April 2010 Archives


Rating: 4.7/5 (37 votes)
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Deadtime Stories

DoraSomewhere there's a graveyard tended by a certain man who is very picky about who he lets inside. Perhaps because, as he'll tell you, everything from the headstones to the flowers is put there to be just right. Or maybe it's because the dead don't always lie quietly in the new point-and-click hidden-object series Deadtime Stories. This first installment tells the story of Miss Jesse Bodeen, a voodoo priestess in New Orleans decades ago. Her talents are frequently called upon to heal the sick and protect the weak... that is, until haughty socialite Delphine LaLaurie sends for her. Follow Jessie's tale from the dark Cajun swamp to the rich French Quarter, concocting spells to remove obstacles, but be warned; the spirits of the Loa don't take requests lightly. Nor do they appreciate being used for ill.

Deadtime StoriesThe hidden-object/point-and-click hybrid is becoming more and more popular these days, and developers are getting better and better and combining the two. Deadtime Stories is played mostly like a standard point-and-click adventure, with you searching your environment for items to solve puzzles and occasionally playing hidden-object scenes to find what you need. Most of your time is spent tracking down components for spells that you'll have to create in Jessie's home to advance; early on you'll gain access to her spellbook, which will help you appease the spirits and find out more about what happened so long ago. Of course, not every spirit wants to see you succeed. If you get stuck, the hint timer in the bottom right corner will either show you the location of an object, or offer you several options so you can pick what you need help with.

Be warned that Jessie Bodeen's tale takes place back in Louisiana at a time when servants were sold. While it's not a focal point of the story, it is mentioned several times. If you find this grim chapter of history too upsetting, this may not be the game for you.

Analysis: By far one of my favourite shows remains the old Tales From the Crypt series. This is because not only is the Cryptkeeper the raddest undead demonic dude ever, but because it had a gleeful cheek to its stories, which were frequently as much cautionary tales as they were creeping you out. Deadtime Stories, therefore, with its rich, ghoulish presentation and grim story about revenge and greed, was right up my alley. Granted, series host Edward Blackgate looks like Willy Wonka by way of Tim Burton and a Hot Topic outlet, but I forgave him the minute he told me we were headed to "Naw'leens". Which was awesome, because I was totally out of chicken's feet after dinner last night. The game had me hooked from beginning to end to the point that I was genuinely dismayed both to see the demo run out, and then the credits roll hours later.

Deadtime StoriesSo is Deadtime Stories scary? Not really, nor is it trying to be. While its steeped in creepy atmosphere from its appropriate soundtrack to its haunted locales, you can take the pillow away from your face; nothing is going to leap out at you here. You'll solve a wide variety of puzzles ranging from figuring out how to trap a dove to using a series of skulls that only talk in short syllables to figure out passwords. Not all of the puzzles are winners; some, like the well seal in the French Quarter simply take too long, and a few, like the boat sail in the swamp, are mildly annoying. Of course, you can simply skip them if you wait for the bar at the top of the screen to refill, but you shouldn't have to.

Hidden-object scenes can be fairly challenging, using plays on words to trick you in your search. "Jack" for example could refer to a playing card... or to a carved pumpkin. The downside is that Deadtime Stories also suffers from occasional nebulous item names (such as "ornament"), or making you hunt down small objects like pills or pearls in a large scene. The hint timer takes a long while to refill compared to most other hidden-object titles, so if you're stuck on several items, you can spend a frustrating amount of time staring at the screen waiting for it to refill. Just make sure you're ready when you click for a hint, because the glimmer can be there and gone in a flash if you aren't paying attention.

Most players will probably spend between three and four hours finishing the game, and wind up having enjoyed themselves thoroughly but hungry for more. It really does feel like the story was meant to be longer, with greater development perhaps given to the villain. Deadtime Stories combines an interesting story with creepy-cool production values to make an engrossing experience that should leave you eagerly awaiting the next chapter. We can expect even greater things in the future from this series, and I, for one, am dying to play it.

... no?... how about... "This is one adventure no boil or ghoul should miss"?

... forget you guys, I'm funny darn it!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (133 votes)
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DoraNinja-Pi-RoEvildoers beware, Ninja-Pi-Ro from Pencilkids is on the prowl! That's Ninja-Pirate-Robot by the way, the team starring in this point-and-click puzzle adventure. Apparently, a rare blue diamond has been stolen, and it's up to the titular characters to save the day using all their combined abilities. The pirate is strong and swarthy, the ninja is swift and silent, and the robot is scientific and... uh... ssssss... a robot. Look, this isn't rocket science people.

The idea is that each character is good for certain situations, and you can cycle through your team at any time by clicking on the transparent circle on them. Other transparent circles will be visible onscreen if you're controlling the correct character, and you can click on them to interact. The key is figuring out what character needs to be used in which order to proceed. Since most hotspots will only show if you're playing with the correct hero, it's a simple matter to cycle through them in each area to see what's missing.

Aside from not being accurate, since history has proven robots, ninja, and pirates cannot peacefully coexist, Ninja-Pi-Ro is also really easy. Even the puzzles Robot has to solve probably won't hang you up, and trying everything with everyone in any area takes hardly any time at all. As long as you pay attention to your environment, the solution will always be within your grasp. The game isn't too long, and will probably run you between fifteen minutes to half an hour depending on trial and error, and whether you spend time hunting down all one hundred coins hidden throughout the game. The coins don't serve any purpose other than to deduct clicks from your final score, since finishing the game in the least amount of mouse clicks will, as you know, cause you to win the internets. Do not fail me.

The end result is a fun, simple puzzle adventure with Pencilkids' signature cute style and charm. There's no way to lose the game, since using the incorrect character is only a temporary setback, and for Pirate electrocution is just a minor irritation. Is there a sequel on the horizon? Hope so! Maybe next time the team will meet up with their arch-nemesis... Samurai-Naval Officer-Alien!

Play Ninja-Pi-Ro


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraYou don't know what you need. Link Dump Friday knows what you need. Here, have this glass of champahgnah and put on this bathrobe while you partake of the most succulent physics puzzles, the tenderest giant robot battles, the most supple zombie mazes. All for you, my pet. Let us gaze into each other's eyes and sit uncomfortably close to one another while the squeals of pigs tumbling down into the earth soothes your fretful brow... are you soothed yet?... no?

... ah, crud. I was never that good at this. I guess it's true what they say; it's not easy bein' sleazy.

  • Truffle HunterTruffle Hunter - I'd always heard that pigs were somehow involved with that delicious little garnish I get overcharged for at fancy restaurants, but I hadn't realised it apparently consisted of dropping jiggly piglets down hand-carved mineshafts for truffles and diamonds. Which, if we're honest, basically sounds like the best gig ever. The game is basically a one-trick piggy despite its 25 levels, but it's cute, squealy fun that won't bring Animal Protection knocking on your door. Unlike that Extreme Canary Fighting ring you have in your basement you think nobody knows about. Oops.
  • Mouse MegatronMouse Megatron - [Reassurance] This is a synopsis written by a human and not a robotic infiltrator encased in supple, fragile flesh for the purposes of eventual invasion. [Description] Use your mouse or equivalent device to control a fine example of enormous robotics with gestures as you strike down similarly large creatures. The controls are awkward but it should suffice to ensure that you are properly cowed by the steel might of your new robotic overlords when they strike. [Clarification] That was a joke, such as a human might make. Ha. Ha. Enjoy, meatbag.
  • Dummy Never FailsDummy Never Fails - This little physics game is awfully familiar, but it's fun and well made. Shoot hapless crash test dummies and hit the target to proceed. Ironically, the biggest flaw is dummy really does never fail; far too many levels can simply be bulldozed through without any finesse, which means you never really feel like you're accomplishing anything or showcasing your superstar skills. Sure, you won't unlock most of the skins, but you didn't need to put your dummy in a cheerleader outfit anyway, right?... right?
  • Release the MooksRelease the Mooks - Another game to test your physics skillz, the simple little title has you dropping "Mooks" from the ceiling so that they stack properly without falling over or throwing the balance of the whole structure off. It's cute, but a little repetitive. Just what are the Mooks? I have no clue. But just in case releasing them turns out to be a spectacularly bad idea on par with adopting a Tribble, I had nothing to do with this. It's all on you, skipper.
  • Haunted Mirror MazeHaunted Mirror Maze - Previously featured in an installment of Mobile Monday, this little puzzle game is now available for those of you without an iPhone. (You know, the ones who wanted to be able to afford to eat this year.) Use clues to track down creatures of the night on a grid with logic and mirrors as your guide. If you're afraid of monsters, don't worry; the critters featured within are strictly of the adorable variety. Why, that zombie is cute as a button! A rotting, shambling, slowly putrefying button that hungers for your succulent sheets of flesh! D'awwww.
  • Clockwords Act OneClockwords Act One - [Text by super special guest star Kyle.] The follow up to last year's Best of 2009 winner, has finally arrived. You'll enjoy the same great gameplay that made the first installment a hit along with a bit of a cosmetic facelift as well. Type a word, any word, and watch as your mysterious machine uses it as ammo to fend off wave upon wave of attacking clockwork spiders. The bigger the words you use, the more damage you do. In between levels you'll be able buy specialty letters to make even more powerful words to keep the secret stealing automatons at bay. A special premium edition is also available for the purchase of 2.99 USD that unlocks additional stages and new abilities.

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Rating: 4.1/5 (98 votes)
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Babylon Sticks: Muscle Head comic

A custom casual gameplay comic created exclusively for JIG by Babylon Sticks creator, James Francis. Follow Babylon Sticks on Twitter: @babylonsticks.


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (126 votes)
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JamesChiselWhen all the planets in a galaxy need destroying, you will have to apply your head to solve the problem. In the case of Nitrome's new action/puzzle game Chisel, the large drill stuck to your noggin makes that statement pretty literal. Get ready to tear through terra-firma like you have never done before - unless you are a moleman.

Control Chiseller with the [arrow] keys, and drill downwards with the [spacebar]. While some enemies can be destroyed by ramming into them, others are dangerous, and you'll want to learn to tell the difference quickly or those three lives will run out pretty fast. Each planet has a target size to reach, so cut it down as quickly as you can for a high score!

For reasons not entirely motivated, Chiseller has to carve thirty different planets down to their target size. But perhaps it has to do with the strange shapes these heavenly bodies come in. One wants, after all, a uniform and well-adjusted galaxy. Or maybe the strange creatures that inhabit the surface and below require some culling. After all, they are not there for Chiseller's health - in fact, they are quite detrimental to it - so he has to run to a good spot and plunge head first into the ground, tearing straight through the planet and making it a little bit smaller. But, obviously, the smaller the planet gets the harder it becomes to avoid its lethal fauna (or flora - assuming a saw blade swinging from a chain counts as a plant).

ChiselAnalysis: Chisel is in its way an inverse of the 'fill the space' genre created by Qix and later copied by the likes of Gals Panic, the Xonix series and the Art Class mini game in Rockstar's console title Bully. In the Qix lineage you have to fill spaces in a rectangular area by drawing lines to create boxes and avoid enemies roaming in the space. Chisel turns the idea around by expecting you to remove space. While in Qix games you killed enemies by enclosing them, in Chisel you ram them with your drill. When this isn't happening, avoidance is the only recipe for survival. And just like Qix, as your play area gets smaller, staying out of the way of bad guys gets harder.

But unlike the former genre, Chisel does not stick to uniform levels. It combines different-shaped planets with interesting enemy types to create a variety of challenges. Some creatures can't be killed by your drill. Others knock against each other and change direction. A few live underground and change their digging direction based on how you chop away rock. One particularly annoying creature actually chases after you, leaving you very little time to get the right angle for your drill.

There is no time limit in Chisel, because the game is all about timing and angle. Sometimes it is just a matter of heading into the right direction, but often you have to choose the perfect launch moment in order to avoid a monster (or perhaps hit and kill it, depending on the type). These two elements are constantly being juggled in the various level designs and the final stage completely focuses both to a fine art. Chiseller only has three lives, so he can be hurt twice before a level is failed: sometimes you have to sacrifice a bit of health to make a level work in your favour, but reckless digging will get you nowhere fast.

There is a scoring mechanism in the form of gems that appear randomly and extra points for killing monsters. So even if you easily master the game, there is an incentive to get these gems, as only a limited number appear on each level. But even if score is the furthest thing from your mind, Chisel is brilliant fun. Typical of Nitrome's games it uses cute retro-pixel graphics displaying creatures that the art department definitely had a ball coming up with. It would be nice for the music to change every few levels, but other than that the only thing left wanting is the sequel hinted at in the end credits.

Play Chisel


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Rating: 4.5/5 (859 votes)
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Kylekyle_princeofpersiatfs_title.pngPrince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands is a high paced action game from Ubisoft intended to promote the latest major title in the long running series. You take on the role of the son of the great King Solomon as he is about to arrive at his brother's palace only to find it under attack. It's as if the very sands of Persia itself have arisen to claim the castle, and indeed upon meeting a mysterious young queen claiming to know your father, you find that this is not far from the truth. A deadly sand army marches on and the only hope of stopping them is for you to activate four elemental fountains and use their powers against this terrible foe.

The Forgotten Sands offers gameplay that is mostly similar to Canabalt though with numerous twists and additions to give this mini Prince of Persia title plenty of its own style and flare. For the most part running is automatic, just make sure you jump using [up] and attack with the [space] bar. Later on you will gain special abilities that can be used with the [X] key, and if you find that you've gotten yourself in a bit of trouble, you can rewind up to three seconds Braid style simply by pressing [down].

Like Canabalt and other similar titles, Prince of Persia is largely a reflex game; Identify obstacle and act appropriately. However, the addition of attacks, special powers, and limited time travel give you a great amount of freedom in conquering the obstacles set before you. This also helps make the game a little less challenging and more accessible. As a nice little treat, the boss battles are actually somewhat interesting and well thought out, allowing the game to provide some gameplay diversity while at the same time taking the opportunity to show off some fairly impressive looking visuals.

Unfortunately The Forgotten Sands' high paced action may leave fans of the series feeling a little less than sated given the depth and complexity of the main series. If you come into this expecting the cerebral Metroidvania style of the older Prince of Persia games, or the deep 3D action of the latter-day titles, you'll find neither here. And while the controls are mostly acceptable one can grow annoyed with how tetchy attacking regular enemies could be.

Finally, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands ends far too soon, and with far less fanfare than one would expect from the rest of the game. As a result you probably won't find yourself coming back to this game time and again, but it should provide a thrilling if brief diversion for a little while.

Play Prince Of Persia: The Forgotten Sands


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Rating: 4.6/5 (3909 votes)
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supermariobroscrossover.gifJohnBSuper Mario Bros. Crossover is a massive dose of NES nostalgia. It answers the question every five year old in the late 80s had: what if I could play as Mega Man in Super Mario Bros.? Or as Samus, for that matter? Dropping half a dozen NES-era characters and their unique abilities into the familiar world of the original Super Mario Bros. game, Super Mario Bros. Crossover weaves familiar gaming icons into a new product, allowing you to play an old game in several very unique ways.

Playable characters in Crossover include Samus from Metroid, Simon Belmont from Castlevania, Link from The Legend of Zelda, Mega Man, Bill from Contra, and of course, Mario himself, each in his or her original 8-bit form. Each character's abilities are mostly intact, so Mega Man can still slide and fire his arm cannon, Simon still has his whip, and Samus can still roll into a ball and set bombs. How cool is that?

Although their abilities are different, each character is still subject to the rules of the Mario universe. Turtles are bad and must be destroyed. Mushrooms and flowers are good and should be collected. Powering-up is different for each character but appropriate to his or her original game. Samus, for example, starts with her short-range beam, but grab a mushroom and she can fire across the screen. Each character's attacks also destroy bricks and activate "?" blocks, making short work of obstacles Mario has to tackle one square at a time.

Great care was taken with Super Mario Bros. Crossover to make sure each character's unique abilities fit into this goomba-infested world. Everybody can safely stomp baddies, but because of height and attack differences, not everyone can stand and fire at ground-based foes. Bill, for example, has to lay down to hit goombas, which adds a lot of flavor to the game.

Analysis: Fan games that build on established commercial releases are usually slapped together with terrible controls and little more than a few strings of code to make the game run. Super Mario Bros. Crossover is quite the opposite, gathering a number of characters with unique abilities and adapting them perfectly to Mario's platforming universe. A lot of attention was put on making things fit together, and that shows every time you power-up with a mushroom as Simon Belmont.

Unique character abilities is at once the game's biggest strength and its chief drawback. While it's beyond awesome to stab Mario's enemies with Link's sword, not all of these gaming icons are cut out for the Mushroom Kingdom. Simon is one of the worst, as his jump (just like in the original Castlevania game) is a set height and arc, making it impossible to adjust yourself in mid-air. It ends up being more of a gameplay challenge than a design flaw, though, and as I stated above, a lot of time was spent balancing and fitting these characters into a new universe.

Then there's the whole issue of copyright infringement. Super Mario Bros. Crossover uses ripped sprites and music from six games released by major development studios. It certainly doesn't lend any credibility to this game, and Nintendo, Capcom, and Konami would be within their rights to have it removed. The spirit of Crossover is definitely appreciated, regardless of what any lawyer might say, and it plays on that good ole feeling of nostalgia. We know how to play Mega Man. We know how to play Super Mario Bros. Now let's throw them together and have fun!

Super Mario Bros. Crossover doesn't do many new things, but the ambitious mixing of classic gaming heroes into one of the most recognizable game environments produces extraordinary results. It's well-made, well-tuned, and grin-inducingly fun to play.

Play Super Mario Bros. Crossover


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Rating: 4.4/5 (62 votes)
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DoraPlexus Puzzle: Pirates!Ahoy, mateys! Put down yer grog and cast yer scurvy eyes upon the latest jigsaw puzzle from the scalliwags at Plexus and Smartkit, Plexus Puzzle: Pirates! It do be a puzzle o' a different colour than ye may be used to. And, uh... swashes... pirate... stuff.... hrm. Phooey. I'm not a very good pirate. Just as well. "Scurvy eyes" sounds uncomfortably sticky.

If you've never played a Plexus puzzle before, you should know that they ain't your grammy's jigsaw puzzles. Uh... unless you're a grammy yourself, in which case I guess they would be someone's grammy's... nevermind. The pieces onscreen don't combine to form a coherent scene, but rather simply lock together when you match up the edges. Just click and drag pieces around, and click on the transparent circle that appears when you mouse over a piece to spin it. Pay attention to the contours of the pieces rather than the images themselves, and you'll start making connections. In other words, think of the pieces as their silhouettes, and how those might fit together. Just don't expect the resulting scene to make any sense, and warm up your best barn owl impersonation. *painful head tilt*

The puzzle has been revised due to feedback and is now using the old/original engine running the pieces. If you played and rated the game before, please try the new version and re-rate it. We have reset the rating for this puzzle due to the change.

There's been a visual upgrade from the last games, and, while the larger images are nice, they do make the relatively small play area feel somewhat crowded. A larger area to move around in so you could spread everything out would have been appreciated. The edges of the images are also slightly less better defined than they were in previous titles, which can mean connections are a bit harder to make. However, Pirates! is another challenging twist on the jigsaw genre; clever, challenging, and... well, I would say "relaxing", but it's actually quite a workout for your eyes and your patience. So warm up your grey matter, me hearties; you've got a puzzle to solve!


Play Plexus Puzzle: Pirates!


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Rating: 3.6/5 (93 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypHere at JIG we like to offer an "escape from the everyday" for each Weekday Escape. So this week how about a nice vacation in an empty hotel? There's something... unsettling about an empty hotel, isn't there? Peer around the vacant, echoing corridors and you almost expect creepy twins, an old lady with a large knife, or — worse yet — the Carpenters. Hotel Bianco-Bianco(Quick, name those three movies!) Fortunately for those of a delicate constitution, this week's escape game, Hotel Bianco-Bianco, features none of those things. All you have to do is escape the lobby, no ghosts involved.

Atmosphere aside, Hotel Bianco-Bianco comes packed with the standard room escape features: navigation bars to move around with, a handy inventory control that involves double-clicking objects for a close up, a changing cursor to indicate hot-spots (thank you!), and even a save button if you feel like stopping for a while and coming back later. All of the things that make life easier if you're a professional escape artist or just trying to get home.

Bianco-Bianco's escapes run a wide gamut, from quirky to creepy, to the sappily sentimental. What they do have in common, however, is quality. Beautifully rendered visuals, logical puzzles, slick design, these are always present when Bianco-Bianco brings us a new escape. There are even two different endings to discover.

Hotel Bianco-Bianco continues the tradition of quality design inherent in the developer's escapes. The eerily empty lobby aside, this looks like an upscale establishment, one you might not mind spending a night in. What follows is not the most difficult escape out there, but one that is clever, logical, and has a nice twist on the old theme of two endings. The quality shows everywhere, from the finely rendered backgrounds to the ease of navigation, from the simple inventory controls to the blessed relief of a changing cursor. Bianco-Bianco even kindly offers us a save button, although the escape is simple enough that you shouldn't need to use it.

Perhaps the only downside to this charming little locked room is the presence of a color-based puzzle, which can make the going difficult for some. Hotel Bianco-Bianco is not rocket science, but an escape game which illustrates how to create a good room escape game. A nice combination including use of found objects, puzzles, and a little ingenuity, and you should be out and looking for new accommodations in no time. You know, a place where there are actually living people? Never stay in a hotel where the clientele is conspicuously absent, that's all I'm saying. Checking in!

Play Hotel Bianco-Bianco


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Rating: 4.3/5 (118 votes)
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Mikemike-topheroarena-screen1.jpgWhen you consider a typical, classic, medieval-type fantasy world, it sometimes seems that it must be so chockablock with heroes and adventurers, that you have to marvel there are any adventures left to be had. What do heroes do when the last dragon is slain, the last dark tyrant vanquished, the last evil artifact destroyed? They could all either weep, for there are no more worlds to conquer, like that wimp Alexander; or they could mass-market their adventuring skills for the entertainment of the teeming masses. Top Hero Arena, by Dave Campbell, seems to imagine such a world, where a decadent peace leads unmoored adventurers to compete to escape elaborate dungeons full of kooky monsters and devilish traps. And you get to build the dungeon! The dungeon master, to coin a phrase! Huzzah!

Each level involves a particular hero, a particular hex-grid dungeon map, and a particular selection of critters and contraptions, each with their own powers and attributes. It's your job to arrange these elements into a fearsome gauntlet, so that the hero cannot survive before making it to the exit. Simply click and drag monsters and traps into place. Dragging a tile to an occupied space will cause the two to switch places. Hovering over a tile will give a description of what it does, and you will perceive that some sets of tiles work best when the hero is forced to encounter them in a certain order. Damage to the hero affects his armor first, then health, and he may have a chance to replenish both. Crush the upstart before he gets a chance!

The first two levels that are unlocked are fairly simple and will give you the chance to test various strategies. Subsequent levels escalate in difficulty very quickly, so be prepared to yell at your screen by the last couple of levels. There are only eight levels, and the graphics are crude, hand-drawn specimens, but the puzzles provide a worthy challenge if you have a moment in your day. Plus you will have a chance to put those vainglorious heroes in their place. So fire up your brain, dungeon master. The crowds demand spectacle!

Play Top Hero Arena


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Rating: 3.7/5 (71 votes)
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JamesTremerzThe town of Perfection is under siege from underground worms rearing out of their Hades abyss and chomping down on the surface dwellers! If not for the actions of two local repairmen, everyone could be mauled in the fitting homage arcade game Tremerz!

The controls could not be simpler: just move your mouse, clicking to jump. Taking charge of Kevin Bacon (or Valentine, if you want to be like that), you have to collect the town folk and dodge the attacks of the worms, which are hurtling themselves at you from out of the ground. With each character you add to your posse, it gets harder since the group concertinas when moving. So a pack of four survivors clears a worm more slowly than three or two. Running sideways along the landscape, whenever you rescue someone, the worms attack, leaping out of the ground at different angles, poking their heads out for a opportunistic snack or rumbling along the surface towards your feet. Every screen has more intense and quicker attacks, culminating at the edge of a cliff. The aim: try and save as many of the characters as you can. Making it to the end with just Kevin is easy. Making it with the whole population is a lot harder.

The worm behavior is consistent with what we have seen in Tremors, a documentary from the early Nineties where these worms were first identified. There have been a few subsequent video studies on the phenomena, but they are worth ignoring. All you need to see is the the first outing. It also adds to your prowess in "7 Degrees Of Kevin Bacon", as you now know that he starred with giant man-eating worms. You know, in case you needed to connect to another movie starring someone else and the same worms. Or if you are playing "7 Degrees Of Predator Worms" and you need a Kevin Bacon link. What I am saying here is that your life is a lot poorer for never having watched Tremors.

That is the main selling point behind this game. At its heart Tremerz is really shallow, pretty pointless and far too easy to merit a mention (to be fair, it was made in 24 hours for the Kevin Bacon Day on Newgrounds). But it's a homage to one of the best creature-feature movies ever made and it is done well, enlisting the talents of Newgrounds demigods Tom Fulp and Johnny Utah (and music by MidiMachine). The fact that nobody ever made a Tremors game makes the existence of this mini-romp inevitable, while the throwback graphics just drive the point home.

It won't take up more than a few minutes of your life, failing at the one area where Flash games ought to excel - eliminating vast chunks of our meaningless existence. But its failure to keep you consistently oblivious from reality is totally covered by the fact that it reminds you to watch Tremors again (and the reason why we yanked this from Link Dump Friday oblivion). In that light I could only find three real flaws with Tremerz: the absence of Rhonda and Walter's characters, a worm cruising past with a jackhammer stuck in it, and a bonus stage where you play as a survivalist couple in their basement opening fire on an invading worm like it was a seaside village in Apocalypse Now. Ah, the memories, the memories...

Play Tremerz


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Rating: 3.9/5 (102 votes)
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DoraOtomacoLife inside a 3dpi Games title is rough. If you're not being menaced by multicolour pirates, you're going through the weirdest, nastiest magical divorce the world has ever seen. In Otomaco: The Last Jade Journey you're part of a group of three adventurers ambushed in their travels and tossed into a cell. What fate awaits our strange looking heroes? Well, you'll have to play to find out, but if you don't escape soon, chances are you won't be getting a free trip to the Gumdrop Mine in Happyland. Just a hunch.

Otomaco is a mostly standard little point-and-click adventure where you use your mouse to interact with the screen. While viewing the dungeon from the center of the room, you have a 360 degree view, and nudging the cursor to either side of the screen will turn you in that direction. You can click on objects to pick them up, or to get a closer look at certain areas. Keep your eyes open for a changing cursor to let you interact.

But Otamco also has an interesting mechanic that allows you to change the time in certain areas, which you'll need to do in order to solve the puzzles. Whenever it appears, simply click on the dots arranged in a circle in the upper left of the screen to change the time to be whatever you wish. Of course, that's assuming what you wish is limited to day or night. Otomaco, I'm sorry to report, does not currently feature "peanut butter jelly time" as an option.

OtomacoAnalysis: According to the game, Otomaco is not, as I had hoped, a delicious new variety of taco, but a legendary city, and everyone in your merry band of misfits is after it for a different reason. There's a bit of exposition given under the instructions and through the opening cutscene, but it doesn't feel like it's enough in this case. With its fantasy theme and oddball characters, Otomaco would have benefited greatly from a story more closely integrated with its gameplay. There's an appealingly sketchy style to Otomaco's visual design that fans of 3dpi Games's other titles will remember; something like a children's book left out in the rain. The minimal use of sound and ambient noise makes for an atmospheric and involving experience.

Otomaco is a step above 3dpi's last title, Mandrake in terms of design. The area is small and well defined rather than made up of sprawling areas that are awkward to navigate, so while puzzle solving can be fairly abstract, you know that there's a limit to where and what the solution can be. The ability to click back and forth between times at will is an interesting touch, but it feels like a strange addition. You can only affect the time on certain screens, and even if you set it to daylight, when you click anywhere else in the dungeon it's dark again. The lack of consistency makes the implementation feel a little lazy.

It feels like with a bit more tweaking and about twice as much playtime, Otomaco could have really been something amazing. As it stands, this serves more to tantalize than anything else, and feels like a prologue rather than a proper chapter. If you know what you're doing, Otomaco: Last Jade Journey is actually a pretty short game, and you'll have to wait until the next installment to find out what happens to you and your friends. What danger lies around the corner? Will you ever be safe? Will you ever find the legendary city? And why does he get a orange and I don't?! Only time, and Marek Frankowski's team at 3dpi Games, will tell.

Play Otomaco


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Rating: 4/5 (142 votes)
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DoraWitchWhen flying one's kite, one should always been on the lookout for egrets, telephone wires, and witches. The aptly named point-and-click escape game Witch is a cautionary tale about the dangers of kite flying and is entirely true. You should definitely play it so you know what to do in case a witch ever locks you in a cage and ... what? "No such thing?" Friend, that's what the witches want you to think. (For further preparation in case of witch emergency, I refer you to Mr Dahl.) Shouldn't we already be suspicious of candy trails found in the forest anyway?

Your goal is to help the two adorable caged moppets escape whatever fate awaits them... hopefully. Click around on the screen to interact with items, and try to figure out what you need to escape. Witch is not what you might call logical, unless I missed something and my education was woefully inadequate in the many applications of pumpkin vomit. You'll need to experiment with every object you can click on to figure out how to reach one of two different endings. While this sort of gameplay does encourage a nice sense of discovery and experimentation that will appeal to some players, others may be put off by the trial-and-error approach. Fortunately, the Witch's hut is small, and little visual clues will steer you in the right direction.

Once you've figured out the correct order to click on which places, Witch is a pretty short and simple game. The game does not save your progress, and certain puzzle clues don't repeat, so make sure to keep a mental (or physical) note of any diagrams that might appear important if you want to save yourself some frustration on one puzzle. Despite its cute presentation, Witch earns her rating for some mildly ghoulish moments that might upset younger children. I can't imagine why not. I mean, I pop my own eyes out all the time when I cook. That's not weird. Just dedication. Speaking of, um. Did you happen to find anything... odd... in that soup I made for you yesterday? I'm... uh... missing something.

Play Witch

Thanks to Bogdan and Chiktionary for sending this one in!


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Mobile Monday

JohnBHow about some arcade games to spice up your Monday? Back in the day, arcade games were designed to challenge players to master the game's mechanics for little more reward than a high score. You don't have to worry about losing quarters now, but the same "play it until you're good at it" gameplay still challenges and satisfies.

tilttolive.jpgTilt to Live - Do what the title says: tilt your iPhone and stay alive! This arena avoider puts you in control of a tiny ship that can only move and gather power-ups. Avoid the dangerous-looking objects and move your way to the spawning items to dispose of the baddies. Each power-up does something different, adding a whole lot of thinking to this tense game. Plus, the achievements are hilarious. It's so well-balanced and well-made, you'll play it three times through before you even think about putting it down.

bitpilot.gifBit Pilot - From the creator of the decidedly non-arcade game Unify comes a deliciously old-school avoider with music by chiptune superstar Sabrepulse. Swipe the screen to change direction and control your ship's speed, avoiding anything dangerous that flies your way. Pick up capsules to strengthen your shield, and stay alive as long as you can to earn a higher score.

pew-iphone.gifPew! - A slow-paced shooter with a retro feel, Pew! is built around a bit of strategy as well as arcade ideals. Slide your finger to move your ship around the screen. The craft fires on its own, so all you have to do is put it in the right place to take out the moving baddies. Tap coins with a spare finger whenever they appear and use them to upgrade your ship between levels. Repeat until you're a Pew! master.

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.


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Cassandra's Journey 2

KarlCassandra's Journey 2: The Fifth Sun of Nostradamus, like the first game in the series, puts you in the role of Cassandra, a clairvoyant who solves cases with the aid of a mysterious ring and training from her mentor Nostradamus. Conveniently, she solves her cases by spotting hidden objects in various settings. Cassandra attempts to divine the location of her missing boyfriend but gets overwhelmed by a malevolent, evil presence and knocked out. While she sleeps, Nostradamus visits and tells her that she must find and destroy this evil presence to save the world.

cassandrasjourney2a.jpgYou'll spend the majority of your time looking for hidden objects. At the bottom of the screen is a list of the objects that you're trying to find; at first it'll just be a simple list, but as you progress you'll have to decipher riddles and outlines of the objects you need instead. Then, all you have to do is find them within the room and click them with your mouse.

Like with any hidden object game, this sounds simple but it can end up being quite challenging. While typically the objects are in places you'd expect, sometimes they're in improbably (and sometimes physically impossible) places. You'll get stuck more than once, especially with the picture clues in the late game that are often reversed or upside down compared to the object you're looking for.

Fortunately, Cassandra's a fortune-teller, and you have the option of casting spells to show you where objects are. She knows five spells, with increasingly specific hints, and require an increasing amount of power as well. You start each level with a full hint meter, but if you click randomly or cast hint spells, it can quickly shrink. To refill it, either wait or find more objects. It's a system that's elegant in its simplicity, and keeps you from getting frustrated or stuck.

It's a system that you'll appreciate, especially when you enter one of the game's many minigames. In the course of her adventure, Cassandra will find clues that she must reassemble or puzzles she must solve in order to progress the plot. For the most part, these minigames are a fun diversion, introducing a jigsaw puzzle or some light Wheel of Fortune-style decoding into what would otherwise be a pretty bland game. It's nice to have variety. However, sometimes the puzzles might prove too challenging for you, or maybe you're just not in the mood. In that case, there's a convenient 'skip puzzle' option, which activates after a set amount of time fiddling with the puzzle. When you just can't see the solution, it's nice to be able to just move on with the game.

cassandrasjourney2b.jpgAnalysis: Cassandra's Journey 2: The Fifth Sun of Nostradamus is a surprisingly pretty game. Every scenario is well-done, and the quality of the art is so high that I found myself wondering if the characters and settings were photographs retouched to look painted, or if they were just excellently-done paintings. Every object is gorgeously rendered, and unlike other hidden object games I've played, I always knew what I was looking at.

The story, however, is sadly lacking. Although Cassandra's Journey 2 is just a hidden object game, and is just as fun to play without the story, so much effort is put into the gorgeous plot sequences that take place between levels that it seems a shame that they make so little sense. Without spoiling anything, part of the plot revolves around Cassandra's divination to tell the two where to go next, but it's accomplished with ordinary playing cards and a form of Solitaire. Cassandra explains that the last four cards left on the table are "numbers that fate has chosen," but I had a hard time suspending my disbelief when they immediately went to an address which included a K and an A. Still, no matter how you feel about fortune-telling and clairvoyance, the core gameplay is entertaining.

Overall, Cassandra's Journey is a gorgeously presented hidden-object game with solid core gameplay. If you ever enjoyed I Spy as a kid, you'll love this game.

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Rating: 4.5/5 (34 votes)
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Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse

MikeSam and Max are back in another season of episodic adventure games! Expanding upon the established point-and-click formula explored in Sam & Max - Culture Shock and following episodes, the first game in The Devil's Playhouse season, The Penal Zone, lets you see things through the warped perspective of Max. Yes, it's as crazy as you think, if not more so. But it's still a lot of adventuring goodness with the duo's characteristic sense of humor slapped on every object and situation.

sammaxpenalzone.jpgSumming up the Sam & Max series to the uninitiated is a bit like rattling off the CliffsNotes version of a Tom & Jerry cartoon with the epic scope of Lost. Here it goes: Sam is an anthropomorphic dog-like critter with the rumbled wardrobe of a Raymond Chandler character and a nose for justice. Max is an unsettling, impulsive lagomorph with no wardrobe to speak of and the attention span of a six-year-old on pixie sticks. Together they are Sam & Max, the Freelance Police, who solve crimes with a flair for wacky mayhem and a broad disregard for property rights and public safety. Sam & Max's road to gaming stardom began with a classic LucasArts adventure title, and more recently, they became stars of the flagship series for Telltale Games' venture into episodic adventure games.

After a series of increasingly bizarre cases, which involved mass hypnosis, the bureaucracy of Hell, and Max's election the the Presidency of the United States, our heroes have made an accidental discovery: toys are awesome. And certain toys are really awesome, especially for those with "special" brains like Max. It seems the galaxy is littered with Toys of Power, which enable gifted wielders to exhibit cockamamie, paranormal psychic powers. And everybody wants them, including, as we discover in Episode 1: The Penal Zone, a General Skunkape, an alien uber-gorilla with a suave baritone and possibly hostile designs on Planet Earth.

The marquee new feature to the Sam & Max series is the inclusion of Max's psychic puzzles, a bold shakeup of Telltale's standard adventuring formula. Most of the time you control Sam, clicking on various objects and dramatis personae to examine, acquire, and speak with them. Click and drag to move Sam, or just use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys. You can examine your inventory by clicking the cardboard box in the upper corner.

To use Max's powers, click on the shield and switch to seeing the world through Max's warped point of view. Here you can rotate with the [WASD] or [arrow] keys about a fixed, first person perspective and pick which of Max's available powers you want to use. You can also pause and go to the game menu with the [esc] key. With the addition of Max's powers, use the traditional adventure-gaming skills of interrogation, examination, and item gathering to figure out what Skunkape is up to, and to discover Max's ultimate destiny.

Analysis: I can only conclude that Telltale believed that gracefully introducing new players to the convoluted backstory of the Sam & Max universe was an impossible goal, and opted instead for sudden, chaotic immersion. The intro to The Penal Zone is the most wonderfully disorienting experiences I've ever encountered in a game. It begins at the end of the game, for one (and it's not even the right ending). You are imprisoned aboard Skunkape's ship, Skunkape is busily destroying New York, and a disembodied brain is telling you to do strange things to liberate yourselves. There's also the matter of a cryptic, Rod Serling-like narrator, giving what turns out, amidst the chaos, to be a useful tutorial to the ins and outs of the game. My only consolation to any neophytes who may find themselves overwhelmed is that veterans of the series are likely just as confused (though they'll recognize some familiar faces, at least). My advice to new and old players alike is to ride with the insanity, because the insanity is a perfect distillation of what makes Sam & Max great.

sammaxpenalzone2.jpgSam & Max's world has gotten a bit of a visual overhaul, thanks to what the game calls "the mayor's new city-dirtification program." Gone are the bright, plasticine textures of previous entries. Characters are more detailed and expressive, and environments are grittier. The new designs really enhance the outlandish decrepitude of Sam & Max's universe, without compromising its energetic, cartoony brio. The background music is all-new as well, though it still alternates between edgy jazz and campy sci-fi music, perfect for the mood and spirit of the game.

The big question for fans of the series concerns Max's powers. How well do they really work for the game? Pretty well, actually! I was concerned that "psychic powers" wouldn't mesh with the canon, but sci-fi is no stranger to Sam & Max, and the powers are executed with such madcap bluster that they fit right in. A Silly-Putty knockoff called "Rhino-Plasty" lets Max change shape, a toy telephone lets you teleport with phone numbers, and a 3D View-Master-like toy lets you see the future. Something about the mix of cheesy childhood nostalgia with the paranormal makes what could have been a klunky fit feel entirely natural. The Toys are also responsible for some slick puzzles, my favorite involving the neutralization of two of Skunkape's "research assistants" with nothing but a clever application of Max's powers. My one complaint is that it can be a little tedious using Future Vision on everything in the game, which is about the only way of determining what bits of future insight are necessary for solving puzzles.

Another question is whether the series, in its third season, is still funny. Yes, says I! A lot of the humor comes from marinating in the overall strangeness of the story, but there are several laugh-out-loud moments as well ("In case anyone was curious, second is licking," was particularly well-played). It helps that the voice acting remains top-notch, especially for the cast of familiar extras. Newbies may be a little perplexed by the surfeit of regular characters, but the game does a fairly good job of introducing them, and generally avoids too many inside jokes and winking references.

The Penal Zone is an excellent introduction to the new season, The Devil's Playhouse. It shows that the new powers system works, while promising more tantalizing things to come. As a Sam & Max fan from way back, I can say I'm excited to see where the series is going.

WindowsWindows:
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  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (39 votes)
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Love and Death: Bitten

DoraIf the horror genre is a schoolyard, vampires have long since been turned into the kid who gets pantsed at recess by the cooler kids. Love and Death: Bitten, the first in a new hidden-object/point-and-click series, is going to change all that. It's a sweeping, sprawling epic that will touch your heart and change the way you look at—AHAHAHA, I'm just yankin' your chain, it's totally goofy dude. Fortunately, it's packaged inside a game that is not only gorgeous to look at, but features top-notch voice acting, surprisingly clever puzzles, and cheesy charm.

Love and Death: BittenAt the start of the story, we are introduced to Damon, a vampire being kept as a prisoner-slash-pet by a powerful witch who also happens to be a vampiress. (I think I've read fanfiction like this, only she was also a Jedi princess and half elf.) On the night when he's sent out to acquire a human for dinner, Damon spies Victoria, a mortal woman who immediately intrigues him. So he does what any gentleman would do; he follows her home, trashes her living room, and leaps out the window when she confronts him. (Actually, that's how I met my husband.) Victoria sets off after him, determined to find out who he is and put an end to the menace threatening her village. Right after she solves this mirror puzzle. And destroys that boat. And makes this soup.

Part hidden object game, part traditional point-and-click, Love and Death: Bitten combines both genres quite nicely. You'll know when a hidden-object scene is available because a raven will fly into the scene carrying a list of items for you to find. (Look, if you can believe wizards get mail via owls, you can believe this; I've had enough of your lip!) There's a hint button for a little guidance, and the puzzles also come with the option to skip them if you find yourself stuck on them for too long. During the day you'll play as Victoria, and during the night you play Damon. While there is a slight difference between what they can do, I was a little disappointed that they didn't play up Damon's vampiric powers more than, say, occasionally forcing him to grub under the floorboards for spilled blood.

Love and Death: BittenAnalysis: While I at first dismissed Bitten because I prefer my vampires menacing Santa Carla, after trying the demo I was genuinely surprised at how enjoyable the game was. The plot, while as outlandish and predictable as you might expect, is at least fun and full of magic. Though the pacing of the plot is rather erratic, with Victoria and Damon rather abruptly deciding they love one another after spending the majority of the game making snide comments and minimal interaction, the dialogue is well written and the characters are mostly pretty likable. Not to mention, of course, how beautiful the whole thing is, with gorgeous scenery, hand-drawn artwork, and a lovely soundtrack.

Bitten provides a nice variety to its hidden object scenes, too; the difficulty steps up as you go and some scenes even require you to create things within them, such as... sandwiches and a puppet show. While the point-and-click "use x item here" sequences are never challenging, the puzzles are actually pretty varied. Make a soup from unicorn horns and bat wings to cure an old seer? I am so there, hand me that cheese grater so I can render this priceless evidence of mythological beasts into tasty shavings! The downside is that as the game goes on, it starts to suffer from "Do It Again, Only More Complicated" syndrome, and you'll find yourself having to hunt down masses of tiny items just to solve a single puzzle. As such, the latter half of the game winds up feeling padded compared to the tight design of the first.

Despite this and the cliffhanger ending you'll probably see coming, Bitten is a well put together example of its genre. Most players will probably finish it in about three to four hours, more or less depending on your eagle eyes, but that's becoming an unfortunate trend in these games lately. Whether you love vampires, hate them, or love to hate them, Love and Death: Bitten offers a surprisingly enjoyable romp through a fun, fairytale story. Hopefully, the sequel will greater explore the vampiric abilities we all know and love; press A to quote bad poetry! Press B to brood on top of a gothic cathedral in the rain! Minigames where you have to assemble the laciest manshirt! This is a goldmine, people!

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Weekend Download

JohnBThis edition of Weekend Download is all about failure. Failure to escape a missile attack, failure to create a non-ordinary game, failure to climb over a wall, and failure to, well, not die. Failure is part of playing video games, as without risk there's no reward for succeeding, but the titles below use failing in some creative ways!

aftermath.gifAftermath (Windows, 1.4MB, free) - Oh, Mario, the adventure's you have embarked upon! Created by Yrr, this chunky-pixeled 2D platform game turns up the difficulty and challenges you to scavenge for parts to escape from a crater with your old pal Toad. The atmosphere is great, and the sense of exploration is quite strong, though at some point you'll get sick of the precise jumping required to make it through the game.

restrictedrecall.gifRestricted Recall (Windows, 1.1MB, free) - A short one button game that really plays with the concept of limiting your actions. Tap the [spacebar] to do each action shown on the icons at the top of the screen. One tap does one action, the next tap does the next action, and so on. Your moves cycle and repeat as you press the button, and you can't change the order in which they're performed. This lends a very puzzle-like feel to an otherwise platformer-like game, and you'll have a great time figuring out when and how to tap the [spacebar] to make it out alive!

thereisawall.gifThere IS A Wall (Windows, 2.1MB, free) - Just like the name says, this game features a wall. And a protagonist. And an exit. And background music. The rest is up to you to figure out. Each of the 20 rooms looks the same, but your abilities change from room to room. One level might give you the ability to jump in mid-air, for example, allowing you to clear the wall with no trouble. You basically have to play around with the keyboard with each new level, but there's something oddly intriguing about the whole experience.

anordinaryshooter.gifAn Ordinary Shooter (Windows, 2.5MB, free) - An ordinary description for An Ordinary Shooter, your goal is to shoot the aliens and stay alive as long as you can. Even though the game is quite ordinary, the retro feel and arcade set-up make it a great game to pick up on a lazy afternoon. Be sure to pick up the falling + icons, as they build up to something extra fun.

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!


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Rating: 4.1/5 (27 votes)
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Mall-a-Palooza

JohnBSo, like, here's like, the thing. I like, have a mall and you like, don't. Like, not yet, anyway. Also, I'm like going to stop using the word "like" now because it's, like, so like annoying. Instead, I'll tell you about Mall-a-Palooza from RTS Casuals, a time management sim that's all about building stores and nurturing a thriving mall crowd, complete with annoying teenagers with a proclivity for the word "like"!

Mall-a-PaloozaEach level starts with a handful of empty booths just waiting for your eager cursor. Click the space and choose which type of store to build, ranging from clothing boutiques to books, toys, electronics stores and more. Once built, you'll need to pick an employee to run the place (the honor system never works well in malls). Sift through the selection of potentials, reading their quote to see if they have an interest in the type of store you're staffing. You wouldn't want a computer geek to run a women's clothing store, for example. Making the right employee choice nets you a bonus, so it's worth taking a little time to find the right one.

After staffing is complete, you start earning cash. Levels are timed in terms of days, and you can see how long you have left by checking the upper left corner of the screen. Income is earned on a per-store basis, so you've always got a little cash coming in. Use the moolah to upgrade shops and attract more customers. Building similar shops next to each other also nets you a bonus, so keep that in mind when planning your mall's layout.

One of the more interesting elements of Mall-a-Palooza is that you're not just working on a level-by-level basis, you're building an entire mall. Playing each level to its fullest affects the rest of your game, as the more you earn here the higher rating your mall will get. And let's face it, we all want a stylin' mall, don't we? Buy up several of the same kind of store early on, as things get more expensive as your mall becomes more popular.

Mall-a-PaloozaAnalysis: Mall-a-Palooza doesn't re-invent the time management/building genre. Instead it focuses on the simple act of having fun. Mall-a-Palooza never asks you to be a serious business manager even though you're planning an entire shopping mall and your decisions affect every level of play. Instead, your job is to sit back, build a few stores, hire a few employees, schedule a few fun events, and sip a fruit smoothie in the food court. You know, after you build the food court.

After every mall setting is complete, you unlock a surprisingly satisfying bonus level. These levels are untimed and feature lofty goals to complete, leaving you with as much wiggle room as you like to buy, sell, build and upgrade shops as you please. Even though time is never really a pressure in Mall-a-Palooza, it was nice having these more relaxed levels built in to the game.

The biggest shortcoming in Mall-a-Palooza is its visual presentation. While cute and charming in some ways, one can't help but feel everything has a stiff, 3D modeling characteristic left over from 1997. The stores aren't anything to write home about, either, although I did get a kick out of watching the guy in headphones headbang as he checked out a new cell phone.

Challenging but still casual to the core, Mall-a-Palooza does time management/casual sim thing extraordinarily well. It's like, so like, fun, too.

WindowsWindows:
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Rating: 3.8/5 (105 votes)
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GrinnypAtomic PuzzleFlash games can be filled with so much action. Running, shooting, maiming, killing, jumping, smashing, destroying... occasionally it's nice to get away from all that activity and play something that simply stimulates your brain cells rather than your adrenal glands. Something calm, soothing, almost Zen-like. Well that something may be Atomic Puzzle, a quiet yet unique and tricky little puzzle game by Sigma Studio.

You begin with a basic shape that looks like a molecular model, colored balls (or atoms) attached by gossamer lines. The object is to remove all the balls from the screen by "crashing" them into each other. You can click on an atom that is attached to two or more of the same color to collide them together, thus removing them all and without the nuclear blast and resultant devastation that would accompany this feat in real life. Continue to combine the colors until there is nothing left on the screen.

It sounds simple in theory, and it begins that way. At first all you have to do is figure out which combinations to remove in what order to empty the screen. Then it gets a little tricky, as extra "trick" atoms start appearing in your neat little molecules. Balls that can paint any ball that it is attached to, balls that move around the colors, balls that rearrange the bonds, and even a little scissor ball that can detach connections. Eventually you will be facing long, complex molecular chains that incorporate several different colors as well as the "trick" balls and that's where it gets very interesting... and perhaps not quite so calming.

Atomic PuzzleAnalysis: Atomic Puzzle is one of those deceptively easy puzzle games that are designed to suck you right in and not let go until you've solved the last one. Fortunately, there are 50 levels to get through, so that might take a while. Gameplay is unique, difficult in parts, and yet curiously soothing.

The game is beautifully presented, with the luminescent molecular models floating on blueprint-like background, a feast for the eyes as you contemplate your next move. Calm, quiet music only adds to the meditative qualities of the gameplay, keeping everything Zen even as you struggle with the tougher upper levels.

If you're looking for an adrenaline rush, you might try somewhere else. If you're looking for a tricky, logical puzzle game to while a few minutes away with, then definitely check out Atomic Puzzle. Between the gorgeous graphics, the easy-going music, and the pure logic of the puzzles themselves, you might find you've put yourself into a trance state. Finish and you will emerge triumphant and curiously calmed, like meditation accomplished with casual gameplay.

Play Atomic Puzzle


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraDo you ever wonder what would happen if there was no Link Dump Friday? No puzzles waiting for you, no points to be clicked at? Do you think maybe Friday would never come? Maybe the universe would be held in an eternal stasis, just waiting for me to post this article, stuck forever in Thursday and waiting with breathless anticipation for a weekend that never comes. So, really, when you think about it... I'm kind of like a super hero! No, no, no need to say anything, old chum. Just doin' my duty. One woman against the void of the work week.

You're welcome.

  • La Regina di RipicceLa Regina di Ripicce Episode One - Regina and her gorgeous little blue room with its dainty soundtrack actually have me pretty conflicted. On the one hand, I want to have tea with its gorgeous presentation and giggle girlishly with my pinky extended while I play the game. On the other, there is so much crazy logic and frustrating pixel hunting in this short little point-and-clicker I feel almost personally slighted by it and want to challenge it to fisticuffs. Now, where did I put my white duellin' glove? I have a face to slap with it!
  • Sydney SharkSydney Shark - [Parental Warning: Not for children.] Remember Miami Shark? Awesome, now play it all over again, but Austrailia-er! More or less exactly the same as its predecessor, Sydney Shark features chompy, action-packed gameplay with a different background. Great news for fans of the original, but I can't help but figure they missed out when they didn't include a level where you have to dodge scathing critiques of your performance sneered at you by a British man in a hat. You call that an agonizing bloody death?
  • Magic OrbsMagic Orbs - Imagine you've got some orbs. Pretty sweet, right? Now imagine they're magic. Oh man! That's so awesome I almost passed out! Apparently, when you're a wizard, you get to carry these things around and solve various light puzzles to open doors. I don't know how they stand the excitement! In all honesty, Magic Orbs has some lovely old-school SNES-style presentation, but the gameplay is a bit less "thundering stampede of excitement" and a bit more "solving jigsaw puzzles on Sunday afternoon with Grandma". A valid pastime, but you can't help but wish there was more to it.
  • Volt ConnectVolt Connect - Typically as children we're discouraged to play with volatile objects holding painful electrical charges, but slap a bright paint job and some googly eyes on it and suddenly everyone's fine with the idea. (But somehow my Running With Scissors competition is still a bad idea? Hypocrites.) Use your Goo skills to place down the electrical critters in the proper places to get the charge where you want it to be. Cute and simple, but perhaps the best news is that unlike other Funflow games, there's a walkthrough available for it, so you don't have to give their Facebook account access to yours to proceed. That's right, your incriminating Spring Break photos are safe!... for now.
  • Dreamy IslandDreamy Island - This point-and-click Grow-style game lacks an English translation (or, um, logic), but, really, I'm not sure the text would be capable of making the game make much sense. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, since it allows you to draw your own conclusions about the concoction sitting atop the bear's head. Or why that tree looks so shocked and horrified. I see what you did there.

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Rating: 4.9/5 (181 votes)
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Babylon Sticks: Heroic Quest comic

A custom casual gameplay comic created exclusively for JIG by Babylon Sticks creator, James Francis. Follow Babylon Sticks on Twitter: @babylonsticks.


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Rating: 3.5/5 (62 votes)
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DoraTrickochetTrickochet, by 5minutes off, is a game of skill, reflexes, and even a bit of platforming. It's a lovely visual journey into one hero's destiny... which is, uh, apparently to fling balls around in the sky. It's simple, it's fun. It's also pretty weird. Why are you on magical sky platforms hurling balls at floating targets anyway? Are you a mouse? Then what's up with that tail? Who is your little Mr Miyagi mentor, and how does he get his Fu Manchu so luxurious? These are important questions! Burning questions!

Each level presents a number of targets floating in midair, and your job, nay, your duty is to hit them all by ricocheting balls off of platforms and the edges of the screen. Aim with the mouse, using the dotted line as a guide to plan your shots, and click to fire. You can also use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move, and tap [space] to jump. Don't worry if you fall off, since you'll instantly respawn back on safe ground. So why enable you to fall anyway, you ask? Well, sometimes to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs. Or, uh. Send a mouse plummeting into nothingness. You can retry any level you've completed at any time from the main menu.

Different obstacles as you go along help keep the gameplay challenging, and the ability to progress regardless of whether or not you were good enough to complete a stage in a handful of shots versus, um, many, is a good move. But there are a few quibbles, such as the short timespan before projectiles vanish into nothingness. This means that otherwise legit trick shots wind up failing simply because it takes the ball too long to travel to its goal. The guidelines in the early levels also seem to be a bit off, since even lining up your path directly with the one outlined can cause you to miss.

It's not particularly deep, and it won't change the way you look at gaming forever (unless the concept of a mustachioed mouse completely blows your mind), but then, it doesn't have to be. Super simple and super charming, Trickochet provides a nice coffee break in the middle of your day and provides a much-needed dose of cute purple mice to drive away the doldrums. There are 32 levels on offer for you to perfect your ball-flingin' skills on, and presumably if you fail, the world ends. Or something. Look, do you think that little orange mouse would look so wise if there wasn't some important stuff going on?!

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Rating: 4.6/5 (190 votes)
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GrinnypEnough PlumbersNostalgia is a funny thing. We tend to view the past through rose-colored glasses as time dulls the sharp edges of memory. Were things really all that good way back when? Mostly the answer is no, but on rare occasions we can answer with a resounding yes. Let's go back to a time when Reagan was president, when big shoulder pads ruled the fashion industry, and when Duran Duran were actually considered talented. A simpler time, when the gaming world was ruled by an 8-bit giant called Nintendo, and a game featuring a crazy Italian-American plumber was poised to become the bestselling video game of all time. A simpler time. A happier time. A time before some stupid hedgehog ruined everything. A time echoed in the fabulous retro platformer, Enough Plumbers.

Enough Plumbers is a basic single screen platformer. All you need to do is move the hapless hero around the scene until he lands on the flag. Movement uses the left and right [arrow] keys, and you can make him jump with the up [arrow] key. The intrepid plumber can also encounter strange power ups along the way, things that make him able to break through rock, fly, resist fire, and even make him do the exact opposite of what you'd like him to do. And — of course — there are enemies patrolling the platforms, just waiting to do the poor plumber harm.

This game is based on one of the most classic of all classic platformers, Super Mario Brothers. All the elements are there: the bright, simple 8-bit scenery; grumpy enemies lying in wait to ambush the hero; and the coins scattered everywhere. It's when the plumber encounters the coins, though, that everything changes. For every coin you collect you also get a cloned plumber who copies every move of the original. Just trying to jump ten hapless clones at once onto a small platform and you can see how things have changed.

Amusing as it is to send various clones plunging to their deaths (accompanied, of course, by high-pitched squeals as they do so), it would only be fun for a couple of screens before becoming very repetitious. However, the clones actually have a purpose, and as the game moves on they become vital to solving each level, as various clones need to be sacrificed for the greater good of all. It can become necessary to control three little plumbers on three different levels, or have plumbers with different abilities running around in order to reach the final goal. You don't have to rescue all of the clones. In fact, as long as a single plumber makes it to the flag, you've won the level and can move on to the next.

Enough PlumbersAnalysis: There's lots to love about this slick little platformer, which magnificently captures the look and feel of days gone by while adding a fantastic new twist to an old chestnut. The complexity added by not only the clones themselves but by the tricky levels requiring them to accomplish several different tasks gives a whole new feel to a game that is beloved by millions.

Designed by Glen Forrester and Arthur Lee, Enough Plumbers is actually a sequel to a game Glen created in under two hours for a game development event. It took a common enough event, the frenetic little plumber acquiring coins, and added a twist: every time he picked up a coin, a clone plumber was created. An amusing concept that didn't add anything to the gameplay, but was fun to look at. In the sequel, Enough Plumbers, what was once an amusing concept boldly strides front and center, becoming the centerpiece of the gameplay.

Enough Plumbers captures the look and feel of classic games, from the simple, rocky platforms to the narrow gold coins, from the frenetic little plumber to the frowny-faced enemies. The game could literally have walked right out of the NES or the Gameboy and onto your computer screen. The thumping, frantic soundtrack only adds to the illusion, as does the amusing wah-wah-waaaaah sound effect of defeat that plays if your last little plumber plunges to his inevitable doom.

If there is a downside it is the steep learning curve. One minute you're hopping from platform to platform, just trying to get one little guy to the flag, the next you're trying to figure out how to get clones to three different places when they all move in unison to the same key commands. Some levels require an extremely high level of seriously sharp reflexes and split-second timing to complete. And with only 25 levels the game can feel a bit short on content.

Forget the complaints! Enough Plumbers is fantastic, nostalgic, pulse-pounding casual gameplay that is fun for those who remember the good old days and those who were born long after. Requiring logical thinking, forethought, planning, and lightning fast reflexes, Enough Plumbers is, just on its own, a fantastic platformer even without all the trappings of the days of yore. Be prepared to be sucked in and brace yourself for a rollicking good time, and check out this exceptionally well done little time waster.

Play Enough Plumbers


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KarlShadowGame.pngThe play's the thing. Shakespeare wrote that, and while I am reasonably sure that he was not referring to video games, if he lived today he would be talking about Shadow Game, an eight-level mini-game from wmarsh.

Featuring realtime light and shadow, Shadow Game is an impressive demonstration of how far Flash games have come within the last ten years. When I was first introduced to Flash gaming, Unreal was making waves with its hardware-assisted coloured lights, and real-time light and shadow on the order of Shadow Game was still a pipe dream in John Carmack's head.

The way the game works is thus; after clicking through the disclaimer that the game is unfinished, you're given control of a spinny floaty thing that moves through either the [WASD] or [arrow] keys. Your mission: collect stars in levels strewn with light sources. Your opposition: automatic weaponry that fires on anything it can see, as well as an arsenal of laser beams which can destroy you instantly. Don't let them see you, stay in the shadows, and avoid the beams.

At its heart, Shadow Game is ultimately a proof of concept. Each of the eight levels demonstrates a mechanic that would be at home in a longer puzzle-based sim, but here it functions more as a taster than anything else. The puzzles range from physics-based to stealth to enemy pattern recognition, and although short, each level feels fresh. Ducking in and out of lit areas and outsmarting sentries is surprisingly satisfying, even on a fifth playthrough.

The simulationist nature of the game means that you can depend on the game's physics to stay constant and reward creativity. Each puzzle can be solved through the obvious solutions programmed in by the designer, but also through innovative treatments. For example, one level revolves around stacking boxes to block light sources so you can collect stars. At first, that's what I did, but eventually I found that I could trick the automatic turrets into shooting the light-generating fixtures, moving them out of the way so I could get at their prize. Unfortunately, it ends all too soon.

Shadow Game is unfinished, so once you get past the eighth level and collect all 34 stars, the game is done. There's no ending other than a screen saying "Thanks for Playing" and only limited replayability, focused around finding new ways to solve the same puzzles. But despite that, Shadow Game is a great way to spend a coffee break, and it'll leave you hoping to see the finished game for more light-based puzzles. I know I am.

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Rating: 4.3/5 (196 votes)
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DoraViricide"Hey there friend, turn that frown upside-down! Have I got a happy little arena shooter for you!" ... is what I would say if not for the fact that Viricide, by Eli Piilonen of 2DArray, is a bit more complicated than that. And quite a bit more grim.

You play a nameless user tasked with cleaning up EXADI, a super advanced artificial intelligence, after a particularly nasty virus rampaged through her system and left a number of her programs badly damaged. You do this by piloting your way through 16 stages (or "waves") with an antiviral unit and taking down the green anomalies that quickly converge on you to attack. Between each wave, Best of Casual Gameplay 2010EXADI speaks to you, and you gradually come to realise there may be something else going on, and maybe the line between man and machine isn't always so clearly drawn.

Controls are simple; use [WASD] or the [arrow] keys to move, click and hold the left mouse button to shoot, aiming with your cursor. Hit [P] to pause the game. Shoot enemies as they appear and collect the white bits they drop to spend on upgrades. A single hit takes you down, which can be frustrating, but you still keep all the bits you earned during the wave and can retry without penalty. Depending on the upgrades you choose, the game doesn't really start getting difficult until about halfway through, which should give you ample time to beef up your skills.

Analysis: I'd actually been playing Viricide for the better part of an hour before I looked to see who in the world had made such a simple little arena shooter with the melancholic narrative, and once I realised it was from the same mind behind everybody's favourite little depressing platformer from last year, The Company of Myself, it made more sense. With its simple presentation and premise, you wouldn't expect Viricide to try to reach you on anything other than the most basic level of enjoyment associated with gaming, but Eli is quickly establishing himself as someone who takes common concepts in unusual directions. Considering the subject matter that lies at the heart of EXADI's narrative, it's no surprise that it might be touchy for some people to deal with. It can also be a bit of an unpleasant discovery when you finally get to the root of the matter after the first few comical dialogues from EXADI herself, but then, that's probably the intention. Spend a moment considering the game's title and you'll probably be able to figure out what the story's really about, and whether or not you're comfortable enough with it to actually proceed.

If you just want to play Viricide and enjoy it without dwelling on the story, you can do that too, but it probably won't have as much of an impact. The gameplay is fast and fun but exceedingly simple, the sort of thing you can sink an hour or two into, but without much reason to replay when you're done. If you stripped out the story and doubled the available levels, Viricide would not be out of place in an arcade, but would need a bit more variety to its gameplay to really shine. The upgrades available are pretty standard, bare-bones shooter fare, and it can get repetitive. Fortunately, the waves tend to be short enough that reaching the next piece of the story remains a good incentive.

Viricide's success hinges on whether you empathise with EXADI herself, and in that respect, the game does a good job, largely due to a believably emotional performance from a voice actress called Sapphire. The change of tone in music midway through is also subtle and a nice touch. The ending feels a little abrupt, but I have to ask myself how I would have preferred it to end, and to that I'm not sure. Viricide is a poignant exploration of emotion and what it means to be human that isn't exactly going to put a spring in your step for the rest of the day, but provides a different experience from your average shooter.

Play Viricide

Thanks to Ryan for sending this one in!


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Rating: 4.4/5 (90 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypYes, last week was a very non-traditional room escape, wasn't it? This week, we'll go back to the basics, and it doesn't get much more basic than Mild Escape 3 by Tesshi-e. One room, four walls, a locked door, what more could an escaper ask for?

Mild Escape 3Mild Escape 3 is really basic stuff. No cutesy theme or notes, no back story, literally just you and a locked room. Poke into every corner, open every drawer and cabinet, and maybe take time for a little break to help you figure your way out. What else can you say? This is room escaping 101.

Navigation is by bars at the edges and bottom of the screen. Clicking on certain areas can also bring them into close up. There's an "about item" button in your inventory so that you can examine the objects that you pick up, and you really need to examine the objects that you pick up. There's no construction, per se, but there is a lot of use of found objects in this little gem. Unfortunately, Tesshi-e still hasn't gotten the memo about changing cursors, so be prepared for some pixel hunting.

Analysis: When I say room escaping 101, I mean it. This is the genre stripped down to the very basics, beautiful though they are. Mild Escape 3 is not on the level of, say, Loom Dawn or Vision, but there's a lot of fun to be had figuring your way out of this non-descript room. At the heart of every escape game is this: you just want to be on the other side of that door, and you need to find objects and solve puzzles to help you do just that.

As always the graphics are beautiful with textures and surfaces that you just want to stroke. The nice jazz soundtrack and the pretty pretty look make this typical Tesshi-e. However, you might notice a maturity creeping into the designer's work. Gone are many of the crutches that Tesshi-e usually uses, such as the "click the corners on the picture" puzzle. As you play each of these games you notice that the puzzles are nice and varied, and the design and controls are becoming better and better. Notice that Tesshi-e has even added a "save" feature so that you are not forced to replay the entire game just to find the obligatory happy coin alternate ending.

Yes, there are still a few flaws. The game is in Japanese, although you don't need to read Japanese to play or solve the puzzles. English phrases are creeping in to Tesshi-e's designs, although it would be nice to have one of these escapes entirely in English. The puzzles are logical and fun, but not rocket science. Most seasoned escapers should make their way through pretty quickly. And we can hope that one of these days the designer learns the use of the changing cursor to help remove the vestiges of pixel hunting.

So, not the most spectacular escape game out there, but a basic room escape done right, with logic, beauty, and a soundtrack that is easy on the ears. Dozens of these games are released each week, and it's nice to find a designer who makes the effort to produce one that is both logical and entertaining. Get ready to go back to the basics, and play Mild Escape 3!

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GrinnypThe House 2Back in 2005, JIG introduced us to one of the creepiest, scariest, most popular point-and-click experiences the Web had ever seen, The House, which is still massively popular years later. It's been 5 years, and now Sinthai Boonmaitree (xin) has finally created a sequel, The House 2. Dare you enter the mind of this talented Thai flash designer? Oh, heck yeah! Once again you are confronted with an abandoned house, and once again an entire family committed suicide within. The locals think it's haunted, but you just have to see what's inside, don't you? Go ahead and enter, if you dare.

Nominally a point-and-click adventure, House 2 like its predecessor is more of an interactive story, with long periods of explorative clicking interspersed with moments of heart-pounding terror. If you like the scary stuff, then by all means definitely play House 2 in the dark, alone, with the sound up. If, on the other hand, you don't like jump scares, then perhaps during daylight hours in a room with other people is the way to go.

Figuring out what items to click on is simple due to the changing cursor. Figuring out what order to click, or how many times to click, can get a bit frustrating. The game itself navigates you around once you discover what each room has to offer. Brace yourself for the animated transitions, especially from the bedroom to the working room.

Done up in creepy black and white, with a spooky soundtrack and sound-effects to match, House 2 definitely continues the atmosphere of the first, while telling the story of an entirely different family who decided to off themselves. Or did they? Beautiful shadowy artwork and haunting animations tell the story of this doomed family from the perspective of each member, including one who is a bit of a surprise. There's even a bit more resolution to be found here, if you can find the key to the special room, which reveals not only the whole story but some kicking wallpapers taken from the creepier scenes.

This is not gameplay so much as experience, and those looking for classic point-and-click adventure should perhaps go elsewhere. But if you're in the mood for something atmospheric, creepy, and downright scary, you should definitely check out The House 2. Casual Gameplay that generates heart palpitations, if not outright heart attacks. Just remember, you're the one who wanted to go in.

GrimmrookKyle E. Moore - No sooner did I hear the manic piano stomping viciously into my ears and see the grainy black and white images of the dilapidated old house did I think, "I'm back." One of the things that I love so much about the original and this new installment is that they so completely and totally own their own little niche. No, they aren't standard point-and-click adventure games as we know them today. But, I think very few games are so completely themselves the way The House and The House 2 are. That is, there isn't really any obligatory bones thrown to any specific genre, and no real attempt to make a game where there isn't (a game I'm currently playing, for example, makes you solve like three different puzzles to plug in a laptop, and you get the feeling like this is specifically so the game designers could say, "see, we provided puzzles"). Instead everything is built around sucking you in and making everything else cease to exist. And then, once you've forgotten your surroundings, and even the shell of your browser, then when you are focused on nothing but the grainy black and white photos and your own beating heart, THAT'S when the game gets you. Well, at least I know that if we have to wait another five years for the next installment it will be worth it.

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Rating: 3.9/5 (51 votes)
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KyleUndeadEnd.jpgIn the side-scrolling action arcade game, Undead End, we are asked the age old existential question, "So what do you do when you find yourself stranded on a lonely country road with no gas in the tank and a major zombie outbreak happening all about you?" While this question has plagued us for ages, here we finally see that the answer is clear; we take out our trusty baseball bat and hand cannon, and we put them to work.

Your goal is to move from one area to the other, leaving piles upon piles of the freshly re-killed undead in your wake, until you find some gas and a vehicle to put that gas in so you can drive off to safety. Long before that happy ending comes about, though, you'll be faced with hordes of zombies. You'll also be faced with more than a few locked doors, the keys to which can invariably be found on specially marked undead. To do all of this all you have to do is move with the [arrow] keys, use [Z] to fire whatever missile weapon you are equipped with, [X] to swing your melee weapon, and [A] to do just about everything else from picking up items to opening doors.

At first blush, Undead End looks a little like classic platforming shooters such as Metal Slug or Contra, but in truth this game has much more in common with the old arcade fighters such as Final Fight or Streets of Rage. Like its spiritual ancestors, Undead End has plenty to offer. The graphics are gorgeous with nicely composed backgrounds and beautiful sprites dripping with personality. Also, the simple but effective controls coupled with the non stop action give us buckets of mind-numbing, button-mashing, zombie massacring fun.

Unfortunately, Undead End also suffers from a few of the weaknesses of its parent genre as well. Hit detection is tricky thanks to the flawed 2.5-D set that can make lining up with enemies troublesome. Also there's an awful lot of monotony brought about by fighting the same kinds of monsters over and over again. Older games tried to cover this up using palette swapped enemies, but we don't even get that here. Finally there's a lack of balance between zombie speed and playing area. That is we found that often times you have to backtrack a great deal before turning around to attack a zombie because of their speed, but if the zombies were a touch slower, the playing field was wider, or even if the main character did anything more than saunter, this probably wouldn't be as much of a problem.

For all of its flaws, though, Undead End reminds us of the imperfect appeal of the genre and why these games were such quarter-munchers. Sure, the zombies may want to eat your brains, but the truth is you don't really need the old gray matter that much to enjoy all the mindless hack and slash action.

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Rating: 3.4/5 (43 votes)
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DoraUndead CityZombies and tower defense? Provided those "towers" are actually upgradeable heroes, such as a stewardess with a laser, you betcha. Undead City from XGen Studios, is a flawed but stylish take on the genre with bite. I like to assign my zombie bait personalities based on common horror movie stereotypes. Oh, Vigilante! Even though you were a jerk all throughout the movie, you'll redeem yourself at the end with a heroic sacrifice! Probably by firing your gun off into the air and going "AARRR!" Or maybe by shooting two guns at once while diving sideways. I haven't decided. Either way, awesome.

Select humans from your arsenal at the bottom, and place them strategically on the screen so they can mow down the oncoming horde. Each hero has different strengths and weapons, so experiment in every situation to find out what works best. If the placement circle is green when you move over a spot, it means your hero will be safely out of reach. If the circle is red, however, your hero is fair game to any ghoul that passes by. As zombies come into range your heroes will automatically attack, and any zombies disposed of earn you cash you can use to upgrade your hero's weaponry and buy more heroes. You know, from the hero fields? You pluck them straight from the tree.

Like any standard nerd these days, I am required to have a rather predictable fondness for the living dead. As I've stated before, this means I tend to be more forgiving as long as someone is having day due to a rotten case of teeth-in-your-face. Undead City won points out the gate for some really charming visuals; I didn't think you could make a zombie cute, but, there you go. Despite the limited variety of heroes, there's a nice bit of strategy involved in making use of your resources and the landscape.

Unfortunately, Undead City isn't all that it could be. There's no level select, so any time you pick up the game means you have to start all over. The "safe high ground" concept is good, but strange; safe on a rooftop I get, but since when does standing a foot off the ground on an overturned mailbox guarantee safety from a monster taller than you are? But primarily, I wonder how someone can make a tower defense game and then not add a fast forward button. Adding the ability to speed through the tedious bits should be a requirement for a defense game.

All this means that, while enjoyable, Undead City feels a bit like it's trying to get by more on the strength of its ghoulishly adorable design rather than the gameplay. Or maybe it just wasn't thought all the way through. (Hey, I understand, I get excited about bloody mayhem too.) While it has some good ideas, they're not as fleshed out as they need to be. Still, it's not particularly difficult, is fun while it lasts, and the art really is a joy to behold. Hopefully the developers take the time to expand their concepts a bit more when they inevitably make Undead City 2: Dead Serious starring Steven Seagal, Simon Pegg, and Janeane Garofalo. Unless that's already a fanfic somewhere. (If it isn't, it soon will be. *type type type type*)

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Rating: 4.4/5 (123 votes)
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DoraTalesworthGot hero? Talesworth Adventure Episode One, a challenging puzzle game from Sean "Jinx" Gailey (MrJinx), really hopes you do, because the people cry out for a hero as cunning as he is strong and brave. Unfortunately, all they've got is Questy, who, on a scale of one to ten in the brains department, is brick. Fortunately Questy's got you and an undying love of big sacks of cash to help him reach his goal. Along the way, he'll learn the true meaning of friendship, and lessons about life and love. Or, uh. Get shot with a whole bunch of arrows and fall down a whole lot of pits. Which, when you think about it, is practically the same thing.

The goal is to use the tools at your disposal to get Questy to the exit of each level, preferably with any treasure he might find. Click on an item from the sidebar, and then click on a valid spot on the floor to place it. Different items will affect Questy's journey in different ways; one-way doors will slam shut behind your hero, for example, and bags of money will always send him running in their direction. When you've laid out your course, click GO! to send Questy off on his way and hopefully towards success. FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION.... oh, wait, it totally is. Just hit the reset button on the left if you get stuck in a loop, or click clear tools to have all placeables instantly returned to your inventory. (Or just click on one to pick it up again when Questy stops.)

Initially, the only thing that stands between Questy and sweet, sweet victory is the occasional locked door you'll need to grab the key for. As the levels progress, however, things get trickier; pressure plates, pitfalls, angry monsters and more all stand between you and sweet, sweet loot. I don't know why dragons bother with the elaborate maze setup, really; I'd just rig up a giant novelty anvil over the entrance. Happily, the game also autosaves your progress, so when you need to give your gray matter a cool down, Questy will be waiting at the start of your last level when you get back like a faithful golden retriever. An exceptionally thick one. The sort with uncontrollable drooling.

TalesworthAnalysis: So allow me to put on my patented Captain Obvious hat and say that this game is quite a bit different from Mr Jinx's previous title, Talesworth Arena, which shares only a fantasy motif and a partial title with Talesworth Adventure. This is a puzzler distilled down to its purest, blocky visual'd essence. No cheap gimmicks tacked on to pad the gameplay or unnecessary story; Mr Jinx, who apparently also specialises in really awesome clothes (warning: some designs may be a bit gory for the kiddies), has given us a love letter to yesteryear, when games were more about challenge and brainpower than your graphics card. Which is not to say the 8-Bit look is also nice, but the endlessly looping retro track had me glad for the mute button after five minutes. Which, I guess, is authentic too.

The progression of difficulty and addition of new items and obstacles as you go along definitely keeps things feeling fresh, which is a good thing considering how brain-bending some of the levels can be. The easy stance on resetting means you can resort to trial-and-error if you need to, but some sort of hint system would have done wonders for my frustration. If that strikes you as the quibble of a quibbler who is maybe not so good at maze puzzles, you would be correct. What do you want from me, Questy?! Admittedly, this does make that moment of "Eureka!" all the more satisfying when it strikes.

What's nice is that the game never feels unfair. All the levels are well designed and conquering them will have you patting yourself on the back when you're not sagely stroking your chin and gazing off thoughtfully into the ether, you big, brave, brain-ninja, you. Offering a meaty feast of 30 levels and three bonus maps to test your heroic mettle against, Talesworth Adventures Episode One is a challenging retro adventure . What's next for Questy? I predict a tempestuous romance with lone adventurer, Questina. Or perhaps a duel in the pixel wastelands with evil Lord Questymort. Only time will tell!

Play Talesworth Adventure Episode One


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Rating: 4.4/5 (130 votes)
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KarlHomerun in Berzerk LandOkay. Look. If you're reading this, chances are you're on the Internet. If you are, you hate other Internet users. It's just a natural law. If you've ever watched a YouTube video, you've seen the kind of detritus some people pass off as opinions. When a video of a zebra farting is riddled with comments about conspiracy theories, well, something is clearly wrong with the world, and there's nothing you can do about it.

That's where Berzerk Studio's new hit-people-with-things simulator, Homerun in Berzerk Land, comes in. Using elements from their various other games, your goal is simple. Take a short, blunt object, and a passing geek who epitomizes everything bad about the Internet, and hit him. Hit him as hard as you can, and see how far he flies. It's simple, satisfying, and surprisingly fun, if inappropriate for kids.

The controls are simple: at the tee, you're presented with two gauges, one for the angle of your hit and one for the power of your hit. Click your mouse when the moving indicator is at the angle or power that you want the geek to travel. If you get it just right, your character exclaims "Killer Shot!" and gives you a big thumbs up. Once the geek's on his way, you have the opportunity to hit him again when he hits the ground for a Power Smash, sending him back into the stratosphere. After that, there are many random objects, culled from Berzerk's various games, that will either send him further along in the air or stop his progress dead. While he's in the air, he can hit either a cash sphere or a bee. Cash spheres, surprisingly enough, give you cash, which can be exchanged for goods between levels. Bees change his flight path by a few degrees depending on where he hits them. If he's travelling at a fast enough clip, it can make his trajectory shallow enough that he'll fly for ages before hitting the ground.

HRIBL.pngAnalysis: That's the underlying goal, of course. Make the geek fly as far as he can before he stops in a bloody pile of gaming t-shirts. We've seen this before, in games ranging from turtle shotput to Japanese bicyclist tossing, but Homerun in Berzerk Land's production values put it ahead of the pack, along with a surprisingly deep customization system.

There's also a leveling system, where the number of feet the geek travels adds a certain amount of experience points to your chosen character's level. At each level, you can spend points on strength, accuracy of the meters, or ability to control the geek's flight. Although you can use the arrow keys to slow the geek's flight or speed him on his way, at first it's fairly ineffective. It's only when you upgrade the power that it becomes useful, and then you'll wear the right button on your keyboard out.

Each character (you start with three) has its own strengths and weaknesses. You can level each of them separately, as the game keeps a save file on your hard drive keeping track of what you've done. Sadly, though, items don't carry across characters. You also gain diamonds by getting achievements, which can be exchanged for unlockable secret items. All in all, the customization level of the game allows for some pretty powerful min/maxing, enabling you to send the geek into lower earth orbit. It's fun, but sometimes can work against you. As I leveled characters I often found myself waiting impatiently for the geek to stop flying so I could hit him again to collect more money and experience. If you game from multiple computers (say, both at home and at work) then you can sign up for a free account with GamerSafe, which transfers your save files across computers and allows you to challenge friends.

The graphics and music are some of the most polished I've seen in a Flash casual game, and certainly the most polished of any fly-to-the-right genre game. The violence is cartoony and visceral without being gory, and the art style is well-designed so I never had a trouble telling things apart.

If, like me, you have some unresolved rage issues against the Internet and a lot of time to sink into a compelling Flash game, then Homerun in Berzerk Land is the game for you. Just be careful. Like any addictive substance, the first taste is free. Then you're hooked.

Play Homerun in Berzerk Land


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (79 votes)
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DoraPoto and CabengaHey, you! Do you have a [space] bar and reflexes at least marginally better than a slug stuck in a puddle of honey? Then saddle up and play Poto & Cabenga, a surreal, side-scrolling one-button adventure. When one little rider is seperated from his noble steed after being swallowed by a flying serpent... sky... dragon... thingy, you have to control both characters to eventually reunite them. Press and hold the [space] bar to make the horse at the bottom of the screen run faster, and release it to make him jump. At the same time, hitting the [space] bar makes the rider at the top of the screen jump, and releasing it makes him run faster. Sound confusing? Half the challenge in this short game comes from getting your eyes and your fingers to cooperate. The other half comes from being quick enough to make both characters avoid incoming enemies and gather golden feathers for points. Beware; both characters can withstand nine hits, but they both have to make it to the end of the game for you to win.

Poto & Cabenga sort of feels like what would happen if Eric Carle decided to start making flash games. Or maybe if someone decided to make one based on the crazy stories my equally crazy great great aunts used to tell around the bonfire at family reunions. It has a minimalist, dreamlike aesthetic that, combined with it's transporting soundtrack, makes it very satisfying to play. This is one of those games where you really need to develop a rhythm if you have any hope whatsoever of succeeding, but once you fall into that groove, it feels natural. The first time I played, I failed and wanted to set someone's keyboard on fire. (Well, not mine. I need mine.) The second time I managed to get the hang of it and actually finished the game... albeit not with any score worth speaking of.

The whole thing is only about five minutes long, with replay value limited to trying for a higher score. I don't know that there's enough meat behind the concept for me to call for an expansion on it; after all, how many times can you get swallowed by giant animals before it becomes ridiculous? But as it stands, Poto & Cabenga, made for the Gamma IV One-Button Game Competition, is short, sweet, and just challenging enough that I hope we see more from the curiously named team Honeyslug in the future. It also earned its rating for an ending sequence that is, um. Something. But let me ask you this; you are running along the intestinal tract of a giant sky dragon; how do you expect to get out? Captain Planet ain't waiting for you, that's for darn sure. Ick.

Play Poto & Cabenga


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (46 votes)
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Dora10 Gnomes in BolognaYou know how people say you can never go gnome again? Well, those people are liars. Despite apparently ending some time ago, everyone's favourite point-and-click series about finding tiny bearded dudes is back proving that, once again, there's no place like gnome. It's Mateusz Skutnik's 10 Gnomes in Bologna.

As before (and before eleven other times), your goal is to track down ten miniature gnomes hidden throughout a series of photographs of an area. Cruise your mouse around the scenery looking for hotspots; if your cursor changes to an arrow, you can click to change perspectives or move to a different area. The gnomes are hidden everywhere in the tiniest of places, so make sure you're methodical in your searching. You've got ten minutes, after which the gnomes presumably turn into pumpkins or something, so click fast or the game will end. We can't let the gnomes win this one, people! Not after we've come so far!

Gnome Bologna, as I've decided to shorten the title to because it sounds both delicious and terrifying, is a snack-sized bit of a game. The formula remains basically unchanged from previous installments, which is either a good thing if you loved them, or a point against it if you were hoping to see some new twist implemented. Which, after twelve games, might not have been a bad idea. If you like Mateusz's brand of mellow hunting and lovely scenery, 10 Gnomes in Bologna is a welcome addition to your day. Still, I can't help but wish there was a bit more to it than looking out for hotspots placed at odd angles. Which is. Um. The, uh... gnome... that... is... um... the gnome... Aw, fishpickles, I'm all out of puns! Guess I have to retire now.

Play 10 Gnomes in Bologna


  • Currently 3.3/5
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Rating: 3.3/5 (78 votes)
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DanTheArcherIce Cube BearAside from the litany of misfortunes befalling polar bears in recent times, a new woe has reared its crystalline head: polar bears encased in ice cubes, solely at the mercy of the elements, a tight physics engine, and your puzzle-honed intellect. This is Ice Cube Bear, a frosty physics puzzle from the folks at Heroik.

Your quest is to send each frozen polar bear into the drink at the bottom of the screen, which will melt their icy prison and set them free once more. How might one accomplish this, you might ask? Clicking on cracked chunks of ice will vaporize them, as is characteristic of the members of the tumbledrop family tree. Sometimes there will be more than one polar bear, other times there'll be all manner of sliding platforms, hovering elevators, and other contraptions to make your endeavor simpler or more difficult.

The twinkling music never grates on you, and the visuals (the ice notwithstanding) are cuddly enough to be right out of a Saturday morning cartoon (of the nonviolent variety). While the front-end of the game delivers, other, more battle-hardened physics puzzlers might find this game to be a bit slow for their liking, or the bulk of the early puzzles might feel a bit too easy. Regardless of pacing or difficulty, though, it's an enjoyable game that can sate your "phuzzle" thirst quite handily. And somebody's got to save those polar bears.

Play Ice Cube Bear


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Mobile Monday

JohnBHey, remember that Flash game that had a name that we featured before? Me too! I also remember it because I just played it on my iPod Touch!

vectorrunneriphone.jpgVector Runner - Hey, remember that Flash game called Vector Runner? Me too! I also remember it because I just played it on my iPod Touch. This incarnation preserves the fast speed and vector visuals of the original while introducing touch controls for movement. Avoid anything that looks suspicious (i.e. everything) and nab colored cubes to earn extra points or restore your shields.

ltfly.jpgLt. Fly Rise of the Arachnids - Hey, remember that Flash game called Lt. Fly vs the Spiders from Above? Me too! I also remember it because I just played it on my iPod Touch. This incarnation preserves the dual puzzle/shooter simultaneous action as the browser game, only now you've got two thumbs to do all the work. Place blocks on the grid to the left to make matches and collect ammo. Tap the screen to the right to take out baddies parachuting down. It's a very intuitive setup for the mobile platform, and just as fun as the original!

numbl.jpgNumbl - Number jumble fun. - Hey, remember that Flash ga— oh, wait, this one wasn't a previously-reviewed Flash game. Well... now what do I do? Um. Well. You see. Numbl is all about tapping digits on a grid of numerals to create the sum shown at the top of the screen. Do it in as few moves as possible and you win a cookie. When I say cookie, I mean more points.

lineup2.jpgLine Up 2 - Hey, remember that Fla— sorry, I got in the rhythm, you see. Anyway, Line Up 2 is a smooth version of samegame for your iPhone. You have 100 moves for each speed level, so tap groups of three or more like colors as intelligently as you can. New blocks build from below, so don't let the stack reach the top, or a bear will eat you. Or your game will end, I can't promise that first thing will happen.

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 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (31 votes)
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My Life Story

KarlThere comes a time for everyone when your mom takes away your car privileges until you get out of the house, you slob. Seriously, what is your deal? Get a job. Your father didn't fight through Contra 2 without the Konami Code to support a good-for-nothing kid. That's how my life story started. It's also how My Life Story starts, an entertaining time management simulation from Game Fools. It's set in an unnamed small town, where your mom owns the only house and she's kicking you out. Time to find a job! Fortunately, like any fictional town, there are job opportunities ripe for the taking.

mylifestory.jpgThe game starts with a short tutorial. You have four bars that summarize your needs: Fun, Energy, Hunger, and Health. One larger bar, Happiness, is the average of those four. Every activity in the game affects these bars in some way. You might go to the club for a relaxing night out, but it'll drain your Energy and Hunger while boosting your Fun. Like your mom always said, everything is important in moderation. If you overdo it, it's a round trip ticket to the hospital, costing you half your bank account and a big chunk of your week. Just like real life!

Every activity is measured in hours, and everything, even pretending you're John Travolta, counts towards the weekly total. The white clock at the bottom of the screen counts off the hours to the weekend, when you go home for a well-deserved rest. Over the weekend, your possessions in the house help recharge your various stats according to their quality. My Espresso maker gave a big boost to my Energy, while my crappy VCR gave a small boost to my Fun. Your surroundings matter too: as soon as I upgraded from the Shady Apartments to the hip Camelot Condos, my weekend bonuses were doubled. As you become more successful, this changes your playstyle significantly, as you go from relying on the coffee shop's stream of caffeine to waiting until the weekend, when you can drown your fatigue in a river of espresso.

Added to this is an interesting mechanic borrowed from tabletop games like Risk and Monopoly as well as the Xbox Live achievement system. As your character lives his or her life story, they'll be presented with decisions at the various buildings they frequent in town. Marked by a yellow exclamation point, these decisions usually result in boosts and drains to your stats or cash reserves. However, answer enough of them positively and you'll get the Optimist award, accompanied by a Life Card.

Life Cards are like Community Chest cards in Monopoly: they give you bonuses to your stats and other benefits. The 'Day Spa' card replenishes all your stats at once, while another, 'Gut Bomb', means you never get hungry in the week that it's active. Life Cards can be lifesavers, covering your hospital bills when you forget to watch your Fun meter, or giving you a steep discount on all the cash services in the town. You only gain them when you win Awards, but fortunately you win Awards for doing pretty much everything in the game, from visiting the spa to sitting in front of the TV. It adds a lot of freshness to what could otherwise be a pretty boring sim.

mylifestory2.jpgUltimately, that's the goal of My Life Story. You have two ranks, Experience and Education, which determine what jobs you're eligible for. Each job gets you a varying amount of Experience while stressing you out and damaging your needs bars. For example, my brief stint as a bouncer paid very well, but it wasn't fun and was quite unhealthy for me. Similarly, studying at Dreams University drains all your bars quickly, just like real school. More than once, my character collapsed at school from exhaustion, malnutrition, or severe depression. The game is done when you have both bars completely filled and you achieve the best job available based on your education, career and life decisions.

Analysis: Like the Sims, balancing work and pleasure for your avatar is a lot of fun at first, but watching bars fill gets old quickly. The retro pixel graphics and often funny comments from the people in your town help for a bit, but eventually the game starts to drag. That's when the game turns from a Sims-like virtual life simulator to a time management sim, courtesy of the game's weekly structure.

Some activities boost or drain activities more quickly than others. The real meat of the game is in determining the best jobs and relaxing activities to get the most experience out of every week. At one point, my character was moving from her job as a video game tester, which drained her health rapidly, to the coffee shop to replenish her energy and then to the gym to try and counteract the effects of sitting and playing games all day. That's when I realized the game had become a stunningly accurate representation of my life.

That part of the game is pretty fun! Unfortunately, if you play your Life Cards right, eventually you'll find that you've figured out the best way to replenish your stats, and then the game becomes a merciless slog through one job after another. This isn't helped by one late-game unlock, which replenishes all your stats super-quickly for the right amount of cash. In theory, this cash limit stops you from just using it all the time, but at that point I had enough money saved to buy Atlanta.

All in all, if you've run out of things to do in the Sims, then you'll like My Life Story. There's a lot of replayability if you're into the gameplay, since every career and educational choice affects the outcome of the game. There's a lot of humour in the game too; every character has something funny to say, and more often than not I found myself chuckling at the game's jokes at its own expense. If you want a simple, pleasant-looking and sounding career-building sim, then My Life Story is for you.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (326 votes)
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Hoshi Saga Ringoame

JayA remarkably fun and inventive puzzle game series we won't ever get tired of seeing new installments of, Hoshi Saga returns to give us more opportunities to find the hidden star in each of the 25 brand new levels. Yoshio Ishii of Nekogames has created more full-color artwork for Hoshi Saga Ringoame, the latest iteration of the popular and revered series.

Play the entire Hoshi Saga Series:

Hoshi SagaHoshi Saga 2Hoshi Saga 3Hoshi Saga RingoHoshi Saga RingoameHoshi Saga RingoenHoshi Saga RingohimeHoshi Saga Dokuringo

Hoshi Saga RingoameAs before, you are to figure out what it takes to find the star hidden within each screen. Feel free to click around and explore each level to find the solution. Some will have you clicking, some dragging, some standing on your head. Ok, well maybe not literally, but you'll have to use your brain and hand-eye coordination skills to solve all the puzzles contained therein. The puzzles are not very difficult this time around, again, but you will never the less have fun figuring them all out. If you're new to the series, this is an excellent warm-up exercise to get you used to the sort of puzzles seen throughout the series.

Play Hoshi Saga Ringoame

Walkthroughs for the Hoshi Saga series...

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(6 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Heartwild Solitaire Book 2

joyeDo you enjoy reading badly punctuated stories about romantic heroines dancing the masochism tango with a number of dully irritating heroes in some kind of badly researched version of Victorian England? No? What if I throw in some absurd accents to seal the deal? Still no? Ok then, I'll add a full helping of solitaire card games with packaged with gorgeous artwork. There you have it, everything a card game/romance novel lover could want, all bundled together in Heartwild Solitaire: Book Two.

Heartwild Solitaire: Book TwoThe gameplay is somewhat similar to mahjong solitaire, only instead of matching tiles to clear the board, you click on cards which are one higher or lower than the draw card. Upon running out of plays, deal another card. Like mahjong solitaire, the challenge is in strategically eliminating cards that have lots of cards buried under them and using cards with nothing under them only to keep a streak going. Power-ups include wildcards, extra card holders, and restores. Bonus points are awarded for clicking a lot of cards quickly and for having cards left in the deck at the end of a level.

For variety, there are also two bonus levels. One involves memorizing a layout (don't panic, the key is to recognize the pattern, such as twos through aces organized by suit color) and quickly switch the cards back into the pattern before the timer runs out. The other is a challenge level where you only have one card in your deck and you attempt to go as long as you can or even clear the board. It's good to save your power-ups for these challenge levels. Although the memory levels increase in difficulty in later levels, you can't fail the bonus levels; it's just an opportunity to raise your score.

Heartwild Solitaire: Book TwoAnalysis: The lush, soothing colors of the backgrounds and card art, smooth animations, and evocative soundtrack rich in nature sounds, put this game into the minority of truly relaxing computer games. Most computer games, while stress relieving, are also stimulating. Heartwild Solitaire: Book Two is perfect for those times when you just want to soothe yourself.

The sheer length of the game also makes it a great value. I probably averaged about four minutes per level. At two hundred and eighty levels, that ends up being fourteen hours of gameplay to finish this thing, and each level has a unique layout. If you want to design your own levels, the game also includes a level editor.

As for the marketing point of the game, its romance story, well, I did not exaggerate in my opening paragraph. A copy editor with a machete may have been able to make it readable, but as it stands, expect text riddles with inconsistencies and punctuation errors, which is a real shame. You'll probably either find the story So Bad It's Good, or So Bad It's Horrible. Most of the short stories offered in Heartwild Solitaire Classic and the original Heartwild Solitaire were better, so I'm kind of surprised to see the quality drop in this follow-up.

In some ways this works out for the best, since if the story were a gripping page turner, it would be an exercise in frustration, because you only get a three page chapter per ten levels, and this is emphatically not a game for playing for hours at a stretch. This is a game to pick up and play for fifteen minutes while you wait for an anxiety-provoking phone call, or on your laptop in your pajamas in bed. Try it out with that frame of mind, and you won't be disappointed.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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

Heartwild Solitaire: Book Two is available to download from these affiliates:
Arcade TownBig Fish Games


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Weekend Download

JohnBMeta challenge! If you can choose the game featured below that's clearly better than the others, you win the meta game! Too bad that's impossible, 'cause all of the games are extraordinary pieces of gaming art. :-P

zombiemovie.gifZombie Movie (Windows, 6.9MB, free) - One of the precious rare games that does something different with the zombie horde arena shooter genre. The premise is you're starring in a movie about zombies. These zombies are pretty realistic, though, so the stakes are real. Move around with the [arrow] keys and fire with [Z]. Stay near the helicopter's shadow to earn bonus points and have quick access to health and ammo refills, which you'll need quite often. The longer your survive, the tougher the enemies get. Such a great idea for a game, and it's loads of arcade-style fun, too.

linepatterns.gifLinePatterns (Windows, 2.3MB, free) - A different sort of puzzle game that uses abstract repetition and patterns to provide challenge. Using the [arrow] keys, your goal is to fill as much of the black space as you can with colored lines. Each time you press a direction, a line of the highlighted color is drawn, its length dependant upon the number on its box. Selected lines cycle in an endless loop, so all you have to do is keep yourself out of a corner and you'll do just fine. It's sort of similar to the classic Snake game in a way...

actionfist.gifAction Fist (Windows, 5.6MB, free) - 2D platforming and shooting at its best, Action Fist is an excellent throwback to 16-bit games of old. Featuring both single and multiplayer co-op, take control of your gun-toting character and jump into the enemy-infested levels to get your scarf back! Enemies come in several colors, and in order to exploit their weakness, you must gather colored weapons and switch on-the-fly. It's a puzzle-like element that fits surprisingly well in the action game, leaving you wanting more after every level.

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!


(12 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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supergranny5-b.jpg

GrinnypOnce you reach a certain age and have a certain number of cats, you become the neighborhood cat lady. What happens, though, when that poor woman is shrunk to microscopic size (along with her cats) and set loose in the back yard by a nefarious evil scientist, who also happens to be a cat? You get Super Granny 5, the fifth in the delightful Super Granny series of platformers. Poor put upon Granny must once again round up her errant kitties while trying to find a way back to her house (and full size).

supergranny5.jpgIf you've ever played any of the Super Granny games you know the drill: once again the kitties are scattered across an area riddled with platforms and ladders, and it's up to the intrepid senior citizen to gather them up and see them safely through the magical cat door, all the while avoiding nasty ants, spiders, bees, angry water droplets, randomly murderous vegetables, and a whole host of other enemies. Fortunately, scattered around the area are things to help the poor cat lover fight, dig, or blow up her way around the area to rescue her lost pets. Poor woman, someone is always kidnapping her cats. Once you get her age, you're supposed to be able to take it easy once in a while.

Super Granny 5 is a classic, single screen platformer. The area is composed of fixed platforms, ladders, and monkey bars that she can walk or climb to reach her needy cats. Once granny walks past a cat it will follow her faithfully, although the cats themselves cannot use the monkey bars (or, later, the teleporters) unless they are in a carrier. Simply walk towards the magic cat door and the cats will follow and leave the area, presumably to go back home for a nice relaxing cat nap. When all the cats are rescued a lovely flower will appear, allowing our intrepid retiree to leave and continue on to the next scene. Contained in the space are objects that can be collected for extra points, as well as objects that can help Granny reach otherwise unreachable areas. Control Granny with the [arrow] keys and use the [spacebar] to dig, fight, or use the extra goodies that she can pick up along the way.

supergranny5b.jpgGameplay begins simply, just Granny and her cats. Eventually, though, other elements will be added to hinder the poor woman, angry enemies that will make her fall down (and, presumably, she can't get up). Loose ground (sand or dirt) can be dug to either trap enemies or allow Granny to fall through to another platform. Solid rock cannot be dug, but eventually will be breachable with such power ups as jackhammers, blowtorches, and bombs. As the game goes on all sorts of other tricky means of transportation are introduced: umbrellas and fans so that Granny can fly, floating leaves that serve as moving platforms, and plants that can be grown into extra ladders (presuming you can find the watering can to make them grow), and more. And don't think that the little old lady is helpless, aside from trapping enemies she can fight back with weapons such as baseball bats and the hilarious Super Granny handbag of doom. Is there anything more lethal than a handbag in the hands of a ticked off senior citizen? Each scene has five "lives" to allow Granny to complete the task (rescuing the kitties). Fall more than five times and the scene resets from the very beginning.

Analysis: Super Granny 5 (and all the other installments) are a throwback to the old platformers of the 80s, with their ladders, platforms and bars, simply dolled up in bright, cheerful colors and graphics. Each level can be calm and logical (simply figuring out how to collect everything) or frantic and fast (trying to avoid a host of enemies, pitfalls, acid ponds, and even snail slime). For anyone who loves platformers, this is the game for you. As the game progresses it becomes trickier and trickier, involving a lot of logical thinking combined with good reflexes as Granny races to the rescue of her furry little babies.

supergranny5c.jpgThe visuals are beautiful, with the little animated cats, enemies, and Granny herself against a backdrop of a backyard in giant form. Each area of the backyard has its own backgrounds and hazards, keeping the game interesting. Lively music enhances the play but the best part is Granny herself, with a plethora of amusing catchphrases sprinkled amongst the action. Cut-scenes between the backyard areas fill in the story of the evil Dr. Meow and why he's shrunk our hapless Granny.

For anyone who loves this type of retro platformer, Super Granny 5 is the game for you. With over 100 levels, the ability to go back and do each level again until you've done it perfectly (and earned one of several trophies), and even a level editor to create your own insane levels, there are hours and hours and hours of fun to be had. Granted, the game appears to be aimed at the younger set, but there's a lot of casual gameplay here that can be enjoyed by anyone.

For those looking for jittery shoot-em-ups, this is perhaps not the game for you. But if you're looking for fun involving both hand-eye coordination and logic, done up in a cutesy bow, then check out Super Granny 5. Remember, don't mess with the kitties, old ladies can be tough!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 3.6/5
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Rating: 3.6/5 (75 votes)
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Mikemike-rocknrisk-screen1.pngIt's a fact! Game reviewers love to define games that are difficult to categorize in terms of two or more other, familiar games. So with that in mind, I ask: What is Rock 'n' Risk? It's Mario combined with Simon...no wait. It's Sonic the Hedgehog meets Guitar Hero...no that's not it either. MegaMan and Breakout? Fancy Pants and Sveerz?

Let's try this: in Rock 'n' Risk, you control your stick-figure avatar to jump on upwardly moving colored platforms. A sort of JumboTron in the background tells you which color to jump on next, and you earn more points if you can complete longer sequences without error, before jumping off to the side to claim your jackpot. So Simon meets platformer is not a bad way of thinking about it, though there is quite a bit more to it.

A rather lengthy and detailed tutorial will instruct you on the particulars. You control your stick figure guy entirely with the mouse. His motions follow your mouse-based motions, and he will jump with a click. He'll also bounce off of any platforms you stomp on. You can double-click to move to a location with rocket-like speed, or hold the mouse to deploy your parachute, slowing your motion to a gentle hover. These maneuvers take up energy, so be conservative with the fancy moves.

The idea, as mentioned, is to earn points by correctly stomping on the colors indicated in long, accurate, unbroken chains, all within a certain time limit. Before each stage, you can add challenges, like more colors, or a faster time limit, that give you more "career points" to let you access further stages.

Energy is the operative word for Rock 'n' Risk. The whole thing is built like an action game show, with cheering crowds and an upbeat, "dude" commentator praising your every excellent move. A cool soundtrack and zippy stick-figure design and animation help to keep the energy up. All this supports the lively heart of the game. At it's best, the gameplay gets you into a Guitar-Hero-like zen-state. Once you adjust to the mouse-only controls, hopping from one appropriately colored platform to the next becomes an act of serenity and grace, and you feel like you're dancing.

So call it Super-Color-Breakout-Simon-Hero-Brothers, or whatever you like. Rock 'n' Risk is an energetic, animated experience that, in the end, is purely its own animal.

Play Rock 'n' Risk


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraSo I've decided not to do Link Dump Friday this week. I thought to myself, "Your Majesty," which is how I always address myself, "people on the internets don't want to know about zombies or birds or dragons. They don't care about puzzles or pet sims. Why don't you take the day off and go cruising with the Baron and Baroness of Pursnovia aboard their paddle yacht?" And so I did. And that's why there is really, truly no Link Dump Friday this week. Sorry. Anything below this paragraph is just a figment of your overworked imagination.

  • Totem BreakerTotem Breaker - You know those games with powerhouse production values, but with gameplay that's too lightweight to really back it up? This is one of those. The visuals are gorgeously cartoony, and the music is bouncy and catchy, but after you've blown up your third or fourth baddie using some very perplexing shaman magics, you start to wonder if maybe there wasn't some sort of miscommunication between the two departments. You know, like the art department was told to make something awesome, but somehow for the story and play department that translated into a weak so-so hand wiggle. Which, I understand, is also how Twilight movies are made. OH NO I D-IN'T.
  • Flaming ZombookaFlaming Zombooka - [Parental Warning: Animated cartoon carnage.] Essentially Fragger but with some nonthreatening undead, this is a game about properly ricocheting your bazooka shots around a playfield to overcome the obstacles shielding the zombies. Which, y'know. Just sort of patiently stand there, waiting for it to happen. And I understand that the title is a play on words, sort of, which is fine. But, some day, before I die, longanimals and robotJAM owe me a flaming bazooka.
  • TealygotchiTealygotchi - Remember Tealy? Sure you do. Want to take one home and love it and squeeze it and name it George? Sure you do! This little pet simulation is super cute, but not quite developed enough since it starts getting repetitive far too quickly. It's at least more entertaining than those things we begged our parents to buy us even though they were essentially about as fun as a rock with two googly eyes glued on it.
  • Bad BirdsBad Birds - Being one of the apparently three people in the history of creation who has not played Lemmings, I was forced to rely on public opinion when I heard that this puzzler was "Like Lemmings". However, a fellow reviewer informed me that this isn't "Like Lemmings"... it is Lemmings. Only with birds. Apparently bad ones at that. So there you go. ... stop looking at me that way, bird. Oh, you wanna go?! Then let's go! I'm badder'n you any day!
  • Fish Tales DeluxeFish Tales Deluxe - Despite being, apparently, deluxe, Fish Tales (woo-oo!) is just a bit too simple and repetitive to really rise above coffee break status for most gamers. (not to mention it does not save progress) Simply swim around, devouring everything smaller than you, and avoiding everything bigger. But Fish Tales (woo-oo!) is pretty darned cute, with big, cartoony graphics and simple, mostly relaxing gameplay. D-d-d-danger watch behind you, there's a bigger fish out to find you!

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Rating: 4.5/5 (119 votes)
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Babylon Sticks: Go Ahead, Kid comic

A custom casual gameplay comic created exclusively for JIG by Babylon Sticks creator, James Francis. Follow Babylon Sticks on Twitter: @babylonsticks.


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Rating: 3.9/5 (97 votes)
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JamesGhost GuidanceWhen an artificial intelligence escapes from its laboratory and flies out against military forces in a fight to survive, Ghost Guidance inadvertently gives us something the world has never seen before: a SHMUP story that makes sense!

The usual SHMUP (SHoot eM UP) motivation usually follows the lines of massive armada versus your hideously overpowered ship. Nobody has played one of these games and not considered if this would have been a war at all if your side only had two or three more of these powerful craft. But Ghost Guidance turns the idea on its head. First, you do not have a craft to speak of. Instead, as a floating AI 'virus' you can invade the guidance systems of a ship, essentially taking over control of its firing and navigation systems. This is a useful ability as the military will try and shoot you out of the sky before you can make it to safety. Every time they blow up the ship you possessed, you can leapfrog into another craft—even missiles.

Ghost Guidance is certainly shaking the genre up with these new approaches, but unfortunately it doesn't hold onto some other SHMUP traditions that would suit it perfectly. There are very few enemy types and no power-ups to speak of. In fact, with the exception of boss fights, you can simply dodge incoming attacks most of the time. It also lacks the pattern-spotting tradition of the genre: bullets are slow and infrequent (yet at times ridiculously everywhere) and while boss ships have sequences, they are hardly a challenge. With the last boss you hardly need to move at all. A rudimentary survival mode adds to the challenge quota, but it lacks a smack of adrenaline.

But these shortcomings makes Ghost Guidance feel like a concept or some kind of prequel teaser. It adds some interesting adjustments to SHMUP mechanics and fans should be keen to see what the developers come up with next. This spark of ingenuity is what props Ghost Guidance up and gets it featured here.

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Rating: 3.8/5 (86 votes)
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DoraNob War: The ElvesAh, elves. Fantasy's punching bags. No matter how many Legolases and Drow literature throws at us, elves will always either be objects of worship or eye-rolling amusement for you; there's really no in between. Have you felt the sting of your friend's scorn because you think elves are rad? After playing Nob Studio's side scrolling title of action warfare Nob War: The Elves, nobody will ever make fun of your elves again. At least, not until the next time you try to roll up Shylana the Elven Bardess at your next gaming session.

There's no story given to explain why your army of elves is trying to massacre its way through twenty castles of opposing forces. The short answer is probably just "elves are jerks". The goal of each level is to march your troops all the way to the right side of the screen to overtake the enemy stronghold. Move your squad of archers with the [arrow] keys, and tap [Z] or [1] to fire. Remember that you can move back to retreat if an enemy gets too close to your puny archerflesh, so keep foes at the proper distance to hit by hiding behind the cavalry if need be. When archers are not enough, you can summon squads of centaurs or humans from recharging timers to fight for you. Which you might want to do, since if all of your soldiers are wiped out, it's game over for you. Oh, and you also fail if all of your slow moving flag guards are killed, so get to work, meat shield.

Each enemy felled grants you cold, hard cash (or the elven equivalency of cash, which is probably berries or morals about friendships or something), which you can use between levels to upgrade your troops or weapons. After all, nothing says "friends of the forest" like "flaming arrows of death", amirite? If you save your cash, you'll also eventually be able to purchase an important healing ability, which you can use once per level to restore your units to fighting form.

Nob War The ElvesAnalysis: Sort of a defense title, sort of an action title, and sort of a strategy title (but only sort of), The Elves borrows bits from a lot of genres and winds up with a fun twist. Although levels start out simple, with you able to mostly stroll unimpeded from one side of the screen to the other, they get more challenging as you go along thanks to a nice difficulty curve. The cooldown time for summoning new units forces you to think strategically, and you'll have to be quick to keep your archers out of danger and help your other units in the fray. Being in direct control of your archers enables you to dart in and out of battle, and provide support to the frontlines. It's also interesting to note that after going through several stages where I had sole command over the fine art of shooting things with pointy things, my knee-jerk reaction was "THAT'S CHEATING!" when the enemies suddenly decided arrows were a keen idea too. Everyone knows I invented them.

In fact, where The Elves trips itself up is actually in its rather bland presentation. While the visual style is at first striking, if nothing we haven't seen before, it quickly begins to feel stale. You're always marching across the same backdrop to the same castle listening to the same dramatic, generic medieval war march. You also might wind up wishing for a greater variation in troops; come on, I thought elves were all one with the planet and junk. At least let us summon some owlbears or something. (Although trampling your enemy to dust with a herd of angry deer would be both fun and satisfying.) The result is a game that, while fun and challenging, ends up feeling like it didn't try quite as hard as it could have. Oh, and while I'm at it, why is there no pause button? The stages are relatively short, but this seems like an oversight.

Nob War: The Elves is an interesting take on the action/defense genres that could have been a lot better simply by adding some more variety. (Which is, as you know, the spice of life.) Gamers looking for something different will find it here, and the challenge presented by the fierce fighting in later levels helps make up (somewhat) for the lack of change. Perhaps a future incarnation will add those sought-after attack hawks, or at least the ability to issue orders to your troops, but as it stands, The Elves is still a fun, deceptively simple title that will teach everyone to give elves the respect they deserveHAHAwho am I kidding? Now go put on some tights, commander. Your army awaits!

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Rating: 4.1/5 (106 votes)
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JamesIt's Raining Cats And DogsLet me start this blurb by saying that the title is a lie. It's not raining anything. It's a single dog falling through the sky while cats and other things probably not in line for household pets or foreign bistros are floating around. But It's Raining Cats And Dogs is a much nicer name than, say, "Puppy's Plunge Into Oblivion" for this simple arcade title from Umut Dervis.

The controls are so simple that the menu screen is enough for you to grasp them. Move the falling dog with your mouse and bounce off the various creatures that float past. The aim is to not drop off the bottom of the screen, build point combos by hitting the same creatures in a row and avoiding some critters. Last as long as you can and get as high a score as a plummeting canine can achieve, bouncing off the occasional fat (alien?) cat for a score bonus.

It's simple and addictive, the hallmarks of any good 'keep going as long as you can' game. It's fun, it's colourful and it has a cute soundtrack. Really, more does not need to be said, other than some at JIG Towers speculate that this would make a great iPhone or Android game. No argument there.

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Rating: 4.7/5 (2364 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypAnd now for something completely different. Yes, I am that geeky that I like to quote Monty Python. This week's room escape is... well, not an escape, per se, but an adventure disguised as an escape. How quick are you? How are you at decision making? Escaping the Prison by Puffballs United will help you find out. It will also help you find out how to fail. A lot.

Escaping the PrisonRather than a classic room escape, Escaping the Prison is more of an interactive adventure, similar to those lovely "choose your adventure" books in days of yore (for the definition of "book", see Wikipedia). The story begins simply; you are some poor schlub who is in a prison cell, and you have just been given the gift of a cake. A cake that — due to the laziness of the guards — holds a surprise. Well, several surprises. Choose one of the several handy items that someone has left in the lovely pink confection and you're off on your escape!

The story is told in quirky animated scenes of remarkably expressive stick figures: the hero, the guards, and a whole host of supporting characters. Watch the animation then make a choice by clicking on a variety of objects. Each choice leads to other choices, and then other choices, and so on, and so on. Most choices will lead to a fail (back in prison) or a massive fail (death by a whole host of things), but eventually you might discover the three escape endings. Fortunately, each fail gives you an option to make a different choice, or go back to the beginning and start over. Try to find all three ending scenarios while keeping your "fail count" to a minimum.

There are no navigation controls, nor any inventory or control thereof. When you reach the end of a scene two or more items will pop up on the screen. Simply click on one to make your choice, and then sit back and watch the consequences. Occasionally your choice will not include objects but actions, and those decisions need to be made quickly, or your poor prisoner will suffer the consequences.

Analysis: Okay, yes, this is not exactly your classic point-and-click escape, but sometimes it's nice to change things up a bit. Escaping the Prison is a fun little way to while away the time, especially if you feel like plowing through every possible scenario just to see the hilarious ways you can fail. Light, fun entertainment for the mid-week, not a lot of thinking required.

The animations are amusing, but what really brings them to life is the wicked writing, the lively voice-overs, and the kicking music track that accompanies your hapless hero as he walks, crawls, argues, or runs for his freedom (or his life). It becomes so much fun watching the little guy fail, in fact, you might be more interested in finding the failures than the actual escapes. How many ways can a stick figure die, anyway?

So no, this is not technically a classic room escape. Escaping the Prison is instead mindless fun, a lively way to lighten up the mid-week blahs. Spend some time trying to find the "Lame Escape", the "Sneaky Escape", and the escape that cannot be named in a family friendly article such as this. Try a different way to escape the stresses of the week, and start Escaping the Prison!

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Rating: 3.8/5 (70 votes)
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KarlConnectit.jpgGear puzzles are popular fodder for games these days. If gears aren't the main feature, as in David Durham's Gear Puzzle, then they're a vital component of a switch box or piece of alien machinery in an adventure game. At first glance, Connect It seems like more of the same, but after exploring deeper, this seemingly simple gear puzzler reveals an entertaining and complex depth.

The gameplay starts simply enough. You begin the game with a bunch of gears of varying sizes, gear pegs and power sources, and an electrode on a track, waiting to be connected to the wire on the other end. The goal is simple: transfer the rotational power from the power source to the electrode, so it moves across the track and completes the circuit. You move the gears by dragging them with the mouse and turn them on and off by clicking. At first, it's as easy as it sounds, but like all fun games, Connect It doesn't stay easy.

It won't be long before you'll be staring blankly at the screen, trying to figure out which of the pegs to use. The pegs aren't spaced evenly, so it often takes some trial and error to figure out the best way to connect the electrode without accidentally putting the wrong number of gears in the sequence and pushing it the wrong way. Fortunately, the 'level reset' button is big and easy to click, and there are multiple solutions to most levels.

Also, this game is extremely pretty. The atmosphere is late Victorian steampunk. The pegs are brass, the gears are polished steel, and the whole thing gives off the impression that you're building a fine Swiss watch - a sequence of gears that not only works, but works beautifully. The music is calm but catchy, the perfect background for killing a few hours.

Overall, Connect It will suck you in with its beautiful presentation, but you'll stay there for a long time, solving just one more puzzle.

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Rating: 3.9/5 (136 votes)
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KyleQuietusWhen young Mike Altman penned the now famous refrain, "suicide is painless," it's very probable that he had absolutely no idea just how wrong he was. To be fair to the then wunderkind song writer, though, this was because he wrote the lyrics to the MASH theme song forty years before he would have the chance to play the challenging platformer, Quietus, by Connor Ullmann.

In this dark test of platforming skills, you play the role of a man no longer willing to bear the woes and hardships of waking life. No sooner are we introduced to our protagonist do we find that he has danced the hemp fandango, fleeing the land of the living hoping for a taste of respite. What he is greeted with instead is the forever grinning face of the Grim Reaper and a curious proposition: let life remain extinguished or brave the perils of Hell. Should you make it out the other side unscathed, your life will be restored, this time with the measure of happiness lacking in your previous attempt.

To navigate your way around the underworld you'll need only your [arrow] keys to run and jump. At any time you can press [R] to return to the level select screen, and once you're there you can clear your progress with [C]. Finally, you can use the [space] bar to forward through cut scenes and cut short the death sequence that you will see a lot. All you have to do is guide your little skeleton man down to the open pit at the bottom of the level.

Sound simple? That's only because I haven't gotten to the bit with the pixel perfect jumps, the lava monsters, the wall worms, the ghosts, spikes, the little red demons that chase you, the swinging spiked balls, the white chomping monsters and the little green guys that sneak around and send you soaring upward (usually into a waiting trap of some sort) if you unwittingly land on them. Those things might complicate matters a little bit. No, all things considered, Hamlet's metaphor of, "slings and arrows," might have benefited just a bit from the addition of giant lava lake worm monsters, and our Mr. Altman may have been better informed because of it.

QuietusAnalysis: Quietus is the kind of game that platformer enthusiasts live on. Developer Time uses his morbid subject matter to cast you into the darkest pits of hell both literarily and physically, and it's a blast.

The controls are responsive, neither particularly tight nor loose but instead a happy medium between the two. Hit detection is for the most part very accurate; it took getting stuck on a level and trying many times before I detected just a little bit of give, and that was actually in the player's favor. Also sometimes the game can be a little bit too generous when you get close to the goal (though I'm sure most the time you'll be thinking the game isn't being generous enough). My one peeve from a technical standpoint is that Quietus does not provide an alternate jump button. For puzzle platformers and less punishing platformers using the up arrow is fine, but when it comes to skill and reflex titles, being able to comfortably use both hands is a must.

Level design is actually pretty nice and gives what is to me one of the game's neatest little quirks. That being that the game looks and feels much harder than it actually is. Jumping has to be precise and the timing can be tricky but for the more skilled player you may find yourself thinking, 'Wow, that wasn't quite as hard as I thought it would be'. Level composition scores another victory in that you are frequently introduced to new obstacles and traps, keeping the game fresh and delivering some nice "oh wow" moments. And while I say the game is not as hard as it looks, don't let that fool you. It definitely throws some serious heat at you, especially once you get to the late twenties among the forty levels. And just as Meat Boy had the carefully placed bandages and MoneySeize had the ultra hard coins tucked away in bonus stages, those looking for serious bragging rights have the option of going after precariously placed treasure chests.

This quality and variety of level design and innovation helps disguise the fact that aesthetically Quietus gets just a little bit stale. I appreciate the style, don't get me wrong. I have a hard time saying no to big, blocky pixels, and one can definitely see some influence from the Knytt games. But while I appreciate the style and like how Quietus dances a fine line between cute and foreboding, the visual monotony starts to drag. The background never changes, and there's no music, leaving a scant few sound effects as the only aural stimulation in the game. More eye and ear candy isn't exactly necessary, per se, but would have been appreciated.

While simplicity adds to Quietus's charm, it also results in a design flaw or two. Perhaps one of the worst transgressions is how difficult it is to distinguish between spikes and the rest of the gray fuzz that lines most of the surfaces you come in contact with. Speckles of red, for instance, could have gone a long way to alleviate confusion.

On the whole, Quietus offers up an excellent platforming experience for fans of the genre ranging from all skill types. With a comparably shallow learning curve, the first dozen or so levels do an outstanding job of offering up well paced action and a sense of achieving the impossible, while those craving a real challenge shouldn't be disappointed by later levels which dish out some challenges that require precision timing and pixel perfect placement. It may not be the greatest platformer out there, but it's ambitious, well-built, and most importantly, fun... so long as you don't mind dying over, and over, and over again, of course.

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Rating: 4.6/5 (207 votes)
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DoraSynopsis Quest DeluxeEverybody knows heroes aren't born; they're made. And in Synopsis Quest Deluxe from Skipmore, thanks to a handy English translation from Benito C. (and featured in a previous Link Dump Friday), you can find out exactly how in this parody of the RPG genre. After all, everyone knows little boys are made of snips and snails, and puppy dog tails, but a traditional hero is obviously made of genre stereotypes, minigame puzzles, and cure spells. Use your mouse to select your stage from the menu on the right once the game loads; each one is actually a tiny level that you have to solve to proceed. Move with the [arrow] keys, and interact with the [spacebar]. Follow the instructions given at the start of each stage, but don't expect a serious, epic game; Synopsis Quest Deluxe is strictly bite-sized and absolutely ridiculous to boot. You'll have to think outside of the box and remember the stereotypes of ye olden RPGs to succeed.

Children of the Playstation generation, do not adjust your monitor; what you are seeing is a slice of the past, when graphics were simpler, blockier, and NESier. The last "traditional" RPG of this sort I can actually remember playing and enjoying was on the SNES (gesundheit!), so this is a bit of a throwback even for me. It seems like there's no quicker way to get adulation these days than to slap a retro visual package onscreen, but Synopsis Quest's shining star actually comes from its desire to poke fun at its source material. Everything from ransacking conveniently placed pots to one-liner NPCs who have nothing better to do but walk in place all day waiting for your heroic bottom to saunter through and bring a brief thrill into their otherwise empty lives. See, you're making the world a better place already! I knew you had it in you. Now go and fetch me ten rat tails. Chop chop, there's a good Chosen One.

The game's biggest source of irritation is actually its sticky, clunky controls which makes otherwise simple stages more annoying than they would typically be. I get that it was originally made for mobile phones, but when porting something from one device to another, you should take the time to make sure it performs equally well on both or you leave yourself open to criticism. Synopsis Quest Deluxe is far from unplayable, but it isn't exactly streamlined either. Still, for a small package of gameplay, Synopsis Quest Deluxe is funny and charming; certainly worth a look for any of us who were burned by a Fire spell in our youth because we forgot to bring an extra Phoenix Down to the battle.

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Mobile Monday

JohnBSweet, sweet nostalgia is the theme for this week's Mobile Monday, as two (arguably all three) of our games bank on invoking that rosey feeling of reliving our past in modern form. A Star Wars game that's actually good? Check. Intellivision? DOUBLE CHECK!

starwarscantina.jpgStar Wars: Cantina - Wait, what? A Star Wars... time management game? Sounds odd at first, but Star Wars: Cantina is superbly done with some fantastic artwork and game design. Think Cake Mania meets the Mos Eisley Cantina and you've got a great idea of what to expect. Deliver drinks to recognizable Star Wars stock characters, earn your cash, tap your food to the familiar background tunes. A surprisingly good game!

intellivision.gifVH1 Classic Presents: Intellivision - Here's a blast from the past. Maybe so far in the past some readers weren't even born. Several classics of early console gaming are now on iPhone, including Astrosmash, Chip Shot Golf, Skiing, Thunder Castle, and Night Stalker. Controls are well-implemented for a physical controller to touch screen transition, and these old games make the trip to new fangled gizmos quite well. Worth checking out for the nostalgia alone!

fallingsands2.jpgFalling Sands and Falling Sands 2 - Of the handful of games on the iTunes App Store that emulate the famous Sand Sand Sand, Falling Sands and its sequel seem to do the best job. Unfortunately they don't get everything right at the same time, leaving you caught between two halves of one game. The first Falling Sands features a ton of elements to play around with, but some of the physics are questionable, and the game has been known to crash. The sequel, on the other hand, looks and plays much better, but for some reason, there are a pitiful few elements to play around with. Combine these games into one and you've got a near-perfect sandbox playground, otherwise it's up to you to decide which one floats your sandy boat the best. Fortunately, Falling Sands Free and Falling Sands 2 Free are both, well, free, so you can try them out without dropping any cash.

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.


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Rating: 4.7/5 (31 votes)
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Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers

GrimmrookNew Orleans. Just hearing the name conjures up the sounds of sliding steel guitars, blaring brass horns, and the lilting Creole accents of her people. It's a city with a history and a reputation as infamous as it is famous because, if anything, the Big Easy is a city that knows how to let her hair down and party. And it has a darker side, one lurking in the shadowy swamps slithering along its belly with the snakes and crocodiles. It lures people in with promises of lust and money and power and traps them in a web of magic and superstition. Beyond New Orleans' charming facade lies the darker, deadlier world of voodoo, an environment the classic point-and-click adventure Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers isn't afraid to explore.

gabrielknight.jpgYou play the titular hero, Gabriel Knight, a charming playboy, second hand bookstore owner, and crime novelist, and you're knee deep into the research for your upcoming book. Knight's current project follows the real life "voodoo murders," a rash of grotesque and bizarre killings that have recently taken place and bear at least some superficial links to traditional voodoo practices. Thankfully for Gabriel, his luck as a crime novelist seems to be better than that of a (rarely visited) bookstore proprietor. His best friend just so happens to be Detective Mosely, the homicide detective in charge of the voodoo murders case, and his only employee at the shop, Grace Nakimura, turns out to be a serial researcher.

As you guide Knight on his quest to get to the bottom of the voodoo murders (and, of course, get plenty of great material for the book), you're going to need to talk to everyone, look at everything, pick up whatever you can, and generally push, pull, examine, open and close anything that will let you. Controlling Knight is done with the mouse and switching back and forth between a host of action specific cursors. This can be done by either right-clicking to automatically rotate through the available icons, or by pushing your cursor to the top of the screen where all of the icons can be selected by clicking on them. This is also where you can access your inventory and the control panel that will allow you to adjust your volumes, save, restore, or quit your game.

With your wits about you, and with a little (okay, a lot) of help from your friends, you and Gabriel will be thrust deep into the investigation of the voodoo murders. As the voodoo murders investigation intensifies, mysteries about Gabriel, his past, and his family also begin to surface. Your journey for the truth about both the murders and yourself will have you following a trail of blood, magic, and desire from the streets of the French Quarter to Africa, Germany, and back, and before all is said and done you'll have to make a choice between love and duty.

Analysis: While perhaps not quite as widely known as Larry Laffer, Guybrush Threepwood, or Roger Wilco, Gabriel Knight has earned himself a permanent place as an adventure gaming icon for no shortage of good reasons. While first published in the early 90s, Sins of the Fathers was built with so much quality that it stands up quite well compared to point-and-click adventures coming out today.

gabrielknight2.jpgThe appeal of Sins of the Fathers comes largely from its storytelling. This Gabriel Knight mystery pulls no punches and delivers a gritty crime fantasy thriller that rivals anything you would find on prime time television or on the NYT bestseller's list. It manages to combine effortlessly the mysticism and culture and, yes, sexual allure, of New Orleans, providing a colorful backdrop for a story that is gripping, unnerving, and full of more twists and turns than a country road. Enhancing both the story's credibility and intrigue is the treatment with which the subject of voodoo is given; throughout the course of the mystery you flit back and forth between the fact and folklore of voodoo only to have the lines blurred at every intersection. And throughout all of this, Gabriel's history waits ominously in the shadows, whispering dark portents in obscure German.

Helping deliver the story is a cast that can be described with a phrase we rarely get to use here at JayIsGames: "star-studded." Leah Remini (King of Queens) brings a snappy, bubbling wit to Knight's assistant, Grace. Her sharp delivery pours on the sarcasm at a moment's notice, and yet she is able to let hints of concern and care creep in at just the right moments in just the right amounts. Meanwhile Mark Hamill (Star Wars, Batman: The Animated Series... as if you didn't know) plays the role of bumbling backwoods Detective Mosely with considerable skill. Even Michael Dorn's (Star Trek: TNG... again, as if you didn't know) rendition of the voodoo museum curator gives the character a real and somewhat eerie touch. But Tim Curry's (Rocky Horror Picture Show, Clue... seriously, if you don't know this stuff, I just, I give up) portrayal of the eponymous Knight drives the performances. As an ensemble, the cast work marvelously together and it is indeed a credit to their abilities that the most intense, eerie, and seductive moments in the game often occur not in any kind of animated cut scene, but instead with the very plain black backdrop of the dialogue sequences.

The imagery of Gabriel Knight is obviously a product of the technology at the time which provides something of a mixed bag. On one hand, the artistic direction through much of Sins of the Fathers is wonderfully imagined and executed astonishingly well. Despite the heavily pixelated limitations, each scene manages to convey depth, personality, and even emotion. The home of Gabriel's grandmother feels warm and inviting, while the attic of the same place is decidedly musty and pregnant with long forgotten secrets. In scene after scene we see the usage of color and composition overcome the limitations of the fairly large, blocky pixels to magnificent effect. The downside is that while the larger picture is easily grasped, fine detail is a different issue entirely and one that can affect gameplay. Because of the relatively low resolution (and further impacted by a cursor that doesn't change or signal hotspots), it can often be difficult to differentiate between insignificant pieces of background and items that are vital to the game's progression.

gabrielknight3.jpgBut don't think that enjoying all of the goodies that Sins of the Fathers will be a cake walk. It won't be. That's because this game is hard. Really hard. In fact, unless someone has already beaten me to the punch, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce into the gaming lexicon the term "Sierra hard," because that is exactly what this game is. Not only do the relatively low resolution graphics work against you, you can also die unexpectedly or trap yourself into a dead end (this is done by failing to get an item or accomplish a task needed for later in the game, and then progressing to a point where said item and/or task is no longer available). Hotspots can be a headache to find, and sometimes entire rooms or scenes can go unnoticed as a result of a lack of visual cues.

Once you have overcome all of this, you still have to come to grips with the fact that the item based puzzles, as is true for many titles in the classic era of adventure gaming, can be insanely difficult. Gabriel Knight ups the ante here by also throwing in puzzles that rely both on timing and situational conditions which can befuddle the old standby of trying everything on everything until something works. Let me just conclude here with the same advice I often give to those embarking on a classic point-and-click adventure for the first time; save early, save often, bring a walkthrough.

Aside from the rather high difficulty, Gabriel Knight has few weaknesses. The interface is far more complex and clunky compared to the norm of more contemporary adventure games, but the inconvenience of having to manually change situational cursors is at least a little bit made up for by the fact that doing so gives you a greater deal of freedom to explore your environment. What I did find particularly disappointing, though, is the musical selection. This is New Orleans, home to some of the best jazz, blues, and soul in the world, and yet the music in Gabriel Knight is often bland, contrived, and amazingly out of place and mood. There are times when the background music is serviceable, but this is overshadowed by tunes that goes as well with the scene at hand as oil does with water. Also, and this is more of a warning than a criticism, there are a few displays of sexist behavior sprinkled throughout the game that might make some feel a little uncomfortable. Nothing grotesque, per se, but some off color comments with little to no social commentary can either be chalked up to realism for the time, or be mildly offensive.

In all honesty, there are definitely a few aspects about Sins of the Fathers that may turn off some gamers, whether it's the low resolution graphics, the extreme difficulty, or even just a control scheme that might seem outdated and sluggish compared to modern point-and-click adventure games. But the truth is that there is far more to love about Gabriel and his dark adventures than there is to walk away from. What you will find is a game that has earned an unimpeachable place among the classics of adventure gaming, one with fiendishly difficult puzzles, a brilliantly written and acted script, and gorgeously realized locales. Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers offers to those willing to brave its precarious pitfalls a thrilling and rewarding experience as well as a gripping story that could arguably be the best in Sierra's considerable stable, and that most definitely is saying something.

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Puzzler World

JohnBGot a hankering for some logic puzzles? Ideas Pad has your fix with Puzzler World, a collection of over 1,200 puzzles ranging from crossword to sudoku to Link-a-Pix. Featuring a big, friendly interface and a straightforward setup, Puzzler World lets you jump right into the games without having to fuss with anything. It's just pure puzzles and a whole lot of head scratching.

puzzlerworld.jpgPuzzler World doesn't try to package a story or fancy interface around these games, and honestly, why would it? The quickplay option from the main screen lets you jump right into things, or you can go the challenge mode route if you want some sort of greater goal. Here, you're rewarded with points for completing puzzles efficiently. These points can be used to buy hints later in the game, so you might want to save them up for a very rainy day.

After you create your profile you have immediate access to over 500 puzzles, each of varying difficulty and style. Choose from some familiar standards such as crosswords, wordsearches, sudoku puzzles, spot the difference games and Link-a-Pix puzzles from Conceptis. You'll also come across fitword, which gives you a selection of words that must be placed on a crossword-like grid, the simple coloring game silhouette, and the decipher-centric codeword, which is probably the most unusual (and interesting) of the bunch.

In addition to the eight varieties listed above, when you complete a puzzle you're rewarded with a bonus challenge in the form of jigsaw puzzles, a quick round of hangman, an anagram game, or a simple "find the missing piece" mini-game, all of which can be replayed by selecting them from their respective locations.

puzzlerworld2.jpgAnalysis: The phrase "no-nonsense" comes to mind when thinking of Puzzler World, and it's a very fitting label. Being able to jump right into a game and play so many types of logic puzzles is a massive boon, as sometimes you just want to play a game, not fuss with a game. Puzzler World does an excellent job of this, creating an interface that puts everything you want right in front of your face.

Another big bonus for Puzzler World is the ability to play difficult puzzles right from the start. None of this unlocking mess, if you want a greater challenge, just scroll down and choose the harder puzzles. After all, it's your game, right?

The handwriting recognition option in Puzzler World is a mixed bag, and it's probably more useful on the Nintendo DS release than the PC version. Drawing letters to place on the grid is a simple task, though as with most handwriting tools, the results aren't always reliable. You can train Puzzler World to recognize your own brand of scraw, which helps, but ultimately I found it easier just to use the mouse to select letters and numbers manually.

Puzzler World doesn't try to do a lot, but what it does, it succeeds gloriously in. If you're in the mood for a whole lot of logic puzzles, you'd have a hard time going wrong with Puzzler World.

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Avernum 6

DoraAdventurers, take heed. It's time to buckle your swashes and stock up on Dragon-B-Gone (Dragon-B-Gone has not yet been evaluated by the FDA) and strike out one last time. Spiderweb Software's iconic RPG series comes to a close with Avernum 6. Just when you thought everyone's favourite underground civilisation was in the clear, a blight strikes the precious few crops capable of growing beneath the earth and famine begins to take hold. At the same time, the lizard people known as the Slithzerikai make their move, striking at the severely weakened and desperate Avernites and sparking off a war the people can ill afford. Times like this call for heroes... and luckily for Avernum, you might know just where to find them. Never visited Avernum before? No worries, bub; this gig is strictly "no experience necessary".

Avernum 6If you've never played the Avernum series, allow me to sum up the main concept for you. You strike out into the world with your party of four customiseable heroes, save a lot because you'll die a whole bunch, and engage in turn-based strategic combat with flea-ridden unicorns in between trying to pawn off the various household objects you nick from other people. You have a main quest you're supposed to be doing, but chances are you'll forget what it is because you'll get distracted by some sort of glowing mystical doo-dad on the horizon and wind up embroiled in a bunch of dungeon crawling for hours before you remember that maybe you Best of Casual Gameplay 2010should get on that whole "world saving thing".

The game is a top-down-and-to-the-side view RPG, and while it offers a big heaping helping of customiseable keyboard shortcuts that may be intimidating, most of the game is played simply by pointing and clicking. Click on an area to walk there, or on an item or person to interact. Battles are turn-based, and you shift into combat mode whenever an enemy is close enough. Once the threat is dealt with, click the crossed swords symbol to shift back into peace mode and clean your wounds. The more enemies you topple, the stronger your characters will get, gaining points you can spend to increase their skills to your liking. And, of course, the bigger something is... the bigger the treasure horde it's usually sitting on top of. (Maybe. Probably.)

Avernum 6Analysis: While a younger generation will probably be reminded of most recent open world titles, us oldsters who remember when polygons were a strange new concept will probably be reminded of the early Ultima series, minus the silly author insertion. It features the same massive, open maps that you can explore however you want with your hit points as your only deterrent. They're teeming with angry enemies for us to beat expensive armor out of, and the last in the series is no slouch.

What's actually disappointing is the lack of evolution the series has displayed. This final installment was their chance to wow us with something new, and instead Avernum 6 barely tries anything different at all. While the turn-based combat does give you a chance to plan your strategies, after a while it just feels frustratingly slow and tedious, as does constantly tapping [G] to search your surroundings for items. The game looks basically the same since its initial installment, despite some minor graphical changes and improved interface, and it winds up feeling a little stale as a result. If you've played any of the previous games, Avernum's gloomy underground terrain will have lost much of its mysterious appeal, and the game just doesn't feel like it's trying to surprise you anymore. Oh, dear, is it another mushroom farm and lizard caravan? Ho, hum. Half the fun of the series has always been exploring strange new locales, and too much of where you go in Avernum tends to feel familiar.

The series continues its tradition of fine writing bolstered by a dry sense of humour. The game makes such a huge point early on about stressing that you joined the army to become a hero and how disappointed you are with your current position that it comes as no surprise to absolutely anyone when you're suddenly called upon to save the realms. And yet, because of the strength of the writing, the way the story enfolds feels quite natural and exciting. You work your way up from lowly Food Depot worker to hero as you move from one quest to another, and looking back on how far you've come is very satisfying.

While more action oriented gamers may find Avernum's slow pace and clicky combat frustrating, if a story is what you want, Avernum 6 delivers in spades with a satisfyingly epic end to the series. The main story is quite long, and tracking down every side-quest and hidden item in the game will take you even longer. Despite its flaws, it offers a whole lot of gameplay and a story of grand fantasy that neatly caps off a ten-year long legacy of classic RPG.

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grinnyp_settlementcolossus_banner.jpg

GrinnypWith hidden object games dominating the casual gameplay market, what can developers do to keep them fresh? They can try fusing hidden object goodness with other genres and see what happens. Alawar Games has come through and created an odd, unique, and fun hidden object/casual simulation hybrid, Settlement: Colossus.

settlementcolossus.jpgOur story begins with a group of wandering folks, led by their emperor, valiantly searching for a place to settle. Eventually they find the perfect location. It has everything; a plain surrounded by a natural harbor, forests, and mountains. Now that they've found a place to settle down they need food, since they're all a bit peckish after that marathon trek. Oh, and they need firewood, too, to keep warm. And some sort of building material for shelter. And while you're at it...

Like many a casual sim, once the story starts resources need to be gathered, technologies researched, and a village built. Unlike casual sims, though, you are not assigning your little characters to gather those necessities. Instead, you personally will be bringing home the bacon, so to speak, with a series of hidden object scenes in which you can gather the needed food, firewood, or other items. As you do so, your people will politely let you know when other things are needed, like better houses, a farm to produce more food, mines for ores, a blacksmith shop, etc. all the way up to a pagan temple to worship the gods. Along the way as you supply the goods and build the new technologies, you will also face a series of mini-games that allow for better access to new supplies.

settlementcolossus2.jpgGameplay is easy to pick up. To begin, areas that have resources will have little bubbles showing what resources are available in that location. Simply click and you are in a hidden object scene. Gathering resources is simple at first, but becomes more complex as more resources are available in an area. Your ability to gather is limited by what you can carry, so it takes some strategy to decide which resources you need more of (food, wood, clay, etc.) and which can wait until later. Adding complications is that every time you enter an area you will see not the same hidden object scene but a whole series of different locations within that area, as well as resources that hide in different places every time. As you add manufacturing buildings to the town you can go to them as well to gather manufactured goods, but each time you do it uses raw resources that you will have to replenish, which in the end means lots of hidden object finding. In the end you will be building a thriving civilization, as well as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

The mini-games come in different varieties: puzzles, hidden object type scenes, and even adventure style scenes where you might have to not only find various components but determine how to combine them to accomplish the tasks. The puzzles are all familiar, pipe puzzles, jigsaw types, etc., but are beautifully presented and oftimes quite difficult. Fortunately they can be skipped if you so choose. There is a nice refillable hint timer available for the adventure type scenes and the hidden object scenes, but it is non-directional. It can point out an object, but not a specific type of object, rather one chosen at random.

The story is broken up into chapters, each introduced with a cut scene explaining the story of these wandering people and their mysterious, 300 year old emperor. Each chapter has a main goal, certain primary objectives necessary to achieve that goal, and several secondary objectives that help you along the way. Resources are displayed across the top of the screen, and there's a handy tasks menu to keep track of what has been done and what needs to be done. The locations on your main village map will also let you know if they are out of resources so that you can gather more. As you complete each chapter your little village grows until it eventually becomes a mighty city.

settlementcolossus3.jpgAnalysis: With Settlement: Colossus, Alawar has created something unique with its fusion of hidden object gaming and casual sim-style gameplay. The hidden object scenes create a more immediate, immersive experience, rather than the usual method of setting tasks and sitting back to see what happens. With the constant need to gather raw materials and goods, along with the mini-games, that means a lot of engrossing gameplay.

The standouts here are the lovely artwork. The main village map shows not only your settlement but the faithful population as well. The hidden objects scenes are vibrant and photo real and incorporate lovely little touches that make them come to life, like buzzing insects, hopping frogs, rain, etc. Lively music and realistic sound effects add to the experience. The cut-scenes fill in the (somewhat familiar) story of the people, accompanied by a competent voice-over by the mysterious Emperor.

The downside, if you consider it one, is the repetition of the hidden object scenes. Entering the farm to gather food, for instance, can mean using up your garden tools, necessitating a return to the forge to gather more tools, which means a trip to the mountains to mine more ore, then a trip to the forest for more firewood, all of which use up food resources, which means another trip to the farm...basically, there's ample hidden object finding necessary to complete the game. Even though each location has several different scenes that rotate, you will end up familiar with each one during the multiple trips necessary to accomplish every task. Although the mini-games help break things up, towards the end of the game the hidden object hunting can get repetitious.

Settlement: Colossus is still a lot of entertaining casual gameplay crammed into an attractive package. Due to the nature of the frequent visits to the hidden object scenes, it is a game that is most fun played in small bursts of time, rather than in one marathon sitting. Bucking the trend of ever shorter hidden object games, Settlement: Colossus is something that will keep you occupied for hours and hours as you work towards your final goal. Gorgeous to look at and fun to play, this unique hybrid is a winner. Now go build a civilization!

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Weekend Download

JohnBA handful of simple games to help you pass your weekend! Nothing that will entrance you for hours, just a couple of action arcade games and a platformer that's actually two platformers running at the same time. Nice, simple fun.

ninjarush.gifNinja Rush (Windows, 2.8 MB, free) - The kind of action game you know you love to play, Ninja Rush is a steady stream of obstacles with just a few ways to avoid them: jumping, sliding, and ninja star throwing at...ing! The chunky pixel graphics are excellent, and the game, while pretty bare-bones, is a hoot to play. Until that UFO finally catches you for the tenth time... ANGER!

blueroller.gifBlue Roller (Windows, 3.9 MB, free) - A simple arcade game that's too quirky-cute to ignore. Your goal is to stay alive as long as you can, bouncing over obstacles and avoiding enemy squares, ships, spikes, and other non-"S"-nouns along the way. The screen is constantly scrolling, so you need to keep up in order to stay in the game. Once you die, you get a score, then restart and try again, 'cause the music is too catchy and you just have to try playing it one more time.

paralleluniverse.gifParallel Universe (Windows, 9.5 MB, free) - A simply-illustrated, moodily-scored, and thoughtfully narrated platform puzzle game that utilizes two screens at the same time. You control two bouncing balls at once, each in its own little universe. Move them through the level to collect hints that solve your "problems", then head out the "solution" door to make everything A-OK. Very basic gameplay, but the atmosphere set by the piano music and the stark visuals make it surprisingly compelling.

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!


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QuantZ

DoraQuantZ from Gamerizon is a match-3 (or, rather, match-4) physics game with puzzle elements. There's no story to be had, although the font apparently used for decoration on borders and in the background looks pretty similar to the one used for elves in Lord of the Rings, so maybe I'm missing out on a lot of epic exposition because I'm juuuuuust not quite that nerdy yet. More likely it's just gibberish or insults, but gosh it's pretty, isn't it? You'll find that "pretty" is QuantZ's middle name.

QuantZThe object of the game is to clear all the orbs clinging to the surface of the object floating in the middle of your screen. (Swing your mouse around to rotate it.) You do this by firing coloured orbs at matching clusters, which will cause groups of four or more to burst. Use the mouse to aim, and click to fire; a guiding beam of coloured light will show you where your shot will land, although bear in mind that the physics at work behind the game makes stacking tricky. If you happen to catch a differently coloured orb beneath the group you've eliminated, it will explode and turn into a fireball that you can direct at matching colours to destroy them. Use it to burn off orbs, or to ignite other chain reactions to keep the combo going; crackles of electricity will show you other places that can launch a fireball if you land your current projectile in the right spot. Going too fast for you? Click and hold the left mouse button to freeze time to help you aim your shots precisely.

As you progress through the stages, each made up of multiple "waves", the playing field becomes more and more complex. While you initially will almost always have more than enough orbs and time to complete a given level, later stages will force you to think more strategically to work with limited materials. You'll also see more colours added to the palette, and different types of orbs that need to be dealt with, such as frozen orbs that can't be moved by rotating the playfield.

QuantZAnalysis: QuantZ is lovely, and it knows it. Nearly every action you take is heralded by an angelic choir or proceeded by enough pulsing blue glows to put any Winamp visualisation to shame. The problem is that it really, really wants you to know how pretty it is, and as such gameplay doesn't feel as quick as it could when the game slows everything down to play some otherworldly music and flash some mystical icons whenever you make a combo. During all this, you can't fire another orb, and the clock continues to tick down. It's only a few seconds, but it can get frustrating. I've never lost a level because of it, but the relatively slow pace it forces on the gameplay means it isn't quite as forget-to-eat hypnotically engrossing as, say, Bejeweled.

The different modes available provide a good variety of playstyle depending on your mood. Puzzle can be a challenge, but sometimes the challenge is less in the way the pieces are layed out and more in trying to fiddle everything into the right place by flipping the cube around until you have everything where it needs to be. Aiming your fireballs can also get tricky the more complex the shapes get, as glows given off by potentially explosive clusters can obscure your targeting light.

Exceptionally flashy and easy to play, QuantZ is a good choice if you want something that you can pick up easily with whatever time you have available. The presentation is top notch, and the difficulty curve is smooth and gentle. There are a lot of stages to play through, and you can replay the ones you've already won if you want to better your high score, or just need another dose of that sweet, sweet glowy blue light. Some players may find it a bit too easy or slow (which is why I would recommend the demo), but with a top-notch presentation and fluid gameplay, QuantZ is easily one of the better titles of its genre on the market.

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  • Currently 3.8/5
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Karldriftrunners2.jpgHave you ever watched The Fast and the Furious? Do you own an Initial D card? Have you considered drifting into your parking lot? If you answered 'yes' to any one or all of these questions, then Drift Runners 2 is for you.

Made by Long Animals, Drift Runners 2 is a surprisingly deep racing game. Use the [arrow] or [WASD] keys to steer and accelerate, and [X] or the [spacebar] to activate your turbo when applicable. It's played from the top-down perspective, the better to see the track ahead and control your drifts to get lined up for the next one. You'll spend the majority of your time skidding around corners: the first track even has an achievement for drifting through an entire lap without hitting the walls. Drifts gain you points and speed boost energy. The more drifts you chain together, the higher your score multiplier. Score and achievements get you new cars, upgrades, and track unlocks.

The controls are satisfying, and it's easy to put your car into a skid to beat your competitors around the corner. The early tracks are simple enough, but soon you'll find yourself having to rely on skill and timing your boosts perfectly to beat out your fellow drifters. The difficulty ramps up quickly; admittedly, I'm pretty bad at racing games, but I found myself having a hard time making that crucial switch from 4th to 3rd place. Part of it is the downside of the drift-ready controls. It's actually sometimes too easy to end up in a drift, and often I'd find myself skidding into the wall before I had time to realize that I was in last place. You'll likely find yourself restarting tracks a lot, trying to get a higher ranking or that essential last achievement.

On the upside, the game saves your progress from session to session, so you can revisit your drifting career again and again. It'll take a long time, even once you've perfecting your drifting skills: there are 25 tracks, each with at least one achievement to work towards and a corresponding bonus level, for 50 in total. There are 10 cars to choose from, as well, with four levels of upgrades for each one. Needless to say, here's a lot of depth to this game. You can even use your own MP3s for the soundtrack if you get tired of the upbeat racing themes.

Overall, Drift Runners 2 is a fun, fast-paced drifting simulator that knows what it has to do and does it well. There's enough customization and variety within this game that it'll keep you working on it for a while, and the gameplay is different enough that it'll appeal to gear heads and casual gamers alike.

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KarlRoofed.jpgRoofed starts out with you in a precarious position: you're dangling from a chimney on a rooftop six stories above ground, looking for spider silk. Your brother's making sure the door to the stairs back down stays open. When he appears below you looking nonchalant, you get a deep sinking feeling.

Like other entries in Casual Gameplay Design Competition #7, Jim Munroe's Roofed is a work of interactive fiction in which you enter commands after a prompt to examine your environment and solve puzzles, moving the story forward. For old hands at interactive fiction, it'll be easy to pick up, but for people playing IF for the first time, it might have a bit of a learning curve. Anton, your brother, provides a simple help system in the form of the verbs and syntax you'll need to complete the story, but the logic of the puzzles isn't always immediately clear.

Analysis: In terms of the writing, Roofed really stands out. The far-future setting comes across clearly just through casual mentions and Anton's quips. He's a compelling character, and an excellent example of a well-implemented NPC sidekick: although he doesn't interact with the environment in any permanent way, his bits of stage business feel authentic and in-character. Unlike some NPCs in other IF games who stand passively and wait for you to do something, Anton wanders around the rooftop, yells for help to no avail, and stares off into the distance, lost in his own head. He feels real, which is impressive considering the limited scope and timeframe of the CGDC.

Sometimes, though, he falls down. Although Anton prompts you to ask him about things, there are very few working topics for him to answer, and his 'I don't understand what you mean' message is actually 'I don't think you're ready to know about that yet.' It fits Anton's character, because he's trying to look like he knows what he's doing, but it comes across more harshly and can make an already frustrated player feel like they're being mocked. I also ran across some other implementation problems when I examined the containment unit: the dynamic description had broken somehow, so it ended mid-sentence. Aside from that, the implementation of the puzzles is solid, and the solutions are creative and reward lateral thinking.

Overall, my only real problem with this game is that I didn't want it to end. I want to know more about Anton and his brother and about the world that they live in. If you're a pro at IF, then it's a nice coffee break diversion; if you're new to the world of text adventures, then it'll take a bit of effort to get used to the interface, but it's well worth it to check out the writing. Roofed is a taste of quality IF that will get you hungry for more.

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraIt's Friday once again, and I think we all know what that means... we all come together for the ritualistic playing of the video games to prevent disasters from befalling our realm. What disasters, you ask? Well, the Ancient Ones hesitate to speak of them, so great was the tragedy, but... if you don't join us in playing these games to beat back the tide of destiny, Uwe Boll will direct a movie adaptation of 5 Days a Stranger, in which case someone would have to go to prison for tackling him off a bridge while screaming "NOOOOooOOooOOOo" dramatically. And of course there's the requisite rain of toads and meteors (and meteoric toads) but that one is probably the worst threat. So, you know. No pressure or anything.

  • Synopsis QuestSynopsis Quest - Previously only available in Japanese, Skipmore's cute-if-clunkily-controlled series of minigames that ape on standard RPG situations is now fully translated for us English speakers. Figuring out what you need to do within each itty bitty scenario isn't as straight-forward as you might think. It probably won't take you very long to get through, but it's a charming throwback to the days when RPGs hadn't heard of cell shading, and were still just as ridiculous. Hey, is it my turn yet? I wanna attack the darkness!
  • Minima TimeMinima Time - Quick! You've got ten seconds to live, how do you spend them? Whatever you said, you were wrong, because everyone knows the correct answer is to run free-styling around the world in search of magical clocks that add to your lifespan while someone automatically snaps pictures of you flying by. Another entry into the Experimental Gameplay Project's theme of "10 Seconds" Minima Time is fast fun while it lasts, though it does get repetitive rather quickly. I can honestly say that if you were to add silly putty and glitter to the occasion, this is exactly how I would spend my final moments.
  • Flood Runner 2Flood Runner 2 - Feel the wind in your long floppy ears as you flee from a flood of water. Or lava. Or... liquified boogers. Um. Look, the "why" isn't important. Flood Runner 2 is a simple one-click game where you left-click the screen to leap from ledge to ledge and try to stay alive as long as you can. With several power ups and some new challenges as you go along, the game is breezily entertaining for a while in that way that only games that feature creepy blobby ink creatures fleeing for their lives can be.
  • Plump EscapePlump Escape - I'm missing a crucial part in my brain. Or maybe I crushed it underneath pointless Doctor Who trivia. Whatever the reason, I am typically very, very bad at escape games. So maybe that's why I like Cogito Ergo Sum's surreal but notoriously simple escape games that feature a little yellow cat and brown dog. This time, the dog has apparently gorged itself on untold boxes of beef jerky and become too fat, so you'll need to find a way to help trim him down to escape. Cute, yes. Weird, very. Translation, iffy. Just the way I like 'em.
  • MechanicsMechanics - Drop the gears into their proper places to power an unlit lightbulb. This cheerful little puzzle game is too simple to really provide much of a challenge (especially not to you, *fluttering of eyelashes*), but it's a good game for kids to cut their puzzling teeth on. Start 'em young, I say. Then by the time they're walking their stats are nice and rounded, but you do have to worry about them making their saving throws against nap time. And yes, I could not be any nerdier if I tried, which is probably best for both of us.

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Rating: 4.8/5 (120 votes)
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Babylon Sticks: Dirty Herbivores comic

A custom casual gameplay comic created exclusively for JIG by Babylon Sticks creator, James Francis. Follow Babylon Sticks on Twitter: @babylonsticks.


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Rating: 3.8/5 (71 votes)
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DoraBoss RushHey, you! Girly-man! (Or, uh, girl.) Are you a 98 pound weakling? Are you sick of people kicking sand in your face at the beach and other such typical 1950's bullying techniques? Then maybe you need to let Boss Rush! from Paper Dino Software PUMP YOU UP. It's a clever twist on the classic arcade space shooter that puts you in control of the screen-dominating, unreasonably laser-charged boss ship for a change. After completing a few missions, nobody will ever accuse you of being a weakling again. *flexes* NNNNGH!oh, ow, ow, charley horse!!

The game is played out across multiple stages and different ships, each with their own set of challenging missions to play. Once you learn the ropes of flying your massive Death Star wannabe, you'll be given objectives such as shooting down rebel forces within a time limit, or surviving an onslaught long enough for your forces to escape. Move with [WASD] and use the left mouse button to fire, tapping [1], [2], [3], or [4] to ready one of your special attacks. Too easy? Well, then, try the level on another difficulty such as hard. Or, if you think you're boss enough... Sparta difficulty. (Giant elephants and unreasonable body jewelry not included.) The game also offers a versus mode, where you can rope your favourite schlub into playing the tiny hero fighter... provided you have someone on hand to sit at the same keyboard, since the game unfortunately lacks multiplayer.

Boss Rush! is a clever concept, and loads of fun; don't deny that you've always secretly wanted to be behind the controls of something that vomits a ridiculous amount of fire across a large area at the touch of a button. While the controls themselves feel a little awkward, you are in control of one of the big baddies, which are kind of notoriously unwieldy. A fair number of the missions are challenging, but none of them are terribly inspired, with the requirements typically being merely to survive or blow something up within a given time frame. The ultra simple graphics get the job done, but are also a bit bland. With a complete retro paintjob, full of tiny detailed pixel explosions, Boss Rush! would have been a joy to behold. As it stands, the game is new and fun in that cackling madman sort of way. Which, I think we can all agree, is the best way.

Play Boss Rush!


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Rating: 4.7/5 (240 votes)
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DanTheArcherChaos Faction 2 Imagine, if you will, a world torn straight from the action-packed sketches doodled in a third-grader's margins. Knights fighting robots, aliens dueling vampires... the craziest, unlikeliest match-ups, set against one another solely for the fact that, deep down inside, your inner child knows that this is the stuff of awesome. Welcome to Chaos Faction 2, the bombastic brawlfest from Dissolute Productions.

While controls vary on the mode and how many players there are, there's a standardized set for the solo player: [arrow] keys for movement, [down] to activate your shield, and the [Z] and [X] keys to let your fists or feet do the talking, respectively. There're other more advanced techniques, like evasive maneuvers and aerial acrobatics, which can be viewed via in-game help screens. Picking up items is as easy as walking into them, and you can use them just as easily with the attack buttons. Who knew that uproarious mayhem was so intuitive?

There's quite a bit to see; while the single player campaign mode can probably be trounced in a single sitting (with a couple of blood-boiling, endgame exceptions), it's all about the trendy character parts and gear that you unlock, which can be carried over into the deathmatch mode. It's from there that you can challenge a friend as awesome-obsessed as you are to single combat. Or, throw some AI players in there to make things interesting. Make teams, set time limits, and even account to have a magical toilet plunger appear for players to clamor over. Like I said, it's all about the awesome.

Chaos Faction 2Analysis: A lot of what this game stands for is that distilled, unadulterated, italicized awesome factor. Your personal avatar is customizable right down to their eyeballs, with dozens of parts salvaged from defeated foes. There's a trove of wacky items, ranging from boxing gloves and blowpipes to teleporter rays and localized black holes. Even a level editor is there for your meddling amusement.

The trouble is that, at times, the action can actually get a bit too hyperactive. There will be times when you're knocked off the stage and you're not entirely sure why. The melee combat, while wearing the trappings of complexity, usually seems to boil down to mashing. For a game that seems to draw a lot of inspiration from a certain source, there are oddly jarring changes made. You can jump up through platforms, but not drop down through them, which makes navigating some stages an endeavor. Items also always overpower unarmed attacks by about three to one.

That said, the raw psyche of this game isn't about creating a "balanced fighting game" where the outcome's always fair. It's clear that the heart that beats within this game is an awesome engine, constructed for the purpose of powering a game where a polar bear can throw ninja stars at a pirate with a flamethrower. The cartoony animation meshes well with the game's zany atmosphere, and there's enough level-specific music that you'll almost never need to hear a loop. Even if the controls are sometimes loose and the mechanics don't always seem to give matches to the most skilled combatants, you can't help but smile at the wacky, slapstick charm when you see those doodles in the margins. Hey, it's not your fault. Awesome is a tough emotion to hide.

Play Chaos Faction 2


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Rating: 4.6/5 (618 votes)
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KarlMonkey GO Happy 2 screenshotMonkey GO Happy 2 by Pencil Kids, the sequel to Monkey GO Happy, is the perfect way to get rid of the office blues. How can you resist a game where your only goal is to cheer up a pair of adorable monkeys?

At the beginning of each level, you're presented with a heart-breakingly depressed monkey duo and a puzzle to solve by clicking on different objects. Solving the puzzle makes the monkey happy! Then it's on to the next depressed monkeys. The 16 games are mostly straightforward, although some need you to think outside the box.

Each mini-game is bite-sized and only require a few clicks to solve. That's good, because your clicks are tracked, and at the end of the game you're ranked on how you did. They range from a Space Invaders clone to a safe-cracking game, and they're all fun, cute diversions. One had me hunting for a walkthrough, but the hints are linked from within the game, so you'll be back playing in no time.

Play all the Monkey GO Happy games:
Monkey GO Happy!Monkey GO Happy 2Monkey GO Happy 3Monkey GO Happy 4Monkey GO Happy 5Monkey GO Happy 6Monkey GO Happy MarathonMonkey GO Happy Marathon 2Monkey GO Happy Marathon 3Monkey GO Happy Marathon 4Monkey GO Happy: Mini MonkeysMonkey GO Happy: Mini Monkeys 2Monkey GO Happy: Mini Monkeys 3Monkey GO Happy: ChristmasMonkey GO Happy: The CastleMonkey GO Happy ElevatorsMonkey GO Happy Elevators 2Monkey GO Happy MayhemMonkey GO Happy AdventureMonkey GO Happy EasterMonkey GO Happy TalesMonkey GO Happy Tales 2

This is a coffee break game if I've ever seen one, and it doesn't take itself seriously. It's well-suited for kids, outside of one level that involves a BB gun and a shooting gallery. Even then, it's far from realistic. The graphics are bright and colourful and the sound effects sound like something out of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. The music's upbeat and cheerful as well, although after playing it repeatedly I began to wish for a mute button. Still, the puzzles are quick and have enough variety that you won't even notice.

It might not strain your brain, but overall Monkey GO Happy 2 is a relaxing, fun diversion that's sure to lighten your mood.

Play Monkey GO Happy 2


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Rating: 3.4/5 (34 votes)
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Karlcosmicube.jpgCosmiCube, by Patrick Richardson, is one of those 'older games with a new twist' releases that you see every once in a while. The game uses the Unity engine to render a 3-D take on Marble Madness. The marble's track is made of red cubes mounted on a larger black cube. Your goal is to get a marble from its starting point onto the goal by moving your mouse to tilt the playing field. You're aided (and hampered) by an impressive physics simulation that feels very authentic and real, all while listening to a fast-paced soundtrack that fits the action and setting well.

The difficulty of the game is that it's a very real simulation of a marble on a glass cube covered with oil. The edges of the marble's track aren't banked at all and friction isn't a factor, so it's easy to lose a marble to Newton's Third Law when you accidentally tilt the track a bit too far. The energy gained from your enthusiastic tilt often causes it to go off the edge in the other direction. Cue a deep breath and level restart.

Fortunately, you start with a lot of lives and you gain one every time you finish a level successfully. Run out of lives, however, and you have to start the entire game over from the beginning. There's a timer going that measures your entire playthrough, and although it gives you points for finishing a level quickly, there are no other penalties for taking it slow. As you get used to the controls, that's the strategy that works best. Like in most reflex-based games, however, you'll find that recklessness is your worst enemy as time and again, another marble spirals off into the void. It's not surprising that as of this writing, the main screen lists thousands of plays and 0 successful completions of CosmiCube's 25 levels.

Overall, CosmiCube is an interesting, frustrating, and yet strangely fun update to the classic Marble Madness. It'll entertain you... until you remember why "madness" was in the original's name to begin with.

Play CosmiCube

CosmiCube is also available to download for both Mac and Windows.


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Rating: 3.9/5 (67 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypAre you tired and stressed from all that room escaping? Well it's time to sooth those jittery nerves caused by all that construction and puzzle solving. Doesn't a restful day in the spa sound nice? Mind you, once you're in the locker room, it can be slightly difficult to find the pool. Okay, so you'll have to escape to get that nice relaxing soak! Welcome to Escape to the Spa by Tesshi-e. No one ever said relaxing was easy.

Escape to the SpaEscape to the Spa is a bit odd for an escape game in that you're not really escaping from or to anything (other than the usual mid-week blahs). Mostly you're just trying to find the pool, not unlike many a real spa. The action takes place in one of the nicest locker rooms ever seen. Of course, it is a spa after all, and probably an expensive one at that. All you have to do is solve several puzzles in order to get that long-delayed relaxation. Real spas, however, probably don't make their customers jump through as many hoops.

Navigation is the usual bars at the edges of the screen, and clicking on other areas or items can get you a close up. A handy "about item" button makes inventory control smooth and easy. Surprisingly, although there's some use of found objects, there is no construction to be seen. Pity there's no changing cursor, though, so be prepared for some pixel hunting.

Analysis: Tesshi-e always creates interesting escapes, whether you're trying to get a meal , or you've stumbled into an underground industrial area. Escape to the Spa is unusual for Tesshi-e; no construction or color puzzles are to be found. This is all use of found objects, pure logic, and math. A nice change.

You're in the usual Tesshi-e space: three dimensional, luxurious, with surfaces that beg to be touched. It all looks like a very upscale Japanese spa, from the fixtures to the warm wood floors and ceiling. The accompanying slow Jazz piano piece complements the game perfectly, interesting and yet soothing and relaxing, just the sort of thing to put you in the mood for a trip to the spa. And of course, it wouldn't be Tesshi-e without an alternate, "happy coin" escape.

With the positives come a few negatives. The game is in Japanese, although a few key English phrases will pop up when they are most needed. You don't need to be able to read Japanese to enjoy the game, though; everything is pure logic. Despite the lack of English, this is perhaps the most accessible of Tesshi-e's games. No color puzzles to confound the colorblind, and no construction to infuriate the mechanically inept. Just smooth music, a very Zen space, and lots of escaping logic to serve your casual gameplay needs. Get ready for a relaxing trip, complete with a nice hot soak waiting at the end.

Play Escape to the Spa


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Rating: 3.7/5 (45 votes)
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DoraLofty TowerLofty Tower, by Kornushin, is a physics/puzzle game about apparently creating precarious structures for someone with the worst standards for building safety codes I've ever seen. I'm going to go out on a limb and say you're probably not an architect. (Those of you who are architects are clearly cheaters and I'm not talking to you.) Luckily for you, you don't need any fancy degrees to win at this game; just a sharp eye and a steady hand. Those of you caught using gluesticks will be frowned on.

Your goal: use the shapes on the screen to create a stack that reaches the current level's height requirement, indicated on the right by a little blue flag. Click on a shape to pick it up and move it around, and click again to drop it. While holding one, use the [arrow] or [A] and [D] keys to rotate it. If any pieces fall off the platform you build on, you'll fail the level, and you can't grab a falling piece out of midair. Once you've reached the blue marker, your structure needs to hold for a few seconds before your success is acknowledged and you're granted access to the next level.

There's no time limit, so go slowly. Instead, your score is based on how high you manage to build your Frankenstein's tower. You can keep stacking past the required height to increase your score even further, but just remember what happened to Icarus, who built his tower of colourful shapes too tall in search of a high score, and when it toppled he had to start all over... what? Excuse me, I think I know how the legend goes, thankyouverymuch!

Lofty TowerAnalysis: In general, I tend to be more enamoured with story-centric adventure games or high-octane shoot-'em-ups, but when I do fancy a puzzle, I tend to be drawn to games that remind me of my childhood, sentimental sop that I am. Lofty Towers, with its kid-friendly, colourful presentation and simple to grasp but challenging gameplay brings to mind several older titles. All it's really missing is the "Best Friend Simulator", wherein a computer generated griefer breathes threateningly on the precarious structure during your turn while you try to protect it and shriek for an adult. (Why, how did you play Jenga?) The game is fun and nicely challenging with a variety of shapes that should be familiar to any of us Tetris oldsters and offer good building materials.

Thankfully, Lofty Tower's physics are fairly tame, and slightly bumping one piece against another does not result in the entire structure being flung violently into the sky, Team Rocket style. It's a relief to be able to shuffle pieces around and have them behave in a reliable fashion instead of being ridiculously sensitive as other physics-based games tend to do. Wait a second after placing a new shape, and your structure will usually settle unless you've done something particularly unsound. Of course, there's no "undo" button, and that, being coupled with your inability to rescue a falling shape usually means even the smallest missteps are usually disastrous, especially later on. (Most of my attempts at screenshots could probably be titled, "What now, smarty-pants?" or "This will not end well.")

Despite featuring a rather tortuously repetitive soundtrack (protip: the mute button is in the upper right corner, my MP3 brethren), the game is big, bright, cheerful, and with 30 levels, offers a nice chunk of play. While many of them require some fairly precise architecture to reach the height requirement, there are also a satisfying number of levels that leave wiggle-room for you to awkwardly jury rig your way to success, which is somehow more rewarding. It's not the flashiest game out there, nor the most complex, but sometimes all you really want to do is play with blocks.

Play Lofty Tower


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Rating: 4.7/5 (363 votes)
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DoraTiny CastleNitrome's at it again, all makin' stuff awesome and unusual and whatnot. Tiny Castle is a single-screen platformer/action title that proves it's not the size of the sword that counts, but how freakin' adorable the little pixelated knight that wields it is. You play as a tiny knight set out to rescue a tiny princess from a tiny (but evil) wizard in his deceptively simple looking tiny castle.

Move with the [arrow] keys, and tap [Z] or the [space] bar to swing your itty-bitty sword. As you move about, pay attention to thought bubbles that appear over the hero's head that will give you a clue as to what you need in certain spots. The princess hangs in a cage suspended from the ceiling, and it looks like it should be easy enough to get to her, but the castle keeps changing as you play. Just be careful of traps and monsters; slain enemies can drop gems and healing food, but too many hits and you'll be forced to restart from your last checkpoint.

Technically, Tiny Castle is a fairly straight-forward platformer set up on a Donkey Kong-esque playing field. What's unique about it is the way the castle and its guardians change the further you get; walls collapse, areas flood, monsters change shape, and more. While none of the changes are really tremendous, and unfortunately some backtracking is involved, the whole thing is a very clever little romp that shows how you can wring a whole lot of adventure out of the smallest of environments. It's never really that challenging, but it's delightful to see the way new additions to the area present different obstacles.

In fact, my biggest gripe with the game, aside from how short your sword's reach is, is how painfully slowly the knight actually walks. Okay, suits of armor are heavy, but he's not wading through molasses. It becomes especially annoying whenever you're knocked back down to the bottom of the screen and have to slowly make your way back to the top. He doesn't have to be Speedy Gonzales (he doesn't have the right face for a sombrero anyway), but just fifteen percent faster movement would have made a world of difference.

Although not perfect, and definitely not very long, Tiny Castle is a charming little adventure for the sword-swinging knight in all of us. Although, he's so small you could probably pack like twelve of him in you if you stacked them on top of one another.

Play Tiny Castle


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Rating: 4.6/5 (114 votes)
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JamesKnight EliteAfter planting his castle on what might have been the resident sacred patch of land, a knight is facing wave after wave of orcs keen to remove him from the local scenery in Ninja Kiwi's interesting defense/hack-and-slash twist Knight Elite.

Knights clearly should not be architects, not even defense-minded ones, because the first rule of a good fortress is not to give it more entrances than a mouse mansion made out of Swiss cheese. But unfortunately this knight is already past that point. Perhaps it is not his fault (maybe he inherited the place), but it is clearly now his problem and with angry barbarians beating down his homestead's six entrances, he's going to have his hands full. Good thing, then, that as any progressive monarch he has forgone the use of his serfs and instead bought a Soldier Of Fortune subscription to get a few mercenaries.

Move with [WASD] and attack with the left mouse button. Tapping [Q] or [E] will swap your ranged attack to your melee and vice-versa, while [ESC] or the [spacebar] pauses the game. Keep an eye on your surroundings, since enemies will attack not only you but your structures; if a barricade gets damaged, hurry over to it and hit [F] to repair. Have soldiers on call? Use [G] to order them to regroup.

Knight Elite is a barricade game, where you have to survive successive waves of monsters (fifty in total), bolstering your odds with better weapons, stronger fortifications and troops who fight with you. There is a touch of RPG stats that you can access as your knight levels up, opening up choices that can improve attacks, make units cheaper and so on. The aforementioned units are soldiers, archers, knights, wizards and a mean machine that looks like an aggrieved sawmill; these are trained as you upgrade your castle using loot gathered from fallen monsters and your own mine.

Got all that? Good, because the enemy is hammering on your six doors and it is time to defend yourself!

Knight EliteAnalysis: In general, bringing so many different elements under one besieged roof is a risky gamble, and in many cases it does not pay off. By failing to keep it simple, gameplay can become convoluted and stuff stops being fun. But Knight Elite, bar a few quirks and missteps, pulls off its concoction pretty well.

The only character you can control is the knight, though you can call on your men to return to the center of the castle. As the lord of the manor, you stroll around fixing barricades, ordering improvements from the game menu and playing a starring role in slapping the barbaric orcs back to their "won't bathe twice a year" lack of civilization. You do this very well: being the man in charge you have access to weapon and skill upgrades that soon turns you into a cleaver of low-powered hordes and the only hope your men has against a surplus of lumbering trolls (especially the armored variety). Theoretically you could play the entire game purely going this route: hog all the upgrades and get all the weapons for yourself, building castle upgrades purely to access your entire arsenal. The hordes cannot actually destroy anything other than the barricades and the only way to lose is to die.

But no knight is an island, so you can train a few loyal soldiers to keep the bad guys entertained while you tour the barricades. Soldiers and archers are cheap and can be churned out like rabbits on Easter, knights are costlier but worth their weight in plate armor, wizards keep a distance and inflict a lot of ranged damage while Shredders do exactly what it says on the tin (but sadly looks nothing like a Foot Clan leader). You access these through building upgrades - the latter also provides better walls, magic potions and mine improvements.

Elite Knight is very ambitious for a Flash game, so it does bulge at the seams a bit. The engine's performance is choppy on some of the machines tried - you will probably need a reasonably strong machine and a browser so clear it can see the Spanish fleet. Simply put, the game engine can use some tweaking. Likewise your units are not particularly useful other than for keeping the monsters off your back. They do their share of killing, but there are no defensive moves or allocations. You simply take advantage of the fact that there is an armed mob in your courtyard.

All that said, Knight Elite is fun, and I am not a big fan of barricade-style games. The extra diversity that comes with the RPG and Building elements are very satisfying, not to mention the satisfaction of cleaving lowly orcs out of the way as if you were making space for a hedge. With some polish and tweaks this could be a real classic.

Play Knight Elite


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Rating: 4.2/5 (192 votes)
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JoyeCover Orange Players Packjoye's journal, April 5, 2010. Fruit in the alley this morning, spikeys on its rotten skin. This player's pack is afraid of me. I've seen its true face—the acid one, not the sweet facade. The background is a sewer and the sewer is filled with an evil green glow. The spikeys will rain down from the evil laughing cloud in the sky and all the apples and oranges will look up and shout "Save us!"... and I'll whisper "Okay, but just one more level."

Aside from an optional "acid" reskin, Cover Orange: Players Pack keeps the same mechanics as its predecessors. That's because this game contains the winners of a level design contest. There were $4000 in prizes, including a $1000 prize for the top level, which is something pretty cool to think about when you're playing it. "This single level cost $1000. Wow. I had better have a really good time."

And you will, because the variety and creativity of the levels has something to challenge and delight every style of player. Using the mouse, you click to drop various objects onto the field, manipulating the things already on the field so as to place the fruit in a position where the spiky balls of death from above can't hurt it, keeping in mind that falling off the screen or being too near to a bomb when it goes off will also kill the fruit. There are levels which are about finding that perfect place to set off a chain reaction. Other levels require rapid clicking the moment the level loads. Still others require patience and timing.

With eighty levels total, there's plenty of game time here as well. That just leaves one question: who covers the coverer?

And the answer to that is, my blanket. *snuggles*

Play Cover Orange: Players Pack


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Rating: 4.4/5 (124 votes)
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DoraHetherdaleIn Hetherdale, the new point-and-click adventure from the creators of Morningstar, you guide Heather Montrose, an aspiring scholar who receives a telegram from an esteemed professor who claims to have found, deep in Africa, proof of a legendary city... a legendary city everyone believed to be the concoction of an 18th century poet and madman.

Use your mouse to play the game and interact with the environment. Click on an area and Heather will walk to it, and click on an object with a text pop-up when you move your cursor over it and Heather will interact with it. Items in your inventory can be examined by clicking on the item, then on the magnifying glass icon, or simply by clicking one item on another to combine whenever possible. Shortly after you begin, you'll also acquire a map that allows you to instantly hop to any location you've previously visited. Handy, since Heather's walking speed is fairly slow. Faster, woman! There's adventure afoot! Don't forget to save frequently by opening the menu and choosing the option.

Analysis: I don't know about you, but I'm always up for a jungle expedition. Nothing like the constant humidity and constant threat of poisonous insects and virulent diseases and infections to get the heart pumping! Mmm! The choice of 3D rendered visuals here lets Hetherdale paint some very lush environments suited to the exotic locale, but the character models aren't what one might call realistic, and as such certain scenes lose some of their intensity due to the cartoonish looks of the cast and lack of voice acting. It also makes puzzle solving more difficult than it needs to be, since items don't stand out very well.

HetherdaleWhile it stands out from the pack of other point-and-click titles due to its quality, Hetherdale just isn't quite as immediately engaging as Red Herring's previous epic, Morningstar. It's slower to start, with a lot of time given over to reading the rather copious amount of text conversations between characters. However, there's an air of mystery present throughout the game that serves to drive the story forward. The narrative is also tighter and weaves an interesting story, even if you'll probably have figured out who the bad guys are early on, or at least have your suspicions.

But where the game flounders most is with its puzzles. Some of the solutions to obstacles are, frankly, a little silly. While the most frequent obstacle you'll encounter is simply finding everything you need since items are scattered everywhere, the solutions tend to be overly complicated with unnecessary steps. Thankfully, the map's instant travel helps take a lot of the sting out of backtracking whenever you realise you've missed an item, and areas tend to be small enough that searching them isn't difficult or time consuming.

Hetherdale really feels like it would have been a fantastic game with a different design, instead of just "good". If you don't mind its relatively sedate approach to its story, and are the sort of person who typically combs all areas for items, you'll probably have an easier time of it and will enjoy the hour or so of play the game offers. A solid point-and-click game, and worth a look for any fan of the genre, and mad poets in general.

Play Hetherdale


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Mobile Monday

JohnBWhat kid hasn't had dreams of being an astronaut? Exploring space, bouncing around in low gravity, meeting aliens, piloting a super-cool rocket ship. Ok, so maybe one of those is a bit far-fetched. This week's Mobile Monday features a game that's probably the closest thing most of us will get to flying outside of our planet's atmosphere. Or meeting an alien, for that matter.

cookiecat.jpgCookieCat - Very few match-3 games get the basic mechanics "just right". Zoo Keeper is one of the rare gems that does, and now CookieCat comes along to copy that success. A bare-bones puzzle game at its core, CookieCat features just a few modes of play, all of which revolve around swapping cookies to make matches. Other than special "fire" cookies that eliminate an entire row, there are no power-ups to speak of, it's just pure match after match of combo-creating awesomeness. CookieCat Free is also available.

steamwars.jpgSteam Wars - A 3D tactical battle game with robots, missiles, more robots, and a cannon ball or two. Fight against your rival in this turn-based Worms-like game by moving around the planetoid to find strategically sound places to launch an assault. Choose one of several weapons, each consuming steam power but dealing an equal amount of damage, take aim, and let the battle begin. The controls are a bit convoluted at first, but the tutorial does a great job introducing the basics. The free Steam Wars Lite is also available.

spaceshuttle.jpgSpace Shuttle - A game/simulator that's focused on realism. Space Shuttle lets you watch or control a shuttle launch in real-time. Nothing is time compressed for convenience, you get the full 8.5 minute launch and the last 12 minutes of re-entry in a surprisingly detailed package. In launch mode, you get to kick back and watch the shuttle move through the air with full control over your viewing angle. It's a beautiful sight to behold!

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.


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Rating: 4.7/5 (27 votes)
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Mortimer Beckett and the Lost King

joyePosition available: Hero. Job Requirements: Find one (1) king and eight (8) jewels. Intrepid red-heads desiring to return to their own realities should apply within. Adventure and hidden object skills a plus. Must like mini-games.

mortimerbeckettking.jpgMortimer Beckett and the Lost King throws you right into the story, so if you haven't played the previous game Mortimer Beckett and the Time Paradox, a little background might be helpful. Without spoiling Time Paradox too much, Mortimer was trying to get home from various time periods of the real world. Instead, in Lost King, he discovers himself in another world entirely, a fantasy kingdom.

Unfortunately this kingdom is now just a -dom, because the king has vanished, leaving behind his Obviously Evil Counselor to usurp the throne. If these "good kings" are so great, why do they keep these guys around in the first place? The dude has a hook nose and a scar across his eye, that's the fantasy world equivalent of wearing a sticker that says, "HELLO! MY NAME IS EVIL VAN DER DOOM". Anyway, the only one who can save them all is Mortimer Beckett, possibly through the animal magnetism of his magnificent red hair. Look, don't ask too many questions.

If, when you're playing hidden object games, your favorite part is finding an object and then using it in a scene (sometimes called "inventory puzzles"), you're going to love Lost King, because aside from mini-games, that's the entire game. This makes it more of an adventure game in theory, but somehow it still has a hidden object feel to it, perhaps because the items you're searching for are helpfully pictured in your inventory (a definite improvement over the previous game).

mortimerbeckettking2.jpgUsing the mouse, you explore around looking for items and puzzles. For replay value, items are not located in the same place every time. When you find an item and think you know where it goes, you can click on it and click on the hotspot, for example, "Use pancake on bunny's head". You might be rewarded with a jewel fragment, or with a something else to help in your completion of an area. There are also mini-games.

Analysis: This game has some of the most gorgeously animated cut-scenes I've ever seen in a casual game. The inventory puzzles are fantastic. The use of an item is always logical, with no "use spork on little girl" randomness, but not so obvious as to feel tedious. Players will also enjoy the variety in the themes of the chapters, from high in the clouds (my personal favorite) to the depths of the sea. My only complaint about them is that I'd want them to be even longer.

I can't say the same about the mini-games, which felt more like padding than challenge. One in particular requires you to remember the locations of two cards out of fifty. You have to sit there and watch as the cards slowly, slowly, SLOWLY turn over, one by one. The hint system also doesn't work on the mini-games, and as far as I can tell there's no way to skip them. The game length, by the standard of games coming out now, is also very good: it took me about four hours.

For fans of adventurous hidden object adventure games, Mortimer Beckett and the Lost King will really hit your sweet spot, and every player will enjoy its beautifully rendered and voiced cut-scenes and romping if predictable plot. It's definitely not one to miss.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (20 votes)
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The Mystery of the Crystal Portal 2

JohnBYou didn't really think it was over, did you? The Mystery of the Crystal Portal has returned with a brand new installment: The Mystery of the Crystal Portal: Beyond the Horizon! No more cliffhanger-like endings, either, as this game picks the story up right where the original left off. Not only that, but the gameplay and high-quality visuals also return, crafting another hidden object adventure hybrid game that will be your pleasure to dive in to!

mysteryofthecrystalportal2b.jpgA short cut-scene fills you in on some of the background information in case you haven't played the original Crystal Portal game. Still searching for her father, journalist Nicole Rankwist arrives at a bridge outside a floating island to find someone named Igor waiting for her. He was sent by Madame Staff, an old woman who has some information regarding her dad's whereabouts. But first you need to find a way to fix the bridge. It can never be a simple walk through the cake-and-bunny-filled woods, can it?

The best feature to return in The Mystery of the Crystal Portal 2 is the container item system. Puzzles come in the form of objects in each location that require other items to function. One of the first puzzles, for example, tasks you to find items to put in a cauldron. A ringed menu appears around the object with individual slots for the things you need to find. Simply check out the silhouette, find what you need, and drop it on the ring. This method of hidden object gaming feels much more organic than stale lists of words and adds a wonderful touch of dynamism to the experience.

mysteryofthecrystalportal2c.jpgAnalysis: Hidden object games are becoming more and more prolific in today's casual gameosphere. Every development company is trying something different to keep things fresh, such as incorporating adventure elements into games, expanding the mini-games, or by tweaking storylines, settings, and other artistic elements. Artogon has created what is perhaps the simplest deviation of the hidden object genre with its container system (which is also found in the Treasure Seekers games). This element sets The Mystery of the Crystal Portal apart just enough for it to warrant your attention.

Of course, you can't make a game based on one gimmick alone. Well, not usually, any way. Fortunately, Crystal Portal 2 doesn't skimp on the setting, the visuals, the puzzles, or any other aspect of content. Although you may find it feels a little short at the end of the day, it's not too brief or too protracted of an experience to feel out of place.

Before the game even begins, you have the option of choosing "casual" or "normal" modes of play, the former shortening the hint delay timer and allowing you to skip mini-games at a faster pace. Even in normal mode, Crystal Portal 2 doesn't really punish you for exploring or clicking, allowing you to experience a surprisingly laid-back game even with the added challenge.

The Mystery of the Crystal Portal 2 is just as robust and impressive as its predecessor. Another hidden object game from Artogon that should not be missed!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Weekend Download

JohnBWelcome to the woooooorld of tomorrow!!!! That'd be really profound if you read it yesterday. Why isn't it profound to read things about yesterday today? I, for one, am pretty darned impressed people can remember events of days past. Things like the release of Dissipate or Jesse Venbrux's older games. Not that those were small events, mind you, just that they happened at a moment in time that is not this very moment in time...

diminish.gifDiminish (Windows, 1.4MB, free) - A sequel to Dissipate, the platformer that challenges you with a riddle before each level, Diminish continues the challenging tradition with more levels and more wickedly obtuse puzzles. When you begin each level, a "proverb" appears at the top of the screen giving you a clue on how to complete the level. Sometimes leaping into a pit of spikes is the trick, while other times you'll have to locate hidden doors, move in a certain way, or just stand still and see what happens. An excellent follow-up to a creative, original game!

theyneedtobefed.gifThey Need to be Fed (Windows, 8.2MB, free) - A slick-looking platform game created by Jesse Venbrux, author of the Karoshi series, entered into the YoYoGames "Design a HandHeld game" competition. The goal is to reach the monster at the other end and feed yourself to it. As if becoming a snack weren't motivation enough, you also have to navigate movable platforms brimming with spikes/other traps and deal with physics and gravity, too. 35 levels of increasing difficulty to enjoy!

neonite.gifNeonite (Windows, 6.3MB, free) - A nice take on the matching puzzle genre and an enjoyable game all-around, Neonite begins with a tough lesson for the player: you've been conditioned. Instead of dropping like-colors onto each other to make them disappear, Neonite asks you to drop opposites to destroy rows of bricks. See those blue blocks there? Fling the red block at them and watch then vanish. Power-ups make things all the more interesting, and the game quickly moves from a slow cerebral experience to a hectic game of quick thinking.

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 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (31 votes)
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grinnyp_littlefolkoffaery-b.jpg

GrinnypThere are a lot of casual simulation games out there, and most of them seem to take place on an island somewhere. What if you love the genre, but are getting a little tired of sand and beaches? If so, then it's time to check out Little Folk of Faery. Created by Kylotonn games, Little Folk of Faery is a gorgeous, whimsical, amusing little game that takes place at the base of an ancient tree, which itself is inside an antiques shop.

grinnyp_littlefolkoffaery_screenshot1.jpgThe story begins with the heroine going to the old abandoned curiosity shop that she inherited from her grandparents. The shop itself is dark and dingy, but she soon discovers a giant tree of all things is growing right there inside. A poor faery village exists at the base of the tree and used to be cared for by her grandparents, but since they've been gone everything has fallen into wreck and ruin. The faeries have lost most of their magic, and many have wandered from the village and become lost in the woods. The food is now scarce, the water source has disappeared, and mist encroaches from all sides, mist that contains wistful spirits. Telling their tales of woe, the wistful spirits have depressed the normally cheerful inhabitants of the village into a depressive coma which can only be cured with copious amounts of food and music.

Your job is to rehabilitate the faery realm, as well as help clean up the musty, dusty shop. You can see into the faery realm, and tell the little folk what to do by the simple expedient of picking them up and dropping them on something that looks interesting or useful. Slowly you will begin to uncover the faery elders who are trapped, along with uncovering and repairing the resources needed to return the realm to its normal state. Along the way you must also attempt to lure back the missing inhabitants of the village, in order to have enough manpower to complete the necessary tasks.

grinnyp_littlefolkoffaery_screenshot2.jpgEverything is controlled by the mouse. Pick up villagers and drop them on their appointed tasks with a click of the mouse button. You can navigate around the area in several different ways: click and drag the scenery, pick up a faery and scroll by moving to the edge of the screen, or use the handy overview map to quickly move to an area. You can click on some items to find out if they are important, others will only be identified if you "hover" a villager over them to see what they say. The menu at the bottom of the screen shows tallies of supplies as well as your villager's state of mental health. Details on tasks, collectibles, and the different types of faeries in your village can be found in a tome of faery lore. A handy slider allows the player to control the game speed, from paused to fast forward, with stages in-between. Just remember, like many casual sims, Little Folk of Faery continues to run even when the game is off, so be sure to adjust the speed accordingly if you're going to be away for very long.

The village consists of four different fantastical creatures, pixies, gnomes, dryads, and leprechauns. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses, and talents that can be exploited. Each also comes with their own charming little animal sidekick who accompanies them everywhere. Identify the areas that need to be improved and place the appropriate faery on it, and the game begins. There are places where you can train each of the folk of your village in different tasks, and many places that need uncovering, repair, or just some tender loving care. Just be careful to avoid the wistful spirits, or at least distract them with some music so that your workers can get on with their tasks. Each major accomplishment banishes more of the mist and reduces the number of wistful spirits, until the village is back at full strength and the glory of the faery realm is restored.

grinnyp_littlefolkoffaery_screenshot3.jpgAnalysis: Little Folk of Faery manages to pack both a visual punch and a variety of amusing puzzles into one gorgeous package. Whereas most casual sims tend to go for cute and cartoony, Little Folk of Faery has gone for stunning, detailed, and downright breathtaking. Gamers may spend a goodly portion of the beginning of the game just gazing in wonder at the little folk and the background scenery in which they live.

Whimsical touches are in the details. Details like the use of "big people" objects incorporated into every facet of faery life, from chairs made of buttons to a water mill made of an old coffee mill and thimbles. Everywhere you look in this world is wonder piled upon wonder, from the strange faery elders to the haunting wistful spirits, who also have their own little animal sidekicks. The music is lively and unobtrusive, but the great quality is in the incidental sounds, from the lively, incomprehensible chatter of the natives to the mournful cries of the wistful spirits, everything only enhances the experience of a Victorian watercolor brought to stunning life.

A tutorial will get you started and a helpful guide faery will help you along the way. You will also get clues from your faithful dog Ginger, who will bark to bring your attention to things that need looking at. The learning curve is smooth and easy, and the faery tome will also help with an ongoing list of all the tasks that need to be done. As you progress to the more difficult tasks, clues become fewer and fewer, inviting some creative exploration and puzzle solving to finish the game. Not that the game completely finishes, as you can keep your village running long after all the puzzles are solved.

There are a few quirks here and there. For example, the prompt to find the honey spoon stayed up for me long after the spoon has been found, repaired, and filled with honey. And the guide faery made continued attempts to draw my attention to the compass, even after it had been discovered. These are minor annoyances in what is otherwise a lavish, enjoyable escape to a world of pure imagination.

Little Folk of Faery will appeal to a wide range of people, from those who enjoy its fantastical look and feel to those who enjoy the casual sim genre as a whole. Whimsical, melancholic, gleeful, astonishing, and definitely worth a look, Little Folk of Faery is casual gameplay done right, with attention not only to every detail of the look and feel, but the gameplay dynamic as well. Get lost in the beautiful land of the faeries.

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
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Rating: 4.8/5 (247 votes)
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DoraChoice of BroadsidesFrom the creators of the wildly popular Choice of the Dragon comes Choice of Broadsides, a text-based multiple choice RPG that puts you in the shoes of the greatest naval hero of all time... you!

The game is completely text based, and is played by selecting whatever you feel is the appropriate option or response for a given situation. You may find yourself dealing with a tense battle at sea where your choices could determine whether your crew lives or dies, or deciding how to treat captives you've brought on board. Depending on the type of character you want to play, the right answer to any situation is whatever you want it to be. Certain choices are received better or worse by other characters within the narrative, but if you want to be a cold, calculating officer who only cares about yourself... be one! If you want to be the hero who saves everyone... be one! Some paths are easier than others, and danger isn't always confined to the battlefield.

Analysis: Like its spiritual predecessor, Choice of the Dragon, Broadsides offers a lot of freedom in its well written narrative. You can be male or female, hero or scoundrel, Coke or Pepsi... it all comes down to you and how your actions affect the scenarios that unfold before you. The story here is a bit drier than the previous Choice of Games title, with more thought given to how people are going to react to your choices and think of you than where to fire. Diplomacy is important, and can mean the difference between a long and successful career, or one cut bloodily short. Of course, this isn't to say you should kiss everyone's boots or try to keep everyone happy; you'll get the most rewarding experience out of Broadsides if you approach situations by thinking the way your character would honestly react, rather than by simply picking the choice you think will get you the best boost within the game. In this, the game offers a nice chunk of replay value, so you can start over again with a different set of tactics to see how your attitude changes certain scenarios.

Broadsides is also exceptionally more complex in terms of statistics. Apparently, life is simpler when you're a dragon; all you have to worry about is picking bits of armor out of your teeth. Broadsides adds a multitude of new statistics to your character that need to be kept track of to keep your advantage, and as such puzzling out the best possible choice for a situation is harder than before. Arguably, this can be a point in its favour, since it forces you to roleplay more and really think about what your character would do. It winds up offering a deeper experience because of it, but also may scare off players who preferred the jump-in-and-go approach of Choice of the Dragon.

Surprisingly deep and well written, Choice of Broadsides is an ambitious adventure with a lot of twists and turns that should provide a lot of meat for fans of text RPGs to sink their teeth into. The lack of fangs and scales this time around shouldn't be a deterrent, since Broadsides offers a wealth of interesting characters to meet and tricky situations to resolve... and it's all up to you how you do it.

Those of you with an iPhone/iPod Touch or an Android phone will be pleased to learn that Choice of Broadsides is available on both the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Android Games!

Play Choice of Broadsides


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraYou have no idea how disappointed I was that April Fool's didn't fall on a Friday this year, and I was unable to render you immobile with a devastating prank in addition to your serving of this week's package of games. In fact, I was so upset that I decided to go down to the local high school and play basketball. I'm not very good at it, but I just wanted to chill out and relax. So you can imagine how upset I was when a couple of guys who looked to be up to some mischief started making trouble in the vicinity. I got in a bit of a scuffle with them and when I told my mom she got scared and said, "You're moving in with your auntie and uncle in Bel-Air".

... I whistled for a cab and when it came near...

  • Time Sensitive MaterialsTime Sensitive Materials - Everyone has that one summer job they hated, whether it was helping Grandma shave her calluses, or walking the neighbour's incontinent Saint Bernard. For me it was the year I spent trying to transport highly explosive alien materials to a containment device in under ten seconds before I was vaporised. This twitchy platformer is super short, but that special brand of frustrating we love so much. At least, I assume this boiling sensation in the pit of my stomach is love.
  • Unreal CityUnreal City - [Parental Warning: Contains scenes that may not be suitable for young children.] Billing itself as an Alternate Reality Game, Unreal City wins a lot of points for high production values and a twist-sy, turns-sy plot, but lost out on a feature of its own when I realised that the whole "game" aspect was barely there. It's a well acted piece of work, although the dialogue is a bit too heavy-handed and prose-ish, but none of the clues you uncover or the choices you make actually affect the game except for the very last one. I, uh. I actually don't have anything witty to say about this one. Ooo... although, we do have some time before the next game for a tasteless knock-knock joke! Knock-knock!... hey, where you goin'? Awww!
  • Kaban SteeplechaseKaban Steeplechase - This is about a boar with a gun. A boar. With a gun. Boar. Gun. I just want to make sure you've grasped that deep and complex starting point before I tell you that the rest of the game is a race of sorts as you run, shoot, and stink your way to a big city to win a tournament. Because what else are you going to do if you're a boar with a gun? I mean, besides be awesome in general. The controls are a bit sticky and frustrating, which is what earned this one a noble Link Dump Mention rather than a feature, but it's still worth a look for boar fans. I know you're out there.
  • A Stitch In Time: Fishing GameA Stitch In Time: Fishing Game - Hey, adventure fans! Stop writing those angry e-mails to George R R Martin and Patrick Rothfuss for a minute and partake in some good, old fashioned point-and-click adventuring in A Stitch In Time. Then, when you're done, you can relive the glory of the 30 Second fishing minigame with this little beauty, where you try to haul in the biggest catch you can before time runs out. It's just like actual fishing, but without all the sunburns, bug bites, and crippling boredom. Hooray!
  • Bread GirlBread Girl - By now Minoto should need no introduction. Each week I keep telling myself I'm not going to include another of these bizarre little point-and-clicker'ers, but I'm so weak. I can't stand in the face of such adorable weirdness. Your goal, this time, is to help Bread Girl by dealing with dentists, angry shoppers, and some sort of... furry... clawed... thing. Then, when you're done, you can play the sequel. I can only hope Bread Girl is eventually reunited with her true love, Ciabatta Guy.
  • TremerzTremerz - If you're not familiar with the glorious source material for this avoidance game designed for Newgrounds' Kevin Baconpalooza, shame on you! We're not friends anymore. It's short, it's simple, and it's even fairly easy, but it's just the right amount of goofy, five minute fun to fit into your day. Plus, y'know. Tremors. Now go play it and don't bother talking to me again until you're properly educated in 80's-90's campy horror films. (So help me if you mention remakes... )

  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (48 votes)
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DanTheArcherGlueFO 3: Asteroid WarsAll anyone thinks UFOs are good for is abducting cows, ruining photographs, and crashing down near government facilities, but it turns out that they've got one up on us Earthlings when it comes to some good old-fashioned interstellar demolition. Do your part to clean up the galaxy with Irregular Games' latest mouse-based shooter about the stickiest spacecraft you'll ever pilot: GlueFO 3: Asteroid Wars.

The mouse controls your vehicle, an unidentified, flying, and particularly adhesive object. It'll stick right onto any tiny spheroids that happen to be floating out there in the void, and firing all your stuck orbs is as simple as a click of the mouse. You'll need the projectiles to split open asteroids for cash, as well as neutralize hostile enemy fighters who have decided that, apparently, all that empty space in the universe just isn't big enough for the both of you. Other keys activate peripheral weapons and doodads, like invincibility shields and smart bombs and the like, but the vast majority of the game lies in the mouse.

You'll flit from one sector to the next at the behest of your employer, who preambles each mission with a little flavor text that's a nice touch, but not really necessary for enjoyment of the game. The difficulty doesn't spike from the beginning, but if you've been cruising through without upgrades, you'll start to feel the burn midway through the levels. And there are upgrades aplenty, ranging from faster speed to homing shots to rotational thrusters that sound handy early on, but feel strangely superfluous the more you play.

Now, to save your game, you'll have to make a MochiGames account, but fear not! The process is stupefyingly quick and painless, as well as free, and you don't even have to use it for other things if you don't want. The game's also short enough to be played through in a single sitting, so if you're not into it, just remember not to close out that tab. Otherwise, let the space gluing commence!

Play GlueFO 3: Asteroid Wars


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Rating: 4.7/5 (73 votes)
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Babylon Sticks: Neanderville comic

A custom casual gameplay comic created exclusively for JIG by Babylon Sticks creator, James Francis. Follow Babylon Sticks on Twitter: @babylonsticks.


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (167 votes)
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KarlSpot the Difference screen 1You know, games teach us a lot of things. They teach us to kill everything we see, to ignore the rules of society and to pick off our victims from the shadows, like a strangely intelligent and rabid bat. Sometimes, I'm a bat with a sniper rifle. And that's why it's illegal for me to go outside on Halloween.

Maybe the most important thing that games teach us is to think critically and examine everything we see carefully. That's the strength of Spot the Difference, the latest offering from the dream team of Brian Mooney and Sean Hawkes. Personally, I've been following their exploits for years, ever since I first discovered One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others in high school. Needless to say, they don't disappoint with their newest game.

Spot the Difference screen 2Spot the Difference features an innovative dual-screen interface. On one side, a picture. On the other, the same picture — or is it? That conflict drives the whole game, just like the decision of whether or not to kill the Little Sisters drove Bioshock. In fact, Bioshock's influence is really obvious at times, as Spot the Difference is just as ethically complex. As the game goes on, you'll find yourself doubting your own senses, wondering if you can trust the game's reality. In fact, the only flaw I encountered was that sometimes this existentialism went a little far; often I found myself staring at the screen for hours, eventually clicking on a pixel that seemed to move before realizing that it was the reflection of my own face in my monitor.

I was particularly impressed with Hawkes' UI. The game clones your mouse pointer, so that your mouse movements are reflected in both windows. Like chess, Spot the Difference is easy to pick up and hard to master. The number of differences still in the pictures is always shown in the top left corner of the panel: later in the game, you'll find yourself clicking frantically to get all the differences before, well, you'll just have to see for yourself. The walkthrough is always available from the bottom of the screen, glowing like a reassuring pumpkin in the October night. But you won't need it after the first level, because the gameplay will grip you like a vise.

The game's story is subtle and engaging, communicated entirely through differences in the images you're given. At first, it's just a test of your perception. But after a particularly tricky river-themed level, you're contacted by Alana, your mute character's female counterpart. She, too, is trapped in a room, being forced to spot the differences between pictures — but to what sinister end? I don't want to spoil the ending, so I'll say nothing more than this: April Fools.

Play Spot the Difference


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (136 votes)
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JamesNano NinjaAvenge your master and take on the tower of death using only one finger in the epic Nano Ninja!

If you have played the suitably named One Button Bob, the concept behind Nano Ninja will be as familiar as an old set of Gi. Every stage has a specific challenge that you need to overcome by using a one-button action available for that level. For example, in the first level your mouse click throws a ninja star, perfect for dispatching the enemy character charging towards you. In the next level you have to hold the mouse button to pause before walking into laser barriers. The third level: jump over a crate of explosives. At a later stage you have to stop at the right intervals before a dropping spear uses you as shish-kebab ingredients, while in another you need to hold down the key to determine how far you can jump or wall-run to avoid flying projectiles. After running the gauntlet of levels, later using the same obstacles with more complexity, you face off against the game boss character.

The game mechanics are, at least in terms of the obstacles, nearly identical to One Button Bob, as are the consequences: you die and have to retry that specific level. The real challenge is to see how fast you can complete the tower and in the fewest number of mouse clicks possible. Apart from submitting your high score, you can also compete against the ghost character from your previous run. It's a challenge of concentration and timing, packaged with retro graphics and an air of simplicity befitting the game-play style. There is no doubt that sufficient practice will awaken the mouse-click Shinobi in you.

Play Nano Ninja

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