure out what they mean and then performing the action(s) required. It's a bit like a classic riddle game, but with a large dose of pointing and clicking added to make it accessible to a more casual audience.

The beginning levels seem super easy, and then the difficulty wall comes and you'll be soon scratching your head wondering what the author wants you to do. And that's the real trouble with riddles games (or technical instructions for that matter): trying to get inside the author's head to understand what is expected of you. Some things you see will be clues and have meaning, others will just be filler or a red herring. It's a puzzle game that may not appeal to everyone, but as puzzle games go, this one is wicked fun.

Play What You See


  • Currently 4/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4/5 (71 votes)
| Comments (11) | Views (9)

DoraForever SamuraiNinja, pffffft. There's what we think of your ninja. Bunch of spotlight grabbin', pajama-wearin' show-offs who are about as good at the whole "we're a big secret thing" as Peter Parker. More importantly, they distract from the real heroes; the samurai. While the ninja are off flipping out and/or wakeboarding down at the beach for all the girls, the samurai are off doing important things. Like making sure someone is at home to meet the repairman, dropping little Billy off at school, and preparing for tax season. Oh, and starring in Forever Samurai, a new side-scrolling hack-and-slash game from Pixelante and fending off enormous dragons. That's important, too.

Control your brave little toaster, er, samurai, with the [wasd] keys, and click the mouse button to attack. You'll want to be careful actually moving the mouse, since doing so triggers special attacks, and can send you zinging around the screen like a marionette with a drunken puppeteer if you aren't prepared. Take your time to learn the ropes, since you're not on a schedule. After all, the hordes of ravenous mythical beasts about to descend on your succulent samurai flesh know how to fight, so you probably should, too.

Depending on what difficult you're playing, death can be the end or a temporary setback. Either way, you'll probably want to avoid it. As you take damage, things will take on a more and more intense red haze. You slowly regenerate health over time, so don't be afraid to run away if things get too hairy. Killing enemies nets you experience points, which you can use to purchase upgrades at checkpoints throughout the game. You can increase your attack, health, or purchase a new special ability for you to spend a few frantic moments trying to look like you know what you're doing with.

Forever SamuraiAnalysis: Okay, so a big part of Forever Samurai's appeal is definitely it's aesthetic. It's two steps and a ridiculous hairstyle away from being the newest anime cult hit, or maybe a drastic reimagining starring Samuel L Jackson. The colours are vibrant, the designs are classic, and everything has a wonderfully minimalistic feel to it. The game probably won't take you very long to complete, even if you're a newcomer to the wonderful world of button mashing (or mouse clicking, in this case), but it's definitely a unique experience. Enemies, I was delighted to find, are lifted straight from Japanese folklore. I can't tell you how much more interesting it is to fight a Kappa or a Tengu rather than yet another random laser-eyed robot.

But the controls, the controls. NNNNGH. You know, I hate fiddling with ridiculous button combinations as much as the next person, but tying special attacks to the mouse movements was just such a big misstep and turns an otherwise lovely and fluid game into a potential clunker. Assigning abilities to specific keys would have been much more preferable to seeing your hero fling himself forward like a stupid, stupid dart because you accidentally twitched the mouse. And while the red screen is certainly atmospheric, it's too hard to tell just how wounded you are. That's right. I miss health meters, too. I'm a rebel.

Forever Samurai winds up being one of those games that trips itself up a little, but still races gamely along. Drink in its lovely visuals and clever design, but take the control scheme with a pinch of salt (or a shot of sake) and you'll be just fine. Or spend a little while balancing on a wooden post, backlit against the setting sun. Mr Miyagi would be proud either way.

Play Forever Samurai


| Comments (20) | Views (7)

Way Too Casual

JohnBCasual games have invaded our lives! They steal our time when we're supposed to be doing homework. They distract us from our jobs. They fill our mobile phones with delicious diversions ready to entertain us at any point during the day. And now, they're ready to invade... your ears!

The JayIsGames staff along with FlashGameLicense have finally gone mad and decided to start a podcast! We call it Way Too Casual because, well, that's what we are. The bi-weekly episodes will focus on casual gaming news, events, reviews, and lots more. We have some great surprises planned for future episodes! It's a great way to keep up on the biggest browser game releases and current events in the world of casual gaming. All while you go on your morning jog!

But wait! There's more! We're not content to just talk amongst ourselves, we want to hear from you! Now you can interact with the JIG staff in an entirely new dimension. Got a question you're dying to toss our way? Want to know our thoughts on the latest casual gaming revolution? Need that recipe for brussels sprout soup? We're here to help. Leave a voice mail on Skype or drop us an e-mail. You never know, we might just use your question for the next episode!

Leave me voicemail
E-mail: waytoocasual@gmail.com

That's it! Grab the podcast below, listen away, and be sure to check out the handy links after the break. Keep up with the latest podcast happenings on the official Way Too Casual website!

Way Too Casual podcastDownload Way Too Casual #001
"I Can Say Armadillo"
(MP3, 38.5MB, 44:07)
Subscribe via iTunes


  • Currently 4/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4/5 (49 votes)
| Comments (54) | Views (36)

Emily Shortbyzantineperspective.jpgByzantine Perspective, by Lea Albaugh, is a tight little heist game from this year's annual Interactive Fiction Competition. You're a student with less-than-legal plans for how to fund your education: get into a museum of Byzantine artifacts, get the valuable antique chalice, get out again. You're rigged out in your best cat-burglar clothes, with your best cat-burglar tools — some of them borrowed from an acquaintance, which raises never-answered questions about what sorts of company the protagonist keeps.

The museum is sparely described, but what's there is pleasingly authentic and non-generic: this isn't a random Hollywood-style Museum of Nothing in Particular with the Venus de Milo in one corner and the crown jewels in another. The contents are all things you might plausibly find in an exhibit on Byzantine art and culture.

Your character can even read ancient Greek, a detail that I found instantly endearing.

The setting aside, though, the core of Byzantine Perspective is a single puzzle — but one that's entirely novel and only possible in the medium of text.

If at first you feel mystified, give it a little time and keep exploring. Anything strange you encounter is likely to be intentional, and using a walkthrough for this one is not nearly as fun as figuring it out for yourself.

Important note: unlike most text games, this one really needs a visual aid — this map, designed to accompany the work. I recommend having it open in another window while you play. (It's conceivable to win without the aid of the map, but it will be more difficult.)

To say much more would be to spoil it. Byzantine Perspective makes the perfect lunchtime game: quick to play and very satisfying to work out.

Play Byzantine Perspective (online)

Download Byzantine Perspective (from the IFDB)


  • Currently 3.7/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 3.7/5 (79 votes)
| Comments (64) | Views (167)

Weekday Escape

GrinnypOkay, we've done elaborate escapes, we've done mind-bending escapes, we've done serial escapes, we've done a lot of holiday themed escapes, we've done cute escapes, and... let's just go minimal, shall we? Escape From Mr. Y's Room 2 by Tesshi-e, creator of Escape From the Pumpkin Room, is about as minimal as it gets for room escapes.

escapemry_pic.jpgAs with all room escape games your ability to get out depends on your searching the room for clues, solving puzzles, and checking every nook and cranny for objects to help you on your way. Not that there's many nooks and crannies to explore here. Just four walls, three pieces of furniture and a door, yet this fun little escapade includes some very tricky puzzles and, believe it or not, two different ways to get out of the room.

Navigation through the space is accomplished by bars at the sides and bottom of the screen. Not that there's much navigation, per se, as there's only so many places you can go in a small, square room. As with all Tesshi-e games inventory control is simple with an "about item" button to bring inventory items into close up. And you'll want to do that. There's a little bit of pixel hunting, but nothing terrible.

The room itself is very minimal with four white walls and a warm, polished hardwood floor, with Tesshi-e's standard 3D rendering, lights, shadows, and reflections. It almost, in fact, looks like a meditation room. The furnishings might look a bit familiar. Yes, that's the couch and table from Escape From the Living Room, and look, the coffee grinder from Escape From the Pumpkin Room as well! A nice touch is the rotation effect when you move left or right, as if you are actually spinning in a three dimensional space rather than just ending up at your next destination with each click. Keep turning left or right really quickly and make yourself dizzy!

Analysis: Yes, another simple, easy mid-week escape. It's nice not to have to think too hard in the middle of the week, isn't it? Most of the puzzles are pretty simple and easily solved, but the central puzzle is a corker and may cause a minor amount of head banging. Still, it would be surprising if experienced escapers took more than 20 minutes to figure out this little beauty.

Along with the minimal yet lush decor, there's a haunting little piano melody playing in the background that enhances the relaxed, casual gameplay. You can adjust the sound up or down or simply mute it, which is always nice, especially if you're playing somewhere where you don't want folks to know you're playing a game. Not that you'd play at the office, or anything. Really.

Surprisingly enough for a Tesshi-e game, there's no construction going on in Mr. Y's room. Use of found objects, yes. Combining of some found objects, certainly. But no building of cars from cell phones, repairing toy airplanes, or carving pumpkins here. So for those who disdain that sort of thing, relax and enjoy the mental puzzles. Even more surprising is the standard "Happy Coin Escape", which is, for once, accomplished without actually finding the happy coin. And such a tricky, unexpected little second escape it is, too!

Perhaps the only complaint about Escape From Mr. Y's Room 2 is that it is too simple. Although the central puzzle is certainly a brain teaser, the other puzzles could use some beefing up. The game itself is Japanese, but you don't need to know the language to escape. All of the puzzles are either based on numbers or the English alphabet. Still, it sometimes feels like you're missing part of the story, doesn't it?

Forget the quibbles. Escape From Mr. Y's Room is a relaxing way to stretch your brain in the middle of the week without overheating. Let the bare walls and lilting piano music take you to a very Zen place as you try to escape. Settle into a lotus position, take a deep breath, let it out, and enjoy the Zen of casual gameplay.

Play Escape from Mr. Y's Room 2


  • Currently 3.7/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 3.7/5 (97 votes)
| Comments (41) | Views (31)

GrinnypHow Grandfather Won the War"Settle in, little Billy, and I'll tell you a story. A story about how your grandfather fought the Kaiser with nothing but his guts. Guts and a toothpick..." You can almost see a kindly, white-haired gentleman sitting on a porch somewhere telling his enthralled grandson about his experiences when you play How My Grandfather Won the War by OneMrBean, a side scrolling avoider that captures the essence of childhood imagination in its short but beautiful gameplay.

As the scenery rolls by you control a fighter plane simply using the [up] and [down] arrow keys. The plane is equipped with a cannon that shoots water (or ink) with the [space] bar, revealing Competition third place award winner"the world as it really is" and creating a safe passage through obstacles. The objective is simple, make it to the end of the game. The execution, however, is a tad more difficult. Much of the fun of making it through to the end of How My Grandfather Won the War is in the exploration of "reality" using the water cannon. Sunbursts become clouds, fire becomes water, squid tentacles (yes, squid) become blowing palm trees, etc. You may find yourself crashing and burning a lot in the beginning as you play around attempting to see "reality" rather than avoiding the deadly obstacles.

How to even begin describing the fantastic art of How My Grandfather Won the War? It's as if little Billy — once his head is stuffed full of Grandpa's stories — ran right out and created a moving diorama using cardboard, string, and a little paint. The detail is so fantastic you can almost touch the screen and feel the rough edges of haphazardly cut items. The "reality" exposed by the water cannon is bright and cartoony, adding to the surreality of the gameplay experience. One is tempted to just sit back and marvel at the unbelievable graphics, but unfortunately that will result in a quick and fiery death. The plaintive guitar music only adds to the almost melancholy atmosphere.

howgrandfather_squid.jpgPlayers may even take up the debate: is it gameplay or art? Is it something to while away a few minutes, or is it something to experience and savor? Can it be all of those things at once?

Analysis: Once again we see a game designer pushing the envelope, blurring the line between game and interactive art. How My Grandfather Won the War can be played as a simple side scroller, but it is so much more. This is a piece that is designed to evoke emotions, whether awe, joy, or frustration.

Yes, frustration. Although the game is beautiful to look at and wonderful to experience, there are a few minor flaws. Gameplay goes from simple to breathtakingly difficult in the blink of an eye. Death (or crashing) will take you back to a checkpoint in the game rather than throw you back to the beginning, but it still can be frustrating in the extreme to try and get past some of the later obstacles, even using the water cannon to help clear the way. Due to the extreme difficulty of the later areas, some of the wonder is lost as you must spend so much time attempting to get past obstacles you lose the ability to explore that makes this game such a fantastic experience.

Nevertheless, How My Grandfather Won the War is a stunning game that is worth a second, and even third play through. Treat it as a simple side-scroller for casual gameplay or go deeper and explore every inch of its breathtaking cardboard world.

Play How My Grandfather Won the War


  • Currently 3.5/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 3.5/5 (52 votes)
| Comments (8) | Views (2)

DoraMerubyiusuIf you think kids these days have it too easy with their save points and their health meters and their self-esteem not left in tatters from a digital villain, then this is the game you've been waiting for. Merubyiusu, from H. Inada, is a retro side-scroller shooter straight out of the mid-nineties. You play a winged fox flying through a forest, trying not to get blown up by blowing up your enemies first. Why? Who cares! At only three stages so far, each with its own boss fight, Merubyiusu is short enough to whet your appetite and pique your nostalgia, and just difficult enough to erode your soul. (It itches!)

Only the start menu is in English, but that's all you'll need to play. Select "Start" by hitting [space]. Merubyiusu controls by flying with the [arrow] keys, firing with [X], and swapping between your available weapons with [Z]. There are four to get in all, each dropped by enemies, and each fires in its own unique way. You can hold down the [X] button the whole way and spray a weak stream of fire without stopping, or you can hold off and give the gauge in the lower-left corner time to fill, and find your next shots that much deadlier. Just don't spend too much time watching it; enemies are quick and numerous, and one hit takes away one of your three lives. Once all of them are gone, it's game over. (Although you can continue from between levels once you've finished one.)

Still, as simple as it is, Merubyiusu does occasionally seem a little unbalanced. Enemies can take dozens of hits but I can only take one? And the green weapon with the homing projectiles seems like a cheap and easy way to victory at first... until it starts locking on to enemies behind obstacles it can't reach instead of targeting the closest death-bot. Is it really hard, or have I just become soft from a decade of auto-targeting and clever AI? I'm not sure, but just as some people will rejoice at the difficulty, others may be turned off by it.

However, enemies appear in set places in each stage, and once you've gone through it once or twice you'll find it's easier to stay, you know, non-dead when you know which direction your intended demise is coming from next. If you're looking for something short to hearken you back to the days of Nintendo Power Gloves and Red Ryder BB Guns, you'll probably enjoy the game's arcade feel. Merubyiusu has a lot of expanding to do, but in the meantime, saddle up your fox and ride on out. It's something to cheer those of us up who die a little inside every time we talk about Gradius and the 12-year-old kid with his DS says, "What's that?"

Play Merubyiusu

Game Design Competition #7

Announcing Casual Gameplay Design Competition #7!!

What if? As if! What does it all mean and why do we keep teasing you?!! If you've been gnawing your nails waiting for the mystery to be unveiled, fret no more!

We are pleased to announce a very special Casual Gameplay Design Competition, one focused entirely on interactive fiction! For CGDC #7, we're calling on IF authors to craft one-room games incorporating the theme "escape". It's text-only this time around, so you can spend your time polishing puzzles instead of pixels. Full details are below, so fire up your Z-code compiler and get to writing!

Mission

  • Design a one-room game of interactive fiction in Z-code that incorporates the theme: "escape".

The Prizes

  • 1st place:
    • $1,000
  • 2nd place:
    • $500
  • 3rd place:
    • $250

Deadline
The deadline for entries is
Sunday, January 31, 2010 at 11:59PM (GMT-5:00).

Sponsors
We thank our sponsors for their kind support:
CGDC7 sponsorsCasual GameplayArmor Games

A list of rules and requirements for entry and for judging follow...


| Comments (7) | Views (2)

Mobile Monday

JohnBThis intro paragraph was written under duress. I, a lonely garden gnome, am being held inside the house against my gnome will. I am being forced to eat vegetables, exercise regularly, and weave baskets as a hobby. If you read this, please send help. And cookies.

ropenfly2.jpgRope'n'Fly 2 - Did you enjoy Rope Raider and Rope'n'Fly? I know I did. Swinging from building to building with but the tap of a finger has never been so... well, literal. Rope'n'Fly 2 improves upon the original Rope'n'Fly by adding weather effects and greatly improving the controls. You'll also find a handful of new modes and challenges to complete, along with online high scores that are practically impossible (for me, anyway) to beat. The free Rope'n'Fly 2 Lite is also available.

redplanet.jpgRed Planet - Walking the fine line between game and interactive multimedia experience, Red Planet is a 3D ambient adventure that features music by Christopher Franke, composer for the TV series Babylon 5. Move around the photorealistic world searching for the transmitter base, taking in the stunning scenery as night changes into day. There are a few basic tasks to complete, but really Red Planet is about experiencing Mars as if it were in your hands.

edge.gifEdge - Did you miss it before? After a long (and rather pointless) series of legal battles, Edge is finally back on the iTunes App Store. The award-winning, stylistically beautiful platform game features over 40 levels of increasing complexity, plenty to keep you busy for days on end. Move around spacey geometric structures by dragging your finger across the screen to rotate the cube, climb stairs, collect prisms, press switches, ride platforms, and perform gravity-defying acts of awesomeness.

NOTE: Games listed may not be available outside of North America. Prices are subject to change and are therefore unlisted. Please see the individual game pages for purchasing info.


  • Currently 4.7/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.7/5 (63 votes)
| Comments (8) | Views (531)

Mad Skills Motocross

AdamBOnce upon a time, an exceptional game designer decided to put his hands to making a 'cool' game. It worked. The result was Excitebike, a fast-paced and challenging motorbike racing game. Released this year is the strikingly similar debut game from Turborilla, the aptly titled Mad Skills Motocross. While there are obvious differences between the two games, the general idea of "move right using a motorbike while making jumps and going fast" is here, and that's what we like to see.

Mad Skills MotocrossYou play as a motocross stuntman whose sole driving goal is to beat the brains out of a bunch of similarly clad (but different coloured) motocross stuntmen. Doing this is not as easy as it sounds, as your opponents will use every trick he knows to jump faster, move quicker, and backflip more stylishly than you, all in a mad race to be the first to make it to the end!

Most of the action will take place using just the [arrow] keys. Accelerate using the [up] arrow, brake with [down] and rotate either direction by pressing [left] or [right]. When on the ground, the [left] arrow can be used to streamline the player and gain a slight speed increase. If in the air, rotating can cause you to flip in a complete circle, which will earn you stars.

As you progress through the increasingly crazy level designs, your good friend Doc will add things to the mix. First on the agenda: a jump pad. Next comes a turbo rocket boost for your bike. Utilizing these additional tools you can hop, skip and launch yourself higher than the top of the screen, spending the airborne time backflipping and hoping your bike doesn't fall apart when you land. You can even use tricks like this to skip entire sections of track, so you'll be spending a fair amount of time analyzing the best spots to launch yourself from.

For the most part, Mad Skills Motocross is solid as a rock. There are several divisions to qualify for and there are additional collectibles such as the ticks and stars to grab, too. The icing on the cake is, without a doubt, the comprehensive level editor. You can create devilishly difficult or angelically unimposing tracks with custom sized and shaped hills, mountains, ramps, dips, bumps, grooves, boosts and anything else needed in order to create the fully functioning level of your dreams.

Mad Skills MotocrossAnalysis: Mad Skills Motocross is Excitebike for 2009. Whereas most games tend to ease you into play with bare controls and easy physics, this one isn't afraid to make you work for your wins. Learning to handle your bike is a big part of the experience, and it's unfortunately something that will turn many casual players away right from the start, as it takes some time to master.

Once you get used to the controls, Mad Skills Motocross is exceptionally fun. The jumping and turbo skills come in handy to gain some ground, though I wish the game let you choose which modification to equip. Also, you can only activate one skill per track, so all that time you spent mastering jumping will be useless when suddenly you can't!

More on-screen information would have been useful, such as a mini-map or a speedometer, but it isn't necessary to enjoy the game. The only other criticism I have is the infallible computer-controlled racers. Sometimes they're so adept at understanding the ins, outs, ups and downs of every track, they can fly through with graceful ease. This is frustrating, to say the least, as you have to restart many, many times before you can do half as good.

Keep an eye out for the upcoming online multiplayer mode, something that will surely eat up a lot of your afternoons and evenings with your friends. In the meantime, I will be returning to the dusty plains and impossibly-balanced mountains in order to, hopefully, shave another second off my time and beat that blue bike once and for all.

Bonus! The first 25 people to buy Mad Skills Motocross can save 30% by using this coupon code at checkout: BMMB000H7

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


(16 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (27) | Views (169)

murdershewrote_banner.jpg

GrinnypAre you old enough to remember sitting down in front of the TV on a Sunday night, anticipating the appearance of Angela Lansbury in one of the longest-running mystery series ever? If so, you will be thrilled with Murder, She Wrote by Legacy Interactive, a wonderful mystery hidden object/adventure hybrid based on the long-running television series of the same name. Murder, She Wrote allows the player to join world-renowned mystery author Jessica Fletcher as she makes her way through five brand new murder mysteries.

murdershewrote_jessica.jpgFor those who don't remember the show (and those who have never managed to catch it in numerous reruns in syndication) here's the scoop: a widowed, retired English teacher who also happens to be a best-selling novelist solves real-life murder mysteries in her little town of Cabot Cove, Maine (considering the number of killings in this small town Cabot Cove must have been the per-capita murder capital of the US from 1984 to 1996, when the show ran) or wherever she happens to be visiting. Just consider Jessica the Miss Marple of Maine — although, to be precise, she's more like the Ariadne Oliver of Maine, but if you don't read Agatha Christie you wouldn't understand the reference, so... moving on.

Each mystery, triggered by a novel in the menu bookcase, begins with a cut-scene setting up the story and the nefarious deeds that make up the central mystery. Three of the scenarios take place in Cabot Cove itself, one in another town in Vermont, and one takes place in London, as the original show would occasionally do. Once the cut-scene is over, the HOG fun begins. A nice conceit of Murder, She Wrote is the list of items to be found comes out of Jessica's old manual typewriter, which happens to be missing the vowel keys. Before you do anything else you must find the six keys in the scene (A, E, I, O, U, and Y) to complete the list. Several items that are found in the scene interact with other items or are needed to find other items. Some items or areas in the scene open up mini-games as well. Once the scene is done you will be treated to another dialogue cut-scene which leads to the next HOG scene, and on it goes until the mystery is solved. Navigation between the scenes is accomplished with a map of the town or city in which the mystery is taking place.

murdershewrote_scene.jpgEach of the five mysteries contains a large number of HOG scenes, mini-games, and puzzles. Hints are on a refilling timer that can be refilled faster if you find the typewriter ribbon hidden in the background (for those unfamiliar with "typewriter" and "typewriter ribbon", I suggest a trip to the local museum). Most mini-games can be skipped after a period of time. HOG scenes and mini-games are timed, but there is also the choice of a relaxed mode for those who don't like the pressure. All of the dialogue and cut scenes can be sped up by clicking, or skipped altogether. Skipping the dialogue, though, is taking much of the fun out of the game. Unless, of course, you don't care about the story at all and are just aiming for the HOG and mini-games.

Analysis: Legacy Interactive has done a stellar job of creating a game that is literally like wandering through an episode of Murder, She Wrote. The voice acting in the cut scenes adds to the illusion, a standout being Phoebe Moyer who does a great Angela Lansbury impersonation, capturing both her "Mainer" accent and her natural British accent (playing a dual role in one of the mysteries). Although we are treated to a lot of fake Maine and British accents, none of them are painfully egregious to listen to. All of the HOG scenes are about gathering evidence, and the mini-games are all about piecing together the clues. All you need are some commercial breaks and you'd feel like you were experiencing the real thing.

The artwork in Murder, She Wrote is, for the most part, bright and a little cartoony, with a sort of hand-painted feel. The soundtrack is the famous title music and incidental music from the show itself. Along with the spot-on background noises and voice acting, the sound is a great part of the game experience.

murdershewrote_hogscene.jpgOne of the nicest aspects of the game is the "twist" put on the mini-games and puzzles. Granted, they are familiar iterations of puzzles that have been done before, but many add their own individual spin that makes them feel fresh. Many of the hidden match 2 games, for instance, will cause the hidden objects to shuffle if you don't make a match, forcing the player to employ a lot more memory skill than the average hidden match 2. There are also several logic puzzles that add to the feel of investigating a crime.

Another fine feature is the length of the game itself. If you don't skip the dialogue sections or mini-games, each of the five "novels" can generate at least an hour of playing time. Completion of one book triggers the opening of the next, and there is always the possibility of going back and replaying any of the stories. This puts Murder, She wrote ahead of the pack when it comes to sheer playing time.

The novel structure of Murder, She Wrote lends itself well to casual gameplay. You can marathon the game, but it is much more enjoyable to play one story at a time, like reading a good book or enjoying an episode of a beloved television show. If you like hidden object madness and are a murder mystery fan then it's time to pull out the magnifying glass, put on your thinking cap, and play Murder, She Wrote.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.2/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.2/5 (155 votes)
| Comments (20) | Views (26)

DoraDrifting AfternoonLadies and gentlemen, warm up your awwwww glands, if you please. (Psssst! They're next to your phalangebous!) Ferry Halim of Orisinal fame has created another game, you see, and we wouldn't want you to injure them! Featuring lush, storybook visuals, easy to pick up controls, and a one-button game of skill, Drifting Afternoon is a perfect little treat to fit right in to your day. Plus, a kitten! All together now:

Eeeeeeeee!

Although it looks pretty windy out there, your intrepid little orange kitten has no trouble keeping up with your mouse as you guide him around the screen. Click somewhere, and he'll jump in the direction of your cursor. Those are the only controls! The object is simply to help him leap from one brightly coloured bubble to another as they float by. Each time you make a successful jump, the amount of points you earn increases. Falling to the ground resets the chain. If you jump over one or more bubbles and land successfully on another, you'll get a bonus. Just keep an eye on your time, and keep an eye out for special bubbles that can grant you a small time extension!

Like all Orisinal titles, Drifting Afternoon is designed to be short and sweet rather than deep and compelling. Most importantly, it's an extremely well made, family friendly game, and that's something we don't see enough of, in my opinion. Not only is Drifting Afternoon a gentle, adorable game, it's controls are so easy to master that anybody can pick it up, for as long or as little as they like. So if you're stuck behind a desk, inside when you'd rather be out, or even just looking for something to bring a smile to your face, let Drifting Afternoon carry you away for a minute or three.

Thanks to WelshGuy for sending this one in!

Play Drifting Afternoon


  • Currently 4.4/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.4/5 (28 votes)
| Comments (4) | Views (510)

gardenscapes_banner.jpg

GrinnypCities are fun, happening places to be, full of action, excitement, and drama in spades. But let's face it; they are also crowded, noisy, and dirty. What city dweller hasn't momentarily yearned for a little plot of land somewhere and a lovely green garden? A place to call your own, a place to breathe in nature, a place to make the neighbors, well, green with envy. This is the premise of Gardenscapes by Playrix Entertainment, a hidden object game with elements of time management and sim games thrown in to make a fun, exciting, and yet curiously relaxing experience.

gardenscapes_room.jpgIn the opening scenario you find that you have inherited your grandfather's old house, which you remembered had such a lovely garden. When you arrive, however, you will find that your grandfather's old butler, Austin, is a bit... peculiar, shall we say? The house and garden have gone to wreck and ruin and of course there's no money to be had. What shall you do? A practical person might say, "Sell the lot and be done with it" but you're not that practical. So you devise a plan to restore the garden to its former glory, hopefully in time to win the garden club's garden of the year award.

Such a clever plan you come up with, too. You decide to hold a jumble sale (yard sale or garage sale for those of us from the US of A) to make enough money to bring back the garden. As you enter a room in the house townspeople will arrive five at a time requesting certain things that they wish to buy. Each person starts out pretty happy, but the longer you take to find the item the unhappier they get, and the less money they are willing to spend. Once an item is found and a sale is made you must remember to take their money to clear a space for the next customer. Each scene has a certain amount of time in which you have to serve a certain number of customers (from 15 to 20). Once all customers are served the scene is over and you get the money from the sales as well as bonus money for any leftover time and hints.

gardenscapes_house.jpgThere are three, count 'em, three types of hints in Gardenscapes: one hint button and two other types hidden somewhere in the HOG scenes. The hint button does not tell you where an item is (except in the case of special requests, but more on that later) but rather shows you a picture of the item in question. If you have five customers lined up, pushing the hint button will show pictures of the five items they are looking for, hopefully enabling you to find them more quickly. However, you don't want to use these hints up as the more you have left at the end of the scene the more bonus money you receive. You can only have five hints at a time stocked up for the hint button, and if you've used one there will be a question mark hidden in the next scene to help refill the button. Hidden in each HOG scene is a camera hint with different makes and types of cameras in each scene. Click on the camera and a brilliant flash will white out the scene with the exception of the objects that the customers are looking for. But click fast, because the flash fades quickly. There are also two thermometers hidden each scene which will start a game of hot/cold, causing the customers to either ice up or glow red when you are far away or near the item that they want. Of course, each type of hint can only be used for the customers that are on-screen, so they only work for at most five items. And if a customer is requesting multiples of an item, say three umbrellas, the hints will only show one.

Once in a while a special request will come in from a townsperson for, say, 20 of an item. A local low-budget film director, for instance, might want 20 blow-dryers to help recreate a typhoon (now that's low budget). In those scenes the hint button will directly point to an object in the scene, but only one. Other special requests might come in to find pearls or candy in each scene in addition to all the other objects customers are requesting. Add to that each scene hides several gold coins which when found add to the monetary total. Between regular customer requests, special items, coins, cameras and thermometers, each HOG scene can become fast and frantic while the clock is ticking.

Between each round of HOG goodness you will head back to the garden to make decisions. Each section of the game deals with four garden features that need to be upgraded. Each feature itself has three choices and three different price points, from low- to high-end. When you have enough money from the sales, upgrade your feature and go back to selling. Eventually the garden will take shape in all its glory, from the carefully trimmed topiaries to the calm pond (with swan, of course), from the formality of the central fountain to the playfulness of the miniature golf course, and much, much more.

gardenscapes_garden.jpgAnalysis: What makes Gardenscapes such a fun, rollercoaster ride of casual gameplay is the contrast between the frantic, almost time-management style of the HOG scenes and the calm, relaxing joy of the garden. As the garden becomes more and more restored you will begin to notice all the lovely hidden details. Animated butterflies and song-birds flit everywhere. Austin the forgetful butler wanders through the scene, sometimes answering the phone, sometimes picking up the mail, and sometimes gently reminding you that there are goals to be obtained. But slow down and take time to explore the garden, it will be worth your while. Click on things and see what happens. Half of the delight of the game is just taking time to play around with all the possibilities hidden within the beautiful scenery. You can even set the garden as a screensaver to enjoy watching it when you're not playing.

Artwork in the HOG scenes, is bright, vivid, 3D and photo realistic. The garden scenes are cartoonier and animated, with Austin the butler and the dog (which, once acquired, you can name anything you want), butterflies, birds, and other animated surprises as the game goes on. It even rains occasionally! Hovering your mouse over certain items in the HOG scenes triggers animations as well. Lots of thought and effort have gone into making Gardenscapes a treat for the eyes. Sprightly music and background noises add to the enjoyment, whether in the frantic HOG scenes or the Zen-like relaxation of the garden. And for those who like the HOG aspect but don't want the jitters that go with timed play can switch to an untimed mode, turning the entire game into relaxed, casual gameplay.

Perhaps best of all, Gardenscapes is an open-ended game. Gameplay does not stop once you've completely restored the garden and won the garden club award. In fact, you can continue to hold sales and earn more money. Why? Because of the nifty "design" feature of the garden. Decided that the benches and the fence don't really go together? You can go into the design feature and change an item for one of the other two choices originally presented. Want to completely redo the garden in a summer theme? You can do that too, but of course you need money to do so. You can continue to play the HOG scenes and redo the garden over and over to your heart's content. Considering the current length of most HOG games, this makes Gardenscapes a heck of a deal with the possibility of hours upon hours of enjoyment.

Played in small chunks or huge blocks of time, Gardenscapes is casual gameplay at its finest, a never-ending delight of HOG fun intertwined with the sim-like atmosphere of spectacular garden. It's time to pull on those gloves, slap on a sun-hat, stake a "jumble sale" sign in the front yard and go green!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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

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


  • Currently 4.5/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.5/5 (1013 votes)
| Comments (147) | Views (3,222)

clickplay2.jpgJohnBClickPLAY has returned! NinjaDoodle's crazy mouse-based game of discovery, geometric shapes, and rampant clicking is back for more with ClickPLAY 2! One part puzzle, one part action, and three parts experimentation, ClickPLAY is all about messing with your environment to see what you can accomplish. And, next to eating chocolate cake while riding a roller coaster through a pool of bacon, it's one of the best ways to spend 15 minutes of your afternoon!

So, what's the point of ClickPLAY? To click "play"! In each of the levels, your job is to locate the play button by manipulating items, completing puzzles, or just playing with things on the screen. Maybe you're a duck bobbing its head under the water every time you click the mouse. Maybe you need to shuffle a container while you drop pieces of a puzzle inside. Maybe you're Godzilla eating muffins out of a pizza box (ok, I made that one up). The point is, you click the mouse, things on the screen react. Now you just have to figure out what to do to make that play button appear.

Play all the ClickPLAY games:
Click PLAYClick PLAY 2Click PLAY 3Click PLAY RainbowClick PLAY Rainbow 2Click PLAY Quickfire 1Click PLAY Quickfire 2Click PLAY Quickfire 3

There's no time limit, but the catch is the game counts each click you make. At the end of it all you're given a rank based on that number. The fewer clicks the better, meaning you'll probably have to play through the game twice, first to get a feel for the puzzles, then go back and do everything again with minimal clicking. Don't let the counter discourage you from experimenting on your first time around, as that's where all the fun's at!

From the whimsical music to the black and white visual style, ClickPLAY 2 makes you feel like you're playing an old Charlie Chaplin film. Not that it has anything to do with The Tramp, but the atmosphere of playfulness is the same. It's a short experience, especially once you learn how to complete each level, but it's one of those rare games where you love figuring things out on your own. Simply put, ClickPLAY 2 is wildly entertaining.

Play ClickPLAY 2


| Comments (11) | Views (14)

Weekend Download

JohnBAlternate title for this edition of Weekend Download: The Balloon Bros. Return of the Attack of the Wrath of the Download: Episode 2 Part 4 - Tetripongfetusausable's Revenge.

balloonbros.jpgThe Balloon Bros Tumble-Top Sideshow Spectacular! (Windows, 20MB, free) - Here's something you don't see every day: a match-3 that's actually worth playing! From Charlie Dog Games, creator of the word game Cuba Letra, comes a whimsical take on the familiar genre. Remember how Bejeweled Twist allowed you to rotate gems to make matches? Balloon Bros goes to the next level and lets you rotate the entire playing field! Click balloons to pop them, creating a space that other balloons float up to fill. To create matches, simply make it so three or more like-colored balloons meet. Rotating the screen changes which balloons move where, giving you a ton of freedom in creating strategies and building up chain reactions. A very well-made game that's unique, charming, and great for an afternoon of gaming!

ausable.gifAu Sable (Windows, 8.83MB, free) - A rare game that isn't gross-out shock-value scary but is genuinely disturbing, Au Sable by Amon26 is a dark platform adventure with a focus on setting and mood. Discussing much more of the game would spoil it, but suffice to say, you'll get more than a chill or two experiencing this frightening game. And it's all accomplished with chunky pixel art and a drab palette of white, black, red, and a whole lot of gray. Fantastic work, but keep the kids in another room for this one.

fetus.gifFetus (Windows, 2.9MB, free) - A clever little puzzle platformer that plays with your sense of gravity and continuity. Remember old arcade games (especially Kid Icarus and Pac-Man) where you could walk off the edge of the screen and appear on the other side? Fetus makes heavy use of this to create maze levels wrapped around themselves, forcing you to rethink your sense of space and direction. A nice, cool visual presentation sets the mood, and the slow, confining controls really draw the blanket of mystery around you. Later levels crank up the difficulty, so be ready with that [R] key to restart the level.

tetripong.gifTetripong (Windows, 2.2MB, free) - I'll give you 18 guesses to figure out what this game is about! Combining Tetris and Pong, Tetripong pits you and your block stacking skills against the bouncing ball of destruction. As the Pong ball ricochets around the screen, your job is to make as many Tetris lines as you can. And yes, it's as wild as it sounds.

Note: All games have been confirmed to run under Windows Vista and are virus-free. Mac users should try Boot Camp, Parallels, or CrossOver Games to play Windows titles, Linux users can use Wine. If you know of a great game we should feature, use the Submit link above to send it in!


  • Currently 3.8/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 3.8/5 (21 votes)
| Comments (13) | Views (214)

Alabama Smith in the Quest of Fate

JohnBIt had to be tough growing up with a name like Alabama Smith. I'm sure the mullet jokes practically wrote themselves. But somehow the kid named after the 22nd U.S. state made it, growing up to become a successful archaeologist. Now, following Alabama Smith in Escape from Pompeii, the time-traveling ruins scavenger has returned in Alabama Smith in the Quest of Fate. And this time he has to stop a mysterious nemesis searching for magical relics in Peru!

alabamasmithfate.jpgAlabama Smith is built on an adventure game skeleton, making its central focus exploration, inventory management, and puzzle solving. Most of the tasks you'll complete involve finding lists of hidden objects, making it a fine example of a hybrid casual game. Tasks appear at the bottom right corner of the screen, listing items you need to find, places you need to visit, and other jobs you need to get done. To the left of that you'll find your inventory, and the bar at the top of the screen shows you what items can be found in your current location.

The first few minutes of the game illustrate well what the rest of the game has to offer. Alabama receives an e-mail asking him to gather the relics he's been studying and travel to Macchu Picchu. Can you guess what your first job is? Find all 12 Incan statues! It isn't as easy as studying pixels and clicking in the right place, though. To grab all of the items, you'll need to unlock doors, pry open boxes, reach high ledges, solve mini-games, use items from your inventory, and dig around several rooms to find everything you need.

A forgiving hint system makes the sometimes obtuse puzzles more bearable. Clicking the "?" icon shows you where an item is located, and if it's in another room, it leads you out at no cost. Hints recharge after just a few seconds, so if you feel stuck, don't hesitate to give it a click.

alabamasmithfate2.jpgAnalysis: Alabama Smith in the Quest of Fate takes a refreshing turn away from hidden object territory with its strong adventure slant. Inventory puzzles are where the challenge rests, and you aren't punished for mis-clicks or for using the hint button. This is not a game about getting a high score because you saw the camouflage snake hidden in the background faster than everybody else. This is a casual adventure game with real puzzles to solve.

Visually polished and a smooth experience to play, I couldn't help but notice the same faults present in the original game were repeated in the sequel. Puzzle construction often lands a bit on the "what?" side of things, making the hint system almost necessary to complete some tasks. It's nice to have your objectives spelled out at the bottom of the screen, but when the steps to completing those objectives don't make sense, you might as well abandon the list and let us try on our own.

Regardless of a few puzzle-related fumbles (and the fact that Peru isn't as epic a setting as Pompeii), Alabama Smith in the Quest of Fate manages to pick up the ball and score. Even though it's more adventure than it is hidden object, fans of both genres will find something to love in this well-made game.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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

Alabama Smith in the Quest of Fate is available to download from these affiliates:
Big Fish Games


  • Currently 3.9/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 3.9/5 (116 votes)
| Comments (20) | Views (30)

Level EditorJerradGame developers will often provide players with tools that allow you to create your own level. In Level Editor, the new platform puzzler from Sigma Studios, they've decided to skip the pre-made levels and just let you get straight to the level-building fun.

You play a red hat-wearing stick man with an arsenal of building blocks and a craving for coins. Controls can be done via either the [WASD] or the [arrow] keys, and [space] can be used as an additional jump button. Your goal is to collect as many coins as you can and reach the door to the next level, all the while avoiding the spiky balls that seem to care about nothing but your immediate death. The problem you'll face along the way is that the levels are not designed to allow you to reach the end. That's where the blocks come in. You're given an assortment of blocks in each level, and you are free to place them however you like in order to reach the door. They come in 4 or 5 different varieties, most of which are fairly self-explanatory. Put down your blocks, collect coins, reach the exit, and repeat, across 40 levels of increasing difficulty.

Analysis: Level Editor's hat-wearing protagonist almost comes across as Fancy Pants Man's cowardly cousin, but that's part of what makes this game so much fun to play. After the first few introductory levels, you get the feeling that you're not so much trying to reach the goal, but that you're just trying to get away from your spiky tormentors. Not that this is a bad thing; the feeling that I was trying to get away from something probably kept playing a lot longer than I would have if you just had to casually make your way to the door at the end of each level. Controls are smooth, and the grid layout telling you where blocks can be places is a lifesaver. It's easily taken for granted, but it's nice to never have to restart a level because you placed a block a few pixels too low to make a jump.

The biggest flaw in Level Editor is that, even at the higher difficulty levels, it never provides too much of a challenge. There's a video walkthrough provided, but I was able to work through all 40 levels without having to use it once. The levels are fairly open-ended in regard to how you solve them, but most of the challenge comes from actually executing your plan. Still, it's fun while it lasts, and there's enough options to keep you going back to see if you can get a higher score by doing things just a bit differently. All in all, Level Editor makes for a solid platformer with enough freedom to keep you coming back. So sit back, put on your snazzy red hat, and start building!

Play Level Editor


| Comments (40) | Views (1)

Link Dump Fridays

DoraHappy Friday, Casual Gameplay fans! At least, we hope it's a happy Friday for you?... oh, no. Is that a frown we see out there? Was that a mournful sigh on the wind just now? Well, that settles it! It's up to JayIsGames to save your Friday with dragons big and small, physics, and so much more! (Including our own special brand of low-calorie sunshine.)

  • Find TealyFind Tealy - People will tell you there is no such thing as dragons. Those people are liars. They don't want you to know all the dragons (the teal ones, anyway) are hiding in picturesque meadows, waiting for someone with the right point-and-click skills to come along and find them. Well, we'll show those dirty rotten dragon hoggers, won't we?!
  • Dragon BoyDragon Boy - Not, in fact, a sad tale of a misshapen hybrid of dragon and child, shunned and ostracized by his peers and winds up using football to touch the hearts of a nation. This action game with RPG elements has you raising a dragon by battling your way through the baddies du jour. Not quite fleshed out enough to save itself from the curse of repetition, it's still worth a look for fans of the action /RPG genre.
  • HaystaxHaystax - Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool? Well, unless you get him down from those hay bales, you'll never find out! Stupid sheep. Mocking you with his sheepiness. You could try gentle persuasion, bribery with a delicious carrot, calling the fire department... ooooh! Or, you could punting other sheep at him until you knock him down! At only twelve levels, it's a light physics/ability game to get your daily recommended intake.
  • Save the BunnySave the Bunny - [Parental Warning: Contains a small amount of blood on one stage.] FACT. The vacuum cleaner is the bunny's natural predator. FACT. People love torturing chocolate. It's up to you to save the day and use your powers of abstract thinking to rescue bunnies in various forms of peril. FACT. Chocolate bunnies are toxic and you should send them to me for... disposal. FACT! I am a reliable source of facts.
  • Adventurous EricAdventurous Eric - Aw, look at the lovely, hand-drawn little kitty-cat! He's so sweet, and whimsical, and in no way makes you want to set fire to the internet because you can't keep the FREAKIN' cursor within the FREAKIN' path and have to keep starting the FREAK over! *pant, pant*... but, still. Awwww. You're lucky you're cute, cat. So lucky.

  • Currently 4.3/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.3/5 (193 votes)
| Comments (17) | Views (75)

popopop2.jpgJohnBWho doesn't like popping stuff? Come on, seriously, every time you come across a piece of bubble wrap, soap bubbles in the sink, or a bunch of balloons held aloft by a happy little kid in the park, you just can't resist the urge. See bubble, must pop. Popopopop (or Popopop 2 as my right pinky will insist on typing it) plays on this instinct of ours just like the original Popopop and the Bloons series does. Only now instead of rampant popping, you have to do things with a little bit of strategy. And cannons. Strategy and cannons. And needles!

Each level is filled with colored bubbles spread across a grid. To the left you'll see an inventory bar with a few bubbles you can place anywhere you like. Stick one on the screen and suddenly bubbles pop like dominos, exploding in all directions from where you placed your circle. The goal is to create chain reactions that clear the screen of all bubbles.

Popopop 2 doesn't stop there. Some orbs come with special abilities, such as single-directional popping which forces you to consider the direction bubbles will disappear. There are also power-up-style orbs that let you fire cannons, shoot bolts of lightning, poke things with a needle, and more. Oh, and don't forget the skull and crossbone bubbles. They're mean.

It starts out as a pure popping experience, but just like its predecessor, Popopop 2 reveals itself to be a trial and error game of strategy and timing. And failure. Did I mention that? Because failure is part of the experience. It isn't disheartening at all, of course, but carving your way through a mass of colored orbs only to find you misplaced a bubble ten moves ago makes you pause and strategize before slapping those things on the grid.

And now for the creative part: custom levels. Right from the title screen, Popopop 2 offers an editor that allows you to create your own bubble-popping puzzles. It's as easy to use as you would think, and once you create a workable stage, you can save it for others to play. There are lots of custom levels already available, and some of them are murderously difficult.

Popopop 2 is a game you'll love. Then you'll scream at it. Then you'll probably get mad once more before you realize you're having loads of fun. Then you'll realize half an hour has gone by and you should have started dinner already. Then you'll lean forward to get out of your chair, only to sit back down and play just one more level. The bubble-popping playground now owns you.

Play Popopop 2


| Comments (58) | Views (25)

escape

Check out the Casual Gameplay Design Competition #7 announcement for details.


  • Currently 4.3/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.3/5 (221 votes)
| Comments (26) | Views (224)

zxoWake Up the BoxHey! Will someone tell that box that he can't sleep there? He might fall and hurt himself! And we all know how well that worked out for that Humpty fella. I don't care how you do it, just wake him up!

Yes, it seems that narcoleptic Mr. Box has gotten himself in a bit of a conundrum. Or rather, twenty conundrums. Your goal is to wake him up ‒ push him, pull him, tip him over... whatever gets the job done. Problem is, all you have to work with are these blocks of wood, and what's worse, you can't even place them where you want! They may only be attached to existing wood structures, and once you stick them on, they stay stuck. Thus, Eugene Karataev's (Splitter) latest game Wake Up The Box provides a unique challenge among physics puzzlers, with balance and centers of gravity taking center stage. Unlike most games, you can't simply increase the momentum in the system by dropping blocks from a higher height, so you'll need to find creative ways to get things moving by utilizing leverage and upsetting the balance of objects in the level.

As in Splitter, Eugene has managed to tweak the basic concept of a physics puzzle just enough to provide a fresh take on the genre, requiring new ways of thinking and new types of solutions. However, the execution of Wake Up The Box doesn't quite stack up to Eugene's previous work. At a mere twenty levels, it won't last much longer than a coffee break, and even then there are a couple levels that probably should have been left out. (When even the video walkthrough restarts a level 5 times before getting it right, you have to question whether it belongs in a puzzle game.) Of course, the game's length is what you make of it ‒ you don't want to get dragged into an hour-long game when you're trying to kill 15 minutes.

Play all the "Wake Up!" games:
Wake Up the BoxWake Up the Box 2Wake Up the Box 3Wake Up the Box 4Wake the RoyaltyWake the Royalty Level PackWake Up the Box 5

As for the non-gameplay aspects of Wake Up The Box, there's both good and bad. The hanging clouds provide just a touch of whimsy, and come on... a box with arms and legs! The sounds could have used a bit more polish ‒ the end-of-level jingle abruptly cuts off the otherwise soothing game music. On the other hand, Mr. Box doesn't seem to be bothered by it; I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone so happy to be woken up, especially someone who wakes up in midair!

So there you have it. Short but solid, Wake Up The Box provides 20 winks of phuzzle goodness and a bit of charm to boot!

Play Wake Up The Box


  • Currently 4.6/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.6/5 (196 votes)
| Comments (30) | Views (407)

Grinnypfullmoon.gifBunnies, those cute furry little creatures! Who doesn't love bunnies? Friendly, soft, cuddly, suddenly demanding things without letting you know how to obtain them. At least, that's how they are in Bart Bonte's Full Moon, a lovely little point-and-click puzzle game that took second place in our latest Casual Gameplay Design Competition!

With a style of gameplay reminiscent of ClickPLAY, Full Moon is easy to get the hang of. Each level features the bunny with an item inside his thought balloon. Look at the shape of the item, then see if you can find anything similar in the shadowy world around. Found it? Try clicking it. Not much happened, did it? Locating the object and getting it to the bunny are two separate tasks. Competition second place award winnerMuch like Samorost presents its puzzles, Full Moon works by chaining small events together to complete a bigger task. To get the acorn, you might have to float it across the pond, dropping a leaf, releasing the acorn, and moving obstacles out of the way at just the right time. It's an intuitive experience that manages to get its point across without words, and after you solve each puzzle you get that wonderful feeling of elated satisfaction!

Analysis: Full Moon is the perfect definition of casual gameplay. Easy to learn, fun to master, and nothing but delightful puzzle situations the whole way. At most a 5 to 10 minute experience, Full Moon is perfect for a break. Stylishly done up in flat black, white, and blue, Full Moon is also very easy on the eyes. There's no clutter to distract you, and the presentation is quite soothing with its nighttime tones.

Combining point-and-click puzzles with the slightest hidden object influence, Full Moon succeeds by keeping everything simple. It's a subtle experience without tutorials, hints, or even words to help you along. You see the rabbit, you see what the rabbit is thinking about, and your gaming sense kicks in telling you to find what the rabbit wants. Working your way backwards from the object, you learn through trial and error what needs to be done. That element of experimentation is what traps you in the game, and it's also what gives you the well-earned sense of accomplishment at the end. Some of the puzzles may be a bit too simple, but it's better to err on the easy side than to frustrate casual players with an impossible riddle.

Bart Bonte has given us a wonderful, enjoyable, bunny-filled way to have a little fun. Full Moon is engaging in every way, and it was put together with such style, you won't hesitate to play it through to the end.

Play Full Moon


  • Currently 4.1/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.1/5 (101 votes)
| Comments (52) | Views (91)

Weekday Escape

GrinnypSome escape games are exercises in pure logic. Some escape games are exercises in hidden object hunting. Some escape games are exercises in being in touch with your inner MacGyver, necessitating the combining of many different items to create something that will enable you to escape. Which type of game is preferred is up to the player, but a nicely balanced game seems to hold all three aspects, logic, hunting, and construction. So for this week we are eschewing atmosphere, back story, and all other extraneous aspects and going back to the basics. Welcome to Lunar Rainbow Room Escape.

lunarrainbowroom.jpgCreated by Strawberry Cafe, makers of Strawberry Cafe Escape, Lunar Rainbow Room Escape is a simple, basic, fun room escape with no hidden story or agenda. You're in a room, and you want to get out. This can be accomplished by the usual tasks of peeking into every nook and cranny, solving several puzzles, and, yes, putting together found objects to create something else.

Navigation through the space is accomplished with the obligatory arrows on the sides, top, and bottom of the screen. Inventory control is a breeze with the handy "about item" button allowing you to pull up anything you have for a close up. There is, however, no changing cursor so there will be a small amount of pixel hunting. Fortunately the game designers have compensated for this by creating large clickable areas, so you shouldn't have to do much hunting.

As with any Strawberry Cafe game, the visuals are lovely and largely done in shades of pink and red. Nicely done in 3D with appropriate lighting and shadows, Lunar Rainbow Room Escape is a feast for the eyes. Not for the ears, though, as there is no music accompaniment. Sound effects, but no music. A soothing tune would have complemented the atmosphere perfectly.

Analysis: Lunar Rainbow Room Escape is one of those light, frothy, cure the mid-week blahs room escapes that will stretch the brain without breaking it. With its cool, airy graphics and multitude of small and large logic puzzles, this is the very definition of casual gameplay. 20 minutes or less should see the average gamer through to the end.

The game is not without its flaws, of course. Some music would have been nice, and would have added to the relaxed feel. Lunar Rainbow Room Escape leans a little heavily on color-based puzzles, which makes it difficult if not inaccessible for the small percentage of the population that suffer from color-blindness. The "construction" aspect is more complex than usual, which might make it frustrating for those who don't like that sort of thing. And, since this is the English version of a Japanese room escape, there is some awkwardness with the translation.

Nevertheless, don't let the minor flaws put you off what is still fun, relaxing, casual gameplay. Although dark, brooding, atmospheric, scary, or slam-your-head-against-the-desk hard room escapes are always fun, in the middle of the week it's nice to kick back and enjoy something simpler. A nice break from the everyday that won't take up the entire day (or even the entire break, if you're really quick). So sit back, relax, and enjoy a cappuccino of an escape game. With colorful sprinkles!

Play Lunar Rainbow Room Escape


  • Currently 4.7/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.7/5 (1438 votes)
| Comments (70) | Views (911)

DoraSmall WorldsEver wish you could just get away from it all? Then maybe you should give David Shute's itty-bitty exploration epic Small Worlds a try and discover what's waiting out there for you. Taking top prize in the 6th Casual Gameplay Design Competition, as well as the award for Audience Favourite and a prize from Armor Games is no small feat. Give it just fifteen minutes of your time and it may win you over, too.

"There is too much noise... " complains the otherwise silent protagonist. Perhaps an odd thing to say when you find yourself within the still remains of... a laboratory? A space station? Best of Casual Gameplay 2009You'll have to take the initiative and explore the area to find out. You can navigate with the [wasd] or [arrow] keys, tapping [up], [w], or [space] to jump. As you go, the map is slowly uncovered and the camera pulls back to reveal more... and more... and more.

There are five worlds to check out, and once you get past the first area, you can go through them in any order you wish. You're not under any constraints, so you can take your time and uncover every nook and cranny. Which you should do, since once you leave a world, you can't go back to it. Competition first place award winnerIf you just want to find everything each area has to offer you, avoid the beacons you'll find beckoning you onward until you've uncovered all the secrets you can.

Analysis: David Shute's oddly melancholic little game is a tricky one to discuss, mainly because so many people have different interpretations of the experience. And, in this case, how can you say one is right over all the others? The ability to explore the worlds at your own pace, and in any order, means there's no real cohesive narrative except for what you Competition audience award winnerinterpret from the scenery. Is our hero the last of his kind? A madman? A villain? Hard to say given that the worlds may not appear to have much in common with one another. Of course I have my own theories, but I doubt you came here to listen to my crazy tin-foil hat nonsense. (Have I talked to you lately about soylent green?) What I will say is that even if you just think of it as a bit of interactive art, Small Worlds is still one of the most unique and enjoyable gaming experiences I've had in a long time.

Small WorldsIt's easy to be underwhelmed by the simplistic look of Small Worlds' visuals upon encountering the first screen, and those who let themselves be put off by it are missing a real treat. As the worlds unfold through your explorations, the detail revealed in them is absolutely top notch. While some are more striking than others, you'll definitely want to explore every nook and cranny to really appreciate them. A big part of the journey is also the music by Kevin MacLeod, with each track helping to buoy your sense of wonder.

What can be frustrating is navigating the often uneven terrain by leaping around. Because the environments are so big and detailed, you'll spend a lot of time trying to navigate your way through them by jumping from place to place. It can be hard to judge distance, especially when the camera has pulled far out, and falling all the way back to the starting point is annoying. You can't die, but having to slowly pick your way back up to where you were happens more often than it should.

Whether or not Small Worlds winds up being a thoughtful experience for you or simply a bit of interactive art depends entirely on you. If you just think it's a clever mechanic, that's fine. If you think there's a deeper meaning behind it, that's fine too. While it doesn't offer much, if anything, in the realm of replay value, Small Worlds still manages to be striking in a short period of time. The perfect size to squeeze a bit of wonder into your day whenever you have time, Small Worlds is fun, beautiful, and definitely one of a kind. Just remember, it's a big world out there. Don't forget to explore it once in a while yourself.

Play Small Worlds


  • Currently 4.4/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.4/5 (45 votes)
| Comments (32) | Views (72)

ExoriareJerradFor those of us who love the idea of digital espionage but who don't have the ability to hack our way into a paper bag, Exoriare is here to fulfill all of our cyberpunk fantasies. The new alternate reality game from Smoking Gun Interactive sucks you in to a world of government conspiracies and stands poised to keep you hooked for a long time to come.

It's difficult to describe this game with too much detail. Such an immersive experience really needs to be tried first-hand to get the full effect. Both the keyboard and mouse are going to be involved, and gameplay ranges from interactive fiction (with a clever nod to a classic IF game) to piecing together a jigsaw-type puzzle and decrypting coded messages. There's a fair amount of puzzle-solving involved, but fortunately there are forums available if you want to ask for help. In fact, registration for the forums is built into the game, so it seems that helping others and asking for help are encouraged by the developers.

Exoriare is presented differently than most games. Far from just a browser title, there's also a companion graphic novel, all of which leads up to an as-of-yet unnamed cross-platform game, to be released in the future. The first parts of the game and novel were released last week, with promises of more content to come. There's no word on how much more we can expect, or how many updates there will be before the experience is complete, but the first expansion is set to come out later today, so now is a great time to get in on the experience. While the details that have been revealed are pretty limited, the people at Smoking Gun Interactive have made it known that once all of the parts have been unveiled, they will all tie together to complete the Exoriare experience.

You can dive straight into the game without reading through the accompanying graphic novel, but I wouldn't recommend it. There's a pretty extensive background story to this game. Everything can be completed without knowing what you're doing, but it won't be nearly as much fun. This is a game you need to soak in, not charge through.

Analysis: Although Exoriare is their first foray into the world of browser-based games, the people of Smoking Gun Interactive are far from inexperienced in the world of video games. In fact, some of the staff worked on Company of Heroes, one of the highest-rated strategy defense games of all time. Couple that with a superbly-drawn graphic novel and this might be one of the most professionally produced browser games around.

With such big names behind it, the bar is set pretty high right from the start. Fortunately, Exoriare manages to leap effortlessly over that bar, in a way that's sure to make cyberpunk fans squeal with delight. The graphics, the storytelling, the atmosphere... everything about this game does an excellent job of sucking you in and making you feel like you're part of the story. Granted, true hacking probably isn't so puzzle-filled, but you'll get so caught up in what you're doing that you won't even notice if it's not exactly realistic.

There are a few accessibility issues I feel I should mention. There are some rapidly flickering images, so people with epilepsy would be wise to steer clear. Even if you're not prone to seizures, the flashing can get annoying when you're trying to concentrate on what's on the screen. There's also a considerable amount of adult language that might turn off parents or the easily offended. Aside from that, you'd be hard pressed to find any faults. Solid gameplay, an absorbing atmosphere, and accompanying media all lead to a game that is likely to become an instant classic.

Play Exoriare

Or start with the graphic novel.

UPDATE - Global Forager:

If you've been keeping up with our new Way Too Casual Podcast, you might have heard that the world of Exoriare is expanding. With the new stand-alone game Global Forager, you can take part in the fun even if you haven't played through the rest of the continually expanding game. Although registration is required, it is handled automatically for you, so you won't even have to provide your e-mail address if you're concerned about privacy. Once you get signed in, you're tasked with taking over a computer network, by making a line connecting one side of the constantly changing playing field to the other. You do this by taking over sections one at a time, while trying to get around the defending network that is trying to keep you out. You're given a number of "exploits" that you can use to try to gain an advantage, but the enemy also has a few tricks to deploy just when you think you're close to winning. The more of the network you take over, the faster you can use your exploits, but don't spend too much time trying to build up your network; after 25 turns, you're shut out and the game and will have to start over. Once you've completed the initial level, you have access to the global network, which is currently being taken over by your fellow players. You'll get to join in the fun at this point, helping to take over regions that haven't been secured yet. Once all of the regions are taken...well, it's not really clear what will come next. That's part of the fun of Exoriare, you never quite know what to expect.

Saying that Global Forager is difficult is an understatement. It's probably going to take you many, many tries before you beat the initial level and make it into the real meat of the game. And then you realize that the level you just spent a large chunk of time trying to beat was an easy level, and there are 2 higher difficulty levels to tackle. The learning curve is fairly steep, but once you play around with it a bit, everything seems to snap into place and start to make some sense. But the difference between knowing what you're supposed to do and actually being able to DO it is pretty huge. Fortunately, I'm happy to report that the payoff is definitely worth your while. Getting to participate with players around the world really helps to immerse you in the game and make you feel as if you're part of something big. If you've played through the original game, you'll have some idea of what to expect. If you haven't, it won't be immediately clear what's going on, but there are some very active forums that can help you to catch up. As long as you don't let yourself get overwhelmed by the initial learning curve, Global Forager is a great way to join up with a large community intent on saving the world from War Games-style destruction.


Play Global Forager


| Comments (72) | Views (97)

6th Casual Gameplay Design Competition

JayToday another Casual Gameplay Design Competition comes to a close, and we are fortunate to have experienced yet another outpouring of unique and creative casual games from the flourishing indie game development community. We are grateful to those who rose to the occasion and submitted an entry before the deadline, as it isn't easy creating a good game that is fun to play within a short development period.

Small WordsWe are here to honor all of the games that were entered, as well as award a few prizes, too. Thanks to our kind and generous sponsors: Armor Games for making it possible to award the top 3 Flash games with a prize (Thanks Dan!); King.com for their kind support (Thanks Lars!); Serene for the wonderful logo and graphics for this competition; and to everyone at Casual Gameplay for just being awesome. It is due to the efforts of all these people that we have the following prizes to award, so please show them your kind support as well.

And now, to the people who have made this, our 6th, competition so memorable. We appreciate your efforts and your dedication to the art of game design and to the creation of casual gameplay.

For the Audience Prize, this time we used the votes and ratings directly from each of the game pages. Small Worlds received almost 22 hundred votes, ranking in at a commendable 4.8 out of 5, earning it a comfortable lead and the well-deserved prize.

Once again, congratulations to everyone who submitted an entry! Just being able to complete a game within a short development period is quite an achievement, in and of itself. Moreover, your continued participation in these competitions makes future competitions like this possible, and we can't thank you enough. We consider ourselves very fortunate, again, to have received such an excellent response to our call for entries, as the entire collection of entries are all quite deserving of our praise.

Following is a list of the top 10 games by score:

  1. Small Worlds
  2. Full Moon
  3. How My Grandfather Won the War
  4. The Fantasy of the Sord
  5. The Fabulous Explorationsland
  6. Hell Tour
  7. Following Footsteps
  8. Beyond the Never
  9. Aubital
  10. Trees

Don't miss our CGDC #7 announcement next week (November 16)!


| Comments (1) | Views (2)

Mobile Monday

JohnBPuzzle games YAY. I like puzzle games because they are puzzles. I also like them because you can play them really fast. I also like them because you do not have to play them a long time. I like puzzle games on the iPod Touch because I can play them laying down on my couch. I also like apple pie ice cream.

samegamegravitized.jpgSamegame Gravitized - From casual gaming favorite ooPixel comes a slightly tweaked version of the familiar puzzle game, samegame. Tap groups of three like-colored orbs to make them disappear. Gravity pulls them down with each match, but you can tilt the iPhone to change which way things move, adding a new dimension to the classic experience. Comes with two modes in addition to gravitized, including classic play and puzzle mode which challenges you to clear the screen one match at a time.

creepytown.gifCREEPYTOWN - Creepsford has been overrun by ghosts, and as the Reaper himself, you must gather the fallen souls to bring peace back to town. This Arkanoid/Breakout game features full touch control that draw lines to keep the ball moving where you need it most. Bust open pots to collect coins and activate the portal that leads to the next level. A beautiful visual presentation makes CREEPYTOWN a joy to look at, and the puzzle-oriented gameplay departs nicely from the brickbreaker genre. A free CREEPYTOWN Lite is also available.

roperaider.jpgRope Raider - Similar to Rope'n'Fly in concept, Rope Raider is an action game where you attach your little rope to buildings and swing through town, just like Spiderman. Nab coins to increase your score, hook onto balloons to get an extra lift, and time your taps just right to catch some serious distance. Several modes of play, tons of scenery to check out, solid roping and swinging action, tight gameplay set this one above Rope'n'Fly in almost every way.

NOTE: Games listed may not be available outside of North America. Prices are subject to change and are therefore unlisted. Please see the individual game pages for purchasing info.


(5 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (1) | Views (9)

Circulate

JohnBCirculate is a physics puzzle game from Pi Eye Games, creator of System Mania and the far-too-cute Kitten Sanctuary. This simple title is built around moving marbles through a circular container so they disappear, whether that be through forming matches, falling into black holes, or even smacking into bombs.

circulate.jpgThe magic in Circulate happens by moving entire levels. Right click and slide the mouse to rotate each screen around the central axis. Turning the environment stirs things up quite a bit, and depending on obstacles and marbles inside the sphere, you could end up meticulously moving the mouse or shaking it like that Yoo-Hoo you found in the back of your fridge that's been there for weeks. Goals vary for each level, but usually you want to get rid of the marbles by sorting them into color groups and nudging them next to each other.

Things get really interesting when power-ups and level limitations are introduced. Think it's rough making those big gray orbs stay away from the tiny red ones? Try keeping bombs separated while you try and set them off one by one. Or using a magnet to separate metallic orbs from non-metallic ones. Or getting one lone marble to the goal without setting off the tilt sensor that explodes if you move the stage beyond a certain point.

Level design is quite creative, ranging from arcade-style shake fests to strategic levels that require a lot of patience. There's even a maze stage or two. Fortunately, if one puzzle isn't your kind of thing, you can always back out to the select screen and skip ahead to another stage. Circulate is quite forgiving when it comes to nurturing your individual play style.

The premise isn't anything revolutionary (although the fact I got to use that pun scores it a few points), but Circulate executes everything with a simple sense of ease. Nothing feels too gimmicky, and new gameplay elements are introduced at a good pace and are utilized quite ingeniously. The variety of visual styles is also impressive, and it's fun to scope out the scenery even if you can't complete the stage to save your life.

No fluff, just 100 odd levels of spinning, physics, and marble destruction. Quite a simple formula for fun!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.8/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.8/5 (109 votes)
| Comments (28) | Views (1,623)

Torchlight

DoraTorchlight, the time-devouring new roguelike action RPG from Runic Games, is good. Like, really, really good. Ideally, you would take me at my word, and I could go back to tracking down Earthreaper the Cruel on the nineteenth floor of the Tuatara Ruins. But apparently people will start making noises about "journalistic integrity". (*snort!*) So this review is going to talk about stabbing, monsters, treasure, fireballs, all the rest of the addictive awesome inside Torchlight, and why you should be playing it now.

TorchlightAs it happens, Torchlight is the name of the town the game is set in. A tiny little village with a rather robust mining community, all built upon the discovery of Ember, a mystical ore with rather... unique properties. When monsters begin swarming out of the mine, it seems like the perfect opportunity for an adventurer such as yourself to make an appearance. At least, that is, until you discover that it might be unhealthy for you to leave even if you wanted to. Luckily for you, with the randomised dungeons, endless monsters, and tons of treasure, why would you want to?

There are three characters to choose from when you start the game, but nobody really has an advantage over another, so feel free to pick whichever strikes your fancy. Sink enough strength points into the agile Vanquisher class, and she'll be able to swing for the fences as well as the Destroyer. You'll navigate your way through the world with the mouse; clicking on a location makes you run there, and holding the button down will keep your character moving in the direction of the cursor. People, items, and, yes, monsters, can be interacted with simply by clicking on them.

Those of you looking for a game with deep, tactical combat are probably going to have to keep looking. Despite making up the lion's share of the gameplay, combat in Torchlight consists of clicking once on a monster to hit, or holding down the button until the monster is dead, or you need to run away. You'll be able to get various spells and special abilities you can bind to hot keys, and upon death monsters drop not only items and gold, but experience and fame. With enough experience you can level up to allocate new skill and stat points, and with enough fame your renown spreads and you'll be able to get more skills. Which you'll need, since the game's randomised dungeons and monsters means it's hard to be prepared. Luckily for you, you've got a kitty cat!

TorchlightOr a puppy dog. After all, what hero-in-training doesn't go everywhere with his or her fluffy companion? You can choose between a cat or a dog upon starting the game, and while the choice is largely a cosmetic one, you're probably going to become pretty attached to your four-legged friend. Not only can your pet be a valuable ally in battle, you can equip it with rings, teach it spells, use it to carry items when you run out of room in your own inventory, and — are you ready? — send it back to town to sell off whatever you don't need while you keep adventuring. In a short time, your pet will be back by your side, returning with the gold value of the items it was carrying. Sort of makes you wonder why you can't send it off with a shopping list and a sack full of gold when you get low on healing potions, but who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth? Uh. Cat. Dog. Whatever! Love him and pet him, or fish up some strange sea creature to feed to him and watch him change into something else temporarily.

While the visuals in Torchlight are bright and colourful, not everyone is going to appreciate how cartoonish they are. The exaggerated designs for characters and enemies are actually very well done, but zooming in makes them look a little square and blocky. Of course, this does mean the system requirements for Torchlight are pretty low, and you'll spend enough time admiring the vibrant surroundings and extravagant spell effects that you probably won't care about the very minor graphical downgrade compared to other titles. Besides, you know what Torchlight has that they don't have? Tons and tons of fun.

Analysis: While I love rich, compelling stories and intricate gameplay as much as the next person, every once in a while all I really want to do is play a nice roguelike/action RPG game for a few (million, billion) hours. If you too share this feverish compulsion, you'll be happy to know that not only does Torchlight fulfill it, it does so well enough that it was only with genuine reluctance that I pulled myself from my dim den, squinting resentfully into the monitor to type this review.

It's not because I wound up deeply invested in the story. Sure, you're given a reason to be descending deeper into the dungeon, and they do try to impart a sense of urgency, but it just doesn't hold up. You spend so much time rampaging through hordes of beasts that your occasional interactions with characters when you come up for air to sell items almost wind up feeling out of place alongside the rest of the gameplay. Sure there are a few other sidequests you can take on, but they involve getting more treasure, or slaying bigger monsters. If that sounds like fun to you, (and it is) then you'll probably have a blast with Torchlight. But if you demand a more potent sense of fantasy and deep story to drive you along, you may be disappointed.

TorchlightSpeaking of disappointment, while we're here, let's lament the lack of multiplayer. Join me in my plaintive chorus, won't you? Yeah, I know, Runic Games is planning an MMO set in the Torchlight universe, but, well, that's not what I want. This game is begging to be played with a buddy. Why can't we have two or even three person co-op play for the campaign? Why can't I have someone to pound fists with over the fallen remains of our foes? Sure, the single-player campaign will probably keep you busy for a good long while, but there is going to come a time where you'll stumble across some treasure you won't use. You know, a wand, or maybe a bow. And you'll think about how your friend, Bob? How Bob loved bows. And a single lonely tear will trickle down your cheek.

But even lacking buddy capabilities, Torchlight is still easily worth the price tag, offering up hours upon hours of playtime, and a lot of replayability. Once you've got the hang of things, try out the punishing Hardcore difficulty, which represents a whole new challenge. Or just keep going deeper into the infinite dungeon available until you become an unstoppable war machine, like dear old ma would have wanted. It's incredibly satisfying to see a mob of enemies go zinging across the room from a fireball, or to see one explode into messy chunks from a critical hit. There are unique items to track down, entire sets of armor to assemble, and much more.

So, is Torchlight Diablo? Only in the sense that Diablo has almost become a genre in itself. Calling something a "clone" to me implies that you might as well be playing the original because they're identical, and I feel Torchlight manages to stand on its own nicely. The influences are obviously there, and you'll probably also recognise a little Divine Divinity in Torchlight's gameplay, but the game itself is just pure fun and a wonderful homage to those that have come before.

If you enjoy action, adventure, and, oh yes, treasure, then Torchlight probably has a lot to offer you. With addictive gameplay, a dedicated development team, and the upcoming editor that will allow you to make your own modifications to the game, Torchlight offers a lot of bang for its respectable buck.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


(15 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (7) | Views (28)

valerieporter-b.jpg

GrinnypThere was this dame named Valerie, see, a dame with a sharp mind and great gams. This dame, she had ambitions, she wanted to be a reporter. All she needed was some juicy dirt and a good lead. Oh, and a job at a newspaper. And a boss that didn't just send her out to pick up his lunch. Welcome to Valerie Porter and the Scarlet Scandal, a hidden object/adventure hybrid set in the roaring 20s. Designed by Game Brains, it's a tale of greed, lust, and power as seen through the eyes of novice reporter Valerie Porter. Everything begins with a rather gruesome murder of a starlet in a dingy alley next to a gin joint. Valerie arrives at the scene and wonders if a story she broke for the Daily Informer could have caused the tragedy.

valerieporter.jpgThere are 11 chapters and a prologue to this messy tale, each chapter containing multiple HOG scenes interspersed with a variety of mini-games. Navigate from place to place using a subway map while attempting to accumulate clues. There's lots of cut scenes and dialogue which can be skipped, but it's not advisable, as many of the mini-games depend on your recall of events that transpired during the chapter. Although there are no timers in the scenes (except for the 60 second subway challenges), you gain more points for finishing quickly and creating as many "chains" as possible.

Many hidden object scenes contain puzzles to solve as well as a fun dynamic: combos. In any HOG scene, if there is more than one item, say ten pieces of a letter or 17 dolls, you can click and drag from one to another to pick them up simultaneously in a "chain", which nets extra bonus points. Each HOG scene also includes five bells, a sort of extra scavenger hunt. Areas that need to be examined more closely or that can be manipulated will cause a blue question mark to appear above the cursor. Hints are on a refilling timer which can refill even faster with batteries, which the player can find in every HOG scene. Clicking on the name of an item in the list to be found will bring up a helpful silhouette of the object to aid in its recovery.

List items themselves are not always straightforward. Some lists contain actual item names, some lists merely contain clues, and some contain riddles. Find "an object for luck", or find "five flies that aren't flies" to add to the HOG fun. Although most dialogue passages are simple cut-scenes, there are areas where you will have to choose the correct question to get a suspect spilling their guts.

valerieporter2.jpgAdding to the challenge of some of the HOG scenes are the "footsteps of doom". In some locations Valerie is certainly where she shouldn't be, and if you hear footsteps you must turn of the light in the room and continue searching by flashlight, upping the difficulty in some areas. What happens if you don't turn out the lights? Well, Valerie gets caught and you have to start the whole scene over again.

Many of the mini-games between scenes are either word searches, "fill in the words" challenges, or "create the headline" challenges, all of which rely on the memory of the player. In the word searches, you will be presented with lists of words to find that relate to a section of the chapter. However, only the first words in the lists will show, forcing you to remember details about both HOG scenes and dialogue. Other mini-games involve assembling equipment, creating developer for the darkroom (with all the labels from the chemical bottles conveniently missing), and manipulating a classic old-style black and white enlarger to print evidence photos. All of the games are rather familiar, but the difficulty climbs nicely as the story progresses.

Analysis: The artwork of Valerie Porter and the Scarlet Scandal is, for the most part, bright and photorealistic. HOG scenes are a bit cluttered but not terribly so. Not, perhaps, the most stunning or original artwork out there, but fun nevertheless as everything is done up in a fabulous art deco style, from the cursor to the menu and everything in-between. Clothing and locations also reflect the time period, as do the objects that you are finding. No anachronisms here! Period appropriate music and snappy dialogue (delivered with some fine voice acting) completes the illusion of being transported to a time when women were just joining the workforce, when organized crime owned most politicians, and when alcohol was illegal (but still widely consumed).

valerieporter3.jpgYou can skip the dialogue sections, but you will find yourself at a disadvantage when you reach the end of a chapter and have to complete a "fill in the word" puzzle based on the chapter events. All of the mini-games are skippable, but that would lessen the enjoyment of the immersion. Valerie Porter and the Scarlet Scandal lends itself well to casual gameplay, each chapter being pretty self-contained.

There are a few problems, however. The game is not as long as it could have been. As with most HOG/adventure hybrids on the market you are looking at perhaps 2-3 hours of gameplay. The click area for picking up objects is very tight, which can get a little frustrating when you are trying to pick up objects quickly. A few of the character portrayals — while perhaps accurate to the time period (or at least, accurate to movies of the time period) — border on stereotypical and even perhaps mildly offensive. The subject matter itself, corruption, infidelity, greed, murder, and suicide make the game perhaps not the best choice for younger players. The memory mini-games are a fun change from the ordinary, but they are pretty simple, and could have used some beefing up. On the plus side, extra effort was exerted to make the game playable for both the hearing impaired and those who like to play with the sound off. Places where audio clues are vital also have visual cues so that nothing is missed.

Wander back to a time when men were guys and women were dolls, when gin joints and speakeasies were the happening places to be, and when an intrepid girl reporter could really make a difference.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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

Valerie Porter and the Scarlet Scandal is available to download from these affiliates:
Big Fish Games


| Comments (13) | Views (8)

Weekend Download

JohnBWho needs bajillions of colors, seriously? The games below illustrate that all you need for a visual presentation are a few well-placed shades of gray (or orange and black, for the last one) and you've got yourself a visual style!

butavx.gifButaVX: Justice Fighter (Windows, 7.6MB, free) - A short but wholly enjoyable RPG that plays out with comic-style cutscenes and action sequences. ButaVX's favorite ball has ended up in the wrong hands. In order to retrieve it, he has to go on an adventure to find the Sword of Justice. Explore the village, head out into the wilderness where you'll encounter discarded cell phones as enemies, and return to complete your quest. Although the setup is standard RPG fare, the manga-influenced action shots and overall art style really pull you in to this pencil drawn world. You'll be sad when it's over!

umbrellaadventure.gifUmbrella Adventure - The Castle of Cake (Windows, 48.7MB, free) - Just as you wake up, you find your stash of cakes has been stolen. Great. As you head out into the rainy night, you pick up an umbrella that can, eventually, be used for all sorts of things. Work your way through this inventive adventure platformer, smacking enemies and soaking in the surprisingly deep monotone atmosphere. There's a lot of jumping and other action skills required to beat the game, but there's also a fair amount of Metroidvania-style exploration, too.

home.gifHome (Mac/Win, 1MB, free) - Home is a brief tale of an old man's daily life. Shuffle back and forth in your room, taking care of your basic needs such as food and rest as the bars at the top of the screen begin to deplete. Talk to the nurse to keep your happiness level high. But... what happens if you let something run out?

Note: All games have been confirmed to run under Windows Vista and are virus-free. Mac users should try Boot Camp, Parallels, or CrossOver Games to play Windows titles, Linux users can use Wine. If you know of a great game we should feature, use the Submit link above to send it in!


  • Currently 4.3/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.3/5 (73 votes)
| Comments (28) | Views (15)

DoraSuper Sloth BomberSo, picture this. You're lounging on the beach, wearing your special lounging overalls, thinking about how great it is that nobody has rammed an enormous ship into your island recently... when some jerk rams his enormous ship into the island! As if that weren't bad enough, the hull cracks open and before you know it, you're elbow-deep in smiling pineapples, green-legs-and-ham, and screaming... blue... mole... things! Clearly, this will not do, and the king demands that you saddle up to defend the land! It's a game of reflexes and good old fashioned arcade action in Super Sloth Bomber!

Oh, did we not mention you're a sloth? We thought that would have been obvious.

Control your trusty balloon with the [arrow] or [WASD] keys and drop bombs with the [spacebar]. If an enemy is close enough, you'll blow them to that great big dancing ham graveyard in the sky. Some enemies require more than one bomb to destroy, while others appear on a timer or move in a unique pattern. You can keep track of them with the onscreen radar. Not only will you have to be quick to catch them all, you'll have to keep an eye on your time and the number of bombs you have left. Run out of either and you'll be one sad little sloth, and all the eucalyptus in the world won't be enough to lift your spirits.

The game consists of five big areas, each stuffed with eight stages and one boss fight. You can access each area as they become available from the main map, which is also where you can pay a visit to the upgrade store, or even the king himself, who will give you advice, or let you hone your bomb-slingin' skills on the training grounds. What's that? Oh, so a bulls-eye with legs is weird, but you have no problem with blowing up boulders to bowl over tip-toeing weasels in sailor outfits on top of a volcano.

Super Sloth BomberAnalysis: If you don't find something to like about Super Sloth Bomber's ultra bright and happy design, well, I don't know what to tell you. While the cartoonish visuals might not be everyone's cup of tea, here they are absolutely spot on. From the big puffy clouds (do they look like manatees to anyone else?) to the happy-go-lucky sloths themselves, it's basically sunshine in your browser. The wacky art style is easily one of the game's bigger selling points, and helps elevate the simple premise.

Because the gameplay is so simple, Super Sloth Bomber is pretty accessible. But is it too simple? It might be for some gamers. The stages don't really start demanding much from you in the area of planning until fairly late in the game. And why not allow us to go back and replay earlier stages if we want to? Maybe we really like fighting enormous terrapins, or blowing up hamburgers on mountains. Or maybe we just want to grind for some coins to purchase a new upgrade or bomb type. Sure that means some of us will sit on the same levels for hours until we have every single powerful upgrade in the shop and potentially make the game that much easier, but shouldn't that be our choice?

Still, it's hard to dislike a game about sloths, especially one as bouncy-fun and well made as this one. It probably won't take you long to complete, but you can spend a lot of time ignoring the oddball baddies and bombing the equally ridiculous terrain, too. So don't delay, young sloth. Tighten up your overalls and saddle up your balloon. Your island needs you!

Play Super Sloth Bomber


(15 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (16) | Views (144)

Elementals: The Magic Key

MarcusElementals: The Magic Key is a new hidden object game from the game developers at Playrix Entertainment. In it you take the role of a young wizard named Albert. He's a little flaky, a little flighty, and he didn't get the best grades in his spell-casting classes. One day while using his fortune telling table he sees a vision of the Key of Eiron, the artifact protecting their magical land from the forces of evil, being destroyed by the evil wizard Sibelius. When he goes to tell his sister Lily, the protector of the Key, he finds she's been kidnapped! Thus begins Albert's greatest adventure, with the aid of his faithful companion Felly: to rescue his sister Lily, restore the Great Key, and rid the land of the scourge of Sibelius and his evil minions forever.

Elementals: The Magic KeyAs the game moves from scene to scene, you'll find yourself faced with a string of hidden object puzzles. Each time you're looking for something specific, such as pieces to a broken mirror, and then putting them back together. Unlike many hidden object games, you won't have to find random objects from an arbitrary list. Everything you need is directly related to your task. By not falling into the pitfalls of many other hidden object games, Elementals keeps you involved in its rich atmosphere.

Mini-puzzles pop up quite often during play. These range from memory puzzles to rotating puzzles to a variation of the classic Towers of Hanoi. In order to activate the portal to each of the lands that you will visit, you must solve a logic puzzle that has you reflecting colored light around a board. While many of the puzzles are fairly straightforward, some are quite challenging and will take some thought to work out. Should you get stuck for too long, you will (after a set amount of time) be able to click the "help" button and skip the puzzle. A rather unique feature of this game is that once you have faced a puzzle, regardless of whether you solved it or not, you can go back and replay it. Gives you a chance to spend more time on the more difficult puzzles without holding up your adventuring.

The other major game element you'll encounter are enemy battles. These are handled by playing a special board game that can be best described as turn-based combat on a chessboard. Each player has a number of pieces set at random around their side of the board. The goal is to move your piece into range of enemy pieces and attack. Move to the middle boundary and you'll see an attack range displayed. By moving pieces next to each other in horizontal, vertical, or diagonal lines, you can make more powerful pieces that require more hits to destroy. Of course, so can your enemy. There's a lot of strategy to this part of the game, and learning to master it is both challenging and entertaining. Add to this magical artifacts that allow you to cast spells in later rounds and the combat could almost stand on its own as a casual board game.

Elementals: The Magic KeyAnalysis: The hidden-object genre has become one of the most popular in all of casual gaming, and developers have stepped up to provide content to feed that need. With so many games out there, good developers are constantly trying to find ways to make their games stand out from the crowd. Playrix has done an excellent job by focusing the hidden object sections to relevant items, by creating challenging puzzles, and by creating a battle system that's fluid and unique in its own right.

The way the hidden object scenes in Elementals function, they almost feel like a point-and-click adventure. There's a lot of clicking to operate devices, clicking to go places, and clicking to look at things. It really helps to elevate the game above other hidden object games, especially the ones that have you finding a laundry list of random items.

The puzzles are well implemented, never too tough (if a bit too easy), and the mechanics work nicely. There are a couple of true noggin scratchers in there, and, even if they do stump your grey matter, there's always the skip button. In fact, that little button almost becomes too much of a temptation, constantly nagging you to just skip puzzles/battles and turbo through the rest of the game.

After such an amazing journey, with lots of great characters and a good story, Elementals supplies a truly terrible ending. Without giving it away, it's derivative at best, seriously clichéd at worst. But, how does the old saying go? The fun is in the journey, not the destination. And, luckily, that applies to Elementals.

While it may have its flaws, Elementals: The Magic Key is a fun fantasy hidden object romp. With the ability to not only revisit the puzzles, but to battle against different creatures you have faced, as well as six others after finishing the game, there is actually some replay value here, which is something that is rarely said about this genre.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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

Elementals: The Magic Key is available to download from these affiliates:
Arcade TownBig Fish Games


| Comments (50) | Views (7)

Link Dump Fridays

DoraWelcome to your Friday! Specifically, your Link Dump Friday, where we've assembled for you a fantastical conglomeration of some of the 'net's Link Dumpiest games. You want ninja? We got yer ninja. You want weaponry? Yeeeeah, boooy-eee, we got yer weaponry! You want a game with dozens of hours of engrossing play, unlimited replayability, and some of the hottest achievements you'll ever unlock? Well, too bad! We'd like a pony, but it ain't gonna happen! Geez, we had a good thing going together here, and you had to go and get greedy, didn't you? Some people!

  • Number NinjasNumber Ninjas - Crouching number, hidden mathematical problem! In his entry for the Experimental Gameplay Project numbers theme, Peter Groeneweg taps the pulse of today's youth with a stylish game of... math! Woooo! Actually, while not without its issues, this oddball little game where you throw different shurikens to solve problems as a sneaking, leaping ninja number is surprisingly stylish and certainly worth a look.
  • The Gun GameThe Gun Game - As a proper, refined lady, I am typically only interested in gun games if they involve the application of weaponry upon the undead. By contrast, this physics game has no shambling zombies for you to unleash your (wo)manly rage upon, but it does boast a variety of detailed weapons, achievements to earn, and an admirable attempt to make every weapon behave realistically, down to recoil and reloading. Learning is fun-damental!
  • B.C. Bow ContestB.C. Bow Contest - Hey, Nitrome! Long time no see! A really long time, if the cavemen are any indicator. Designed to be played solo or with a friend, Nitrome's latest offering is a game of prehistoric skill where you compete against various stoneage champions to prove who has the best unibrow of them all. I mean, archery abilities.
  • Cat Got LostCat Got Lost - It's hard to nail down precisely what about this little pixel puzzler is so weirdly interesting. Pick up the right keys in the right sequence to unlock the doors leading to your cat across twenty levels. It'll probably only take up about five minutes of your time, but we dare you not to crack a smirk at the progressively more plaintive one-liners that crop up between each level. It's fast and strange, but I like it. (Perhaps because of my inherent kinship with the "strange" part.)
  • Bubble Guinea PopBubble Guinea Pop - This is a game about guinea pigs who kick butt and chew bubble gum. Actually, wait. Apparently, they just chew bubble gum. And they do it to save zoo animals by flinging themselves around the screen and blowing bubbles of the sticky stuff. Obviously. I mean, what else would a guinea pig be doing with bubble gum? It makes so much sense! Thank you, Longanimals! Now I can finally sleep at night.

| Comments (95) | Views (13)

as if!

Check out the Casual Gameplay Design Competition #7 announcement for details.


  • Currently 4.6/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.6/5 (60 votes)
| Comments (11) | Views (81)

DoraBattalion: GhostsYou know what your day needs? Tanks. Specifically, tanks shooting at other tanks. Whoooole lotta tanks. You may not know it, but right now, along with some tactical turn-based warfare, tanks are exactly what you need. And what better way to fill that void than with the next chapter in Urbansquall's Battalion series, Battalion: Ghosts.

Continuing on where Battalion: Nemesis left off, Ghosts throws you right back into the middle of the action, commanding your troops to lead them to victory over the course of the game's story, told in scenes before and after battles. While the humour is rather predictably corny, the writing is at least competent, and serves as a nice way to tie the game together rather than turning it into a string of unrelated battles. It actually manages to nicely capture the goony, cheesy feel of old console or handheld titles.

Gameplay has stayed the same turn-based tactical combat you're probably familiar with by now if you're a fan of the series. (If not, we recommend paying a visit to the tutorial.) Click on a unit when it's your turn, then click on an available square to move there, or nearby enemy to attack. If you're not so much into the, you know, being good at strategy, like yours truly, you can also adjust the difficulty between stages. It alters the AI of your opponents from "lemmings", to "competent", to the always popular, "my face, my face, oh God I think they broke my face". There's still no multiplayer, but, well, isn't that what Battalion: Arena is for? Still, it would have been nice to allow the opposing faction to be controlled by either a CPU or a fellow player. Sure it means your friend would have to wind up taking the fall for you to, you know, progress and finish the game, but I always say a true friend is someone willing to take a humiliating, crushing dirtnap for you.

Battalion: GhostsAnalysis: In terms of core gameplay, nothing has really changed since Nemesis, but the whole game has gotten a facelift. Visually, Ghosts is a step above the first chapter of the planned trilogy. The art has swung around to be comprised almost entirely out of pixels, and the whole game looks better for it. Animation is also smoother. Hey there! Who's a good looking little turn-based game no longer suffering from sketchy graphics compression? Is it you? Izzit you? Yes it is! Yes it is!

The bad news is that most people will probably fly through the whole chapter fairly quickly.While some scenarios are trickier than others, the first few stages are disappointingly easy. Sure it's friendlier to newcomers, but for anyone who has played the first chapter in the series, the hand-holding just serves to get us impatient for more challenging battles. And after the wide array of weapons and strategies at your disposal in Battalion: Arena, Ghosts' structured battles with new technology doled out at the speed of plot may chafe a little. Players who want careful battles where they have to consider their every move may find the initially limited arsenal a welcome challenge, but the rest of us just want to play with the biggest tanks around. (Although maybe it's best we don't given how small the maps here tends to be.)

But even with the shortish campaign, fans of the genre will probably welcome Ghosts with open arms. It's undeniably well made, fun and accessible, and a great homage to turn-based strategy games of yore. Will we have to wait another year for the last chapter in the series to come out? Hopefully not. But for now, it's time to slap on your elaborately festooned helmet of choice, leap astride your brightly coloured war machine, and ride gloriously into battle. Onward, fearless leader!

Play Battalion: Ghosts


  • Currently 4.1/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.1/5 (83 votes)
| Comments (43) | Views (137)

thecontrolpanel.gifGrinnypAh, curiosity. It may have killed the cat, but it is one of the most defining characteristics of humanity. From the person who wondered; "hmmm, what if I shave off the corners of this block, flatten it on two sides, put a stick through the middle and see if it will roll?" to the one who thought; "what if I take a fissionable material, say, and surround it with shaped charges that will rapidly compress it from all sides equally and then maybe drop it on a city?" The answers to these questions have changed civilization (for good or for ill is up to you to decide) and reinforce the fact that occasionally we're just too inquisitive for our own good. We simply cannot resist tinkering. So, what will a naturally curious person do when confronted with a point-and-click puzzle like The Control Panel? Why, push the button, of course!

Well, push several buttons, anyway. And maybe some switches, too. Created back in 2005 and designed by Shaun Salzberg, The Control Panel is something that you just can't resist playing with. What will happen if you push that button? Or slide that knob? Or rewire that panel? Or...

The game begins with a simple statement: turn on the uppermost lights to solve the mystery. Easy, yes? If you choose to solve the mystery you will be confronted by a simple panel comprised of different controls and a basic monitor in the middle. There's no looking around the back or sides, no movement involved at all (except the movement of the switches, buttons, and wires). The Control Panel is an exercise in pure logic. There's no navigation involved, just click on things to see if you can affect them or not. If you can, then the next step is to determine what to do to activate the lights. What numbers do you enter? What switches do you flip? What happens if you do...this?

Analysis: The Control Panel is an oldie but a goodie. Despite its age the game is a tight, well-constructed puzzle solving treat. Stripped of everything that usually accompanies a puzzle of this sort, no story, no background, no instructions, be prepared to sit back and let the gameplay blow your mind (and perhaps cause a concussion, if you end up banging your head against the nearest flat surface in frustration).

The graphics are, well, pretty basic. Primary colors and flat, cartoony visuals make up The Control Panel. However, the unreality of the visuals do not detract in any way from the joy of driving yourself nuts trying to get those darn lights on. There's no music, but that's all to the good as it would soon become distracting, and when trying to solve this puzzle the last thing you need is distracting. A save button would have been nice for those who would like to take a break between the cursing and the headbanging.

So if you want some casual gameplay that involves lots of logic without any of that messy story stuff, then pull up a chair, hunker down, and start flipping some switches. Just remember: curiosity did, indeed, kill the cat. Will satisfaction bring him back? Perhaps...

Play The Control Panel

Cheers to Black Drazon for the suggestion! =)


  • Currently 4.1/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.1/5 (55 votes)
| Comments (20) | Views (95)

MarcusHelium-3Warning: This game contains honest-to-goodness scientific content. Those looking for aliens and space battles should continue at their own risk.

Helium-3 is an RTS with an educational slant from the folks at Discovery.com. It is the year 2035. The energy crisis of the 90s and new millennium has led to a global energy crash. Fossil fuels are being depleted at an alarming rate, and renewable energy sources have not been able to keep up with global demand. The world is on the brink of a complete shut-down, unless a new source of energy can be found. Luckily, one already has been located.

During the Apollo space program, numerous samples were retrieved from the moon and brought back to Earth for study. Among other things, scientists found an element originally discovered back in 1934 called helium-3 (3He). This non-radioactive isotope is sought after for use in nuclear fusion reactions. And it is this element that will save the human race. The decision is made to mine the moon for helium-3 and start using it to power helium-helium fusion reactors. 100 tonnes of the element can power the Earth for a year, and there is thought to be over a million tonnes just in the first few meters of lunar soil.

Of course, as with any opportunity like this, people are going to try and profit from it. Thus begins a rash of claim-staking the likes of which hasn't been seen since the early 19th century. At over $4 million per kilo, there is a lot of money to be made. As they say, everyone remembers the first person to the moon, but no one remembers who was second. Don't be second.

Each game consists of a competition between four rival miners on a section of the moon containing various amounts of helium-3. During each ten-minute battle there are two goals: be the one with the most money at the end, and/or be the last one with operational mining vehicles, or X-TRACT vehicles. These multi-purpose devices are your key to fame and fortune on the moon. In addition to mining the moon's surface for helium-3, they also contain offensive and defensive capabilities. The vehicles can fire either pulse-lasers in a line-of-sight fashion at other X-TRACT vehicles, or can launch guided missiles to take out opposing mining vehicles. They can also put up a shield to protect themselves from attack. And, in a last-ditch effort to save your bacon, they can self-destruct, taking out surrounding vehicles.

You start each round with five X-TRACT vehicles. Gameplay takes place in timed turns. You have the time given for the other three players' turns, plus the time of your own turn (approximately 5 seconds) to decide what to do with two of your five vehicles. You can either move the vehicle, order it to mine a surrounding location, arm one of its weapons, or order it to fire an already-armed weapon. Strategy comes into play when trying to decide whether to defend, go on the offensive, or mine for money. You also need to try and guess what your opponents are up to. Do you need to move your vehicles out of range of a well-planned attack or can you jump in an mine one more square before the time is up?

You can compete in practice battles against computer opponents at three difficulty levels, but the only way to earn money and upgrades for your X-TRACT vehicles is to compete in matches against human opponents. The moon in Helium-3 has been divided into over 10 million gamespaces, each containing an amount of helium-3 to mine. Once the game locates three other available players, you will be transported to one of these gamespaces. Earning money during the game will increase your level, and will slowly unlock upgrades to your X-TRACT vehicles. Upgrades will increase the range of your weapons, movement, and mining operations, and each of your five units can be upgraded independently, allowing you to decide which upgrades you want to perform to each unit. No matter your strategy, the future of our planet is in your hands.

Helium-3Analysis: To call Helium-3 a true RTS is somewhat of a misnomer. Command decisions are made in real-time, but limiting of unit movement and fire to a number of squares, as well as limiting the number of units to be moved, puts it more in line with classic turn-based strategy games. There is also no resource management in the game, something that has become a staple of the RTS-genre. Of course, this allows the player to focus on the strategy of winning the round.

One of the game mechanics that really adds a new element of strategy to the game is the fact that you have to make a decision whether to mine or prepare for attack with each vehicle. Mining can happen immediately, but if you want to try and take out an opponent's vehicle, you must first prepare the weapon to be fired. You can move your unit into position on the same turn, but you must wait to fire the weapon until the next turn. By then, your quarry may have moved. This isn't as much of a problem with the missile, since it is a ranged weapon. As long as the target is still in range, you can still take it out. But the laser, which has the ability to take out multiple targets that happen to be within its line-of-sight, can only fire along lines of sight (which can be increased with upgrades). If your targets move out of those lines, you need to reposition, re-activate, and try again.

The computer AI is remarkably competent during practice rounds, and you can have quite a bit of fun with that alone. I was only able to compete in a couple of "live" rounds, since most of the time the matching service failed to locate three other players within a reasonable amount of time. I'm not sure how long others wait around for matches, but hopefully more players will move into the neighborhood. One interesting feature of the game is the fact that you can explore the surface of the moon in Helium-3 and zoom in on each gamespace that has been set up. If a battle has been played on that gamespace, you can actually watch a replay of it. Creates a very interesting, persistent environment.

The graphics are nice, if simple. Your units are denoted by color, since the are all based on the same models. Everything moves nice an smoothly. The gamespace is only the size of the game screen, so there is no scrolling to deal with. Sound consists of sound effects during the game, with no music. Time to launch iTunes and find some music suitable for mining and mayhem.

This game is a lot of fun, perfect for short spurts of casual gameplay, and has an impressively researched back-story rooted in real science, including science facts about helium-3, and a timeline that goes from 1959 to 2037. The future posited in this game is, in fact, a very real possibility. Who knows, playing Helium-3 may be training you to be the next millionaire miner of the future?

Play Helium-3


  • Currently 3.1/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 3.1/5 (83 votes)
| Comments (14) | Views (36)

DoraBucketBall 2Do you like physics? Do you have skills? Do you like physics games of skill that involve launching coloured balls into like-coloured vessels and an ensuing smug sense of misplaced superiority? Then good news, new friend, because BucketBall 2, from Komix Games and Gamebalance, is here to meet all of your bouncing, blasting, ARRRGH I WAS SO CLOSE THAT TIME needs! Hurray!

The idea is simple (and similar to the first game in the series, Bucketball). You have balls of various colours, and you have matching buckets on screen. You want to get the ball into the appropriately coloured bucket, by any means necessary. Well... provided those means are clicking on a ball to mark its trajectory, and clicking again to launch it in that direction. Click and hold on a ball, and drag your mouse to pull the ball in the direction of the cursor. Easy, right? Well, except for the magnetic panels. And the teleporters. And the... well, you'll see. Are there rampaging Canadians whose booming "Eh"s reverberate with such force that they impede your projections? You'll have to play to find out. (Hint: There are not, but what a game that would have made, eh?)

The game features premium upgrades and five additional stages that can be purchased through Heyzap. But with fifteen free levels, and another nine that can be unlocked via the appropriate high scores, as it stands BucketBall 2 is the perfect size to fit into that afternoon coffee break.

BucketBall 2Analysis: BucketBall 2 is one of those simple games people hang over their friends' shoulders, watching them play and secretly thinking, "I could do better than that." It's the digital equivalent of every puzzle toy every one of us has ever snatched out of a younger sibling's hands and said, "Give me that, you're doing it wrong." Because the trail of thought goes that if it looks simple, it must be easy. (And if someone does better than you, they must be cheating.) BucketBall 2 takes a simple idea, getting something from point A to point B, and shows us how tricky that can be.

Of course, "tricky" here should not be read as "difficult", exactly. While some levels require some timing and reflexes, or feel particularly fiddly, for the most part all that's really required is patience while lining up shots. Implementing challenges, such as medals based on how few shots you used or the time it took you to complete a level, would have been a nice touch and added that all-important stroke to the gamer's ego. "Yes, that's right. I've got gold medals. How many? All of them." As it stands, although it may take you a while to get there, once you're done, you're done.

But even without that aspect, BucketBall 2 is still enjoyable. While the balls themselves feel a little heavy the first few times they're in the air, once you adjust to that aspect, the physics feel more-or-less right for the game. It would have been nice to allow us to earn those upgrades ourselves through our, ahem, mad skills, rather than requiring us to purchase them outright, but I never felt as though I needed them anyway. Sure you can fork over the extra cash for the supremo bouncy upgrade, but it's not necessary to complete the game.

With it's easy to master control scheme and accessible gameplay, BucketBall 2 appeals to a broad range of players, and the new gimmicks that are introduced as you progress through the levels keep the gameplay from feeling stale. If you're looking for lighter fare to fill an hour or two, you'll find something to like about BucketBall 2: Son of BucketBall. Or, wait! How about BucketBall 2: BucketBall Harder?... *sigh* Nobody ever likes my ideas.

Play BucketBall 2

You can also Play Bucketball 2 at Gamebalance


  • Currently 4.3/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.3/5 (132 votes)
| Comments (102) | Views (482)

Weekday Escape

Grinnyp"Welcome subject 7." With those chilling words begins a new room escape adventure series by talented Portuguese designer Fausto Fonseca. Welcome to the Light Asylum! At least, welcome to the first two rooms.

lightasylum.jpgYou are (apparently) a mental patient in a rather odd facility who would rather be, well, anywhere but there. A disembodied voice will inform you — via text — that you must escape five rooms, starting with this one. Oh, and failure means death. No pressure there. But, the voice goes on to reassure you, this is the easy room. Oh, goody. Of course then you have to worry about the next room.

Navigation through the space is easily accomplished with arrows appearing around the edges of the screen. There is no changing cursor, so you will have to click around some to find the hotspots for close ups. Find objects that will help you solve the logic puzzle that allows you to... well, not escape, but move on to the next room.

Rooms 1 and 2 are the first in a planned series of five rooms. As with other serialized mini-games (the Being One series comes to mind) you will learn more about what, precisely, is going on as you move deeper into the Asylum. And each room will get progressively harder as you go. Of course.

Analysis: Taken together, rooms 1 and 2 of The Light Asylum show a very promising start to what looks to be an entertaining, mind-stretching series. Although there is the obligatory searching for items, the core of escaping each room is a classic logic puzzle. Breaking the story down into little bite-sized chunks makes for fantastic casual gameplay, although if you really enjoy escaping the rooms you might get a little impatient waiting for the next one to appear.

Visually the Light Asylum is a treat. Stark white-on-white decor with only minimal splashes of color highlight the feeling of being institutionalized. Room 1 is a classic of bare, minimal design, most of the color being supplied by a smiley face picture that manages to be simultaneously cheerful and creepy. Despite the almost empty space there's a lot of things to find, so you'd better get busy. Room 2 has more clutter and a little more color and it is also a bit harder than the first room. The music in each room sounds a little... familiar, so fortunately there are two handy mute buttons; one for music, the other for incidental sounds. All that is missing is a save button, although one is not really needed. Experienced gamers should be out of the first room pretty quickly. The second room will take a little longer, but still pretty quick. One thing you won't find, however, is a changing cursor, so there will be some pixel hunting involved to locate the hot spots needed. Other than that, though, there's very little to complain about.

The Light Asylum Rooms 1 and 2 are a nice start, so here's hoping that the next three continue the trend of harder, trickier puzzles as we wind our way through this strange facility. According to the designer the next room should be available by Christmas, so there's something to look forward to (you know, besides presents and all).

Okay, room escape devotees. Time to fire up the little gray cells and get started. Put your thinking caps on, hunker down, and get ready to escape the Light Asylum (at least the first two rooms)!

Play The Light Asylum Room 1

Play The Light Asylum Room 2


  • Currently 4.5/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.5/5 (340 votes)
| Comments (52) | Views (1,107)

dismantleradio_front.jpgGrinnypA common puzzle in room escape games is taking apart or piecing together objects you find. Locate the flashlight, use the bulb from the lamp, take the batteries out of the alarm clock and you're ready to shine. But what do you do when you're not even in a room? What if a radio just sits in front of you? Do you play it? Fiddle with the dials? Do you smash it against the wall in frustration? Or, like any good point-and-click adventurer, do you Dismantle the Radio?

Created by gam.ebb.jp, Dismantlement: Radio is a game about... well, dismantling a radio. Not much more to it than that. Well, there's trying to figure out what order to remove things. And trying to figure out how to unlock certain components so that you can reach the ones underneath. And then there's the... but that would be telling.

As the game tells you in the beginning, you can only use a screwdriver. Luckily you appear to have one on hand. Just click on a screw to begin, then click on any screws that you can find to remove them. It's the finding them part that can get a little tricky. Click on an area for a close-up or to open panels and such. Directional arrows appear to help turn knobs, and a button in the corner of the screen lets you flip between the front and back of the radio.

Analysis: If you like the puzzles of escape the room games, but are annoyed by all the "finding objects to help me accomplish something" that goes along with them, then here's the game for you! Your mission is to reduce the radio to its component parts. Gam.ebb.jp has stripped everything else away and just left this tasty little puzzle, perfect casual gameplay for a five-minute break.

Dismantlement: Radio isn't without a few frustrating moments, as there are screws that you can see but cannot reach in close-up, until you eventually realize that you won't be able to reach them until something else is accomplished. Included in the basic disassembly are some tricky little logic puzzles that don't often appear when tearing down a radio in real life — not that I've ever torn apart a radio. A toaster, yes. A blow-dryer, certainly. Once even a VCR... but that's another story.

So if you're looking for a fun five to ten minute break from the everyday and you are someone who likes to tear things apart to see how they work, sit back, relax, and Dismantle the Radio. Just try not to get electrocuted. Or blown up.

Play Dismantlement: Radio


  • Currently 3.5/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 3.5/5 (44 votes)
| Comments (5) | Views (1)

attractingtwist.gifJohnBIf you could rotate the world and change gravity, things like golf, juggling, balancing a spoon on your nose and standing upright after you've been laying down for three hours would be easy. Attracting Twist teases us with that concept by giving you control over the direction gravity flows, allowing you to move the game world and change where things "drop". Using this ability, your goal is to shoot your way to massive chain reactions as enemies slowly spawn near your ship.

You control a turret sitting near the bottom of the screen. Aim and fire using the mouse, charging each shot for a brief second before releasing it. Rotate the game world with the [A] and [D] keys, moving not only the ship but the direction gravity pulls particles as well. Each time you destroy an enemy it bursts into pieces. These pieces can destroy other enemies which will, in turn, burst into particles of their own. By spinning the environment, you can affect where these shards go, taking out as many foes as possible and creating huge chain reactions.

Enemies come in a variety of colors, and each one has its own personality. Orange squares like to appear and disappear all the time, while blue squares zoom around the screen, red squares go ka-boom, etc. Power-ups and game-altering events also occur, such as temporarily increasing your rate of fire, freezing enemies, messing with the visual presentation, and lots more. These are executed with superb style and make the gaming experience a lot more epic.

Attracting Twist comes with several modes of play to suit whatever mood you happen to be in. Challenge mode is all about conquering level after level of increasingly difficult enemies, while Relax and Extreme modes are exactly the way they sound. Each mode comes with several levels of difficulty, so no matter how casual you are, you'll find something that fits you just right. After racking up points and completing each level, you get to visit a store to upgrade bullet size, spread, rotation speed and health. The upgrades feel a bit tacked-on, but I'm not one to argue with a game allowing me to super-charge my character.

It's a bit stark for an arena shooter, but Attracting Twist plays more on the concept of shifting gravity and forming combos than pure arcade reflexes. Even still, moving the screen and changing gravity doesn't have as dramatic affect as you would like, lending a somewhat muted feeling to the entire game. You can shoot. You can nudge exploded enemies with gravity. And... that's all. It's fun, of course, and the number of game modes and stylish visual presentation really help out, but in the end, you're left with the feeling it could have been so much more.

Play Attracting Twist


| Views (2)

6th Casual Gameplay Design Competition

With just one week left to the competition, we just want to remind everyone who hasn't already played and voted on the game entries, please do so soon. We will announce the results next Monday (November 9th)!

Sponsors
We thank our sponsors for their kind support:
CGDC6 sponsorsArmor GamesCasual GameplayKing.com - play free online games
If you are interested in sponsoring a future competition, please send inquries to: sponsors@casualgameplay.com

Casual Gameplay Design Competition #6Friends of Jayisgames: Please help spread word of this competition by Tweeting about our competition, sharing on Facebook, or by posting a note along with a link to our CGDC6 competition page. Feel free to use this banner to link back to us. We need your support!! Thank you.


  • Currently 4.3/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.3/5 (204 votes)
| Comments (59) | Views (730)

Grinnypcolourmydreams_title.gifDo you yearn? Do you love? We have asked these questions for millennia, but more recently a series of point-and-click games designed by Silver Stitch have asked these and more. Now, the third game, Colour My Dreams, asks a deeper question: Of what do you dream?

Nominally a point-and-click adventure, Colour My Dreams and its predecessors, Colour My Heart and Colour My World, are more of a meditation. While the first two explored the human heart and the coldness of society, Colour My Dreams ventures into territory much more ambiguous: the depths of the human psyche. And what dark, confusing depths they are.

Navigation through the black and white world of Colour My Dreams is accomplished with the [WASD] keys and items are manipulated with the mouse. Simply click on any area that sparkles to perform tasks from adding color to the drab scene to moving bits of the scenery around. If you find it difficult to find sparkles in the stark atmosphere, the mouse pointer changes to a hand when it passes something that can be manipulated.

colourmydreams_scene2.jpgAnalysis: With its stylish black and white art and haunting music by Coin, Colour My Heart continues to blur the line between play and experience, between game and art. Using a less linear structure than the first two games allows the player to wander back and forth through the stark, cold landscapes. Although there is a conclusion this is more (much more) about the journey.

A nice difference in this, the third game, is the change of the movement keys from the arrow keys to the WASD, which makes for much smoother gameplay and exploration. Although Colour My Heart and Colour My World were fun places to visit, there was still the difficulty of using the arrow keys with the left hand while manipulating the mouse with your right. But navigation concerns are a small thing compared to the overall picture painted by these wonderful... well, let's call them experiences, shall we? Short but profound experiences perfect for casual gameplay.

Warning: as with any trip through the human mind beware becoming lost in the endless and disheartening ambiguity of the subconscious. As anyone who has suffered the repeating spiral of deep depression can tell you, it is not a fun place to visit and is difficult to leave. But if you are willing to take that risk, then jump in and explore. Just remember:

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.

Play Colour My Dreams


| Comments (6) | Views (14)

Mobile Monday

JohnBTrue to its mobile gaming promises, this week's Mobile Monday is filled with pick up and play, put down and go away titles ideally suited for gaming on the go. The only exception is Catan, a game you honestly won't be able to put down and walk away from for a while.

cataniphone.jpgCatan - The First Island - If you haven't heard the name "Settlers of Catan", you probably just crawled out of your goo-filled storage tank connected to the power plant on the outskirts of the machine city. The award-winning strategy board game pits you against other players (or computer AI) as you fight for land and resources, but really, it's far more intricate than that. An excellent translation of the board game onto iPhone, and a great introduction to the legendary game for any newbies out there.

darknebula.jpgDark Nebula - Episode One - Tilt control taken to the extreme, Dark Nebula is an extremely well-made space-themed arcade game of avoidance similar to the classic Labyrinth maze game. Move the shiny little disc by tilting your iPhone, working your way across twisted landscapes trying to collect capsules and avoid numerous obstacles. The controls are spot-on excellent (though I wish the game had a calibration feature... we're not always sitting straight up when playing iPhone games) and the game has the wonderful ability to pull you in.

skullpogo.jpgSkullpogo - Have pogo stick and skull face, will get game. Originally a free downloadable game, Skullpogo makes its way to the iTunes App Store with facelifts and improvements all over the place. Build combos by jumping on pigs, zombies, bats and other critters with your pogo stick. Power-ups appear from time to time to spice things up, and if you jump off the top of the screen, you get a nice mega-stomp-type move. Three different control schemes let you choose the method most comfortable to you. Definitely one of those "can't put it down until I do just one more round" games!

boombrigade.jpgBoombrigade - If tower defense games gave you more control over combat, they would be like Boombrigade. Spawn, upgrade and tweak various units on the field, each of which has one job: destroy the invading creeps. Tap and drag to set walking paths for your soldiers, making sure they loop back to keep your fort nice and cozy. Surprisingly challenging, if a little awkward to learn to play at first.

NOTE: Games listed may not be available outside of North America. Prices are subject to change and are therefore unlisted. Please see the individual game pages for purchasing info.


(7 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (0) | Views (245)

Big City Adventure: New York

GrinnypNew York, New York, a wonderful town, the Bronx is up and the Battery's down... If you love playing hidden object games without mucking about with all the adventure overlay, then check out Jolly Bear's new release, Big City Adventure: New York.

Big City Adventure: New YorkLike its predecessors (San Francisco and Sydney), Big City Adventure: New York is a pure hidden object game, composed entirely of hidden object scenes dotted with a rotating series of mini-games. To begin, pick an avatar from a family of six vacationing in the big city (mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, brother, or sister). A cartoon map of New York appears and shows you your first destination. Once there, find all the hidden objects on a list and you will segue into a mini-game that when completed shows your next location. Play your way around New York, learn fun trivia facts and history about the locales, and garner points for finding objects as well as bonus points for coin collecting or finding items quickly.

Gameplay is very straightforward, so the opening tutorial is almost unnecessary. Each scene and mini-game is timed, and you gain points for every found object. Bonus points are awarded for quick-finds and time remaining at the end of the scene, so speed is greatly rewarded. Be warned: multiple wrong clicks steal 30 seconds off of the clock! There are hint coins in each scene which can show you objects or even add time to the counter. If minding the minutes isn't your thing, you can skip the timer and play a relaxed, untimed mode.

The artwork is bright and photorealistic, although a bit on the cartoony side. There's a lively soundtrack which is at the same time surprisingly unobtrusive. The mini-games include a variety of well-known games, pipe puzzles, jigsaws, hidden match three, etc. Although the same mini-games come back again and again, they get more complex or must be solved in less time. This keeps gameplay interesting, especially in the upper levels. As you play through the scenes you will also acquire a few "skip game" coins, allowing you to skip some of the mini-games if you don't like the game or it is too difficult. But beware, you won't accumulate very many skip coins, so use them wisely!

Big City Adventure: New YorkAnalysis: If you like hidden object gaming but don't want to go through all the fuss of the hybrids (solving problems, listening to dialogue, trying to keep up with a story, etc.) then Big City Adventure: New York is for you. Each scene is preceded by a postcard with a fun fact about the place you are about to visit, but that is the extent of the story.

Kudos must be given to Jolly Bear for bucking a recent trend: downsizing casual games to a three hour playing window. Jolly Bear, who also created Age of Oracles: Tara's Journey, has actually increased the size of this, the third in the series of Big City Adventure Games. Whereas San Francisco had 60 HOG scenes and Sydney 75, Big City Adventure: New York contains a staggering 90 HOG scenes (30 locations, each one visited three times), with mini-games between each scene. Even if you are the quickest hidden object fiend on the planet, you're still looking at a minimum of four hours gameplay. Most of us are looking at lots more.

Even more fabulous is the replayability. Every time you re-enter a HOG scene, the list of objects to find is generated randomly. If you've made it through the game once, go back again and see if you can beat your best time in each scene (which is recorded), the highest points for each scene (also recorded), or just enjoy finding objects all over again. And there's lots of objects in each scene to find, so there is very little repeating, even with multiple visits.

After so many recent disappointments in the length of casual games (especially the HOG games), it's nice to find a game that instead is ready to offer you hours and hours of fun, casual gameplay. So belt up your fanny pack, slather on the sunscreen, don't forget your camera, and enjoy your vacation!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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

Recent Comments

 

Display 5 more comments
Limit to the last 5 comments

Casual game of the week

Surface: Game of Gods

Your Favorite Games edit

add
Save links to your favorite games here. Use the Favorites editor.

Monthly Archives

Legal notice

All games mentioned or hosted and images appearing on JayIsGames are Copyright their respective owner(s).

All other content is Copyright ©2003-2014 JayIsGames.com. All Rights Reserved.


Visit our great partner: maxcdn!