February 2011 Archives


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (175 votes)
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Joshbustabrain2.jpgIt appears that your brain is more or less intact after Ninjadoodle's last clever attempt to bust it. You removed matchsticks, thought outside the box, and conserved your precious mouse clicks to get a low score in their puzzle minigame title, Bustabrain. But tell me, dear reader, are you ready to face the new terror known as "the Dice of Doom?" Can the grey squishy stuff between your ears handle even more puzzly challenges? If so, behold as Ninjadoodle returns with another helping of stylized minigames in Bustabrain 2.

Ninjadoodle's latest offering consists of 30 new minigames based on the same type of challenges in the previous title. Familiar brainbusters include dragging puzzles, matchstick removals, code breakers, comic panels, and rebuses (rebii?) to name a few. Simply follow each level's instructions and use the mouse to click or drag various items. Keep in mind that every mouse click is tracked, with bonuses awarded for a lower number of clicks. What's new this time around are the "Dice of Doom," a series of small black-and-white dice hidden on every level of the game. Completionists and those trying for a low score will want to seek these out, as they remove two mouse clicks when found and give players a -20 click bonus for finding all 30.

Bustabrain 2 is a fun break game, with none of the challenges too tricky to keep you stumped for long. While it would have been nice to have seen more original level content breaking from the mold of the first game, what is there is entertaining and should satisfy most casual players. Up for another round? Then put those running shorts on your head and start exercising your brain once again!

Play Bustabrain 2


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (215 votes)
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BradLegend of the Golden RobotGrab your shovel, sharpen your sword and get ready to have your debilitating case of gold fever cured, because it's time to do some treasure hunting. You won't even have to experience the back breaking labor or the legal and moral grey areas that come with excavating artifacts. Thanks to the Bad Viking team, which consists of Rob Donkin, robotJAM and Cathy McBurney, and their new RPG/minesweeper-treasure-hunting game The Legend of the Golden Robot

To start treasure hunting, head to one of the 21 different areas. Each area is a grid and you have 24 hours to explore it. The first thing to do is to pick a square and dig, which takes a certain amount of time depending on the type of shovel you have equipped and the type of terrain you're digging up. Treasure hunting has a strong Minesweeper-type mechanic. After you dig, there will be a number in the corner of the square you just dug up. The number tells you how many of the surrounding squares have treasure in them. If you look in the lower right hand corner you'll see a gauge that lets you know how many treasures you've found and how many are left to find on the grid.

Don't think you'll just be allowed to traipse around, digging holes and looking for shiny objects. Each area has enemies moving around and if you and an enemy land on the same square you'll have to fight. In battle you'll go face-to-face with one enemy in a turn-based battle. There's two important stats to watch during battle: health and stamina, if you want to attack you'll need to have enough stamina to perform the action. In a fight you'll have four options: attack, defend, rage (a more powerful attack that uses twice the stamina of a normal attack) and build-up (a powerful attack that takes two turns to execute). There are also special attacks that can deal damage, heal yourself or give you a speed boost, but you need to find special treasures and equip them to be able to use them. Finally, you can find buddies through out the game, usually by defeating special enemies. Buddies are little sidekicks who will deal damage or perform some special action during combat. If you happen to die in battle, don't worry, because you'll have a chance to outrun death (literally) by playing a short, easy mini-game where you have to type the letters above your character's head. You'll be taken back to the beginning of the day and any treasure collected will be undone.

A person can't spend all their time adventuring, so get cozy with the village that serves as your home base. When you level, here's where you'll distribute your three skill points between the six different stats. You'll also be able to change your equipment and buy things from the store. Not everything is available from the start, but as you level up and find more treasure more items will be unlocked. Not all the items at the store is equippable, some of items, such as the hedge clippers, are needed to access certain areas. In the village tavern you'll find a few mini-games. One is a shuffleboard-type game where you can win some money and the other is a dice game where you can win some XP, but more importantly, you'll also get told where a certain treasure is.

Legend of the Golden RobotAnalysis: If you played Bad Viking's previous game Toxers, then a lot of The Legend of the Golden Robot will seem familiar. I thought Toxers was a good game, but it definitely had its flaws. Thankfully, The Legend of the Golden Robot goes a long way in fixing some of those problems.

It would be easy for a game like this to get tedious, but a couple of things keep that from happening. The most simple is that the concept is just plain fun. Who doesn't like the idea of hunting for treasure? When you throw in the Minesweeper-style gameplay it becomes even better. Even if you keep coming up empty in your excavation it just strengthens the urge to find that treasure. This feeling doesn't wane, either; if anything it becomes more addicting the closer you get to the end. What makes this more interesting is that aside from netting you some money the treasure doesn't do very much. Still, when you find one of the major treasures it feels like a success.

The Legend of the Golden Robot can be played a few different ways. You can search for every treasure and progress through all the different areas or you can specifically hunt down the pieces of the Golden Robot to get through the game quickly. This is great if you like the game, but you find it getting stale or if you want more of a challenge. The game isn't very hard, but it's not necessarily easy. I died a fair number of times while I was playing, but it wasn't ever frustrating. It has this weird indefinable difficulty that works well, but some people might want a harder game.

It's not a perfect game. The weakest element is combat. It's not really Bad Viking's fault, because it can be hard to make old school, turn-based RPG combat compelling these days. In The Legend of the Golden Robot, you'll find yourself hitting one button over and over again. if you run out of stamina, you'll have to hit a different button, but there's not a lot of variety. That said, I did find myself in some tense situations, especially against some of the unique enemies. When both the enemy and I were low on health I became absorbed in the battle. Will I luck out and survive or will the enemy get me? Will my buddy jump in and save my skin? Will I get that crucial extra turn? In those moments the combat system was awesome.

The Legend of the Golden Robot is a great game. Its problems are few and despite them the game is incredibly addicting and fun. It's becoming clear that Bad Viking can make great games and they're learning and improving with each one.

Play Legend of the Golden Robot


  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (61 votes)
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ChiktionaryDuplicatorHere's an argument in favour of cloning... Your pet has gone missing and you need help to locate it. Wait, hear me out. I mean, who would know your pet as well as you do? You, of course, and having another you to help out could be pretty handy. In Duplicator, a tricky platform puzzler by Z3lf, we find out just how useful a cloned copy of ourselves in the search for a wandering pet can be.

In the tradition of the platform genre, use the [WASD] keys, or if you're left-handed use the [arrow] keys to move the character around, using the mouse to interact with objects in the environment, and to create your duplicates and checkpoints. The platform element is smooth and relatively easy, and interacting with objects is also smoothly achieved with a left-click of the mouse. It's the puzzle elements that prove to be the most challenging aspect of the game.

Duplicator presents beautifully, with simple gray-toned graphics, sublime gameplay and moody music. The premise is fairly basic; manouvre the character through a myriad of rooms, using lifts, collecting coins and avoiding some annoying and vicious little televisions, to locate a missing pet. Where the game falls a little short, is that it's essentially an unforgiving game. Once you enter a room, there's no turning back which can be frustrating. Duplicates can be made of the character itself and crates, and the duplicating mechanism requires energy points. Unfortunately, amassing energy is not an option. As you enter each room, the energy level resets providing a limited amount of energy to be used for each puzzling situation. This too is limiting as there are areas that could be explored but are largely superfluous to the game because of the energy constraints. Being able to collect energy points would have provided more scope for exploring and attaining a higher score. There is an auto-save feature in the game, which is generally a blessing but making a mistake may mean having to start the game over.

Despite its shortcomings, Duplicator provides some challenging puzzles and an hour or more of ambient diversion. The appealing presentation combined with fluid platforming override the difficulties of the game, and the puzzles will get you thinking and may even test your patience.

So prepare for the world of duplication; it's a little bit weird, a little bit tricky, but well worth a look.

Play Duplicator

Thanks to Avinash, Donut, and Ruslan for sending this one in!


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Mobile Monday

JohnBYou're travelling through another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. And touch screens. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. And the edge of your iPhone. That's the signpost up ahead. Your next stop: Mobile Monday.

dirt-iphone.gifDirt - Hey there, little skeleton kitty. Whacha up to? Not sure? Bit of amnesia or something? Well, I'm sure if you use that pickaxe to dig around a bit, you'll uncover some clues. Pick up those gems and see if they spark your memory. If you need to dig in a different direction or otherwise move around, rotate the iPhone to change gravity. Keep grabbing gems and you'll discover some neat things! Also, your world is procedurally-generated, which is neat if you want to play again after your first time through. Good luck, kitty!

tinywings.gifTiny Wings - An adorable and simply marvelous one-button game where you control a fat little bird whose wings barely function. Tap and hold the screen to fold your wings in and dive, sliding along the hillsides to gain speed. Release the screen to take flight, turning that momentum into a bit of air time. Gobble the glowing pellets on the screen if you can, and stay on the move to beat the lurking darkness. One of those rare games that instills a bit of wonder into the player.

catchlion.gifLET'S CATCH THE LION! - A simple chess-like game of move-and-capture, LET'S CATCH THE LION! is based on the Japanese game "shogi". Play with a friend or against the computer. Either way, both players begin with four cards: a lion, a giraffe, an elephant, and a baby chicken. Each piece moves and captures in its own way, such as the elephant moving only in diagonals, and when the chick reaches the other side, it can be upgraded to a hen. The goal is to outmaneuver your opponent and capture his or her lion card. Very simple, of course, but some of the most addicting games are just that! Plus: gotta love the cute artwork.

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


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (45 votes)
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Gemini Rue

DoraDelta-Six wakes up on the cold metal floor of a cell, about to take part in mandatory reconditioning, with no recollection of who he is or why he's there. Azriel is waiting on a friend in the cold rain of New Pittsburgh who hasn't shown up yet and trying to stay under the radar of both the local authorities and the biggest crime syndicate around. Neither of them is having a good day, and things are going to get a lot worse before they get any better. Gemini Rue is a neo-noir point-and-click adventure game from Wadjet Eye Games and Joshua Nuernberger that blends mystery with action, stealth, and even science-fiction. And what do you get from that heady brew? Awesome. ... well, awesome and a little bit of back-tracking, some pixel-hunting, and adventure-game logic but Gemini Rue is still absolutely stellar.

Gemini RueThe game is set a few hundred years in the future, and a few galaxies away from our own beloved spinning blue ball. But this future isn't all sleek clean interfaces, equality, and universal health care; no, this is the future that would probably be the setting for one of those episodes where Doctor Who gets disappointed in the human race again. The story takes place in the Gemini galaxy, where a war between two planets is the least of your concerns when more often the threat of the Boryokuden, the biggest and most powerful crime syndicate around, is more dangerous. The world-building here is fairly subtle, since the narrative mercifully avoids dumping huge piles of exposition in your lap, and you won't feel like you'll need an Alternate Universe encyclopedia on your lap in order to understand things. Just an attention to detail, a fondness for crates, and the common sense to avoid taking a bullet through the head.

The gameplay jumps back and forth between Azriel and Delta-Six, and later you can the ability to click between both characters, wherever they are, on a whim. Like most traditional point-and-clicks, gameplay boils down to talking to people, looking for clues, and solving puzzles through the rigorous application of "look at", "talk to", "touch", and... uh... "foot". (Yes, I know it's "kick", but "footing" things is funnier.) In addition to that, you even get some cover-based shooting segments. If the thought of combat makes you nervous, don't worry; the instances are relatively few and far between, simple to master, and a headshot is the answer to all of life's problems. Just remember; save early, save often, and in different slots. There are multiple points during the game where you'll have to think quickly in order to survive, and while the autosave usually springs to your rescue in case of untimely death, there's nothing wrong with having frequent backups either.

Gemini RueAnalysis: Unlike most recent adventure titles, Gemini Rue eschews the cheerful, even goofy tone and instead delivers a story heavy on drama and noir-action, with characters to match. People have compared it in some ways to classic adventure game Beneath a Steel Sky (available completely free on GOG, or in spicy iOS flavour), but I might also argue that the story even shares themes in a spiritual sense with Joss Whedon's Dollhouse. This is hardly a bad thing, and you shouldn't take "similar to" as "carbon copy of"; the more mature themes it shares with those titles are worth exploring, and Gemini Rue still feels like its own beast, with an intriguingly-crafted world peppered with fascinating details and mythology I'd love to know more about. Can we look forward to more stories within this universe? It'd be nice.

Visually, Gemini Rue is a note-perfect return to classic VGA form, and while character models often aren't anywhere near as detailed as their environments, so much effort has gone into providing little touches in every area that gives them a lot of depth and interest. The only real complaint is that the washed out colour palette means spotting interactive places without mousing over them touch-and-go. Gemini Rue is a surprisingly light touch with sound, using musical tracks sparingly and usually only in a very subtle fashion. As such, the ambient noise tends to take center stage, and in this the sound design absolutely shines; everything from the murmur of rain to the soft hum of machinery serves to add to the immersion. Voice acting can be a bit hit-or-miss, but the use of subtitles means you can turn off voices via the options menu if they really bother you.

Gemini RueGemini Rue's action sequences do a lot to make it feel different from other titles, and for the most part, they work. Shooting can be a little tedious, and some action sequences may take a few tries, but... it works. You really need to spend a lot of time exploring your surroundings and waggling your mouse over different areas to make sure you're not missing a vital piece of the puzzle. Sometimes all it will take is examining the right object, an object you might have missed the first go around, and comprehension will strike. I wouldn't say any of the puzzles or progression steps are impossible or even counterintuitive, just that they rely on attention to detail and a willingness to experiment and exhaust options when you're stuck. Admittedly, designing puzzles for other people, especially a wide audience, is hard; a solution that looks painfully obvious to a game's developer might seem equally simple to a handful of people, but also needlessly obtuse to others.

In the end, however, do I recommend it? Well... yes. Absolutely yes. Passing fans of the genre or gamers who prefer lighter fare might be put off by the grim atmosphere and serious tone, but if you've been hungry for a "heavier" experience, you definitely need to check things out. While it's a linear experience and you won't get much choice in events, the story is great, enlivened by moments of action to keep you on your toes. If you love mystery, science-fiction drama, and rummaging through corpses in massive trash heaps, then this is an adventure game not to be missed. Highly recommended.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


(18 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Cave Quest

JohnBHere's a novel idea: do something with the match-3 genre that's fun and interesting! Cave Quest from MD Studio combines a number of familiar puzzle concepts with a smattering of hidden object and adventure scenes. It's all laced together with a shoestring storyline that keeps you moving from one area to the next, solving simple inventory puzzles and swapping tiles like nobody's business. It's something fresh and interesting to try out, especially if you've been around the match-3 block a few times!

Cave QuestIsabella's family loves to explore, but when her parents fail to return from an expedition, she gets worried. Heading off into the snowy hills, she realizes they haven't been seen for a long time, and even worse, her brother is missing as well! Seeking help from the natives, Isabella learns of a castle hidden deep within the mountains rumored to be guarded by evil spirits. With little more to go on than ancient legend, she and her friend Mike head out on an adventure through the blizzard, digging deep into the caverns beneath the wintry hills.

Cave Quest flips back and forth between short hidden object scenes and slightly longer match-3 rounds, each relating directly to each other and the task at hand. For example, you'll start by clearing a path on a puzzle board so your explorers can pass through a cave. Once outside, you'll discover a new use for that pick you found: removing ice from a staircase. You can't clear the steps without completing another puzzle sequence, however, only this time you'll be matching tiles to remove ice blocks from the grid. Complete this and you'll go back to adventure mode, moving from area to area via the map, finding a few hidden objects in one scene and talking to important characters in another.

The variety of match-3 games in Cave Quest is impressive, and each one only last a minute or two, so you never feel bogged down by any single game. The hidden object scenes are short and very easy, requiring you to find just a few items that are rarely well-hidden. A hint button is almost always available in case you get stuck, but the characters in the game tend to spell things out for you, so that rarely becomes a concern.

Cave QuestAnalysis: Just when you think every possible genre hybrid has been done, one more combination pops on the radar. Cave Quest's blend of hidden object and puzzle games has been done before, but never as successfully as this. The casual design keeps you moving between scenes at a quick pace, making sure your brain is engaged at each task at hand. You're never really challenged by any of the puzzles, unfortunately, but somehow you're always compelled to keep playing, just to see what's around the next corner.

The best part of Cave Quest is how in integrates some light RPG elements into the mix. There are battles with monsters where you must take turns matching tiles to deal damage. They're easy, no-frills battles, but when you first encounter them you'll be pleasantly surprised! There's even a merchant that sells power-ups for use in the matching portions of the game, something you rarely see in a puzzle game of this nature.

Strangely enough, the visuals in Cave Quest look quite good. The colors seem a bit surreal at first, but once you see things in motion, especially tiles hopping in 3D during the puzzle modes, you'll realize just how crisp and clean everything looks.

The story is basic at best and not very original, though you really don't mind once you get in to the swing of things. The dialogue is similarly hokey, with awkward lines and stretches of text that are little more than exposition. Again, this isn't meant to be a moving game filled with emotional content, so all story elements are there simply to move you from puzzle scene to hidden object scene.

It comes across as somewhat awkward from time to time, but Cave Quest displays some solid design with an intriguing combination of genres. There's a lot of variety, the visuals are excellent, and the story, while thin, is admittedly pretty entertaining. Play it when you're ready for a match-3 game that does more than ask you to swap a tile or two.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


(18 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (2) | Views (119)

Maestro: Music of Death

DoraCertain things are only funny when they happen to someone else, like taking a big gulp of spoiled milk, or faceplanting immediately after yelling "Hey, watch this!" or getting trapped within a plague ridden town that's slowly sapping the life out of its inhabitants. Maestro: Music of Death is a new horror hidden-object adventure from ERS Game Studio where you are once again called in as a "paranormal expert" (are you sure they have a right person?) to solve a strange mystery near Paris. You know, the sort of mystery that tends to wind up with you a dried and dessicated corpse in a ghost town somewhere? Those are my favourites.

Maestro: Music of DeathYour investigation appears to be off to a rocky start when the guards at the city limits refuse to let you pass. Some sort of plague, they say, and they're not willing to let anyone pass; not you, and certainly not the distraught woman who begs you to find her daughter who got left behind with her governess. Of course, they're soon not in any position to stop you, and as you begin to search the city you get a sneaking suspicion that this "plague" may not be natural. (Gee, what tipped you off? The crying clouds of damned phantoms? You're so smart.) Gameplay is your typical point-and-click affair, although players who don't enjoy hidden-object hunting that much may be put off by just how many of them there are. Find clues, solve puzzles, and eliminate the source of the plague before you become just another dead beat. HA! Dead beat! Geddit?... well, uh, 'cause the game is "Music of Death", and... beat, like a note, and... um... oh, forget it.

Analysis: While it's nice to play a feel-good, family-friendly hidden-object game once in a while, usually all I really need to feel good about my casual game purchases is a theater full of emaciated corpses. That's not so hard to provide, right? (Then why won't any developers return my messages?!) Scary sells, and nobody seems to know this better than ERS Game Studios, whose last batch of games have been a string of creepy-cool titles. Maestro: Music of Death is another solid addition to their roster. It boasts a weird, over-the-top story that's rich with unusual environments, all rendered with fantastic artwork and attention to visual detail that makes them look and feel much more in-depth and animated.

Maestro: Music of DeathAs much as there is to like about Maestro, however, there are minor annoyances. You'll have to backtrack and repeat hidden-object scenes more than usual, and some of the items you need to track down are, frankly, more than a little superfluous; I really need to get a specific item to get rid of a small pile of leaves? Really? I can't just, like... brush them away with my hands? Certain sound effects are repeated over and over again ad nauseum, and chances are even if you found the wispy ghosts and annoying, gasping sigh they give scary the first time, you won't the next seventy-five times it happens, over and over each time you enter particular areas.

Of course, none of these are game breaking issues; they're just mostly minor complaints, and shouldn't prevent you from checking out what really is a genuinely top-notch game. It's a unique mystery set in a location that's a lot of fun to explore. ERS Game Studio have really outdone themselves in crafting a series of environments that have an otherworldly feel, and while the story isn't quite as front and center as some of their other recent releases, it still makes for a very engrossing experience. While most of you probably won't find the difficulty level to be very challenging, admittedly not expects or even wants their games to be hard, and if what you do want is a beautifully made game with an intriguing plot and a room full of corpses, Maestro: Music of Death is definitely for you, and I heartily recommend you check out the demo.

A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains a bonus chapter to play, 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


| Comments (20) | Views (34)

Weekend Download

JohnBFrom life sims to indie music to painfully difficult 3D games, we've got your weekend in gaming covered! Covered like your morning piece of toast! Covered like the wagon you rode in to reach Oregon! Covered like... something else that's covered!

airwave1.gif~airwave~ - I Fought the Law, and the Law One (Windows, 59.9Mb, free) - Another grand little adventure game from Ben Chandler, creator of Annie Android, Eternally Us and Featherweight. ~airwave~ stars Elodie Major, host of an indie radio station called Airwave Radio. She and her friend Zak have gathered a small following in the town of Wave. Now, a mainstream record label is stirring up trouble in town, enforcing laws that push indie talent deep into the shadows. As with Ben's previous releases, expect a short outing for an adventure game, but the dialogue and puzzles are well-written and engaging. ~airwave~ is the first in a planned series of episodes, which is good news for adventure fans!

trials.jpgTrials (Windows, 21MB, free) - A 3D "virtual reality obstacle course" from Tijital Games that does something no first person game should do: require jumping puzzles. Somehow, though, that ties in perfectly with the game's difficulty and trial-and-error gameplay. Work your way through a series of levels, each with a particular theme you must learn to overcome. At first it's simple jumps and narrow ledges, then spikes shoot from the ground and blocks move from beneath your feet. You'll die many, many times in Trials, but like the title suggests, you should keep trying until you get it right!

anotherdayinthelife.gifAnother Day in the Life of Bob (Windows, 28MB, free) - Another day, another life to live. This charming little game is a full-fledged life simulation machine, allowing you to take the role of Bob as you wander around the psychedelic town and do whatever things you please. Enter buildings to explore the city, checking out various shops, the gym, stores, the university, etc. Almost everything you do requires cash, but you also increase your stats which have an affect on the things you can do in the down. It's very open-ended, and there's no real way to "win", but boy is it fun running around this colorful isometric town!

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!


| Comments (51) | Views (7)

SpaceChem Contest

JohnBReady to do some riddle solving for a chance to win SpaceChem, the hyper-challenging logic puzzle game created by Zachtronics Industries? Of course you are! We've got ten copies to give away to ten random people who solve our riddle, which begins below. But before that, here are a few nudges to send you in the right direction:

  • You'll need to grab the SpaceChem demo.
  • The riddle takes place in several steps.
  • You have to leave this page to see the other clues.

And now, let the riddle begin:

SpaceChem Contest

The contest has ended! Thanks to everyone who entered, we had a great response! Winners have been notified via e-mail.

Congratulations to:

  1. Aegeus
  2. Ashigaru
  3. freshlyshowered
  4. Maqrkk
  5. maxwell36
  6. Reflectivist
  7. Serapsi
  8. Solarjetman
  9. Xi
  10. And one who prefers to remain anonymous

Thanks for participating and happy gaming!

To enter, send the winning word phrase to the following e-mail address: spacechem@casualgameplay.com. Include a statement that you are 13 years of age or older, and specify which e-mail address you would like the game to be sent to. The contest runs through Saturday, March 5, at which point we'll randomly select ten winners from the correct entries to receive a copy of the game! Good luck, have fun, and try not to strain your brain too much with SpaceChem!

Extra stuff from our legal department:

  • Entries must be submitted by March 5, 11:59 p.m. EST (GMT-5). Winners will be announced shortly thereafter.
  • One entry per person.
  • You must be at least 13 years of age or older to enter.
  • No purchase necessary.
  • Void where prohibited.


(11 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (1) | Views (75)

Fix-it-Up Eighties

JohnBWow. So, yeah, the 1980s. Slap bracelets. Synth bands. Big hair. Neon-colored clothing. If you remember the 80s, you probably want to forget, and if you don't, here's a good way to get started. Fix-it-Up Eighties: Meet Kate's Parents is the latest time management game from World-LooM continuing the car-centric Fix-it-Up. This time around, Kate plays a backseat role as she visits her dad who begins to reminisce about the days of old, meeting Kate's mother and running a car repair business together as they fought with the owner, Richard. It's a neat set-up for a time management game, but there's just one problem: what the heck is up with Kate's dad's moustache?!

Fix-it-Up EightiesJust like the other Fix-it-Up games, Fix-it-Up Eighties is all about buying, fixing up, modding/painting, and selling cars. It's a business-centric design, with your main concerns centering around bringing in as much cash as you possibly can. The cycle runs something like this: drivers pull up beside your garage and offer their car for sale. If the price is good (often indicated by a green thumbs up or a red thumbs down), buy it and drag it on your lot. Many cars need repair, so simply move them to your repair station and get to work.

After a car is fixed, you can set it on your lot and earn rent. You can also send it to the paint shop to give it a shiny new color, or drop it off at the mod shop to turn it into something really special. Painted and modded vehicles fetch a higher rent price, but if you really need some cash, drag a car to the selling spot and a passerby will eventually stop and make an offer. Again, if the offer is good, take the cash and call it a day!

Some customers are in a rush and have special needs. A frazzled-looking "doc" stops by at one point, saying his flux capacitor needs repair and some stranger named "Kate" recommended this shop. You don't have to go Back to the Future to get the reference (well, I guess you do), but the Doc is just one of several needy folk who will pay big bucks for a rushed job. You can also keep an eye on pedestrians as they think up their dream car. Fixing and selling a car that matches one of these thought bubbles fetches a nice price!

Fix-it-Up EightiesAnalysis: The Fix-it-Up series walks an attractive line between a tycoon sim and time management game. Much like the Build-a-lot series, your main focus is always on making money, not necessarily managing resources. You do have to keep an eye on your spare parts and workers, ordering more when necessary, but it's such a small part of the game you only have to think about it once in a while.

It wouldn't be possible to talk about Fix-it-Up Eighties without mentioning the awesome setting: the 1980s. Yes, there's a lot of music from that ill-fated decade. There's also a lot of fashion, including hairdos, outfits, and toys scattered in the background of various scenes. If you're a child of the 80s you'll crack a smile when you see all the references thrown in to the game, such as the mechanic talking on his "mobile" telephone (that's roughly the size of a cinder block).

Like many series on the casual market, Fix-it-Up Eighties: Meet Kate's Parents suffers from a lack of originality when compared to previous outings. The story, setting, and characters may be different, but the gameplay is largely the same. If you've mastered previous Fix-it-Up games, this one will provide new challenge, but only because the layouts and customers are slightly different.

A simulation meets time management game, Fix-it-Up Eighties: Meet Kate's Parents is another successful car-repairing adventure for Kate. Well, for her parents, at least!

WindowsWindows:
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Mac OS XMac OS X:
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  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (407 votes)
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JamesCuboy QuestWhile there is no mistaking who Cuboy might be, given the angular features of the main protagonist in this puzzle/platform game, it is not entirely clear what his quest is. Not that it matters - if you can spare thirty minutes or he'll jump around and shoot at targets. But if you care how many bullets it takes, you'll spend a bit more time with Cuboy Quest from Rigolab.

There is no lack of phuzzle (physics puzzle) games on the web, but they come in an amazing variety, from destroying castles to bouncing an object down a ramp before the time runs out. Cuboy Quest adds another twist to the genre, blending platform, physics and shooting. You are a stetson-donned, pistol-armed fellow called Cuboy and you have to navigate thirty levels by shooting targets, which in turn opens up the exit to the level. This often involves shooting the targets while they move and sometimes requires things to be shifted in place. While moving with the [WASD] keys and shooting with the mouse, Cuboy has to jump platforms and hit the targets in certain sequences to unlock the exit.

But unlike many phuzzle games, Cuboy doesn't challenge you by limiting shots. Instead, much in the tradition of games in the One Button genre, you tally up shots. The real challenge is to use as few bullets as possible. This makes the game pretty easy and why you will breeze through it the first time. It really only demands some rudimentary puzzle-solving and reflex skills. But if you want to see if you are really good, reduce the number of shots it takes to finish the game.

The controls are very tight and responsive and graphically Cuboy Quest is nice looking. It has a low difficulty curve, but that is obviously not the point. If one aspect had to be picked, it's that it makes very little fanfair at the end around the number of shots you expended during the game. And unlike games that tally up a number of actions, the levels aren't seamless. Much like a regular puzzle game you progress from challenge to challenge. This duality might put some off Cuboy Quest, but it honestly is a nice idea that has been executed well. Perhaps not everyone's cup of tea, but that's because not everyone likes tea.

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraTake me out, to the black, tell 'em I ain't comin' back. Burn the land and boil the sea, I'll just play Link Dump... uh... Fri-dee... ? Hmmm, kinda catchy! Now where have I heard that one before? It's a mystery! Anyway, welcome back, dear friends and browncoats, to another installment of Link Dump Friday, and another batch of games delivered fresh from the great convection oven that is the internet.

  • A Ride HomeA Ride Home - I might be tempted to call Gregory Weir the maverick of flash game design, if not for the fact that I hate people who call themselves or others mavericks, so we'll just say he's a pretty clever and creative guy instead. Made with Unity, this very short little experimental science fiction game allows you to explore unfamiliar territory. A little bit, anyway. While it doesn't quite feel like a full game at the moment, it still manages to evoke a sense of loneliness for the few minutes it'll take you to play.
  • Watermelon BombWatermelon Bomb - Just buying watermelon is a minefield; you never know if what you're going to get is the sweet, succulent, melt-in-your-mouth nectar of the gods or a flavorless mash that dribbles unappetizingly down the back of your throat. Mmmmmm. Fortunately, this chain reaction game simplifies things by just asking you to hurl the fruit. At other fruit. Which then explodes. So you can buy more fruit... also to explode. It, um. It makes sense if you don't think about it.
  • Seven Child GoatSeven Child Goat - Something about goats has always creeped me out, probably because their eyes make them so untrustworthy. Fortunately, Minoto makes everything better. This little point-and-click puzzle game wants you to solve the problem of a marathon monkey treed by a bull, figure out what to do with the lazy bear hibernating in your inventory, and more. By the end of the game, you will be 100% equipped to deal with any goat-related issues that might arise in your future. But you still shouldn't ever trust them. Never turn your back on them. Goats, man. They freak me out.
  • Safe LandingSafe Landing - From Alex Miller, the fine soul who brought you Little Rocket, comes... even more little rockets! Kinda. This tricky little game is about trying to land your little rocket on a little landing pad without hitting any obstacles or running out of fuel. It's more mini-game than anything else, but it's simple, tricky, and besides; how can you hate anything with that soundtrack? You can't, that's how! Subject closed.
  • What a Dream! What a Nightmare!What a Dream! What a Nightmare! - When I was a kid, I used to have a reoccuring nightmare about having to run up an endless, crumbling staircase in the dark from a monster that was chasing me, while hands reached up between the steps and tried to grab my ankles. I always thought it was a combination of seeing the Evil Dead when I was four and generally being a weird kid, but it turns out it just means the fairy and the ogre were slacking off. In this avoidance game, your job as a pretty pink fairy is to trick the ogre trying to snare you in his net into catching the nightmares that are trying to hassle the little girl sleeping in the room instead. It's a little odd to get the hang of, but the whole thing is so lovely and simple it's worth checking out.

  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (155 votes)
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CassandraIsland SurvivalIsland Survival is sadistic. There's no other word that better describes styxtwo's avoidance-style survival platformer-like game. If you were to look at any other game that involved shipwrecked businessman and deserted islands, you'd see something that hints of hope; food, shelter, weapons, the ability to do something other than hop helplessly from one decaying column to another. Island Survival doesn't give you hope. Island Survival gives you goals like, 'Survive for 30 seconds'. Sound simple? It is. Sound easy? It isn't.

Using the [arrow] keys, you will lead the blocky, pixelated protoganist through twelve fearsome levels; a task easier said than done. Each stage consists of you being dumped onto an island and being told to survive for a certain amount of time. Unlike many other games, what stands between you and success are not hostile enemies but the very landscape itself; bits and pieces of your island will constantly disappear under you, initiating occasionally hectic platformer moments. Asides from your own dexterity, the only things keeping you from certain doom are the snowflakes that randomly fall from the sky. Whenever you catch a snowflake, the island will automatically generate an additional layer to keep you from the ocean depths; it feels almost like a case of reverse-Tetris in some ways.

Depending on your skill level, Island Survival can be anything from a pleasant diversion to a strangely addictive source of frustration. Seeing as how I've never been known for my platforming skills, I found it somewhere between the two. There's something oddly zen about Island Survival, however, and it's pretty easy to have a good twenty minutes sucked away before you even think about going, 'What the heck am I doing here?': the hallmark of any good soul-sucking casual game.

Play Island Survival


  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (60 votes)
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Babylon Sticks: Two Queens comic

Congratulations to Charles du Brun for the winning caption in our Babylon Sticks Caption Contest!

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


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Lazylaces

Graeme has been busy the last few months revamping his Lazylaces site and I'm pleased to announce that it's now back online and better than ever! Everyone here at Jayisgames wishes Lazylaces the best and we recommend that you stop by for a visit to see more point-and-clicks and escape games than you ever knew existed.

Good luck with the site, Graeme, and welcome back! :)


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (74 votes)
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DorapestilencezThe dead walk! At least, they do until you arrive on the scene and relieve them of all their extremities in this RPG-turn-based strategy hybrid from Break Point Studios. In Pestilence Z, you play one of three survivors trying their best to stay alive while they search for the source of the outbreak. With fantastic visual design, simple to grasp gameplay, and some welcome opportunities to blow up your shambling foes in strategic style, this is one interesting and fun hybrid you'll want to take a peek at.

Controlling the game is done either via the in-game menu as you click on icons representing each action, or with hotkeys, which is my personal recommendation. Everything is turn-based, and that includes the combat. Once you clear an area of all threats, your movement restrictions are lifted so you can go anywhere on that particular map with a single click. There are a few different zombie variations, such as the soldier whose helmet makes him immune to headshots, and child zombies who are capable of sprinting right up to you in one go. Killing enemies grants you experience points, naturally, which helps you level up and become stronger, bestowing skill points you can spend from the character menu on special passive abilities.

Pestilence ZDuring battle, zombies will move towards your character at every turn; although a few of them have ranged attacks, most of them would really like to eat your brains up close and personal. Click on a zombie to open up a menu with different actions. If you have ammo, you can attack from a distance with a gun, but once a zombie has gotten up close and personal you'll have to use melee attacks or shove them away. You have several options in either melee or ranged situations; when firing at a zombie, you can attack their torso for standard damage, their legs to temporarily halt their movement, or take a chance at a headshot for a potential instant kill. When a zombie is up close, you can also take a swing at a headshot, attack the torso, or attempt to shove them away from you which has the bonus of both potentially stunning them, and opening them up to ranged attacks again. If you have grenades, molotov cocktails, or flare guns, you can use them by clicking the little explosion icon beneath the gun in the menu that appears when you click on enemies.

Naturally, you can't have an RPG without treasure, so you'll want to make sure you search everything; if a question mark pops up when you mouse over an area, it means you haven't searched it yet to get whatever items are there. You'll find everything from ammo to medical supplies, and of course all sorts of weapons and armor of varying quality; whatever you don't use you can "sell" on the character screen for experience points by dragging the unwanted item from your inventory to the trash can. It's not just the obvious places like crates and cars that can be searched; spend some time sweeping the mouse around each area and you're likely to find secret hidden items as well. It's especially important to investigate any places an exclamation point appears over when you mouse past it, since these usually are secret area transitions that lead to "bonus" locations with extra supplies. Some of the best weapons and armor in the game are hidden in these places, so make sure to explore.

You can save at any time when you're not in battle, so make sure you take advantage of it. After all, you never know when y*crash!* AAAAAAAAGH! MY BLOOD! HE PUNCHED OUT ALL MY BLOOD! NOOOOooOOOooo! *crunch, crunch, om nom nom*

Pestilence ZAnalysis: There are two things I love in gaming; zombies and turn-based RPGs. I don't care how uncool the latter is; for one, you're not the boss of me!, and for two, if you're not a very action-oriented person, as I am not, then turn-based is a great way to relax and enjoy some strategic gameplay. In this regard, Pestilence Z excels with what it has; a little careful planning can turn even the hairiest situations your way. Cripple the zombie that's leading the pack during battle to line them all up for maximum damage during an explosion, skip turns to lure enemies in close to get in the first shot, or shove them away when they get too near to temporarily stun them and open them up for a ranged attack. If you have the ammo for it, a headshot is usually worth attempting even though it isn't guaranteed to hit, especially against enemies with lots of hit points.

It's also a very good looking game, from the sketchy comic-style artwork on the characters and cutscenes to the detailed (and not overly detailed) main gameplay. Battle animations in particular are filled with a lot of great little touches, from the way the Nurse claps in delight at the explosion of a molotov cocktail, to the way each zombie has different death animations. The soundtrack is mostly appropriate and well done too in a way that reminds me of early zombie movies, although each track is usually only a minute long and thus has a tendency to repeat far too often.

Pestilence ZIt is not, of course, a perfect game. Even with hotkeys the UI feels clunky and awkward, particularly during battle. It also starts to get bogged down in far too much repetition the further you go; after you've played for about a half hour or so, you've basically seen all there is to the game in terms of locations and enemies. There were never any surprises, and I occasionally found myself frustrated that the farther I went the only real change was that there were just more and more enemies onscreen at any time to deal with before I could progress. Sprinkling in a few bosses at certain points would have done a lot to break up the action, especially since the story doesn't really feel like it's connected to the gameplay and only crops up during the short, infrequent cutscenes.

Still, the more I play Pestilence Z, the more I like it, and I like it a lot... at least enough that when an update wiped my save file while I was writing this, I didn't immediately set my computer on fire and rampage throughout the countryside until I had to be brought down by the military, instead opting to start again with a different character. (The things I do for you.) Apart from some characters being stronger than others, the gameplay is virtually identical apart from who it displays during cutscenes (even down to the hilarious om-nom-nom death during the tutorial.) so you aren't missing much if you only play through once. If you like turn-based gameplay, detailed pixel graphics, and, of course, zombies, then this should absolutely be a title you put on your list to check out. The developers are clearly tremendously talented individuals who care a lot about what they do, which bodes well for future installments. I'll be waiting; goodness knows I love me a good apocalypse.

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  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (82 votes)
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TrickyAmeaI think that we've all experienced the terror of waking up from a strange dream, not being quite certain for a moment where we are. Fortunately, we usually find ourselves in our own bed, rather than a mysterious town that seems a cross between Hyrule and Silent Hill. For Amea, titular protagonist of Godlimations' new action fantasy-horror RPG, sadly this is the case. Like so many other protagonists, she has amnesia... and if a look outside is any indication, there may be a few things she'd be happy not remembering.

Amea is controlled with the [arrow] keys to explore the dark world she finds herself in. Since this dark world is filled with enemies, she soon must find a way to defend herself. Using the [spacebar] to open the inventory screen, she can assign various weapons, shields, and spells to the [A], [S], and [D] keys, to various effects, as well as check out her equipment, world maps, and other information. A truly exhaustive list of combos can be found in the game documentation: for example, holding down your weapon key engages you in a flurried combination attack, tapping the weapon key while crouching activates a leg sweep, hitting down and attack before crouching activates a stab attack and so on. The [I] key brings up the quest log, along with a somewhat confusingly-oriented area map. Finally, the [Q] key changes the quality level. I mention this since you'll probably have to use it: all the spooky effects come at a CPU price.

Amea, like many of Godlimation's releases, is a game that reaches spectacular heights while shooting itself in the foot quite a bit: There is a serious demonstration of gamecraft in the formulation of Amea's world, filled as it is with effectively designed shadowy horrors, pitched battles, twisty turns of plot, and a pervading sense of menace that few games have managed to achieve. However, the very shadows of the world make it difficult to navigate, the pitched battles are unbalanced (having the right shield counts for far more than it should), the plot is undercut by the mediocre voice-acting, and, while atmospheric, an audience can only take so much of a dark, bloody and dreary world before they need some respite.

I like Amea, I really do. It has a lot going for it, even if it will not be for everyone. However, those who don't mind a little glitchiness in pursuance of effective horror shouldn't wait to check it out.

Play Amea


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (413 votes)
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joyeA Monster Ate My HomeworkYou spent all evening preparing your homework, carefully affixing the gold stars to the apples, and gluing a stack of books together. But you carelessly left it out on top of a box in some kind of floating void. You should have known a bunch of monster blocks would come in overnight and arrange themselves in complicated balancing acts with your precious work. It's a common scenario, and it can only be solved with a limitless supply of thrown balls. At first glance, it's a physics puzzle, but this time it's in glorious Unity 3D, and that ends up significantly changing the playing experience. A Monster Ate My Homework, by Geek Beach, actually ends up feeling more like a carnival game of skill than a typical phuzzle.

Throughout the 30 levels, you'll be using your mouse to aim (with a convenient crosshair) and clicking to toss a ball. To rotate the game field, you can use [WASD] or [arrow] keys, or you can click and hold to drag the field around. You will always have three pieces of homework in a level (either stacks of books or round apples), and depending on the level, you will have a number of monsters and scenery pieces. Monster pieces can be distinguished from scenery pieces because they have faces and like to grunt at you. All monster pieces must be knocked out of the level to beat it. Scenery pieces are usually impossible to knock off, and knocking them off doesn't count one way or another. Once all monster pieces are removed, you get one to three stars depending on how many pieces of homework you kept. There is no timer, nor is there any limit to the number of balls you can throw. The game does keep track of your best score in terms of number of balls for levels, but there are no achievements associated with it.

A Monster Ate My HomeworkAnalysis: Any player of regular phuzzle games has had this experience: you click right where the walkthrough says to click, but for some reason, a butterfly in Rio flaps its wings or whatever, and it doesn't work. And then you try it again and it does work. In 3D games, these little quirks of physics at least feel as if they're amplified. A Monster Ate My Homework seems to anticipate this. Rather than the usual 2D phuzzle approach, where your projectiles are precious commodities and extreme accuracy and precise timing are necessary, the level designs themselves often encourage hurling balls with abandon. It's like a messy no-holds-barred fist fight compared to a fencing match.

That's not to say that patience and a keen eye won't help, whether in brawling or in A Monster Ate My Homework. Especially in levels with bomb monsters, you'll want to think carefully before throwing, lest you have the bomb monster explode off all your homework at the last moment. Levels with moving parts also reward timing. But the limitless balls work in your favor, in that they can be used just as easily to push teetering homework back onto the playing field as they can to knock monsters off. All of this contributes to the messy, freewheeling, trial and error atmosphere.

When it comes to other definitions of the word "atmosphere", for A Monster Ate My Homework you're going to want to flip in the dictionary to "charming". The music and sound effects are controlled separately, which is a plus, because while the "sixth-graders pulling off a caper" music is nice, it can get a little old. Hearing the monsters gurgle when you hit them in the face with a ball never gets old, though. Take that, tongue-sticker-outer-er!

When I first described this game to some other JIG reviewers, I called it "a phuzzle game... but in 3D!" I really didn't do the game justice. A better one sentence summary would be "a carnival milk bottle game... only better and on your computer... and starring adorable monsters!" If only beating the game earned you an inflatable turtle or some oversized novelty sunglasses.

Play A Monster Ate My Homework


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (102 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypTo begin with, Bird Escape is actually my own English title for this week's Weekday Escape. The title in Japanese is "orunisu", a phonetic spelling of "ornis", the ancient Greek word for bird (and yes, the root of the word ornithology). But let's move on to the important stuff! Twice now we've featured the unique and original escapes designed by Otousan (Rosetta Escape), and they were a breath of fresh air in the occasionally stale room escape genre. Now, much to our delight, Otousan is back and better than ever with Bird Escape, another new take on the classic room escape. Be prepared to face down lots and lots of birds. And grapes.

Bird EscapeOnce again Otousan has built a deceptively simple four-wall room escape around a central puzzle, and this one's a doozy in terms of color and spatial perception. You are trapped in the usual spare, cartoony room, this one heavily decorated in a bird motif. Your objective, if you should choose to accept it, is to poke around, examine everything, pick up anything not nailed down, and use any objects and your wits to get out of the room alive. Or, you know, just out.

The secondary puzzles are mere trifles, the usual use of found objects and simple codes. What is at the heart of Bird Escape is a wicked three part puzzle involving a dial, some odd controls, and a dazzling array of colored grapes. The first part is pretty simple. The second, well, a little trickier. Then you get to the third part. Not to give anything away, but it's that third part of the central puzzle that will cause minor (or major) head banging to figure it out. And, of course, to make it difficult for those who write walkthroughs, the solution to that central puzzle changes each time you play.

Navigating around the room is accomplished with the usual arrows at the sides and bottom of the screen, and Otousan has included an easy to use inventory control and the blessed relief of a changing cursor, leaving minor concussion as your only worry as you work your way out of the room of an obviously demented bird lover. It would have been nice, though, to have a save function if you wanted to give that central puzzle a rest and come back at it later, fresher and less bruised.

There's still room for improvement in Otousan's room escape designs. The other, side puzzles are almost a little too easy, as if all of the effort was put into the central puzzle. The graphics are still pretty basic as are the controls. However, this should not deter you from giving Bird Escape a spin. Try out something new, something that is not "just like every other room escape" and enjoy the surreal and unique experience that is Otousan's world. A world with a lot of birds. And grapes. And some amusing escaping as well.

Play Bird Escape


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (312 votes)
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MikeBurrito BisonLaunch games of all stripes have a pretty narrow premise; you launch some helpless critter or contraption for distance, buying upgrades to gradually improve your chances for ultimate success on later attempts. There aren't many ways to dress up this concept, so to stand out, I surmise, new launch titles are going to have to push the envelope thematically. Exhibit A is
Burrito Bison from Juicy Beast, in which you play a grim, roided-out minotaur in spandex briefs, kidnapped by the fascist oligarchs of Candyland to fight in their gladatorial combats, and resolved to launch himself with the combat ring's elastic ropes and propel himself to freedom, via grit, rocket shorts, and the gummi, pliable sproinginess of Candyland's fleeing citizenry. Top that, future launch game developers and purveyors of the bizarre!

You begin each launch attempt in the ring. Follow the spinning power gage at the top of the screen to determine the best time to launch, then click your mouse. Monitor your speed with the gage at the bottom left corner of the screen as you bounce and fly towards exodus. You will slow down if you hit solid ground or heavily-armored Candy-cops instead of squishy gummi-folk; to prevent this, click again to use one of your limited number of body-slams, which will recharge as you squash the panicked mobs of Candyland. Other power-ups will appear on the screen that will aid you in your flight for freedom, and you can purchase other power-ups and upgrades between launch attempts with cash recovered from squished Candylanders during your rampage.

On the one hand, for a light, casual title, Burrito Bison takes a long time to get to where you feel like you're getting somewhere. This adds to the game time, but like shoulder pads, or extra breadcrumbs in meatloaf, it increases the size but not the substance of the experience. On the other hand, Burrito Bison takes part in the trend of launch games where the player does more than hit the launch button and get a snack while the game plays itself. A mouse click here or there is all the game asks for, but that's all it takes to make the game a more involved experience than the typical launch title. This, combined with the game's giddy premise and EXTREME presentation, means that despite the grinding and repetition, I found myself firing launch attempt after attempt and enjoying it. Burrito Bison succeeds as a wacky bit of breaktime fun, for everyone's inner musclebound man-cow determined to squash all challengers.

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  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (513 votes)
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joyeElephant QuestLook over there! In your browser window! It's an RPG! It's a platformer! It's... an elephant? Yes, it's Elephant Quest, which is both of these genres lovingly baked together into an adorable JIMP-drawn pachyderm shape for you by jmtb02 with a sprinkling of shooter goodness on top. Wooly the Mammoth has stolen your hat, and in order to get it back, you're going to need to get some epic questing going on, exploring a huge, non-linear environment, completing side-quests, collecting keys, and shooting cute but evil monsters in the face with your laser.

Best of Casual Gameplay 2011Either the [WASD] or [arrow] keys will control your elephant's movement, and aim and fire with the mouse. When you first start the game, you'll notice that your character handles like... well, an elephant. An elephant who just ate a huge meal of peanuts. He can hardly jump, he's fairly slow, and his laser is not exactly impressive. As you kill enemies and complete quests, you'll gain experience points and level up. When that happens, click the button in the upper right corner, or hit the [spacebar].

In this menu, you'll first and foremost be able to spend the "credits" you earn from leveling up on a maze-like skill tree. You'll earn skill points in 5, 10, 15 and 50 point increments in four areas: dexterity, agility, charisma, and intelligence. In turn, you can use these points on the skill window (in the same menu) to buy and upgrade important skills like your jumping ability, and your cuteness. Every 25 points increases a skill by one level, so keep that in mind when spending your points. There are two other important menus in this area. The level map shows where you have and haven't been yet, marks NPCs with stars, and shows exits and connections between screens. The quest menu shows which quests you've unlocked, what you have to do next for quests in progress, and which quests you've completed as well. There are 11 regular quests, and if you log in to your free Armor Games account, Sushi Cat, another game featuring JIMP art, makes an appearance in a bonus quest.

At the bottom, you can resume the game, and in the lower right you'll notice controls for quality and sound as well as a pause button. The game also automatically pauses anytime you click outside the game window.

Elephant QuestAnalysis: A lot can be happening on screen at once, and this can be a drag on older computers, especially once you unlock a flock of minions to hover around you. If you notice serious lag issues, definitely try closing other browser tabs and adjusting the quality. Since my usual lean mean game-chewing machine is awaiting a warranty swap, I'm currently stuck on a 2006-era MacBook. Even so, I was able to beat the game and complete all the quests, so don't think you have to pass this one up if your computer's on the old side. I even was able to keep the quality on high much of the time.

The game has a freewheeling spirit of exploration akin in some ways to the classic Fancy Pants series, and JIMP's art perfectly fits the sweet yet witty humor of the plot. There are certain comparisons to be made in girth, greed and attitude between Wooly and the canine villain of the latest Sushi Cat game, so if you liked the style and atmosphere of that game, you're bound to be tickled by Elephant Quest as well.

In Sushi Cat, you defeat the villain in a cutscene, and the villain of Elephant Quest might as well have been a cutscene for all the difficulty I had defeating him in the final boss fight. That part was a little anticlimactic. Even though I hadn't actually leveled up fully, I still beat the boss without my hitpoints ever getting lower than 260/275.

Elephant QuestI had many much more challenging sections in the regular game itself, especially because I ventured into a certain locked area a little earlier than I think the game-maker intended, and then got spooked and ran away from the enemies deeper into the more difficult area (oops). By the time I figured out I was really in trouble, I had gotten myself into an area where I couldn't backtrack because platforming back was more difficult than platforming forward had been. I thus was stuck with my rather pathetic low-level elephant in an area where flying enemies swarmed you almost immediately. It was hectic but fun. I died a lot, but I leveled up fairly quickly too (it helps that dying has no experience penalty), and pretty soon I had beefed up my elephant enough to laser-blast my way out of there, and when I got to that point I felt the satisfaction of accomplishment.

Then again, there is something to be said for the satisfaction when the 97-pound-weakling runs up and kicks sand in the face of the former bully, so maybe this total curb-stomping of a boss battle fits the narrative arc of the game better than a victory you have to struggle to achieve by the skin of your teeth (or tusks). Perhaps the fight would have been more challenging if I hadn't completed all the sidequests first (this is the problem I always run into with Final Fantasy games, too). The game does try to appeal to many different styles of gamer, from fanatical completionists like myself to "what's the most direct way to the boss" speed demons. The game also offers an additional "come get some" to speedrunners in the form of the "new game plus" option, which enables you to start the game over with all your experiences and upgrades already unlocked.

Whimsical and with wide-appeal, this is certain to be another major hit.

Play Elephant Quest


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The Vault

DoraThey say that fish is brain food, but I'll wager that games can feed your head just as well. (Although perhaps won't be as tasty baked in parmesan and bread crumbs.) For this week's edition of the Vault, I wanted to pull out some of my favourite games that tickle your gray matter in different ways. One is an abstract surreal adventure duo, another is a tricky puzzle platformer, and the last one is a straight-up logic puzzle designed to give your brain a workout. All different executions of different ideas with one shared goal; to get you thinking in different ways. Hey, don't get me wrong; at the end of the day I am totally all about Erasure, but there's still something to be said for something that takes for you longer than it takes a song to run its course.

  • Menulis and MiestasMenulis and Miestas - Alright, maybe this is actually cheating a little, since this is not one but two classy and weird adventure games from Jurgis Jonaitis and Justinas Malijonis. Some of my favourite games aren't the ones that deluge you in flash and production values, but instead just offer the sort of unique, stand-out experience that is subtle, distinctive, and memorable. Both games follow the very surreal adventures of a man in a trenchcoat, and both are presented in hand-drawn style, accompanied by smooth jazzy soundtracks. Playing these games is a lot like watching a foreign movie without subtitles; while it might be strange and confusing, there's something beautiful about all of it, and it's more fun to fill in the blanks yourself.
  • MindscapeMindscape - While it takes a while to really engage you and showcase what it has to offer, Manuel Fallman's puzzle platforming tale of hyperactive pink rabbits, floating candy, upper-cutting monkeys and disaffected robots really should be experienced. I don't know why you'd want to break out of a world full of candy, even if it does have free-roaming angry monkeys, but that's the goal here. Mindscape is quirky and silly, and also shows off a surprisingly nifty gravity-flipping mechanic. It's still a fairly simple platformer, but it's just a simply well-done variation on the genre with a lot of psychedelic character.
  • Slither LinkSlither Link - For me, straight-up puzzle games are always at their best when they can be summed up in a sentence or two. Like this one, from Luke Harrison, where the goal is just to link dots around squares by drawing lines... with a few easy rules to keep in mind. It's that level of approachability that always seems to sucker in the most players, and will usually keep you playing for a lot longer than any puzzle game that requires a rule book spread on your lap possibly could. By keeping its core gameplay so simple, Slither Link can create some remarkably challenging levels that make it the perfect bit of brain exercise for puzzle fanatics of all challenge levels. (Please note that Slither Link is not responsible for any jail time you might incur for punching your loved ones right in their smug faces after they ask, "Why is that taking you so long to solve? It looks so easy.")

While we welcome any comments about this 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!


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Rating: 3.9/5 (145 votes)
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DoraSpentI'm going to tell you right now; Neil the Nail is a pretty short and easy game, but it's also pretty adorable, and pretty charming. The point-and-click puzzle adventure follows Neil, a nail (naturally), as he sets out to free his friends from the hammers and put an end to their bullying once and for all. At the same time, Mr Magnet finds himself imprisoned ("in the dark and smell"), and must escape to join the resistance. Add in Drew the Screw as a plucky love interest and you've got... well, this. To play, simply click on objects to see how they interact with each other, and figure out the correct order to click to proceed. Neil and his friends can't proceed until all threats are handled, so you'll have to think creatively. Imagine, for example, you were a carnivorous rubber ducky. Really, you know, be the ducky. What does it want? What are its motivations? Besides being the one who makes bathtime so much fun, I mean.

Neil the Nail isn't challenging at all, but then, it isn't really trying to be. Most of your obstacles can be dealt with in less than five clicks, and while the few timed sequences may take a few tries, they shouldn't pose much of an issue. This is exactly the sort of light-hearted whimsical fun that leaves you baffled but in a better mood than when you found it. It does end rather abruptly considering the elaborate buildup, and it feels as though it could have done with another screen or two to wrap things up, or maybe provide a thrilling climactic housewares-themed battle. Oh well, guess we'll just have to wait for the film adaptation. (Starring Jack Black, Bruce Willis, and Anne Hathaway, as soon as their agents return my calls.) In the meantime, you can spend a while with Neil and show the oppressors what-for.

Play Neil the Nail

Thanks to Lisa for sending this one in!


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Rating: 4.3/5 (524 votes)
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ChiktionaryInterlockedGot those Monday morning blues? Well here's a nice little cure; a fresh and unique 3D puzzle from We Create Stuff. Looking very familiar, Interlocked is like those wooden block puzzles that challenge you to put them back together, only this time you get to pull them apart. Much more fun!

The controls are simple; use your mouse to rotate each block and examine it from all angles. Press the [spacebar] to engage the hand tool then click and drag with your mouse to move pieces and pull them out. Hit the spacebar again to return to examination mode. The difficulty curve ramps up nicely, beginning with some easy blocks to whet your appetite that are quickly followed by some tough puzzles to solve.

Also available for mobile devices! Check out our Interlocked (mobile) review and walkthrough.

Interlocked's gameplay is sublimely smooth with beautifully rendered 3D graphics, and surprisingly this has all been achieved on a flash platform. With 14 levels followed by 6 Hardcore puzzles, Interlocked is simple to play but highly challenging, and you may find yourself tugging at pieces in the vain hope that they'll move just one millimeter more.

So forget it's Monday for a while and engage the gray matter with some engrossing puzzles. What better way to kick off another week?

Play Interlocked


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Mobile Monday

JohnBSo. Many. Games! A full roster for this edition of Mobile Monday, catching up on several releases over the last few weeks that brought some popular browser/downloadable games to the mobile platform.

theblockscometh.gifThe Blocks Cometh - After a crummy imitator pushed a fake version of the game to the App Store, the real version of The Blocks Cometh has arrived! Really heavy things fall from the top of the screen, slowly stacking on the floor below. You're sorta trapped down there, too, and must constantly climb higher in order to stay alive. Fortunately it's not all about avoiding things, as you do have the ability to punch and destroy blocks in your way.

hurdleturtle.gifHurdle Turtle - A very simple game that's so much fun, you just might grin. All you do in this pixel-filled game is walk from left to right on a track. Playing as one of several unlockable turtle characters, you must avoid brick walls and leap over hurdles in your way. The farther you go, the faster you walk, making things more difficult to evade as time goes by. You'll gain access to new tracks after traveling a certain distance, and the excellent chiptune soundtrack will also keep you engaged. Hurdle Turtle is just one of those crazy little games that just works.

karoshi-iphone.gifKaroshi - Everybody's favorite Suicide Salaryman has made his way to iTunes, providing the same puzzle platform experience from previous installments on the touch screen. Your job is to kill yourself. You do this by trapping yourself in inescapable situations, jumping into spikes, lighting yourself on fire, and otherwise manipulating the game environment to summon Death. If you can overlook the always-wonky touch screen controls attempting to emulate physical buttons, the game provides a lot of hilarious and challenging moments!

entanglement-iphone.gifEntanglement - Have as much fun as we did with the path-puzzle browser game Entanglement? How's about some more, then?! All you have to do is create an unbroken path what weaves around the grid without bumping into the border. Rotate and swap hexagons with the touch screen to accomplish this, building a single path one piece at a time. The controls are a bit less than intuitive, but you adapt quickly enough. The extra modes and boards more than make up for the awkward touch-only interface, especially when you get a load of Gold Rush!

potocabenga.gifPoto & Cabenga - Hey, remember that spacebar-happy browser game we reviewed in April 2010? Poto & Cabenga are now back with their iPhone debut, and this version's got a few bonuses to really flesh out the experience. Our heroes are separated by a nasty dragon thing, and in order to get them to safety, you must control both characters at the same time. Tapping the screen causes both characters to jump, while holding the screen makes the bottom guy dash. Doing nothing causes the top character to run. Keep an eye on both screens and avoid any sort of dangers that scroll your way. When original mode has been conquered, check out Neverending to keep the fun galloping.

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


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Rating: 4.7/5 (22 votes)
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You Don't Know Jack

ArtbegottiIf you've roamed around these parts long enough, you might've stumbled across a little oddity called You Don't Know Jack. Based on the popular CD-ROM game series, tabletop game, and short-lived network game show, You Don't Know Jack was a snappy online trivia challenge that seamlessly "combined high culture with pop culture". After months of daily DisOrDats and one hundred full episodes, Jellyvision ended their online service with a surprisingly heart-warming message delivered by Cookie Masterson himself, saying that You Don't Know Jack might return sometime in the future.

Well, folks... JACK. IS. BACK. (That's best if read with a deep movie announcer voice. But since dinosaurs make things even better, who would be best to read that line? Answer below.)

You Don't Know JackYou Don't Know Jack, the "irreverent party trivia game", features hundreds of hilarious questions in a fast-paced game show format, complete with cash and prizes, a wise-cracking host, and ample carpentry hardware. While released on multiple platforms last week, we're taking a look at the Steam release.

For the most part, YDKJ is played as a straight-forward multiple-choice quiz, or at least as straight-forward as a quiz can be when you're comparing I Can't Believe It's Not Butter to the Kübler-Ross "five stages of grief" model. After the question and choices appear on the screen, use the [1234] keys to select your answer ([7890] for player two). The faster you answer, the more cash you'll earn if you're right, or lose if you're wrong.

Special themed categories, such as "Who's the Dummy," "Weird Trash," and the "It's The Put The Choices Into Order Then Buzz In And See If You Are Right Question" add some variety to the mix, along with the famous DisOrDats, where you've got to decide which categories answers belong to in quick succession. After two rounds of five questions, it's off to the dreaded Jack Attack, a knee-jerk reaction game of word association, where a close game can be won or blown in a matter of seconds.

In a Jack tradition, multiplayer games also give players the option to "screw" their opponents. If you think the other player doesn't have a clue about a question, hit your screw button ([Q] for player one, [P] for player two). They'll then have five seconds to work out the answer. If they're wrong, you can nick a ton of cash off of them, and still answer the question yourself for more money. But if they're right, your opponent steals the cash from you! It's a clever strategic twist that can turn a game around if played well.

You Don't Know JackAnalysis: As you've probably gathered by now, You Don't Know Jack is far from your typical game of Jeopardy! (robot contestants or not). When you find yourself combining string theory with Cat's Cradle, or fast food with modern art, you find the game is way brainier than it claims to be, in that lateral thinking sort of way. Who knows, you might even learn something. And as your bankroll gets bigger, your bald head must flower! It's great to learn...

...Because wrong answers come with pretty sharp penalties. Along with sacrificing some samolians, host Cookie Masterson will berate your every mistake. (You might even catch flak for winning, so everyone's fair game.) But if you're lucky enough to find the Wrong Answer of the Game, you can score big bucks and a faaaaan-tastic prize from the sponsor!

One downside to the Steam release of You Don't Know Jack is that due to technical restrictions, you're limited to one- or two-player games, as compared to console versions that allow three- or four-player games, and even online network play. For a game that's ideal for party play, being limited to two players or teams is a bit of a bummer. Still, it's an excellent game to play with a friend that you can laugh with. (Or at.) Also, there appears to be DLC to be available at a later date; there's no word yet (as far as I know) whether it'll be available on Steam, or if it'll be free or paid content, but no one's ever complained about too much Jack, right? (Here's a good spot to slip in a trivia question about Ke$ha if you've got one.)

It would be somewhat irresponsible to recommend this game to anyone without mentioning that there is a thread of some lewd humor running through the proceedings. On the other hand, in probably the most confusing statement of this whole review, YDKJ is very tastefully lewd. Let me put it this way: Yes, there are dirty jokes that will pop up every now and again, that's practically unavoidable. And if you're easily offended by cheap insults hurled at you by a computer, you'd better get every question right or stay away from this game. However, Rather than flinging poop jokes everywhere, the entire production is still very tactful, using the "your mum" references sparingly.

This release of You Don't Know Jack is everything you'd expect from the classic franchise, from fast-paced humor to outlandish and challenging questions. Apropos of nothing, the answer to the above question was Mastadon LaFontaine. Naturally. Hungry for more? The Jack awaits.

Note: You Don't Know Jack is available on a number of platforms, including handheld and console gaming systems. The PC version is reviewed here.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (via Steam)

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


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World Mosaics 3

JohnBAre you a fan of logic puzzles? If so, you're probably familiar with picross, the grid-filling game of narrowing the possibilities that blends crossword-like puzzle solving with number clues. If you know picross, you know the World Mosaics series, one of the few well-made entries in the downloadable picross world that deserves a corner of the spotlight each time a new installment is released. It's been a few months since the last game hit, but now, with World Mosaics IV, you've got a brand new story-filled picross adventure, complete with all the bells and whistles you've become accustomed to!

worldmosaics4a.jpgIf you aren't a picross fan, the basics are easy enough to pick up on. Similar to sudoku in some ways, these logic puzzles place clues above and to the side of a grid of squares. Those numbers indicate which blocks that need to be filled, but what they don't tell you is how many empty spaces there are. For example, if a row says "3 1 2", you know you'll fill a group of three blocks in a row, a single block, and two blocks. At least one space must go between each group, and by using logic you can gradually narrow down the possibilities until a picture emerges.

Just like its predecessors, World Mosiacs IV builds a story around solving the puzzles, but it does so in a completely non-obtrusive way. Each time you complete a level you're presented with a colored version of the picture you made along with your journal entry. Dr. Lindsay Newcastle, curator of the World Museum in Atlantis, is trying to piece together the exhibits damaged by time. Since you happen to have a magical hourglass that allows you to travel through time, it's your job to assemble the tiles and piece together the Atlantean exhibit one square at a time.

You'll just need a mouse for World Mosaics IV, as all you have to do is click the squares you want to mark. Click and drag with the [left] mouse button to "color" blocks in, and click and drag with the [right] button to mark spaces as unfilled. World Mosaics is smart about keeping your cursor constrained to single rows/columns, and dragging a line of one type of marking through a previously filled tile causes no problems whatsoever. It's the next best thing to a pencil and a piece of paper, allowing you to sit back and enjoy the puzzle solving!

worldmosaics4b.jpgAnalysis: The World Mosaics series has built a reputation for providing something just about every casual gamer craves: a great interface for solving puzzles, plenty of challenge, and a little bit of story to help things move along. Once again, Fugazo sends another winner out the door, with World Mosaics IV preserving everything that made the first games great and adding a couple of interface tweaks that make playing even more enjoyable. Can't. Get. Enough. Picross!

Over 150 puzzles of increasing difficulty and complexity await you in World Mosaics IV, which is a respectable number for any picross game. You'll have to wade through a dozen or more easy puzzles before you make it to the tough ones, but you can't make a game newbie friendly without increasing the challenge bit by bit. There are also bonus puzzles you can unlock while you play, as well as a tutorial for newcomers to the picross world.

A hint system is available and can be refilled as you play, but if you have to use hints, you're going about picross in the wrong way. World Mosaics informs you of mistakes, too, so if you're a hardcore fanatic, you might be disappointed at this. Make more than a few errors during a single puzzle and you'll have to start over. Patience, logic, and more patience are your keys to victory!

World Mosaics IV doesn't try to flash crazy gimmicks or wild mini-games in your face. Instead, it delivers a pure picross experience with a fantastic interface and a bonus story that can be enjoyed or ignored at your pleasure. You'll be hard-pressed to find a better downloadable picross game!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


(15 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Garage Inc.

JamesThe second tenth of the 20th century was a period of slow cars, tommy guns, and an illicit narcotic called alcohol. And, of course, the mob. Amongst all of this a man is just trying to make an honest buck and follow his dream: his own car garage. Angelo's in luck, though, because his cousin will loan him the money to get started. But, boy, he is sure going to work hard paying that cash back. So are you... start warming up your mouse reflexes for the speedy time management game Garage Inc.

Garage IncRunning Angelo's garage is a cover for a familiar and straightforward speed-management game. His humble business starts off with a single bay setup — first to inspect the car, then to the repair bay, where it gets fixed. When a customer arrives, they are placed on the inspection bay with clicks of the mouse. Then Angelo is instructed to inspect the car. After a small timer counts down, the car is inspected, and another two clicks drives it up to the repair bay. Similar instructions moves Angelo over to make the repairs. In the mean time a new customer has shown up, ready to be moved to the inspection bay.

The point is to fix the cars are quickly as possible. Cars will have different problems — for example, it can have an electrical and mechanical problem. That means both the electrician and mechanic have to be assigned to the car. Workers can be replaced with more skilled employees, but you pay higher wages for their services. You also only have access to one of each worker type. As you advance, you get more bays — for a maximum of three (each with an inspection and repair bay). Customers line up — there are several types, each differing in speed, range of problem types, the amount they pay and how patient they are. At times special characters will appear and produce more prestige and cash if served quickly, but quite the opposite if you fail them.

As always, management gets in the way of running a smooth system. Angelo is the spanner in the works, as he is the only person who can inspect a car and collect payment after repairs. So, apart from juggling the workers between different job types, you have to hustle Angelo around between inspections and getting the cash, without interfering with the regular work (he just really slow, you know?).

Garage IncAnalysis: If you have played games like Country Harvest and Cake Mania, Garage Inc. will be very familiar. It's all about speed, precision, finding a good pattern and working around sudden changes in the order of things. There are around 60 levels, with a mini-game every five or so. The mini-games are basic dexterous challenges, tracing along lines or moving things with the cursor. The real excitement is on the workshop floor. And it gets really exciting — the problem with speed-management games is they often force you to juggle too many different things. Garage Inc. keeps stuff simple, allowing you to focus on specifics, which works very well in the overall design of things.

Unfortunately the developers did not deem it worthwhile to add a level selection option, nor some type of infinity mode, where you can keep building cars towards a high score. The story mode is engaging enough, but after you finish it you have a real hankering to see how far you can get with the game. Your only option is to restart. This is really something that should be fixed in a sequel and, frankly, is pretty sloppy and shortsighted. The mini-games can be replayed, but they are hardly the highlights of the overall experience.

Garage Inc. is a lot of fun, which makes the inability to replay or really push your newly-acquired workshop-management skills a really big shame and oversight. It's also not nearly as hectic as other games in this genre, so more experienced mouse ninjas will breeze through it (but still enjoy it). Garage Inc. mixes just enough demand for speed and accuracy (and keeping your head) to make for a thoroughly enjoyable experience for almost anyone.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Weekend Download

JohnBA definite "physics" theme for this edition of Weekend Download, featuring two games that bank their entire existence on force, momentum, gravity, friction, and all that sciencey stuff. Do they have what it takes to impress you, master of real world physics? Find out below!

bennu.jpgBennu (Windows, 88MB, free) - How about a little physics puzzle action to run on for your weekend? Bennu puts you in control of a little bird with one ability: shooting chains and swinging from them. You can grapple onto any surface and move left and right in mid-air, affording you a surprisingly non-realistic level of control. Touch certain objects to change your color, and depending on the color you are, you'll cause the blocks you touch to disappear. Clear each level of all the blocks to move on. The game has a nice and calm atmosphere with a great soundtrack and some funny dialogue. The physics aren't so realistic, but the more arcade kind of feel suits the game just fine.

wroom.gifWroom (Windows, 11MB, free) - Nice and crazy are two words that describe Wroom very well. This physics-driven racing game features most of what you would expect from a title of its ilk: multiplayer, best times, ghost races, etc. It also features some really bouncy physics that encourage you to play it fast, make mistakes, and try to recover on-the-fly. While driving, tilt your car back and forth to make smooth landings on the terrain, and jump to reach other areas or get yourself out of a jam. It's simple, but it produces that kind of laugh out loud fun you can't resist in a physics game!

balloondiaspora.gifBalloon Diaspora (Mac/Win, 57MB, free) - A dark 3D point-and-click adventure game? Yes, please! You start off stranded on a shadowy world with little more to look at than the balloon in the background. A stranger offers to fix your ride, and soon you learn you'll need to gather pieces of cloth to patch up the balloon. Lots of conversations to have in this quiet sort of game, along with a few fetch quests and a puzzle or two. A short experience, but very well-done with an atmosphere that's tough to beat.

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!


(17 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Shadow Wolf Mysteries: Curse of the Full Moon

DoraI don't much care for werewolves. You may blame this opinion on my affiliation with the Camarilla, or it could be because once upon a time Jack Nicholson took it upon himself to see if it was actually possible to bore me to death. Whatever the case, I was glad to see that the hidden-object adventure title, Shadow Wolf Mysteries: Curse of the Full Moon by your friend and mine ERS Game Studio portrays werewolves like the jerks of the forest they are rather than steamy hunks of animal magnetism. You are a supernatural expert (I know, it was a surprise to me too) called in to a small village after a strong of murders and disappearances. The people begin to be convinced a werewolf is stalking the streets at night. Could it be true? Or could it have something to do with the nearby circus, whose "trained" wolf has now fallen under suspicion?

Shadow Wolf Mysteries: Curse of the Full MoonIf you've played any game in the massive stable of hidden-object adventure titles, you know the drill already. Examine your environment for clues, using your mouse to interact with objects, and solve puzzles and hidden-object scenes to progress. You'll actually encounter a large number of puzzles over the course of the game; click on "help" at the bottom of the screen for each to get directions, or wait for the "skip" button in the lower right corner to recharge if you scorn such activities. Just make sure to check your journal frequently, since it not only keeps track of what you should be doing, but also provides a lot more insight into your actions than the in-game dialogue does; it won't convince you that sawing through a wolf cage is a logical thing to do, but at least you'll know why you're being forced to do it.

Analysis: ERS Game Studio isn't only a prolific developer, they're shaping up to be an extremely reliable one as well; you can count on them to release games on a regular basis that as a whole are usually very good. While their games have always played very well and looked quite good, Shadow Wolf Mysteries is actually a step above their previous offerings in terms of quality. Characters all have voice actors (some better than others) and are animated, and the environments themselves, still beautifully drawn, are now also filled with a lot more subtle movement and action that gives them more depth than a storybook picture. This may seem like a strange thing to notice, but the UI is also very well done; something about the way the object list resembles a coarse block of wood, the item names struck out with rough gouges, just adds perfectly to the whole package.

Shadow Wolf Mysteries: Curse of the Full MoonWhile initially the gameplay starts out almost condescendingly easy, things do increase in complexity the more you play. It's unlikely that you'll find any of it particularly challenging, it still does a good job of keeping you engaged and presents a surprising amount of varied puzzles. The story here is also a lot stronger than you might expect for the genre; it won't shock or even really surprise you, but the pacing is good, everything makes sense, and the gameplay is fairly engaging and actually feels like it's part of the narrative rather than being a horse and buggy that just drives you to a series of flat cutscenes. One thing that is mildly annoying is that you do have to keep up on your journal entries; it's not that they're troublesome to read, it's more that they have a tendency to inform you of things the dialogue does not. At one point the journal informs you that you should be looking for a woman named Alice and recounts information Madlen "told" you in your previous conversation, even though she never mentioned any of the specifics or incidents the journal somehow knows about. It feels a little sloppy and disjointed, and to be frank, I expected better.

Shadow Wolf Mysteries: Curse of the Full Moon is simply an all-around solid and enjoyable title with few strikes against it and a lot to recommend. Veterans may find themselves disappointed by the relatively low level of difficulty, but if you're just looking for something well-made and fun, this will certainly provide. The story takes you to a variety of locations, and the changing scenery and little plot twists keep the story from becoming stale or too predictable. It's like following a trail of Reese's Pieces; tasty and satisfying, but at the end you're stuck in a box with James Woods and... uh... hm. I forget where I was going with that. The game should run you around five to six hours if you go at a steady pace and don't skip any puzzles. With a lot of quality and content, this game comes easily recommended, and fans of hidden-object adventures definitely need to check out the demo. ERS Game Studio is a developer to watch out for.

A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains a bonus chapter to play, 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


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Rating: 3.2/5 (514 votes)
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JamesSundropsUnder normal circumstances, the idea of the sun spitting parts of itself towards us is prone to inspire some form of panic. But put it in a Peggle-style game, with a dash of physics puzzle phuzzling and Breakout, and it's a fun day at the office. If only Nostrodamus packaged his end-of-the-world musings like CCat Games' Sundrops... it would have saved him the trouble of all that cryptic poetry AND he'd have made the afternoon go by faster.

Unfortunately the doomsday talk is purely for the lumbering intro. There is nothing remotely morbid, apocalyptic or devastating about this Peggle-style game. Armed with a set amount of shots, you have to hit all the coloured pearls before you run out of firepower. In typical fashion, it comes down to how shots rebound against surfaces, managing the angle and power of shots with the mouse. With a splash and a Worms-like "Bye Bye!", your ammo (little suns) disappear into the ocean after falling to the bottom. But a bit of timing and luck, though, can spare them. Bobbing along the bottom is a lifeboat, which moves back and forth. Every shot that lands in it is recovered and loaded back into your ammo count. It certainly takes the edge off the game a bit, because often shots rely on luck. Obviously as you get better at the angling and power, you control the setup a little more. But there is always a little bit of chaos at work, especially when powerups come into play.

Several of these powerups alter the gameplay. They cover the general family of breakout-enhancements: split shots, extra shots, larger and smaller ammo, score multipliers and a ghost mode that passes through obstacles. In turn, the obstacles include the usual curved and angular surfaces, moving parts, movable obstacles, sun-devouring lava and bouncing pads complete with pinball sound effects. Exploding pearls add a little bang to some proceedings.

Apart from the regular game (44 levels), there is a Kid's Mode (unlimited shots, but fewer levels and no overall score), Survival Mode (start with a finite number of shots and see how far you get) and Time Attack (unlimited shots, but only a minute to complete each level). All of these modes are unlocked quickly via the normal game and sorts out any variety problems the game might have. The level selection is a bit unbalanced and some are beyond the realm of strategy. But the little lifeboat is a real gamechanger and often you spend more time predicting if the shots will land in it then how many pearls they will pop.

Initially Sundrops didn't quite grab me, but it manages to capture the best parts of all the genres it borrows from. It's no classic, but you won't be asking for your time back, either.

Play Sundrops


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraIt's been a busy week over here at JIG's secret flying doom fortress, and I wish I could tell you it's because we spent all week at a special company retreat painting each other's toe nails, eating strawberry cream pie, and talking about our favourite game developers. Unfortunately, that's not true. No, it wasn't all fun and games, we had to do actual work, too. And you know what I realised? Work is for suckers. Thus, this week's Link Dump Friday is about things that are also for suckers.

  • Pogo Swing!Pogo Swing! - Regular swingsets are for suckers. This launch game by Antony Lavalle proves it. Hurl yourself across the playground as far as you can in order to earn money for one sweet rocket-powered swingset. We used to do this sort of thing when I was a kid, but in general having the back of your head ricochet off the ground after you landed was generally met with less fistfulls of cash and more screeching for a teacher.
  • Collapse ItCollapse It - Safety codes are for suckers. Everyone knows explosives are so much more satisfying (and apparently profitable) if you use them in as irresponsible a manner as possible. Carefully place your explosives so they cause as much damage as possible to the people loitering beneath the perilous structures. Possibly you should feel bad about this, but crybabies don't get high scores.
  • VectrixVectrix - Slow reflexes are for suckers. This fast-paced arcade shooter is low on context but high on crazy-fast action. Fly down a corridor that looks like a combination of Lawnmower Man and early Sonic bonus levels, snatching multipliers and shooting down the villainous red squares to last as long as you can. It takes a while to get the hang of it, but in no time you'll be haphazardly careening off of things and going down in flames like a pro!
  • Conway's InfernoConway's Inferno - Brains are for suckers. A little unnatural selection should take care of that. This strange little twist on Conway's Game of Life, created in just three days for the Global Game Jam, is just the ticket for anyone who thinks what the world needs a bit more of are zombies. And UFOs. Zombie UFOs... ? Yeah, that sounds about right.
  • EketeKonnectEketeKonnect - Simple puzzles are for suckers. Look. Okay. You guys are smart. I get that. You don't need me to try to explain this for you because it's just going to crack the door open and shine a light on my ignorance about it. ... really? *sigh* Okay. This logic puzzle is about drawing lines. Your goal is to connect the numbered, shaded boxes on a grid by drawing lines that match a particular criteria. It's simple, but tricky, and I am not very good at it. If you need me, I'll be over here, wearing the cone of shame.

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Rating: 4.6/5 (222 votes)
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DoraGemCraft LabyrinthGameInABottle knows how to do tower defense, and they know how to do it quite well; just look at the GemCraft series and the trail of lost productivity and addicted gemsmiths its left in its wake. With its combination of strategy and RPG elements, GemCraft has always offered up surprisingly deep gameplay in one simple-looking package, apparently expressly designed to make you lose time. Now, GemCraft Labyrinth has just hit, and this latest installment promises to be every bit as engrossing as the previous titles.

Gameplay remains the same; monsters of varying types and abilities will approach the orb on the map by means of the meandering pathways, and it's your job to place gems, which attack and otherwise hamper progress, in towers and traps at strategic points along the way. To build, you need mana, which both replenishes slowly over time and with every kill; more powerful gems and structures like shrines and amplifiers naturally cost more to make, but don't ignore simple traps or the potentially deadly power of a Gem Bomb. Make sure to experiment with walls; they cost very little mana to build, but a few careful walls at key points on a level can turn a chaotic layout to your favour. If an enemy reaches your orb, it deals damage to your mana, and if your mana runs out, their attacks turn fatal and destroy the orb, causing you to fail the level. Keep your mana reserves at a high level and you can withstand a volley of attacks, but if you're unprepared one large foe can ruin your day with a single strike.

The core of things, as you might guess from the title, still comes down to your gems. Different colours have different abilities in addition to dealing damage; cyan gems have a chance to slow enemy progress, for example, while yellow gems have a chance to deal multiplied damage. While most stages only give you a few colours to use, you can actually combine gems to increase their potency and give them new abilities. You can stick with the gems the level gives you to begin with and think strategically, or you can spend mana to instantly unlock any colour you wish for the duration of the level. With each successful battle you'll gain experience points and level up based on how well you did, which grants you skill points to spend. (If you're feeling nervy you can adjust the battle settings before each level to do increase the difficulty in various ways to earn a bonus experience modifier.)

Note that while there is a "Premium Edition" available to purchase for approximately 5.00 USD, all it does is unlock a few extra skill points, abilities, and battle settings. While these might make nice bonuses if you feel like purchasing them, the game is still completely playable without them.

GemCraft LabyrinthAnalysis: Labyrinth doesn't really look or feel any different from the other games in the series, but for most of us that's a good thing; it's fairly easy to ruin a solid hit by trying to top what you did before with too many changes, and if you're already a fan, having more (a lot more) of the same is about as comfortable and relaxing as sinking into your perfect butt-groove on a recliner. It's just one of those things where you either love it or you don't get what all the fuss is about. At this stage in the series, GemCraft really doesn't appear to be trying to win over any naysayers (or neighsayers) and seems to be just concentrating on refining what it has. There are a few small changes and additions, but for the most part it's a return to form with a whole ton of new maps designed to eat up your time as you work to earn all the new medals.

Of course, a good chunk of that time is going to be spent choking back a big, heaping helping of grind. Before you sink a few dozen skill points into them, early mana cost for building towers and creating gems are so high that the farther you get, the more unlikely you are to win a level on the first go unless you go back and replay the others to get more experience first. For some people, this is just how the GemCraft series is, and we don't really question it; we enjoy the gameplay enough that it doesn't really bother us ( ... much... ) and we just take it as a given we're going to have to do it. But for other players, the initial need to grind out levels smacks of far too much repetition to be worth it, and we can hardly begrudge them for it.

In most stages, careful manipulation of the map winds up being the key to victory while slapping down towers and gems without planning is the key to shameful failure. The addition of walls is a welcome one, allowing you to block off more direct routes and force monsters down longer pathways that you can line with traps and towers. Since you can pause and place anything at any time, you really can go at your own pace and think strategically, adjusting your game plan according to how badly you appear to be losing. The high cost of shrines means you probably won't even get to use them for a long time, and while the amplifiers can be nice for bringing a level to a close early on, you might not find yourself using them that often in the beginning; while they can help you dish out large amounts of damage to huge enemies, it's hard to break yourself of the habit of just building more traps and towers, or improving on the ones you have.

If you've never played the series before, it might be a good idea to get your feet wet in the original game, though that's by no means a requirement. There aren't a lot of games I feel like I want to keep coming back to after I've finished writing about them, but despite the grind and the familiarity Labyrinth still lands solidly in that category. Nothing about it will really surprise you if you've been playing the series all along, but it's still a solid, enjoyable game that will keep you busy for a long time. So bid goodbye to your loved ones and dust off your tactician's hat; the labyrinth awaits!

Play GemCraft Labyrinth


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DoraFantasy UniversityHey, F.U!... no, wait, don't tell my mom! Geez, I just wanted to talk to you about Fantasy University, the RPG that you play alone or with a friend and parodies roughly everything under the sun. You start off as a new student at the prestigious titular university full of bright-eyed optimism and the desire to lay a beat-down on something. But will you become just another face in the crowd of demented students? Or are you destined for something greater?... well... duh. Nobody wants to play a game about someone who does mostly okay in most of their classes and occasionally has to write their parents for money after all.

The game comes with character classes, but they aren't what you might be expecting. Cheermongers can psyche themselves up with energetic buffs or heal during combat, for example, while Mathemagicians can use the awesome power of, uh, math to blow things up when they're not being taped inside garbage cans by the school jocks. As in most MMORPGs, you'll want to keep an eye on your health and ability power (necessary to stay alive and use special skills, respectively) but F.U. also wants you to keep track of how many Adventures you have. You spend one Adventure to perform most actions, like fighting, and they gradually replenish over time. Once you run out, you'll need to wait a while before you can play again.

While there's a heavy push to get you to play with your friends via the in-game BFF system, which lets other players help you out in a fight or during specific quests, F.U. can still be played completely solitary for the most part. There are a few optional side-quests that require a friend of a specific class to complete, but the amount of single-player content more than makes up for it. You'll travel all over the weird and wonderful world in your quest to do stuff. What kind of stuff? Well, there's something strange happening at the festival in Bacon Acres, and the burg of Pleasanton is dealing with a rather unfortunate infestation. On the campus itself you'll find suspicious (but familiar!) faces, a rather unorthodox approach to Home Economics, a dreamy (and steamy) doctor, and a lot more.

Fantasy UniversityAnalysis: While the way adventures are doled out means F.U. is the sort of game you play in coffee-break spurts rather than for hours at a time, this was definitely a title I was always happy to come back to because there's always something new and weird to see. There's no question that F.U. nails its presentation in more ways than just quirky artwork either; everything about the package fits the theme, from the to the cheery "Good Job!" encouragement stickers the pop up when you successfully pulverise some unfortunate foe. Whether you find the majority of the content funny is probably going to depend on how well versed you are in pop culture; there are parodies within parodies, combining to make some sort of weird Mecha Parody, on everything from Gordon Ramsay to Scrubs to Zoolander and more.

Anyone who has ever played Kingdom of Loathing or Legend of the Green Dragon will be familiar with this style of gameplay, though F.U. definitely borrows more from the former both in mechanics and overall tone. A few of the quest structures even remind me a little of K.O.L., in particular one where you're forced to pick a side between warring factions (only here it's fruit farmers rather than fraternities). Still, I wouldn't exactly call F.U. a clone, since to me that implies something that's virtually indistinguishable from its source material. There's no denying the inspiration, but F.U. manages to do enough with its stellar presentation and writing that it never really feels boring or too familiar.

Fantasy University is still a work in progress, however, and what's great about this is that the developers have shown a willingness to listen to players and incorporate suggestions into the game itself. During the time I was writing this, in fact, the servers went down for a few hours only to reemerge after several large balance changes had been made that largely struck down most of my complaints, which kind of took the wind out of my sails a little because I do so love to complain. Some annoyances remain; only being able to sell one type of item at a time makes lightening your inventory tedious, especially since you're never asked whether you want all the junk you get for winning fights, and navigation still feels cumbersome with a lot of clicking around sub-menus to get where you want to go.

But I'm okay with that, because, as mentioned, the game is still growing and evolving. While it's not something you might necessarily foresee completely dominating the social RPG genre, if you enjoy those types of games at all Fantasy University is definitely one you should consider adding to your roster. It's strange, it's funny, it's extremely well written and looks very nice to boot. It hardly revolutionizes the genre, but instead just concentrates on providing something that's a lot of fun to play and explore in. There's a ton of content to keep you busy, and for genre fans there's every reason in the world to at least check it out. Just make sure you steer clear of the janitor; I heard someone put a penny in a door once, and you don't even want to know what happened to that guy.

Update: This game is no longer available to play. Previously tagged as: adventure, browser, dhtml, free, game, linux, mac, multiplayer, parody, rating-r, rpg, simutronicscorp, singleplayer, windows


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Rating: 4.4/5 (50 votes)
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Babylon Sticks: Continue? comic

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


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Rating: 4.4/5 (83 votes)
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DoraThe Great Gatsby for NESYes, really.

No, really!

... well, okay, probably not really really, but The Great Gatsby (for NES) is still pretty glorious. In this retro platformer homage to F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel, you play Nick Carraway, who is looking for Jay Gatsby. Who is Gatsby, exactly? You'll have to play to find out!... or, um, maybe you won't really, since this is hardly an accurate retelling of the classic story (for that you might consider the hidden-object game) but it's still fun, silly, bouncy, and a remarkably well designed little homage by Charlie Hoey, Dylan Valentine, Michael DiMotta, and Pete Smith. Move with the [arrow] keys, hit [spacebar] to jump, and throw your trusty hat like a boomerang at enemies with [Z].

Admittedly, there isn't a lot to the game, and players that go in expecting anything more than a very simple platform game are going to be disappointed. Avoid enemies, try not to get hit, and collect coins, martinis, and strike down multiple enemies with a single blow to get a score bonus. This isn't a difficult game; there aren't any tricky jumping sequences, the timer will never be an issue, enemies are all predictable, and the two bosses are almost painfully easy. In fact, the last level is a bit of a let down since it's so short and simple compared to the others.

There are a lot of games out there you could call "retro", mostly because of their choice of aesthetic, but The Great Gatsby is one of the only ones I've ever played that I might honestly believe it belonged on the Nintendo Entertainment System console. It isn't just the visuals, although those are near-pixel perfect examples of old platformers, but rather the whole package. (Check out the stupendous manual art by Michael DiMotta!) Everything from the level design to sound effects to the simple gameplay is reminiscent of a commercially released NES title. At only four levels, The Great Gatsby isn't going to keep you busy for very long, but fans of retro platformers definitely need to check this one out, and the creative team deserves a pat on the back. After it was over, I sort of sat for a few minutes, staring at the monitor and wondering what in the world I'd just played. Then I played it again. Something about this game just makes me happy; it may be weird and it may be short, but it's definitely worth checking out, and I hope we see more from the creative talent behind it in the future.

Play The Great Gatsby for NES

You Are Games

ArtbegottiThis week on our semi-irregular You Are Games feature, we ask you to think back to an era centuries ago. It was a time when castles were all the rage and checkerboard designs started popping up on every tapestry and tabletop. One day, a very bored traveler noted these strange patterns and fashioned a game made from a few of his prized action figures, simulating a war in which horses, round-headed people, and magical walking castles battled to trap their opponent's Plushead. And with this burst of creativity, Plushead Wars was born.

Unfortunately, copyright laws were screwy back then, and the credit for the creation of this game would go to Sir Milton Parker Chess. (The walking castle idea was later borrowed for Howl's Moving Castle.)

bs-contest-thenewqueen.jpgIf you're not familiar with how our caption contests work, here's a quick rundown: Babylon Sticks creator and fellow reviewista, James Francis, has created the piece of artwork shown here. Someday (likely a week from now) it'll become a full comic, but it still needs a few finishing touches, including a funny caption. And we're open for suggestions! If you've got a quirky quip that works well with this comic, post it as a comment below (using your Casual Gameplay account). Multiple entries are allowed, but please keep them obscenity-free, suitable for all ages, and tied to a gaming theme (and don't forget that we don't necessarily mean video games).

We have a few more commands from the king:

  • All entries submitted to this contest become the property of Casual Gameplay.
  • You must be at least 13 years of age to enter.
  • Void where prohibited.
You've only got until Monday, February 21st at 11:59 PM (GMT-5:00), so send forth your decrees now!


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Rating: 4.1/5 (136 votes)
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DoraSpentSpent is a harsh and often bleak simulation of a situation some people in America (and even the world at large) are facing every day. You've lost your job, you have a child, and you're down to your last thousand dollars... can you make it through thirty days? It might sound easy, but you'd be surprised at how hard finding a job can be, and how quickly all those little costs you don't ordinarily think about begin piling up. Think you wouldn't have to ask for help if you were in this situation?

Play is simple; click on the choice you want to make whenever the game presents you with a selection. The upper left corner of the screen shows how much money you have left, and the right side displays a calendar that shows your progress through the month. The bottom left side of the screen also has a series of icons you can click on if you get particularly desperate; you might never ordinarily consider it, but when you need groceries or your rent is raised without warning, there's a payday loan, the ability to donate plasma... or the meager funds in your child's piggy bank. Throughout the course of the game, you're also given the opportunity to ask a friend for help from time to time, which literally means posting to Facebook; you don't actually have to make the post, of course, since the game assumes you did and lets the choice count regardless, but could you actually go to a friend if this was reality? Would your pride let you say, "I can't make rent this month, and I need to borrow $200.", and more importantly... do you have anyone who would help?

Analysis: Spent is predictably a little heavy-handed in its message, something that's undoubtably going to hamper the immersion and overall, er, enjoyment for some players. The fact that it's a constant stream of financial hardships means it's a bit less of an accurate simulation and more of a string of choices with no real "right" or even very positive outcome. Having the game constantly bash you over the head with depressing facts about every little choice you make gets the point across, but I can't help but think the impact might have been so much stronger if it was more subtle. Spent managed to dredge up some not entirely pleasant childhood memories, but constantly having statistics blared at me meant I never really got lost in introspection the way I might otherwise have. Still, it did make me wonder how long I could reasonably have kept "living" in the game as loans mounted and accidents happened; reminds me a little of a particular episode of Morgan Spurlock's 30 Days.

Obviously, for a lot of people Spent's scenario is hardly typical, and if you're single, or childless, or any other number of factors then $1000 might indeed be more than enough for a month. The fact remains, however, that many people aren't that lucky; add in a child, a college loan, and a few other key expenses and things start to pile up. The only real reason to replay is to try to finish the month again with a higher "score" (more cash in your pocket), and a sort of "endless mode" that let you try to survive as long as you could might have made the whole thing feel more like a game and less like an interactive public service announcement. Of course, you might be one of the lucky people who don't have to worry about this sort of thing, or think about the people who do. But maybe, once in a while, we should all choose to.

Play Spent


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Rating: 4.2/5 (156 votes)
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DoraKing's GuardReady thine sword, shield, and glowy energy firing staff thingy, brave knight! IriySoft is about to send you to the frontlines in King's Guard, a match-3/defense/RPG hybrid. Please note that players who are colour blind will likely have difficulty with this game.

King's Guard borrows pretty heavily from Puzzle Quest's core mechanics. Each hero is guarding a road leading to your fortress and will defend their road (and only their road) against the waves of monsters that approach. The attack automatically, and it's your job to heal them and provide them with reinforcements by matching coloured buildings on the puzzle board. Each hero has a corresponding colour; red for the knight, green for the horsemen, and dark purple for the sorcess. Match three of that colour to heal the appropriate hero, and match four or more to unlock a special ability token that you can click to activate, ranging from spells that help clear the board to abilities that disable or otherwise hamper your enemies.

King's GuardNaturally, all of your heroes have a finite amount of health, and once that's gone, they die with a satisfying "YAAARGH" death rattle. While they can be revived if you manage to match enough of their particular colour, you'll most likely have to rely on any reinforcement units to pick up the slack. After each victory, your heroes will gain experience and possibly level up, and you'll get a chance to equip them with more powerful weapons and armor so that the green hero only dies once per battle instead of every five seconds. (I hate him so much.)

Of course, your biggest opponent is actually Luck herself, cruel and spiteful mistress of the board that she is. Something about the design of the board also manages to be somehow both too busy and too simplistic, and it isn't really something that lends itself well to being stared at for long periods of time unless you have the ability to physically remove your eyeballs from your head and give them a soothing massage. Still, while it lacks the strategic draw of IriySoft's earlier juggernaut defense title, Cursed Treasure, King's Guard manages to hold a lot of snappy appeal. There's something to be said for trying something new, and if you don't expect too much depth from it, it'll provide a surprisingly fun way to sink an hour or more. The pace is fast, the gameplay is simple with a few clever layers, and it's all wrapped up in a nice coat of polish.

Play King's Guard


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Rating: 4.7/5 (351 votes)
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TrickyMitozaSeeds can do a lot of things in casual gaming land. They can turn the entire world into cubes. They can be cross-bred into hyper-flowers. They can listen to your thoughts of how they should grow. They can go on island adventures. And, with a little care, they can even take on the undead. Yep, when you plant a seed, it seems that anything is possible. Never has that idea been better expressed than in Mitoza, a surreal point-and-click webtoy by Baboon (Gal Mamalya), whom also was behind the Bamba Snack Quests. Once you start making choices for your little embryonic pod, there's no telling what the result will be.

At each stage of Mitoza, you are presented with two choices for your seed. You choose between them by clicking with the mouse. Each choice will lead to lead to your seed growing into a new creation, which leads to another choice. This repeats until the process is complete, and cyclically begins with a new seed. For instance, you start with a choice between a bird and a pot: choosing the pot causes the seed to sprout, and offers you a choice between fertilizer and a watering can. Choosing the watering can causes the sprout to grow into a beautiful flower, and offers a choice between a bowling ball and a box. Choosing the bowling ball crushes it into a mess of petals, and so forth. Believe me... each choice makes sense at the time, but once you start seeing a chorus of flies performing Hamlet in the center of a cardboard castle, you'll being a little confused as to how you got there.

Mitoza is very strange and not too deep, but very fun to play with. The visuals are beautiful in their photo-realism, and is animated smoothly enough to look cool, while jerky enough to look off-kilter. The real draw though is the surreality of the effects your choices have on your little seed. Some results are hilarious, some are gross, some are even a little disturbing, but all are interesting enough that you'll keep clicking through at least a few cycles. My personal favorite probably was the helicopter elephants being launched into space by the rocket-carrot... yeah, it's one of those kinds of games.

Right from the elephant-hamster wheel pre-loader, Mitoza is clearly not something that takes itself seriously. It's goofy and dreamlike and insane. I think you'll like it. Go ahead... seed it for yourself.

Play Mitoza


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Rating: 4.4/5 (133 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypOne of the things I've often mentioned about the Dismantlement series of games by gam.ebb.jp is that they are something that you would find in a bigger game, perhaps an adventure game or a hidden object hybrid, or even a room escape game. Then gam.ebb.jp went and created an actual room escape game, which was pretty fun and tricky. Now, they've come out with a sequel, Room Perfection 2, just in time to drive the casual gamer nuts before the weekend. Welcome to Weekday Escape!

Room Perfection 2Room Perfection 2 isn't what you'd call a complete room escape, more of a two walls and out type of scenario. However, packed within those two walls are a lot of tricky puzzles and games worthy of gam.ebb.jp's reputation. Visual puzzles, letter puzzles, just about everything you can think of makes an appearance, including a tricky bit of point and shoot. That's a lot to pack into a room escape, much less just two walls.

As with all room escapes you click on objects to examine them, to pick them up, to put them together, or to blow the space completely to smithereens. Okay, you won't find so much of that last item in your standard room escape. You start in the space armed only with a button that you are told to under no circumstances push until you make it out of the house. So, let's see how long it takes you to defy that restriction. Of course, if you've played the first Room Perfection, you know exactly what happens. It's nice, though, when you're slamming your head against the desk trying to figure out one of the many puzzles to have that option as a kind of stress relief.

There seems to be fewer puzzles this time around, and nothing that is reflex-based (unlike that maze in the first game). However, it's nice to see such a variety of games and puzzles not often found in your standard room escape. There is one that is color based, so if you have visual problems be warned. And a changing cursor to indicate the hot-spots would have been nice, along with the ability to save and come back later.

Is this, as the title implies, the perfect room escape? No, but not for lack of trying. Room Perfection 2 is fun, engaging, challenging, and frustrating in turn. The simple graphics, the lack of music, and the lack of the changing cursor or save option do not diminish what is a rollicking good escaping time. With the Room Perfection series gam.ebb.jp proves that they can do more than just create a simple dismantlement puzzle and blow up a common household object. Now, you can blow up a whole house! What will they blow up next?

Play Room Perfection 2


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Rating: 4.5/5 (213 votes)
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The Dark Room: Humanoid Intelligence Experiment #3

DoraSuddenly, puzzles! Thousands of them!... well, maybe not so many, but still quite a lot. Master trapper extraordinaire Jonathan May finally returns to his celebrated Dark Room series after over half a decade with The Dark Room: Humanoid Intelligence Experiment #3. Think you have what it takes to escape the confines of one of the strangest places ever built? Prove it!

Just like The Dark Complex before and the original Dark Room, this game is controlled entirely with the mouse. Moving your cursor around the screen causes your perspective to move in the same manner, so swing to the left, right, and so forth to look around. Certain spots in each area can be interacted with by clicking on them. Of course, it won't always be immediately apparent what those clicks do; most of the fun in the The Dark Room: Humanoid Intelligence Experiment #3Dark Room comes from not only figuring out solutions to puzzles, but what each puzzle actually is, and, in general, each room has its own unique one to solve. Because the movement of the camera and layout might be a bit disorienting for some people, you might find it handy to keep a pen and paper on hand and make your own map and notes to help solve each of the puzzles. (Bonus points for eventual descent into madness and leaving behind only a sheet of paper that reads "All work and no play makes ___ a dull humanoid.")

If you have trouble differentiating colour, make sure to turn on colourblind help via the bottom left of the title screen. Doing so will enable a helpful text prompt letting you know the colour of the room you're working on, and whatever colour your mouse happens to be hovering over at the time. If you need a break, just make use of the game's autosave function; leave, and you can pick up right where you left off the next time you start the game back up again by choosing "continue" at the title.

Analysis: It doesn't take a lot to make a puzzle game, but it does take a lot to make one stand out in your memory for longer than it takes to actually complete it. Jonathan May's Dark Room series seems to accomplish that effortlessly. A lot of that comes from the easy marriage between otherworldly design and inventive gameplay. If you ask someone who has played the Dark Complex now, even five years down the road, their reaction might be to narrow their eyes and hiss "the red room" with the same amount of theatrics Lex Luthor might use for cursing Superman. There really is nothing else like it, and getting to experience it on your own for the first time is wonderful and more than a little strange, an experience punctuated by the sort of "Aha!" moments that make puzzle solving so rewarding.

Of course, the Dark Room's sink-or-swim approach to gameplay, not unlike getting tossed without your floaties into the deep end of the pool, means that players who require instruction to grasp the concept and proceed are probably going to be a little baffled and disconcerted here. Being the sort of person with both the pathfinding and problem solving skills of a particularly dense dog with a blanket thrown over it, I initially had a bit of trouble getting my bearings as I moved from room to room, and more importantly, figuring out what was required in each one. The Dark Room series has always demanded a certain willingness to experiment, and the third installment is no different, sporting puzzles that require attention to detail and the ability to think outside the box.

But as challenging as the Dark Room can be, it never feels like it crosses into the realm of the unreasonable. For me, that distinction depends on whether your reaction to any given solution is "Oh, I get it!" or "How was I ever supposed to figure that out?" If we're being honest with each other here, I did need to resort to some help to solve a few puzzles, or at least nudge me in the right direction (dog under a blanket, remember). In most cases, (especially in the Cyan room) I found out that my problem was simply getting disoriented; using omnipresent glowing button as a focal point can really help with this. Once you know what you're doing, you can't help but marvel at how smartly everything is laid out.

While not as big as The Dark Complex, this third game in the series still offers up six rooms and some exceptionally abstract puzzles. The simple truth is that the puzzles themselves aren't usually that complex... instead, it's puzzling out what the puzzle actually is that's difficult. (The puzzle puzzles, if you will... no, you start making sense!) The Dark Room 3 is every bit as captivating as its predecessors, and another feather in the cap of Jonathan May. Whom, might I add, has quite a promising career ahead of him designing devious lairs beneath supervillain hideouts.

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JamesRizkThe fate of a plant lies in your hands. With dangers lurking on all sides, your army of flying robots are the only barrier between blooming into destiny or facing botanical oblivion. It's also a message about climate change and makes for a pretty neat tower defense game. Feel ready to Rizk one for survival?

When a seed meteors into the ground, it finds itself in hostile terrain. Nasty-looking plants sit nearby, easy to provoke by the slightest bit of resource gathering. Given that it appears our plant is the alien invader, one could suppose the evil plants were just defending their turf. To beat them all and advance, the plant has to grow to full maturity. It gets this done with local resources, gathered across the level. There are three types: slurpers draw resources from underground reservoirs, catchers get resources from falling fluids and breezers snatch the air. Each of these, however, agitate the local plants, who in turn retaliate with pollen.

In step your trusty robot chopper things, the so-called defenders. Also in three flavors, they deploy shields that stop the pollen. Take enough hits and they lose a shield, damage that you can repair and an ability enhanced by upgrading the unit. The resource gatherers can also be upgraded and repaired, but they (and your plant) need the protection of the defenders. Defenders can be placed anywhere, but the resource gatherers have specific areas where they fit. Click the right mouse button brings up a radial menu from which you can build.

With each level you can asses the threat by choosing another option on the menu, bringing up a risk assessment of the map. It shows how likely certain plants are to attack and where the resources are located. During the game the view is cropped more closely, but you can zoom out. Money is earned via the resources, so the trick is to gather enough so that the war coffer is kept topped up and the defenders have shields.

RizkAnalysis: Technically this is an educational game, teaching about the need for resource balancing. That much is obvious with the three resources, which essentially represent fossil fuels, hydro power and air power. In reverse order is the magnitude of payout: oil gives far more than air. But to balance that it also agitates the plants a lot more and depletes quickly. It is easier to go for air, slow yet unlimited, and not upset the natives, but in later levels the assaults become relentless and you have to swoop around, grabbing resources smartly and quickly.

It's an interesting formula that draws similarities with the resource management theme it represents and certainly makes for one of the better edu-games around. That's because it hardly has much to teach, but makes for an intensely fun tower defense game. A Facebook link-in also means that you could plug your account in and compete on the leaderboards. Finally, there's no closing this off without mentioning the nice graphics. It's a game made with a budget, and it shows.

If one criticism comes up, its that you will go through at least two thirds of the game before you are forced to play smartly. Obviously the challenge is heightened if you want to compete on score, but even at a laid-back pace it makes for a fun bit of gaming.

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The Vault

TrickyIt's been a long time since the king's forces destroyed my village. Since then, I've been on a journey that's spanned the world-map, searching for the six Medallions of Power. I've tangled with forgotten tribes in Jungle Land, punched a volcano in Fire Land, turned giant squids into sushi in Water Land, jumped mine-carts in Earth Land, and confronted my evil duplicate in Shadow Land. Now, as I place the final medallion, the Medallion of Light, I hold my breath as the stone gate slides opens... Revealing another edition of the JayIsGames Vault! Today we have a point-and-click puzzler you'll treasure, a pixel art space shooter that's the alpha and omega, and a roleplaying journey to the western coast that should prove most rocking... if your car doesn't tip whilst fording the river.

  • Treasure BoxTreasure Box - Treasure Box is two parts Rube Goldberg, one part surrealism and 100% fun. A mesh of adventure and art piece, Treasure Box plays like an interactive version of a typical ball-bearing roller-coaster, were it designed by Terry Gilliam. Beautiful in visuals and fun to play, it has just enough quirkiness to keep things interesting without becoming too cloying. In many ways, Treasure Box programmed for the sole purpose of engaging curiosity, and engage it does. It's not too long and not too difficult, and thus should keep you involved until you finally reach that treasure of the king. Not to get hokey, though, but you'll find the journey is treasure itself.
  • Gamma Bros.Gamma Bros. - Think your daily commute is hard? Do you work on Jupiter and blast aliens to get home? Then don't complain to the Gamma Bros. : you'll get no sympathy from them. This arcade shooter may revel in its simplicity, but the combination of the old-school aesthetic and deliberate pacing screams ambiance. Gamma Bros. feels so well composed that there isn't a pixel out of place, my friend. Throw in some subtly chirpy tunes, a nice selection of power-ups, and a couple of truly nightmarish bosses, and you've got a shoot-em-up for all skill levels and one of the few games that somehow captures the imagined grandeur of a long space journey. A word of caution: increased processor speed has noticeably quickened the pace of the online version. While some might consider that a plus, the download version does indeed run at the original speed. Now hurry! Buzz and Zap don't want to be late for dinner!
  • Thule TrailThule Trail - As opposed to the artistic glories of the first two titles this week, the work we conclude with, Thule Trail, is pure goofy fun... I offer you a poem to sum up my thoughts of this nostalgic Apple II parody:

    I love me some Oregon Trail
    But on Facebook, the concept is fail
    a much better release
    is this retro pastiche
    'bout a trip to a rock festi-vail!

While we welcome any comments about this 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!


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TrickyCosmic CommanderIf there's one sci-fi rank that has the highest level of awesome associated with it, it's "commander". Some of the coolest protagonists of all space-time have it appended to their name: Riker, Sisko, Adama... Keen. So it's only fitting that when puzzle-master Johnathan May (The Dark Room) chooses to surprise us with rocking an arcade vertical-scrolling space shooter, that he should dub it Cosmic Commander. And, yep, it has challenge more than worthy of its station.

Cosmic Commander is played entirely with the [mouse], using it to control your spacecraft around the screen. Your weapons fire forward at a constant rate, making this a game of steering more than anything. Naturally, crashing into enemies or their bullets drain your health while shooting them nets you points. Blasted enemies release power-ups such as upgraded weapons, a temporary shield, and extra health. They also release coins which are used between levels to purchase upgrades to your ship, as well as extra lives. Also on-screen is a three stage power-up gauge, filled by blasting and used by clicking the mouse: the first stage damages all enemies on the screen, the second stage adds more damage, and the third even more, as well as giving you a shield. Using the gauge drains it. Now go! Only you can save mankind!

Cosmic Commander Analysis: A word of warning: I may be a little skewed in my opinions, since I love me some bullet-hells. As a subgenre, it's often seen as particularly casual-unfriendly, filled with terms like "hit-box" and gameplay that looks like this. I've always found this a little strange since, at it's base, bullet hells are a combination of two quite casual-friendly game-types: avoidance games and shooters. It's just that instead of shooting baddies while avoiding bullets, you're avoiding bullets while shooting baddies. That's kind of what I want in a shooter: while I see and enjoy the appeal of mowing down hordes of relatively helpless aliens until I'm taken down by a lucky shot, I sometimes want to feel like the lone guardian taking on what looks to be an unstoppable empire. I want to be Skywalker locking my s-foils into attack position and flying solo against the Death Star.

Cosmic Commander is sort of a bullet-hell-lite... a bullet heck, if you will. Certainly, its difficulty starts off strong and never relents, but it does modify typical elements of the genre to make it a little friendlier: The game is generous with its health and power-ups, the bullets follow clear, logical patterns (and are easily spotted against the background), and only direct hits to the center of your ship take away life. Throw in the thumping techno soundtrack and the cool explosion effects and you've got yourself a winner.

Cosmic Commander does have a few demerits in its record. The utter lack of any documentation is definitely a negative, meaning that for a couple of levels it is going to feel more than a little trial-and-error. Be sure to load up on those weapon upgrades! Otherwise the later baddies will be nigh-well invincible. Also, that your ship follows a mouse-controlled dot, rather than speeding along with it, means that the lag in movement might annoyingly steer you into more than a couple bullets before you get the hang of it. Finally, and this is a personal opinion, I found some of the enemy ship designs to be a little uninspired. I don't know if it would have been worth the processing to apply the same 2.5D effects to the mooks as your ship and the bosses, but as it stands, the minor baddies look a little out of place by comparison.

That said, Cosmic Commander has nice combination of elements that should appeal to both hardcore shooter fans looking for a break, and casual shooter fans looking for a challenge. There's just something about swooping through waves of bullets, building your laser from a puny single shot to a devastating wave. It's a command performance that's truly cosmic.

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joyeD.SlideThere's something inherently soothing about sliding puzzles. No wait, hear me out. You're just thinking they're frustrating because so frequently they're the obstacle in your escape or hidden object game, the puzzle that rears its ugly mug when you just want to open up the safe or fix the breaker system. But if you distill it down to its essence and give it a relaxing ambiance, there's something pure and satisfying about sliding some blocks around, and that's just what D. Slide from Ateta Games delivers.

The game's control system is simple. Just use the mouse to click and drag around the blocks and the celtic-knot like slider token from its original position to the gold-marked target block. Early levels are straightforward token juggling, but later levels introduce locks which must be unlocked by sliding the token into the correctly colored block. Sometimes the locks are even on timers.

Whether you enjoy D.Slide will probably depend a lot on how you approach it, particularly since the overall level of difficulty isn't as high as some other titles in the puzzle genre, and the aesthetic is fairly distinct. The level beginning and ending animations can't be skipped, because the almost steampunk-esque animation and dull metal-on-metal scraping sound is meant to soothe, and if the game wants you to be soothed, you're going to be soothed, dang it. In fact, the game's stubborn insistence on being played on its own terms is probably its biggest flaw; not only does the game in this way refuse to accommodate impatient players by allowing skips of animation, but the developers also chose to leave out a save function, which, unfortunately, means that if you don't complete all the levels in one sitting, you'll find your progress has vanished when you pick it back up again.

Despite this, D.Slide is still worth checking out. It's visual style is different and distinctive, and the simple to grasp gameplay is packaged with a few twists that not only make it easy for anyone to pick up and play, but help it stand out from the plethora of other sliding-block style puzzles. For the most part you can expect its 24 levels to go by fairly quickly; there isn't a lot to master here, and the time limit won't pose much of a threat in most cases. Still, there's something to be said about a game you can just sink into for a while and let the rest of the day melt away without worrying about frying too many brain circuits figuring out what goes where and in how many moves but how is that possible because this one only moves here and OH NOES! See, now you're all worked up, when you could have just been immersing yourself in D.Slide instead.

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Lilith: It's Valentines!ChiktionaryIf you're single this Valentine's Day do not despair, because two unlikely chums have returned to remind us that February 14th is not just for romance. Kid-friendly Emma: It's Valentine's! and the companion title Lilith: It's Valentine's! remind us that love takes other forms, such as friendship, and these spot-the-difference games by Difference Games are so delightfully sweet, you won't be needing that box of calorie-ridden chocolates, or bunch of commercially produced roses.

Emma: It's Valentines!If you've played Lilith and Emma: A Friend at Hallow's Eve, you can expect more of the same sweet and light spotting of differences nestled in a simple and charming story. If you haven't yet encountered Lilith and Emma, the premise is simple; search each scene for differences and use the mouse to select them. And again, this is a story told from the perpectives of both Emma and Lilith, with varying art-styles differentiating between the two. The only change is the introduction of three difficulty levels, with the hardest level providing a nice challenge for those who crave gameplay that's a bit more demanding than the average spot-the-difference fare.

So this Valentine's Day, you can either mope around in a puddle of your own single-ness, or you can feign a sudden allergy to enforced romance and think of your BFF by baking a cake, or crafting a soft-toy Emma and Lilith style. We here at Jay Is Games are your friends, and we like cake. Happy Valentine's Day!

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Mobile Monday

JohnBAre you ready to be impressed? Some seriously good looking games have recently been released for Android phones, pushing the limits of what the mobile devices can accomplish, and threatening to scrape the upper limits of your data plan cap. If you can afford the price of entry, however, you can enjoy a near-console-quality game in the palms of your hands, making your phone so much more than a way to talk to grandma every Sunday.

Note: Google recently launched a web version of the Google Play Android Games, allowing you to download and install games to your phone right from your browser. We also recommend AppBrain for a more full-featured web-to-phone experience.

spectralsouls.jpgSpectral Souls - Wow. Wow wow wow wow. This game should not exist on your mobile phone. Really, it belongs on a dedicated portable gaming device (or Android-based tablet!), judging from its depth, visual style, and impressive list of features. Spectral Souls is a full-fledged tactical RPG with hundreds of hours of gameplay, cut scenes, dozens of characters, and a whole lot more. The story takes place in Neverland, a world filled with humans and demons struggling against each other for countless decades. But when the battles reach the small town of Petun, something interesting occurs, kicking off the Seven Year War that would change Neverland forever. Two warnings before you grab this one. First, it's expensive, weighing in at around 15 USD. Second, after downloading the game, you have to download an additional 1GB of data, so make sure you're near a stable wi-fi source before starting that up. Apart from the steep price of entry, this release is pure gaming gold.

dungeondefenders.jpgDungeon Defenders - Another impressively-built game that looks like it belongs on a big gaming-centric platform. Dungeon Defenders is an action RPG with a strong leaning towards tower defense. Choose one of the four hero classes and battle enemies by building towers, setting traps, and marching onto the scene yourself, fisticuffs at the ready. You'll find a full battery of loot, upgrades, equipment, and customization for your character, and best of all, online co-op multiplayer is supported, allowing you to fight with your friends anywhere in the world! Big features from a small game, showing you just how serious some development studios are about creating interesting content for Google Play Android Games. Unfortunately, this game also requires a hefty pre-play download (600MB), so make sure you're at home with wi-fi at the ready.

1to50.gif1 to 50 - We've said it more times than we care to admit, but the simplest concepts often turn in to the best of games. Assuming they're well-made, of course. 1 to 50 is another excellent example of this. A speed-based recognition game, all you do in this title is touch numbers in order from one to 50. The 5x5 grid holds most of the numbers you'll need, and after you clear a digit a higher one will appear. If you hesitate, the next number will be shown to you. The only goal is to see how quickly you can touch all fifty numbers. Simple? Oh yeah. Fun? You bet! Perfect for a "riding on the bus and don't wanna stare at the guy with one eyebrow anymore" diversion? Thank heavens yes! And it's free, so that's good, too!

dungeonscroll-droid.gifDungeon Scroll - Remember this game back when it was released for PC as well as iPhone? Now an Android version is available, and it's exactly what you expect. And want! Crawl deep into a dungeon and fight monster after monster, each one pecking at your health and trying to end your game. Instead of smacking them with swords and spells, you battle by spelling words using sets of letters that rotate each round. The bigger the word, the more damage you deal, and special tiles appear to help give you an upper hand. It encourages a curious strategy where you hold back on impressive words until you have a tough enemy to defeat, saving the tiny words for tiny enemies. A great release on the Android platform if you love RPGs or word games!

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 2.2 on an HTC Incredible.


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Magicka

JohnBBest of Casual Gameplay 2011It's more than an action game meeting a role playing game. It's more than an amazing co-op experience. It's more than a collection of hilarious dialogue and geek culture references. It's Magicka, and it's the next game that will claim hours of your life. From Arrowhead Game Studios comes a hybrid title that emphasizes teamwork, alchemy-like spellcasting, and gaining an invincible knowledge of how elements work in relation to each other and the environment. Oh, and there are moose. Lots of moose.

MagickaMagicka starts out innocently enough as you, a wizard in training, move through the academy and learn to combine basic elements to create powerful spells. These spells have an affect on the environment, such as lightning powering machines, water dousing fires, and ice freezing pools of water. The game even goes so far as to prevent you from using lightning spells while you're wet. How do you dry off? By casting fire on yourself! Even more importantly, though, is the fact that these elements interact with each other, allowing you to combine elements to create powerful spells with a massive variety of effects.

Spells work using a simple combination of eight elements, each tied to a single key on the keyboard. Pressing [R], for example, adds an ice element to your queue. At this point you have several options at your disposal. For starters, you can spray a blast of icy death from your staff. You can also enchant your sword to gain a temporary freezing stab. Or, why not cast ice on yourself, see what happens? And if you want a stronger, bigger blast of coldness, add up to five ice elements to your casting queue and let the freeze fly!

But why press one button when you have eight at your disposal? Mixing elements is how you play Magicka, and that's where the genius of the game rests. Mix that ice element with an arcane element and suddenly you've got a wide beam that travels across the screen. Mix it with the shield element and you'll summon an ice wall for protection. See how complex and cool this gets? Now picture this: Magicka allows you to craft spells from eight elements (water, life, shield, ice, lightning, arcane, earth, fire), adding as many as five per concoction. You could literally just stand in the forest and mix elements for hours! And enjoy doing it!

MagickaNot every elemental combination produces interesting or different results, of course, but some elements have unique interactions that make brand new elements. Combine fire and water and you've got steam. Combine steam with arcane and you've got a strong steam blast. Experimenting with spells is your key to mastering Magicka (or, more accurately, actually making it past the third chapter), and it will take some time before you hit your stride. Stick to a few spells at first, anything you can quickly remember and key in, then expand your arsenal to use more creative, effective spells as time goes by.

Magicka is focused more on action and combat than traditional RPG components, so you'll spend time fighting off waves of smart enemies instead of walking through maze-like dungeons. There are, however, some items to find, such as spellbooks that teach you new magicks to cast (thunderbolt, anyone?), and you'll also find the occasional new sword or staff that comes with its own unique set of abilities. There's no inventory system (which some characters in the game jestfully point out), so you can only carry one of each item at a time. Magicka doesn't suffer from a lack of item management, however, as it's all about the co-op combat action.

Analysis: Magicka is well-written, quick to draw you in, laugh out loud fun to play with your friends, and just plain amazing. While it's more than competent as a single player experience, the real entertainment begins when you get a friend or three to join. Spellcasting isn't an exact science, and you'll find you zap, burn, fry, blast, and destroy your teammates almost as often as you vanquish deadly foes. That's cool, though, as it's all a part of the game! Reviving a fallen buddy is just three keystrokes away, and there's never any hard feelings. It's all a part of being a wizard.

MagickaAnd the humor. Oh, the humor. Magicka is easily one of the most laugh-inducing games I've played in months, right up there with Psychonauts. The dialogue is brilliant, filled with in-jokes only those well-versed in geekdom will understand. Expect references to just about every major sci-fi series or video game release in the last few decades, including but most certainly not limited to Star Wars, Star Trek, 300, Final Fantasy, Back to the Future, Highlander, Harry Potter, StarCraft, and, well, yeah, you get it. You'll feel like you're playing a game that was made by you, for you. Which is yet another reason why Magicka is so utterly brilliant.

Now for the down side: glitches. Magicka's release was plagued with problems, including random game crashes, self-deleting save files, network connection errors, and so on. The team at Arrowhead Game Studios has been working diligently to squash every bug that's appeared, and they've been remarkably communicative with the Magicka community. Now, a few weeks after the initial release, the game is much more stable, but you'll still run into a problem or two from time to time. Despite this, however, Magicka is still a must-buy title. Even if you have a problem with the game, chances are one of the frequent patches will fix it right up within a few days.

Magicka is exactly the game you want to play. It's so well-crafted that it pulls you in right away, yet it will be hours before you feel like you've scratched the surface of the intricate elemental spellcasting system. The co-op action is such a riot, the humor never lets up, and the game will keep you occupied for six or so hours for just one run-through (though you'll want to do many more). The shortcomings are few and decrease in number just about every day, so don't hesitate to pick this inexpensive game up immediately. You'll thank yourself later with all the laughing, spellcasting, and co-op gaming you'll experience time and time again!

P.S. Vlad is not a vampire. Seriously!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo (available through Steam)
Get the full version

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


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Crazy Machines

JohnBReady for more buildings, contraptions, machines, and inventions? Crazy Machines: New from the Lab is another resurrected hit from German game developers FAKT Software. Featuring gameplay very similar to The Incredible Machine, Crazy Machines features over 100 new levels, each one more complex (and zany) as the last.

Crazy MachinesLike any building game, the scene is still to start with, and your goal appears in a small window right off the bat. Choose an item from your inventory and place it on the screen. You can usually rotate, flip, or otherwise manipulate objects using the circular menu that appears after you click on the item. Precise placement is very important, so don't neglect fine-tuning your machine. Once you think everything is in place, hit the switch and set everything in motion. If necessary, you can always reset the machine, tweak your design, and try it again.

Each level in Crazy Machines: New from the Lab has a specific task you need to complete. Usually this is something along the lines of towing a ball to a certain point, hitting a few switches, or building a machine to pull a weight out of an enclosure. Goals get more complex as the stages go by, and before you know it, you'll be using dozens of parts to craft a machination as slapdash in appearance as it is beastly in function!

Just like Crazy Machines: Inventor Training Camp before it, New from the Lab comes with a free-for-all laboratory that gives you a clean blueprint you can use to build anything your twisted mind can conjure. All 100 or so pieces of machinery are available, from platforms to plugs, motors to generators, and you can do with them as you please. Build, save, and load inventions from the menu, and let the creativity flow!

Crazy MachinesAnalysis: After hits like Armadillo Run, Eets, and The Incredible Machine, no one should be a stranger to building games of this nature. Crazy Machines: New from the Lab is, as far as the look, feel, and mechanics are concerned, practically the same game as the titles that came before it. It's hard to say no to over 100 new levels, however, and before you know it, you'll be back in the workshop, laying planks and running cables so you can reverse gravity and pull an iron bell out of the drain!

The physics in Crazy Machines are spot-on and mimic real-life situations with a fun sort of accuracy. Placing and manipulating objects is also handled with ease, allowing you to perform fine movements without fumbling over your often complex creations. Somehow the game seems to know I'm trying to grab the belt instead of the wheel it's attached to. Thank you for being psychic, Crazy Machines.

Some of the extra, "casual friendly" features in Crazy Machines are a bit on the annoying side. The biggest facepalm-inducing inclusion is the professor, whose big rendered head likes to appear at regular intervals, spouting a few pointless lines intended to lighten the atmosphere. PROTIP: Go to the options menu, look on the top of the righthand column, and turn the professor off. You can thank me later.

You really can't go wrong with a good, solid physics-based building game. Crazy Machines is one of the best around. It's accessible to just about any player, features a good interface loaded with great puzzles, and playing around with the "sandbox" lab is more fun than it should be!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Muse

JohnBMuse is a brightly creative hidden object game from Big Blue Bubble that ditches the conventions of the genre to focus on pure, amazingly-crafted hidden object entertainment. The artwork could practically come from a museum, the story is unique, and even the voice acting is top-notch, creating one of those rare games that aims to do nothing more than enchant each and every player.

MuseMeet Hope, an idea represented by a young girl who lives in Limbo. At the very beginning, Hope introduces you to a few artists, each one struggling in his or her own way to create a masterpiece. Your job is to clear out extraneous thoughts in each artist's mind, clicking on objects listed on the side of the screen. Unfortunately, things turn sour rather quickly, with a malevolent Shade blocking creative impulses (as well as portions of the screen) and trapping Hope in the artist's minds. Now, you must fight against the shade as you attempt to bring freedom to Hope!

Muse takes place across a series of hidden object scenes interrupted by the occasional mini-game. No adventure or adventure-like elements to contend with here, not even any puzzles to speak of. It's just item hunting, storytelling, and a diversion or two. That's all the game needs to enthrall you. Later on, you'll get a few items to use to combat the Shade's mean little tricks. The first one, for example, is a gem that creates a cone of light around your cursor, useful for when the Shade makes the screen all shadey!

MuseAnalysis: Muse will delight you from the very first screen. There's no shortness of creativity or artistic talent in this straightforward release, and Big Blue Bubble never trips and falls into the usual traps most hidden object games fall victim to these days (haunted mansions, spooky sanitariums, etc.). Instead, you can expect pure, brilliant hidden object scenes layered with beautiful artwork and a story that will keep you genuinely interested. What more could you want from a casual game, anyway?

The method in which objects are hidden in Muse is yet another gust of fresh air. Because everything is so meticulously painted, the tiniest details become monumentally important. You really have to scour the landscape to find the items you need, as the slightest deviation from the background is the only clue you get for many objects. Contrary to what you might think, this isn't frustrating. Actually, it's rather clever, and once you learn how the game stashes objects, you quickly become better at finding them than Muse is at hiding them. Plus, the hint button is always there to get you unstuck when you need it!

One area Muse falters a bit happens early on, and it's where the Shade starts messing with your screen. Darkening the environment is a bad idea in just about any video game, and it's especially annoying when you're playing a hidden object title. Having a full view of the scenery is vital to, you know, actually finding items, and confining your field of view to a tiny movable circle adds nothing to the game.

Muse is imaginative, charming, and a wholly engaging hidden object game. If you're sick of shuffling around in pointlessly dour settings, or if you just want a game that aims to please, stick with Muse and you won't find a single strand of disappointment in that cluttered mind of yours!

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

JohnBHello there, weekend gamer! Tired of the rest of the week sapping time that could be spent playing games? We know how you feel! Make the most of your weekend by playing a few free games. They won't demand your entire afternoon, leaving you free to kick back and play even more games!!!

technobabylon.gifTechnobabylon - Part I (Windows, 2.9MB, free) - Latha Sesame is both physically and digitally trapped inside her slummy apartment, completely cut off from the outside world. It's your job to help her escape. Technobabylon is a sci-fi adventure game built in the classic style. Use the mouse to point and click your way through the story, interacting with people, objects, and items along the way. It's a short experience, to be sure, but a good one with an almost fully-realized world. Once you finish you can check out Technobabylon - Part II (which is also available for Mac/Linux) for more of the same.

incertitude.gifIncertitude (Windows, 22MB, free) - A nice little puzzle platform game that utilizes multiple rooms, teleporters, and grenades that both destroy and create things! Dr. Borowskistein is conducting experiments on the physics of shadows. The device he's working on draws him into a strange world, however, and he must find his way to the exit in each stage. Trial and error are part of the game, as are very fast reflexes and a little bit of forethought.

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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Rating: 4.6/5 (24 votes)
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Stray Souls: Dollhouse Story

DoraHow well do you know your significant other? I made my husband sign a statement swearing there were no unholy alliances or unspeakable secrets in his past before I agreed to marry him. (Hey, I still remember Lover's Vow from Tales from the Darkside: The Movie; momma didn't raise no fool.) Danielle Hunt didn't have my foresight, and now she's paying for it in Alawar Games' newest horror hidden-object adventure title, Stray Souls: Dollhouse Story. When her husband Sam vanishes one rainy night after a strange package shows up on their doorstep, Danielle sets out looking for him and winds up discovering she doesn't know her dearly beloved quite as well as she thought she did.

Stray Souls: Dollhouse StoryAlongside Danielle and one questionably helpful sidekick, you'll pay a visit to the town Sam grew up in and find out what the dilly is. The game has two modes, casual and expert, and the only real difference between the two is whether interactive areas are highlighted and how long your hint timer takes to recharge. The cursor will change as you move it around the screen to indicate something you can use or investigate, and hidden-object scenes announce themselves with what are by now a genre staple; pretty pretty sparklies. Gather items to get past obstacles, solve puzzles, and keep your eyes peeled for some Madame Fate-style morphing bonus items to collect throughout the course of the game.

Analysis: Oh, Alawar. I almost feel like a Disney princess. Here I was, going through my dull normal day, playing dull normal demos for dull normal hidden-object adventures, and then you swooped in the window and reminded me how fun things could be again. While I went into Stray Souls believing I knew what to expect, it didn't take long for it to show its true colours. There are a few surprising twists, and every a scary moment or two that make exploring quite rewarding. To be perfectly honest, the story does feel like it's a little bit all over the place, cobbling together all sorts of elements and themes, but the presentation is just so solid and entertaining that I hardly minded. The writing feels a bit clunky, unfortunately, and while it might seem unreasonable to be demanding an engrossing narrative from a casual title, here it really would have been the rich, cream cheese icing on your moist, fluffy carrot cake.

Stray Souls: Dollhouse StoryVisually, the game is solid, with nicely designed strange environments and some remarkably well done animated cutscenes. Hidden-object scenes are well designed, although in some cases it felt like the items were too small and faded/dim for me to possibly have found without the use of a hint. Somewhat less endearing is the music; while it starts off as serviceable enough, and even appropriately creepy, once you've heard the same handful of short looping tracks over and over and over you'll be reaching for the mute option too.

What's nice is that the game manages to strike an easy balance between hidden-object scenes and traditional point-and-click item hunter-gatherer gameplay. The puzzles you'll encounter are all unfortunately a little on the easy side, but a welcome chunk of them are at least interesting variations on existing puzzle styles. There's a Rube Goldberg-esque contraption, for example, and a puzzle that involves navigating around a series of clowns with cleavers. It feels like Stray Souls is trying really hard to present you with something different, and for the most part, it succeeds. While at times corny enough to make you raise an eyebrow, it's always entertaining, and never leaves you for very long without adding to the story. It reminds me a bit of an episode of the Twilight Zone, or maybe Tales from the Cryptkeeper, only without the painfully awkward morale being shoved down your throat. ("I think I will cheat on my spouse today. Gosh I hope I don't learn an ironic lesson over the course of a narrative.")

The bonus prequel chapter included with the Collector's Edition (the only one available as of this writing) is a bit of a disappointment if we're being completely honest with each other. It feels tacked on and unnecessary, disjointed and lacking any real puzzles beyond going back and forth and using one item on another. The main game itself will probably run most players around four hours, but you know what? I was fine with that. There's a good sense of pacing and story progression here, and any more and the game would have felt like it was dragging its feet to pad things out. The ending scene is probably one of the most impressive and satisfyingly climactic bits of work I've seen since Phantasmat. While not perfect, Stray Souls: Dollhouse Story is still very good, and definitely worth a peek at the demo if what you're a fan of the genre, and certainly if you're a fan of Alawar as a developer.

A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains a bonus prequel chapter to play, 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


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Rating: 3.7/5 (54 votes)
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Joshkamikazeblocks.jpgIn the beginning, there was the Flash game. It had simple objects and its players clicked the mouse to solve puzzles. And it was good. Soon this new Flash puzzle game became fruitful and multiplied. And lo, programmers added physics to these shape games, making geometric objects fall and bounce realistically. Developers saw that these new games were good and said "Hark, we need exploding, physics-based collapsible structures." This begat many exploding physics puzzle games. Then Metreen-Games said "let there be mouse-directed, launched explosions, causing blocks to realistically fly through the air and fall down towards green om-nom monsters in the clouds." And yea, Kamikaze Blocks was born.

Kamikaze Blocks is a new multi-level casual physics puzzle, one that has no doubt been influenced by its physics puzzle predecessors. Like Sieger, you control a crosshair with your mouse and click to fire explosive projectiles at objects on the screen. Instead of hurling heavy boulders or bombs at destructible buildings however, in this game you launch green dudes with sticks of dynamite strapped to their backs towards a series of colored squares and rectangles. Your goal is to target your kamikaze guys in such a way that their blasts knock the colored blocks towards the clouds below. These clouds are inhabited by hungry om-nom monsters who gratefully accept their geometric offerings with happy munching and crunching sounds.

While this title may seem simple at first, Kamikaze Blocks' gameplay gets a bit deeper and requires more strategy as you get through its later levels. Eventually you encounter a series of special blocks and platforms. These include explosive blocks that help send shapes flying, toxic blocks that must be avoided, and web blocks which, when burst, cause nearby shapes to stick to it. Some levels even have breakable chains holding up platforms, while other stages include swinging pendulums that can help or hinder the flight of a falling block. Most levels require careful and skillful precision of shot placement, and others require you to act quickly to fire multiple shots in just the right place. Some stages require considerable trial and error, which thankfully isn't too frustrating thanks to a quick level reset button.

In addition to 53 levels of gameplay, Metreen-Games took great pains to add welcome replayability features to Kamikaze Blocks. The title boasts a plethora of unlockable achievements, as well as two game modes. In Puzzle mode, you have to try to pass all 53 levels using a limited number of shots per level. The easier Arcade mode takes the Sieger approach, giving you unlimited shots but only awarding gold, silver, and bronze medals if you fire as few times as possible.

I enjoyed the challenge of Kamikaze Blocks, with its nice mix of easy and seemingly impossible stages. Adding to my enjoyment was the satisfaction of seeing and hearing the green monsters chomp up all the falling blocks. The music gets a little repetitive, and unfortunately it is tied to the sound effects, so if you want to hear the crunches, you have to endure the tune. Still, the game overall has a nice personality to it, and is a fun break activity you can keep coming back to. Are you up to the challenge? Fire off those green dudes and find out!

Play Kamikaze Blocks


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraMonday may be Valentine's, a day for last-minute gift cards and discount chocolate, but today it's Friday and the Link Dump reigns supreme! This week we bring you monkeys, mechs, milk, and mm... uh... mmmmmm... two other games that don't have any immediately applicable M words in them. Play them, and remember us fondly when Monday rolls around and you're trying to figure out who to give all those extra chocolates to. (Remember, we'd choo-choo-choose you!)

  • Journey to the WestJourney to the West - Although I very nearly picked up the recent videogame adaptation of the classic tale if only to do something more with my PS3 beyond cruising around with Nico and Brucie (which will never stop being entertaining), I'm forced to admit that I doubt there's anything anyone could possible do to top Minoto's point-and-click surreal retelling. Look at that monkey. That is a monkey wearing shades. You don't get any radder than that. You should probably just play this, and know your life will be richer for it.
  • Mooo!Mooo! - Turbonuke knows what your physics puzzles have been missing; cows. Adorable rolly-poly cows. And explosives. And conveyor belts. And sweet, sweet milk. (Can't solve the puzzle without a whole lotta milk-a.) Your goal here is to usher your awesome little cow towards the empty bottle in each stage to fill it up with milk. Short, but definitely sweet.
  • Mecharon 2Mecharon - Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming. And now, a performance from the Can't Sing Worth A Darn, Don't Quit Your Day Job Lady Choir. Oh Mecharon, oh Mecharon, how well you blast those baddies... you stomp around, defend your base, and shoot those mechs, right in their stupid face. Oh Mecharon, oh Mecharon, your remake is so aweeeeee... sooooome...
  • Type is ArtType is Art - Words are beautiful. Especially words like "obsequious" and "eschew" and "Batman". Now you can create your own masterpieces out of the bits and pieces that actually make up words, and learn stuff in the process with this simple yet lovely little webtoy. There's not a whole lot of depth to it, but you can create some surprisingly lovely pieces of work with just a little experimentation.
  • Tarzan BallTarzan Ball - If you loved IQ Ball, there's a chance you may also love this swingin' sequel to the original physics puzzle. Shoot your curiously long sticky appendage at various inconveniently placed targets to help your beloved Tarzan Ball get to each one. It's like George of the Jungle, but with way less Brendan Fraser (boo!) and way more super cute level designs (yaaay!).

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Rating: 4.7/5 (556 votes)
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JorinapekaGrinnypYou know what an arrow maze is, don't you? It's one of those funky games with a grid and arrows, and you need to follow the direction of the arrows to accomplish...well, whatever the game wants you to accomplish. We've seen them in hidden-object/adventure hybrids, in room escape games, heck, there's even one in ClickPLAY 3. Tonypa, that fiendish deviser of deceptively simple games has built an entire puzzle game around this basic concept. Check out Jorinapeka and brace yourself for some serious time suckage. Office managers around the country are already crying into their half-caf mocha lattes.

There's a 7 x 7 grid, and in this grid are 49 balls, each with a semi-circle indicating which direction it will go. All you have to do is pick a ball, click on it, and watch it move. As it hits other balls it will eat them like a demented pac-man, changing direction according to their semi-circle indicators. The objective? Well, there are colored balls in the grid, and the object is to remove all of the colored balls. Sounds easy? Did I mention that you only have five turns per level? Or that although you start out with three colored balls, more gets added each level? Ever try to remove a dozen or more colored balls from a maze like this in only five moves? Give it a try, I dare you. And oh, yeah, you can't click on the colored balls. Well, you can, but nothing will happen because they don't move.

Points are racked up as a ball is consumed. The more balls you take out in one hit, the more points you can rack up. But, seriously, concentrate on getting those colored balls out first. It's terrible to set up a fantastic long chain and realize that no colored balls vanished, and you're left with one or two turns left and many more colored balls to remove. If that happens you may soon be experiencing the agony of defeat. An added challenge in the later levels is that some balls will drop into the grid with no directional arrows at all. These balls are "inert". They can be taken out by a moving ball, but you can't make them move with a click. Once the balls have vanished more drop in, increasing the possibility of setting up a better move for the next turn. Or not. Fortunately for the gamers' sanity there are a few bonuses available, such as gaining an extra turn if you destroy ten or more balls in a single shot. There are also four "hidden" bonuses which you may or may not discover as you play Jorinapeka. I'd tell you about them, but then Tonypa would have to kill me, and I want to get back to trying to get past level 10...

Analysis: As with all Tonypa games, the simple Jorinapeka concept conceals some devilishly deep gameplay. You will find yourself sitting there mapping out massive multiple moves, trying to determine which way the ball will go, trying to maximize the damage it does on the way, spending many minutes setting up a move that will only take seconds to execute. As you would expect with anything by Tonypa the design and setup is simple and elegant with clean, spare graphics. Adding to the addictive gameplay is the jaunty, bouncing clip by Kevin MacLeod which will burn itself indelibly into your neurons and will EAT YOUR BRAIN! I'll never get that tune out of my head...

Are there downsides aside from the fact that you are about to lose many hours off of your life? Well the difficulty curve in Jorinapeka is pretty steep. It might have been better to only add an extra ball every three or five levels. As it is, many players may have trouble getting past, say, level 5 on their first try. Or was that just me?

Despite the difficulty Jorinapeka is a game that just begs you to play it over and over, striving to reach that ever elusive "end". Although technically the game doesn't have one, it being open-ended and all. So the player still wants to keep trying to get a better score. Or trying to get the highest score. Or trying to find those four "hidden" bonuses. Or just trying to get past a certain level. Tonypa has once again given us cunningly executed casual gameplay exquisite in concept, design, and execution. And another national nightmare as productivity is swallowed whole by the need to play just one more time!

Play Jorinapeka


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Rating: 4.5/5 (62 votes)
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Babylon Sticks: Surrounded comic

Congratulations to abloker for the winning caption in our Babylon Sticks Caption Contest!

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


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Rating: 4.3/5 (30 votes)
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DoraDivis MortisAbout the worst experience I have ever personally had upon waking up in a hospital was the bizarre argument I had with a nurse who thought my mother had stolen a pen from her while I was barely out of anesthesia. The protagonist of Lynnea Dally's interactive fiction game Divis Mortis is having a considerably worse day than I did. After regaining consciousness in a hospital's radiation room, you discover that you have more pressing issues than one killer headache. Pressing issues like the tastiness of your brains, and the fact that there is apparently no longer any room in hell, and so the dead are walking the Earth.

The game plays like your standard interactive fiction title, reacting to the commands you type into the screen. Type "examine bed" and hit [enter], for example, and the game will provide you with a detailed description of what you wanted to look at. If you get stuck try typing "help" and hitting [enter] to be taken to a screen that not only provides basic control guidance, but also has a nifty little set of hints for most of the game's puzzles. It's important to note that you can (and should) save your game at any time by typing "save" since it's possible for you to die in more than one situation, and running multiple saves is usually a good idea in any situation. Just type "Restore" to be presented a list of all your saves, which will come in handy when you call every undead slob in the building down on your defenseless heinie, or ignore basic safety procedures for handling chemicals.

The narration here is, on the whole, pretty well done. It manages to describe and establish atmosphere within each area without hammering you in the face with massive text blocks, which also keeps the story clipping along at a steady pace. Each description is also usually manages to draw your attention to interactive objects so you don't waste time trying to "use exit sign" or "make couch cusion fort". (+1 defense against undead, +10 evasion against cooties) In fact, one of the game's only real flaws is a tendency to force you into a bit too much inventory "MacGuyvering" to solve puzzles. Still, despite some rather circuitous adventuring Divis Mortis is the perfect romantic treat for upcoming Valentine's Day. After all, zombies don't care what you look like. They want you for your braaaaaaaaains!

Play Divis Mortis

Download Divis Mortis (Mac/Windows/Linux, 0.8MB, free)

To play the download version of this game, you'll need both the game file and an interpreter. Download Divis Mortis from the Interactive Fiction Archive followed by an interpreter for your OS: Gargoyle for Windows, Zoom for Macintosh and Unix.


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JayBest of Casual Gameplay 2010Wow. We covered so many games in 2010 that our Best of the Year awards turned out to be the largest feature we've ever compiled. 29 categories, hundreds of games and thousands of votes have produced the results that are now up online.

You are sure to find many excellent games among the Top 5 presented for each category. These games represent the very best of the games we covered in all of 2010, and we thank you kindly for participating with us by voting for your favorites. We can only hope that 2011 will bring as many great titles as we saw and played in 2010.

Let's see the results!

Here is a handy list to the results pages for each of the categories:


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Rating: 4.5/5 (125 votes)
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ChiktionaryHigh TeaThink you've got what it takes to succeed in trading? What if you were trading to appease the British thirst for tea? By selling opium? "Not for all the tea in China!" I hear you say. Actually, that's probably something your Grandma would say. Aaanyway... in High Tea, you'll be trading opium for just that, all the tea in China. Whether you have a head for trade, or not, you'll enjoy excercising your trading skills in this, a beautifully presented and interesting simulation game by Preloaded.

The goal here is to buy opium, then sell it to buy tea for the seemingly unquenchable Birtish thirsts. Using your mouse, click to select amounts of opium and tea to buy, and to accept offers from various ports in China. Both opium and tea can be purchased in batches of 5, 10 or 15 crates. Watch the stock prices and aim to buy when the prices are at their lowest, or at least before they start to rise again. Sell your illicit cargo, choosing offers wisely and use the profits to purchase crates of tea. The difficulty ramps up quite quickly, as the opium and tea markets begin to fluctuate wildly soon after you begin your trading exploits, and your purchases will influence the prices strongly. The more you trade at a port, the more risky selling becomes and you risk being fined hefty amounts of cash, or worse, losing your boat and entire shipment of opium. Occasionally a corrupt official will help you out with a bribe card that you can use in case of such a dire situation. With each successful shipment of tea to England, you'll be rewarded with another boat to aid in your trade efforts.

Based on the true historical events of the Opium Wars, High Tea offers some unusual and challenging strategic gameplay in a tastefully presented package, including impressive visual effects and music that adds a sense of tense anticipation. And probably not unlike the fortunes of Imperialist traders in early 19th century China, luck may be on your side. Then again, it may not. But matters of fortune aside, a lot depends on your reflexes, your instincts and your ability to be a shrewd trader. So set your sails, and start your mission to keep the people of Britain happy and swimming in tea. And as Chinese well wishers would say ... Hao Yun! ... Good Luck!

Play High Tea


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Rating: 3.9/5 (120 votes)
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Reader ReviewSpaceDefendersExactly why were the aliens from Space Invaders attacking Earth? Maybe it was a case of the classic Good vs. Evil. In developer Charcoal Styles' retro arcade game Space Defenders (created for the 2011 Global Game Jam) the moral divide isn't quite so clear. In it, you take control of a sortie of aliens as they rain destruction down on human cities. Earth attacked your homeland and now you will eradicate them to defend peace in the galaxy. The ends justify the means, right?

The gameplay is simple and effective. Use the [arrow] keys to move your formation through the sky in unison. They automatically fire downwards so all you need to do is line up shots and keep at least one unit alive. You start off blasting crowds of pedestrians, but soon you'll be taking flack from tanks, missile silos, and fortified buildings. The sheer volume of enemy fire effectively produces the game's feel of an air raid on a war torn planet. Fortunately, the increase in your fire rate with each unit lost balances things perfectly. Trust me: you'll be taking a pounding.

The game isn't quite at a finished polish yet. The cutscenes of your barbaric troops between missions contain poorly written, none too subtle dialog. The visuals evoke a bleak feel, but the short music loop breaks the spell. I encountered a bug only once, but it caused me to lose my progress. However, the fresh concept and an infinite survival mode for replayability overcome these detractions. If you've ever wanted to see things from the side of the Space Invaders, now's your chance.

Play Space Defenders


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Rating: 4.5/5 (250 votes)
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TrickyThe End Of USCreated by Michael Molinari (OneMrBean) and Chelsea Howe for the San Francisco 2011 48 Hour Global Game Jam, The End Of Us is a surprisingly evocative work about two meteors meeting and playing amidst the strangeness and charm of deep space. As much a piece of wordlessly lyrical interactive art as an action game, The End Of Us matches its play to an engaging soundtrack and offers a short but satisfying experience.

The End of Us is controlled with the [arrow] keys, and with the mouse. You direct your purple meteor as it flies through the starry cosmos and encounters a playful orange meteor. The two end up traveling, colorful paths trailing behind, swirling, bashing, collecting stars... There is little overt narrative, or stated goal in The End Of Us, but it is endearing all the same.

The End of Us is short enough that nearly anything I say about might feel like a spoiler. I will say that I always find it intriguing when game creators are able to evoke human characteristics in non-human objects, through actions rather than words. It is always better to show than to tell, and The End of Us puts on quite a nice show indeed. The slight air of pretension makes the ultimate artistic direction a little predictable, but none-the-less effective. In any case, I highly reccomend budgeting the two minutes it will take to play The End of Us: when those two meteors go round and round together, it's the rest of the world that looks so small.

Play The End of Us


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Rating: 4.3/5 (125 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypThis week's Weekday Escape combines both classic room escape conventions (finding and using objects, puzzle solving) with the fun of a classic word riddle. Yes, Robamimi is at it again with yet another "Who Am I?" iteration, R20 Who Am I?

R20 Who Am I?This is now the fourth "Who Am I?" we've seen from Robamimi, one of the best Japanese room escape designers out there. Once again you must search the room not only for puzzles and useful items but for five "hint" cards as well. Each hint card is a clue to the final riddle, "Who Am I?", which must be solved to escape the space. As with the others in this series, the answer to "Who Am I?" is pretty simple, but only a small part of the larger escaping whole.

Of course, Robamimi being what it is, you can expect top-notch controls, navigation, and inventory control. Also packed into this delightful little package is a save feature, a mute button, and even a hint feature if you get stuck. Best of all is something that other designers could stand to put in their games, textual clues for the color-based puzzle. Considering how prevalent red-green colorblindness is amongst the general population, it is nice to see something color-based that also has clear, concise English words explaining precisely what shade is present. There is also the choice (presented on the title page) of either playing in either Japanese or English.

R20 Who Am I? is a little more somber than the previous escapades of "Who Am I?". The space is darker, the music is rather sad, and the little screwdriver-wielding plastic man so familiar from previous escapes is nowhere in evidence. Like the other games in the series this is not a long nor complicated escape but still a lot of fun while it lasts.

What makes Robamimi escapes so great is of course the fantastic game design. You can have the hardest, most original puzzles out there, but if there is pixel hunting involved, or you have difficulty accessing inventory items, or the space is just so cluttered or pixilated that you can't tell what is important to examine, then what you will find is less praise from your players and more complaints. Granted, puzzles can make or break the enjoyment of a room escape, but good quality design goes a long way, and as usual Robamimi delivers in every way imagineable.

Not terribly difficult but with a lot of entertainment value, R20 Who Am I? is a great addition to the Robamimi catalog and an amusing way to break up the week. Nowhere near as difficult as, say, Smile For Me and without the sentiment of Dad or First Love, R20 Who Am I? is relaxing, mind-stretching escaping goodness wrapped up in a really well designed bow.

Play R20 Who Am I?


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Rating: 4.7/5 (332 votes)
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corygalliherCube Droid Saves The GalaxyEvil squares are attacking the universe! Sure, squares might not seem like a big deal, but they really are! They're far too boxy, for one. Also everybody knows that squares aren't cool and who wants to live in a universe that's not cool? The universe needs help to deal with this. The universe needs Cube Droid, who's only happy to come to the rescue in Cube Droid Saves the Galaxy, a new sokoban-ish style puzzler from DevilishGames.

Cube Droid Saves the Galaxy is essentially a take on the classic game Sokoban, where you push crates around an area in order to achieve your goals. Cube Droid complicates this formula by adding in enemy robots and turrets to deal with. In each level your goal is to navigate the stage, collect all of the batteries and return to your ship.

There's not much to controlling Cube Droid. Use the [arrow] keys to move. There, you're ready to save the galaxy! You can push certain blocks by running into them, but be careful, since you can only push one block at a time. Getting a block stuck in a corner or two blocks stuck on each other next to a wall is a quick way to render a level unbeatable. If that happens, press the [R] key to terminate poor Cube Droid and restart the level. Likewise, a single hit will cause you to restart too, so keep an eye out for danger.

You're going to face a variety of nasty foes during your galaxy-saving adventures. There's Roller Saws that chase you around, Guardians that wake up after you grab every battery then chase you around, Lazer Towers that blast you if you cross their paths and several others. Choosing whether to worry about the mobile or immobile foes first is an integral part of solving each level; sure, you might have a plan worked out to get all the batteries, but how well can you execute it while being chased down or shot at?

Cube Droid Saves the GalaxyAnalysis: Whether or not you'll like Cube Droid really depends on how you feel about Sokoban. This is a game that's all about planning ahead; it's vitally important to think each action through. If you don't, you're going to end up in an unwinnable situation or killed by enemy robots. That'll make Cube Droid cry sad, oily tears.

Cube Droid is presented in an adorable cute style. It uses some minor 3D effects to show off each level detonating as you clear it which are pretty cool, but generally you're going to spend your time looking at a top-down 2D view of each level. Everything is crisp, detailed and easy to make out. You'll be thankful for this when you're frantically steering Cube Droid away from a mob of enemies.

The difficulty ramps up steadily and there aren't too many spots where you can expect to get stuck. Persistence will usually see you through, and it's worth it; some of the later levels are impressively designed and a lot of fun to play. Beating a difficult level with a perfectly executed set of moves is a great feeilng and looks awesome too, like a sort of Rube Goldberg machine.

The main flaw in Cube Droid is how slow the proceedings are. Cube Droid putters along at a leisurely pace and his foes aren't much faster. Patience is certainly a virtue here, both in completing the puzzles and dealing with Cube Droid's two mile per hour speed. While it could be argued that keeping things slow will prevent players from making costly mistakes, DevilishGames may have overdone it here.

All in all this is a solid Sokoban title and fans of this sort of puzzle are bound to find something to love here. Puzzle gamers should also give this a shot, especially if they're chillaxed enough to deal with restarting levels and Cube Droid's slow speed. And action gamers? Well, Cube Droid isn't armed. Maybe in the sequel!

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Rating: 4.7/5 (175 votes)
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TrickyLink-a-PixFirst Sudoku, then Picross, then Battleship... and now Link-a-Pix. Is there any pencil-and-paper puzzle Conceptis can't expertly translate to the flash medium? Painting by Pairs might be a little more obscure than the previous puzzles collected, but B&W Link-a-Pix Light Vol. 1 continues the streak of high-quality logical mind-benders and is filled with nonograms you'll not want to miss.

Link-a-Pix plays like a second cousin to Picross... they probably hang out together at the logic puzzle family reunion: Each puzzle consists of a grid with numbers appearing in some squares. The proper pairs of numbers must be located and connected with a line intersecting an amount of squares equal to the linked numbers. When all the numbers are linked correctly, a pixelated picture will be revealed. B&W Link-a-Pix Vol. 1 is controlled entirely with the [mouse]: connections are filled in whole or partially by clicking on the number and dragging it to the appropriate location in the grid. Single squares are filled with a click, and a double click on a filled in line erases it. Buttons are available to check your current work, undo and redo moves, save your progress, restart or show the solution. This, the first of promised volumes to come, has 30 puzzles to solve, and they'll go by quicker than you might think.

Since this is only volume one, the puzzles are relatively easy. While this should make for a nice introduction for those who haven't tried the type before, expert Link-a-Pixers (both of you) might not find it that challenging. The interface is nicely intuitive, even if sometimes a little finicky when drawing precise pathways. The pixel art is quite nice, with only a few that you have to squint at for recognition... but hey, if they're claiming that blob of squares in meant to be a hiker or a tea set or whatever, I'll just roll with it.

Conceptis has repeatedly shown they know how to do logic puzzles in flash form and B&W Link-a-Pix Light Vol. 1 is no exception. Other volumes are promised to come, and if they feature a boost in difficulty, these games just might be the thing that finally makes newspapers obsolete!

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Rating: 4.4/5 (215 votes)
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TrickyHack Slash CrawlThe randomly-generated protagonist of Hatched Games' new semi-roguelike semi-RPG Hack Slash Crawl, is an engine: a perfect monster killing machine. All this machine can do is hack, slash and dungeon-crawl. But when you do only three things, you have to think that you should be able to do them well. Likewise, while Hack Slash Crawl is kind of shallow, and could stand some polish, it makes for a fun little click-fest.

Gameplay is simple: After selecting attributes on the fun character-creation screen, you move around the dungeon, using the mouse to click where you want to go. When you spot an enemy that needs thrashing, click on him to automatically start whaling on each other with your weapons. There are also spells to be used, either with the mouse by hitting the appropriate 1-9 [number] key and selecting the target area. Defeating enemies grants you XP, as well as various armor pieces and weapons equippable with a click of the inventory screen. You also collect mana pearls, though they don't seem to do anything besides acting as a score system. Health is regained by staying still and waiting... something hard to do with a monster on your tail. Usually a boss-baddie can be found near the opening to the next floor. After your sudden-but-inevitable death you will unlock a character title (think, "The Mighty" or, "The Cursed") to add on with a stat-boost to your next character. Gotta catch 'em all!

I have a feeling that Hack Slash Crawl may be a love-it-or-hate it kind of game. The lack of any real plot, or even a coherent goal beyond level-gaining, will turn many away. Even those who find the concept engagingly replayable will lament not being able to save a character from play to play. That said, the mechanics are easy to pick up (and indeed, might be good for young RPGers), the names and animations are amusing, and completionists like me will find it compelling to see the title board fill up with each play. Now, if you excuse me, Zullukerf the Deadly Werewolf Juggernaut has to go teach Gibud the Diabolical a lesson in what happens when sword meets tentacle.

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The Vault

TrickyAfter some incessant needling and the exchange of certain bits of valuable information, I finally got my hands on the combination to the JayIsGames vault. Let me tell you, taking the grand tour is quite an experience: in-between Dora's stash of gil and the stacks of unreleased Disney DVDs you'll find all manner of slightly-dusty but still excellent casual games. Today we'll be looking at a point-and-click advergame that puts the rest to shame, an adorable shockwave action game that will be sure to throw you for a loop, and a webtoy that you might find a little sketchy.

  • Happy SeedHappy Seed - Yeah, it might ultimately be hawking the Nissan Cube. Still, all other advergames could learn a lesson from this point-and-click tale about a mysterious plant cube that comes to our world and the transformations it brings. It's more interactive narrative than puzzler, but it has a charming simplicity that borders on the elegant, and a visual art style that's unique even today. Don't spend too much time analyzing the circle vs. square debate: this one's about curiosity and exploring new things. Nissan keeps hiding this beautiful piece, which is sad since I'm sure that playing it might sway a few new car buyers. Thankfully we have mirrored it for posterity.
  • LoopLoop - Shockwave has been so finicky on modern computers that it's easy to forget why it was once the premier online gaming platform. Well, it's games like Loop, an action matcher hailing all the way back from 2001 that remind us. It's a whimsical tale about Ada, a girl who likes to catch butterflies, told in a evocatively beautiful paper-craft aesthetic, and utilizes a fluid mouse-driven looping mechanic that was mind-blowing back then. It's a little easy, and perhaps simplistic by modern standards, but still inspires thoughts of frolicking through a sunny meadow with your best friend. The fact that a version hasn't come out for WiiWare is a missed opportunity indeed.
  • ScribblerScribbler - Finally, there's a webtoy for all of us who've always wanted to make beautiful art, but have stumbled at the crossing and hatching stage. Scribbler labels itself a "generative illustrative toy", but that description doesn't quite encapsulate the experience of seeing computer algorithms make complex line drawings out of your simple sketches. With a real-time scribbling sequel now available and a HD version recently released for the iPad, it's the perfect time to play around with the numerous settings and unlimited potential of the original. Considering there are so few opportunities to collaborate with a robot, Scribbler should draw you in just as much as before.

While we welcome any comments about this 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!


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Rating: 4.6/5 (150 votes)
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joyeSushi Cat 2Is there any problem that gaining weight won't solve? Not in the world of Sushi Cat, the adorable little butterball (or is that mochi-ball) who has delighted audiences in two pachinko games so far. In the original, he met his true love; in the level pack, he had to defend their honeymoon from various tropical mishaps. Now, in Sushi Cat 2, Joey Betz presents another thrilling chapter in this epic romance: rescuing the pink kitty from her diabolical bacon-snarfing puppy kidnapper! Yes, the stakes are high, but with a little "om nom nom," you can tip the scales in your favor.

True to its gambling machine roots, Sushi Cat 2 depends a lot on luck. In many rounds, after using the [arrow] keys to scroll the play area and clicking to release your cat, all you can do until he drops into one of the score baskets at the bottom is grit your teeth and watch. Sure, emotionally it may feel better to say things like "Go left! Left! No, the other left! Nooooooo!" as he bounces around, but I'm afraid that doesn't have any actual effect on the outcome. There is one special piece of sushi per level that, when hit, will give you another chance to affect the game directly. For example, the soy sauce bomb can be placed anywhere on the field, and when it explodes, all the sushi pieces it sprays will fly into the cat's mouth. Often, these special pieces are the only way to grab pieces that are blocked off from the normal play area.

On the left hand side of the screen you'll see just how full Sushi Cat's belly has gotten, and on the right you'll see the number of total sushi left, as well as toggles for quality and sound, a restart button, and a fast forward button. If you don't grab enough pieces to fill Sushi Cat's belly, you'll have to restart the level, but there's no other penalty. In Sushi Cat 2, every normal level has three pieces of Golden Sushi. They don't count towards the belly filling total, but you can collect all 60 to unlock outfits for Sushi Cat (two of which are more like alternate characters). There are also five bonus levels which usually involve zero effort and maximum return, more like demonstrations of just how fat that cat can get than actual challenges.

Sushi Cat 2Analysis: Sushi Cat 2 has the same bright, happy JIMP art and deft Joey Betz coding as the previous two, so it's a little sad that they couldn't get DJ Cutman, whose "Run to Japan" had me tapping my toes through all of 2010, to write a new song for this game. The new music is not as catchy and much more repetitive. I actually ended up getting sick of it and muting it, and since the music and sounds are controlled by only one button, that meant losing all the other sound effects too.

I forgive the game for everything, though, because of the animations. They are even more hilarious this time out, with some little throwaway gags for the sharp-eyed viewer, like a movie theater playing "Raging Bacon" and "Bacon Instinct" (and check out the movie stars in the film credits).

The levels this time around are often taller than the screen. At the beginning of the level, you get a slow bottom-up pan, and you can use the arrow keys to check things out for yourself, but once you click to release the cat, the screen scrolling automatically follows the bouncing ball-shaped feline. With the soy sauce bomb and supermarket sweep sushi, you can use the arrow keys again to scroll if necessary. For some reason not only doesn't the dragon punch sushi let the player use the arrow keys to scroll through the whole playing field, but the screen actually narrows around the cat while you're aiming. I guess this is to give it a 60s martial arts flick feel, but if you've forgotten which piece of golden sushi you haven't picked up yet, it can be frustrating.

Brimming with kawaii details and addictive gameplay whose minor flaws don't detract from its overall fun, Sushi Cat 2 is bound to make you feel better about loosening your belt the next time you down a few too many nigiri. I for one am going an all-you-can-eat sushi places the next chance I get. Hey, if someone tries to steal my love, I need to be ready.

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CassandraSecret Base Horror StoriesBitejacker: Secret Horror Base Series is an action-packed RPG-like zombie shooter based on the indie game review show that goes by the same name... well, give or take a consonant, at any rate. The story behind Bitejacker is a pretty simple one: the protagonists were busy doing a video shoot when a zombie burst through the door. Being steadfast gamers, neither attempted to approach the somewhat unhealthy looking individual and instead proceeded to run screaming away in the opposite direction. Somewhere along the line, they also get thrown into a time warp that can only be broken after the unlikely heroes have fufilled certain criteria like unlocking monsters and gunning down bosses.

In Secret Base's first official release, you'll have the choice of playing as either the host Anthony Carboni or cameraman Jon Riveria. Standing between you and the distinction of being the individual with the highest digits on the scoreboard is a ravenous, rabid horde of pixelated zombies, one so awesome that it also includes undead incarnations of characters from famous indie games.

As can be expected from an isometric shooter, the controls behind Bitejacker are relatively easy to handle. You control your character's movements using the [WASD] keys; aiming and shooting is governed by the mouse. [R] is used to reload your weapon, the [spacebar] is used to execute your character's special and [E] is your action button. For the most part, gameplay consists of you attempting to navigate from Point A to Point B with Point B being a well-fortified shelter of some variety. Along the way, you'll likely encounter a number of survivors, some of which might fight alongside you while others just trail along in a somewhat dazed fashion.

While this might sound like a lot more trouble than it's worth, there's a pretty compelling reason to save as many people as you can. Each time you finish a stage, the number of survivors you bring in is calculated and you are accorded an appropriate amount of cash, cash you can only otherwise earn from looting debris and picking up the strange golden coins that dead zombies drop. Seeing how there is a neverending tide of zombies and both your ammo and health does not immediately and mysteriously regenerate, rescue missions are definitely the most convenient method of generating money. There's also an achievement-based system that allows you to improve abilities, unlock new items and even release monsters. Ammo is limited, friendly fire an occupational hazard.

Secret Base Horror StoriesAnalysis: Bitejacker: Secret Horror Base Series is a visual treat. Though most of the game is rendered in sepia overtones, there's a ton of details laid out like a decadent buffet for the true gaming fanatic. From the suspiciously familiar question mark-laden boxes right down to the delightfully low-rez celebrity cameos, Secret Base has gone above and beyond the call of duty in their attempt to get everything right. What I liked most, however, are probably the celebrity zombies that you'll eventually unlock; something that I'd love to gush over but will leave that to you to discover on your own. Sound-wise, I'm somewhat ambivalent about what the game offers. Bitejacker features a suitable retro soundtrack, something that wouldn't sound amiss on the older consoles or even an arcade machine from the days of yore; I found it a little annoying but your personal mileage might differ. I'm told that the voiceovers are remarkably spot-on but along with the sound effects, I found that they complemented the action rather well.

I personally rather liked how Secret Base chose to implement an achievement-based system in the game, something that immediately helps make up for one of the weaknesses common to Flash games: replayability. There's a pretty substantial amount of things to unlock, something that will keep completionists trained on the game for a decent amount of time. On the flip side, given my love/hate affair with first person shooters, I could have done with greater variety in the available arsenal; there just weren't enough guns for my taste.

Secret Base has done an excellent job at delivering on a trite formula, an impressive accomplishment given that Bitejacker: Secret Horror Base Serries is apparently their first official game. In accordance to the overall retro flavor to the game's atmosphere, Bitejacker is also on the unforgiving side; death is usually followed by a lot of cursing as you part ways with a substantial amount of cash to restart. Failure is definitely not an option here. Though not overpoweringly difficult at first, Bitejacker's difficulty increases substantially around Day 5 or Day 6 when lag and overwhelming numbers become your biggest problems.

The game doesn't seem to make even a token attempt to make you feel sympathetic towards the plight of the characters involved. In fact, it's sometimes rather hard not to giggle hysterically as a survivor with exceptionally bad pathing skills get overwhelmed by zombies. But seeing how zombie-related games are often swamped with melodrama and viscera, it's pretty refreshing to come across something that refuses to take itself seriously even at gunpoint. Bitejacker will eat away at a lot of your free time and you'll thank Secret Base for it.

Bitejacker: Secret Horror Base Series


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Rating: 4.6/5 (1034 votes)
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TrickyAlxemyPlaying God has a bit of a poor reputation: the kind of reputation that leads to torch and pitchfork wielding villagers smoking you out of a burning windmill. However, Alxemy, the engaging new puzzler by Hyptod, reminds us that sometimes, creating life can feel more like playing with Lego blocks than a crime against nature.

Alxemy presents you with a barren wasteland, more than ready to be filled with your alxemical creations. Using the mouse, you drag two elements from the right onto the transmutation circle, and with a click, you set off a possible reaction. A successful one will add a new element to your categories and the world at large, while a unsuccessful one will flash red with failure. Off to the left, under the trash warp, is a scroll of elemental possibilities, and below the circle, your assistant offers helpful hints. There are 119 elements to create. (Sadly, you are required to click some of the on-screen links to get all the available elements, though you do not actually have to Facebook post or whatever to finish the game, just click the link itself.) Good luck, and be sure to tell the human not to take advice from the snake...

Alxemy Analysis: It's impossible to discuss Alxemy without comparing it to Doodle God. The two games are so similar in their scope and mechanics that it would be disingenuous not to mention the clear inspiration, or at least influence. However, Alxemy has a charm all its own, and comes off less as leader-following than as a serious attempt to improve on the flaws of its counterpart. I think both will have their fans.

First, the good: Whereas Doodle God sometimes felt like it was reducing creation to smashing blocks together to make new blocks, Alxemy is much better at capturing the feeling of building a world from scratch. The updating view of the earth you are creating is quite a nice touch, and it is a delight to see it slowly filling with the various flora and fauna. What's more, the successful combinations feel logical, while at the same time rewarding lateral thinking... I don't know if I would have expected, for instance, fire + fox = red panda, but I cannot deny the power of the pun. The helpful hints delivered by your meganekko partner serve the dual purpose of offering a justification for the more esoteric equations, while also being quite informative: Alxemy isn't quite an edutainment game, but I certainly felt a little smarter than I did before.

On the downside, the interface has a bit of clunkiness to it, and is more crowded than I would like. There are so many buttons available to click, especially for a game based in such a simple idea. The crowdedness also extends to the mechanics: It's much easier to take elements out than to put them away (I kept trying to place them back from the category I had dragged them from). While this does give a nice "work-bench" feel to the game, it also means I often had more elements out than needed. Considering the aqua tint of both the background, the natural greens were lost against it. Also, I would have appreciated some alternate solutions: In my mind, mammal + bird = bat makes as much sense as shrew + air, so why only recognize the latter?

While the above might limit its crossover casual appeal, make no mistake: Alxemy is a great time and should keep many addicted until the final piece is combined. It's a fine evolutionary branch of the Alchemy concept started in DOS and revitalized by Doodle God. In any case, the fact you'll have fun is elemental-ly, my dear Watson.

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Mobile Monday

JohnBPop quiz: what did you have for breakfast today? Was it a bit of asteroids with a size of Puzzle Quest? Probably not, since most humans need cereal and waffles and stuff to survive. But, next time you wake up, you can supplement, you know?

dungeonraid.gifDungeon Raid - This stark-looking little puzzle game takes the element we loved most about Puzzle Quest — the match-3 battle system — and makes it the sole focus of the entire game. Match skulls and swords to damage enemies, then repair your armor, regain health, collect gold, or use items to help you keep the screen clear of baddies as you constantly use up the tiles. Upgrades, experience, non-swapping matching, and loads of other cool things make this game's fierce determination to stay true to the puzzle/RPG experience worth checking out.

smasheroid.gifSmasheroid - Oh, Asteroids. Where would we be without you haunting our ancient gaming memories? If you still have dreams about sprinting through space as you daringly break up asteroids in mid-flight, Smasheroid will be right up your alley. Mostly because it's exactly the opposite of the classic Asteroids arcade game. Three modes of play are available, the first putting you in control of asteroids themselves as you fling them to destroy pesky ships. Later, you get to play Matchmaker where you drag colored asteroids on top of each other to score, and Loner, which features a single tough asteroid you must protect while destroying ships with it. A nice trick on an old classic! The free Smasheroid Lite is also available.

pixfall.gifPIXFALL: Try to score 50.000! - Why is it the simplest games that always engage us so? Pixfall uses just a few colors, blocky visuals, and the accelerometer for controls. Your goal is to plummet down and avoid the obstacles, collecting red discs along the way. The game pushes getting a high score, going so far as to taunt you on the iTunes Store page. No big frills, it's just you, your iPhone, and your own sense of determination.

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


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (32 votes)
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Atom Zombie Smasher

CassandraAtom Zombie Smasher is a game about zombies. It is not, however, your typical game about zombies. Where other games about zombies might have you playing as the heroic survivor who somehow escaped infection via genetic anomaly or dumb luck, Blendo Games' latest release does not. Instead, this ridiculously innovative tower defense-like real-time strategy game will put you in the role of faceless commander charged with the evacuation of his fellow citizens. This time, you get to be the one who orders the orbital nukes!

Atom Zombie SmasherIn spite of how intuitive the gameplay might be or how deceptively simple the initial missions might appear, Atom Zombie Smasher is definitely not easy. Controlled entirely via the mouse, the game consists of two segments. In the first section, you'll basically have an overview map of the territories you have to evacuate. Black territories represent those completely overrun by the zombie menace, tan indicates those that still contain a sliver of hope. Gold stars show locations you have successfully salvaged while numbered areas indicate the difficulty of the mission involved. Once you've successfully rescued a few scientists, this screen will also permit you to decide on the kind of research you want your resident geeks to pursue. It is when you've decided on a mission to execute that things get interesting.

The second part of Atom Zombie Smasher consists of a top-down look at a procedurally-generated city, something that reminds me of Google Earth's satellite's view of the world. Uninfected citizens are presented by golden squares, zombies by purple. Your mercenaries, as units are called in this game, are color-coordinated as well. Depending on what you've unlocked, each mission will also randomly assign up to three mercenaries to assist you in addition to the omnipresent helicopter, the staple of your rescue efforts. Unlike many other RTS games out there, Atom Zombie Smasher basically allows you the first move; you'll be able to determine exactly where you want your units initially positioned. Once you're done, clicking ready will unleash the horde and sent panicked citizens fleeing towards your helicopter.

Atom Zombie SmasherAnalysis: In a word, Atom Zombie Smasher is brilliant. I love everything about the game, something that I find difficult to say about any other title out there, casual or otherwise. Most of all, however, I like that feeling of being disconnected from the events in the game. While I'm uncertain if it was intentional, there's something slightly unnerving about viewing the world from afar in such a manner. In the beginning, it's easy to empathize with the unfortunate citizens. However, as the game progresses, your goal inevitably begins to sway; the objective is no longer a fruitless attempt to rescue all living human beings but an exercise in strategic amputation. The visual presentation certainly helps that mentality.

One of the things I enjoy most about Atom Zombie Smasher is the somewhat random design of each level, something that would normally detract from the gameplay in another title but seems to bolster its effectiveness here. With only three units available to provide assistance at any one time, missions can sometimes range from pedestrian to outright 'oh my god, is this even possible?', something that keeps things from ever getting too boring.

The only thing I didn't like all too much about Atom Zombie Smasher is possibly the lack of an immediately available coherent storyline. You'll have to finish playing through the game at least once before things are laid out for you in the extras section. It feels somewhat awkward but that might be largely due to the fact that I'm used to having my plots fed to me with my silver-plated cutlery of choice. Nonetheless, it's not something that detracts remotely from the game itself; mute testament to the sheer awesomeness of Atom Zombie Smasher.

Frenetic yet tactical, intuitive yet utterly in-depth, Blendo Games' newest title borders on being a masterpiece. It even allows up to three players to play local co-op; I assume that life would be less hectic with more available hands. Though the game allows you to 'cheat' and begin life with a full arsenal, it's a lot more fun to slowly unlock each mercenary for usage. Coupled with a fairly thorough upgrade system, Atom Zombie Smasher is one of those bite-sized bits of wonder that will probably reside in your hard disk for a long, long time.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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

LinuxLinux:
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  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (84 votes)
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The Powder Toy

AdamBFollowing in the tradition of the classic sandbox games (Sand Sand Sand and Powder Game), The Powder Toy by HardWIRED is a small download which stretches the boundaries of what is possible with a few simple elements. In fact, you can do almost anything with it, the only limit is your imagination.

The Powder ToyThe basic controls of The Powder Toy are extremely simple and largely consist of using just the mouse. Select an element and place it on the screen. Which elements you choose, when and where they are placed in relation to each other, and which elements already exist on screen all have a different affect on the resulting display interactions. With almost 150 elements at your disposal, this could, at first, seem chaotic. However, the simulation lends itself to experimentation, and as you become accustomed to the different elements and their interactions, the keyboard can be employed to further enhance the variety.

Along with more simplistic elements such as Wall, Sand, Water, Rain, Fire, Lava, Lightning, the game also employs colour-coded wireless transmitters that can be set up to remotely trigger events which ordinary powders are incapable of doing. There are heat and cold sensitive triggers, elements which react when under extreme pressure, elements which react to electricity, elements that can allow only certain other elements to pass through them, there are even teleportation portals! All of these elements can behave differently still based on the weather conditions involved, and yes, you have the ability to control the direction and intensity of the wind!

To really see the depth of the game, it is imperative to examine the simulation gallery which showcases the better user-created experiments. For example, at the time of this review, there is a destroyable five-level city which features a skyscraper and, when the simulation begins, a generator transfers energy throughout the city to light "lightbulbs" in each of the various rooms. I then proceeded to cover the city with lava. There is also a water reactor, which utilizes water, heat, pressure, steam, turbines and more in order to push electricity through a transformer and down power cables, taking the electricity off-screen.

The Powder Toy expands upon traditional browser-based sandbox experiences and puts a world of elements at your disposal. This is more than a simple toy where you can draw and watch pretty particles bump into each other. This can be a serious creativity tool that allows you to build working machines and independent environments that interact with each other. Think of yourself as the god of all powders and you've got a good place to start when you nab the game!

Allow your curiosity and creativity to be unleashed, with the fascinating and engaging simulations of The Powder Toy.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the free full version

LinuxLinux:
Download the free full version


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Police Quest

JamesContrary to what you might think, police work has been made to look more glamorous than it is long before CSI and Law & Order stepped into popular culture. Yes, we shouldn't forget the profound contributions of Miami Vice. But the most realistic of the Sierra adventure games did not stoop to such base entertainment. Instead, all four games were grim thrillers with a penchant for making you walk through all kinds of police procedure (sometimes to a pedantic degree), all while hunting down drug lords, serial killers and satanic cults. Forget Space, Heroes, Kings, or Larry. This is Police Quest.

Police QuestA recent arrival on the nostalgic shelves of GoodOldGames.com, the Police Quest adventure series is now available as a collection. The games are classic adventures in every sense of the word, providing you with areas to explore, items to manage, and pages of dialogue to absorb. The first game arrived in 1987 and the series hung around until 1993, exiting the scene amidst the more popular Lucasarts adventures. There hasn't been anything like it before or since. You step into the shoes of Sonny Bonds, a police officer whose beat soon puts him on course for a temporary promotion to the local Narcotics unit and on the trail of the drug lord The Death Angel. This adventure would not only do wonderful things for his career, but also ignite a romance with an old highschool friend.

In the sequel, Bonds is now a detective and is put on the case when the drug lord escapes prison. It resolves the storyline, allowing Sonny to step into a whole new investigation, involving drug cartels and cults, in Police Quest 3. After this the series creator, Jim Walls, left Sierra and the final game was created under the guidance of Daryl F. Gates. It brought a stark change to the series in what would be the final Police Quest. Technically two more games, under the SWAT spin-off sub-banner, were released, but they are largely disregarded by the adventure game fans.

Police QuestAnalysis: Playing GOG's Police Quest collection is an adventure time capsule, at least as far as the Sierra part of history goes. The first game is one of the much-loved VGA remakes that Sierra released in the early 90s, where the original 80s adventure games were updated with higher-res art and the type-command was replaced with a point-and-click interface. But the remake magic did not reach Police Quest 2, appearing here in its original type-command glory. Instead of clicking with a mouse, you types in commands and moved the character with the keyboard cursor buttons, a graphical step up from the old text adventure games.

Police Quest 3, on the other hand, is a point-and-click, but one of the earliest Sierra games to use the technology. Thus the Police Quest 1 remake looks and feels more polished. Police Quest 4, on the other hand, went straight for photo-realistic graphics, much the craze in the early Nineties.

Many things have changed through the series, most notably the way you navigate around the game's various city areas, from simple driving in PQ1 and simply typing in destinations in PQ2 to PQ3's confusing driving simulator and PQ4's simple interactive map. The series also becomes notably maturer through its lifespan, from PG-13 violence in the first game to the rather grim scenes in PQ4 (including several bodies and a rather unfortunate find in a freezer).

Naturally, it all looks more harmless today, given the pixel graphics and antiquated feel, but the fourth game is definitely not something that young kids should try without some supervision. The Police Quest series is also notoriously tough, not because it presents vexing puzzles, but because it is a stickler for procedure. In classic Sierra style you can easily mess up early by missing something vital, but only realizing later (though nothing nearly as vicious a the Leisure Suit Larry 1 apple ). It's not a series heavy on handing you too many hints, either, and in true pre-Lucasarts style you can expect to replay each game several times before doing it all right (or save very often).

Police QuestIs it all worth doing? The demise of classic adventure games has often been lamented as a tragedy, but ultimately they drove themselves out of existence by just becoming too hard. It's not possible to go back in time and see if this is also what ended Police Quest's career, but the games certainly did not hold back. So if someone is only familiar with the error-tolerant adventure games where you couldn't mess up or die, this series might be a bit hardcore. In addition the rather wild changes in graphics (made lopsided by only PQ1 seeing a revamp) will seem a bit bewildering outside of context.

These things do not make the games bad, but they hail from an era that demanded a lot from players and went through a wild ride of innovation. The most obvious buyers for this collection are people who have played them before (or have a worthwhile hobby discovering this classic gems), and at the asking price it's a steal. It's also great to see the classic Sierra adventures surface on GOG, which has taken great care to configure Dosbox and make sure the games work perfectly in Windows. All you need to do is install it, even the documentation is included to bypass the original game's copy protection measures (archaic methods that referenced the game manuals).

The only Sierra adventures that were more mold-breaking are the RPG-infused Hero's Quest and it's hard to think of anything in adventuredom that went to such a realistic place as Police Quest. If Monkey Island was Pirates of the Caribbean, Police Quest could be The Wire (or at least The Shield). I can't lie and said it aged well visually, but it keeps a certain character and old-school adventurers will get a kick revisiting the streets of Lytton and Los Angeles.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (37 votes)
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Delicious: Emily's Childhook Memories

JohnBBest of Casual Gameplay 2011One of the best-looking and most thoroughly engaging time management games is back with a brand new installment! Delicious: Emily's Childhood Memories follows the gameplay outlined in previous games, such as the winter-themed Delicious: Emily's Holiday Season, but offers players a peek into Emily's past, taking you through a tour of different sections of her life. As before, story is a big part of the experience, and the way the Delicious series weaves fun diversions into the time management portions is perfectly balanced to keep your brain entangled for the entirety of the game.

Delicious: Emily's Childhook MemoriesThe core of Delicious: Emily's Childhood Memories will be immediately familiar to anyone who has ever played a time management game. Customers come in and either sit down or step right up to the counter. After a few moments, they make their decisions and a thought bubble shows the foods/items they want. Gather everything as quickly as you can and deliver everything to the appropriate customer. Once they're finished, take their cash and send them on their merry way. While the basics are certainly standard offerings, it's all of the extras that makes the Delicious series such a winning experience.

Clicking and delivering isn't all you'll need to do, however. In a very simple and casual manner, Delicious: Emily's Childhood Memories tasks you to cook/create certain dishes, adding a few steps to many orders. Sandwiches, for example, must be assembled one piece at a time, and working the honey machine requires a few well-timed clicks. None of these are overly challenging, yet they're interesting enough to feel like a relevant part of the game. Also, the queuing system and serving tray are smart enough to let you chain events together as you please, so you can take advantage of small gaps in preparation times to pick up additional items.

Delicious: Emily's Childhood Memories takes place across five unique locations, each taking place in a part of Emily's past. You start off at the farm where the young Emily helps her father serve customers as their small restaurant. As with previous Delicious games, diversions appear in almost every level, and they're just as fun and engaging as ever. Early on, for example, you'll have to help Emily learn to ride a bicycle and help find daisies for her grandfather. You'll also need to keep an eye out for mid-level bonuses, such as the mouse that pops up from time to time.

Delicious: Emily's Childhook MemoriesAnalysis: If you're a fan of Zylom Game Studio (and you really, really should be), devouring previous releases in the Delicious series as well as Heart's Medicine: Season One, you don't need to be convinced of how high-quality Emily's Childhood Memories is. A quick peek at the game's artwork, a short video showing off the gameplay, or a brief description is all that's necessary to let you know to expect great things from this time management series. The latest game never fails to disappoint with its blend of story-centric gameplay, beautiful visuals, and simple but well-tuned time management gameplay.

Moving through Emily's life is surprisingly poignant, as you get to see key moments that mirror many memories adults carry from childhood. Learning to ride a bicycle, catching fireflies, and going to the prom are just a few pieces of story you'll gobble up as you run restaurants in Emily's memories. Capturing photos of these key moments adds a strong punctuation mark to them, and unlocking trophies creates yet another long-term goal for you to work towards.

It would be difficult to pin any sort of improvement requests on a game like Delicious: Emily's Childhood Memories. It's a long game, running approximately six hours from beginning to end, with variable difficulty you can change from the main menu. The story pulls you through in the long run, the upgrades and mini-games distract you during the main game, and the time management core is very well-tuned. Once again, the Delicious series comes along to teach everyone exactly how stunning a casual time management game could (and should!) be.

Note: Currently, the only version of Delicious: Emily's Childhood Memories is the Premium Edition, which features bonus content like concept art, extra levels, additional upgrades, and an in-game strategy guide.

WindowsWindows:
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Mac OS XMac OS X:
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Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.


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Weekend Download

JohnBTime to invent a new word! Or, phrase, rather. Ready? "Platform Adventure Paloozathonvania"! You like? Hope so. It took hours of intense research to come up with that particular combination of letters, not to mention the trademark hoops we had to jump through to print it. But now it's there, and it describes the bulk of this week's downloadable games quite accurately.

theislandofagod.gifThe Island of a God (Windows, 52MB, free) - Metroidvania, anyone? This freeware exploration adventure drops you on an (almost) uninhabited island populated by a fuzzy-bearded guy who claims to be a god. Your crash on his slab of rock broke his elemental machine, and in order to control the elements, he needs you to fix it. Head out on a quest to gather the gem shards, exploring a series of small levels from head to toe. You also get a few power-ups that help you along the way, like fireballs that can burn things or take care of enemies in your path. There are five unique areas to explore, holding a total of 25 pieces of the elemental rocks. Find everything so you can get off this island and go back home!

yoyo.gifYoYo (Windows, 8MB, free) - Platform adventures never get old, and this cleanly-drawn entry from Bagdaddy Games proves just that. You play a young boy with a yo-yo who can hop around and smack thugs with the toy. You discover a furry little critter who is believed to possess magical powers, and in order to keep it safe, you travel with it chasing after the bad guys who want to kidnap it. Fortunately, the little guy has powers of his own, and you can take control of him to squeeze through small spaces to retrieve keys and the like. A little bit of puzzle with your platformer goes down well, and this one hits a good balance between challenge and raw fun-type fun!

sprintking.gifSprint - King of the Jungle (Windows, 2MB, free) - The most adorable lion in the world is out to collect red spheres, and you're the lucky gamer that gets to help! Run through each level as quickly as you can, keeping an eye on the timer if you want to go for the "special surprise" at the end of the game. When you eat enough fruit, you'll activate Sprint's roar power which allows you to create/destroy certain blocks, frighten animals, and a few other things. It's a little bit of a puzzle to work your way through some parts of the stage, and the added (but optional) pressure of moving fast creates a welcome challenge. Cute, entertaining, easy to pick up and play, and with plenty of content to keep you busy for a while!

greenhead.gifGreenhead (Windows, 8MB, free) - A simple type of avoidance game you usually only see on mobile phones, Greenhead is all about one thing: not getting hit. You have four spaces at the bottom to maneuver upon. Dart back and forth with the [arrow] keys, avoiding blocks that crash from the sky. Bouncing barrels, shattering ice blocks, and other more creative dangers arrive later in the game, but a few power-ups drop in from time to time to give you a hand. Go for the high score, see how many people you can best on the online leaderboards!

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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Spirit Seasons: Little Ghost Story

JohnBTrapped near an old mansion, car broken down and useless, old man saying spooky things, and a little ghost girl trying to convince you of her story. Nothing is quite what it seems in Spirit Seasons: Little Ghost Story, a hidden object adventure game from Tiki's Lab that utilizes some interesting puzzles, dynamic scenery, and a classic mystery setting of deceit.

Spirit Seasons: Little Ghost StoryAs always, things start out innocent enough: asking an old man to use the telephone. But a few broken boards later you find yourself underneath the house, frantically searching for a way out. You begin to discover notes and clippings that mention Jacob and Agatha in various lights, filling in their history and deepening your suspicion of both characters at the same time. Agatha claims Jacob let her die, while Jacob maintains the ghost of Agatha has him trapped in the mansion. Can't we all just get along so we can get out of this creepy place?!

For the most part, Spirit Seasons sticks to hidden object scenes to keep you busy, though the bulk of the game takes place in an adventure-style puzzle solving setting. When a problem presents itself, you'll need to shift between a small handful of scenes, searching every corner for new items or new hidden object areas to explore. When you check list items off, you'll get some things added to your inventory that can be used to solve a puzzle. Slowly but surely, you'll clear each room and explore the mansion, seeking clues and looking for a way to get home.

Hidden object scenes usually contain a number of miniature scenes in the form of boxes, cabinets, and other containers. If you went with Casual Mode at the beginning of the game, you can see these areas sparkle, otherwise it's all up to your creative clicking skills to locate them. A hint flower at the bottom of the screen is always there to give you a nudge if you need it!

Spirit Seasons: Little Ghost StoryAnalysis: Spirit Seasons feels like a very dynamic game, with lots of animation and frequent cutscenes that help fill in the transitions between scenes. Despite the unpolished look, 3D visuals in these cutscenes come across as realistic and immersive, providing a first-person view of things that ties in nicely with the usual hidden object set-up.

Mini-games are infrequent but interesting, and the first one you encounter is one of the more unique in the game: picking a lock with a paper clip. The rest are limited to connecting wires or solving puzzles to unlock doors. You can always skip mini-games if you like, a wise choice if you can't stand staring at another jigsaw puzzle!

Spirit Seasons does stumble in one area: writing. While the story itself is interesting enough, the dialogue is always clumsy and the word choice is questionable. It's jarring to see characters spit out sentences that make little sense. At least you can piece together the meaning without too much trouble.

Despite an awkward translation, Spirit Seasons: Little Ghost Story manages to provide a compelling hidden object experience filled with good puzzles, decent item finding scenes, and a story that will keep you motivated to learn more.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 3.6/5
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Rating: 3.6/5 (67 votes)
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Reader ReviewHot ThrottleOh God, Cactus, what have you done now? Is Hot Throttle some sort of twisted experiment? Whatever it is, I can't stop watching, or stop playing for that matter. You see, Hot Throttle is about car racing. But you're not actually a car. You're a naked man who thinks he's a car. Yep, you heard right, and that's not even the weirdest thing about this game.

Gameplay wise, Hot Throttle is a solid entry into the Mario Kart style combat racing genre. Race using your [arrow keys] on five different courses in tournament play or single races. The courses are littered with bystanders to collide with and garbage bags filled with gross-out projectiles and mines. Getting through the race with few collisions is the name of the game here. The longer your racer moves uninterrupted, the more "in the zone" they are about being a car. The more they think they're actually a car the faster they go. Don't ask me to explain.

Tournament play is the main attraction, allowing you to upgrade your car-man between races and submit a final score. Regardless of what mode you play, the surreal non sequitur skits before and after levels will be your most vivid memory of this game. The levels are inventive too, and filled with detailed scenery and pedestrians. I just wish the racers themselves were easier to distinguish, and that the bends and turns in the courses were easier to anticipate.

You need to at least overcome any aversion to weirdness you might have and give this game a try. It's like watching a car wreck. Only the cars are people who think that they're actually cars. Wrap your mind around that.

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  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (26 votes)
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TrickyTwo Minute Football 3dPardon my americentrism, but, for my money, when this time of the year rolls around there's only one football worth caring about, and it ain't the one with a goalie. With Da Big Game™ just around the corner, and having already washed my jersey, calibrated my 96" television, and ordered the party subs, I went online to satisfy my yearn for helmet-crunching sports action... and in igamebank's Shockwave Two Minute Football 3D, I think I've scored a touchdown and the 2-point conversion to boot.

It's the play-offs of the helmet-only football league, and your team has just squeaked into the wild card spot. Naturally, the object of the game is to score as many points as you can in two minutes, specifically the 21 that will allow you to go on to the next round. The game is centered around offense: twenty yards for a first down, and four downs to get it. Failing to make it that far will send you back 20 yards and take 10 seconds off the clock. At the start of each down you select a play with the [A] and [D] keys ([W] to confirm) or attempt a field goal with the [K] key and the mouse. Once the ball is hiked, you can either run in with the [WASD] keys, or attempt a pass by aiming and clicking with the mouse: pulling back a little for a lob, pushing forward for a bullet. Watch out for interceptions! Whatever team-mate ends up with the ball, pull forward and break tackles by tapping the [W] key. Standard scoring applies: 6 points for a touchdown (with an option of kicking an extra point or a two-point conversion) and 3 points for a field goal.

Two Minute Football 3D might not be as deep as Madden (or even Tecmo Bowl), but it has a charm all its own. There's just something about seeing those beautifully-rendered helmets scurrying around the field that makes me smile. While it is true that it required a frustrating bit of practice mode to get the timing of the passing system right, I quickly became addicted to marching down the field two minutes at a time. Fans of the genre will also enjoy the strategic elements of the customizations available for your team.

It might not have cheese-heads or terrible towels, but Two Minute Football 3D is a joy to play and has fewer tv-timeouts than the NFL. Please note that it is indeed Shockwave, so make sure your player is updated... we'd hate to see your browser suffer a game-ending injury!

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraBecause this is now February, the month of love, I decided to begin this week's Link Dump Friday lineup with an examination of unconditional parental love, and how it can help us grow, or hinder us. And then I thought, "Man, that's all warm and fuzzy and junk. I don't want to alienate the manly men in the crowd. I'd better throw some zombies all up ins." And so I did, but then I remembered not everyone likes zombies, and besides certain scary alien games are really popular right now, so I added some aliens, and you can't have aliens without... well, let's just say this week's snuggle-bunny theme of wuv didn't quite follow all the way through.

  • A Mother in FesterwoodA Mother in Festerwood - If you love something, set it free. Unless it's a baby and setting it free involves letting it toddle its fleshy, chubby self into a forest filled with angry bears, dragons, trolls, and... squiggly black thingies. Austin Breed brings you this interesting bit of interactive art, for lack of a more fitting genre, where you play as a mother trying to raise a child alone in a dangerous forest, where keeping your child safe becomes harder the older it gets, and may keep him from ever really growing up. Despite some frustrating A.I. and limited player interaction, it's a clever bit of symbolism. Somehow I doubt most governments would see sending your infant alone into a forest filled with fangs and hate and expecting them to kick some butt in quite so positive a light.
  • Aliens Kidnapped BettyAliens Kidnapped Betty - The title tells you all you need to know; Betty has been kidnapped... by aliens! It's a cute and silly little one-button game that starts out simple as you avoid the aliens and try to reach the exit on each level, but gradually adds more and more challenges. Though isn't this sort of thing a little... xenophobic? Why can't we have some species equality? Why not "Humans Kidnapped Hlurgh'tagh"? Look, all I'm saying is that if we want the interplanetary hatred to stop, we have to be willing to meet the aliens halfway!
  • The SagittarianThe Sagittarian - [Note: Contains language and violence.] Hyptosis wants you to survive the zombie apocalypse, Choose Your Own adventure style! When the end of the world comes around in the form of shambling brain munchers, it's up to you to beat feet while stayin' alive. While not particularly challenging or deep, it features some great artwork and a nifty little bit of text adventuring. Anyone who seriously thinks antagonising an armed, morally bankrupt survivalist is a good idea is probably angling for a Darwin Award. (Also, watch for a cameo from a pair of mall rats.)
  • Fifty TwoFifty Two - Well, great. Way to go. If you stopped to read this description, you've already lost. You have a narrow window of time to successfully complete a series of short minigames, and a single mistake means you'll have to start all over again. "What's so bad about that?" you ask? "What's the worst that can happen?" Oh, I dunno, maybe the end of the world!... hey, don't come crying to me when we're all rendered into space dust because you didn't get the bug out of the way in time!
  • Intelligence: The New EnemyIntelligence: The New Enemy - This arena shooter game wants you to blast through legions of enemies, just like all the others. However, unlike all the others, the enemies you encounter gradually become "smarter" the farther you go, reacting to your attacks in different ways. It's fast, it's frantic, and it's got one of the most frustratingly slippery movement setups I've encountered since Luigi. I'll tell you one thing; this would not fly with Star Fox. (Although he did keep Slippy around, so maybe his standards aren't as high as one might hope.)

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Rating: 4.4/5 (183 votes)
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Reader ReviewIcy GiftsLet's clear the air here: I love chain reactions. I love upgrades. Put them together in a game and I'll go as mad for it as I do for Reese's cups. Producer Silengames has done just that in the Boomshine style Icy Gifts that, though not particularly hard-hitting, has plenty of gameplay and variety to satisfy that itch. Icy Gifts has you freeing frozen presents using chain reaction explosions. Apparently they're underwater too. And the sun comes out when you win. Look, I don't get it either, but the story isn't important. The "BOOM" is.

Icy Gifts provides enough originality to stay fresh. Along with the normal exploding presents, special spheres explode to leave poison gas, shoot bullets or lightning, cause tidal waves, or give you an extra click. The spheres can be upgraded by using the thawed presents you collect as currency. The game throws both different exploders and level sizes at you too. You'll see 4 presents one level, 100 the next, and then 40 poison gas spheres after that. Every level has an initial goal, and then two more goals beyond it for two or three star ratings. Passing a level is easy, but you might find yourself repeating certain levels more than others for that 100% three star rating. There are also 45 achievements to go after, though some of them are easier than others.

Icy Gifts doesn't have a huge challenge or innovate in the genre, but it is a solid package. The visuals are slick and the soundtrack is pleasant. There's enough variety and objectives to keep a completionist busy and a causal gamer entertained. Consider this a late Christmas present.

Play Icy Gifts


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Rating: 4.6/5 (64 votes)
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Babylon Sticks: Recount comic

This is another 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 (128 votes)
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Reader ReviewTasty PlanetHow often do you find yourself playing a game and cackling: "Fools! You've only made me stronger now!"? Not often enough I'd say, but developer Dingo Games has set out to rectify this problem with its game Tasty Planet. You may remember our review of its sequel Tasty Planet: Back for Seconds. In this preview version of Tasty Planet you take control of a microscopic ball of grey goo. Designed by scientists to clean toilets, it soon becomes apparent that this goo can absorb anything and grow without stop.

Using the [arrow] keys for movement, negotiate your goo towards food sources and away from anything bigger than you. Slightly bigger enemies will harass you while much larger enemies will swallow you completely.

With precision avoidance games like this, the devil is in the details. In some places Tasty Planet succeeds brilliantly, and in others it falls short. Funny comics between levels provide humor and exposition, but there's only four comics between the eight levels. The bug, picnic and outer space levels are wonderfully detailed in their objects and general design while other levels are just open spaces on grass. Enemy intelligence is generally good, with the leaf-aphid-ladybug dynamic in one level particularly impressive. Bronze, Silver, and Gold medals can be won by time-trial, but the long level length and low enemy spawn rate makes it difficult for the wrong reasons. Regardless, scooping up objects as your googly-eyed goo zips around is satisfying, especially when you go from microscopic to macrocosmic.

Also available: Tasty Planet for iOS!

Some of Tasty Planet's shortcomings can be forgiven by its preview game nature. Still, even if you're not interested about buying the 50 level iPhone game it's advertising, there's enough content and quality here for the preview to stand on its own legs. Anyone that likes Katamari Damacy or whom longs to envelop the world in their gooey grasp should definitely give it a play.

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You Are Games

ArtbegottiIt's You Are Games time again! And to add to the Awesome-Factor-O-Awesome, we've got another one of James Francis' Babylon Sticks cartoons for you to create a punchline for! And as if that weren't enough, we'll be giving the winning punchline submitter A PONY! (Made of diamonds!) (And yarn.)

bs-contest-thugris.jpgActually, I'm now being handed a piece of paper telling me that we don't actually have a diamond-and-yarn pony to give away, so I'll suggest this to you: Take a look at the cartoon to the right. Do any funny quips or bits of dialogue spring to mind as you view this unfinished comic? We want you to send them to us! Post your caption ideas as a comment below using your Casual Gameplay account (so we can contact you by the associated email address if you win). We'll peruse through everything you send us, and if yours gets picked to be the caption in the final version of the comic, you'll win a prize (which will likely have nothing to do with ponies, diamonds, or yarn)!

As usual, there are a few reminders we have to pass along to you. This is an all-ages site, so keep your entries clean and free of profanity. We also take a stronger liking to comments revolving around a gaming theme. Multiple entries are allowed. And now for some bullets:

  • All entries submitted to this contest become property of Casual Gameplay.
  • You must be at least 13 years of age or older to enter.
  • Void where prohibited.

We're setting the deadline for this competition at Monday, February 7th at 11:59 PM (GMT-5:00). That's not a lot of time, so get to work, and just hope you don't get writer's block!


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Rating: 4.6/5 (199 votes)
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CassandraCanaryThere's something deliciously ironic about Canary. Set in space, Nitrome's avoidance shooter-type game puts players in the role of a stalwart canary in the employment of the Canary Mining Colony. With rocks falling everywhere, hostile yet adorable aliens and a panoply of other things to worry about, the game really does give new meaning to the phrase 'canary in a coal mine'.

Best of Casual Gameplay 2011Spanning twenty four stages, Canary's presentation is rather typical of Nitrome. The chiptune tracks are borderline epic, the graphics are charmingly pixelated and the controls simple as key lime pie. The canary follows your mouse, and you click to fire your laser, which can slice through rock. Hold down the mouse button to fire a concentrated beam that will shear through big chunks of the landscape that will drop out of the way so you can pass. Your canary can also push things out of the way if they're not immovable, like mine carts or even blocks of stone that you've cut apart from the larger mass. Just don't hold down the trigger too long, since your laser has a limited amount of power and needs time to recharge. Get left behind by the constantly moving screen or take too many hits, and you'll have to restart the level.

CanaryAnalysis: Canary is quite possibly the first game I've found impossible to categorize. There's a little bit of everything in it, something that makes it feel almost schizophrenic in disposition. As the titular avian, Canary 214-LE, you'll spend most of your time weaving past rock formations and down mine shafts. Armed with a mining laser, you'll be able to cut through unnecessary geological fixtures, falling debris, and the unfamilar lifeforms that populate the mine. In this respect, Canary feels a lot like your typical Shoot 'Em Up but I can't remember the last SHMUP that had me worrying about the physics behind my actions. In my first playthrough, I was unceremoniously squashed into a wall because I couldn't figure out exactly how to properly fillet a chunk of granite so I could ease the protagonist through the gap.

Initially, I thought that was pretty much the extent of things. However, as the game progresses, you'll find yourself slicing through rocky outcroppings to drop a boulder on an armored foe's head. Sadly, opportunities to do so are somewhat limited. Most of your encounters with Canary's plentiful enemies will involve you taking them head-on with your mining laser as opposed to relying on convenient landscape formations. While the first two stages are relatively painless, things quickly become more break-neck by the third chapter and far more SHMUP-like. Consider this your warning.

The game is beautifully easy to learn, but making that laser work to your advantage, on the other hand, is something else entirely and dependant on the player's skill. Off-beat and entertaining, Canary is definitely not going to have you dropping dead from boredom anytime soon.

Play Canary


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Rating: 3.9/5 (92 votes)
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TrickyTag AttackShooter fans! Has this ever happened to you? You're trying to enjoy blasting the latest wave of Galaga-inspired retro-baddies, but find that the old-school chiptune music and sound effects are drowned out by the relentless sounds of mouse clicking and space-bar tapping. There has to be a better way to launch a space bullet, right? Well, Devilish Games has heard your concerns, and the result is Tag Attack: a shooter that focuses more on the aiming than the clicking, while not sacrificing the intensity of the genre.

Tag Attack is played entirely with the mouse. Your ship follows the mouse back and forth at the bottom of the screen. Hover the mouse crosshairs over incoming alien ships "tags" them, launching a seeker missile to destroy them. Crashing into an alien ship, or being hit by one of its missiles depletes your shield.. Various power-ups are available, including bombs (activated with a mouse click) that clear the screen, aimers that increase the area of your tag-crosshairs for a short while, and repair spheres that bolster your shields. Lose all of your shield and its game over, man.

Tag Attack is a visual delight, crammed with colorful nebulas, pixilated explosions, and swooping starfields. Sometimes the play-screen does get too busy and tiring on the eyes, but it really does feel like fighting your way through a low-rez galactic war zone. The unique control scheme takes a little getting used to (though the opening levels are nothing if not too-forgiving), but once gotten the hang of, it makes for an interesting shift. It allows for a little more of a strategy focus: rather than just trying to fill the screen with as many bullets as possible (which, admittedly, is my typical shooter plan of attack), one must balance avoidance, aiming and item collection in each wave.

Tag Attack is probably a little too repetitious to waste hours on at a time, but I find I keep coming back looking for an ever-higher score. It's easy to jump right in and gets surprisingly intense in the later levels. Could this be the start of a new genre of casual shooters?

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  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (101 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypDo you ever have nightmares about being locked in a traditional Japanese restaurant, unable to find anything to eat until you escape? Do you dream of having to pull open drawers and closets, searching for a way to melt a block of ice, then create a rabbit from the resulting water? Do you dream about being locked into the same darn restaurant again, once again having to reason your way out of a room to get a darn meal? No? Just me? Okay then, what were we talking about...oh yeah, it's time for Weekday Escape. How about we pick a room escape that will help me exercise those nightly demons? How about Escape from the Tatami Room 2 by Tesshi-e?

Escape from the Tatami Room 2Yes, Tesshi-e has created a sequel to Escape from the Tatami Room, that bizarre room escape about having to build a shrine to a rabbit to get a decent meal. Escape from the Tatami Room 2 apparently takes place in the same restaurant, and once again you have to figure your way out of the room to meet your companion and get some grub. This room, however, is different than the one in the first Tatami room. This time there's no fire pit in the middle, so you can guess that you won't be trying to burn the place down to get out. The things we do for a decent meal...

Escape from the Tatami Room 2 is set in a very traditional Japanese space (the tatami in the title refer to the woven straw mats that cover the floor). There's no note from the staff this time around, you already knew before you came to meet your friend that you were going to have to solve your way out to eat. Explore the sparse space, find and use objects, and eventually you'll get that promised feast. Perhaps, if you're really lucky, you'll also make it out with the happy coin, a staple "second ending" in Tesshi-e room escapes. Will you solve the magic lantern puzzle? Will you find all of the tiles? Will you ever get fed? Play and find out.

Tatami Room 2 plays like a traditional single room escape. Look around, observe everything, poke into every nook and cranny, and use what you find to solve your way out. As with all Tesshi-e designs you will encounter a mix of use of found objects, pure puzzle solving, and even a little constructive combining of ordinary household (or Japanese restaurant) items. Navigate around by using bars at the sides, top, and bottom of the screens, double click on inventory objects to view them in close up, get creative with what you can find, and you'll be out in time for dinner. Hopefully.

Analysis: Tesshi-e certainly likes locking players into public spaces. Restaurants, bars, hotels, spas, the list is endless. Here you are in a traditional style Japanese restaurant, surrounded by Tesshi-e's usually sumptuous three dimensional graphics and Zen-like decorations. The lovely, plaintive oriental loop that plays in the background adds to the atmosphere, evoking an era that time has passed by. Half of the fun of Tatami Room 2 is just in soaking up the atmosphere as you wander around the space.

Although Tesshi-e games are always entertaining, there are the usual flaws that also permeate their work. The lack of a changing cursor makes for the usual pixel hunting, and the music loop can get annoying after a few minutes. Fortunately there is a mute button as well as a save button to help you find both "endings" of the game. On the plus side are the easy and intuitive inventory control and the now fluent English translations that allow the gamer to understand what is happening every step of the way as they solve their way out of the space.

Escape from the Tatami Room 2 is one of Tesshi-e's more middle of the road efforts. There are some unique puzzles alongside old chestnuts like the wobbly corner picture. Not, perhaps, their most innovative, but still a nice combination of puzzles and construction make Tatami Room 2 an entertaining way to while away a few minutes. And perhaps a good way to work through those nightmares of being locked in. Just don't play while hungry.

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  • Currently 3.6/5
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Rating: 3.6/5 (53 votes)
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TrickySoul RedeemerFirst impressions count for a lot. In the case of Soul Redeemer, the new top down zombie action shooterby the Bekho Team, introductions are made with a plot-explaining narration that cracked me up... but I don't think it was supposed to. Still, whenever a game starts with a voice-over delivered by what sounds like an angry Hot Topic employee hunched over his desktop mike in a darkened room with a blanket over his head, seriously expounding on how, every couple centuries or so, constellations somehow release demonic forces to eat our souls, and the only thing standing in their way is a warrior dude in asymmetrical armor shooting crossbows... I'm going to stay around. And I'm glad I did! While Soul Redeemer is not the most original of games, it has a charm to it that fans of the genre should enjoy.

Controls are pretty standard. You control your dark action angsty guy with the [WASD] keys, and aim/fire your weapons with the mouse. In addition there are several special moves to use: [E] sets a bomb and another tap explodes it. With each enemy slain, your "rage" meter fills up and, when full, can be released with the [F] key for wide-area damage. The [spacebar] allows you to quickly roll out of the way of attacks. Slain enemies release various power-ups as well as a redeemed soul for you to collect. Collecting enough of these will allow you to purchase weapons and upgrades from the inventory screen accessed with the [V] key. Other upgrades also become unlocked when certain achievements are reached. There are six levels of intense vaguely-religious action, capped off with some reasonably epic boss battles. Now you and Yog-Sothoth play nice, y'hear?

Soul Redeemer might be solidly unremarkable, but it's also remarkably solid. As is the issue with many a topdown shooter, blasting hordes of demons, however cathartic, does get repetitive. However, Soul Reedemer does get many of the little things right: the graphics are beautiful in their horror aesthetic, the boss battles serve well to break up the monotony, and the game engine is stable (if a little laggy). Some of the levels do feel longer than they should be, but all in all, there's enough variety to keep it enjoyable all the way through. While fans of a certain Dante might find it more than a little familiar, even a devil may cry tears of joy after spending a half-hour with Soul Redeemer.

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  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (56 votes)
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Elemental BoxJohnBElemental Box is a brand new physics webtoy from our beloved sandbox game creator ha55ii. Unlike previous releases such as Powder Game or Earth Editor, Elemental Box is focused on the physical interaction of solid objects, not so much the elemental properties of them. It's a bit like a building game, complete with a start/stop timer device, that gives you full freedom to let your creativity run wild.

Elemental Box includes three elements you can place, with the option to adjust their size or change their shape. Instead of drawing things in a smooth line on the screen, you instead set pieces one by one, clicking and dragging to choose the direction and force with which they will move. Assuming you have the time set to "stop", blocks simply sit motionless on the screen, waiting to fling themselves according to your devious designs once you click "start"!

As far as the elements go, as of version 1.0 you're limited to stationary walls, blocks of wood, and blocks of steel. Wooden blocks can be easily pummeled into small pieces, and you'll usually do this with the more stable steel blocks. The hand tool lets you move blocks you've placed, and you can clear individual pieces with the "clear" command. Things happen pretty quickly once you set the screen in motion, and there's no way to reset or undo things you make, so think before you unfreeze everything!

The real meat of the game is fiddling with the angle and angle velocity options, adjusting which direction and how crazy the blocks react when they move or bump into other pieces. Fine-tuning these options are what allows you to build impressive moments of destruction, crafting block-busting machines or just tearing everything wooden into tiny little shreds. It's satisfying to watch a plank get reduced to tiny little blocks.

Elemental Box is more stripped-down than previous ha55ii releases, but it's still a strong creativity tool that will deliver as much or as little entertainment as your creative head can muster. There are very few "power tools" to edit, manipulate, save or otherwise fine-tune your creations, but this game is more about living in the moment and experiencing the temporary existence of fragile constructions. Sit down and try building something amazing, then see how much more amazing it is when you destroy it!

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The Vault

ChiktionaryHELLO? Hello? hello?... ECHO! Echo! echo!...
The Vault is seemingly endless, which is awesome! It means there are soooo many fabulous games to revisit. It's like Washington's Library of Congress in here, only funner. And unlike Grandma's photo albums crammed full of awkward family photos, there are no cringe moments when you revisit some old time Flash games. So let's pull up our ergonomic computer chairs, grab our Manually-Operated User-Selection Equipments and enjoy an interactive look at this week's Vault offerings.

  • The DoorsThe Doors - You don't know where you are or why you're here, but you wish you knew who decorated the place. Ambient lighting, moody music, challenging puzzles and lots of clicking make The Doors a classic in the escape genre. Submachine-esque in its appeal, this is a game that has not yet lost its appeal. Maybe it's the unusual items to find or the shadowy atmosphere, or maybe it's simply because it's a beautifully made first-rate game that's prodigious in its gameplay.
  • Defend Your CastleDefend Your Castle - The humble stick figure has it tough sometimes. There are have been many games depicting violence against stick figures and this is another game that is unafraid to squish and obliterate them. To be fair, those stick-men just keep coming at your castle, and they are undeterred by the sight of their compatriots' blood. And boy, they move fast. The recipe for success is to click and hold on each stickman, lift high into the pretty blue sky, and drop for some bone-crunching, blood splattering results. Oh, and upgrades. Don't forget the upgrades.
  • BattleshipsBattleships - A short game of strategy, well as strategic as a game can be when you're pitted against Artificial Intelligence. The classic board game has been digitized, so you can forget all the fiddly placing of pegs or the messy ink stains on hands. You can also forget about cheating as well. C'mon... we've all tried our hand at cheating in a game of Battleships once or twice. Place each naval vessel on your grid, and try to bomb all the vessels on the AI's grid before it bombs all of yours. Simple.

While we welcome any comments about this 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!

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