September 2010 Archives


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Rating: 4.4/5 (181 votes)
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ChiktionaryDeath Row DinerIt's a hard knock life, locked up in the bucket, waitin' for jug-up while the hacks are bustin' caps (read: It's really tough being locked up in jail, waiting for food while the guards are shooting people). And then there's the hard-core lunch lady to deal with! In Diner Dash style, Adult Swim's time management game, Death Row Diner, puts you in the role of a prison lunch lady and you've got a bit more to do than just serve food and clean up afterwards.

She might look like a sweet, motherly, little woman in a hair-net, hovering over steaming pots of gruel and cleaning up after the boys, but put one foot wrong and clang! clang! clang! she's dishing it out with her soup ladle. And who can blame her? She's gotta serve up the food, collect the trays, keep gang-member tensions in check, mop up the post-brawl carnage, serve up seconds and keep the Warden happy.

As in any time management Diner Dash-style game, use your mouse to click on tasks, queuing up actions by clicking ahead. Keep an eye on the prisoners' temperament bars while you fly around the lunchroom, because these guys have extremely short fuses and will break into brawls at any second. You can use your ladle to break up the fracas, but you have to get in there quickly because these guys can fight to the death. At times, you'll also be called on to feed the warden helping after helping of burgers and drumsticks, and his fuse is shorter than everyone else's. When he's about, any fighting amongst the prisoners is severely and swiftly dealt with by the guards opening fire. And you've only got three chances. Thankfully, your progress is saved.

Death Row Diner is neat on presentation, with humorous graphics and some great music. It obviously has a high level of violence and blood, so parental discretion is strongly advised. Get ready to give the boys your lunch-lady finest, and if they don't like it they can "Kiss Your Grits".

Play Death Row Diner


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Rating: 4.2/5 (70 votes)
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Babylon Sticks: Andy Flashol comic

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


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (92 votes)
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Bradbrad_notebookwars_boss.jpg I'm not a very good artist, or "drawerer" as we say in Pennsylvania. Well, the hill people say that when they come down by moonlight to snatch babies and discuss art. I can draw something that sort of looks like a helicopter, something that kind of looks like a dog, oh, and trees. I'm pretty good with trees. And pyramids. But despite my deficiencies in doodling I'll still fill up my paper's margins with them. So, I'm fond of games that co-opt that aesthetic, like the new hand drawn, top-down, vertical scrolling shoot-em-up from Francisco Ferreres, Notebook Wars.

Notebook Wars has the classic shmup plot: you're moving in one direction and some other guys are moving in the opposite direction and you won't stand for those kind of shenanigans. So, you'll use your mouse to move your ship around, hold down the left button to fire and press the [space] bar to drop one of your A-Bombs.

You'll get cash for taking down enemies. You'll need a nice stack of it for the upgrade shop if you're going to make it through all 15 levels. There's plenty of stuff to buy: five different ships, eight different kinds of weapons each with two kinds of upgrades, and even upgrades that allow you to equip extra weapons on your ship. Trust me, you'll need the firepower and, unfortunately, an eraser isn't one of the available weapons.

Analysis:brad_notebookwars_enemies.jpg The gameplay is standard for a game of this kind. There's a nice variety of enemies and bosses every three stages or so. The real fun comes in customizing your ship. Once you have a nice amount of weapons available and all three weapon slots open you have a lot of options. You can set all three slots to have the same weapon, sure, or you can create a deadly mix. A good weapons set-up can also help avoid some grinding.

For some people "grind" is a dirty word. However, I fall in the camp of those who like it, so I might not be the best judge on whether a game has too much of it. You can certainly play Notebook Wars as a grindaholic, particularly in the earlier levels when you don't have much equipment and money isn't as plentiful. However, if you upgrade wisely and play skillfully you won't have to worry about it.

There are few problems, though. For awhile your plane moves very, very slow. The enemies move pretty slow too, so it kind of balances out, but if you're looking for a fast and frenetic game this probably isn't the best choice. Also, for the first few upgrades your ship tends to be kind of chunky, making it hard to move in between enemy bullets. By the middle stages, you'll be racking up enough cash to get a sleeker ship, though.

Notebook Wars biggest source of charm is in the hand drawn art style. Most elements are very simple, such as the landscape, but others, like the enemies, have little details thrown in. The bosses are the most intricate pieces in the game and yet still complement the idea that this is all taking place in a notebook. The best touch is the most subtle. If you look closely or look at an explosion you can see the blue lines of the "paper." It's a small thing, but sometimes the little things can be just as good as the big.

Notebook Wars starts out a little slow, but it's not long before it picks up. It's a game with a lot of charm, mostly from the art style. Grind fans will enjoy beefing up their ship early and dominating other levels. Fans of a more strategic approach will like trying to optimize their ship with what they have and taking down enemies while avoiding the bullet barrages. If you're looking for a nice, relaxed and casual, cool looking, vertical scrolling shoot-em-up, it'd be hard to go wrong with Notebook Wars.

Play Notebook Wars


  • Currently 3.6/5
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Rating: 3.6/5 (58 votes)
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ChiktionaryPizza Quest 77Mmmm... root beer and pizza with extra cheese... You know you want it. So you order home delivery. Easy, right? Well, not in Pizza Quest '77, a point-and-click puzzle game from Nickelodeon. You've not only been time warped back to 1977 where there's (a) no mobile phone, (b) no internet and (c) no remote for the T.V, but you're also short of cash and not wearing any pants. And your pet iguana, Grand Toff Markin, isn't helping. Neither is Gene Simmons the Hell Cat.

In Pizza Quest '77, you've got some unusual puzzle-solving to do before accessing that mmm...melt in the mouth cheesy goodness. The goal is to overcome a series of obstacles to progress through the game, by picking up and placing items around the room, which, by the way, is your parent's basement and full of all sorts of useless stuff. You can almost smell the dust. Your inventory holds one item at a time, and working out how to use each one is the tricky part. And you thought a slinky was for mindlessly snaking down stairs? Think again.

Progression through the game is quite linear; there's a definite clicking order. This can be frustrating when you know what you need to do, but something else needs to happen before that can be achieved. And just because something can be clicked, doesn't make it useful. But hey, isn't that what point-and-clicking is all about? Eventually though, you'll work it out and hopefully before succumbing to the munchies. There is a time limit for each goal.

Colourful, photo-realistic art and some pretty groovy music combine to create a truly fabulous retro (if you're my age) experience. If you're a post-70's child, then you're about to experience a taste of life at a time when technology was only just making appearances in the home. Personally, back in the 70's I was out riding my bike and climbing trees – not hanging around my parents' basement without any pants on. Ah, the regrets of a misspent youth...

Play Pizza Quest '77


  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (90 votes)
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Joshcheat-death.jpg"Never lie, steal, cheat, or drink. But... if you must cheat, cheat death."
- Alex "Hitch" Hitchens

Let's face it: nobody lives forever. We're young, then we're not, and then we're gone. Faced with this morbid fact, many people have sought out the proverbial "Fountain of Youth" to try to stave off the inevitable and cheat death. To date, no one has been successful, but studies have shown that puzzles and mental games do help to reduce functional decline as we get older. Enter Garbuz Games, the developers who take a little bit more time from your life by presenting their latest life-seeking, brain-enhancing puzzle game, Cheat Death.

In Cheat Death, you control the fate of a pencil-sketched man on a cliff trying to get to the "elixir" on the other side before he rapidly ages and turns to dust. To help the man get to the potion, you must manipulate a series of floating Tetris-like blocks and use the mouse to click and drag them into a specific area. Once formed, the man will hike across the path, reach the elixir, regain his youth, and "cheat death" until the next level.

This type of puzzle concept has been done before, but not in quite the same way that Cheat Death presents it. The gameplay can best be described as a cross between "Rush Hour" (the sliding puzzle game, not the movie) and Tetris. Initially, dragging the pieces into their neat formations seems relatively straightforward, but soon additions spring up to make things challenging. First there are immovable blocks in the way, then a few pieces aren't allowed to leave their boundaries. Later, certain blocks need to be rotated, and then there are pieces that require you to alter their physical shape to fit properly. Every level has at least one solution and a limited time to fit all the pieces before your young man turns to dust.

Cheat-Death.jpgAnalysis: I really dig the presentation and gameplay of Cheat Death. It uses a minimalist pencil-sketch style for its character and backgrounds, and the animated wind whisps makes the game feel more alive. The short repeating music has an ominous, Eastern-European flair to it, heightening the tension and surreal quality of the puzzle and situation. The puzzles themselves are nicely ramped up, gradually introducing new pieces and challenges. I found that some of the levels require a bit of trial and error, but thankfully the time restraints (between 30 seconds and 5 minutes) don't seem to get in the way of this. Getting everything to fit just right is satisfying, and the number of levels provided are not underwhelming.

Like most casual games, Cheat Death is not without its issues. The sliding controls are not very intuitive (they sort of drag across the screen like heavy steel girders), though it's something you get used to after a while. There's also not a lot of variety to the backgrounds, and the music can get repetitive after a while. On a personal note, I would have liked some sort of story to go along with the levels — Who is the pencil-sketch guy? Why does he age so rapidly?

Regardless of these issues, Cheat Death is a fun casual puzzler that Tetris and tangram fans alike should enjoy. While you may never be able to truly find eternal youth, at least these series of mental challenges should help reduce your functional decline during your coffee break.

Update: Since the review was written, GarbuzGames has uploaded a new version that makes the game a lot more speedy to play. The lag in dragging the blocks has been removed, and the man now sprints to the "elixir"(!)

Play Cheat Death


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (197 votes)
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DoraThe DayThe latest from Gregory Weir is an odd little game called The Day, wherein you take on the role of a young girl named Tia whose birthday is either going to be just another uneventful milestone... or may change the way she looks at the world forever. Move with the [arrow] keys and interact with [X]. Part puzzle, part experimental narrative, The Day offers you two different experiences whether you obey or not. Explore, and be sure to talk to people multiple times.

I'm not going to say too much about this game for several reasons; firstly, it's very short. Depending on which path you take, you'll get a different ending, but I'd still be surprised to hear it took you longer than fifteen minutes to complete. Secondly, it's one of those games where it's best if you go into it with little preparation. You can either spend the day playing with the other children, or do exactly what Tia's father cautions you against. Unfortunately, Gregory Weir's approach with the story might have been too light, and as a result, both endings are very abrupt. There are a lot of great, subtle details if you really take your time to explore and investigate, but it feels a little short to really have the impact it intended. Once you've played the game twice, you can read the developer's notes and see if you agree with them. Is a story still a success if you have to explain it?

The Day sparked an unusually spirited discussion amidst my fellow reviewers, however, and for us, that's always a good thing. Anytime a game tries something unusual and gets people talking beyond "I do/don't like it", it's worth mentioning. One of the best things about Gregory Weir is that he's always trying something different. It's never just a platformer, or just a puzzle. There's always some new twist to it. And whether you think The Day was a success or not, you have to admire and applaud that creativity.

Play The Day


  • Currently 3.6/5
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Rating: 3.6/5 (29 votes)
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MikeBackgammon (DHTML)We've reviewed the gamut of casual online games here at Jay is Games: everything from invertible, dual-overlay, monochromatic puzzle-platformers to 3d off-road dinosaur racing bonanzas. But sometimes you want something simpler. Sometimes you just want to play one of the world's oldest board games in your browser without any fancy plugins, addons, or other third-party paraphenalia. Good news! Developer Thomas Weibel has a simple but spiffy DHTML version of Backgammon that uses nothing but what God and Cupertino put in your browser on the day it was compiled.

The game assumes you are familiar with how to play backgammon, so novices might benefit from a quick tutorial (more complete instructions may be found here). You control the white stones. The object of the game is to move all your pieces from the top-left corner of the board clockwise to the bottom-left corner, and ultimately off the board entirely, while your opponent does the same in the opposite direction. Click on the dice to roll, click on a stone to select it, and again on a game space to move it. Each die result tells you how much you can move one piece, so if you roll a five and a three, you can move one piece five spaces, and another three spaces. Or, you can move a single piece three spaces, then five spaces (or five, then three). Rolling doubles means you can move four pieces, each a number of spaces equal to the value on the die. You can't move to spaces occupied by two or more of your opponent's pieces, and a piece that occupies a space without at least another ally is vulnerable to being captured. For these reasons it's important to try to keep two or more of your pieces on a space at any time. The strategy comes from attempting to block or capture your opponent's pieces while advancing your own quickly enough to clear the board first.

The game features all you need to play backgammon, and nothing more. The visual presentation is serviceable, but this being HTML, there's no music, no sound, no animation to sully its bare-bones approach. While some additional features, like in-game instructions, or a way of highlighting available moves, would be nice, the game doesn't really need anything more than what it offers. It's a solid bit of programming, with just the occasional hiccup or bug; and while it could just be that I'm a lousy backgammon player, in my pride I'd rather conclude that the opponent AI is pretty darn sharp. Overall, Thomas Weibel's Backgammon is fun, challenging, rock-steady, and doesn't suffer from its super-simple presentation.

Play Backgammon (DHTML)


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Rating: 4.6/5 (170 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypRoom escape games are some of the best things in the world, at least I think so. However, when you've played enough of them, things start to feel a bit...well, samey, don't they? After all, how many shaky pictures have we knocked off of walls? How many left/right directions for buttons (or cranks) have we deduced from pictures/dolls/figurines, whatever? How many times have we searched for keys, screwdrivers, wrenches, or other helpful bits of hardware? Wouldn't it be nice to have an escape game with some unique and original puzzles? Well, dear readers, we do now. Welcome to Rosetta Escape by Otousan.

Rosetta EscapeRosetta Escape, in fact, has many of the usual conventions. Screwdrivers? Check. Keys? Check. Finding objects? Check. But what lies at the heart of this amusing little game are a series of unique, original, heavily color-based puzzles that infuse a breath of fresh air into the stale, standard escape. Even better, many of the puzzles are randomly generated, so they change each time you play the game.

Rosetta Escape begins in a basic, four-walled room. There's no set up (and no musical accompaniment) to let you know what's going on. You're in a room, and of course you want to get out. Move around using the arrows at the sides (or bottom) of the screen, click on things for a close up or to pick them up, and bend your mind sideways to escape this amusing little puzzle. Finding things is pretty easy, due to the wonderful changing cursor that lets you know where the hot-spots are. Solving the puzzles? Well, that might take a while. Pull up a chair and prepare to spend some time solving your way out.

Although Rosetta Escape is a Japanese game, no knowledge of the language is needed. Any letter puzzles are in English, and everything else is a complicated code of colors, tiles, symbols, and funky drawings which, if interpreted correctly, will help you get out of the stark space. Otousan (which means "father" in Japanese) has created a fun, challenging little world in which to get lost for a few minutes (or hours, depending). The only complaint is that a save feature of some sort would have been nice, especially if you get hung up and want to walk away for a while.

The backgrounds are pretty basic and somewhat cartoony, but the heart of the game is in the puzzle solving. Original, enjoyable, and in some respects different from many of the room escape games out there, Rosetta Escape is a fantastic way to while away your time in the middle of the week. I only wish my dad made escape games this good.

Play Rosetta Escape


  • Currently 3.6/5
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Rating: 3.6/5 (56 votes)
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Trickytricky_oozy_title.jpgOozy and the Tower of Wulu is a new action adventure and puzzle game from Oddity Games. Oozy is a cute lil' alien mollusk. Oozy has a dream. Oozy wants to slime the whole world. To do this, Oozy needs a magical shard; one currently held at the top floor of the Tower of Wulu. All Oozy needs to do is climb through fifty levels of a top-down maze, sliming baddies, exploding ooze, collecting lime jellies, and battling bosses all the while. Won't you help poor Oozy to realize his vision?

The [arrow] keys move Oozy around, and the [space] bar shoots some of your (generous) supply of slime. Slime has a number of uses in the game: it's useful for immobilizing baddies, chomping on it combusts ooze containing the jellies needed to reach the next level, and setting off chain reactions leads to various effects. New elements are introduced as time goes on. Running through the tutorial is probably a necessity, but the mechanics are easy to understand once demonstrated. (Also, please note that the game has no mouse support, even for clicking menu buttons. You'll need the [arrow] keys and the [space] bar to navigate the title screen.)

tricky_oozy_screen2.jpgAnalysis: There is a lot of Oozy that is familiar. The gameplay is quite reminiscent of Bomberman... and Sokoban... and Chip's Challenge... and ChuChu Rocket!... and Pengo... and Deadly Rooms of Death... and Legend of Zelda.... and The Tower of Druaga... and the Trapped series... and... Well, let's just say that there are quite a few games out there that involve the kind of grid-action that Oozy presents. (Note to Self: If I ever build an artifact-protecting-puzzle-temple, I'm going to make darn sure the guards I hire aren't limited to moving just at right angles... Those blasted player-characters will never expect it.)

This isn't necessarily a bad thing: It's not a problem for something to be formulaic if it's a formula that works, and the exploding slime is an interesting enough twist on the basic premise to make the experience worthwhile. Though Oozy is far from innovative, the controls are solid, the learning curve is appropriate and every time things seem to be getting a little tedious, a new twist is introduced. There will likely be times when you'll want to click away for a little bit (games like this with so many levels are best in small doses), but I think Oozy will grab you until the end.

Where Oozy really shines is its graphics and sound. It has an aesthetic manages to be both classically arcade and distinctly futuristic. The protagonist has a lot of personality in his movements, and the baddies he faces are just the right mix of odd, threatening, and adorable. Likewise, the music is something you will want to leave on: never before has the soundtrack for a mollusk been so appropriately chirpy and heroic.

All in all, Oozy and the Tower of Wulu is a fun romp. The fact that it seems so familiar is to its detriment, but, taken on its own merits, there's a lot to enjoy. Ooze away!

Play Oozy and the Tower of Wulu


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (129 votes)
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DoraFeignFeign: by Ian Snyder is a fairly simple game set around finding nine people in a maze that would give a cartographer nightmares. Use [WASD] to move around, and the [arrow] keys swing the camera about. Although standing still will cause the number of people (or bodies, really) you've yet to find to display, the only thing you have for a map is your own brain. Think you have a good sense of direction? Feign: will put that to the test. How? Well... it's bigger on the inside.

Despite the atmosphere, there's nothing outright frightening about Feign:. Most of the unease comes from how difficult it is to track your progress since it's impossible to judge distance. You might think you're going around in circles but find you can't figure out how to get back where you started, right before you stumble across another body. Just thinking about actually being lost somewhere like this is enough to give you chills. The downside to all this is how frustrating it can get when you need to go back, and you can't because you're spectacularly lost. Especially once the terrain swaps palettes. The only way to start again is to refresh the page, sadly. Once you've played Feign:, there's really not much reason to go back and play it again, but it's worth a look because it's so strange.

The thing about art games and myself is that you get the best reactions when they act as blank slates for people to project upon, and slates don't get any blanker than the perplexingly unsettling experience that is Feign:. It's lonely, sombre, and, depending on your mood, reflective. Does the maze symbolize something? What about the various postures of the people you find? OH EM GEE YOU GUYZ WHO IS TEH LAST BODY ELEVENTY!!! (M Night Shyamalan is going to make a movie about this, you know his is, someone stop him before he strikes again!) You're free to take as much, or as little, away from the experience as you like. But one thing's for sure; when Ian Snyder and Brother Android let their Wonder Twin Powers Activate, strange and wonderful things happen, and I hope we see even more from them in the future.

Play Feign


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The Vault

DoraLet us guess. You're new around here. You stumble in, bleary-eyed and confused, reeking of desperation from trying to ring a worthwhile result out of "good flash games" on your search engine of choice. You've stuck around because you love the daily content, but you've failed to crack open the archives. Or maybe you've been around for a while; you know the drill, you've posted a walkthrough or a helpful comment or two, and we no longer have to hide the fact that we don't know your name by awkwardly covering it with a cough when we bump into you at the water cooler. But you've still missed out on a lot, because, let's face it, six years of JIG is a lot of awesome for anyone to keep track of.

Whatever the case, welcome to our newest feature, The Vault, designed to highlight the vintage casual titles of yesteryear you may have missed or should renew your acquaintance with. Each week we'll bring you a handful of our favourite games that may be a little long in the tooth (at least as far as the attention span of the internet goes) but definitely deserve to be taken down off the shelf and enjoyed.

  • The AsylumThe Asylum - Part puzzle, part narrative, this classic from 2004 centering around traumatized toys who need your help to unravel their pasts by delving into their psyches. There are five patients who need you to figure out how to reach them, and while some of their issues may seem silly, the game is surprisingly touching in places and uses almost no dialogue at all to tell a story. It also has the distinction of being the first game I played on this site, and one of the only flash games to ever make me tear up. (No, you're a big baby! I'M TELLING.) I hadn't thought about it in a few years, but once I saw it again, I wondered how I'd ever forgotten it. Highly recommended.
  • Nanaca CrashNanaca Crash - Chances are, if you're a fan of launch games, you already know about this gem from 2005. If not, prepare to be amazed. And bewildered. Mostly... bewildered. Centering around using a bicycle driven by an exciteable teenage girl to violently slam into an unsuspecting lad and send him hurtling into the air, the goal is simply to make him fly as far as possible using power-ups and a cast of other anime characters along the way. It has nine different characters to "interact" with, and doesn't make a whole lot of sense, which means Nanaca Crash is one of those sneaky "one more time" titles that can potentially devour your entire afternoon if you let it. Don't believe us? Ask any older siblings who might happen to be casual gaming fans. Their haunted stares and twitching fingers should be answer enough.
  • The Dark RoomThe Dark Room - Friend, how's your gray matter today? Feel up to a little puzzle-solving with minimal instruction? Then might we recommend this fine title from Jonathan May? Trapped inside a small dark cube, all you have are your wits, your mouse, and the strange spots on every visible surface that seem to react to touch. If you want out, you're going to have to figure out what, exactly, you're required to do. At the time, The Dark Room seemed like an incredibly impressive achievement for its 3D-in-Flash visual style and sink-or-swim approach to gameplay... and it still does seem like one, frankly. Not only is it visually striking, it's filled with great "Woooooooow" moments of epiphany that makes this a classic example of puzzle done right with a load of style to boot.

While we welcome any comments about this new weekly feature here, we do ask that if you need any help with the individual games, please post your questions on that game's review page. Well, what are you waiting for? Get out there and rediscover some awesome!


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (164 votes)
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JoshMoxie-2Tell me friends, has your casual gaming experience lost its pep? Feeling run down? Have you felt the dull drudgery of endless Tower Defense or Canabalt offshoots? Then let me introduce you to this new and compelling casual word game! What is this lexicographic marvel, you may ask yourself? What's so compelling about it? Why should I play it today? Well friends, this game, in its neatly-packaged Flash window, is none other than Moxie 2 with a capital M, that rhymes with N, that stands for New!

Made with only the finest Flash ingredients, Moxie 2 is the browser-based sequel to Moxie, the iPhone app that was originally featured in one of our Mobile Monday articles. Moxie 2 feels like a mix of Scrabble Slam! and solitaire and has a simple premise: Create words of 3 to 6 letters from a random assortment of 64 multi-valued letters to score points. Form new words by adding or replacing letters on the board (such as using the 'S' to change 'GAME' to 'GAMES' or 'SAME'), while avoiding invalid words ("Twaddles") that make you lose points. For extra bonus points, you can try to form special "Moxie Words" based on various themes (animal, vegetable, or mineral) for the round, or you can play without Moxie Words for greater challenge.

Moxie-2Moxie 2 has several new improvements over its predecessor. Along with a more streamlined, woodcut interface, the game now supports up to 6-letter words instead of 5, 64 letters per game, and has a useful undo feature. You can also see a list of what letters are still left before placing Moxie words, as well as the list of Moxie words themselves. Perhaps the biggest inclusion, however, is the Daily Challenge feature, which starts you off with three pre-set words that change every day. The developers at Blue Ox are also planning on implementing a global high score list for Daily Challenges, like they do for the game's iPhone version.

Analysis: Despite such a simple concept, Moxie 2 has surprisingly deep gameplay for a word solitaire game, and an addictive quality to boot. At its surface, there's the fun challenge of just placing down as many letters as possible to form legal words of greater and greater length, and this is addictive enough. Getting the really high scores (and bragging rights), however, involves the calculated use of Moxie words, which earn between 100 and 500 points (versus normal words which average around 20-100). Careful players can plan for certain high-value Moxies, relying on the "Letters Left" button to see what is still possible, and this depth (encouraged by no time limit) leads to much gaming satisfaction.

Ultimately, Moxie 2 is light and refreshing, with little or no aftertaste. My one gripe is not knowing what Moxie words are best to attempt in a given situation, forcing me to flip back and forth between the Moxie Words page and the letter screen. Perhaps future iterations of Moxie could include a real-time "cheat sheet" of Moxie words, always visible based on what letters are currently on the table. Despite this, the game's satisfying quality is something fans of word games will definitely want to come back to. So what are you waiting for, friends? Try your Moxie 2 today!

Play Moxie 2


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (95 votes)
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corygalliherMy First Quantum TranslocatorEveryone's wished that they had superpowers at one time or another. Flying would be a great way to bypass the morning commute, for instance, and super strength would make household chores a piece of cake. My First Quantum Translocator, a new puzzling platformer from Cellar Door Games, blows away these mundane fantasies by gifting players with the power to control time itself! Take that, morning commute.

As a new employee at an unnamed R&D lab it's your job to test the Quantum Translocator 4300. This miraculous device allows you to "store" your position in time and return to it whenever you please. You'll use it to get through a gauntlet of tests and challenges, learning more about the mysterious lab and your handler Steve in the process.

Control your character with the [arrow] keys. Place a quantum shadow, which represents your location at a given point in time, with the [W] key, and press the [spacebar] to warp back to that shadow, maintaining any momentum in the process and killing you if you accidentally warp into a solid object. Press [F] to automatically jump and warp at the same time, performing a Tele-jump that will let you reach great heights. (The latest version of the game, which wasn't available at the time of this writing, allows the character to be controlled with the [numpad] or [arrow] keys, shadows to be placed with [Q] or [W] and Tele-jumps to be performed with [D] or [F].)

Quantum warping might seem like a simple mechanic after you've done some experimenting with it, but My First Quantum Translocator pulls out all the stops and sets up some brain-bending puzzles. You'll have to make seemingly impossible leaps, dodge murderous moving walls and avoid being smashed in any number of ways. Thankfully, you've got unlimited lives, but it almost makes you think that there's some sort of sinister undercurrent to these lab tests...

My First Quantum TranslocatorAnalysis: My First Quantum Translocator will undoubtedly draw comparisons to the award-winning Valve game Portal (or, more accurately, Portal: The Flash Version) because, well, it's basically exactly the same game with a different physics-bending gimmick. The plot and setting win no awards for originality, in other words, so it comes down to the game's unique mechanic to set it apart.

Thankfully, Cellar Door Games went all out in creating puzzles that exploit the potential of quantum warping. There's a real sense of accomplishment when one manages to solve a seemingly impossible problem through the clever use of warping, and it's this sort of positive reinforcement that gives the game its appeal. There's also a method of skipping levels that prove to be too difficult to figure out, so it's possible for anyone to finish the game.

Unfortunately, that skipping feature might see a bit too much use, as some of the puzzles are truly fiendish. The last few puzzles at the end of the game, for instance, are amazingly difficult and will probably crush some hopes and dreams by forcing players to skip them. A little restraint on the part of the developers would have been nice. Thankfully there's no complaints regarding the fundamentals such as hit detection and control; everything is nice and accurate, so none of your many deaths will feel "cheap."

Despite the unbalanced difficulty, My First Quantum Translocator is a great example of how to exploit the potential of a unique game mechanic. Instead of just opening the player's imagination to the possibilities of quantum warping, the game brings those possibilities to life. Let's hope that future games with the same theme follow its lead.

Play My First Quantum Translocator


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Rating: 4.7/5 (303 votes)
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DoraRobot Wants Ice CreamRobots. Who understands them? Apparently not kitties, since Robot jettisoned the last one into outer space. Now, Robot has set the cold, clicking mass of circuits that functions as his heart onto a new, tastier, creamier goal. That's right; Robot Wants Ice Cream, and that's an objective I can get behind. Together with Puppy, Robot will brave the dangers of a whole new world in this epic finale of the Robot Wants Series from Mike Hommel (Hamumu Software). It's a platforming adventure with power ups, baddies, missiles, and more!

Controls are the same as before, using the [arrow] keys to move around, and the various power-ups you acquire will tell you how to use them. Some special abilities require you to use special atomic energy to activate them, which can be collected from enemies and stored in batteries. In a nice change of pace, Robot can actually take three hits before being destroyed and respawning at the last encoder station you touched. If you wind up accidentally leaving Puppy behind, or if he falls off the screen, don't worry; the power of Robot's love will make Puppy magically reappear beside him shortly. At least, that's the explanation I came up with. Press [P] at any time to pause the game.

As the last game in a wildly popular series, Robot Wants Ice Cream shows a considerable amount of innovation over its predecessors, introducing all sorts of new things to ensure that you stay entertained for the duration. Not only is there a whole host of new power-ups that grant Robot new abilities and make use of your canine companion, but you'll also face-off against new baddies and bosses. The only real downside is that the enemies rarely feel as challenging as the platforming is. This is definitely the most fleshed out of the Robot games, and it keeps pulling out new things to surprise you the further you go. Robot has come a long way from his humble beginnings, and you couldn't ask for a better end to his adventures than this fun, bouncy, creative adventure. Mind you, I don't entirely agree with Robot's loyalties. Everyone knows that dogs drool and cats rule.

Play Robot Wants Ice Cream

Play the entire Robot Wants series...

Thanks to Noah, Zazazu, Meester, Plasmasheep, SherpaJack, Repairmanman and Chris for sending this one in!


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Mobile Monday

JohnBPENALTY! You have been caught pocketing frogs with the intention of carrying them beyond the borders of Ynth. Go straight to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. You lose all AP for this round. Bad player, BAD!

pocketfrogs.jpgPocket Frogs - From NimbleBit, the creator of Textropolis and other excellent iPhone games, Pocket Frogs is the next app that will steal little chunks of your time a hundred times a day for the next month. To get an idea of what Pocket Frogs is like, think We Rule plus Flower Garden plus frogs. You have a few different habitats, each capable of holding eight frogs. You can tame these frogs and then breed them, mixing the two parents' appearance to produce a unique species with its own color patterns. Then, head to the shop to buy new habitat sceneries, backgrounds, and items that speed your game along. You really won't be able to stop playing the game, as something new always appears right when you're about to call it a day, and it's so much fun to hop around lily pads and amass a collection of cute little frogs to call your own.

beyondynth.jpgBeyond Ynth - Hey, you played the extraordinary puzzle game Ynth, right? You know, the one where you control the little beetle who moves through the sludge by pushing boxes around, and that was previously recommended here? If you didn't, you're missing one of the App Store's most original and most darling puzzle games. After you rectify that misdeed, grab the sequel, Beyond Ynth. Like the title suggests, this one takes the original formula a step further, adding nicer visuals, better puzzles, some gameplay refinements, and a whole host of new levels. It's an excellent follow-up to the original game and should not be missed!

redcardrampage.jpgRed Card Rampage - This is how soccer (a.k.a. football) should be played! A 2D physics game with one goal in mind: hit the referee with the ball! Tap and move your finger on the screen to take aim, then release for the player to kick the ball. It's never a straight-shot to hit the whistle blower, so you'll have to pass the ball to teammates, work with buttons that move platforms, deal with wind, gravity, and tons of other creative obstacles. Easily one of the most entertaining and interesting physics games on the App Store, and who doesn't love watching cartoon referees get all angry and red-faced?! Penalty time!

knightfall-iphone.jpgKnightfall: Death and Taxes - Hey, that game looks familiar. Didn't we just review it a few days ago? That was the PC version, of course. This is the portable iPhone version, and it's got just about everything its big brother has, miniaturized for your bus ride to work. The gameplay is identical: you control the knight or princess who can eliminate groups of blocks by tapping the screen. Rotate the board using the arrows at the bottom of the screen, all with the ultimate goal of nabbing the key and making it to the exit. Each move you make costs AP, and once you run out, everything you do eats away at your hit points. An excellent conversion of the PC game and a great follow-up to the original browser releases.

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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Reincarnations: Uncover The Past

ChiktionaryReincarnations: Uncover the Past is the sequel to Vogat Interactive's 2009 creation Reincarnations: The Awakening. Jane's amazing gift of being able to revisit the lives she lived in the past has attracted the attention of a malevolent asylum director, and so she has been kidnapped and is being unlawfully held in the asylum. In this more recent release, Jane's only hope of escaping lies in being able to access her past lives, and it's up to you to help her find the way. To do this, point-and-click, find hidden objects and solve some artful puzzles to progress through each of Jane's past lives and eventually liberate her from the asylum.

Reincarnations: Uncover The PastUsing your mouse, you will explore a myriad of rooms in a variety of settings and solve a multitude of puzzles. Like most hidden object games, you have lists to tick off as you find items, but Reincarnations offers quite a bit more depth than usual. Some items that you collect will be stored in your inventory for later use, and more often than not, you will need to locate items to solve the puzzles that will confront you in nearly every scene of this richly detailed and intricate game.

There are two levels of difficulty; casual and challenge, the only differences being that in the more difficult level of play, there is less sparkle to indicate hotspots, slower recharge times for the hint and skip functions, and a longer mis-click penalty. There's also an option for interactive help. You will encounter a great deal of hidden object scenes, but this is nicely balanced with a fair amount of pointing and clicking, and interesting puzzles to solve.

The challenge in Reincarnations lies mostly in solving the puzzles, which are easy to grasp, being quite logical in nature, with a few that require some perseverance to solve. There are in-game Hint and Skip functions to aid you in those testing moments. Take note though that none of the puzzles can be solved through brute-force; clues need to be located first and in some cases used in conjunction with the puzzles to be solved.

Reincarnations: Uncover The PastAnalysis: Reincarnations is overflowing with stunning images, a combination of photorealistic and hand-drawn, and these are saturated with beautiful colours. You can't help but linger in each of the rooms to take in the rich detail and beautifully created ambiance of each. The story is quite simple, in terms of helping a character to escape a dilemma, but the richness of detail in the gameplay more than makes up for it.

Gameplay is sublimely smooth, with intuitive use of objects and logical puzzles, and the navigation is fairly linear and straightforward. Arrows point the way and only very occasionally are there awkward moments. You will find yourself backtracking quite a bit, but this enhances the fun of solving the puzzles and encourages players to take in the rich detail of the scenes, resulting in a more rewarding gaming experience.

There is something deliciously strange about Reincarnations. The graphics include some eerie images suggestive of death, yet the colour and music lighten the whole experience and the combinations result in an unusually charming game, which is definitely worth revisiting.

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

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

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


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Knightfall: Death and Taxes

GrimmrookFans of puzzle adventures rejoice! Knightfall: Death and Taxes, the third installment in Megadev's popular match-3/rpg hybrid series has finally arrived. When last we left our storybook couple, Knight and Princess were enjoying a quiet life in a forest cabin complete with requisite pile of riches and gold just out front. As some of our more astute readers may have already picked up on, leaving vast amounts of money and highly valuable baubles on the front lawn may pose certain security flaws.

Knightfall: Death and TaxesWhile our hero from the first two Knightfall games snoozes away, thieves come along and abscond with the riches like, well, thieves in the night. This, as I'm sure you could imagine, puts something of a damper on Knight's morning coffee when he realizes that the lovely view just outside his home is missing exactly one massive pile of gold. There's only one thing for it. Time to don the armor and drill again and head out to reclaim what is rightfully his. This time, however, Knight isn't the only one setting out for adventure as Princess has also fitted herself with armor and plans on setting out with her giant spinning fan blade of death (or, technically, a giant seed. But whirring death blade seems equally descriptive).

Gameplay remains relatively unchanged from the previous installments. Each dungeon is comprised of a series of stages where your prime objective is grabbing all the keys and making your way to the exit. This is accomplished by clicking on and destroying clusters of three or more same-colored blocks. As blocks are destroyed, whatever was resting on them, including Knight or Princess (Princess is now a playable character), will fall down. You can also rotate the board by 90 degrees in either direction by either clicking the arrows on screen or using the [arrow] keys. Each cluster will cost you one AP point, and you can destroy single or double blocks as well, but at a higher AP price. Pay close attention to your AP because once you run out, each time you remove blocks you're going to lose some health instead.

Running out of AP isn't the only way to take on damage. In each level you'll be confronted with hoards of monsters, each with its own unique attack. Usually you can attack by either landing on them from above if you're controlling Knight, or, new to this game, letting them land on you if you are playing as Princess. Keep your wits about you, though, as this doesn't always work and some monsters may take a little ingenuity to overcome. The good news is that slaying monsters yields gold which can be used in the fairy stores to buy everything from armor to rings, and experience points that allow you to increase in character level thus upping your max HP and AP.

When you're not busy crawling through dungeons you'll travel around on the overworld map where you can stop at the local pub to listen to some gossip or stay the night to rest up. You'll also come across the aforementioned fairy stores, places where you can do some odd jobs for extra cash, and event based locations where the story behind Knightfall unfolds. Like Knightfall 2, some dungeons even include bosses that will put your block destroying wits to the test. Survive long enough and just maybe you'll get to the bottom of your missing loot and this mysterious Taxman that seems to be terrorizing the land.

Knightfall: Death and TaxesAnalysis: It seems very much like the folks at Megadev took the old maxim, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," to heart. One can appreciate the temptation to upgrade, update, and change everything, but Knightfall: Death and Taxes, remains true to the formula that helped endear it to its fans and I can't express how much this is a good thing. From the gorgeous SNES era graphics to the compelling and addictive gameplay, this rendition of Knight's adventures is everything Knightfall fans could expect only so much more.

And when I mean more, I mean lots more. Completing story mode alone will put you through at least 100 stages of block breaking, monster drilling fun, and then you still have another character to play through with as well as several other modes including an endless dungeon and a survival mode where you protect a puppy.

Also, don't get scared off when I point out that Knightfall adheres to its old formula. One of the more impressive aspects of Death and Taxes is how much innovation is involved within the boundaries of the formula. Some of this comes from the introduction of Princess as a playable character. After using Knight for so long, playing Princess will really require you to alter your strategy and perspective. Most of the innovation, though, takes place in the form of the multitudes of enemies you will face and the bosses. Old favorites (or not so favorite depending on how much of a headache they gave you) like the Dragons and the Gazers return, but newbies like the Vampire not only add some variety, but also some cranium exercise to the mix; not all of the standard monsters you meet here can be killed by simply drilling down (or spinning up) on them. We also got a taste on how creative Megadev can get with the bosses in Knightfall 2, and they have taken that to a new level with boss fights that add a whole new dimension of strategy and puzzling to the mix. This is particularly refreshing as it's all too easy to make boss fights simply repetitive and long, whereas Knightfall uses the opportunity to throw new curveballs your way.

Also available for iOS:

One of my favorite aspects of this Knightfall game, though, is the many noticeable improvements that come almost directly as a result of addressing player feedback from earlier games. Map navigation (though still not perfect) is much improved, dungeons can by replayed for grinding purposes, and you can sell off items at the fairy store if you're strapped for cash. All of these improvements and more appear to be direct answers to suggestions made to the earlier games from readers such as you, and while none of these improvements is individually earthshaking, they all come together to create a package that is tight and a pleasure to play.

Knightfall: Death and TaxesWhile this is clearly the best in the series, it is in no way perfect. For instance, I would have really liked to see a little more tightness in the story-telling department. The opening cut scene, lacking any useful text, relies too much on assumptions and can be a little confusing. Further, as you travel from map to map, each section has its own little story on top of the broader arc, and sometimes it can be a trial keeping everything straight. This isn't to say that the narrative is that bad; some of the smaller plots are well told and I love Knightfall's abrupt and breezy humor, it's just that tying everything back to the main thread could have been better executed. Also, I should mention that having some non-Knightfall-like mini-games to break up the action would have done wonders. As it is, you do come across odd jobs that attempt to play this role, but whether its sheep herding or collecting gold in a sack, it's still the same match three game with slightly shifted rules. It's a step in the right direction, but a bigger step would have been appreciated.

But make no mistake, this is the ultimate Knightfall. Great gameplay, visuals, music, and characters come together in a dungeon diving, block busting romp. Whether you're a die-hard Knightfall fan, or have never played the series but love well built match-3 action, you simply don't have an excuse to avoid this game.

Play the Knightfall browser demo

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Victorian Mysteries: Woman in White

JohnBBased on Wilkie Collins' 1859 story The Woman in White, Victorian Mysteries: Woman in White is a stately and serene casual game that gets the mixture of hidden object and adventure genres just right. As you wander through the victorian mansion, collecting keys and investigating the area, you'll encounter interesting people as well as a few unusual mysteries of your own, adding a level of warm depth not seen in every hidden object game out there.

Victorian Mysteries: Woman in WhiteThe train stalls just outside of town, and Walter Hartright must continue his journey on foot. He was recently hired by Mr. Fairlie of Limmeridge House to be his daughter's art tutor. Walter makes his way on foot through the dark night to Cumberland when he encounters a strange woman on the road. She barely says three sentences when she is frightened off by an oncoming stagecoach, but Mr. Hartright can't seem to shake her from his mind.

As soon as you arrive at Limmeridge manor, the game begins. Not wanting to wake the servants, Walter decides to find his own way into the house. Mr. Fairlie is a curious sort who likes to hide keys around his home and lock doors with tricky puzzles. Very convenient for a video game setting, don't you think?

Victorian Mysteries progresses quite naturally with hidden object scenes interspersed between rooms of exploration and puzzles. You'll note a number of glowing/sparkling areas on the screen, each beckoning you to take a closer look. To gather the items needed to solve puzzles and continue through the house, you'll need to complete a few hidden object scenes (which reward you with a number of inventory items at the conclusion) as well as pick up a few objects here and there.

Inventory puzzles are the bulk of the game, but the burden of challenge is spread evenly across object finding as well as mini-game puzzle solving. The story never takes a back seat to the gameplay, and it's told with such upright interest you can't help but fall for the Woman in White mystery.

Victorian Mysteries: Woman in WhiteAnalysis: Casual games are rarely noted for their storytelling, but when you base your title on a novel so well-suited for an interactive medium, you can't go wrong. Victorian Mysteries has a great story and it tells it well, with details emerging both from the internal thoughts of Mr. Hartright and from characters you meet here and there about the mansion. Even though you're not "stranded and alone in a mysterious place", you sort of get that feeling while wandering the warm halls of the mansion, creating a wonderful tension between the main character and the world he inhabits.

Challenge-wise, Victorian Mysteries: Woman in White won't offer too much resistance. Even though all of the mini-games have a skip button and the hint timer constantly recharges, you won't have a tough time making it to the end. You can choose between "casual" and "expert" modes when you start, so if you want a little extra oomph, choose the latter and give it your all.

Victorian Mysteries: Woman in White is one of those games that rewards the player for taking his or her time and doing extra reading. While the story the game is based on isn't the most intricate piece of literature around, you can still peruse the in-game diary for more details about the people you meet, including family trees, dirty little secrets, and info on characters that aren't in the game. Background information is always a great way to inflate interest in a game's world.

With a setting so rich and a story so intriguing, you'll have a hard time not getting drawn in to Victorian Mysteries: Woman in White. The gameplay runs without a hitch alongside the story, creating a smooth experience from beginning to end.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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casual-bundle.jpgJohnBDid you miss the grand Indie Love Bundles this past week? If so, that's sad. But don't worry, we've got happiness to share! Starting this very second and lasting through October 1st, we're holding a contest! With prizes! With prizes that are Indie Love Bundles! Aren't you just the luckiest little badger at the badger prom?*

Here's how to enter. Sign in using a Casual Gameplay account below and leave a comment. But don't just leave any comment, we want to hear what kinds of things you would "bundle" together and why. You're not limited to indie games (or space, time, or logical concepts, for that matter), so go crazy and bundle some unique things and tell us why you want those bundled together. If you're feeling especially creative, create a bundle in real life or draw a picture of your bundle and share it (upload to a service like yfrog or Twitpic and drop the link in the comments)!

On October 2, we'll pick the bundles that most tickled/impressed us and dish out prizes a few days later. Tell your friends, tell your hair dresser, tell the people at the laundromat. Free indie games for the taking!

Grand prize (ten winners):

  • The Mega Summer of Love Bundle (all 12 games from both Indie Bundles: AaaaAAAaaaA!!!, And Yet It Moves, Auditorium, Aztaka, Brainpipe, Captain Forever, Cogs, Eufloria, Machinarium, Osmos, Saira, and Space Giraffe)

Here's an example bundle we came up with to show you the best way to present your creation. Remember: there are no limits to what you can bundle together or why!

The Casual Gameplay Bundle of Stripey Things

  • One zebra
  • One barber pole
  • A candy cane
  • Windmill
  • The reflexes of a flea
  • Regis Philbin
Purpose: Stripes are thinning. We'll use the collected stripes, mix them in our windmill, and produce a paste to consume. The resulting ultra-thinning goo will work so well, we'll become invisible, sneak up to Regis Philbin, and see if his hair is real after all.

A big thanks to the team at CipherPrime for organizing the Indie Bundles in the first place and for assisting us with the contest. Get your entries in before October 1, 11:59 p.m. EST (GMT-5). Now... start bundling!

* We have no idea if badgers have proms or if they are considered very lucky animals. But isn't it cute imagining a badger in a pink dress?


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Weekend Download

JohnBMore games to help your weekend be more weekend-ey than ever! The first item on the list will keep you occupied for several hours, a somewhat rare thing with games of its quality. The rest are great for short spurts or long marathons, whatever helps you get the best score!

thehive.gifThe Hive (Windows, 4.5MB, free) - An extremely compelling platform adventure game that plays like a Metroidvania with a bit more linearity. In a small, scenic town, people are mysteriously disappearing. Reporter Alex Rig is in the area, trying to find some answers, when some strange things begin to happen to him. Explore the world with standard running, jumping, and ledge hanging, and take out enemies using a few different inventory items. Collect power-ups to gain access to new areas. The story and atmosphere are surprisingly good for such a simple game, and you'll find yourself compelled to keep going after just a few seconds of playing.

timestill2.gifTimeStill 2 (Windows, 7.8MB, free) - A sequel to the original TimeStill unleashed earlier this year, TimeStill 2 brings back more of the unique visual style along with plenty of platform gaming. You control a ball that's working its way across each stage collecting floating shards. Use the [z] key to freeze time, pausing hazardous objects while they're out of the way and turning dangerous things like bullets into harmless platforms. It gets challenging after just a few levels, but just like the original, it's worth pressing forward!

cenfinity.gifCenfinity (Windows, 7.5MB, free) - A shmup of the "see how long you can survive" variety, Cenfinity is a little different because it takes place in a circle. Your ship can move forwards or backwards, fire its weapon (not much of a shooter otherwise, is it?), and increase or decrease the circular path's radius. Enemies flow in from the side, you take them out, and stay alive for as long as you can. See how many foes you can vanquish before the inevitable 'game over' arrives!

mythofsisyphus.jpgThe Myth of Sisyphus (Mac/Windows, 9MB, free) - It's just cool that this "game" exists. Sisyphus is a king punished by having the constant desire to roll a boulder up a hill. Once it reaches the top, he has to watch it roll back down. The process repeats throughout eternity. As you can guess, this game is just like that, and it presents an interesting sort of commentary on what it means to be a gamer. Or, it doesn't. It's entirely up to you how much you think about the experience. Either way, you get to push a rock in 3D.

Note: All games have been confirmed to run under Windows 7 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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Heroes of Kalevala

JohnBMythPeople returns with another gorgeous puzzle game that bends the rules at all the right places. Heroes of Kalevala is a match-3 puzzle game infused with a village building sim. This means you get to swap tiles in a MythPeople's traditionally dramatic manner and earn gold to build a city with. As you play, you unlock new buildings for your town and discover new power-ups, creating that "just one more level" feeling we love in our casual games!

Heroes of KalevalaFor the uninitiated, the Kalevala is an epic poem and is one of the most significant works of Finnish literature. It begins with the Finnish creation myth and follows several characters and deities through the trials of life. Pieces of the Heroes of Kalevala story were inspired by this epic poem, and as you begin, a drought is plaguing the land and you are sent out to build a new world for your people to inhabit.

The crux of Heroes of Kalavala's gameplay pivots around the match-3 board which functions just like any other tile-swapper. Click and drag pieces to move them, the goal being to make matches of three or more to remove pale-colored tiles from the grid. Once the board is blue, you move on to the next level. A crow circles the perimeter of the playing field, burning the border and snatching gems that line the tiles. If the crow completes its journey, you must repeat the level, so swap as fast as you can!

The matching element is spiced up in MythPeople's typical manner by introducing some epic power-ups. In this case, keeping with the Kalevala theme, you earn the help of mythical Finnish heroes who will unleash their powers when you match their tiles on the screen. Each ability is different, and you can only use one hero at a time, adding a bit of strategy to your choices. Locked tiles, ice blocks, and stones also stand in your way, each of which needs to be dealt with by making matches nearby. You'll also discover bombs by pairing up four or more gems in a match, creating quite a bit of dynamism on the screen.

But the puzzle game is only the beginning. You earn cash for your performance in each level, and this money goes towards a great cause: buying things for your village. New structures for housing people, items to keep everyone happy, practical upgrades to make sure the villagers survive, and a few just-for-fun pieces can all be purchased at the store and placed wherever you like on the screen. The village serves as a backdrop for each match-3 level, and you can rearrange objects at your leisure, which is much more entertaining than it should be.

Heroes of KalevalaAnalysis: MythPeople has impressed me many times in the past with its style of games. Each release, from Miriel the Magical Merchant to Dragon Portals and Azkend, utilizes a familiar formula to its best, then changes the rules just slightly and adds a few extras to make it more entertaining. You never have a hard time learning to play these games, as they manage to hook you right from the start, and there's always enough content and originality to keep you running from beginning to end.

It's also impossible to discuss a MythPeople game without saying a few words about how gorgeous it is. Heroes of Kalevala won't stun you with its beauty like some games, but the crisp tile pieces and detailed animations will catch your eye, and some of the hero effects are especially fun to watch.

Also available for iOS:

Don't expect an easy time with Heroes of Kalevala. The difficulty becomes apparent after only a dozen levels or so, with so many obstacles blocking the falling tiles' path and that cursed crow circling at such a speed. Choosing the right hero for each level is important, as each god has a unique power that works better on some level shapes and layouts. In the end, however, it all comes down to your match-3 skills. Hope they're up to par!

Heroes of Kalevala is a great blend of puzzle game matching and simulation gaming that sticks strongly to the former while adding the latter as a side bonus. If you can handle the increased difficulty, you won't have a hard time enjoying every minute of this game.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (86 votes)
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DoraRune HuntIn Rune Hunt, a creepy retro exploration game with puzzle elements, you play a young boy who descends into a series of dark caverns in search of your father, who believes himself to be on the verge of a great discovery when he finds a massive door inscribed with runes deep beneath the earth. You're unarmed, alone, and all you have is the occasional flickering flame or eerie glow of cold crystals to light your path. What could possibly go wrong? Well, you know, except for everything. Geez, doesn't anybody watch bad '80s horror movies anymore?

You move around with the [arrow] keys, and interact with things by hitting the [space] bar when a question mark appears over the protagonist's head. Most of the gameplay is simply accomplished by exploring... easier said than done considering how dark it is. As you search the caverns, you'll come across runes that will not only help you open various doors and activate various... things, for lack of a better word to avoid spoilers. Most doors will only open once you've gathered a certain number of runes, so you'll have to keep your eyes peeled for their tell-tale gleam in the shadows... as well as any other things that may be looking back at you.

While green crystals give off their own glow, blue crystals only light up when you get close enough to them. Why is this important? Because light is the only thing that keeps the creatures lurking in the dark at bay. Because you can't defend yourself, you really don't want to get caught in the shadows, so it's important to learn how to take advantage of light sources... and crystals aren't the only ones you'll come across in the game. You can't manually save the game, but if you close the game window and come back to it later, you can choose to continue from the starting point of the last room you entered. Ditto if anything... unfortunate... were to happen to you.

Rune HuntAnalysis: Rune Hunter is a little slow. I don't mean slow as in the protagonist is slow moving, although there's that, too. But the whole thing takes so long to build any sort of momentum that players looking for instant gratification may dismiss it after five minutes. Which would be a shame, because Rune Hunt manages to inject a lot of atmosphere and mystery into its tiny pixel package that makes for a lot of rewarding exploration. There's a sinking sense of dread the deeper you go that you wouldn't expect to find in a game that looks like it was plucked straight out of the NES-era. The game makes great use of light and sound to give itself some wonderful ambiance.

There are a few plot points that require you to be somewhere else for them to happen, but because the game doesn't really tell you to just bugger off and explore, you might wind up hanging around certain areas tapping your foot and wondering why nothing is happening. You might end up wishing for a bit more variation, however, the longer you play. The game can go from "Ooooh" to "RRRRRR!" due to the lack of any sort of map (even one the protagonist could make himself) if you get lost or don't know where to go next, especially when the story moves so slowly. Likewise, once the moving light sources are introduced, the puzzles require a bit more patience, a bit more action, and can be a little frustrating.

Still, Rune Hunt is a creepy, fun, clever take on the puzzle genre. While it does have its issues, and I wished for a more present story, I enjoyed it a lot, and look forward to more from the mind behind it. So throw on your adventure boots, because we're about to go exploring in the deepest, darkest, most monster infested-est pit of the earth we can find. Come on; what's the worst that could happen?

Play Rune Hunt


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Rating: 4.2/5 (327 votes)
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Bloons 2

BradIf there's one thing that flash games have taught us, it's that monkeys hate balloons. Bloons 2 continues to reinforce this, wait...Bloons 2? Hasn't this already come out? Let's see... so far in the Bloons series we've seen five player packs, two sequels, but none of them called Bloons 2, four tower defense games, a match-3 game, a side-scrolling shoot-'em-up and a ton of other iterations, but not Bloons 2. If the Grand Theft Auto games can get crazy with their numbering, certainly Bloons can, too. You can do whatever you want when your original game has been played over a billion times. Yup, billion, with a 'b.' We're talking one thousand millions. So, three years and two fat fistfuls of related games later, how does Ninja Kiwi make Bloons 2 stand out?

brad_bloons2_1stlvl.jpgWell, first they don't try to fix what's not broken. You're still a monkey who is bent on popping balloons (here to for referred to as "bloons") and you'll still do that by using your mouse. Aim your dart where you want it to go, then hold down your left mouse button. An arrow representing the power of your shot will grow, then shrink, then grow again and so on until you get the right amount of oomph you want, then release the mouse button and watch her fly. It's a simple system that anyone can grasp and helps suck players in. It doesn't hurt that popping balloons is so darn gratifying.

But what's new? Well, longtime players will notice a bunch of new bloons on this go round, along with the return of some familiar ones. This time you'll get to call in planes and guide bees to aid you in your bloon popping. Watch out, because not all the new bloons are helpful. Keep an eye out for the bloom bloons. Once you pop it, one bloon becomes seven. Then there's the camo bloons which have the habit of hiding from you.

The graphics have been given some polish. Your monkey looks cleaner and cuter. The sound has also been pumped up. Each area has it's own music and whether you like them will depend on personal preference. No matter what the variety and effort is nice and I think everyone can dig on the jaunty world map music.

Hm? World map? Areas? Oh, that's right. Bloons 2 is split up into different areas, each with it's own theme, both in terms of the general look of the levels and in the challenges they present. There are eight areas, each with 12 levels. They're all connected by a very nice looking world map. There are even rewards for clearing an area, after each one you'll be given a level destroying super monkey and an item that shows you how to clear the level.

brad_bloons2_plane.jpgAnalysis: It's hard to screw up a winning formula like Bloons, so it's no surprise that Bloons 2 is a great game. If you were a fan of the previous Bloons games everything you liked before returns and in bigger amounts. If you're new to the series the game does a pretty good job of getting you used to the swing of the Bloons thing without any previous training needed.

The level design is as clever as ever. The two hallmarks of Bloons level design are in full force. The easier Rube goldberg-esque levels that are mostly just there to give you something neat to watch are especially cool this time around thanks to all the new bloons. On the flip side, the challenging levels are plentiful and they become very tricky in later levels. In fact, Bloons 2 might get too hard in the later levels, some of which are sure to induce vicious bouts of hair pulling and head banging. It's hard to say if the difficulty of the levels is a good or bad thing. On the one hand, after 60 levels, shouldn't a game become noticeably more difficult and won't fans of the series want to put their skills to the test? On the other, rage quitting doesn't make people think fondly of a game and it's discouraging when you're cruising along and then suddenly you run headlong into a seemingly impassable roadblock. Each player may react differently to the challenge and thankfully the level clearing and solving rewards can help you get you off a particularly harsh level if you want to.

All of the new additions are a lot of fun. Most of the new bloons will keep you on your toes, you'll have to actually take control of them to get your popping done. The controls for the bees and, to a lesser extent, the planes could use a little tweaking, but as it is they're pretty good. The new bloons you don't control, like the anti-gravity bloons, add a little twist to the gameplay. Naturally, the enemy bloons aren't as much fun and there's not as many of them, but they still add to the challenge. The super monkeys and solution showing rewards are a very helpful addition. Though, it gets a little frustrating when you find yourself without them and you wished you would've saved them. This is made worse when you accidentally click their buttons and you're sent to the Mochi Store, it feels like the game is rubbing it in your face just a little. Still, they'll help you out a lot and you'll be glad for their inclusion.

Bloons 2 continues the high standard of quality the series has established. It looks and sounds good, there's a lot of fun new stuff to experiment with and those who want a challenge will definitely find it here. In the later levels, you'll probably find yourself getting pretty frustrated, especially for the levels that leave no room for error, but it feels like an accomplishment when you finally figure it out. If you're a fan of puzzle games or just the Bloons series in general, you're in for a real treat.

Play Bloons 2


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraYou know, friend, we love you, but we think you're getting soft. We're too good to you. Too many physics puzzles, nonsensical minigames, pterodactyls... well, we're just saying we think you could do with some toughening up. That's why there's a land mine in this week's Link Dump Friday. A perfect little package of jump scares and shrieks in amidst all the cute pixelated kittens, grinning hungry balls, stoneage inventors, and smooshy fairytale critters. Some people say variety is the spice of life. We tend to agree.

  • iZZiiZZi - They say there's no such thing as a free meal, but don't tell that to these smiling critters. The goal is to shoot the iZZi at the blocks that match its colour so it can devour everything onscreen. It's a little slow paced, but it is cute as a button. Provided your buttons have eyes. And mouths. And tend to swallow massive amounts of coloured bricks. And... you know, who came up with that saying anyway?!
  • StonepunkStonepunk - The goal is simple. Upgrade your prehistoric invention with all manner of wildlife and twigs to fly as far to the right as you can. If there's one thing I hate more than Mondays, it's trends. So let me just say that while all you suckers are out there gluing cogs to your boots and painting your belts copper, me and this little launch game are starting a new, way-cool way of nerd life and you're not invited. We tried stone top-hats and stone monocles, but those didn't work out so well.
  • Neco TouchNeco Touch - This is... you know what, I don't even know. It appears to be a cute arcade game about touching kittens, but sometimes you end up sticking your finger in a pig. Or... something. Look, ours is not to question why. That way lies madness and despair where the internet is concerned. At least it's cute, colourful, and will make you grin. Wouldn't you love to be a contestant on this gameshow?
  • Dreamgate EscapeDreamgate Escape - [Parental Warning: Not suitable for children.] People have said they like it when we include escape games in their Link Dump Friday brew. When I think of these people, I tend to think of sweet, gentle, well-meaning souls of come to us for morning comfort and entertainment while drinking heavily creamed coffee out of ceramic kitten mugs. (In other words, kindred spirits.) Well, allow me to alienate all of you by including one that is short but superbly freaky. The goal is to escape (naturally) from the strange, surreal nightmare world you find yourself in, and although it may look a little cheesy, you'll quickly discover that this game has mastered the art of the jump scare.
  • Jabberwocky, The Shepherd of SlimesJabberwocky, The Shepherd of Slimes - They never told me the Jabberwocky was so squishy and cuddly! Kind of makes you wonder why Alice was making all that fuss, doesn't it? This physics/puzzle about the titular character trying to guide a herd of dumb-as-dirt slimes to safety in each level is extremely cute, but a little heavy on trial-and-error. Kind of makes you wonder where all the slimes are going, doesn't it? Do you think this is where gummi worms come from?

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Rating: 4.2/5 (77 votes)
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BradGarden Gnome CarnageYou know, in every movie, book or song where someone doesn't like Christmas they always change by the end. Their heart grows a couple sizes and they send a child to buy ridiculously large turkeys. Heck, even mean Mr. Potter becomes the compassionate and beloved president Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the end of "It's A Wonderful Life." At least, I think that's what happened... I have a poor attention span and an even worse grasp of history...

My point is it's high time things got shaken up and Garden Gnome Carnage, a retro arcade defense title from Ludosity Interactive and Remar Games, delivers that shock to the status quo. You control the Christmas hating gnome who is doing his best to stop an army of Santas, elves and presents from spreading cheer. Your gnome achieves this by putting a brick apartment building on wheels, attaching a rope to the chimney and whirling yourself around like a... like a gnome attached to a chimney.

You'll move the building back and forth with the [arrow] keys, and this'll also help guide your spinning gnome, who can take down enemies by colliding with them. Hit the [spacebar] to grab a brick from the building, then hit it again to throw it. If you get overwhelmed, give the [shift] key a tap to call in an air strike.

Garden Gnome Carnage starts out slow, but the chaos ramps up quickly. It won't be long until the sky will be filled with flying sleighs and there's a horde of elves climbing up your buildings walls. The only goal is to see how long you can survive. It does get old after awhile, but for quite a long time you'll be engrossed in trying to hit things with your gnome.

Garden Gnome CarnageAnalysis: As shallow as the game may seem on the surface, there's quite a bit that's not immediately apparent. The instructions are very sparsely supplied over two screens, but there's a lot you're not told. For instance, if you hold the down [arrow] all the bricks will explode off your building in an attack similar to an air strike, or that when you fill up the whopee! meter and hit [shift] you're taken to a quick mini-game where you can grab gold to add to your score. You can find some of this information on the pause screen. This strange quirk is a little annoying, but it is kind of fun when something unexpected happens.

Garden Gnome Carnage's graphics have a nice retro look to them. There's nothing particularly impressive about them, but they compliment the simplicity of the game. The music is kind of repetitive, but it has a great '80s synth vibe to it that's funky enough to keep it from getting old too fast. It's too bad that the sound effects get pretty annoying. It's not so bad at the start when it's mostly just the soft chimp-like cries of the elves, but it doesn't take long to get annoying That's not to say that the sound effects are poorly done, they just become a little oppressive.

Garden Gnome Carnage is a fun, simple game that lives up to its name. It's not a game that'll keep you involved for days, but it can get addicting and intense. When the game starts to flag, you'll run into something you weren't told about like getting reinforcements in the form over another spinning gnome. Without any apparent way to win there's not much to keep you going after awhile, but until then you'll have a great time smashing elves in the name of destroying Christmas cheer.

Play Garden Gnome Carnage


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Rating: 3.6/5 (55 votes)
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ChiktionarySaunavihta VortexThe autumnal showers begin, the air grows cooler, and the seasonal search for warmth and comfort begins once again. Just like our little Saunavihta Vortex fella. He is so vulnerable to the cold, that his little life depends upon making it into his sauna where he can escape life's chills. After Saunavihta and Saunavihta Yetis, Olle Lundahl and Niklas Strom (TalonFC) have created Saunavihta Vortex, another physics puzzle game where your goal is to click away the white shapes and send your little fella tumbling into a nice, warm furnace...er,um...sauna.

The puzzles in Saunavihta Vortex appear deceptively tricky, but in fact, they are a little easier than the first two games, with a couple of exceptions which will have you replaying levels just to get the timing right. But here you will find no yetis, or combi vans with plough-fronts; in this version there are vortexes. These vortexes act like wormholes, pinging your little fella around the screen each time you enter one.

Use your mouse to remove white shapes and send your little fella on his way. At the start of each level, you catch a brief glimpse of the whole screen, but it's short-lived and you soon realise that it's far better to send your character plummeting into the cold rather than leaving him stranded on a platform. Retrying a level, after falling into the cold, gives you another glimpse of the whole screen, where simply restarting takes you straight back to the start point...just a wee bit frustrating. This is where a scroll mechanism, to check out the whole screen would be really handy.

The graphics, music and concept are pretty much akin to the previous Saunavihta's. However this one is edgier and a little more creepy. If you've played any other version, you can pretty much expect more of the same, but the introduction of vortexes certainly presents a challenge. And Olle and Niklas have created a distinctly unusual puzzle game that will warm you to the core with its smokey, crackling fire effects, mostly easy puzzles and the satisfaction of seeing your little guy reach his smokey sauna.

Play Saunavihta Vortex


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Rating: 3.5/5 (36 votes)
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JoshEbul.jpgDon't you hate it when your day gets ruined by floating block platforms? If you're a crocodile-pilot named Ebul whose airplane crashed on account of one, you certainly do. After a collision and spectacular fall, Ebul finds himself stranded on a pixely, block-like world with a broken airplane. There's nothing to do but to search for various objects to try to fix his plane and continue on his side-scrolling journey.

But wait, this is no ordinary pixely, block-like world. The same blocks that caused Ebul's misfortune can be brought to life and made to bridge gaps, attack enemies, or get from point A to point B. Thus begins "Ebul", Benedikt Hummel's platform adventure and recent entry in the "Sandbox" 8th Casual Gameplay Design Competition.

You control the titular character (and his birdpal sidekick) with the keyboard while you click various onscreen blocks with the mouse. Some blocks disappear when clicked, while others grow legs or eyeglasses and can be moved around with the keyboard and repositioned anywhere on screen. This allows you to access otherwise unreachable areas in your quest to find critical items to repair your plane, such as plungers, hats, and floating cow udders. Later levels introduce the bad guys — an assortment of mean-looking blocks and wedges hell bent on Ebul's destruction. Some can be dispatched with blocks, while others are unstoppable and must be avoided at all costs.

Ebul.jpgAnalysis: Ebul's challenge mostly comes from figuring out which blocks to activate and where to place them to your hero's advantage. Most levels give you plenty of time to sort this out, while others require you to think and move fast with the keyboard and mouse to avoid your fate as a squashed or chewed-up crocodile. The rest of the game involves nimble keyboard presses to get Ebul moving and jumping properly. Failure may happen often, but fortunately each level can be reattempted without too much trouble (with the programmer's assurance that "It's okay!").

I enjoyed playing Ebul even though I felt it could have been presented with a little more polish. The whole game (about two dozen levels) has a minimalist feel to it, from the music and sound effects to the frugal use of animation. Everything seems to follow this cutesy and pseudo-retro approach, which works on the whole, but I still felt something was missing. A more interesting boss battle at the end and a better variety of music throughout would have helped.

Regardless, a "sandbox" platformer is an interesting approach to the genre, and in Ebul, the result is a fun and unusual gameplay experience. Give it a try and see if you can get your crocodile flying again.

Play Ebul


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Rating: 4.8/5 (97 votes)
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Babylon Sticks: Hit the Courts comic

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

Game Design Competition #9EA 2DCasual Gameplay

Announcing Casual Gameplay Design Competition #9!!

We are teaming up with our friends at Electronic Arts' EA2D studio to bring you another exciting casual gameplay design competition!

Mission
Design a browser game that incorporates the theme (see below). Since you will have just 2 months to complete your design, simple ideas are probably the best way to go. You may use any browser-based technology platform you are comfortable with (Flash, Unity, Javascript/HTML5, etc.). If we can embed your finished game file on our competition page, you may use that platform to design and develop your game.

CGDC9 Theme: FriendsFor the 9th Casual Gameplay Design Competition, we are calling for entries designed to incorporate this theme: FRIENDS. You are free to interpret that any way you choose; however, judging will include an evaluation of how well the theme is represented in your game, so we ask that you submit an explanation of how the theme inspired you to create your game when you submit your entry. Use your imagination and be creative. We will select the best entries submitted to represent the competition just like we have done before. Impress Electronic Arts and us with your game design and production skills.

The Prizes

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

Deadline
The deadline for entries is
Monday, November 15, 2010 at 11:59PM (GMT-5:00).

So, start the brainstorming and get ready to wow us!

Casual Gameplay Design Competition #9Friends of Jayisgames: Please help spread word of this competition by Tweeting this announcement, sharing on Facebook, or by posting a note along with a link to this entry on your blog or website. Feel free to use this banner to link back to us. We need your support!! Thank you.


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


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Rating: 4.1/5 (94 votes)
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corygallihercoryg_heartofice_title.pngSummer has given way to fall, and before long winter will be here, bringing with it snow, hail and delicious hot chocolate. While the pressure-suited protagonist of Heart of Ice, an action adventure platformer from Eddy Larkin, might be facing similarly cold conditions, he has no time to be concerned with sugary beverages. The Watcher lurks somewhere within, watching like the creeper he is, and it's our hero's job to take him out.

Help the hero accomplish his mission by controlling him using the [WASD] or [arrow] keys, and some parts of the game also use the mouse. Move with [A] and [D] or [left] and [right], [W] or [up] jumps, and [S] or [down] attacks with a three-strike combo. Jumping on enemies is ineffective, so it's important to get used to using your weapons early on.

You have a health bar at the bottom of the screen that decreases when you're struck by enemies. It can be restored by collecting health kits strewn throughout the caverns, though these are fairly uncommon and most of your healing will be done through continuing after being killed. While you can regenerate health over time as well, this is such a slow process that it's almost negligible so you shouldn't rely on it.

As you progress through the game, you'll run into three bosses, including a homicidal pirate and a psychotic psychic. These battles are the high point of the game by far, each requiring you to adapt to a new strategy. You can also search for several hidden items throughout the game in order to unlock an additional fight against a secret boss. All in all, Heart of Ice is slightly longer than your average flash game. Expect around 45 minutes to an hour of gameplay for your average player.

coryg_heartofice_screen2.pngAnalysis: Heart of Ice is one of those games that really nails the fundamentals of what makes a game enjoyable. It's visually and aurally appealing, the boss fights keep the experience varied enough that it remains enjoyable throughout and there's enough secrets to keep you searching. Larkin has said that he's spent a year and a half on this game, and it shows.

Heart of Ice features a gorgeous graphical style that looks like something out of a hand-drawn cartoon. It also has some memorable music and passable voice acting and sound effects. The main complaint here is the lack of effective sound effects in certain places. Attacking produces a very subtle noise, while the hero doesn't appear to make any sound at all when he's hit, which can be a pain during heated battles.

The only low point is the slightly unbalanced difficulty. The majority of the game is fairly easy, but every so often there's a nasty difficulty spike. Certain parts of the final battle, in particular, are remarkably frustrating and may turn some players off.

The relative scarcity of health contributes to this as well. As there aren't really any penalties for dying other than restarting that section (unless you're going for achievements) it's usually best to just let yourself be killed if you enter a boss battle or difficult area with less than full health. As mentioned, the game claims that you regenerate health over time and that this is affected by body heat, but in practice this never seems to be useful at all.

Despite these relatively minor quibbles, Heart of Ice is an excellent adventure that will leave you wanting more. The top notch presentation would lend itself well to a downloadable release, and with some tweaking the gameplay could be just about perfect. Sit down with a nice mug of hot chocolate and give it a try.

Play Heart of Ice


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Rating: 3.5/5 (51 votes)
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TrickyBits and PiecesThe first thing I noticed when playing Bits and Pieces, David Lorentz's new platform game, was what a crazy good jumper its pixelated protagonist is. I mean, yeah, most platform heroes wouldn't make it through screen one if they couldn't jump five times their own height, but this dude easily launches himself off like a bottle rocket at the slightest provocation. Good thing though, as making it to the artistically confusing finish will require quite a bit of hopping and/or bopping. And it's a load of fun.

Arrow keys move you left and right, and [X] makes you jump (something you'll be doing quite a bit.) Running into enemies depletes your health, but jumping on enough of them or grabbing a power-up give you energy to perform special moves. The controls are standard, the world you move in isn't. Interestingly, the power bar is represented by "Glutamate," literally Brain Power, and losing health seems to revert you to earlier stages of evolution.

Analysis: Games based around jumping have sort of a bad reputation. Certainly it's an action that's hard to replicate in the 3-D environments of most modern games, but even in two dimensions, even the slightest bit of lag or unresponsiveness of the controls can be a real killjoy. Fortunately the programming is up to the challenge. True, the hovering mechanic is hit and miss, and it sometimes got frustrating when I jumped off the top of the screen. However it's the kind of frustrating that makes want to try again until you succeed.

Bits and PiecesAs for the plot... Bits and Pieces is open to interpretation, and my own tends to be a bit more navel-gazey than most. However, I personally took it to serve as an intriguing comparison between the "kill or be killed" mechanics of simpler arcade games and the amorality of the animal kingdom. Why do lions hunt gazelles? If they didn't, they wouldn't survive. Why do gamers shoot down Space Invaders? If we don't, we lose a life. Certainly more complex games give more complex motivations (i.e. Why is that plumber climbing those girders and jumping over those barrels? Because he wants to rescue his girlfriend from the ape that has kidnapped her), but in simple games like Bits and Pieces, literally everything that I input is purely for the survival of my little avatar. I "kill" dozens of creatures as they try to "kill" me, but there's nothing personal about it. It's just that if I didn't do it, my character wouldn't survive.

Do games like this reveal the animalistic side of the arcade? As goofy as it seems on the surface, it's hard to deny something primal in the sensation of "fun." And certainly, while I personally may be reading too much into it (as I said I tend to do that), it doesn't hurt that "fun" is a sensation that Bits and Pieces certainly evokes.

The main flaw of Bits and Pieces is that it does try to do too much in too little space, and as such, parts of it don't particularly mesh. Fans of hop and bop gameplay may find the artistic elements intrusive, fans of more arty games may find the platforming frustrating, and the game may be too short to leave either group completely satisfied (especially with such an abrupt ending). Saying you'll be left wanting more is definitely a double edged sword.

While Bits and Pieces is a short experience, it is also a sweet one, and it has a surprising bit of depth. It's certainly worth a little bit of your time and a piece of your mind.

Play Bits and Pieces


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Rating: 4.2/5 (121 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypEscaping a locked room is a fabulous thing, or at least we think so here at Weekday Escape. Sometimes, though, it can be fun to play an escape game that is not actually an escape. Camel Eye, by HILG, is one of those games, a wacky crime caper in which you play Camel Eye, famous thief, attempting to relieve some rich man of his valuables. Why? Are you trying to help him into heaven? And what's with the nickname Camel Eye, anyway? Who knows and who cares, let's steal some gold!

Camel EyeYou begin the game as master thief Camel Eye, looking to steal some gold. There is indeed a locked door that you are trying to get through, but this locked door leads to untold riches, not the great outdoors. Pity the door is protected by so many security measures, including lasers and dolls. Yes, dolls. The security in Camel Eye is set up like it was designed by a schizophrenic Rube Goldberg, with secret doors, mysterious machines, key cards, lasers, and dolls. What, you don't entrust your valuables to your dollies? You will find yourself navigating through a series of rooms, searching for the aforementioned loot with the help of whatever items you happen to find. Open everything, look inside and around everything, be nice to the dolls and perhaps you will come away tons richer.

Camel Eye is available in both English and Japanese. As with all HILG games, simply wait for the opening to finish and you will find three small buttons on the bottom of the screen to the left of a dialogue box. The far left (yellow) button will take you to the system controls where you can switch to English and also, if you choose to, switch on the handy-dandy built-in hint system. The middle button controls sound (when the music loop get annoying) and the right button is a save feature, nice if you want to walk away and come back later. Navigation through the space is pretty easy with the use of directional arrows. Brace yourself for some pixel hunting, though, due to the lack of a changing cursor. Examine items in your inventory by clicking on the button next to the item or click on the item itself to use it.

Camel Eye is one of HILG's denser efforts. There are a lot of items to find and use and a ton of puzzles to crack before you can become a very wealthy person. This is what constitutes a really good room escape: tricky original puzzles, lots of objects to find and use, easy controls, and interesting scenery. Pity about the changing cursor.

So if you feel like bringing out your inner Raffles, or you just like solving tricky room escapes, come and give Camel Eye a try. Fun, tricky, challenging, a good time will be had by all. Besides, who wouldn't like a chance to get rich? Even if it's just a game.

Play Camel Eye


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Rating: 3.2/5 (55 votes)
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DoraGold MachineI, I'm just a Gold Machine, and I won't work for nobody but you. I, I'm just a Gold Machine, morphing into a giant tool for some mice to use to help repel an invasion from an evil general.. Come on, clap along! You know how it goes. And if not, NOB Studios' crazy/funky entry into our Casual Gameplay Design Competition #8 is here to teach you. Puzzle out how to activate the mysterious "sand box" and turn it into the aforementioned Gold Machine to repel the invading forces across fifteen episodes, mixing action with strategy and a good ol' fashioned dose of what-the-heckery.

Although it may seem complicated at first glance, controlling the Gold Machine is actually very simple. Initially, you can only transform into Big Mouse Mode, although as you progress you'll learn to unlock other transformations to better aid in your defense and mouse-flattening capabilities. The goal is basically to get to the end of each stage by moving right while tiny black mice fling themselves at your ankles. You might have a lot of health, but that doesn't mean you're invincible, and you'll want to set up some countermeasures against attack. Pick up mice and plop them on the machine's head in Big Mouse Mode and they'll launch projectiles at enemies.

Apart from your mounted mice, you also have your mouse force on the ground, who may be equipped with what appear to be pool noodles, but are ready to come to your defense. Simply click on a mouse to pick it up, and drag it to the right of your machine, and your mouse will fight to the death for you. If you need more troops, you can click on the left eye of your Big Mouse Machine to have it pop one out from... uh... some... where? You have a limited amount of energy at your disposal, however, so you can't crank out an endless parade of mice.

Gold MachineAnalysis: If you're at all familiar with Nob Studio's work, such as last year's Hell Tour, then you probably recognized their work on Gold Machine right away. Their style is so distinctive, so cartoonishly grin-worthy, that playing their games are an absolute joy. Their interpretation of the sandbox theme is a rather literal one, but it works. There's something undeniably charming about the vague Beach Blanket Bonanza-ish vibe conjured up by the music used as a backdrop to the titanic mouse battle.

Gold Machine's set-up, unfortunately, also isn't the smoothest to work with. Having to fling mice around quickly gets both frantic and frustrating on later episodes. The game sorely needs a "rally" button that will automatically call all the mice to its defense. There's also very little variation from level to level, which is a little disappointing; it takes a while for things to even approach challenging, and more enemy and troop varieties would have done a lot for it. I'm also a little unclear as to why a giant mechanical monstrosity needs to be defended by the animal kingdom equivalent of a ping-pong ball slashing at its metal shins. Maybe mouse-on-mouse violence is more acceptable than simply steamrollering over your helpless foes? Squishy.

Despite having fifteen levels, the game is actually quite short, and most stages will probably only take you a few minutes to win. It feels like it needs a bit more tweaking, a bit more flesh on its cold robotic exterior, to really make it great. What exists is still worth a look, and Gold Machine is a fun, silly little game with a whole lot of charm. I am sure you can find out how to turn me on, just set my dial, and let me stomp on evil lightsaber wielding mice just for a little while, oooohhhh... Ahhhh, don't you just love the classics?

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Rating: 4.3/5 (93 votes)
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Biolab DisasterJohnBInitially created to showcase the upcoming Impact Game Engine, Dominic Szablewski's Biolab Disaster morphed into a short platform adventure all its own. As the game begins, a short quake rocks the underground lab, sending debris falling all over the place. Monsters have spread themselves around the lab, and pools of acid threaten to end your day all too quickly. What's a guy in a biohazard suit with a gun to do? Run through the lab and take out the computer core, that's what!

Walk around the lab using the [arrow] keys and use [X] to jump and [C] to fire your gun. There aren't any power-ups to find, but there are test tubes scattered about that you can collect for the sake of being a completionist. Touch the computer terminals to save your game, and if you die, you'll reappear at the last terminal you walked by.

Because the technology that built Biolab Disaster is still relatively new, some browsers have a difficult time running the game smoothly. Dominic points out on his blog that Opera provides the best performance, followed by Chrome. Firefox and Safari users come in at a distant third, so to squeeze the most out of this game, stick with the former.

Biolab Disaster is a really short game, so you'll probably make it through in 15 minutes without much trouble. The difficulty level is quite low and save points are frequent, so it's pretty much a walk through the park. A monster-infested acid-filled park. It's still an enjoyable game that looks and sounds great, and it's a fine showpiece for the Impact engine as well as HTML5. Hopefully work will continue on the game to turn it into something really special!

Be sure to check out the making of video for some nice technical information about the game's creation, as well as a glimpse of the level editor.

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Rating: 3.6/5 (92 votes)
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joyeFlightless DragonsQuiet please. If you'll look this way, you should be able to see the Flightless Dragons, Draco nonvolo, in their native puzzle habitat. Note how they are unable to reach the gems down there in the corner. Yes, I know they are staring at us with large, beseeching eyes, but it is simply not ethical to interfere with the ways of physics. Look, if you can't handle this, I really shall begin to doubt if you're the right person for me to take with me on my Orcas Eating Baby Seals documentary film expedition.

You may want to click on the environment, allowing the little dragons to roll around. But let me tell you a bit more about them first.

Now, the three kinds of flightless dragon are the "round blue" variety, the "square red" variety, and the "narrow green" variety. The round blue variety is a chubby little chap who will roll away at the slightest provocation. They seem to experience some kind of dire reaction to green terrain. On the other hand, they seem to cancel out red terrain. The red square fellow can't roll at all, poor little sausage, but he can be pushed around by other objects. Blue terrain makes him vanish in a puff of smoke. He is able to burn up green terrain easily though. Beginning to detect a pattern? Why would you say that? Who's the expert here?

Anyway, before I was so rudely interrupted, I was about to say that the last dragon, the narrow green, will be burned alive by red terrain, and will destroy blue terrain without so much as a by your leave. He's also quite the slider.

Whatever their colour, their one desire in existence is to roll around in those little heaps of treasure, yet these twenty levels—we believe they may be created by an as yet unstudied creature called a "RoseDragon", but she might be a myth—keep them from attaining their desire, forlornly and cutely blowing bubble pipes or growing flowers from their heads as soothing music pipes overhead. Ah, nature, red in tooth and—

HEY! Stop! Come back! No clicking! No planning to use the least number of clicks possible! No careful feats of timing in certain levels to allow different kinds of dragons to reach safety through treacherous terrain! And no cuddling! DEFINITELY NO CUDDLING!

Oh that is it. I'm hiring Jenkins to take with me on the Baby Animals Nudging Their Dead Mothers and Then Slowly Dying of Heartbreak and Dehydration trip. I say good day to you sir.

I said good day sir.

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Rating: 3.4/5 (54 votes)
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Joshsurvive-n-risk.jpgWe all take risks in life. Should we put on our solid or paisley tie? Do we eat that last wafer-thin mint? Should we attempt to grab that shiny penny on the ground even though it's resting on glowing coals surrounded by man-eating robotic land sharks with lasers, floating in a red lake of steaming hot lava? The developer Sijaf certainly knows risks, having developed the colorful platform jumping game Rock n' Risk back in April. Now Sijaf's follow-up title called Survive 'n' Risk takes his stickman concept to the next level, adding avoidance gameplay to the mix along with jumping attributes, power-ups, and hats. Lots of hats.

Unsurprisingly, the point of Survive 'n' Risk is to, well, survive and take risks. Your stickman earns points and cash by lasting a minute or more in an arena of death, filled with a raucous crowd, a JumboTron, funky music, and the familiar manic "dude" announcer praising your moves. Controls take advantage of both the mouse and keyboard this time, making it easier to jump from platform to platform while avoiding various flying enemies, projectiles, killer robot dogs, and the obligatory pit o' spikes. Like before, you can click to employ a parachute to slow down your descents, or double click to send your stickman zipping to your mouse's location. To avoid overuse, these skills now require energy, which recharges when not in use. Like in Rock 'n' Risk, you can choose to make the stages more difficult (and riskier) by adding more time, less platforms, more enemies, or fewer lives. More risk means more cash if you complete the stage, and more cash means more hats.

Hats and minigames are new additions to Survive 'n' Risk. Your stickman's jumping, floating, and energy abilities are affected by the type of stylish headgear he wears. Cash lets you buy one of three different "hat boxes," each randomly containing at least 2 hats of increasing rarity. There are dozens of kitschy hats, many with clever names (a plunger hat is called "Mario's Tool"). Some levels are made much easier or harder depending on what hat you happen to be wearing at the time. Additionally, the game features optional minigames in between levels to earn more cash. These games require you to grab as much cash as possible, and can get progressively harder the longer you survive.

Some survival games can be too easy, too hard, or just plain boring. Thankfully Survive 'n' Risk is none of these; With its improved controls, deeper gameplay, and variable difficulty, the game can actually leave you feeling a sense of accomplishment, especially after narrowly beating a level with all the risks attached. The game's groovy soundtrack, smooth animation, and humorous headwear are a plus, and though it might have benefitted from more levels, moving platforms, and maybe a storyline, I think I can say (without too much risk) that Survive 'n' Risk is a fun distraction and a solid casual game.

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Rating: 4.2/5 (118 votes)
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Bradbrad_recordshoptycoon_store.pngGames are awesome at allowing you to vicariously experience all your dream jobs. Thanks to games I've gotten to be a detective, pilot a spaceship, a man who hits turtles with a hammer while wearing semi-formal attire, and an inept military commander. Now, a new business sim that lets me fulfill another one of my dreams; owning and operating a record shop. Even better, I don't need to go through miles of red tape, deal with actual customers or have any math or accounting skills. All I need is a mouse to become a Record Shop Tycoon.

In Record Shop Tycoon your day is divided into two parts. You'll spend the first half getting your store ready. A local paper will be delivered that sometimes has information about local trends or events. After you read that, you can buy or upgrade equipment for the store and pay for different types of advertising. The most important thing to take care of is buying inventory. There's five genres and an amount of shelf space that depends on how many CD racks you have and how much you've upgraded them. You'll have to get to know your customers so you can find the most profitable balance of the genres. Once you have everything taken care of it's time to start your day.

This is the second half and mostly you'll just sit back, watch and pay attention. Your customers will come in and it'll quickly become apparent whether they're happy or not. If you don't have the genre they want or they get fed up waiting in line you'll see an icon next to their head telling you as much. At the end of the day, you'll get a report detailing things like CDs sold, sales you missed out on and popularity gained or loss. The next day you'll do it all again and don't think about taking a day off. The only sabbath you'll be honoring is Black Sabbath.

brad_recordshoptycoon_customers.pngAnalysis: Despite the challenges it offers, Record Shop Tycoon is very simple. At the beginning, you're presented with a manual explaining the game, but you can easily dive right in and understand everything. This ying-yang duality of challenge and simplicity help gloss over the game's few flaws. The font is sometimes hard to read and every so often you'll get an annoying high-score pop-up from MochiGames. Also, aside from a few achievements and buying new property, there's not much in the way of goals, but Record Shop Tycoon is engaging enough to carry you for awhile.

It needs to be said that earlier version of the game had some game killing bugs. Thankfully, Xeptic stepped up and fixed a lot of the problems. If you played a version before 2.3 and gave up because of any of the bugs, you might want to go back and give it another whirl. It's good that it's received so many fixes, because it's a great game. Everyday you'll have to make choices that will effect your business. What's more important: upgrading your CD racks to hold more product or using that money to ensure your shelves are full? Should you sell your stock of urban music CDs to make room for more dance CDs which will be super popular today? On top of that, each property has customers with different tastes, so you'll have to pay attention if you want to move your product.

Record Shop Tycoon is a lot of fun, but there is no perfect game, so even good games suffer from the "Wouldn't It Be Nice" syndrome (as first documented by the Beach Boys). It'd be nice if Record Shop Tycoon had even more to offer, more upgrades, more genres of music, more items to sell and more events in-store and around town. It'd be nice if you could manage multiple stores at once or sell everything in a store when you move to a location. There's a lot more you could want in Record Shop Tycoon, not because it's lacking, but because it's so well made it's fertile ground for additional gameplay and it leaves you wanting more.

There's not enough browser sim games out there and even fewer as good as Record Shop Tycoon. So, if you're looking for a good sim, or it's always been your dream to own a music store (or you just read/watched 'High Fidelity') then you should definitely give this game a spin.

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Rating: 4.2/5 (155 votes)
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DoraEarl Grey and This Rupert GuyLooking for a bit of pre-Halloween adventure to get you all fired up? Well, maybe it's time you heard about Earl Grey and This Rupert Guy. Rupert is a courier, who has a package to deliver to Earl Grey, who lives in the spooky mansion on the hill. No, that's seriously the address, and Rupert isn't going to rest until he's delivered the package to Earl Grey in person. That's right, no tossing the goods into a bush in roughly the vicinity of the address; you're not working for UPS, after all. But finding the Earl is going to be a little tricky since his home is a little unconventional, and it doesn't take long for obstacles to start springing up. The game is mostly kid-safe, being about as frightening as a baby bunny just waking up from a nap in a YouTube video, but there are two instances of words that may be considered a little blue for younger children, so parents be advised and play first.

Playing is simple; just click on things to interact, and click on objects in your inventory to use them. The game very thoughtfully displays the name of interactive objects when you mouse over them, so you don't have to worry about pixel hunting here. Early on Rupert gains a pair of glasses that let him see environments in a new light, and you can click on them in your inventory to take put them on or take them off. The mansion is home to several adorable but lonely spirits, and helping them is entirely optional. If you're a jerk, you can choose to help them, but deliberately misinterpret their requests.

The game is absolutely beautiful, with cute sketchy graphics and a clean, professional presentation, and the writing is even fairly funny from time to time, if a little odd. The only real downside is that it's fairly short, probably only around fifteen minutes or so, and there's only one ending regardless of what you might choose to do for the ghostly residents. But for the short time it'll take out of your day, Earl Grey and This Rupert Guy is definitely worth a look, and we can only hope we'll be seeing more of Rupert one day soon.

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Mobile Monday

JohnBHow about some more Android games? Several great time wasters in this edition of Mobile Monday, including a release anyone who has ever played a Flash game will recognize: The Elements. Gotta love playing with lava on your phone!

Use a barcode scanning app to scan the QR codes and start downloading the games to your phone. We also recommend AppBrain, a wonderful program that integrates app browsing/installation across web browsers and your phone!

trap.gifTrap! - The classic game of divide and trap with a sweet Android interface and some interesting power-ups. Several balls bounce around the screen. Swipe your finger a little bit across the screen and a line will start to draw. If the line makes it to the walls without hitting a ball, it sections off an area and traps the balls in the free space. Any coins, extra lives, or power-ups (such as bonus time, freezing the balls, etc.) you trap are collected. Tap the "speed" button and your next line will draw with turbo speed, a nice feature when you see that irresistible gap in the bouncing pattern. Three modes let you stagger the difficulty to suit your mood: training, normal, and skill.

theelements.gifThe Elements - Ever heard of a little game called Sand Sand Sand? How about Powder Game? The Elements is a nice implementation of the physics sandbox genre, complete with tons of elements, the ability to save and load creations, and even an option to craft your own materials! What better time waster could you ask for? Simply choose an element, change the brush size, and start scribbling on the screen. As you add more materials they begin to interact, so when lava hits C4, something might just happen. Better get some water in there, otherwise your plant material will turn to fire.

missing.gifMissing - Room escape games have a comfortable home in your web browser, but why not on your phone, too? Missing is a straight-up point-and-click room escape game modified for a touch screen interface. Tap the arrows at the bottom of the screen to navigate, and tap things on the screen to check them out. Some items can be combined in the inventory (a process that's just a bit confusing at first), and the puzzles are solid. A few of the hotspots are rough to find, so a little trial-and-error tapping is in order, but not too much. Hopefully this will inspire some more escape games to migrate to the mobile platform!

fruitninja.jpgFruit Ninja - Yep, it's exactly what you think. Unless you thought the ninja was made of fruit, which would be wrong. A reflexes game about slicing fruit by swiping your finger across the screen. It couldn't be simpler than that, but for some reason you'll log more time with this game than most of the games on your phone. It's a very satisfying experience to slice all those guys without having to clean up the mess! (Note: Some older phones may have a hard time running the game smoothly.)

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. Games have been confirmed to run on Android 2.1 on an HTC Eris.


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Rating: 4.8/5 (25 votes)
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Eschalon: Book II

DoraEschalon: Book II, the second in a planned trilogy of RPGs from Basilisk Games, takes place two years after the original game. You, as the hero from the first title, have been living a quiet life in the neighbouring lands. So quiet, in fact, that your skills have begun to slip away, and you've been having strange dreams. Still, you might be inclined to forget your former life entirely... if not for the note you wake to find on your doorstep one morning, from a stranger who says he knows who you really are. Throughout your journey, you'll discover your true identity, uncover a secret invasion, contract various diseases, camp out in thunderstorms, and become a connoisseur of scavenged cusine. Might I recommend the spider's legs? They're rich in protien and vitamins!

Eschalon: Book IINot much has changed on the surface; Eschalon is still a top-down isometric turn-based RPG that encourages you to go out there into the big open world and explore. Go on quests, find treasure, level up, and kill or be killed. (Although for the first little while it'll probably be the latter.) There's not much of a tutorial to be had, but a few minutes of fiddling around is enough to learn the ropes. The game is controlled with the mouse, and you simply click and hold to move your character in that direction, or click on something to interact. Whether that interaction is friendly or the sort of thing that involves an arrow through the back of one's head is entirely at your discretion.

If you're hoping to continue on as your character from the original game... well... you can't. Not really, anyway, even though everyone assumes you are that person. You have to start over as a fresh level one hero, and while this makes the game more accessible to newcomers, it might be a disappointment to players who had expected to import their old character and face off against even bigger challenges. Members of the fairer sex may be happy to see the game allows you to create female characters this time. Of course, no matter what, you're stuck with the same mannish brown-haired character sprite. I call her "Maude".

Other changes include the ability to set or remove various gameplay restrictions to get bonuses, new skills, and, my favourite, the addition of weather that affects gameplay. How, you may ask? Ever tried to light a torch in the middle of a rainstorm? Or cast a fireball during one? How about navigating in the dark during flashes of lightning? And you probably don't want to be forced to camp out on a frozen lake during a blizzard.

Eschalon: Book IIAnalysis: There have been a lot of comparisons drawn between Eschalon and Oblivion, which sort of surprises me since the first thing I thought of when playing were the earlier Ultima titles mixed with a dose of Avernum. While I've always been the sort of party-pooper who prefers strong story over open world gameplay, I have to admit Eschalon does the latter really well. Upon receiving the main quest, I promptly ignored it and spent a week tramping around the landscape until I was Level Ridiculous and adorned in the rainments of the Gods. Not without trial and error, of course, since the game can be fairly punishing in the beginning, but once you gain a few levels and equip yourself with armor that doesn't shatter when you sneeze, you'll find the going a lot smoother.

On the whole, the writing is actually rather good. But if you're hoping to create a charismatic and witty hero... don't. Your role in conversations is to sit there like a muppet while the NPCs deliver exposition, then deliver some variation on the ol', "Yes sir, no sir, may I have another, sir?" The plot is fairly standard for a game of this type, centering around your quest for the Daily Magical MacGuffin, and of course you'll find crosses and double-crosses aplenty. But purely as a vehicle to drive the experience, it works well within the setting and serves to take you to a lot of different locales.

Eschalon: Book IIMost of my complaints with Eschalon are purely mechanical in nature. The complete absence of path finding is annoying, especially coupled with how slowly your hero moves. Mediocre enemy AI makes even boss battles relatively easy. But for me, personally, the biggest downside is how sparsely populated the world is. Most areas are massive, and it's such a shame that you can spend so long tramping from one side of the map to another and only encounter a few enemies, and virtually no people. Even the towns and cities are largely bare, and the overall feeling is that the world is a stage staffed by a skeleton crew of actors. A few more travelers, a few more random encounters or NPCs with something to say, would have gone a long way towards improving the immersion of the whole experience.

But even with those quibbles, ultimately, Eschalon: Book II is just a whole lot of fun. Fans of classic top-down RPGs will find a lot to like, and the large world not only encourages exploration, it rewards it, with secrets and treasure hidden in some surprising places. There's also a bonus add-on adventure called The Secret of Fathamurk that will be included for free in an upcoming update, and add another 5-10 hours of playtime. You can expect to play for a long while anyway if you're intent on uncovering everything. Eschalon: Book II is a solid, fun title with a lot to offer, and is definitely worth a look. After all, how many RPGs can you say you've caught tapeworms from a corpse in lately? Sounds like good, clean family fun to me.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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

LinuxLinux:
Download the demo
Get the full version


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Rating: 4.7/5 (21 votes)
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Whisper of a Rose

DoraA hard life in an abusive household has left college student Melrose a shy, withdrawn girl prone to daydreams and fantasies of magical worlds and heroes. When she hears about a new device that can allow people to enter their own dreams, she sees it as the perfect opportunity to escape her miserable life. Unfortunately, she's about to learn that you can't hide forever, especially not from yourself. Whisper of a Rose is an RPG fantasy adventure from Rose Portal Games that will keep you busy for a long time.

Whisper of a RoseThe game can be played with either the mouse or the keyboard. Move around the map, speak to people, and open chests. Like most RPGs, battle is turn-based, but unlike most turn-based titles, you can actually see the enemies on the map before you encounter them, which lets you run if you like. During battle, Melrose also gains the ability to summon various creatures to aid her, and the party members you'll acquire have their own unique abilities as well.

Throughout the game you'll earn points that can be spent on a rather large skill tree to unlock new spells, skills, and upgrades. Once the skill tree is unlocked after you meet your first party member, you'll be able to pick and choose what new abilities you want to learn, as well as how you want to improve them. You can increase the damage they deal, or lower the casting time or magic consumption. Melrose will also eventually gain the ability to craft a lot of unique weapons, armor, and other items to help her along the way.

Although all Melrose really wants is to escape her old life, she soon discovers the fantasy world she's always wanted isn't as perfect as she'd hoped. The land is under siege by strange creatures called the Phobius, made to destroy and always hungry, and Melrose can't seem to escape that nightmarish clown that draws closer to her every time she sleeps. All she has to go on is the name of a distant place called Rosaria where the Fairy Godmother is said to reside, and if she ever wants to make it home, that's where she'll have to go. She may find new allies along the way, but only if she learns to stop pitying herself and take a stand... for her own sake and other people.

Whisper of a RoseAnalysis: The design of Whisper of a Rose is sort of odd. On the one hand, the hand-drawn artwork and character sprites are a little simplistic. On the other, the visuals are entirely made from scratch, which is pretty impressive. The original soundtrack is also extremely well done and is easily of professional quality. The game was in development for three years, and Rose Portal Games clearly used that time to turn out a product that looks and feels distinct. Sometimes I have commitment issues with putting on pants in the morning; this team turned out a game that's over 40 hours long and consists primarily of wholly original content. It... kind of makes me feel a little inadequate.

Whisper of a Rose is kind of an awkward duckling at first glance, one part story about coming of age and the power of friendship, and one part "Sailor Moon/Magical Girl Anime". There are some genuinely unsettling moments when Melrose's dream world turns nightmarish, and then you have places like Candy Mountain or Valentown that look like the sort of places you always dared hoped existed when you were a kid. The storybook presentation is fun to look at, but it definitely takes some of the edge off the attempted seriousness of the story. One minute Melrose is having nightmares about being chained in a shadow realm while the clown from the abyss (ughughughugh) crawls towards her, and the next she's making friends with living gingerbread men.

Whisper of a RoseStill, it winds up feeling like it might be better enjoyed by younger gamers than RPG veterans looking for a serious challenge. The writing doesn't always seem up to the task of conveying the emotion in tense or dramatic scenes, and occasionally is a little awkward or oddly translated. ("Hihihi" instead of "heeheehee", or "yea" for "yeah".) Melrose starts off awkward, shy, and more than a little childish. Initially she doesn't seem to know how to interact with people and tends to lash out when she's frustrated or upset. Unsurprising, perhaps, given the abusive household she comes from, but I was more than a little relieved to see her grow up and mature over the course of the game. Her relationship with Hellena is rewarding to watch as she realises that self pity isn't going to get her anywhere, and sometimes you have to put other people before yourself.

Whisper of a Rose might end up overlooked next to more "serious" titles, but that would be a shame. The sentiment behind it is heartfelt, and the massive amount of love and work put into it has produced something that may be sweet and idealistic, but is also charming and enjoyable with a lot to explore. It has its flaws, but it also has a lot to offer, and if you're looking for something "lighter", you should definitely check out the demo.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Wispa Forest

JohnBWispa Forest is a new hidden object game from Reflexive Entertainment. It immediately stands out from the dark and gloomy crowd of hidden object games with its gorgeous watercolor scenery and light-hearted storyline. Forget insane asylums, being trapped in castles, and relatives going missing while searching for ancient artifacts. Wispa Forest is about fairies, fairy friends, fairy enemies, and a curious little human girl, too!

Wispa ForestCorruption is lurking in the land of Underwood. A young Seed Wispa named Lyia is one of the first to sense this, and she immediately heads out to investigate. A curse is causing objects from the human world to gather near Winding Branch, and the Fairy Queen could be behind it. Follow Lyia's journey through a series of beautifully-illustrated pieces of scenery as she cleans up the mess of objects and investigates the source of the curse.

Wispa Forest doesn't deviate from the hidden object standard, but it does make things interesting within these confines. Each screen has a number of items stashed amongst the greenery and a pictograph list to tell you what to find. You can hover over each icon to get a description of the item, then start combing the area! The visuals in Wispa Forest are nothing short of beautiful, and you won't be put off by staring at them for a few hours as you try to find a spoon and a ladder in a fairy tale world.

The hint system in Wispa Forest is staggered, allowing you as much or as little nudging as you like. Each item you find earns you mana points. Using hints spends these points. You can get a cheap, vague hint, a more expensive and accurate hint, or two specific hints at once. You can also spend mana points to help you out in the match-3 mini-game that appears every few levels.

Wispa ForestAnalysis: A nice change of pace from the dark palettes and haunted mansions that so populate the hidden object genre, Wispa Forest will win a lot of fans simply because it's gorgeous to look at. The gameplay is straightforward with very little standing between you and looking for items, but that kind of stark charm is sometimes exactly what you want from a casual game.

It isn't possible to lavish enough praise on the artwork in this game. Watercolor fantasy world? Yes, please! The nature of the style even contributes to the game's difficulty, making it more difficult to find some objects because of fuzzy borders or mild shading differences. Nothing too difficult, and besides, it's a treat to scan these pictures, so scrutinizing them closer isn't a bad thing. Some of the sound effects are way too repetitive, which is a shame, because they did a decent job setting the fairy forest mood.

If Wispa Forest has any serious drawbacks, it's that there really isn't a lot going on that's out of the ordinary. It's a beautiful game, to be sure, and it makes a strong hidden object game. But if finding well-hidden items from a list isn't your thing, there's no real point of entry for this title for you.

Perhaps one of the best things about Wispa Forest is that it's very accessible for children. Us adult folk will have a great time with it, but because of the visual nature of this game, it's one of the few casual games even young kids will develop an active interest in. Don't be afraid to bring the family in for this one!

WindowsWindows:
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Get the full version

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Weekend Download

JohnBAnother Ludum Dare, another bunch of cool experimental games to play! This competition's theme was "enemies as weapons", and each entry did something slightly different with the concept.

faildeadly.gifFail-Deadly (Mac/Win/Linux, 15.5MB, free) - Here's a fun idea: a tactical game where the object isn't to win, it's for both players to destroy each other! Place units as the cursor changes. Depending on which side of the field you drop them, either the red or the blue team will take control. Don't let one side get too powerful or you'll risk winning. Er, losing. Winning the war, losing the game. That's it. Keep things balanced until the nuclear launch timer depletes, then it's mutually-assured destruction for all! A browser version is also available. And P.S.: Fail-Deadly took the highest place in the Ludum Dare voting.

unarmedanddangerous.jpgUnarmed and Dangerous (Windows, 2.2MB, free) - A lovely little isometric game that puts you in the role of a tricky little blob with eyes. You see, you don't have any weapons (unarmed, even?), so in order to beat each level, you've got to trick the sliding spike things into crashing into each other. This involves hopping around the grid, triggering them to move, hopping to safety, and figuring out how to make them meet. Quite a tricky game in some places, and very satisfying on many levels.

isolation.gifIsolation (Windows, 2.1MB, free) - It seems you're dead, which is a bummer. But it also seems like you're on an island with a bunch of weird creatures. This platformer takes the Ludum Dare theme literally and allows you to gather enemy items as powers, using the snake as a whip, octopus things as air bombs, etc. Use each new power to gain access to more of the island, and continue digging as deep into the game as you can.

thelairoffungal.jpgThe Lair of Fungal Wonder (Mac/Win/Linux, 6.6MB, free) - It's time to scan some fungi! This unique shooter tasks you with getting close to different fungal species in order to scan them. The problem is, floating spores like to attach themselves to your craft, and once they latch on, they start firing, and this is a very delicate ecosystem. Work your way through the slowly-scrolling caverns as you avoid everything you can and scan every little mushroom in sight.

Note: All games have been confirmed to run under Windows 7 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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Escape from Frankenstein's Castle

JohnBThings are not going well for Hannah. A motorcycle crash separated her from her husband, and she wakes up in a creepy castle staring at a strange figure in the window. Her head hurts, she can't remember anything, and the people in this place won't let her leave. A ghost named Isabella appears who says she once suffered the same fate, trapped in the castle and kept from the one she loved. Now, Hannah is determined to find freedom in the new casual adventure game Escape from Frankenstein's Castle.

Escape from Frankenstein's CastleShuffling about each room, one of the first things you'll notice about Escape from Frankenstein's Castle is that there are items to be found, but no lists. The game is decidedly more adventure than hidden object in nature, so you'll spend your time poking with inventory objects and gathering things to store for later use. When it's time to bring out a collected item, it'll be obvious what you need to use. Otherwise, Hannah or Isabella will let you know.

You'll spend a lot of time moving back and forth between rooms, gradually opening new places to explore. Because backtracking is such a big part of the experience, each area has layers of things to explore, many sub-zones and items only becoming active when they're needed in the story. Some of the books in the library, for example, seem innocent enough until you need a specific bit of knowledge from their pages. This rewards thorough explorers for clicking on everything in sight and remembering where certain items are located.

A really interesting feature of Escape from Frankenstein's Castle is the ghost, Isabella, and her memory ability. Certain rooms in the castle are familiar to her and will trigger a quick 3D refocus, replacing current items with what she remembers from the past. This usually works to give you a clue how to progress, such as showing you a blueprint for a device you're trying to fix. If you use this ability in the starting room, though, you'll slowly piece together Isabella's story using items you find throughout the mansion. It's a great device for filling out the backstory, and the idea of having unnamed items scattered throughout the game is always intriguing.

Escape from Frankenstein's CastleAnalysis: Escape from Frankenstein's Castle handles itself a bit differently than most casual adventure releases. It doesn't rely on hidden objects so much, which is always appreciated, and instead shoves the focus squarely on the story and the puzzles. While the plot is a bit contrived, it's told through silent cutscenes and quick conversations that really pull you in.

There are a lot of "figure it out yourself" puzzles that set you to a task and leave you alone, providing more information only if you start clicking on the task list at the bottom of the screen. This lack of hand holding is a great device that lets you adjust the difficulty on a per-puzzle basis. Even the mini-games just sort of throw you into the midst of things!

One thing baffles me about Escape from Frankenstein's Castle: loading screens. And not just a loading screen here or there. Moving through the first six rooms you'll encounter several loading screens, something I haven't seen since the days of CD-ROM gaming. Why they're necessary in a casual adventure game I have no clue, but they go by within a second or two, so they don't break the flow of the game up too much.

Escape from Frankenstein's Castle has a unique look to it and plays a little differently than most of its cousins. You'll enjoy the puzzles and the story, you'll scratch your head every time you see a loading screen, and when it's all over, you'll wonder why it wasn't twice as long.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 4.7/5 (146 votes)
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corygallihergiveuprobot2_title.gifSome robots are programmed to build. Some are a bit more awesome and are programmed to destroy. Still others are programmed to love, though that's more creepy than awesome. The star of Give Up Robot 2, the latest invention from Matt Thorson for Adult Swim, is programmed to jump, grapple and die, and it's especially proficient at that last one. In this tough-as-nails platformer you'll guide Robot through 60 stages spread throughout three worlds, each of which is filled with a variety of deadly traps. Your only saving grace is Robot's built-in grappling hook, and you'll need to master its use quickly.

The basic goal of each stage is simple: you're on the left and you need to get to the right. How you actually accomplish this is slightly more complicated. Use the [arrow] keys to move, and [X], [S], or [up] to jump. How long you press the jump button will determine your height. To grapple, press [Z] or [A] to fire the hook at an angle and then [up] and [down] to adjust once you're attached to something. Collect coins to improve your score.

Robot was built using cheap imported parts and the slightest contact with anything hazardous will kill it. There's no shortage of hazards in each stage, either, as you'll be assaulted by spinning fans of death, electrified walls, moving platforms gleefully launching you into aforementioned fans and walls and so on. Fortunately, since Robot's cheap to build, he was mass-produced and you have infinite lives.

Unlike its predecessor, Give Up Robot 2 features a variety of settings. The game opens in the same psychedelic area as the first game. As you progress, you'll pass through a forested outdoor area and a city. Several new gameplay elements have been added as well, including grapple points that reverse your controls while you're attached and grapple-able conveyor belts. The most significant addition is a three-use jetpack that pops up in several levels to give Robot a boost. Give Up Robot 2 is also significantly more difficult than the previous game, so new players beware!

giveuprobot2_screen2.gifThe game spans 60 stages, including three boss battles. After finishing these stages, another set of Hard levels opens up. These are, as the name might suggest, hard, so they're not for the faint of heart.

Analysis: Your enjoyment of Give Up Robot 2 is directly related to how well you can handle frustration platformers (like the Jumper series, also by Matt Thorson, for example). You'll be spending a lot of time dead, but unlike games like I Wanna Be The Guy, Give Up Robot 2 doesn't pull any "gotcha" tricks; when you die, it's your own fault rather than the game pulling a fast one, in other words. This helps to keep the game entertaining rather than purely frustrating.

While it's certainly difficult, patience and practice will see any player through Give Up Robot 2. This is due in large part to the tight, responsive controls, which are vital to a game like this. You won't find yourself missing grapples due to poor hit detection, for instance.

Games like this live and die by their level design, and Give Up Robot 2 has enough variety and challenge to keep players going. Some levels even play out like miniature puzzles, such as those involving numbered grapple points that must be hit in order. This gives the game lasting appeal and pushes the player to keep going just to see what's coming next.

Give Up Robot 2 is a solid platformer with enough neat tricks and visual appeal to set itself apart from the crowd (and its predecessor). It's worth a look for anyone who won't throw their computer through the nearest window after hammering away at a tough level. For the rest, well...maybe someone will program a robot to finish the game?

Play Give Up Robot 2


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraThis week's Link Dump Friday was actually written last week in the not-so-distant past. I... suppose that's not quite as impressive as being written in the distant future. But you know what is impressive? Naked royalty, rubber ducks, robots, romance, and massive bodily trauma! Usually searching for all those things in a single sitting would get you put on a special "list" with the government, but today you're free to enjoy all the carefree charm that unlikely combination has to offer.

  • Naked KingNaked King - You could say this game is only here because with a title like "Naked King", how could we resist? And you're right, partially. But it's also a Minoto game, and with that comes all the crazy weird bizarre whatisthisidon'tevenknow signature Minoto style we've come to expect. As you may surmise from the title, there is a king, and he is naked (in a Ken doll sort of way), but there is also a monkey, a crab, a fluffy dog, and a very expensive painting. You cannot resist.
  • HangerHanger - [Parental Warning: Contains blood.] Now, far be it from me to tell you what to do with your life, but it seems to me that if you're the sort of person whose limbs fly off in a bloody tangle if you so much as brush against a flat surface, maybe Spider-Man-style swinging isn't the best career decision. There's something undeniably entertaining about flinging yourself around the screen here, and when you develop a rhythm you really start to feel proud of yourself. Then apparently a butterfly sneezes on you and your limbs burst into wet chunks. I just don't know anymore.
  • Guy of My DreamsGuy of My Dreams - Don't you love Nerdook? We love Nerdook. And even though this avoidance/action/collection game is a little simplistic, we kind of love it a little, too. The goal is to go through life, picking up important things like roses and chocolate, until you find a guy who resembles the "guy of your dreams" and attach yourself to him without so much as an introduction. (I can verify this is how I met my husband.) The longer you spend with him, the more you learn about his personality, which can be good or bad, and if you dump him for someone else, you'll be sad for a while. At least until you get some more chocolate. I really like this trend in realism these days, you guys.
  • SeerSeer - Another Gambit prototype inspired by Oedipus Rex, wherein you help a familiar devil thingy and his rubber ducky navigate the dark ocean to find the lighthouses you need to reveal the truth hidden beneath the waves. It's a little cute, and a little creepy, and, say the developers, "Your reading and interpretation of our games matters as much, if not more, than any intended meaning suggested or intended by the work's creators." What did you get out of it?
  • RescuebotRescuebot - In this escape game, you play a robot activated after an earthquake who's trying to find the last survivor. There's something adorable about a robot that sets out to save your life with a tube of lip balm, but there's something even more about a robot who rescues... well, you'll see. Short, cute, and not too difficult. Just the thing to get your gears a-churning.

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Rating: 4/5 (69 votes)
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DoraMuseum of ThievesMuseum of Thieves is the newest spot-the-difference title from the aptly named Difference Games. Based upon the book of the same name by Lian Tanner, it takes place in a very strange museum where, it's said, only thieves can find their way through. In each scene, you'll have to find and click on six differences in order to proceed. Misclicks will penalize your score, while finding differences quickly gets you a bonus. If you're stuck, you can choose from two types of hints in the bottom-right corner of the screen.

After games like Robin Hood from the same developer, it's a little unfortunate that this otherwise lovely game doesn't really feel like it wants to involve you in the story. There is a narrative, sort of, although it's mostly just there as a means to encourage you to dip your toe into the waters of the novel, and in that respect it succeeds very well. Of course, nobody can deny it looks absolutely gorgeous, and if you enjoy difference games you can hardly go wrong with a whopping thirty-two screens of beautiful artwork.

Fans of the genre won't be disappointed by the extremely high quality work on display here, with differences that blend in well with the art. They're subtle, but not difficult enough that you'll find yourself straining for a pixel half a shade darker than the others. Just the thing to cap off your evening before bed, Museum of Thieves is big, beautiful, and definitely worth a look. Now if you'll excuse me, I think I have a book to look into... since when do you have to be a kid to enjoy fiction of any kind?

Play Museum of Thieves


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Rating: 4.3/5 (77 votes)
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DoraThe CurfewIn The Curfew, from Channel 4 and written by Kieron Gillen, a point-and-click tale of civil rights, it's 9:00 PM and all good citizens are home and logged in under the government's watchful eye. Except for you. You're on the run, and holding on to some very sensitive information that a lot of very dangerous people would love to get their hands on... and nobody will miss you if you wind up missing. With nowhere left to turn, you find yourself hiding out in a safehouse with four other people who all have their own concerns.

Play simply by using your mouse to interact with the screen. Small icons will pop up when you move your cursor over certain objects or people, and you can click to take action. Your primary tool is the com device in the lower right corner of the screen, which you can not only use to receive calls, but also to search for "air tags"; electronic signatures embedded in your environment that can help you find clues or provide more information. The game only saves between story scenes, so you might want to wait for a break in the action if you plan to stop for a while.

The goal is ultimately to figure out who you can trust to give the information you're carrying. Someone who will "do the right thing". Starting with Lucas, you'll speak to each of them and play through earlier events in their days that have lead them to where they are now. They all have reasons to hate the government and the Curfew, but is that any proof that they wouldn't turn you in given the chance, especially if doing so might help them? At certain intervals in each person's story, you're given the chance to ask them questions that will influence how they view you. Showing concern, empathy, and cleverness might cause them to trust you more, while asking stupid or insulting questions could cause their opinion of you to plummet.

The CurfewAnalysis: The Curfew has been pinging away on my radar for some time now; if there's one thing I love, it's intelligent social commentary, and The Curfew manages to make you think while it entertains. Kieron Gillen, who handled the writing, skirts up against the edge of painting a world too comic book-ishly overblown to be believable or relateable, occasionally forgoing genuine emotion for flash and cartoonish villains. Then again, it's relatively easy to dismiss the setting as being far-fetched when you've been lucky enough to live in a place and time where your rights have never been compromised. As futuristic as the setting might seem, there are some clever touches that bring the whole thing uncomfortably close to reality. The anti-homosexual propaganda slapped on a building. The condescending treatment of lower-class citizens. The outright unfairness and suspicion heaped on foreigners. We might not be "there" yet, but not everything about it is as far-fetched as it appears on the surface, which is an unsettling thought.

As a piece of interactive art and a commentary on civil liberties, The Curfew is top notch. As a game? Not so much. The minigames aren't much fun, and besides being clunky to play, don't fit well within the game itself. Is forcing us to fiddle with a wobbly slingshot really more effective than ye olde "use slingshot on security camera"? It's really more story than game, since there aren't any real puzzles to solve, and you're kept on a fairly narrow set of rails the entire time. It's hard to really get a sense that you're having any sort of impact on the story. Thankfully, now that it's out of beta, the game plays a lot more smoothly and has shed most of the painful bugs that dogged its initial release.

Of course, there's no denying that the end product looks amazing, typically very well acted with interesting characters and a great soundtrack. The way the separate stories each person tells you begin to intertwine and influence each other is interesting to watch and handled quite well, and there's a wonderfully wry sense of dark humour present. The environments are very well done, and the semi-futuristic devices you'll see actually aren't all that unbelievable in an otherwise familiar setting.

One of the worst things you can do with your life is to not only forget how lucky you are... but to ignore how unfortunate other people may be. Even with its flaws, The Curfew is still worth checking out. Maybe you're lucky enough to be in a position where your rights have never been violated. Maybe you've never thought about what you would do if they were, or what happens to people who have been on that side of the coin. Maybe you should.

Play The Curfew

Thanks to RedRevolver, Mike, Jackson, and Andrew for sending this one in!


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (60 votes)
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Babylon Sticks: It's A Kinda Magic 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 (215 votes)
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BradApples in the TreeHaha! How do you like them apples?! All right, that's done. You knew it was coming when you saw the name of the game, but now you don't have to sit there going, "Oh man, I bet he's going to end this by asking us how we like them apples." Expectations fulfilled AND subverted. Now, we can move on to this review of Apples in the Tree by MasterMerol. It's a game about... well, that's kind of up to you.

Apples in the Tree is primarily an exploration game with a little bit of point-and-click thrown in. You take control of a long-legged lady in patchwork clothes, using [WASD] (or the [arrow] keys) to move around, [spacebar] to run and the mouse to interact with things. Your goal is to get to the eponymous apples in the tree not once, but four times. Along the way you can help the strange folks who inhabit your land or not. Aside from the title and the controls, you're given very little guidance. You're thrown into the game's world and you take the paths you want.

Analysis: Apples in the Tree has a lot going for it. It has a very distinct style that seems inspired by Tim Burton and Jhonen Vasquez. However, while the influences show, the character and world design are unique and well-crafted so everything feels fresh. It's a lot of fun to see the sights of the small world around you and that's what will keep you going even though the controls are very sluggish. Thankfully, you won't need a lot of precision in your movements.

Aside from the look, Apples in the Tree scores points with the openness of the game. The lack of direction is more refreshing than disorienting or confusing and it adds to the nice amount of replay value the game already has. With three different endings and the environment changing every time you come back from the tree, there's a lot to experiment with and explore. It's doubtful you'll see everything Apples in the Tree has to offer on your first go-round.

It does need to be said that there's a few instances of profanity, so this one isn't for the kids. Everyone else should give the game a few plays. What might seem at first like something that will only appeal to people who wear 'Nightmare Before Christmas' hoodies soon turns into a game that looks great and has a lot of depth.

Play Apples in the Tree


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (139 votes)
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ChiktionaryFinders SeekersGood ol' Uncle Whatsisface has disappeared, according to a letter from a British consulate in Africa, and it's up to you to solve the mystery of Finders Seekers: Mystery of Stonecliff. Somehow, Uncle Noname has left you clues to find in an old, dilapidated church in Wales. Atomic Cicada has crafted this ambient point-and-click adventure which will have you searching every little nook and cranny for clues, objects and solutions. As in any escape game, you need only your mouse to navigate, pick up and manipulate objects, and solve puzzles. Easy, right? Well this little adventure might have you thinking "What the...?" more than once.

Navigation is at first a little disorientating. Big, yellow arrows point the way, whether forward, backward or off to the sides. Occasionally, an arrow will appear on the opposite side of the screen to your cursor. Fortunately, it doesn't take long to work it all out, especially as you'll be needing to head backwards and forwards to solve some of the puzzles.

As can be expected when thrust into an old roofless church without electricity, you will literally be fumbling around in the dark, or at least clicking everywhere possible. Unfortunately this makes for some pointless clues as some objects and solutions can be stumbled upon accidentally. Clicking also produces text boxes which, while informative, can be mildly irritating as they need to be clicked again to disappear, and they can hamper the much needed view of a clue or scene.

Finders Seekers Analysis: Standing at the entrance of an old Welsh church in the rain, you find yourself in possession of an ancient polaroid camera and a lighter; two very handy items, and make sure to put them to good use to save you backtracking later in the game. Of course you're going to accumulate many more objects throughout your quest, and many of them, whether fixed or movable, will need to be used more than once. You can easily select items from your inventory bar, but dropping them is a little awkward. Basically, when you select an object, it becomes your cursor with which you can still navigate and manipulate things around you. I felt a bit awkward adventuring on with an object as my cursor. Being a diehard Myst fan, it felt more natural to reselect the hand tool after using an item.

Some of the puzzles are fairly straightforward, while others a little more obscure. Seeking your Uncle would be practically relaxing with the soft soundtrack in the background and the meditative candlelight flickering around you, if it wasn't for some pretty challenging puzzles. In fact, one in particular is so vague in terms of how to solve it, that even brute-forcing it will take up a considerable chunk of your valuable seeking time.

Despite the occasional idiosyncrasies, this game is highly appealing for its unique presentation and puzzles with a difference. Atomic Cicada has crafted a thoroughly enjoyable adventure, creating a somewhat esoteric atmosphere with unintrusive musical backing and comic book style graphics. The flickering candlelight adds to the ambience, and almost enables a good sense of concentration, which you'll be needing. Trust me.

Play Finders Seekers: Mystery of Stonecliff


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (57 votes)
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joyeBlocks With Letters On 3Word game and puzzle enthusiasts are in for a combination of lovely treat and brain-abusing punishment in Blocks With Letters On 3, the third installment in the block-manipulating, anagram-solving, funny-bone-tickling series, the first installment of which was voted one of the Best Games of 2008 by JIG. After nearly two sad blockless years, Marty Sears is back with all the fiendish brain-teasing action and absurd animations fans have come to expect. And if you're new to BWLO, you'll find this even more of a treat... and even more of a punishment. A punishing treat? A... treaty... punishment? Anyway, yay!

If you don't know the series, you might want to go back and try the first and second games first, as the third game basically leaps right into high gear from the very first levels. While the instructions are clear, they can be a little much to take in all at once. However, if you just can't wait to leap in, I'll go over it for you as simply as I can. Every level contains a grid with the titular blocks with letters on them and some bright yellow goal squares. Your task is to fill the goal squares to spell a certain word. You manipulate blocks by clicking on a block and using the [arrow] keys to move it. You can also use [space] to shift from one block to the next.

The basic gray block is subject to gravity and can only move left and right, and if it encounters a gap, it will fall through it. In some levels, you either start with white block or can turn gray blocks white. White blocks can move in any direction and won't fall. Depending on the level, there are also many special helpful or hindering elements. Running a block past a red rotator will rotate it 90 degrees. Blue glue will hold a block fast. Numbered blocks can be flipped on and off by switches. Letter changers will change A to B, B to C and so on. Swirly, color-marked teleport squares can be used by pressing [enter]. And new for BWLO3, the black and white duplicator can be used one to duplicate a block, while the purple question mark mystery switch behaves differently depending on the level. Phew! Still with me? You generally don't have to deal with them all at once, and it becomes second nature fairly quickly. When you beat a level, you're rewarding with a whimsical, sometimes grotesque, but always amusing animation depicting what you've just spelled out. At the end of the game, the grand finale is a full song, and Marty Sears thinks it's the best song yet.

Blocks With Letters On 3Analysis: This game is almost pure thinking and rewards careful, slow movement. There are a few levels where you must quickly switch between blocks in order to move one while the other one falls, but even on those levels you only have to do it once or twice. Because the game requires lateral thinking, for one player a certain level may be maddeningly difficult even with hints, for another player the level's solution is obvious at first glance, and for a third player the level seems difficult at first but trial and error lead to the solution. When they move on to the next level, the stumped one gets it immediately, the immediate one gets it only with difficulty, and the trial and error one can't get it at all. Rather than continuing to beat your head against a level that's stumping you, I suggest taking a break for a while and coming back to it with fresh eyes. You only have 10 hints (which give an idea of how to start, usually) and 10 clues (which tell the first letter of the solution) total, so be stingy with them.

While all the solutions are words that are acceptable spellings in any variant of English, one word's spelling is more common in UK English, and at least one of the hints refers to idioms that are only found in UK English as far as I know. These puzzles are difficult even for native English speakers, and I can only imagine how difficult they would be for non-fluent speakers. That said, this game is emphatically not for people who want an easy diversion, but for the masochistic puzzlers in the audience—and I'm one of you!—it doesn't get much better than this.

Play Blocks With Letters On 3

Still want more Blocks With Letters On?
Play the entire BWLO series...


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Rating: 3.6/5 (88 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypIt's Weekday Escape time! Tone of Vesper, by Strawberry Cafe, is less of an escape from a room and more of an escape to a certain state of mind. Strawberry Cafe has stripped away many of the usual room escape trappings, leaving a game that is more of a point-and-click adventure than an escape. The object, you see, is not to get out of the space, but to explore it and find out what hidden treasures it holds. Specifically, what hidden musical treasures.

Tone of VesperYou can still use your usual escape skills to explore every item you can find to see what kind of noise it can make. Each noise gets you a musical note, and when you complete the collection you will be treated to a lovely tune with which to enjoy the serene night and the brilliant full moon which hovers over the area. There is very little navigation here, the space, what looks like a back courtyard with a small pool, is the only place you will explore. There's no turning around, simply looking at things either in the long view or close-up, making Tone of Vesper resemble the stripped down gems of Petithima. Everything is a potential source of music, from the rustle of leaves to the...but that would be telling. Most of the fun in this game is discovering for yourself what items can make beautiful music.

Tone of Vesper is done up in darker, more realistic shades than Strawberry Cafe's usual efforts, although there are touches of the trademark pink and red here and there. The dimmer lighting and the night setting give the game a surreal yet calm feeling, a perfect setting for what is to come. Although there are some puzzles to be found, almost everything is use of found objects. What happens when you use this on that, what sort of noise will this make. Slow down and take the time to really explore, and discover the music of the night (sorry, bad pun).

There's no internal music, so the game is pretty quiet other than the minor sounds you will hear when you manipulate objects. However since sound plays an integral role in Tone of Vesper don't play with the mute on or else you will miss most of the charm and the lovely melody at the end. There's no changing cursor so be prepared for some pixel hunting which is minimized somewhat by the minimal space of the game.

Take 5 minutes out of your day to make some beautiful music, and enjoy the night and the rhythm of everyday life.

Play Tone of Vesper


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Rating: 3.9/5 (53 votes)
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DoraVisible IIIDo you remember when you were a kid and you used to climb across furniture because you were pretending the floor was covered in lava and snakes? Well, get back in that mentality, because in Visible III by Thomas Griffin (PsyFlash Productions), it ain't just the floor that's dangerous. Dust off your climbing skills for a challenging platformer where you play a spy-type-dude running a series of obstacle courses that would do dear ol' GLaDOS proud. Sure you can manage spikes, lasers, mines and more... but can you keep track of the danger when you're playing on two different screens?

Use the [WASD] keys to move around; press towards and up against a wall to climb it, or hold up while jumping when you're close to the ceiling to swing your way across monkey bars style. You can only do this as long as your grip holds out, represented by the green bar in the middle of the screen. Above that is a blue bar which represents your ability to turn invisible as long as you hold the [shift] key. You'll need to utilize both abilities to make it past the numerous fatal traps and reach the exit. What's fatal? Most everything that isn't you. Since you die with a single hit, you'll want to be very careful and keep you eye out for checkpoints, signified by green flags, which is where you'll respawn.

The hitch? You're playing on two screens at the same time, one an inversion of the other, and while both of them may not show the same obstacles or traps, all of it is fatal. Can you manage to keep your eyes on both screens at once? There are fifteen levels, an additional five "Gauntlet" stages, and a level editor to let you create your own death trap, or play someone else's. (Isn't sharing wonderful?)

Visible IIIAnalysis: While having to keep track of two screens with two different sets of obstacles and fatal traps sounds like a good way to give yourself a nice old fashioned case of madness, in Visible III it works... mostly. It's definitely an adjustment to make, and you'll probably come to appreciate how lenient the game is at least as far as allowing you to respawn without penalty. This last in the series is undeniably the most polished, but it's also the most sadistic in terms of difficulty. The two screens are disorienting to say the least, and it takes a while to get the hang of things.

The downside is that the controls are almost too responsive. When simply brushing your toe up against a spike results in bloody death, the last thing you want is for your protagonist to spring around the screen like an exuberant baby deer. And while the levels are challenging, they're not what you might call particularly varied. It would have been great if the game kept you on your toes with constant surprises, but as it is, it's hard to feel particularly threatened by a bunch of mostly stationary traps. The game does introduce new things to avoid as you go, but they're mostly just variations on "don't touch this". Fortunately, the levels are very cleverly designed, so beating them always feels satisfying.

Although the main campaign is relatively short at only 15 levels, the level editor allows for virtually endless fun, as long as your idea of fun corresponds with the sort of unforgiving platforming generally associated with certain Mario rom hacks. It's the last in the series, and a well made finale to cap to it all off. Welcome to Visible III, where your motto will quickly become, "How the heck do they expect me to do that?!"

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Rating: 4.1/5 (78 votes)
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TrickyCap'n GoldGrubber's Treasure HuntDespite the trope's prevalence in fiction, historical pirates weren't much for burying treasure. After all, while everyone loves gold, it's much more useful to have on hand, than covered in sand on some atoll. Besides, most plunder consisted of booze, ammo, food, trade goods, and the occasional illegitimately-copied DVD... none of which much improves in quality by being underground on a hot beach. Still, a few pirates did bury a stash either to offer as leverage if they were captured or, as in the case of Jacksmack's Cap'n GoldGrubber's Treasure Hunt, to present an island romp for our Casual Gameplay Design Competition #8.

You see, Cap'n Goldgrubber is ready to retire after a lifetime of high-seas marauding, and he's taken you to the island where a fortune of ill-gotten gains is buried. He's giving you fourteen days to find and dig up enough treasure to live the rest of his days in comfort. Succeed and you share in the wealth. Fail and it's a one way trip off the edge of a plank.

What follows is a set of orienteering puzzles. Each day takes you to a different islet with numerous buried treasures and one "secret" treasure hidden therein. Click on a square to move to it, and click on the square you're standing on to dig for (hopefully) treasure. You are given a compass that points in the direction of the closest treasure (and spins when you are right on top of it), but the only way to find the very expensive bonus treasures is through following lists of cryptic clues. Keep in mind that each day you have a limited amount of energy for your task, but various upgrades are available for purchase. And the boisterous Cap'n is thar to be offerin' his hilarious commentary on the items you find.

Cap'n GoldGrubber's Treasure HuntAnalysis: The theme was "sandbox", and the game does successfully capture the feeling of two kids playing as pirates, digging up treasure in the backyard. There's some kind of visceral joy about uncovering something in the sand (an interesting shell, a piece of sea glass, a mysterious old coin...) and Cap'n GoldGrubber excels at replicating that experience. While very "Find-Dig-Repeat" in its mechanics, each of the maps are quite engaging. A large part of the game's appeal is the titular captain. He's a scurvy sea-dog who's 100% cliché, but a well-written one, and he may just be the best character of the competition. The dude just cracked me up. Kudos to Joshua Tomar for his exceptional voice acting.

While the gameplay is enjoyable, it is also quite unbalanced, and that is where the experience falters. It's fun to hunt treasure (though occasionally made difficult by the scenery), but, once you've purchased a handful of upgrades, finding becomes so easy that it becomes non-challenging and repetitive. Unfortunately, without said upgrades, you probably wouldn't be able to find the amount of gold the captain expects, which leaves the player in a bit of a bind. Regardless, the game plays out all fourteen days even if you've reached the treasure goal on day seven. This is nice for the players who care enough to rack up an Overachiever Achievement, but it makes the endgame kind of aimless. Fortunately, there's a button that allows you to end each day early, but I felt kind of bad when I was skipping days of gameplay just to get to the end.

Cap'n GoldGrubber is a little like "International Talk Like a Pirate Day" : Hilarious in concept, initially charming, more than a little repetitious, and something only a small group of people will want to go through more than once. Still, it is a worthy entry to the competition and you should enjoy the voyage. In conclusion, arrrr.

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Rating: 3.2/5 (46 votes)
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DoraCave TrekSometimes you feel like a puzzle, sometimes you don't. When you do, there's Cave Trek, an isometric game light on story and heavy on brain-seizing mazes. Your goal is simple; get to the exit at the end of each level and proceed deeper into the caverns. That's it; there's no story given, no real motivation. Why are you in the cave? What possible treasures could be worth all this trouble?... Do... do you think it's banana muffins?... oh my God, you guys, I bet it's totally banana muffins! I love banana muffins! Last one down's a rotten egg!

Use the [arrow] keys to move around. The idea is that the exit will only open up when you've made all the light coloured tiles drop off the screen, which happens once you step off of one and on to the next. Easy, right? Well, then, how about the traps? After a certain number of tiles have fallen, pillars will spring up from holes in the ground, barring your way or obliterating you if you happen to be standing on one. Oh, and of course there're the green crystal formations, which can only be removed once you've collected all the smaller crystals. Then, of course, you have various colour-coded switches to contend with... but we're sure you'll have no problem with any of that. Right? Gravy.

The problem is that there's really no way of knowing when the trap pillars will trigger, so each level involves a certain amount of trial-and-error. And while it's well made and cleverly designed, it's also a one-trick pony. There just isn't a whole lot of variation to the levels, well designed as they are, making Cave Trek the gaming equivalent of a book of crossword puzzles. For some people, "congrats, now do it again, but harder" isn't going to be a sufficient reward for their time spent sweatily glaring daggers at their computer screen.

But while it undoubtably could have been bigger, more fleshed out, and more elaborate, that doesn't necessarily mean it should have been. If what you want is pure, uncomplicated puzzling, Cave Trek will provide it in a tiny but polished little package. Even with a lack of variety, it offers up a satisfying challenge with adorable aesthetics, which we're sure will give you a lot of comfort the umpteenth time you trap yourself in the corner.

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Rating: 3.7/5 (48 votes)
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ChiktionaryZOO DirectorNot a lot can be said without spoiling the fun of playing Srdjan Susnic's entry into our Casual Gameplay Design Competition #8. What you should know is that ZOO Director is a truly traditional sandbox gameplay experience. Your aim is to rise above the rank of humble Zoo Novice to claim the glorious title of Zoo Director by creating and maintaining your very own zoo. Sounds simple, but this quirky little game quickly reveals its challenges.

You are responsible for figuring out which terrain and which food source suits each animal, and in some cases how the animals feed. You'll also need to work on cage size to suit each of Susnic's critters, and that's where the true sandbox experience comes into play; be prepared to create, play and experiment as you build your zoo.

Upon hitting the in-game play button you'll be faced with a screen that looks somewhat pixelated. No, not a graphics card problem, this is your piece of land with all its various terrains for you to transform. Use your mouse to select the terrains, cage walls, animals and food. You'll also need to create a path for visitors to meander through and scrutinise your zoo. The popularity of your zoo is based on their opinions, and they're a tough crowd to please. Create your cages, make sure your animals have room to move, food and good company. You can monitor each creature's condition by keeping an eye on their levels of senility, hunger and solitude. There is a save feature, which is accomplished by giving you some code to copy and paste into a text editor. And yes, you can switch the melodious-but-only-for-so-long-midi-style music off.

Susnic has created a really quite unique game, aiming for a traditional sandbox experience. How you create your zoo is entirely up to you, you have the freedom to select cage-sizes and which animals you'd like to care for. The challenge here lies in matching terrains and food sources to your animals, and endeavouring to keep them and the zoo visitors as content as possible. Transforming the terrain one square at a time can be tedious so a click 'n' drag function might have been helpful for those less patient gamers, but I did experience some level of satisfaction upon completing each cage. There is a tutorial accessible from the main menu, which can be really helpful, especially after an initial dive-in-head-first approach to the game.

ZOO DirectorAnalysis: Unfortunately, Susnic's critters are a little fragile; the animals expire rather quickly from senility if their cages are too small. However, too large a cage can leave its occupants lost and wandering and unable to find their mates, resulting in death by solitude. Like any Zoo Director, you learn the needs of each animal and how to balance them. An inelegant "raspberry" sound notifies you when an animal dies, which can be comical during a spate of expirations, but frustrating when you need to locate the demised for burial. A dead animal will have literally turned its toes up, but a simple colour change indicating when an animal has passed would have made it easier to locate. It would also be nice to have the option to replace an animal when it is in serious decline, so as to prevent the zoo visitors experiencing trauma at having to witness such deaths and thereby lowering the popularity of your zoo.

Experimenting and creating your zoo-scape would have to be the most fun part of playing. Once you've used up all the land space, you may need to make modifications to improve your zoo and keep the crowds happy. Then it's a matter of maintaining your zoo and watching as its popularity rises and falls. Frankly, the rank of Zoo Director seems painfully difficult to attain. There's no budget limit to creating your zoo, so the existence of a dollar figure for how much you've invested in your zoo seems a little pointless.

However, watching the animals interact with their environments, listening to the roars of approval from the visiting crowds, and generally just getting in there and trying absolutely everything out is what really makes this game. There are oddly satisfying moments when you successfully integrate an animal with its suitable terrain and food source, and especially when you see a leap in your zoo's popularity. Cute sound effects, charming little graphics and possibly the closest thing to experiencing zoo management from your ergonomically-sound computer chair are definitely worth checking out. You never know, you might be exploring, playing, experimenting and creating in your zoo longer than you think...

Note: For those who have already played ZOO Director, Srdjan Susnic has uploaded an updated version of the game minus the bugs, and, in response to the feedback he received during CGDC8, he has graciously adapted the game to be more intuitive in terms of feeding and terrain elements. Enjoy :)

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Rating: 4.2/5 (141 votes)
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BradFlock TogetherFlock Together is the latest game from John Cooney (jmtb02). It tells the story of a little girl whose pet sheep, somehow, gets tied to a balloon and floats toward the sky. Your job is to follow after it by tethering yourself to different birds. You start off with only three ropes tied to one weak dove, but it won't be long until you'll be soaring. Flock Together is not a complex game, nor is it long, challenging or expansive. What it is, is soothing, cute and fun. It perfectly fits the term "casual gameplay."

To tether more birds just click on the one you want when its within range, and to move around you can use either the [arrow] keys or [WASD]. Since three birds won't be enough to reach the great heights your sheep has floated to, you'll need to get some more rope. Luckily, a hot air balloon piloting rabbit is buying birds and selling ropes. Stronger birds will fetch more money, but even birds of the same type are not created equal. Each species has two stats: one for how fast they fly and the other for how high. Out in the wild blue yonder are wild and rare birds, identified by the stars around them, and they'll sell for more cash with their higher stats.

The art style is well done, though the higher up you go the less there is to look at. It's a shame because the islands at the bottom have their own simple charm.The birds aren't equally simple, but they fit with the game's whimsical style. The sound is absolutely fantastic; the music may be repetitive, but it's so calming and unintrusive that you'll barely notice, especially combined with the soft sound of the waves. All these elements combine to create something that's like interactive, goal-based white noise.

There is something nice about roping a bunch of birds and just cruising the skies, watching the ropes stretch out and seeing your little girl trailing behind like some strange kite where you aren't sure who's in control. If you're looking for an in-depth game that'll burn away hours, this won't hit the mark. If you've had a frustrating day and want a game that'll calm you like warm milk, Flock Together is perfect. It's simple fun wrapped in a beautiful package. What's more, it finally vindicates the majestic albatross, which has gotten a bad rap ever since Samuel Tyler Coleridge's smear campaign.

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Rating: 4.5/5 (86 votes)
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Joshfragger-lost-city.jpgFragger is back! And this time, those nefarious, googly-eyed masked baddies aren't content to just stand still on a serene and windy cartoon landscape. Now they're stoic guardians presiding over a hell-swept, post-apocylptical world filled with rusted girders, smashed apartments, and broken warehouses.

New locations aside, Fragger Lost City is still the same Fragger people keep coming back to. This latest chapter features a new set of 30 grenade-tossing, physics-based levels with different backgrounds, layouts, and puzzles. The object hasn't changed: you still use your mouse to aim your soldier-guy's grenade throws in order to destroy all the enemies on the screen. Once again there are solid and destructible obstacles, time-delayed directional-based explosives, and boxes of TNT to help or hinder your efforts. Three levels of difficulty (Normal, Hard, and Elite) add some unlockable replayability, with later levels granting the ability to throw multiple grenades at a time.

Thankfully there's more meat here than Harold Brenes' last Fragger offering (Bonus Blast), and the variety of levels have interesting arrangements that take advantage of the background and theme. There's even a fun Plinko-type level that fans should really enjoy. The new levels are entertaining and a little tricky, but not overly difficult. Like before, you can easily restart a level until you get the proper angle and strength of your throws. This makes getting through the game a matter of trial and error, but a satisfying one at that.

While it would have been nice to see new elements added to the core gameplay this third time around (cluster grenades or new enemies, perhaps?), Fragger Lost City is a fun expansion pack that will keep you more than occupied during your next coffee break.

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Mobile Monday

JohnBIt's a bunch of running games! It seems that after Canabalt came along, speed-based dashing games became a staple genre. There are tons of Canabalt clones around, but these titles do something a bit different than just let you hop over rooftops.

monsterdash.gifMonster Dash - The most varied running game of the lot, Monster Dash does more than let you hop over obstacles while you sprint. This time, you've got guns! And lots of them, too. Enemies spawn all over the place, and you have to either avoid or eradicate them. Smash crates to get new, ammo-limited weapons, and feast your eyes when the scenery changes to another lush setting! The game tracks tons of stats, making even casual jaunts matter in the long run.

deadrunner.gifDead Runner - Here's a neat idea: why not have a first person, 3D running game? You wake up in a dark forest with tortured souls calling all around you. So... let's book it, shall we? Tilt the iPhone to control your direction, avoiding trees, gravestones and the like by keeping them out of the center of view. Two modes of play are available: run as far as you can, and get as many points as you can. Each takes place in the same eerily-lit forest, though the latter is stocked with glowing points orbs. Great gameplay and loads of achievements make it one to keep coming back to again and again.

caverun.gifCave Run - The most bare-bones dashing game of the bunch, Cave Run has just two goals: don't die, and collect coins to level up. There are plenty of obstacles to avoid, not all of which are harmful to your speed. Online leaderboards let you compete to be the top cave runner in the world, which is something I've always wanted to attain in my life. The flashing level up screen is probably the worst idea in gaming history, but otherwise this is a solid little coin collecting action game.

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: 4.8/5 (155 votes)
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Recettear

JohnBEarlier this year, we featured a demo of a little game called Recettear, a Japan-only RPG/simulation title released by EasyGameStation in 2007. Carpe Fulgur was working on localizing the game for an English-speaking audience, and in order to gauge interest for a full release, tested the waters with a demo. The response was grand, and just a few months later, the full version of Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale has arrived!

recettear.jpgIn Recettear, you take on the role of Recette and the knowledgeable fairy named Tear. Recette's father vanished after taking out a massive loan, and unfortunately for our heroine, it's time to pay up, and she has to foot the bill. Tear works for Terme Finance, the owner of the loan, and decides to help Recette earn money by turning her house into a storefront, selling items to adventurers in town.

Instead of playing the usual part of "hero who saves the world", Recettear fits you in behind the scenes as shopkeeper, the thankless job of stocking and selling an endless supply of items. You'll haggle with customers, trying to sell your wares at a tidy profit without scaring shoppers away. You stock your store with items you buy at the market or guild, and demand (as well as prices) for items waxes and wanes as time goes by. If you're tired of sitting behind the sales counter, you can always hire a hero and head out on an adventure, crawling through dungeons in an action/RPG-styled loot fest. Anything you find in the catacombs is yours to sell at a 100% profit!

Recettear is metered out in four chunks of time each game day. Opening up your shop eats up a time period, so you can only sell a few items each day. Heading out to the dungeons eats up two time periods, so you can really only adventure in the morning if you want to make good of the loot you nabbed. This parceling out of time gives the game a deliberate, gradual pacing that forces you to make smart decisions and use your time wisely. And while it seems you can never get enough done in one day, when your next loan payment is suddenly due, you'll realize time passes quite fast. Just like real life!

recettear2.jpgAnalysis: There's so much to say about this well-stocked game that it's impossible to cover it all in one tiny review. Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale starts out simply enough with a few items to find, a few stores to visit, and a dungeon to run through. Before long, you've got multiple heroes to adventure with, hundreds of items to manage, several dungeons with different floors to visit, customers making special requests and trying to sell you items, and even a little "friendly" competition! Despite the intricacies of the experience, Recettear never feels too complex, and each time something new appears, you'll eat it up with vigor.

It's true you'll spend most of your time in the dungeon or behind the counter at your shop, but the nature of every day of gameplay is always different. Recettear never feels stale, everything evolves as you play, adding more and more to experience (and deal with) as you progress. And just when you think you've seen it all, Recettear throws something new at you in the form of random events or completely new twists to the story. It's a little piece of brilliance how the game keeps things fresh even after many hours of play.

Also, Recettear is something you can get compulsive about. Even though it's billed as an item selling game, there's so much more going on that selling items becomes something of an excuse to do everything else the game offers. There are hundreds of items to find, price, and sell, many with unique characteristics when used in battle. Adventurers also level up, and outfitting them with awesome equipment is a game unto itself. Then there are individual upgrades you can nab for your shop to spruce things up a bit. Bet some pine wood flooring would look nice!

New, original games are something of a rare commodity in today's saturated gaming society. Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is one of these marvelous gems. Love it for its smart design, love it for its mixing of game concepts, love it for how everything comes together in a complete, time-absorbing package.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 4.4/5 (22 votes)
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Royal Trouble

joyePrincess Loreen and Prince Nathaniel got off on the wrong foot. Sure, you can't blame them for being cranky. I mean, they both woke up to discover themselves captive in a dungeon. That would put a damper on anyone's mood. And the way they (inadvertently and hilariously) foiled each other's initial escape attempts doesn't seem too conducive to a happy relationship. But if you bring your point-and-clicking A-game, you should be able to ensure that these two crazy kids get their happily ever after in the Orchid Games adventure Royal Trouble.

Royal TroubleRoyal Trouble switches you back and forth between Nathaniel (brown inventory) and Loreen (blue inventory). The cursor will change as you hover over various hotspots: to a hand, when it's something you can pick up; to a gear, when it's something you can manipulate with another object; and to a magnifying glass, when it's something you can examine, perhaps for a clue, perhaps to zoom in to another view, perhaps just for a bit of flavor text. Your inventory will fill up at the bottom of the screen. You can combine objects within it by clicking on one and then the other, and use objects from it on "gear" locations.

Your ultimate goal, of course, is for both Nathaniel and Loreen to escape. Most of the game consists of fairly logical inventory puzzles, with occasional mini-games. For example, you might pick up a hairpin, and in a lock-picking mini-game pick a lock to a cupboard with it, and then take the dog food within, combine it with a sedative from your inventory, and use it on a guard dog in order to sneak past him.

There are no inexplicable hidden object scenes where you are for some reason compelled to discover a rubber duck, a toothbrush, and a ladies' fan, yet only one object amongst the multitude is actually added to your inventory. Nor does the game fall into the trap of placing objects where they have no business being (why is there a hammer in the bathtub?). No, Royal Trouble has only a few hidden object scenes, and they involve things like finding unbent nails... in a chest full of nails. And a certain set of dishes... in a china cabinet. Because of this, they take a much keener eye for detail than the typical hidden object fare. If this doesn't sound appealing, don't fret; all puzzles and mini-games are skippable with no penalty. Simply wait until the skip bar fills and click it to skip. Be careful not to click outside of a puzzle window, however. This backs you out of the puzzle altogether and resets it, which is good if you're doing certain puzzles and you think you've gotten stuck, but frustrating if you were almost done.

Royal TroubleAnalysis: If you're familiar with Orchid Games from its romantic Heartwild Solitaire series, you should know that there isn't a bit of purple prose to be found in Royal Trouble. No one swoons, no one clasps anyone to a heaving bosom, and dark and stormy nights in which white shirts cling alarmingly are right out. That said, if you don't foresee a romance between Nathaniel and Loreen from the first sparks of their bickering, you're obviously skipping the dialogue. It would be easy for the plot and character to fall into dull stereotypes. Although the game does flirt with them, from "feisty redhead" Loreen to would-be "knight in shining armor" Nathaniel, the snappy dialogue keeps things humorous, and the characters actually learn from their boneheaded mistakes and don't make them again (or at least, make new and entertainingly fresh mistakes). They actually develop believably as people and learn from their experiences.

The hint system deserves particular praise. Click on the book in the lower right whenever you need a nudge. First it will tell you your immediate goal. Then, as you ask it for more help, it will gradually reveal more and more information until finally it tells you explicitly what to do next. You never have to exit the game to hunt for a walkthrough on the web, because it's all right in game. The game also includes an excellent checkpoint system. In the main menu, click on "options" and then click "load game". The game will show all the checkpoints you've passed. When you've gotten to the end of the game, there will be 23 checkpoints. You can click on any checkpoint to play from that point, if you want to relive a certain cutscene or puzzle.

Royal Trouble is a light and casual romp in the tradition of more "hardcore" point-and-click adventures like the Monkey Island series. Players in search of an amusing script with memorable characters and looking to solve some logical puzzles shouldn't miss out on this escapade.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 4.8/5 (103 votes)
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Amnesia: The Dark Descent

DoraWhat if you could forget your past? The things you said that you regret, the time someone broke your heart or you broke theirs... wouldn't it be easier if it would all just go away? Amnesia: The Dark Descent is the latest horror adventure title from Frictional Games that not only deals with things that go bump in the dark, but regret, guilt, and hate as well. You wake up on the floor in a silent castle, unable to remember anything except, your name; Daniel. But a name isn't an identity, and just because you can't remember your past doesn't mean it isn't still out there waiting for you.

Amnesia: The Dark DescentMovement is the [WASD] keys by default, and most items in your environment can be interacted with using the mouse and physics. If your cusor changes to a hand, you can manipulate whatever you're looking at. Click and hold on a door, for example, then push or pull the mouse to fling it open. (Or slowly to take a peek, if you prefer.) Press [TAB] to open your inventory and pause the game. Much of the game is dependant on light sources, which either come in the form of the lantern you pick up early on, which Best of Casual Gameplay 2010needs to be supplied with fuel, or by using tinderboxes to ignite things light torches, fireplaces, candles, and so forth.

For whatever arbitrary reason, you cannot carry even small torches or candlesticks when they're lit, so give some thought to the position of a light source before you use up your limited tinder on it. The game is surprisingly good at giving you supplies just when you need them the most, but you'll still want to conserve whenever possible. You also can't snuff out a stationary light source. Why is that important? Well, although Daniel's sanity suffers when he's in the dark, you're also harder to find.

Daniel is unable to fight off any attackers you might encounter, so whenever danger rears its head your options are typically hide, run, or run faster. Cupboards, overturned furniture, dark corners, and more all provide decent cover if something's on your tail. This is important, since there are no cutscenes and if something's coming after you, you'll need to act quickly. You should try to make a habit out of scouting out potential hiding places whenever you enter a new area, especially since you're frequently left with only a few seconds to react whenever you hear that you have company. Find somewhere dark, crouch down, don't move or turn on the lights, and whatever you do, don't look; staring at an enemy too long will make Daniel panic, so resist the temptation to turn around, no matter how close to your back that snuffling sounds...

The game autosaves for you at certain points, usually signified by a soft blue glow momentarily flushing across the screen, but the only way for you to really conveniently save your game is to choose "Save and Exit" from the menu.

Amnesia: The Dark DescentAnalysis: You might not agree with me on this, but I've always thought horror is best without much explanation and a lot of ambiguity. If we don't know why we're being hurt or hunted, and the creature after us can't be reasoned with or explained, then the confusion can make the fear sharper. "Ancient mystical doo-dad" is the gaming equivalent of "the butler did it", but at least it keeps Amnesia from throwing back the mystery from their monsters and their unsettling setting. The story here is related primarily through journal entries or flashbacks, as well as the dreamlike bits of text that pop up during loading screen. The teasing delivery manages to intrigue you enough to keep playing, revealing more and more, and is deliciously creepy to boot.

Amnesia takes you to some beautifully designed locations that go from lavish living quarters to bloody makeshift "laboratories" and places that can only be described as surreal. (The monsters, on the other hand, can be described as "OH GAWD WHAT IS THAT A-BUH-HUH-HUH-HUH!!") It's a welcome departure from Penumbra's endless buffet of near-identical caverns, tunnels, and steel rooms, and each area presents its own challenge. The game also sounds great, especially the sound effects that add tremendously to the atmosphere. The soft hush of the wind through a broken widow. Rocks or wooden beams settling overhead. The nearby howl of an interdimensional hellbeast that sends you scurrying into the sheltering embrace of the nearest wardrobe where you cower defenselessly as you try to blubber quietly.

Amnesia takes cues from both Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem and Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth at least as far as gameplay goes, relying on cunning and stealth rather than letting you take the Chuck Norris approach. The addition of sanity to the game allows you to see some really neat effects that add to the unsettling atmosphere, but it also means you've basically got another "health bar" to worry about. Since your sanity also suffers when you're in the dark (what a weenus), you either have to constantly light candles or burn through your oil if you don't want Daniel to cry himself into a puddle while the camera goes all wobbly and cockroaches crawl over your face.

Amnesia: The Dark DescentBecause you're unable to engage in fisticuffs with whatever beasties end up tracking you down, the game forces you to get creative. You can distract enemies by throwing objects away from you (yes, that old trick), or utilize your frequently destructible environment to create temporary barriers or obstacles to buy yourself some time. Hiding is still the best tool in your chest, however, and when you hear something looking for you, your best bet is usually to flee to somewhere dark, crouch down, and stay quiet. The appearance of monsters is fairly unpredictable, which means you're on edge roughly 95% of the time. You'll quickly learn not to trust the game when it tries to make you feel safe; just because there's soothing music playing and candles glowing all around doesn't mean something that thinks you look tasty isn't about to make an appearance.

Unfortunately, the game is not what you might call particularly difficult. Any puzzle aspects the game tries to offer up fail to really engage. When your progress is impeded by an obstacle, you'll usually find some sort of note or letter nearby that conveniently details what you need and where to find it, and usually what to do with it when you get it. Once you've tracked them down, it's typically just a matter of bringing the item back to where you were stuck and using it on the obstacle. Whether this is a big deal for you largely depends on how much you like that big, beautiful brain of yours to feel smug and stimulated. Admittedly, there's something to be said about the accessibility of a title where the puzzles largely revolve around throwing things at other things, and it does keep the pacing moving along rather nicely.

Amnesia: The Dark Descent has some of the most tense and unnerving gameplay you'll find with a satisfyingly creepy story as its tasty nougat center. A single playthrough will probably last you around eight hours or so, and there are a few different endings that depend on your actions towards the end of the game. A fantastic achievement for its developers, and the most intense experience I've had in a game in a long time. It's an improvement in virtually every way over its spiritual predecessor, and, while not quite perfect, is well worth a spot on your shelf if you've been waiting for a game that not only sets out to scare the living daylights out of you, it brings out the big guns to do it repeatedly.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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

LinuxLinux:
Download the demo
Get the full version


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Amelie's Cafe: Summer Time

CoryAfter taking over her grandfather's failing cafe and turning it into a thriving business, intrepid barista Amelie returns for more in Amelie's Cafe: Summer Time, a new time management game from Boolat Games. Summer Time trades the bustling city setting of the original for a summer beach motif, but the gameplay is just as enticing.

Amelie's CafeAmelie has made all her dreams come true in the city, but she's not one to rest on her laurels. Instead, she packs up and moves to the beach, hoping to make it big all over again. Amelie brings three of her loyal employees along, and as her new cafe grows in popularity her staff expands to six. Amelie also starts serving lemonade, candy and iced coffee. Over time, the looks of the cafe change as it's revamped from a modest beach retreat into a chic hangout.

Amelie's Cafe: Summer Time stays true to traditional time management gameplay. When a customer visits the cafe, Amelie takes their order, rushes to deliver that order to the appropriate cook or machine, then brings the order to the customer after it's finished. As the cafe's employees work, their stations become dirty and Amelie must clean them before the employees refuse to continue making refreshments.

Successfully serving customers before they grow impatient and leave earns the cafe money, and completing each level requires a certain amount of money. Getting things done quickly earns Amelie bonus icons that show up at the bottom of the screen; matching three or more identical icons earns Amelie a bonus ranging from cleaning all the employees' work stations to calming impatient customers.

As the game progresses, Amelie earns periodic upgrades to improve her employees' performance as well as various other aspects of the cafe. Each employee can be upgraded to become quicker or cleaner, Amelie's running speed can be improved and the amount of money earned from bonuses can be increased. The cafe's decor can also be upgraded over time, giving the player options to upgrade the looks of the floor, the customers' tables, the counter and the employees' work stations.

The game uses colorful, attractive sprite graphics. It's easy to distinguish different types of customers from one another based on their looks and mixing up which employee does what is never a problem. The cafe itself looks gorgeous as well, especially as the decor is improved.

Amelie's CafeAnalysis:Amelie's Cafe doesn't redefine the time management genre, but it's still an entertaining game with a hefty coat of polish. A key aspect of gameplay is learning the unique personality traits of each customer. Each type of customer has different rates at which they grow impatient along with certain items that they're more likely to order. Students, for instance, tend to prefer ice cream and wraps and will quickly grow impatient if they aren't served. Learning what each customer prefers and how quickly they need to be served before they leave is important in prioritizing Amelie's various tasks.

Each employee also has specific traits that the player would do well to learn. Martin the wrap chef works fast but tends to make a mess so his station often requires cleaning, while Antonio the salad chef is slow but clean so he doesn't require as much attention. Knowing the particulars of each employee is important in deciding which upgrades to take. This can also pose problems - even when upgraded, Antonio still makes salads at a snail's pace, so if many customers are looking for salads at the same time some will be forced to wait.

While Summer Time starts off slowly, the pace gradually ramps up. Eventually the game becomes fairly intense, which could be a problem for players without much experience with time management games. It's necessary to queue up long sequences of actions in order to keep up with a seemingly endless stream of impatient customers, and often Amelie's only saving grace is her stock of customer-calming bonus icons. Continued play always leads to more upgrades which can help the player get through a tough level.

The upgrades themselves are also disappointing, however, since their effects seem fairly minimal. Additionally, while upgrading the cafe's decor is visually interesting, these upgrades have seemingly no effect on the cafe's performance. Choosing between the various decor upgrades seems meaningless, and perhaps giving speed or patience boosts would have made decor seem more significant.

While Amelie's Cafe: Summer Time doesn't bring anything earthshaking to time management, it does the basics well and is a great choice for fans of the genre. Players new to time management games may run into some frustrating roadblocks, but practice and patience will see them through.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Weekend Download

JohnBWe've been fortunate enough to receive a number of big indie releases these last weeks, but the "even more indie" small devs aren't sitting on their hands, as evidenced by the games below. Behold, free awesomeness!

jablesadventures.gifJables's Adventure (Windows, 25MB, free) - It's adventure time! When Jables awakes one morning with a squid on his head, he knows something is different. That the squid has a name and is calling Jables "hero" is something else entirely. Venture outside in this platform adventure, walk to the right, high-five the guy standing there, and you win! Seriously! But, since the squid's already on your head, might as well do some more exploring to see if anything else is going on. Wander around the game's interconnected passageways searching for events like a bear with a flamethrower or a miner with a chainsaw. You get a few ability upgrades and there are several life-boosting fruits hiding as well. What the game lacks in depth or length it more than makes up for in presentation, as Jables's Adventure looks and sounds brilliant, and the dialogue/story is hilarious. Created by JaJitsu, author of Cat Poke.

labbaye.gifL'Abbaye des Morts (Windows, 1.4Mb, free) - A tribute to classic ZX Spectrum games such as Manic Miner, L'Abbaye des Morts (The Abbey of the Dead) from Hydorah creator Localmito is light on everything but challenge. You play a priest who escapes into an abandoned church when the crusaders come marchin', and after finding a few pieces of parchment you begin to seek out the twelve crosses so you can escape to freedom. Each of the two dozen rooms has its own challenges to solve, most of which are reflex-related. It's a short game, but extremely enjoyable for an afternoon of old-school platforming.

plasmapig.jpgPlasmaPig (Windows, 9.5MB, free) - A work-in-progress defense game that only uses one button, PlasmaPig is an exercise in orbiting. The pig mother ships are under attack, but each has a forcefield to keep it safe. As the little protector ship, all you can do is follow the orbit of each field, switching at key points by tapping the [spacebar]. Crash into the attacking ships to take them out, and hold [spacebar] to pick up speed, heal forcefields, and add to your bonus multiplier. Later, new ships with shields and other tricks appear, giving this game more of a strategic slant than you might have realized!

Note: All games have been confirmed to run under Windows 7 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 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (25 votes)
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Nightmare Adventures

JohnBA new casual adventure game from Ghost Ship Studios, Nightmare Adventures: The Witch's Prison takes you on a dark and creepy tour of an abandoned asylum. The grim setting and somewhat unhinged events that transpire set an interesting plot that drives the game's thoughtful, fluid puzzles. Your reward for solving puzzles is more of the story, and you'll devour every tidbit of information the game gives you.

Nightmare AdventuresThe star of the show, Kiera, learns she has inherited Blackwater Asylum, an empty mental institution shrouded in historical mystery. She sets out to shed some light on her family's involvement with the hospital. Soon, she meets a creepy guy named Quinn who, amongst other creepy things, is a huge fan of a TV show called Mr. Creeps. Oh, also, he's obsessed with Kiera and has all sorts of information on her, claiming she is some sort of "key" to whatever it is he's researching. And he's a member of a secret society called A.R.C.A.N.E. As you can imagine, the story gets more interesting from there on out.

Gameplay is lodged firmly in the adventure category, which suits the story-driven design perfectly. Each item you find has a specific and important use that you'll uncover within minutes of adding it to your inventory. No carrying around pages of trinkets hoping you can use them at some point. It's all fairly straightforward, and you'll use everything in your inventory before moving on to the next area, giving you just a few screens' space to explore with what you've got.

Kiera is very inquisitive and will divulge loads of information while you play. You can click on almost everything you can see. Some objects will hop in your inventory, some will zoom forward to give you a closer view, and the rest will summon Kiera's often dry commentary. Nightmare Adventures isn't without a sense of humor, and this is never shown more strongly than when you play a "hidden object" game called "unicorn.exe". A priceless parody.

Nightmare AdventuresAnalysis: The story is definitely the strongest drawing point in Nightmare Adventure, and if you can suspend your belief and let this girl go searching an abandoned asylum, you're in for a nightmarish ride. From not-quite-right gravediggers to secret societies, witches, and government cover-ups, Nightmare Adventures has just about every trope you could hope for, and it weaves them together in a satisfying way. Both present and past facts are uncovered gradually, filling you in on the history of the asylum while unfolding a disturbing tale of current events.

Puzzles in Nightmare Adventures are tightly composed and fit the setting quite well. You won't fumble with using items very often, as their purpose is usually quite clear (though not hit-you-over-the-head clear). Finding those items is almost always an exercise in logic. Need a battery for the remote control? What other appliances might have a battery you could steal? Completing the puzzles is very satisfying and has a strong room escape feel to it.

One extremely useful feature is Kiera's habit of taking photographs. Not only do these pictures save important clues you'll need to refer to later, they also serve as hints on how to solve certain puzzles. You'll also appreciate the "story" tab on the menu at the bottom, a handy little section that saves and summarizes plot pieces for quick reference.

The down side to Nightmare Adventures? Unless insane asylums aren't your thing, there's really not much to dislike about this game. The occultish story could polarize some players, but the puzzle design is solid, and the plot details unveiled at precisely the right intervals to keep you engrossed in the game. A superb entry in the underappreciated casual adventure category, Nightmare Adventures delivers exactly what the title promises.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 4.2/5 (561 votes)
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BradSneak ThiefSneak Thief 1: Prime Catch is a point-and-click adventure from Pastel Games where you play a thief, a sneaky one if the title didn't tip you off. In it, you're tasked by a man called Don Fabiano to retrieve the inventions of Prof. Bellamy. For your efforts, you will be paid top money... and isn't that the best kind of money?

Sneak Thief uses the standard point-and-click controls. Use your mouse to pick up items, use items with objects on screen or manipulate your environment to solve puzzles. To look around the room just click to far left or right side of the screen depending on which way you want to go.

The first thing you'll notice about Sneak Thief is that it looks awesome. The titular thief looks like he could be the character in a sixties cartoon as he flies to the tower on his handheld chopper. The environment is a mixture between the mundane lovingly and uniquely drawn and set pieces that are heavily stylized. Almost everything is bathed in blue which adds to the mood. The sound is great as well; the music is simple and repetitive, but it fits so well and is so catchy that you're more likely to find yourself grooving to it then right clicking to turn it off.

Play the entire Sneak Thief series:
Sneak Thief: Prime CatchSneak Thief 2: Second StrikeSneak Thief 3: Triple TroubleSneak Thief 4: Fourth FindSneak Thief 5: Final Five

The gameplay doesn't offer much length or challenge but it is fun. You won't have to do any pixel hunting or desperately try to use an item on everything. The solutions to all the puzzles are intuitive and, in a few cases, almost too easy. The ease does make you feel like a master of thievery with the way the game flows. That's not to say that the game doesn't require any thought, you just won't be claimed by fits of hair-pulling with this one.

As mentioned before, the game is pretty short. The good news is that Pastel Games is apparently making four more in the series so we can collect the rest of Professor Bellamy's inventions. Until then enjoy this gorgeous looking and fun adventure.

Play Sneak Thief 1: Prime Catch


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Rating: 4.6/5 (311 votes)
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DoraAlice is Dead: Episode 3The finale to Mike Morin's popular, twisted point-and-click take on the old fairytale is here. Alice is Dead: Episode 3 continues after the events of the second game and finds you (that is, the White Rabbit) closer than ever to finding out what happened to your memory, and why a certain blonde moppet tried to do you in. Dig a little deeper into the underbelly of Wonderland, and you could find all the answers you're looking for... or someone could find you first.

Played like any point-and-click game, you use your mouse to interact. There's no changing cursor, unfortunately, so you might have to do a fair bit of clicking around if you find yourself stuck. Hearts signify navigation, and clicking on one when you see it will let you move to a new area. To use the items in your inventory, just click on it at the bottom of the screen, and then click where you want to use it. Operating on "Wonderland logic", the game can be a bit hard to figure out at times. There isn't a whole lot of direction given, and it can frequently feel like you stumble on success by accident; when it seems like you have nowhere else to go, all you can really do is retrace your steps and hope you've triggered something elsewhere. Fans of the series will also be glad to see that its signature sense of dark humour is still intact, along with its fantastic production values.

What you might not be so happy to find out is that the ending is not only abrupt, it raises more questions than it answers, and feels rushed to boot. It's not putting a period at the end of the story, it's taking a cleaver to it, and, combined with how short the whole thing is, what's left is potentially unsatisfying after all the plot elements introduced in this episode alone. Undoubtedly creator Mike Morin and his creative team were under pressure from fans to produce, but you might have preferred to wait another year (or longer) if it meant a more succinct resolution.

Play all 3 games in the Alice is Dead series:

It's sad to see the end of one of the most imaginative and quirky series, especially since it feels like there's so much more potential in the world and story it crafted. Will we ever see this Wonderland again? Maybe. I'd offer that there's a possibility we might see another episode down the road based on all the loose ends. Regardless, Alice is Dead is still definitely worth a play, and we can hope... and sulk. Mostly the sulking.

Play Alice is Dead 3


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraNow that Summer is over, the cool embrace of Autumn rushes up to enfold us in her comforting arms. Maybe you squandered the hot months, and now you're finally ready to do something productive. You know, more productive than alphabetizing your game collection or prank calling that neighbour you hate. (Dinkleberg.) Maybe now is the time to get out there and change the world!

... nah, let's just play some games instead. Viva la dilación!

  • Yet One WordYet One Word - Another prototype from Gambit, this little platformer is about words and the meanings we ascribe to them... maybe. Type the words that appear on various platforms, then hit [enter] to jump to them, gaining various powerups along the way. Unfortunately, typing "explosion" nor "zombie" gets you neither. From time to time the game will ask you a personal question, and your answer is incorporated into the game somewhat. It's cute, and it's arty, and it might make you think about your life... even if what you wind up thinking is, "This game needs more explosions and zombies."
  • The Deeplight ExpeditionThe Deeplight Expedition - Years ago, an evil mage used an ancient artifact to plunge the world into darkness. Although the mage has been defeated, it's up to you to descend into the labyrinth he left behind, and recover the artifact before it's too late. Fortunately, you're not the sort of person to let countless deaths, fiddly wall-jumping, and countless more deaths deter you. I wish I had a labyrinth. When I'm finally struck down, all anyone is going to find are the comfy Pokemon pajamas I should have thrown out years ago, and my collection of embarrassing fan-fiction. Incriminating, perhaps, but not as cool as a stone that controls the sun. I need to step up my game.
  • Porch Escape 2Porch Escape 2 - Apparently you like it when we include escape games in Link Dump Friday, and we here at Jay is Games live for two things; to rock, and to serve you. Nyan (of Nyan and Wan fame) has gotten locked on the porch after chasing a ball, and it's up to you to find a way out. There's no changing cursor, so you can expect some pixel hunting, but how can you possibly be upset at a cat when he's hanging from the door like that?
  • You MIGHT Get NervousYou MIGHT Get Nervous - Alternate title: You MIGHT Want to Snap Your Keyboard in Half. Deceptively simple but devilishly twitchy, the game starts out by asking to you avoid red squares, but soon starts demanding more of you the longer you play. How long does it last? Well, until you take a hit or miss something. Not recommended for those of you who are bad at multitasking, or have had a lot of caffeine in the last hour or so.
  • EludeElude - Another Gambit prototype, this unconventional platformer aims to raise awareness on depression. You control Martin from Questionable Content a despondent fellow wandering through the woods, whose only means of communication is calling out to the birds, which inspires him to climb higher through the treetops. Despite the somewhat uninspired gameplay, it's visually striking and might just resonate with you, and is definitely worth a look.

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Rating: 3.8/5 (89 votes)
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joyeSand TrapRemember those choking-hazard-tastic plastic maze toys you would get as a kid, usually as a dinky prize for something? How you'd squint your beady little eyes as you rotated the thing? How it usually ended with you chucking the thing at the head of a sibling? Relive those happy memories in Sand Trap, a puzzle where you rotate a box to pour the sand trapped within into a pail. It's another fine HTML5 game from Gopherwood Studios, and a runner up in our Casual Gameplay Design Competition #8.

You have two control options: [arrow] keys or mouse. [Up] or [left] rotate the box of sand counterclockwise, and [down] and [right] rotate the box clockwise. You can hold a key to spin the box in that direction, or just tap it to get a tiny and precise shift. With the mouse, click on the box and hold, and then move the mouse in the direction you want it to spin.

You may find that your ability to enjoy this game is hampered by your browser. On my machine, I have three browsers. On Firefox, the game runs like a dead turtle, and there's no music. On Safari, the game runs fine, but there's still no music. On Chrome, the game runs fine, and there is music! So before leaving a "THE BOX TURNS ABOUT AS FAST AS MY GRANDPA'S HIP 0/5" comment, try it in a different browser.

Analysis: Using the mouse control, you can flip the box almost instantly, whereas with the arrow key control, there seems to be a steady top speed. This is a significant drawback to using the arrow keys, because some levels you need to spin faster than the arrow keys allow; otherwise the level is literally impossible. So the mouse would seem to be clearly superior. But the mouse control can be unpredictable and difficult to gauge (since it's easy for the mouse to go off the game window or accidentally skid across the center of the box and cause it to flip), and it's not very good with tiny movements. So the arrow keys are still useful.

Sand TrapI really feel like the levels would have been easier if I could have used [WASD] with my left hand and the mouse with my right, using both together. Difficulty in puzzles should always come from the puzzle, not from the controls. The controls should be smooth as silk; the player shouldn't even need to really think about them. Anything else is a recipe for frustration, especially because the amount of sand you can waste without losing is so small.

If you're playing in a browser where the game runs at the correct speed, then the control issues are usually minor and only really rankle in a couple of the levels that require both speed and accuracy, since the mouse is fast but not accurate and the keyboard is accurate but not fast. In most of the levels, you usually can stick with one control scheme the entire time, and the most important quality is the patience to let sand grains trickle to the place you want them before moving the box again.

Since this "genre" of the turning maze is so firmly entrenched in the Happy Meal and Crackerjack prize, and since so many of us (including myself) have such idyllic/frustrating memories of playing with same, I'm surprised that I can't think of many other online games that do what Sand Trap is doing. Despite the control issues, I really enjoyed the trip back to a simpler time, and I loved the variety of the levels, from simple mazes, to balls that block exits, to moving parts. Summer in the northern hemisphere is over, and the southern hemisphere still has some months to go. No beach vacation this year? Sand Trap contains all the best elements of an ocean vacation: relaxing music, blue water, lots of sand, a happy pail, and a giant floating labyrinth. Time for a little staycation!

Play Sand Trap

Note: At this point in time considering the spotty browser support for HTML5, for best results use Chrome to play this game.


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Rating: 4.6/5 (76 votes)
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Babylon Sticks: Gaming Philistine comic

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


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (37 votes)
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MikeLegacyIf you're younger than a certain age, you've probably never thought, "Wouldn't it be great if I could take part in my favorite radio dramas?" But the advent of podcasting has borne a renewed interest in all sorts of languishing radio formats, including radio drama (or "TV without pictures"). It's true, really! Now BBC and Radio Scotland bring us an interesting experiment in combining the audial thrills of radio drama with the interactivity of online gaming.
Legacy is a sound-heavy adventure game, telling a tale of secrets, cryptic clues, and underground vaults.

You control Harry, who with his twin sister Jules is clearing out the attic of his recently deceased grandmother Rose, when the two of them stumble upon a series of interesting puzzles that Rose, who used to play these sorts of games all the time, has left for her two grandchildren. Control Harry, represented on the neutral-colored map with a blue arrow, using the [arrow] keys. You can pick objects up with the [X] key, though you can only carry one object at a time. You may also examine objects with the [Z] key, combine two objects with [C], and otherwise interact with objects and scenery with [V]. The mouseless controls and limited inventory are a bit awkward but essential if you want to play without visuals, which you can turn on and off with the [spacebar]. That's all you need to follow Rose's trail of clues and discover what your Legacy really is.

Analysis: Legacy clearly had high ambitions to be an audio-only game, but had some obvious problems with the execution during development. If you wear headphones and turn the visuals off, you'll see what I mean. I'll say it again, with emphasis: PLAY THIS GAME WITHOUT VISUALS, at least at first. The game makes heavy use of binaural recording, a trick for making stereo sound appear to be happening in the space around you. Every door, cupboard, and object in the game has a looping sound effect associated with it, and with headphones you can actually hear where objects are relative to where Harry is standing and navigate accordingly, all without visual cues. There is no in-game reason to play blind like this, as Harry's visual acuity is clearly uncompromised; it's instead a clever way of taking control of a character in a radio play, which after all also relies exclusively on audio cues to tell its story.

Unfortunately the promise of an audio-only game is unfulfilled in this case. Navigation, as you can imagine, is very difficult with the visuals off. Inventory management is also a chore. It would be difficult to devise a sightless inventory system that didn't limit your carrying capacity as Legacy does, but the one-item rule means that you are constantly dropping useful items to pick up others, and finding where you left an important item is really tedious if you can't see where you are going. Perhaps there were solutions for managing these problems, but Legacy does not apply them.

LegacySo, I imagine, the developers relented and included a visual map as the default. Unfortunately the map is very crude looking, and playing with the visuals is almost too easy, as the puzzles by themselves are not very difficult. Legacy was meant to be played with the visuals off, but is almost unplayable this way. I wound up compromising by playing with the visuals off to keep in the spirit of the game, then "cheating" and turning the visuals on when it became too difficult or tedious.

Thankfully, while the audio-only experience was less than I hoped, the story and presentation in Legacy are very strong. While the graphics are minimal, the sound effects and voice acting are very well done. There are some stilted, awkward moments as the game puts together prerecorded templates in some cases ("I found the...locked desk."), but the sound effects are evocative, and the voice acting is of literally professional quality (the actors are from a tied-in Radio Scotland miniseries of the same name). Harry's wont for glib self-narration is particularly effective in selling the mood of the game. The story, while hovering near cheesy, Dan Brown territory, is nonetheless intriguing, as you discover the many mysteries and secrets Rose has left for you. I wish some of the plot points were more fully developed or gracefully executed, but overall the tale is quite satisfying.

Legacy is a solid adventure game coupled with a clever idea for bringing radio to life. Sadly, that idea is found wanting in practice. Maybe someday an audio-only adventure game will successfully fulfill Legacy's promise, but until then we have a hint of that promise, with solid story and production in the package. Overall, that's a good bargain.

Play Legacy


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Rating: 4.1/5 (64 votes)
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joyeBlockageWe all learn as toddlers that square pegs won't fit into round holes. You can pound your tiny fist all you want on top of your Fisher-Price playset, it just isn't going to work. Now Blockage, a brain-teasing puzzle from Guillhermo v.S. Heldt, has come along to teach us another important lesson: red blocks won't fill green squares. Also, sometimes teleportation is necessary. Very, very important life lessons.

You must use both the mouse and the keyboard. You use the mouse to choose which block you want to control by clicking on it. Once you've selected a block, use the left and right [arrow] keys (or [A] and [D]) to move the block. You can also solidify a block by hitting the [spacebar], but be warned, solidification is permanent. Your goal is to fill sparkling squares with blocks of the appropriate color. When a red block goes into a red square, it will also solidify. Colored squares will pass through other colored squares, but not through white squares, and white squares won't pass through themselves either. You'll encounter spaces that paint your blocks and spaces with one-time teleporters. Can you fill all the squares without trapping yourself?

If you're having flashbacks to Blocks With Letters On, you're not alone. The manipulation of the blocks and the goal of getting them into blocks where they freeze is very similar. However, while BWLO and its sequel seemed to take an almost sadistic glee in the sheer difficulty of its puzzles (which I for one ate right up), Blockage is a much more low-key game. I hate to say it's comparatively easy, because saying "It's easy compared to Blocks With Letters On" is like saying "It's painful compared to being made to sit in a comfy chair until lunch time with only a short break for coffee at 11."

There's no word solving, and there are only two kinds of special squares, the paint and the teleporters. What's more, there are only twenty levels. If you're expecting torture, I'm afraid that Blockage is more like being poked with a soft cushion. But with all the stuffing up at one end. So just watch out.

Play Blockage


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Rating: 3.8/5 (110 votes)
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Weekday Escape

SonicLoverI've learned that making room escape games is a lot like cooking. There are a few standardized recipes that anyone can follow (1/2 cup wastebasket with something useful in it, three tablespoons password-locked computer, etc., etc.), but there are also some masters of the trade whose unique style can be detected in every single one of their individual dishes. You know the ones: GUMP, Robamimi, Bianco-Bianco, Tesshi-E, and the recently discovered Petithima site, by Yanokimi.

AkarimadoWhen we first learned of the Petithima site we were all over this new chef's succulent games, but we also missed one or two older ones by the same. Today we see a somewhat older project by Yanokimi, the slightly aged but still lip-smacking Akarimado.

Akarimado brings nothing new to the room escape genre; you're locked in a one-view room (with an unlockable side room that's also one-view), and you have to solve many and various puzzles to get out. To examine items, click the "?" in the corner of the item icon; to use them, click the icon and then what you want to use it on.

Analysis: Although this particular dish of room escape contains few if any unfamiliar ingredients, there's not much to complain about; we enjoy these particular ingredients and we know it. Akarimado doesn't try to wow us with unfamiliar territory, instead giving us more of what we know and love. It's like going to a restaurant and getting a nice, juicy hamburger instead of taking your chances with the "Venezuelan Platter Deluxe", whatever the heck that is.

The puzzles are very cleverly made, and a bit more straightforward than Dharma Doll (thank goodness; I was stuck at that letter puzzle for quite some time). The music is a bit more obnoxious than Yanokimi's more recent installments, but that's why the BGM button is there in the lower right corner to turn it off... along with the save button so you can take a break if you get stuck. It's a very satisfying journey all in all, and one that should not be missed. Bon appetit!

Play Akarimado


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Rating: 4.1/5 (164 votes)
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DoraSymonIn Symon, a point-and-click experimental game that is part of Gambit's 2010 summer prototypes, about a bedridden hospital patient whose only escape from his room is by dreaming. His dreams aren't all happy ones; they're full of hidden meaning, regrets, "almosts" and "what-ifs". You'll have to solve a series of abstract puzzles posed to you by the strange residents of his mind in order to gather various sets of objects that Symon's dream self needs. How do you make a music box melody more melancholy? How do you show someone what it's like to be cheerful? Click to interact with Symon's dream world, and click on items in your inventory to use them. Once you've played it, go back and play it again; the offers procedurally generated content that means you'll see a number of different things each time you play.

What's unique about Symon is that it doesn't make a whole lot of sense in the traditional style of point-and-click games. The genre has always been stereotyped for having obtuse logic, but Symon is operating on an entirely different level; the sort of logic that only really is logical when you're dreaming. Think about it; dreams are rarely linear (at least as we remember them), and are frequently jumbled with symbolism and nonsense. But while you're having the dream, none of that seems strange to you. You think, "Of course the purple cow is the one who kidnapped the General's teddy-bear. Who else would do such a thing?" Symon requires to you put yourself in that particular mindset while you're playing the game, and it's a surprisingly easy adjustment to make.

It's a little disappointing, then, that Symon doesn't really have an ending. It has three different sets of items to collect for Symon's dream self, represented by the set of photos that begin to appear on the wall of the hospital room between dreams, and once you've solved all three, there's no real reason to keep playing, and the game doesn't offer up any sort of closure. Admittedly Symon is experimental, a prototype aimed at creating replayability in the genre. Still, it would have been nice to see the whole thing come together in a way that complimented the subtle stirring of emotion and memory that it evokes early on, rather than never addressing them again. I would dearly like to see the game picked up again one day and polished out with a stronger narrative that made it a story rather than an exhibition.

While it falls a little short of providing the whole package, Symon is still worth a play, both for the oddly affecting imagery, and for a clever new concept that I would love to see explored more in the future.

Play Symon


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Rating: 4.8/5 (478 votes)
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joyeEpic Battle Fantasy 3Times have never been better for fans of Flash turn-based RPGs. Not only are new developers getting into the mix, but established series are taking risks, stepping it up and producing games like Epic Battle Fantasy 3, which has taken such a huge jump up from the previous games that it seems like a whole new series. Where previous games focused almost entirely on the "battle" portion of the title, kupo707's latest effort remembers the "epic" part—provided you're okay with a definition of epic that includes kitten slaying, shark battering rams, cow outfits, the shoop-da-woop face, and copious amounts of Comic Sans.

Three adventurers (Matt, Natalie, and Lance) discover that poking a chained up demon is a bad idea. Cruelly reduced to level zero, they must embark on a quest to get their powers back. Right click to turn sound and music on and off and to control quality. When you're on a map, use the [arrow] or [WASD] keys to move the heroes around and the [space] key to interact with things. NPCs may have hints or a side-quest. Chests contain goodies (and keep a sharp eye out, because chests can be hidden). The [F] key will take you right to the part of the menu with all these goodies in it (although you'll have to use the mouse to actually select an item). Finally, you'll want to use [M] or the mouse to call up the menu and train up skills, change equipment, and more, because interacting with a monster throws you into battle.

It's the same totally mouse-controlled battle scheme as the earlier games. Your characters will each have a turn, followed by all the enemies. When it's your turn, select from among a variety of attacks, spells, and special abilities, depending on what you have trained, and then select your target. You can also use items, swap battle order or flee if you're out of your league. Although one of the game's humorous battle messages is "Protip: hit enemies until they die," simply wailing on an enemy until they collapse soon loses effectiveness. You'll want to pay attention to enemies' weaknesses and resistances, and don't forget about buffs and debuffs. Lance's "Scan" skill is critical for finding this out.

Epic Battle Fantasy 3Sometimes you will have more than one wave of enemies in the same battle, so be prepared for that. You'll also eventually train up Limit Breaks, powerful (and sometimes dangerous) abilities that can only be used when a character's damage meter fills. Try nuking your enemies; a Pyrrhic victory is still a victory, right?

Analysis: You'll find out pretty quickly, probably within the opening cut-scene, whether this game's sense of humor is to your taste. Imagine a 12-year-old boy passing a note with jokes and doodles of... man, I'm not even sure what I should say here, lest any innocent JIG readers (*cough*) have their pure minds sullied. As an example, you can click on the female character's breasts during battle and they jiggle. It's a little hypnotic, actually. There are plenty of innuendos in dialogue (poor Natalie puts up with a lot of sexual harassment), as well as a side-quest collecting herbs for a character to smoke.

Some people might find these things offensive, others might simply find it dull, there are those who don't really care one way or the other, and finally there are people who scrolled down and hit "play" the second that they read they could click on boobs. Giving you the information to make these important decisions is all part of what we do here at JIG. It's a heavy responsibility, but someone has to heft it.

*cough*

Play Epic Battle Fantasy 3

Thanks to Kara and Treniac for suggesting this one!


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Rating: 3.8/5 (137 votes)
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Bradbrad_gunbot_title.gifLook out, Axe Cop, there's a new weapon on the streets, Gunbot. And his story is just as loose and strange. Y'see, Gunbot has this sister who's a beetle and she loses this purple stone with a golden lizard on it. I think this guy, Gronkomeau, stole it. And Gunbot is going to get it back the only way he knows how. With guns. But believe me, the story isn't why you'll want to play this game.

Gunbot is a platform shooter from Berzerk Studio where you'll do the usual robot stuff, like collecting stars and shooting dinosaurs. You'll control Gunbot with the keyboard and fire with the mouse. As you take down enemies you'll get experience to level up with, and you'll gain skills like double jump or firebomb. Your foes also drop money which you'll use to buy guns. The guns have different stats and features like tri-shot or bouncing projectiles. Make sure you also pick up a new shield every so often, they give you more health and various bonuses.

Levels are primarily about getting to the end alive, but you can also hunt down all the stars for a money bonus. Don't worry if you don't make it out alive, you get to keep the money you earned before you died. At the end of each of the three worlds, you'll be pitted against a boss. After you take down each boss you'll be treated to a humorous cut scene that advances the plot. Not that the plot matters, but that's part of the fun of Gunbot along with the running, jumping and gunning. Oh, and avoiding water. You don't want to fall into the water.

gunbot_gameplay.jpgAnalysis: Gunbot is fun all the way around. In the beginning, the levels are short and offer no challenge, but they quickly get longer and tougher. The difficulty stays at a nice level all the way through. You might buy a weapon that will let you breeze through a few levels, but it won't be long before things get harder again. It's never so hard that it becomes frustrating, but you won't get through the game without dying a few times. If you ever hit a snag, you can always go back to a level to get some more money and get yourself a bigger gun.

While the controls are simple and smooth, the cliff grabbing ability doesn't work very well. It's never that big of a deal, but one level requires it of you at the very beginning. Aside from that, the only weak points are in how quickly you'll max out your experience and in the graphical design. Gunbot and the still-image cut-scenes look good, but the levels are pretty bland. On top of that, there's not a lot of variety in the enemies. There's about five of them, not including bosses, and later they're given a simple color change treatment. Granted, you'll be too busy racing through the levels and mowing down gun-toting dinosaurs to care, but it'd be nice to face some new baddies as you move from world to world. On the other hand, there's a lot of variety in gun design and I never got tired of Gunbot doing his gun spinning reloading trick.

Gunbot has pretty much everything you could ask for: it's funny, the difficulty increases smoothly and the gameplay is fun. The game is just long enough that it doesn't get old, but that you get your fill of robot gunslinging action. The star gathering bit seems mostly superfluous, but if you miss one it gives you a reason to go back to a level and get some more cash. Gunbot is even more of a treat for those of us who crave games with a Western flair. Now, get out there and find that...thing you're supposed to find, but remember: do not shoot with your hand. Those who shoot with their hand have forgotten the face of their father. Shoot with your mind.

Play Gunbot


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Rating: 3.9/5 (64 votes)
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Reader Reviewlosthead_title.jpgSometimes a game so weird and charming comes along that, despite its flaws, you have to enjoy it. Lost Head by Garbuz Games is one of those games. This short and simple physics puzzler won't change the world, but it might make you smile with its absurd characters and presentation. It seems that our titular hero has become detached from his friends by an evil hand. Luckily a glove waits for him in each level, ready to be his new body. The trick is getting there.

Each level begins with your round head across the stage from the goal. By manipulating objects as you click on them, the head will roll, bounce, and fly through the level towards the target. All objects are either transformed back and forth between a large blue and small red size, or deleted from the stage all together. Positioning planks over holes and dropping triangles to roll the head the right way clear a path for the player, while releasing boards and growing objects prods the little guy into action. The faster you complete a level, the more points you add to a total.

The real star of the game are the visuals and sound. The levels and characters have a cute patchwork feel, and the living glove in each level lively animates as you play. The music provides a mischievous backdrop to the patchwork world, but escapes the designation of annoying loop music.

For all these pluses, it's a shame that the game didn't go farther with its strong points. An opening cinematic is incredibly weird, and it was disappointing to reach a generic submit score screen after 25 levels. The physics can sometimes be finicky, and the head's momentum slows to a crawl in some levels. More novel use of the grow/shrink mechanic would have been nice as well. Twelve levels contain buttons to collect as achievements, but they're usually not too hard to grab and only unlock one level.

Still, Lost Head's strong style makes it a delightful break from harder physics puzzlers.

Play Lost Head


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Rating: 4.6/5 (1041 votes)
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Bradbrad_sieger_title.jpgAh, destruction. Who doesn't love it and the multitudes of games devoted to it? But, you know what they say about too much of a good thing and moderation. My point is that sometimes you need to destroy with a little restraint. That's the take-away lesson in Warspark's Sieger.

Inspired by Crush the Castle, Sieger has the same central conceit. Use your mouse to target parts of each fortress so you can bring it down and take out the people inside. Sieger does do things differently, though. Most noticeably it removes the catapult, instead you face the castle from the front and your projectile goes precisely where you aim it. Remember what I said about restraint? You can't just destroy everything you want, because on some levels you must avoid killing hostages, people with exclamation points over their heads. They're just as vulnerable to instant death by being jiggled into a wall as the bad guys, so you'll have to be careful.

There are three varieties of projectiles, a normal projectile, an explosive projective, and a diseased body projectile. The latter doesn't do as much damage as the first two, but it spreads a cloud of poison gas that takes out everything in its radius. On some levels you have a limited number of shots, but try to use as few shots as possible regardless in order to get the highest score and a nice shiny gold mark.

brad_sieger_level23.jpgAlthough it would be easy for Sieger to simply copy the mega-popular genre-maker, Crush the Castle, instead Sieger stands on its own and carves its own place in the genre. Some will miss the timing challenge of releasing the catapult in CtC, but others will prefer the more relaxed gameplay. It's especially nice that the levels are based on historic events and progress chronologically from the Warring States era of China to the Italian Renaissance. A minor quibble: it'd be nice to have a button that goes back to the level select screen without having to go back to the main menu. Once you've had your fill of the regular levels, try some of the player-made levels, and don't forget to try out the Castle Builder, where you can use pieces from all four eras to create and share a fortress of your own.

joye joye - When I first saw Sieger, I thought "Oh great, another Crush the Castle clone." Once I started to play it, however, not only did I see that the makers of Sieger were upfront about their Crush the Castle influences (they thank the makers right in the credits), but that they had literally turned the game around and given a brand new and super fun puzzle experience to the player. Instead of launching from the side and needing to click to release the projectile, you shoot from the front and the projectile goes exactly where you want it. This completely changes the mood of the puzzle, making it about precision, not timing.

If you've ever been frustrated by a level of Crush the Castle, where you knew EXACTLY how you needed to hit the castle to make the thing topple, but you just couldn't seem to click at the right moment, you'll find Sieger a welcome relief. At the same time, you can't stumble into the right answer like you can do sometimes with Crush the Castle, and because of the hostages, you can't just keep hurling your strongest projectiles at the castle to make it fall. To my mind, this makes it a more pure puzzling experience. I loved playing Crush the Castle, but I actually had even more fun playing Sieger.

Play Sieger


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Mobile Monday

JohnBYou know that feeling you get when you play one game for a really long time and it's kinda weird playing another game for a change? I did that with Dark Nebula 2. Couldn't help it, it's a trap of addictiveness. Careful!

solongoregon.gifSo Long, Oregon! - From the creator of Enviro-Bear 2000 comes an equally absurd game that's sort of the inverse of Oregon Trail. You're in Oregon, but you want to leave. So, you hop in your wagon and hit the road. Instead of picking your way across the landscape in a slow, thoughtful kind of way, you fly out the gate in a sidescrolling action kind of way. Mountains are in the way, of course, and you need to feed yourself by shooting animals. But none of that really matters, 'cause you've got bullets and a wagon that can bounce all over the place. Way more fun than it should be!

darknebula2.jpgDark Nebula 2 - Perhaps the best accelerometer-controlled game on the iPhone, Dark Nebula 2 is less of a reflex test, more of an adventure. Tilt your iPhone to control the sliding disk, moving in any direction and at just about any speed. Work your way up each level while avoiding enemies and obstacles, following narrow paths and tricky platforms the whole time. It's a superb experience that looks gorgeous, and the play control is spot-on perfect.

minim-iphone.jpgMinim - The browser game from Atomic Cicada was practically made for a touch screen interface. Just like its big brother, this puzzle game challenges you to combine identical numbers attached to each other by 3D bars. Drag a 3 and a 3 together and you get a 4, then look for another adjacent four to make a five, etc. Simple math plays a role in later levels, bringing the challenge to a level that's perfect for stirring the ole synapses. The free Minim Lite is also available.

mishap-iphone.jpgMishap: An Accidental Haunting - Ever try the hidden object adventure game for PC called... Mishap: An Accidental Haunting? Well, if you did, you probably know what to expect in this mobile port! Crawl through a haunted house as you encounter lost spirits, riddles, mini-games, and loads of hidden object scenes. The game looks and plays great on the iPhone, and it translates the PC experience quite well.

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: 4.6/5 (27 votes)
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Academagia: The Making of Mages

DoraAcademagia: The Making of Mages is a text-based RPG/life simulator from Black Chicken Studios that's all about... you! Well, not you as you are, but you as you might be if you were a fresh-faced new student at a school for mages in the land of Minetia. Throw yourself into your studies, make friends and rivals, go on adventures, or any of dozens of activities in this mammoth adventure. Just make sure you don't neglect your schoolwork; you are still at a school, and you'll need to attend class at least often enough to pass your exams. You don't want to know what happens to mages who flunk out. (Where do you think Wal-mart Greeters come from?)

Academagia: The Making of MagesAcademagia has a surprisingly robust character creation set-up, with loads of options that grant bonuses, but the bulk of your skills will grow from everyday activity in the game. If you try to make someone who's the best at everything across the board, you're only going to find yourself mediocre and be frustrated as a result. Instead, focus on a set of skills that suits the character you're trying to build; a skilled enchanter with a golden tongue, or a reserved botanist with a secret passion for music. The main things you'll want to keep an eye on are your vitality and your stress. Certain events can raise or lower either one; if your stress gets too high or your vitality runs out, you'll find yourself unable to participate in any events for a day or so while you recover.

Like most life simulators, Academagia has you use a calender to decide what you're doing at points throughout the day, scheduled up to a week in advance, occasionally throwing up random encounters along the way. You can get into a fair amount of excitement (and detention) just by wandering the hallways and exploring, but specific plot lines can be triggered by going on "Adventures". How well you do at any event is determined by your various skills; you'll be presented with a set of options to decide how you want to deal with a situation, each of which relies on a certain skill or ability, and they'll be colour-coded to show your likelihood of success. You'll probably never be 100% equipped to handle every random event the game throws at you, but nobody's perfect, and in Academagia even failure will teach you a thing or two.

Analysis: Being of the generation that grew up with a certain bespectacled wizard, I expected Academagia to be awesome, and to let me play out my wizardly fantasies, and it is, and it does... mostly. I just wasn't prepared for how gargantuan it is. There's a massive amount of world building making up the mortar of this fantasy world. You could probably spend hours combing through the descriptions for people, places, spells, items, and historical events if you were so inclined. Moreover, starting over with a new character and choosing different options at creation frequently yields vastly different results that make an impact on the game, leading to a lot of replay value.

Academagia: The Making of MagesPerhaps the biggest flaw in the game is its tendency to drown you in information, but withold the tidbits you actually need. I shouldn't need to research to understand most of what's going on within a game. It's sorely in need of a tutorial to ease you into the basics rather than the avalanche of text screens you get. Why isn't the manual more in-depth to contend with the gameplay? As it stands, it's not going to be for everyone, and the amount of times your character will do poorly at events early on can be discouraging.

Of course, it's also a testament to the game's depth and immersion as to how infrequently I cared about any of the above complaints once I figured things out. The writing is in general very well done, and of course there are the dozens upon dozens of little events that crop up randomly throughout the game. Take a stroll through town and you may find yourself confronted with a hysterical foreign student overwhelmed by the bustling marketplace, or unwittingly stumbling across the dangerous thieve's guild. While it definitely requires some patience and experimentation, once you get the hang of things you'll start succeeding left and right, making loads of progress.

The game only encompasses a year in your magical education, with the promise of more content to come, and you'll find a lot of replay value to be had. With a bit more streamlining and perhaps a paring knife taken to the bloated list of skills and abilities, it would have been much more user friendly. Academagia is the sort of game that's made for people who enjoy losing themselves in a good book, exploring, and experimenting. It's an impressive title with a load of love behind it, and the immense replay value should serve to keep mage nerds occupied for a good long while.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 4.7/5 (43 votes)
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Youda Survivor

JohnBOut of the capable hands of Youda Games comes a time management game that will have you hooked for days on end. Youda Survivor combines some of the best elements from Youda Games' previous efforts with some stylistic influences from games like Farm Frenzy. Not only are you gathering items and converting them to better products, you're also boiling them into new and exciting potions to make you look more impressive in the eyes of the island chief!

Youda SurvivorAn ancient legend tells of a mysterious traveler washing ashore the island. He is said to be impossibly strong, and probably really smart, too. Now, this castaway lands on the sandy beach, and, to be honest, the chief isn't all that impressed. So, in order to prove the legend correct and stuff, he challenges you to get to work, showing off your mad island survival skills over dozens of increasingly complex levels. Yay!

Each stage begins in about the same way: tufts of grass in the sand. Dig holes where the grass is and the pit fills with water. Water attracts seagulls who periodically lay eggs. PIck up the eggs and you're ready to do some neat stuff. Just like Farm Frenzy, Youda Survivor gives you loads of tools to convert basic products into more valuable items (eggs into boiled eggs, boiled eggs into egg powder, coconuts into coconut powder, etc.). The upgrades can be used to brew more powerful potions or simply made to satisfy the level goals at the bottom of the screen. Either way, get ready to do a lot of converting.

In addition to all the item gathering, you also have to tend your health stats. Strength and water are shown at the top left corner of the screen, the latter slowly draining depending on the weather, and the former as a magic meter of sorts. At the top right of the screen are a number of abilities you can perform. The first is a rain dance that makes it rain, filling in water holes and often sprouting new tufts of grass. This costs strength, and strength can only be refilled by brewing potions or by picking up random drops from enemies you defeat. Later abilities allow you to other impressive things, like summon coconuts with a gust of air!

And yep, there are enemies. Nothing too scary, just crabs, pirates and the like, but they'll do a great job distracting you from picking up the valuable items you need. Slide your cursor to them when they appear and start clicking. Defeating them often rewards you with nice items, so your time won't go to waste!

Youda SurvivorBetween levels you'll spend earned cash to upgrade things like your potion cook, shovel or storehouse, hire a diver who can sink below the sea to pick up more useful items, or purchase new machinery. Some levels require certain pieces of equipment, so if you spend frivolously, you'll have to go back and redo an older level in order to gain the cash.

Analysis: Wow, Youda Survivor! It's a bit of a departure for the folks at Youda, but this game definitely shows the studio's signature charm. It also shows a few too many similarities to Farm Frenzy, but you'll be having so much fun you honestly won't think about it. Youda Survivor is elegantly balanced with upgrades, shop items and difficulty progressing at just the right speed. Someone will have to tear you away from the screen. Just one more level, please?

Youda Survivor is packed with bonuses, too, something you may not expect from a game like this. Ten pages of achievements, ranging from simple things like "first time you collect an egg" to rewarding you for replaying a perfected level just for the extra tokens. There are even trophies to find on top of the achievements, so even while you work through the game's 100 or so levels, you'll be snatching bonuses left and right.

The potion system is an interesting inclusion in Youda Survivor, as it completely takes place of selling items for profit. Everything you collect you use for yourself, fitting in well with the survival theme. Mixing potions isn't all about dropping everything in and hitting the "go" button, either. You find recipes as you play, unlocking interesting brews that can be surprisingly helpful and will change the course of the level.

Youda Games has a hit on its hands with Youda Survivor. It fills the gap between straight-up time management games and more arcade-style experiences, and it does so with amazing style and finesse. Just be sure to clear your afternoon first!

Play the Flash demo

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 4.7/5 (27 votes)
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Sam and Max: The Devil's Playhouse

MikeIf you have been following the most recent episodic season of Telltale's licensed heroes Sam & Max, adventure gaming's favorite sociopathic justice-dispensers, you have learned many things. You've learned that aggressively-armed space apes promising gifts of peace are not to be trusted. You've learned that astrally projecting yourself into the past bodies of your deceased relatives should not be undertaken without using the buddy system. You've learned that amateur brain transplants hurt everyone. But if life or finances have kept you from experiencing the latest antics of the anthropomorphic Freelance Police, fear not! Telltale Games has released the season finale of Sam & Max: The Devil's Playhouse titled "The City That Dares Not Sleep," and you can now grab the full season for less than ever before.

Sam and Max: The Devil's PlayhouseYou can read our review of the first episode of The Devil's Playhouse to learn more about Sam & Max, but the basic ingredients are these: Sam is the stable, canine half of the Freelance Police, whom you control for most of the season. Max, his impulsive, naked, rabbity partner, has unaccountably been gifted with the ability to use the Toys of Power, deceptively playful-looking psychic artifacts from beyond the dawn of the universe. There are various other characters who are either recurring from previous seasons or new characters who are after the Toys of Power and Max's special brain for various reasons. Max's newfound powers are the upstart element in Sam & Max's twisted take on traditional adventure gaming, which involves items, interviews, and puzzles, forwarding the trademark wacky mayhem of a typical Sam & Max story.

Controls are essentially mouse-based. Click and drag Sam to move him (or use the [WASD] keys if you prefer), click on the hotspots to acquire things or talk to people (and occasionally things). You can also switch to Max's vantage point, which in most episodes allows you to use his powers (though the powers hardly ever come up in the finale). That's basically all you need to wage a battle of psychic power that is older than time, and maybe score some Fudgy Freezes while you're at it.

Analysis: The story is key to the specialness of The Devil's Playhouse. Previous seasons of Sam & Max have featured episodes which, while loosely connected, were essentially self-contained, so you could have small plots like Sam & Max vs. Abe Lincoln, or Sam & Max Save Christmas, and not have to worry about a larger storyline. Not so with The Devil's Playhouse, where each episode is more like a chapter in a connected story. The big plot is an opportunity to skewer all sorts of fun, cheesy, pulpy tropes of 20th-century popular culture. We've seen alien invasions, mystical archaeology, Lovecraftian horror, occult sorcery, weird science, zombie-like swarms, vampires, mummies, and giant city-crushing monsters; all tied together in a way that, while not exactly sensible ("sensible" being anathema to the Sam & Max milieu), is at least contiguous and clever. While the individual episodes of previous seasons could focus more on comedy and satirizing the episode's theme, this longer-form format lends itself more to a snowballing madcap intensity from episode to episode.

Sam and Max: The Devil's PlayhouseArguably this makes for a less funny series of games, but the gags are still there, and the sheer escalating weirdness of the story is engrossing in a way entirely its own. Telltale does an excellent job of serving a twist at the end of each episode that sets up the next, and I think this might explain why the finale was a bit of a letdown for me. It's as though the season just kept building and building momentum, and there was no easy way to dissipate it without sputtering just a bit.

Similarly the puzzles from the finale are also a little disappointing. At the start of the season I was concerned how the introduction of Max's powers would affect the tone of the series, but their inclusion was very well done, and the power-based puzzles are some of the most rewarding and clever of the season. For story reasons, however, Max's powers are unavailable in the final episode, and falling back to a more standard adventuring game felt simplistic in comparison.

The finale to The Devil's Playhouse isn't as strong as the rest of the season, but it's not without its up side. There are interesting characters, bizarre sets, some clever uses of astral projection, and more weird plot developments than you can shake a corndog at. Taken as a whole, the Devil's Playhouse is a pretty radical treatment of the Sam & Max franchise. It's hard to call it the best Sam & Max season to date because it is so different from the previous two, but it is decidedly unique and a worthy entry to the Sam & Max oeuvre. Check out the entire season, if only to learn that even giant eldritch monsters and their soporific psychic spores have their good side.

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GabCab

JohnBFrom the experienced casual game forces of Reflexive Entertainment (Simplz: Zoo) and Anawiki (Soccer Cup Solitaire) comes GabCab, a way-too-cute time management game starring the big-eyed taxi cab, Gabby. People need to get to where they want to go, and seeing as how you seem to be the best (and only) taxi in town, it's your job to drive them there! Answer the call of the customers and take them to their destinations, picking up tips along the way to spend in the game's well-stocked upgrade store.

GabCabGabCab dispenses with the traditional hand holding and lengthy tutorial sessions most casual games start with, meaning you get to jump right in the action. Each level is filled with locations connected by streets (and, in some areas, lifts and other modes of transportation). When someone needs a ride, he or she appears in front of a building with a thought bubble showing the destination. Click on the location to dispatch Gabby. Once the customer is in your car, click where they want to go and Gabby finds the most efficient way there. Different customers have different levels of patience/tip rewards, adding a little thought into when you pick up and drop off folks.

While puttering about the streets, you'll often find more customers calling for a cab. GabCab has a smart queue system that allows you to chain destinations together with a series of clicks. If you want to divert Gabby somewhere else immediately, just double click on the location and she changes direction right away, switching the priority of other stops automatically. You can even cancel stops in the queue, and customers close by will get higher priority. And don't forget to keep an eye on your gas tank!

The upgrade shop is where the game really shines, and there are four screens packed with bonuses to make your job a bit easier. Everything from cab upgrades to items that make customers happy (ice cream, anyone?) to one of our favorites, a radio advertisement that makes everyone change their destination to the same location! These additions grant GabCab several layers of strategy, making the challenge more than reflexive in nature.

GabCabAnalysis: A no-frills game on the surface, GabCab takes a little time to settle in and show you what it's got. After half an hour or so, you begin to realize the depth of strategy the unassuming title offers, creating interesting efficiency puzzles in a variety of ways. Even though Gabby takes care of a lot of the prioritizing on her own, you're still left with a lot of important decisions on how to best manage her route.

GabCab scores impressively high on replayability. There are just under 100 levels to work through, divided between eight unique zones. You earn stars for your performance on each level, and earning those stars is what unlocks new areas. You can get up to four per stage in your initial run, but once you complete the game and go back, you can earn a fifth. Add to that a large variety of unlockable trophies and you've got plenty of reasons to keep coming back to this game.

If GabCab has any shortcomings, it's that it's very slow to start. You don't find anything really interesting until a few levels in, meaning many players will burn through their demo time without seeing how good the game really is. It's definitely one that's worth sticking with beyond the first handful of levels.

Simple but strategic, GabCab is an excellent time management offering from some folks who really know their casual games!

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Weekend Download

JohnBThe TIGSource A Game By Its Cover competition has ended, all the votes are in, and the games are ready to play! The competition asked artists to craft cover art for imaginary games, then the programmers stepped in and made games based on the art. We've already featured a few of the contenders in the competition (Cat Poke, 8:Capsule, Dot Order Tie, and Love Letter), so below we'll highlight a few other favorites from the competition.

underthegarden.gifUnder the Garden (Windows, 10MB, free) - Nabbing the largest majority of the votes, Farmergnome's sandbox-style 2D survival game combines a great atmosphere with a strong do-it-yourself philosophy. Out in the cold wilderness, it's your job to travel back and forth searching for firewood, food, and other items of interest. You can use the mouse to arrange some parts of the environment, both for decoration and to help you reach certain areas of the wilderness. Nature will do its best to toy with your intentions, and the pervading theme of loneliness is quite bleak, but the game is solid and gives back a great experience if you take some time to get into it.

madris.gifMADRIS (Windows, 9MB, free) - This puzzle game by Gary Dahl combines Tetris with The Sims. You read that right! Rooms with brown doors fall from the top of the screen. People with different needs occupy some of the rooms below, and it's your job to line up doors so they can get where they need to go. Student needing a bathroom trapped in the common area? Stick a connecting hallway there and slide the bathroom on the side. It takes a minute or two to get used to, but once the concept sinks in, you'll realize how deep this puzzle game really is.

talesofunspoken.gifTales of Unspoken World (Mac/Win, 8-13MB, free) - A remarkably thrilling 3D game of running and jumping created by Santa Ragione. Your goal is to gather some speed and leap over the chasms using the [spacebar]. That's it, really, but the stark visuals combined with the sound effects create a tense atmosphere that really gets you going. Think of it as sort of a striipped-down 3D Canabalt, on rails, with a bit of Mirror's Edge thrown in for excitement value.

infinitybit.gifInfinity Bit (Windows, 15MB, free) - A trippy action game by Vince Twelve, this one can really mess with your head. In a good way. Travel between waystations in your ship as you pilot around colorful corridors and avoid equally-colorful walls. When fuel gets low, you'll land, run through a quick platform area, then take off again. Upgrades and puzzles are abound, and there are so many colors, Roy G. Biv would get angry.

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: 4.8/5 (123 votes)
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Drawn: Dark Flight

JohnBDrawn: Dark Flight is the direct sequel to last year's hidden object/adventure hybrid Drawn: The Painted Tower, and it spins another intricate tale of dark mystery and intrigue. It pulls you in with a delicious atmosphere crafted by sublime visuals and strong storytelling, and its adventure-centric gameplay builds upon that by getting you to think about the environment, the items you find, and the puzzles in front of you. It's easily one of the best casual adventure games ever released.

Drawn: Dark FlightIf you haven't played the original Drawn, some of the storytelling nuances will be lost on you. You can still dive right in, of course, as the sequel gives you a quick rundown before you begin, but the experience is so much richer having the first game under your belt. Iris, a young girl who can make her drawings come to life, escaped the evil king in the original game. Now, the Painted Tower has crumbled with you beneath it, and Iris has hidden herself inside a book. Your task is to work through the rubble and emerge in the library, then light the town's beacons Best of Casual Gameplay 2010to ward off the darkness so Iris can take her place as Queen.

Gameplay in Drawn: Dark Flight is very organic, leaving most obvious genre formulas hidden from view. Each small area contains a number of items you can pick up and store in your inventory. Use the items to gain access to other parts of the scenes, opening doors and moving objects out of the way so you can progress. Paintings serve as another layer of scenery, allowing you to complete pictures and dive inside to solve more puzzles for even more inventory items. Even when you complete an area, you'll still have leftover inventory items to use later on. Backtracking is an important part of the game, as is experimenting and paying close attention to plot details and events in each scene.

Short puzzles that serve as mini-games also appear in Drawn 2, but they're unlike anything you would expect from an adventure game. Instead of jigsaw puzzles or number riddles, you'll bang on metal bars in the right sequence, play with pop-up books, and assemble stone drawings by moving pillars and completing the picture. Drawn never breaks continuity and weaves these diversions right into the game, so you never leave the environment and your immersion stays complete.

Drawn: Dark FlightAnalysis: Drawn: Dark Flight is absolutely mesmerizing. Very few games have the ability to pull you in so thoroughly. Right from the start you'll be riveted to your screen, soaking in all the details about Iris and her plight, wishing you could hop in the game and run around the rich world. The gameplay feels like an extension of the story, and these elements get along so well, you'll begin to wonder how you could ever play a second-rate adventure game again.

Visually, Drawn sticks to its roots with a largely soft palette of cool colors and dark settings. This changes later, of course, and the brightly-colored places show off just as much artistic flair as you would expect. Each area is like a painting and is a treat to look at. When you catch the multiple paper cutout scenes, you'll be even more impressed! The voice acting is nothing to turn your nose at, either, which is a great change of pace for a casual game.

Drawn: Dark Flight requires you to actually pay attention to the story and details in the environment to progress. In other words, you can't play this game while working on a sudoku puzzle on your phone. If you aren't devoting your full attention to the experience, you'll miss a lot of what the game has to offer, and you'll find yourself stuck every few minutes. Even if the next step isn't obvious, Drawn: Dark Flight offers a way out with unlimited advice and hint systems to nudge you on your way. Use them when you're in a bind, but don't spoil the game by overusing them! Mini-games can also be skipped after a short time, though usually you'll be far too engrossed to leave them behind.

There is absolutely nothing to find fault with in this game. It's perfectly sculpted from beginning to end, crafting a story that's intriguing, gameplay that never ceases to be interesting, and an overall experience that will leave you satisfied but ready for more. Easily one of the best casual adventure games ever released.

A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains a new quest with alternate ending, achievements to earn throughout the game, strategy guide, wallpapers, soundtrack, and more. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions (or 2 club credits), and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.

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

Mac OS XMac OS X:
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Also available: Collector's Edition


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Rating: 3.7/5 (55 votes)
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KyleBubblequod 2The next time you take a bath, I want you to pay particularly close attention to your rubber duckie (because we all know you have one). Now, you may think it's little more than a harmless toy, but I want you to consider that perhaps, just maybe, that rubber waterfowl is not nearly as harmless as you may think, and that lots of good men and women put their lives on the line to manufacture that bath toy. Enter Sam and William, two brothers that work in a rubber duck making factory that is so dangerous they have to wear special bubbles and dodge lethal pools of acid just so you can have a stupid yellow duck for bath time. This factory is so dangerous, in fact, that after a major accident Sam has been trapped somewhere in its labyrinthine depths. Now you must play his brother William and go rescue Sam in the physics puzzle platformer Bubblequod 2 from Garbuz Games. I hope that rubber duck makes you really happy.

In the first few levels of Bubblequod 2, you'll be going it alone, using the [arrow] keys to run and jump your way through each level until you get to the marked exit. When you come across the larger levels you can use your mouse to drag around the level and get a better view of the whole thing so you can plan out your path. And you may very well need to do some planning because you'll face more than some tricky jumps in this platformer; acid pools, weight sensitive switches, and giant rotating mazes partially submersed in water are only a few of the brain testing obstacles that stand between you and getting your brother to safety. Once you have been reunited with good old Sam, you'll also be able to switch back and forth between the two brothers using the [space] bar, because you can't have too much team work when deadly traps and overly aggressive rubber duck enthusiasts are in play. Just be sure to get both green guys to the exit alive and well.

Bubblequod 2 offers quite a few improvements over the original from updated graphics, to a more engrossing story, to a slightly less insane physics engine. In a way, the physics at work here are a little reminiscent of those employed in Gish, though admittedly not nearly as versatile, and yet sometimes just as frustrating (PROTIP: if you feel like you're having issues getting a jump to come off properly, try letting your character come to rest for a brief moment first, and then try. This will give the bubble a chance to make full contact with the ground). Perhaps the greatest improvement in this well done sequel is level design. While there are fewer levels in this outing, they are considerably more focused, employ a much wider array of obstacles, and can be quite clever. So go on and enjoy this nicely executed blend of action and brain teasing. I mean, your rubber duckie fixation put our heroes in this mess, you might as well enjoy the ordeal they must face getting out of it.

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraAs I sit here, barely coherent and adrift on medicine that will hopefully free my nasal passages, I reflect on all the good times we've had together. We've ridden around in tanks made of thread and shot money out of our foes. We've eaten raw meat off a dirt floor together while we flung pitchforks at squealing demon thingies. We've climbed enormous blue towers and freed our friends with our butts. Good times, my friend. Gooooood tiiiimmmes.

... what? Of course that's not the medicine talking! That's really how I feel! See for yourself:

  • Dream TowerDream Tower - Visually impressive, if a little light on content, this adorable little platformer has you running around an enormous tower, gathering stars, bouncing on enemies, and freeing your fellow critters who have been caged. It's sort of Mario meets Kirby meets early Sonic meets d'awwwww. With a little more variety to the levels, this could have been a serious contender, but as it stands, don't you still want to hug it and pet it and name it George?
  • Stitchland ConflictStitchland Conflict - There's just something about a shooter that looks like it was made out of merit badges you have to love. Roll through the unique landscape shooting down enemies and earning cash for upgrades. It's a bit disappointing that the gameplay isn't as unique as the presentation, but who amoung you cannot tell me you have always wanted a merit badge for thwarting a missile strike with a shotgun?
  • AliBaba 40 ThievesAliBaba 40 Thieves - Minoto's surreal point-and-click puzzle-ish rendition of the classic tale features a monkey, a gorilla, a doll, and, of course, Santa Claus. Is it just me or does this sound like something Bugs Bunny might have come up with? It's cute, it's weird, and it's exactly what we've come to expect from Minoto, who should probably be illustrating wonderful, silly children's books right now.
  • OnslaughtOnslaught - While not the deepest game out there, this little retro arena game deserves some recognition for being made with HTML5. Survive as long as you can against waves of enemies, snagging coins to improve your score, hearty chunks of meat to improve your health, and various sharp implements to improve your face stabbing. The controls feel a bit stiff and the enemy variety is limited enough that you'll start seeing repeats long before you die, but who can say no to throwing pitchforks at squalling goblin thingies? I know I can't.
  • FishFish - A very simple but very cute little game where you play the perquisite salty fisherman with an awesome beard and what I hope is a corncob pipe tooling around in his boat, using different lures to catch different fish. The variety of fish you can catch is unfortunately a little slim, but it's adorable while it lasts and could do with some more fleshing out.

  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (70 votes)
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BradLittle ProtectorsSome things will never change. Undefined's Protector series is clearly not one of those things. Little Protectors, the latest release, is still a tower defense game, but apart from the control scheme, that's where the similarities end. Ready to fight some Big Butts and Burny Men?

The game primarily uses the mouse, plus the [shift] to place multiples of the same unit and [spacebar] to cancel placement. You still face down waves of elemental-based enemies, hire your units with gold, and you have a set number of lives each level that decrease if an enemy reaches the other side of the map. Fend them off, and you'll gain treasure and ultimately a skill point to boost your unit abilities.

That's where the similarities with the rest of the series ends. Now, you have three basic units: the warrior, the mage and the archer. Little Protectors does away with the level system of its predecessors and replaces it with items, or toys as they're called in-game. Each class has their own specific weapons and equipment and all of the items have their own effects. In addition, most items add to the unit a buff that could slow enemies down, steal lives or teleport the enemy back to the start of the path. How do you get these toys? Well, that's Little Protector's biggest change.

Before you just had gold to worry about, now there's four additional resources: wood, metal, crystals and souls. Except for souls, which you earn by killing enemies, you get some resources to start out with, but they'll run out quickly, so you'll have to have units harvest them by attacking resource points on the map. When you have enough resources you can click on a unit, hit the craft item button and make yourself a new weapon or piece of equipment. In the beginning, there won't be a lot to choose from, but as you complete maps more and more blueprints become available and you get more and more options for customizing your units. Accessories can be looted from enemies, and you've even got a mana pool and some spells on hand to help knock them down.

Little ProtectorsAnalysis: Gameplay is so different it almost feels like it's from another series, and luckily the changes are all fun and put a new spin on the series and the genre. This time around there are no flying enemies, which means there's no longer rounds where your warriors will sit there like lumps. Also, no more paving! You can put your units anywhere the grass is green.

In addition to all those new features, Little Protectors brings in a brand new aesthetic in the form of a top-down view and softer environments that are reminiscent of SNES graphics. The enemies are look cartoony, to be more suitable for the li'l killers, and instead of flying eyeballs and rats, you get pink elephants and snowmen. A lot of attention has been paid to small details, too. The weapon a unit holds changes to reflect the weapon you equip it with and the armors can radically change a unit's appearance.

There are a few annoyances. There's only a handful of achievements and they're very generic, most concerning how much of a resource you have or how many times a unit has attacked. A more gameplay-pertinent problem is if you equip an item on a unit, it's marked as belonging to that unit and can't be equipped on a different unit. This makes sense from a balance perspective. Since you can equip your units while paused, you could easily pass a damage boosting accessory down the line as needed. However, sometimes you'll get units with the same name on a map, so if you're switching equipment out you have to figure out which fire elemental spellbook belongs to which Jorrell. A bigger annoyance is the fact that only one unit can be harvesting resources at a time. This means you'll have to decide which resource you need more and you'll often have units out of enemy range doing nothing because the resource you need isn't near them. Finally, it feels like you never have enough mana to make it worthwhile. You'll get a few spells off, but then it's spent and the regeneration rate is so slow that it rarely works its way back up.

Little ProtectorsThe biggest drawback to Little Protectors is difficulty. The game can be absolutely punishing sometimes if you're not playing it the way it wants to be played. You can get stuck on maps if you aren't using the "correct" strategy, and it doesn't help that there's a ton of variables that could be tripping you up. Are your skill points invested right? Do you have the right equipment for the map? Are your units placed in the best positions? It can be discouraging, but fortunately you can always reinvest skill points and try another method.

Fortunately, with so many ways to customize a unit it can be fun figuring out the right way to beat a map, since unlocking new blueprints is a great motivator. Even nicer, as we saw with Protector IV Undefined is very open to player comments. As a developer they've shown that while they want their games to be a challenge, they also want them to be enjoyable for everyone. If everyone seems to be in agreement about something in the game, it won't be surprising if Undefined gives it a little tweak.

The Protector series has always had this strange power. It can knock you down, endlessly beat you and call you stupid, but you keep playing it because it's a good game, and despite the punishment it's a lot of fun. All the new changes just make it more fun to feast on Little Protectors' knuckle sandwiches. Enjoy it and remember little protectors our are future, teach them well and let them lead the way.

Play Little Protectors


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (91 votes)
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DoraDoooorsBouncing on buttons and flipping some switches, pressing reset when I'm stuck in some ditches, magical doors and some shiny blue bling, these are a few of my favourite things... Arvi Teikari (Hempuli) really knows the way to a girl's heart! Doooors is a puzzle/platformer where you play a rotund little fellow in a blue onesie trying to get a number of glowing blue crystals. Each stage has one, and while you don't have any enemies to fear, that doesn't mean nabbing it will be easy. Hope you ate some fish today, because you're going to need the brain food.

Move with the [arrow] keys, jump with [S], pick up objects with [D], then hit [D] again to throw them. (Or hold [down] while pressing [D] to set them down nicely.) What can you pick up? Lots of things. Experiment! Doors with identical numbers are connected to each other; walk in one and pop out another, along with whatever you were carrying. Of course, you can only pick up certain types of doors, and you can't carry a door through another one. Get stuck in a spot? Just press [R] to reset the level. There are no penalties, no lives, and no time limits. Just you, a series of deceptively simple obstacles, and your glowy crystal thingamajig, tantalisingly out of reach.

Doooors is one of those games that lends itself to long periods of staring at the screen with a furrowed brow. In fact, I'd find it a lot easier to be mad at if it weren't so darned cute; I mean, lookit that round widdle blue belly! It's not perfect; tossing things onto higher ground can often be annoyingly fiddly, and the controls occasionally feel a bit "slippery" when running or landing. It's also fairly simple, if not easy.

Which makes sense, since the game was intended to be challenging. All the levels are unlocked at the start, and you can actually play them in any order you like. Of course, if you're like me, and a chronic goody-two-shoes you'll feel guilty about skipping and spend long minutes staring forlornly at the screen instead until you puzzle it out. Some people will love it. Some people may not. But Hempuli's first flash game is a welcome treat for puzzle fans, and anyone else who likes that sensation you get when the light bulb goes off in the back of your head.

Play Doooors


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Rating: 3.8/5 (68 votes)
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Babylon Sticks: Your Game Will Start In A Second comic

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


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (60 votes)
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BradHoward GlitchYouTube videos and Flash games are probably the two biggest distractions on the internet. If someone were to combine them, it could be the most glorious and destructive thing to happen in this modern era. Companies would go bankrupt from the loss of productivity. Well, the addictive union has arrived, and it's an art game called Howard Glitch.

Howard Glitch is about a space shuttle hurtling into the maw of a monster. You're on the shuttle, along with several other passengers, but there's no driver or controls. The shuttle is being controlled far away by someone who isn't paying attention. While you're rushing toward your doom, you have some choices to make. The first: should you sit by and await death, or delve deep into your mind to escape reality?

Designed by Robert Allmand, Howard Glitch takes place entirely within a series of YouTube videos. You'll get a bit of sparsely animated story and then be confronted with a choice or a puzzle. Click on your choice or what you think is the solution and you'll be taken to another video. What emerges is a strange little game that's one part choose your own adventure with a twist of an escape game.

Analysis: What Howard Glitch is all about is doing something new. First attempts at something different can be hit or miss and are always looked at with a skeptical eye by us, the general public. When you think about the limitations of making a game via YouTube. it's surprising Allmand was this successful. By the very nature of the game, puzzles are somewhat limited in scope, although one involves using the mute button, which is kind of clever. You can see a lot thought went in to each turning point in the game.

Howard GlitchLooking beyond the artistic portion of the game, Howard Glitch doesn't offer a great challenge, nor is it a very long experience. That's almost expected, as watching a YouTube video generally doesn't tax your brain too much.

Howard Glitch probably won't spawn a new wave of YouTube games, but Allmand says he intends to turn this into a series, so perhaps the concept could be further refined into something even more interactive. Until then, browse YouTube in a way you've never done before, and see what a modern Choose Your Own Adventure novel might be like.

JohnBTurning a collection of YouTube videos into an interactive experience (we like to use the word "game") is a lofty goal. Howard Glitch takes a few steps away from passive entertainment and engages you a bit more, asking you to make choices, hunt and click hotspots, change settings on the video, skip forwards and backwards in time, etc. You'll be hit with a lot of "oh, neat" moments during the game, smiling at the novel use of video controls and how well they're integrated into the experience. And the story Howard Glitch tells is a good, miniature psychological thriller, which is a genre I can never get enough of.

One question remains at the end of the day: which side of the line does Howard Glitch walk? Is it a game or is it a bunch of clickable videos? You would really have to open up that old chestnut about games being art to define this one, but I'm confident saying Allmand is taking the postmodern art approach to game creation, using new media in new ways to shake up an old industry. It provides something a little different from the rest, and while Howard Glitch may not be "different" enough or "game" enough, the end experience is a good, though not perfect, one.

Play Howard Glitch

Thanks to Robert and Simon for sending this one in!


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Rating: 4.2/5 (90 votes)
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Reader ReviewPixel PurgeFor fans of frenetic top-down arena shooters with a retro aesthetic, Pixel Purge by Epic Shadow has plenty to offer. The fictional land of Pixela-RT witnessed years of prosperity. Now, a dark portal spews forth endless waves of Space Invaders inspired monsters intent on destroying all that is good and pixely. Luckily, volunteers from across the land take to the sky in small white spaceships to fend off the menace. Endless waves of enemies face down your small white ship on an apocalyptic top-down battlefield.

Beyond an overblown opening cinematic, the story disappears in favor of pure blasting. You control your ship with [WASD] movement and mouse aiming, allowing for strafing and precision avoidance. Enemies approach from all sides of the arena constantly. Each one you blast awards you points. Collisions with the invaders drain your health bar, which ends your quest for a highscore. The game starts out with a storm of basic enemies, and the longer you survive the larger and more dangerous they become.

Pixel Purge isn't simply a bare-bones survival shooter though. Each destroyed enemy drops "pixels" as a form of experience points. Gather enough to level up your ship and spend a skill point in one of eight attributes. The attributes fall into four categories: Offense, Defense, Bullet Effects, and Score, allowing players a small degree of customization. Along with dropped, temporary power-ups, gathering pixels for upgrades becomes a necessity to survive. As the fray becomes swamped with different enemy types weaving in and out of your attackers towards one more level-up becomes a white-knuckle affair.

Pixel PurgeAn unlockable bestiary and trophies offer replay value as well. After defeating a certain number of each type of enemy the game reveals their stats and behavior. Large scores and avoidance perfection awards trophies for bragging rights, and a full set of trophies gives bonus skill points at the start of a new round. Beyond that, a highscore is the ultimate goal, with chain multipliers and massive invaders to fell.

Analysis: Pixel Purge looks great. The unique spin on the retro ascetic keeps enemy types clear when gameplay speeds up to the max. The battleground itself looks eerie, with lightning effects and particle enemy explosions keeping things interesting. Those looking for a narrative or ending will be disappointed that the intriguing atmosphere adds nothing to the story, which itself only provides a context for this shooter.

The gameplay is also great, but falls short of perfection. The upgrades themselves seem unbalanced. The fast pace eventually makes health recovery upgrades obsolete, and everything moves too fast to show if upgrades to bullet effects make much of a difference. I would have liked to see more inspired trophies too, as many are simply grinds towards larger multiplier chains and scores. However the core gameplay works great, and makes grinding for a spot on the leaderboards worth a try.

Despite its flaws, Pixel Purge is a great example of the arena shooter genre done up in a nice pixel package.

Play Pixel Purge


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (140 votes)
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KyleElements The GameIn 1993, a small gaming company called Wizards of the Coast published a novel card game developed by college professor Richard Garfield called Magic: The Gathering. Originally intended to be something of a casual game to be played in between the larger campaigns present at gaming conventions, Magic's popularity almost immediately exploded. In the seventeen years since, not only has the game maintained its popularity, but it has also spawned a number of other collectable card games, each in their own turn serving as the source for novels, manga, and Saturday morning cartoons. There have even been a number of browser based collectible card games including Elements, a surprisingly deep and well rounded offering from Zanzarino Design.

In this fantasy themed collectible card game, you take on the role of an elemental, a kind of mystical spirit composed of one of the twelve elements, or fundamental building blocks of existence. As an elemental there are a number of skills available to you that you can employ to test your might against other elementals. If you are very good and very lucky, you may even prove strong enough to challenge beings claiming to be invincible gods.

Before you even think about annoying deities, though, it might be wise to familiarize yourself with the basics. In your standard duel each elemental begins with 100 health points, and your goal is to reduce your opponent's health to zero. You'll accomplish this using three basic card types: creatures, spells, and permanents. Creatures will attempt to attack your opponent each turn and sometimes come with special abilities that can further give other elementals severe headaches. Spells are cards that produce their effect once and are then discarded. Permanents, as their name might suggest, are played and continue to produce their effect permanently throughout the game (unless, of course, another card is played that negates the effect or destroys the card).

Of course, playing these cards isn't free and that's where "Quanta" comes in. Most cards require a certain amount of element specific quanta in order to come into play, and to get that quanta, you'll need to play special permanent cards such as pillars and pendulums. While we're covering quanta, it's also worth mentioning that often times the special abilities of some monsters also requires the usage of quanta to activate. Manage your quanta and knock your opponent out before he gets you, and you'll win some Electrum (that's the in game currency), and maybe even win a card.

Like all good collectable card games, the nuances and mechanics of Elements could go on and on, and also like all good collectable card games, the best way to acclimate yourself to them is to get in there and play. In between matches you'll be able to manage your deck, visit an oracle that gives you money and sometimes cards and special abilities, embark upon quests (which act more like a tutorial than anything else) and you can visit the bazaar where you can buy lots of cards and build up your deck. Happily enough, unlike real card games, you won't have to save up a week's worth of lunch money doing so.

Elements The GameAnalysis: In many ways, Elements manages to capture much of the spirit that I once felt when I used to play its spiritual ancestor over a decade and a half ago. It sparks the imagination and puts your vision and strategic mettle to the test. It can suck you in for hours at a time, but with each match lasting hardly more than a few minutes on average, Elements can be as casual an experience as you like. There's even plenty of camaraderie to be had as you chat with other players over strategy, which card is the best to upgrade, what elements work best with each other, etc.

In truth, Elements plays much like a streamlined version of Magic: The Gathering, but it is important to note that there are plenty of differences at work here to make Elements its own game. Here, the complexity of the game's structure as a whole is minimized; however, the interplay that goes on among the dozen different elements creates a breadth of diversity and possibility that lends a wonderful capacity for complexity in strategy and deck building.

And yet, with so many different elements available, this game manages to maintain an admirable balance. No one element is "better" than any other element. Instead, each element has its own personality. Entropy relies heavily on instilling chaos and status effects, Death focuses on poison and capitalizing off of creatures removed from play. There is no single winning element, nor is there any guaranteed successful combination of elements. Monochrome decks can put a serious beat down before the other side has a chance to act, but Rainbow decks can be particularly brutal when crafted right.

Like so many collectible card games, deck building is a major part of Elements, a fact that has its positives and negatives. Elements provides a wonderful support system to take advantage of in between duels from an in game store to an unlockable upgrade service to an oracle that can be visited daily for money among other things. I think the biggest thing lacking here is a way for players to barter cards directly amongst each other. This is particularly true when you start earning rare cards that don't really fit well in your deck. Another downside to how much emphasis is put on deck building is that once you get to a certain skill level, it becomes almost necessary to have an extremely focused deck. The problem with this is that while deck building is intense, actual matches can end up feeling like they are being played on auto-pilot as your deck only revolves around a single strategy.

Elements The GameIt does take a while to get to this point, of course. Before you're playing at a truly competitive level you'll go through no shortage of grinding and thankfully there's a solid amount of skill stratification amongst computer opponents. You'll start at level 0 as you learn to play, but with patience, imagination, and skill, you can work your way up to playing the False Gods that inhabit level six. One of the best parts of collectible card games though is the ability to play real live players, and the bragging rights that comes from taking them to school. With a loyal and extensive following, you'll find no shortage of flesh and blood opponents to test your deck against. Unfortunately separating live opponents by skill level could have been done much better here. Unless you have someone specific you are going to duel against, PVP (player vs. player) matches are divided amongst upgraded decks and non upgraded decks. The problem here is that there's nothing stopping a highly skilled player from developing a deck without upgraded cards, meanwhile someone who finally has been able to upgrade their first card will likely get destroyed by someone with a fully upgraded deck. Creating PVP skill levels based on games played or record might give players a chance to enjoy more evenly matched games.

From a technical standpoint, Elements rates fairly well. There's a suitably large library of unique and rare cards each with its own gorgeous artwork. Meanwhile, aside from a little lag when playing PVP matches, the interface is mostly intuitive and responsive both in and out of matches. My largest complaint is that the game could do a much better job of indicating certain status effects. Sometimes when an effect is cast on a creature it will receive a marker indicating that the creature has that effect, but some effects don't leave markers which can lead to confusion if you aren't paying attention, and sometimes lose you a game if you don't realize an effect is in play soon enough.

Collectible card games can be something of an acquired taste and Elements is no different. Sure, it can be a very casual game, but you'll learn that to go much further beyond the beginner levels will require a level of dedication that is anything but casual. But Elements ultimately strikes the right formula that makes it easy to slip from a casual indulger to a devoted enthusiast. A solid mechanic supported by strong balance, versatility, and tons of creativity and possibility help make Elements an undeniably addictive offering and a respectable addition to the online collectible card game genre.

Play Elements: The Game

Thanks to Matt, Nixx, Sethum, Jb, William, Charles, Alex, and Will for sending this one in!


  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (109 votes)
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joyeA Llama, A World and a PlanOnce upon a time, there a was a young llama with a dream. A dream and $200 adorably clutched in his hoof. With that hoof-ful of dollars, he would take the wretched turf left to him by his father and become... KING! King by plagiarizing all the neighboring cities, but still. In A Llama, A World and a Plan, a building simulation from StefanT, you can become a Lama glama and make your every ungulate wish come true.

The tutorial is excellent. You start out with a blank piece of land and the $200. You're a rather empty headed lamoid, so instead of trying to come up with ideas of your own, just clop clop over to the next town and click on some of your neighbor's buildings to copy his ideas. You thief. It does take a little money to copy it, however, so maybe there's some kind of licensing going on here.

Ideas copied, return to your homestead and click on the lego block like icon to build. Once you've built several places, click the exclamation mark to work. Some buildings will get bubbles over them indicating that they can be collected from. Collect from all the buildings because they will change color to red and eventually disappear.

To get to be king, you need to progress through several goals, which you can find by clicking on the book icon in the upper right. Goals include advancing buildings up to three stars and building 3 of each kind of plant. The fourth goal will unlock the castle, and once you build the castle, you need never work again! Hip hip hooray! Or as the llama says, "Mwa mwa orgle." I'm just working from Wikipedia here, folks.

A Llama, A World and a PlanAnalysis: ALaWaaP (the acronym flows trippingly off the tongue, doesn't it) feels more like the proof of concept of a great game than an actual, fully formed great game. The lack of save is the most significant drawback, and the tutorial is unskippable, so you have to go through it again every time you play. Save, casual game developers! We players actually really, really like this function!

That said, the furry little llama heart of the game is solid. I really did want my idea-pilfering llama who "doesn't know what buildings are," but somehow perfectly understands money, to achieve his life goals. Any ruminant with an opposable thumb deserves to have his dreams come true, in my opinion. The art and music has a lot of charm, with some cute little touches like the "Apricot" store selling cell phones. Rough cultivation, to Chinese restaurants, to disguised versions of Apple: civilization in three easy steps, y'all. The game interprets the sandbox theme into a world that feels like playing with a sanbox, only instead of heaps of sand, there's outdoor toilets and fast food. (If there are cats in your neighborhood, then it's like playing with a sandbox, only somehow you're making money from the outdoor toilet in it, and the food is burgers instead of dead birds.)

While we'd certainly love to see the game improved, it was a wonderful and enjoyable entry in the Casual Gameplay Design Competition 8, and I know all of us at JIG will be looking forward to StefanT's continued efforts in the future.

Play A Llama, a World and a Plan


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (76 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypSo it's Wednesday again, and usually that means you manage to get locked in a room somewhere. But not this week, no! This week you have a plan. This week you're going to go out to dinner with a dear friend and then lock them in the restaurant! After all, you're tired of being the hapless, helpless victim locked up in various rooms, offices, bars, spas, and underground spaces. This time, dear reader, you will have your revenge, and a lovely meal to go with it. Now dinner is over and you're just waiting for your companion to get back to the table and you can put your plan into action! Hey, your friend has been gone a while, perhaps you'd better go check on him? Wait, is that door locked? Not again! If you're thinking, "Only one person would come up with such a crazy room escape scenario", well, you would be correct. Tesshi-e is back, and it's time to Escape from Restaurant Minshio. Welcome to Weekday Escape!

Escape from Restaurant MinshioNow you're locked in the titular restaurant, attempting to get out. All you need to do is phone your friend and they can come open the door for you. No problem. Navigate the beautiful space with the help of arrows at the sides and bottom of your screen, open a few cabinets, solve a few puzzles, pick up and use a few items, and, oh dear, perform a little construction and you'll be home in no time, plotting a better revenge. Presuming, that is, that you can get out. Fortunately, a restaurant isn't the worst place you could be stuck. Especially this restaurant.

Escape from Restaurant Minshio has all of the bells and whistles we've come to expect from a designer as good as Tesshi-e. Gorgeous backgrounds, lively music, tricky puzzles, unique use of found objects, and a slight amount of pixel hunting can be found in this amusing little room escape. Easy to use inventory control, mute for the music and sound and a lovely save feature round out the features we have come to expect from Tesshi-e. And yes, there is a happy coin escape.

So you think to yourself that, yes, yet another escape from Tesshi-e. The games are fun and all, but there's nothing new here. Au contraire, dear reader, au contraire! To begin with, this, the 50th of Tesshi-e's games appears to be a collaboration with Democratic Osan. So while you will find such classics as the standard construction of something useful out of random found objects, you will also find new touches here and there. But most of all, dear reader, you will find some pretty decent English.

Yes, Tesshi-e has found someone to translate Escape from Restaurant Minshio who actually has a pretty decent grasp of the English language. The result is that the entire game, even random clicking, will get you English phrases that actually make sense and help you along with your escape. This is a game designer that doesn't rest on their laurels but continues to strive to create better and better plots, puzzles, and an overall experience. Teach Tesshi-e how to program a changing cursor and, well, tomorrow the world!

With the only minor quibble being the slight amount of pixel hunting, Escape from Restaurant Minshio moves Tesshi-e ever closer to that elusive goal: the perfect room escape. Fantastically fun, challenging, and more accessible than ever, Escape from Restaurant Minshio is about as perfect a mid-week experience as you can get. You even get a yummy meal and maybe even a dessert out of the experience. Time to escape! And, maybe, learn something about ill-advised revenge schemes.

Play Escape from Restaurant Minshio

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