March 2011 Archives


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You Are Games

ArtbegottiHey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow tried to write a haiku! But the meter was off, and the farmer did scoff, so we turn the task over to you!

...Is not quite what we're after with this week's You Are Games challenge. But it's close! You might have noticed in a recent Mobile Monday feature that John wrote a review of Cow Trouble. We were able to snag a few extra copies of the game that we wanted to give away, but we struggled to come up with the perfect contest to determine a winner. We thought about hosting a milking contest, or possibly a cheese cube stacking competition. But then we thought to ourselves... HaikCows.

Cow TroubleWhat is a HaikCow, you ask? It's an ancient Japanese form of poetry about cows using a three-line structure of five syllables, seven syllables, and five syllables. After the HaikCow is written, the author is rewarded with a serving of Kobe beef. Or, it's a terrible pun we've produced as the grounds for a competition. In either case, grab your syllable-counting gloves and prepare for your mission!

We have five copies of Cow Trouble that we want to give away. For a shot at a copy, write a HaikCow and post it as a comment below using your Casual Gameplay account. Remember to stick to the proper HaikCow format (5-7-5 syllable scheme, written about cows or some aspect of bovine life), and wow us with your creative juices. Make it funny and original, and you could win some Cow Trouble on your iDevice!

We've got just a few more rules for you to keep in mind: Please keep your entries appropriate for all ages and obscenity free. Multiple entries are allowed, but we can only offer one prize per person. Plus, some other legal bits:

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

Your deadline for submitting entries is Tuesday, April 5th at 11:59 PM (GMT-5:00). We'll be picking our favorites and sending out copies of Cow Trouble shortly after that.

Best of luck to you,
Intrepid HaikCow writers.
Can you win our prize?

Update:
We have our winners!
Thanks to all who wrote HaikCows,
And congrats for these:

A cattle battle!
Bulls have a beef with the cows
And the steaks are high.

--joemomma

In heaven the cows
Will eat burgers out of you.
(It's not your heaven.)

--gklandgr

Cows are poetic
Their ballads are soothing, but
Udderly punny

--Molanchoff

What was the farmer
Who discovered how to milk
Doing to that cow?

--JoelyBean

Cows aren't waiters
In the restaurant of life
They despise tippers.

--maputo


Rating: 4.6/5 (55 votes)
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Babylon Sticks: Dr. MacGuyver comic

Today's guest star: Alan Probe!

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


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (120 votes)
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DoraBeneath The WavesGregory Weir tells a story of the worst breakup in history with Beneath the Waves, a short platforming adventure. The Sun and the Ocean have fallen out, and you've been sent to gather the Idols hidden beneath the waves and return them to a series of pedestals high in the mountains. Use the [arrow] keys to move around and [X] or the up [arrow] to jump. All of the Idols are hidden underwater, but luckily for you, you never run out of breath, so you can take your time and explore. To pick up an Idol, just move over it; you'll start carrying it, and a beam of light will appear pointing you towards its pedestal. The catch is that the sea denizens, who will normally ignore you as you swim in their midst, become hostile whenever you're carrying an Idol; the only creature that will actively pursue you is the shark, but all underwater life will damage you, and if you take three hits (represented onscreen by a trio of suns when you take damage) then you'll drop the Idol and have to recover it. You can't actually be killed, however, making navigating hostile territory undersea less harrowing than trying to carry a heavy package through a crowd of clumsy, ignorant people. (Alternate Title: "Shopping Mall at Christmastime")

What Gregory Weir does perhaps better than anyone is to continually present unique twists and intriguing concepts that make you want to find out more about them. Beneath the Waves, unfortunately, needs more; more variation (both environmental and gameplay), more polish, and more resolution. Not only can the prolonged platforming/avoidance sequences quickly become frustrating, they also feel like they're doing little else than padding the game since there's never any real variation to them or the locations they take place in. (It might have helped if swimming didn't feel like controlling a dolphin stuck in a set of rubber bands.) Even just changing the look of the areas would have done wonders. After playing for five minutes, I realised I'd seen basically everything the game had to offer in a visual sense, and trekking up the same featureless mountains and down the same featureless watery caverns meant it was difficult to find a lot of motivation to keep playing when I knew once I grabbed another idol my reward was just going to be a line of dialogue and to get to do it all over again, but longer.

That's not to say you shouldn't play Beneath the Waves. While you'll probably notice some similarities in concept to other titles (once you've finished playing, read the Notes accessible from the main menu for more details), it's worth playing for the dreamlike, surreal atmosphere it creates and the appealingly mythic-sounding narrative. The game probably won't run you more than twenty minutes or so, and there's only one ending, but fans of Gregory Weir's work who appreciate his unusual approach to storytelling will enjoy the time they spend with it.

Play Beneath the Waves


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (99 votes)
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TrickyInsectonatorBugs and I have an uneasy friendship. On the one hand I can appreciate the beauty of creation in their skeletons, the elegance of their societies, and the important role they play in our ecosystem. On the other hand, should one drop down the back of my shirt or start burrowing in to the Reese's Puffs, talks are going to break down pretty quickly. It is to the latter part of my psyche that Insectonator, the new topdown shooter from Denis Kukushkin and family, John and Alex, is aimed. It might not be too nice to all things great and small, but if you have a hankerin' for some arthropod blastin', it'll be sure to catch you in its web.

Using the mouse, you take aim and squish various varieties of spiders, roaches, mantis and other crawlies, starting with chucking rocks, then moving on to knives, fire-arms and others. You may also use the [arrow] keys for more pinpoint accuracy. Weapons can be switched with a a click of the mouse, the [Z], [X] and [C] keys, or by setting the options to switch randomly after a clip has been unloaded. Bonus points are awarded for quick kills, head-shots, and consistent accuracy. Between each round There are three basic types of selectable gameplay rounds: ones where you must clear the area of all the insects, ones where you have to shoot a certain amount of specific varieties, and ones where you must shoot certain bugs in a certain order. Over time, various conditions will be met and new and crazier weapons will be unlocked.

InsectonatorAnalysis: Insectonator is seriously creepy, and I mean that as a compliment. Anyone with the slightest hint of entomophobia should stay far away, but the game is so atmospheric that it almost borders on parody: it seems that you should be blasting zombies or demons rather than termites. The game's tone is over-the-top and it totally works. Complementing this tone is the game's comprehensiveness: I counted at least 20 different bug types crawling around, and the menu promises 26 different weapons to use against them, and each combination thereof is gorgeously and gorily animated. After each round, the playing field will be a mess, and it's fun as heck to make it like that.

The biggest drawback to Insectonator is its sense of aimlessness. It's a game about killing bugs and nothing more. Certainly there are achievements to earn and a completeness percentage to fill up, but no larger goal at play. This is fine... this is more than fine, and it's quite good at relieving the stress. However it does meant your enjoyment of the game will be entirely proportional to how intrigued you are in finding out what it looks like when you use napalm or a nuclear bomb on scurrying critters. Certainly most of them do seem to contain more guts than their size would imply. Undoubtedly the shade of sadism inherent in the premise will, quite justifiably, turn some away. On the other hand... they're just bugs, fictional ones, and they make a quite satisfying noise when they are squooshed.

Overall, Insectonator reminds me of a shooting game you'd find at the kind of arcade where you trade tickets for prizes: Something whose graphics and sounds beckon you in, that doesn't have much overall depth in its mechanics, but will happily keep you entertained token after spent token. After a couple of minutes play, even your ant mite bee able to spy-der amazing charms of Insectonator, and mayfly to it over and over again to slug out another cathartic session. Playing it is an absolute moth, as its shooting action is hard to beetle, and it's likely to worm it's way into your heart, grasshopper. Now, if you excuse me, I need to pick up my check from the International Insect Pun Committee.

Play Insectonator


  • Currently 3.5/5
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Rating: 3.5/5 (35 votes)
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corygallihercg_flyandblast_screen1.pngSometimes we're put in situations where we're offered several choices but one is clearly correct. The red pill or blue pill? Well, the red pill of course, everyone wants to be able to do kung fu. JayIsGames or (insert other casual gaming site)? JIG for life, duh. Adobo Games and Kotubuki Media's new side-scrolling shooter Fly and Blast asks you to choose between piloting a jet, a helicopter and a super-powered heavily armed flying exoskeleton within minutes of loading the game. You can guess which one your reviewer picked.

When you invariably choose the battle suit (or the jet or helicopter, I suppose, but really now), you'll find it's easy to control. Use the mouse to steer, left-click to fire your main weapons, the [1] and [2] keys to fire your secondary weapons and the [spacebar] to fire your emergency weapons. The main difference between the various ship options, aside from their handling and durability, is their choice of emergency weapon. The jet gets a screen-clearing shrapnel storm, the helicopter summons several allied jets to fire on foes and the battle suit unleashes a powerful but low-spread sonic wave blast.

Between levels you can use coins collected from destroyed enemies to purchase upgrades. Most of these are additions to your main weapon, eventually turning you into a screen-clearing hailstorm of destruction; in other words, buy all the weapons you want, because rather than replacing each other, they stack. There are also several secondary weapon options which mostly clear the screen along with a health refill and an extremely useful magnet that draws in coins from further away.

g_flyandblast_screen2.pngAnalysis: Fly and Blast is a solid shoot-em-up, though some might call it too easy. Your foes aren't very aggressive and your reviewer found that the majority of the time he'd be hit due to his coin-grabbing greed rather than difficulty in dodging enemy fire. When you've played through a level or two and gotten some upgrades, the enemies might not even get a chance to shoot at you before you vaporize them. All of this is portrayed using an adorable and endearing paper cut-out style. Your alien foes are cute rather than menacing and everything is bright and colorful. Fly and Blast also avoids one of the main pitfalls that this sort of game tends to encounter by ensuring that enemy bullets stand out against the background.

The other issue with the game is the lack of an obvious hitbox definition. While the area where your character can actually take damage or grab coins pre-magnet appears to be the same on all three ships, there's not really any way to see this for yourself. A different colored area displaying your hitbox would have been a big help, especially since the game lacks more precise keyboard controls.

Otherwise, the upgrade system keeps the game fresh and there's enough alien-blasting, coin-grabbing action for any shooter fan. Give Fly and Blast a shot if you enjoy flying or blasting. Just don't be surprised when you find yourself drawn to the battle suit. Inside every otherwise sane gamer, there's a mech warriors screwing to get out and blow everything up.

Play Fly and Blast


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (113 votes)
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TrickyStick RPG 2Way back in 2003, XGenStudios released the first version of Stick RPG. A semi-remix of the flash dating sims that were gaining popularity, it focused on humor and role-playing elements rather than scantily-clad anime girls. Whatever its inspirations, the tale of a Stickman trying to make it in an unfamiliar world was quite fun and quite well-received. And so fans eagerly waited for a promised updated sequel. And waited. And waited. And years later, Stick RPG 2, a huge open-world "realistic" role-playing session, has finally been released, barely beating Duke Nukem Forever out of the gate. Was SRPG2 worth the wait until "when it was ready"? Unambiguously, yes. Please note that you require a free XGen account to save your progress.

The game starts, like many RPGs do, with the character creation screen. After assigning points to your Strength, Intelligence, and Charisma, you are immediately thrust into the 2.5-Dimensionality of Paper Thin City. Using the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to walk and holding [shift] to run (or use your skateboard, if you have it), you make your way around the isometric landscape, exploring locations and buildings. To talk to one of the city's many inhabitants, you click them with the mouse (something that does get a little awkward while trying to run around), oftentimes gaining advice or a mission offer that will improve your stats, cash flow, or push your karma one way or the other. Your success at these missions depends on your stats, or your performance in one of several mini-games including boxing, gambling, and shoot-outs. All of them take time, and if you go too long without returning to your home based to sleep, there'll be problems. Each day is divided into four distinct sections: morning, afternoon, evening, and night, with different locations and missions available during each one. Generally, your immediate goal is exploration and being a sinner or a saint as you wish, but there is a meta-plot concerning the location of trans-dimensional artifacts... that just might be the key to returning to the third dimension once and for all.

Stick RPG 2Analysis: At one time, Stickmen were only used by flash developers under limitations, technical or artistic. With the release of the Xiao Xiao series, however, the aesthetics's obvious uses in masking caused it to evolve beyond enforced simplicity. With the popularity of XKCD, it might be said that stick figures have entered a bit of an internet renaissance. Stick RPG 2 fits quite well into said resurgence and just might be the best Stickman game ever... Yeah, that's somewhat of a limited genre, but it would be a fine casual RPG regardless of its art-style: there's just so much to do. SRPG2 will more than please fans of the first and should appeal to those encountering the series for the first time.

There are a few points where the SRPG2 is... sticky: For one, the game map is so huge that there is quite a steep learning curve in just figuring out where everything is. Isometric perspectives can be beautiful, but tend to be be a little difficult to navigate, and SRPG2 is no exception. It doesn't help that the world map being more than a little cluttered: there are many buildings you can't enter, and even more that start out locked. Perhaps they will be filled (and glitches fixed) in the promised updates, perhaps not. In any case, the fact that the world is filled with enough content to get lost in, is both a pro and a con. Finally, the fact that you must have an XGen account to save is tolerable, but annoying.

(Incidentally, while most of the content is strictly the PG-13-ness of rating-o [suggestive but not obscene], there was one point of contention that review listhost found a little troubling: how almost all of the "gangster" NPCs in the game were a dark reddish-brown color, as opposed to the varied colors of the other characters. Personally, since its main purpose is to more easily distinguish your enemies from your light blue PC during combat sections, and their dialogue is so generic-badguy, I think it more an unfortunate choice of coloring than intentional stereotyping. Your mileage may vary.)

These concerns are minor, and even if you don't enjoy SRPG2 like I have (though I think you will!), at the very least you must admire what XGen has set out to do: creating a free-roaming sandbox of a city entirely in Flash, packed to the brim with choices. It's a setting that lives and breathes and doesn't wait for you. That it is filled with hilarious dialogue, fun minigames, and a pack of secrets is icing in the cake. It may leave you lost at first, but Stick RPG 2 is a game well worth sticking to.

Note: While the basic complete game is available for free online, a special director's cut with full-screen offline play, a full length soundtrack, cheat codes aplenty, exclusive updates and a one month pass to the Stick Arena Lab (w/exclusive character head) is available for sale on the main XGen site.

Play Stick RPG 2

Thanks to Matt, Mellifluous, Caleb, and Billy for sending this one in!


  • Currently 3.5/5
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Rating: 3.5/5 (178 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypWe here at JayisGames (and, presumably, our Weekday Escape fans) really like classic four-wall one-room escape games, but occasionally they can become a bit...tedious, can't they? Every now and again we like to break away and do something a little different. This week, join us for the harrowing adventures of Chubby Hamster as he tries to escape the child from The Bad Seed (or at least her distant cousin) before she can do something unspeakable to him. Unspeakable, I say!

Chubby Hamster You'd think with a title like "Chubby Hamster" and such a cute protagonist, this would be some light, kid-friendly room escape. Au contraire! The mood is set with the opening animation, as the demon child from heck buys our poor hapless hamster from a pet store and brings him home. What is a chubby hamster to do to avoid a fate worse than death? Why, he needs to escape! Escape from his cage, and escape from the house of horrors where he now resides. Can you help him escape in time? Will the demon child return, possibly with hot pokers? Will she love him and hug him and call him George? Can you figure out how to give a mouse indigestion? How surreal will it get before our hero gets out?

Designed by Daniil Dolgoshapko, Chubby Hamster is not a classic point-and-click room escape. Rather than you, the player, picking up, examining, and using items, the actions are performed by the furry pet as he attempts to escape. Click on something and our chubby little friend will walk over and try to manipulate it. If you've guessed the correct action, you will be rewarded with smiles and giggles. Direct the hamster the wrong way, however, and be braced for his displeasure. Boy, that hamster is a killer! Or, at least, unusually aggressive for a hamster.

You will find clickable areas with the help of a changing cursor, and when it comes time to move to the next scene handy arrows will appear in strategic places, allowing you to move, climb, or jump from one place to the next. There is even an inventory, although you will not be able to interact with it, just be able to see what it is your hamster has on hand as you direct him from place to place. There are also handy controls to mute the music and sound effects, which can become a little grating as time goes on. A save button would have been nice, though, if you wanted to give it a rest and walk away for a bit.

Analysis:Chubby Hamster more resembles something like Escaping the Prison or Abuba the Alien (albeit not as kid friendly) than your classic room escape, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Not at all. Still an escape in the broadest sense (he is trying to get out of that house before the kid can do...well, whatever evil thing it is that she has planned), Chubby Hamster is fantastic fun with more emphasis on using found objects than any type of puzzle solving. In fact, there's not any true puzzle solving at all in this little gem. It's all about using what is at hand.

What impresses most is the sheer amusement of the gameplay. The growling, suddenly aggressive behavior of the hamster if you send it to the wrong place is hilarious, as is many of the situations he finds himself in that you have to get him out of. It's a shame, though, that the terrifying youngster from the opening animation never makes another appearance. That would have been the icing on the cake.

With its cute animation, wacky yet suspenseful music, amusing sound effects, and its bizarre characters, Chubby Hamster is a fantastic adventure all on its own. Slightly scary, somewhat bizarre, and wholly entertaining, Chubby Hamster is the perfect mid-week break.

Play Chubby Hamster


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (207 votes)
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joyeShuffle PuttAh, spring. (Note: long-suffering southern hemisphere readers should come back and read this review in about six months.) Ahem. Still with me or back? Good. As I was saying: spring! The bird song. The little flowers, blooming from the walls. The golf ball careening off the land mine on the golf course. That's what Shuffle Putt, a snazzy little physics puzzle game from J. J. Wallace, is all about.

Click on the tiny ball and drag to aim and control the power of your shot, and release to shoot. You can wait for the ball to come to a stop before shooting again, or you can quickly grab at it and make another shot, before your ball careens into a hazard. Some levels also have springs which you can adjust for the perfect trajectory. Your ultimate goal is to get the ball into the hole and move onto the next level, and for bragging purposes, you want to take as few shots as possible to do so and collect as many hearts as possible along the way. Levels may contain hazards such as the aforementioned mines, water traps, buttons that control doors, and bright black and gold striped zones. These forbidden zones will send your ball back to the start if you stray into them. If the bird song soundtrack (you thought that was a joke, didn't you?) starts to get to you, you can turn it off in the upper left by clicking on the bird, or the other sound effects with the button beside it.

For some reason, the game offers no level selection screen and thus you have to play through all 18 levels in order, at which point you'll be told how many shots you took, how many hearts you collected, and your score, and have the chance to submit it. This is a needless narrowing of the player's choices. It's not that I don't enjoy trying to beat my own score and get through a phuzzle game as quickly and efficiently as possible, it's that it bothers me that Shuffle Putt has unilaterally decided that this is the only way to play and that players who want to play level 1 and 2 now, and come back later to do 3 and 4, and so on, are essentially not welcome.

That said, the 18 levels can be zipped through pretty quickly and feature a number of really nice level designs. Level 17 in particular is just evil, in a good way, if I can be oxymoronic. There's also a little easter egg to be had when you beat the game if you examine the menu screen carefully. A lively bit of spring froth all around.

Play Shuffle Putt


  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (85 votes)
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Joshnotyourwar.jpgDon't you just hate being left out of things? Like finding out about a great party you didn't get an invitation to? Or having to sit on the bench during a game while your teammates do all the playing? Well that's how Ian Morgan, general of the Imperial Army of Planet Rhea feels, having been stripped of his rank for treasonous actions and told that the war is no longer his to fight. Of course, that doesn't stop him from fighting a one-man war against his Rhean superiors, and you get to accompany him in Pawel Lyczkowski's newest shooter, Not Your War.

Not Your War is a challenging vertical-scrolling shooter where survival is by no means guaranteed. You control your agile ship with the [WASD] keys and aim and fire your ship's cannons with the mouse. Later levels unlock new weapons and defenses, letting you use the [1] and [2] keys to toggle your guns, and the [spacebar] to shoot a swarm of missiles at the enemy. There are numerous enemy ships to deal with, from small pesky drones and fighters to large capital ships. Drones tend to fly at you kamikaze style, while fighters zip in and around your ship and are tough to hit. Larger enemies take much more damage, and they launch tracking missiles at you which can be shot by your cannons or defenses.

With the game's multi-directional shooting and numerous enemies onscreen, Not Your War often feels similar to Robotron or Smash TV. Like those titles, colliding with enemies often results in instant destruction, so success comes in accurate shooting and deft maneuvering. Thankfully the game has a decent ramp-up in difficulty, introducing enemies and unlocks gradually throughout its 11 levels. There's even an easy mode for people who find gameplay too unforgiving. Eventually you get into the rhythm of gameplay, casually targeting and picking off the swarms of bad guys and making controlled circles around larger ships, peppering them with cannon fire until they explode.

With its challenging gameplay and gritty back story, Not Your War provides a satisfying shooter experience. Despite having only one background and somewhat repetitive music, there's still a lot to like about this game. The ships are slickly detailed, and the shots and explosions look and sound satisfying. Gameplay seems a little short and the upgrades are a bit limited, but overall Not Your War dishes out classic arcade-style action. Don't be left out again! Give this war a try.

Play Not Your War


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The Vault

TrickyI have to tell you, the first version of this column was pretty dire. The graphics weren't particularly shiny or lens-flared, the translation from the original Albanian was pretty inaccurate, and the music sounded like a MIDI player transmitted through a garden hose. Worse yet, only those viewing this site on 24-bit consoles could see it, which, as you can imagine, limited the potential audience. Fortunately, a team of programmers spent six months updating the elements for this Golden Platinum Article of the Year re-release. Anyway, this week, I'd like to share some of the best remakes from the JiG Vault, and a nice collection they are: a bubbly action puzzler, a sonic-booming platformer, and an explosive shmup.

  • Puzzle Bobble (Bust-a-Move)Puzzle Bobble (Bust-a-Move) - It has gone through many names and variations, but whether you prefer to call it Bust-a-Move, Puzzle Bobble, Frozen Bubble, or That-Game-That-Was-Snood-before-Snood-was-Snood, it was clear that Taito had something when it released this marble popping puzzler back in 1986. Sure, it didn't quite make sense that the dinosaur Bub and Bob would be arming a bubble-cannon rather than rescuing their girlfriends, but the combination of cute graphics and devious gameplay was wildly successful and led to a score of sequels. Thus, it was only natural that it should one day be ported to flash, and was so by NiLS in 2005. The game could use a second song on the soundtrack, but the core mechanics are as engaging as ever.
  • Sonic FlashFlash Sonic - ...SAAAAY-gaa! Sorry, couldn't resist. The reputation of the Big Blue Blur has gone up and down nearly as quickly as the landscapes he traverses. Certainly, some recent releases imply that developers have recaptured some of the magic apparent on the Genesis. Still, it's worth noting that a Swedish teenager named Dennis Gid did a pretty good job by himself in 2004. There are only a few levels to play, but what is lacking in quantity is made up for in quality. Most importantly, there are no were-hogs, gun battles, human love interests or appearances by Big the Cat. Less is more, and DGid gets the basics right: fast-paced jump and run platforming, a handful of characters with different abilities, and huge worlds to traverse.
  • Raiden XRaiden X - The most obscure of the three we're featuring today, Raiden X is a tribute to the 90s series of scrolling shoot-em-ups originally developed by Seibu Kaihatsu. Locke Wong (now better known for his work on Line Runner), was only 13 when he put this borderline bullet-hell online and it's still a doozy of blasts, lasers, and bosses. The passage of time and processor speed has sped up the game up a bit, but those with quick reflexes will find the explosions just as cathartic as ever.

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!


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (71 votes)
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TrickyFun da VinciLeonardo Da Vinci. Renaissance Man. Painter. Sculptor. Scientist. Ninja Turtle. A man whose insatiable curiosity permeates every one of his many works. Perhaps the most intriguing are his plans for inventions never built: obvious prototypes for such modern inventions as the parachute, the helicopter, the tank... even a humanoid robot. However, it's only in the year 2011 that the most impressive of his plans were discovered and released by one team of developers in the form of Fun da Vinci: yes, it seems that Leonardo was the inventor of the physics puzzle, and the world of casual gaming is all the better for it. Thank you, Nikita Sidorenko, Semen Khramtsov, Alexander Kucherenko, and Vladimir Marinichev! You've done your gaming community a great service.

Each level of Fun da Vinci features a cannon that shoots balls and an urn into which you need to guide them, along with a "start" button that starts and stops the simulation. Using the mouse, you drag and rotate objects into place, including platforms, gears, and trampolines. The yellow objects are affected by gravity, and the transparent ones aren't. In any case, once the cannon starts firing you'll quickly see if everything has been placed correctly. There are 27 levels to play, and it seems something will happen to that clock on the level select screen, should you beat them all...

Analysis: The greatest complaint that people have about physics games is that, at a certain point, they just become indistinguishable. I can sort of see their logic: after all, as much as I enjoy putting together Incredible Machines, I can only take so much bouncing and rolling and accelerating at 9.81 m/s/s before it all runs together in my mind. In the actual mechanics of the physic puzzles, Fun da Vinci does feel familiar in concept, but it has style to spare. Fortunately, it's also got other qualities. Solid? Certainly. Fun? Absolutely! The gameplay makes ample use of different elements without feeling gimmicky, and offers the sort of "planning is not optional" gameplay that high-score enthusiasts will get a lot out of as they try to complete each level as efficiently and quickly as possible.

Fun da VinciFrom the sepia user interface, to the goofy portrait of Leo that adorns the title screen, to the gearbox of the level select, to the crackly parchment of the actual play-screen, Fun da Vinci truly feels like a game played upon a long-lost secret Renaissance notebook. The noise of scribblings dominate the soundtrack, as well as the ambient noise of a Italian villa... A lot of effort has gone into making it seem like you are at the drafting board of a true polymath. Victory brings a catchy fanfare, and one of a number of quotes from Leonardo himself. Failure is easily reset with a click (though I did enjoy the crashing and yelling sounds that occur when a cannon ball etc. falls out of frame).

What I liked best about Fun da Vinci is that its invocation of Leonardo doesn't seem mere gimmickry. Perhaps I read too much into it, but the game comes off as a sincere tribute to a historical figure, and I like to think that sincerity was intentional. Certainly it is a light-hearted tribute, but that's appropriate: the quotations that postscript each level show that Leonardo very much had a sense of humor about his work. Fun da Vinci's genuineness counts for a lot, and, as a result, I'm sure the game will leave you smiling like La Gioconda.

Play Fun da Vinci


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (139 votes)
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girp.gifJohnBFrom Foddy.net, creator of QWOP, comes another bite-sized keyboard-based game that makes about as much sense as a boat made out of tahini. In GIRP, you play a climber scaling the side of a rocky cliff. The water is on the rise, so you've got to stay ahead of the liquid or face certain watereyness. By using the keyboard, you can fling your hands to nearby grips, moving one arm at a time to ascend the wall. If you played QWOP, you know this isn't a game of slow precision. It's about slapping the keys in some sort of strategic pattern and hoping everything works out in the end!

Lining the cliff wall are grips, each with a letter of the alphabet on the face. To take hold of a grip, press and hold that key. To release, just let go of the key. Now, all would be fine and good if your goal was to hold on to a few grips and call it a day. But with the water rising and all, it's best you stay moving in an upward direction. That's where flexing your muscles comes in to play.

Tap [shift] to pull yourself up using whichever hand is holding a grip. Then, pray to Poseidon you can reach the next highest grip point with your free hand! Often you'll need to flex your muscles to get a bit of a swing going so you can move horizontally across the wall. If you're really cool (and daring, and probably a bit bonkers), you can even fling yourself around and catch grips on the other side. Distant points change their letters, though, so you can forget about holding a key with a far target in mind.

GIRP is a lot like QWOP in many ways, providing you with sloppy, overly precise control of a character and tasking you to perform something difficult. It's also crazy amounts of fun, allowing you to make hilarious mistakes and simply laugh off the awkward results. The goal is to make it as high as you can, driven by desperation, a sense of physical exhaustion, and sheer determination. Waiting at the top is a nest with "amazing treasure" hidden inside. You'll also have to fight with the bird that owns the nest. But you know what? You're a hardened rock climber. You can deal with such trivialities!

Go play GIRP, see what real-life rock climbing isn't like. How high can you climb?

Play GIRP


  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (60 votes)
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joyeColor CleanerClicks are a precious commodity. It will only be a matter of time before some enterprising individual finds a way to speculate in clicks. For the time being, however, the number of clicks you're given in the physics puzzle Color Cleaner is going to be strictly rationed.. Developer Mars Yong knows that clicks don't grow on trees. He knows exactly how many clicks you'll need to clear a level of its brightly colored shapes, and that's all the clicks you're going to get. On second thought, it would be morally wrong to go to a black market for your click needs. That's the kind of thinking that loses wars, civilian!

The game is played totally with the mouse. You'll be shown a number of squares, rectangles, circles, triangles, etc, color coded for your convenience, with some of them solid, others marked with diagonal lines, and still others bearing arrows. The shapes marked with diagonal lines are fixed in position and cannot be moved by anything. Solid shapes are affected by normal, downward gravity and can also be moved by momentum or being pushed. Shapes with arrows on them push in the direction of the arrow but can also be acted upon by other shapes. When you click on a shape, that shape and all shapes that currently touch it of the same color disappear. The object is to make all the shapes disappear with the limited number of clicks that you have.

The gradually slowing down music box that forms the soundtrack of the game is admittedly creepy, but thankfully can be muted in the pause menu or by pressing [m]. It's rather incongruous with the straightforward, plain shapes in the art of the game. The level design is where the game shines. The levels do require timing but this is not a game that will have you flailing about with the mouse or cursing your luck. The skill it requires is much more a matter of spatial logic and planning than reflexes. If that sounds up your alley, give it a try.

Play Color Cleaner


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Mobile Monday

JohnBLooking for a little fun? Ready to start your new week of boring meetings, long classes, and other drudge-like Monday stuff? Good, 'cause neither are we. Which is why we're here to distract you with a fresh batch of iPhone games! Hooray for postponing work!

yokugami.gifYoku-Gami - Fashioned by German board game designer Reiner Knizia, Yoku-Gami is a great numbers-based puzzle game that requires a little addition and a lot of strategy. The game is played on a grid of numbered tiles. Tap to select a number and drag to highlight groups of adjacent numbers. If the total of all the numbers in the group equals the greatest number, that group disappears. New tiles don't drop until a row or column is cleared, so you've got to plan your moves very carefully or you'll be left with stranded numbers out in the middle of nowhere. A surprisingly dense game with a simple surface concept.

sticky.gifSticky - In an abandoned factory, two professors are working on a new energy source. They end up creating a small jelly creature that left orange goop everywhere it went. This is Sticky, and after the reactor overloads and spreads black goop across the lab, you have to use your skills to save the scientists. What are your skills? Sticking to things, of course! Tap the top of the screen to fling yourself there, the bottom to go down. You have to take out the creeping black enemies as they emerge from the sides of the screen. If you don't, bad things happen! Sticky makes great use of physics to turn what would be an ordinary game into something filled with strategy and fun.

nurikabevault.gifNurikabe Vault - Logic puzzles continue to fill the catacombs of the iTunes App Store, with sudoku being the most prolific. Enter Nurikabe Vault, a good-looking game that recreates the nurikabe experience on your iPhone. Your goal is to fill in islands and mark off non-filled spaces using the given number clues. For example, if a block says "4", then there will be four adjacent squares colored in connected to that block. Finding the non-shaded areas is also a challenge, but keep in mind that four of these blocks can't exist together, and that each block must be connected to another. The rules become instantly clear when you play the game, and this game both looks great and is surprisingly challenging. A free version of Nurikabe Vault is also available.

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


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Guardians of Magic

JohnBNew from Hitpoint Studios comes Guardians of Magic: Amanda's Awakening, a casual adventure game that focuses on inventory puzzles, exploration, and a lush fantasy setting. You take on the role of Amanda, a young girl who discovers some secrets about her late grandfather's life, including his feud with her mentor, Dr. Magus. It's technology versus magic in this well-spun game, and you'll get to explore a heap of scenes as you search for items to help you solve puzzles.

Guardians of MagicGuardians of Magic is set up like many modern casual hidden object adventure games, though this one's focus is squarely on the adventure aspects. No hidden object scenes to contend with, just exploration, inventory puzzles, and a few mini-games. Move from area to area interacting with the environment with your mouse. The cursor changes depending on which action you can take with an object, turning into gears when you'll need something from your inventory, a hand when you can pick up an item, and an arrow when you can move to a new scene. Very intuitive design that casual players will greatly appreciate.

Two machines help Amanda in her quest, but first, she's got to find and assemble them! Almost two dozen small boxes are hidden throughout Guardians of Magic, each containing a section of machinery. To get the pieces, you'll have to solve a quick mini-puzzle, usually something along the lines of a tangram, a jigsaw, or a memory matching game. If you aren't in the mood for the diversion, wait a few seconds and click the skip button at the top of the screen. No penalty, just a delightfully solved puzzle before your eyes!

Guardians of Magic has a fun open-ended sort of design that gives you the freedom to explore most of the game as you please. After playing a bit, you gain access to a room filled with locked portraits. Once you open the doors, you can enter and explore the small worlds as you please, using new items and abilities you find in other portraits to uncover new puzzles and secrets to explore. The addition of Amanda's magic wand and set of spells also keeps things relatively open, allowing you to cast spells like fire or shock to interact with a few objects in the game.

Guardians of MagicAnalysis: Guardians of Magic: Amanda's Awakening sets itself up against a stock of clones and lookalikes that crowd the casual adventure genre, but it manages to set itself apart with superb gameplay, a decent storyline, and an interesting mix of magic and mechanical elements, sort of like Harry Potter meets Myst. The gameplay moves along at a nice clip, keeping you active and interested in the puzzles and plot at every point. It's a relatively short experience, clocking in at less than three hours, but it's satisfying from beginning to end.

Near the end of the game, Guardians of Magic: Amanda's Awakening drops the ball with a pointless maze sort of level that's nothing but confusing and monotonous. To top it off, the hint system is surprisingly useless, telling you to just "wander around some more" when you're honestly stuck. It's frustrating to work your way through so much of a good game only to find it lets you down when you need it most. Despite this, the overall experience is good, and you won't regret diving in to the game.

It's a bit on the short side and the hint system is largely useless, but Guardians of Magic: Amanda's Awakening still manages to pull off an exciting casual adventure experience. It stands above most others in the genre with a better story, more interesting characters, and puzzles that walk the line between obtuse and difficult. Give it a try and see if you're drawn in as deeply as we were!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
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Mac OS XMac OS X:
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  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (31 votes)
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Dino Run SE

TrickyAnkylosaurus. That terrible lizard with the armored plates and whomping tail that I just knew could hold its own against any other beast of the Cretaceous. It was and is my favorite dinosaur. I think every boy in my 2nd grade class had a favorite (as well as, for that matter a certain group of the girls... the ones who, not-coincidentally, I had puppy-love crushes for). Ankly made only a cameo appearance in the original Dino Run, but once I spotted it hanging around the rocky landscape as my velociraptor avatar tried to outrun the scary wall of doom, I was completely sold. Three years have passed since the release of that Pixeljam racing platformer, and I find myself returning to its charms again and again. However, with time comes change, modification, upgrading, evolution. So is the potent rationale for the release of Dino Run SE... And from what I've seen so far, it won't be going extinct from my hard drive any time soon.

Dino Run SEGameplay functions much the same as the original, which is a good thing. As before, you are a small but quick dinosaur, hoping to escape extinction by outrunning the wall of destruction created by an errant meteor, racing against yourself or other online players. Using the [arrow] or [WASD] keys to move jump and attack, and the [shift] key for an occasional extra burst of speed (a clicking noise will signal the recharge), you make your way across fields, rocks, hills, valleys and volcanoes, avoiding pitfalls, lava, and other dinos. Along the way you can catch a ride on a friendly pterodactyl, as well as collect eggs (some secret!) and chomp on critters for DNA points (used to upgrade your abilities). Don't take too long to explore though... the Cenozoic is right around the corner, and it won't be too friendly.

Analysis: Reviewing special editions can be difficult. It's sometimes hard to separate the appreciation of the near-perfect Dino Run from that of the changes made to the content. Perhaps I, as an unabashed fanboy of the original will be unable to be objective. Then again, I like Star Wars, but know enough to say that Greedo's speed on the blaster didn't make that edition more special. In any case, I'll try to focus on what is new is this edition: Those who have never heard of Dino Run should read our own excellent review, hit Play Dino Run, and be prepared to lose hours smiling.

Dino Run SESo... now that you're aware of its charm, how does the special edition compare? In short: excellence has somehow become even more excellent. It's. Just. Better. Movement is faster and smoother, jump timing is easier, the musical additions truly fit the soundtrack an extinction event should have, the dedicated multiplayer server is (so far...) filled with people there to chat and play, not to troll, and the [esc] key finally lets you pause!... I can't overstate the importance of that last one. The mechanics have taken a small but effective leap up the evolutionary ladder, and that's not even scratching the surface of the new gameplay modes and features.

Dino Run SE gets the small things right. Case in point: the hats. I'm a little ashamed to say that I never kicked in the couple of dollars that would have unlocked the hats in the original. It's not that I didn't like the game... it's just I didn't really see how throwing a top-hat on my creature would make it all that better. However, if you had told me that "hats" meant the ability to play as Dino-Boba Fett, racing against Dino-Batman, Dino-Dream, and Dino-Yorgle, I think that would have been a much greater invocation of hard-sell. That said, while I do enjoy playing around with the different costumes (indeed, it's almost a mini-pixelated dressup game), I find myself constantly reverting to Dino-Flash... When you have to outrun an apocalyptic wall of doom, it's good to have the right attitude.

Then there's new content. One might not be surprised to learn there are new Time Trial and Multiplayer maps to conquer, but as so many are based around new gimmicks that it hardly feels like a mere level pack. Most of them center around the mysterious Planet D: a world where meteors become low-gravity balloons, where dino are imbued with the power to rampage through enemies, or eggs hurt when you touch them. Previously, these kinds of things were only available in cheat modes, so I'm happy to see that they've become available for "official" competition.

There are a number more things to gush about: the plethora of secrets, unlockables and Easter Eggs, the cinematic quality of the full-screen mode, the included soundtrack, the fact that buying it directly supports the creation of Gamma Bros. 2... But you'd be a fossil by the time I finished. Needless to say, I highly recommend Dino Run SE: the modest price you pay is a great value, consider how the content is, in a word, Dino-mite!

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(14 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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The Timebuilders: Pyramid Rising

JamesPesky gods. Just because your civilization is teetering on the edge of ruin doesn't give them the excuse to come stumbling along and demand that things change. But this is just the predicament the ancient Egyptians find themselves with: unite, or be destroyed by Amun-Ra. The way to unite the people, apparently, is through architecture, a strategy conveniently suggested by the royal architect. Meanwhile Hatshepsut, the only female pharaoh, has to step in charge of the kingdom as her nephew is too young to rule. But all the hard work will be done by you in the cerebral simulation game The Timebuilders: Pyramid Rising.

The Timebuilders: Pyramid RisingAs the architect's apprentice you need to run the building of cities. It's a question of earning rent, mining stones and building whatever you need to hit the level's demands. Maybe you need three upgraded huts. Maybe you need a bank. Perhaps you are expected to build a giant pyramid. Anything is possible, especially since you are just the lackey carrying out the architect's orders.

As a game, The Timebuilders is very much like Royal Envoy: a mash-up between real-time strategy, speed playing, and puzzle solving. Money is produced through rent generated from the three types of houses (each in turn can be upgraded three times), while stones come from the quarry. It takes stone to build and money to mine stone, as well as upgrade the workers and hire more help. There is a bank to help increase rent, a marketplace that exchange stone for cash, as well as a port - a great place for all kinds of bargains. Beyond that are monuments that bring happiness to the people (but do nothing else) and specific types of monuments that are specific to a level (for example, a temple of some type).

Each level is represented by a series of paths and specific spots to build certain things. Blocking the paths are nomads (requiring a bribe), piles of rock (a bit of hard labor for your workers) and crocodiles (spooked by camels and elephants). You also encounter thieves who try and run away with your heard-earned gold. The trick is to build the right things at the right places and right pace in order to reach the level goals.

The Timebuilders: Pyramid RisingAnalysis: If you are a newcomer to this genre, expect a fast-paced game where you have to think on your toes. You have to instruct everything — from collecting rent to building new places to hiring the help and upgrading them. A lot of the strategy comes in choosing which building to erect when, as they affect your fortunes differently. It is rare to find a level that has only one way to complete it — most expect you to try a strategy and see if it gets you that golden scarab. It's quite frantic, but done very well in this instance!

The Timebuilders: Pyramid Rising is very nearly a carbon copy of similar games in the genre, but salted players will notice several small improvements worth taking advantage of. For example, workers will run to the closest job if they aren't occupied. It might seem like a small thing, but it makes a big change in how you play the game! Expect about five hours of playtime from Timebuilders, more if you go for the gold in each level.

Finding the quickest way to the objectives is challenging and the game holds your hand initially. The start of my game map is decorated with countless golden scarabs (celebrating my obvious managerial genius). But soon enough they start drying up and the last fifteen level were total deserts, with me ending up way behind the golden time. What does that mean? It means I'm going back and trying again! Games like this do have a tendency to hook you, but The Timebuilders adds a veneer of complexity that spices up the challenge. And that stirs it up to be a lot of fun.

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(10 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Hallowed Legends: Samhain

JohnBSomething unusual is going down at the Cornwall Celtic Festival. And we're not just talking about the Gaelic language workshop. Your ex-fiance Robert called you out of nowhere. Then, a scream. Static. And the phone goes dead. You know Robert has a habit of investigating supernatural occurences, but this seems... different. Naturally, you set out to investigate, beginning the new hidden object adventure release from Elephant Games, Hallowed Legends: Samhain.

Hallowed Legends: SamhainFollowing most hidden object conventions closely, Hallowed Legends: Samhain takes you on a somewhat spooky journey through dark and haunted areas surrounding the festival grounds and well beyond. You navigate with the mouse, clicking arrows that appear to move from scene to scene. Hints appear to show you areas you can investigate further, and more often than not, these lead to short hidden object scenes with a dozen or so items to find. Complete the scene, get an item, and use that item to solve a puzzle so you can continue on your adventure.

Objectives are displayed clearly at the top of the screen, but you'll usually need to do a bit of poking around to find the things you need to proceed. Hallowed Legends: Samhain isn't as straightforward of a march as some hidden object games can be, allowing you the freedom (and affording you the challenge) to explore, experiment, and solve puzzles on your own. You'll even encounter a smattering of mini-games while you play, though many of them are pretty standard fare.

Story and setting are important aspects in Hallowed Legends: Samhain, and even though the plot begins with a few tired ideas, things really pick up once you get in to the game. You'll need to keep an eye on your journal to uncover new plot details, many of which are vital to proceeding. And, as always, a handy hint button is there, ready to nudge you out of a tight spot, whether that be in the midst of a hidden object scene or without.

Hallowed Legends: SamhainAnalysis: Elephant Games has established itself as a studio capable of creating good hidden object adventures with releases like Mystery Trackers: The Void and Lost in the City. Now, with Hallowed Legends, the team twists things a little and proves its also capable of improving upon established ideas, honing the interface of this latest release to make it much more enjoyable to play. From the fast-moving cursor to the no-fuss scene transitions, journal system, and lovely hint system, Hallowed Legends makes itself easy and accessible to play.

Lengthwise, expect a sturdy four or five hours from Hallowed Legends, a bite or two more than most hidden object games provide these days. The experience is satisfying from beginning to end, but keep in mind that the first portion of the game is more plodding and unoriginal than the latter bits. You likely won't be able to see many of the game's better moments from the demo, which is a real shame, considering how good it gets a few hours in.

Apart from the slow start, Hallowed Legends doesn't really have any major flaws worth delineating. There's a good stock of unlockables to be had, achievements to uncover, a good story with strong puzzles, and scenes that are well-illustrated. If you aren't opposed to dipping your cursor into another "scary" themed hidden object game, Hallowed Legends: Samhain will prove itself worthy of plenty of praise!

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
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Also available: Collector's Edition

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


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Weekend Download

JohnBIf you were to play one kind of game for the rest of your life, what would it be? Puzzle? Platform? Racing? If you said "awesome", you win the prize! The same prize everybody who said anything but awesome gets! Free games to play!

brutallyunfairknytt.gifBrutally Unfair Knytt (Windows, 19.5MB, free) - Yay, more Knytt from Nifflas! This mod of the original Knytt game was created to promote the release of B.U.T.T.O.N. (Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally Ok Now), a multiplayer-only PC game created by the Copenhagen Game Collective with music by Nifflas. It's not a new game, but the world has been re-skinned, items are in new locations, and there are a handful of other surprises. Even if you mastered the heck out of the original game, the mod gives you plenty of reason to revisit the beautiful world that is Knytt.

heart.gifheART (Windows, 7MB, free) - From the creator of Diminish and Dissipate comes heART, a charming exploration platformer about a young boy in love. Eid is searching the world to find his loved one. Along the way he's gathering hearts, knowing she wants a man with more heart than anyone else. You can spend a lot or a little time exploring the game's intricate world, but there are plenty of things to find and depending on what you do, you'll see one of four unique endings. There are even some RPG elements mixed in with the gameplay, creating a balanced and engaging platform experience you'll devour right away!

johncube.gifJohn Cube (Windows, 7MB, free) - A very good block pushing puzzle game along the lines of Sokoban. It may not reinvent the genre, but it does a darn good job polishing it to a brilliant shine. Your job is to push blocks around the level and set them on the red switches located across the screen. Place the boxes, activate the exit, and head to the next world, it's that simple. Except, getting the boxes where they need to go requires a lot of thinking and planning. Seriously, the level design in this game is superb, and there isn't really a set of tutorial levels to warm you up, either, you just hop right in. A great little game with plenty of content.

Note: All games have been confirmed to run under Windows 7 and are virus-free. Mac users should try Boot Camp, Parallels, or CrossOver Games to play Windows titles, Linux users can use Wine. If you know of a great game we should feature, use the Submit link above to send it in!


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (36 votes)
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Shiver: Vanishing Hitchhiker

DoraDriving home one night in the pouring rain, you decide to stop and give a lift to a young woman standing shivering on the side of the road. She's pretty, alone, and very, very quiet. It isn't until after you drop her off at the edge of a rundown little town that you realise she's left you something: an old teddy bear in the backseat of your car. The very same teddy bear you remember from your childhood, in fact. But will you be prepared for what you find when you go looking for her? Shiver: Vanishing Hitchhiker from Artogon Games is an atmospheric, creepy, and unsettling hidden-object adventure, and is also one of the best examples of horror and mystery in a casual download title to date.

Shiver: Vanishing HitchhikerShiver: Vanishing Hitchhiker is the point-and-click adventure that walks like a hidden-object hybrid. For the most part, your time will be spent exploring areas and trying to figure out what items you need to proceed as you search for clues. The cursor will change when you pass over a portion of the environment you can get in closer to or interact with, and if you're playing in casual difficulty mode, the game will even mark those spots with intermittent sparkles. The hint button can be used the traditional way to locate items in hidden-object scenes, but if you use it during regular gameplay it will also point you towards where you should go next. You've also got a flashlight and a camera at your disposal that you can use any time you wish. The flashlight, rather predictably can be used to illuminate the dark areas and help you find your way around, while the camera, well... let's just say sometimes it might help you see more than you'd expect.

Analysis: I've been complaining for a long time now that casual games frequently hold back from being really scary, so this was a real treat. The atmosphere in this game is absolutely brilliant in places, and is the sort of thing you should probably be playing alone with the lights shut off and the sound turned off. (Or, better yet, headphones.) The rain picks up as you wander down the street. A murder of crows takes flight as you round a corner. There are a lot of startling, scary, and even downright unsettling moments, but really only one instance that might qualify as a "jump scare" towards the latter half of the game, and that at least is fairly predictable. It's when you don't know what's coming that the game keeps you on edge and afraid to switch on your flashlight or peer through a keyhole. The stylistic influences from Silent Hill are pretty obvious (seriously, am I the only one nerdy enough to think that map looks familiar?), but if you're a horror fan you'll probably also recognise echoes of a lot of Asian horror movies as well.

Shiver: Vanishing HitchhikerThe bad news is... well, the fact that there's even bad news at all. It's kind of a cliché, but the game can be likened to a roller coaster, if only because of its wild ups and downs; I went from being absolutely enraptured, to annoyed, to frightened, to frustrated and back throughout the course of the gameplay. A massive chunk of the chapter that takes place on the island is just drawn out backtracking without a lot of the atmosphere and chills of the rest of the game. The island is also stuffed with a lot of extra hidden-object scenes that don't feel like they fit It's not the proverbial nail in the coffin, but it is frustrating, and makes you feel as though the whole game would have been better off as "just" a point-and-click adventure. Yeah, I know I sound like a whiner, but it feels like it interrupts the flow of the rest of the gameplay and story so much whining is justified. Meh. Meh. Meeeeeeeeh!

Still, it should tell you something that despite all my plaintive caterwauling I still kept playing, and am still happy to recommend it. It looks and sounds great, and you'll want to keep going to find out how it all ends... or at least to see what the game is going to try to use to creep you out next. The story deviates drastically from the urban legend that provides the opening hook, and while there's no denying that some aspects of it are tighter than others and you might see the big twist coming, it's definitely entertaining and a creepy good time. It's satisfying when it's over in the same way watching any good scary movie is. I'll have to ask my Great Grandmother if she laid any ancient curses in her time, because now I'm kind of concerned that I'm slacking off compared to my ancestors.

Shiver: Vanishing Hitchhiker is a game that has its faults, but is ultimately a game I was glad to play, delivering some genuinely scary moments, and an interesting story. The bonus chapter included in the Collector's Edition shouldn't even be a "bonus" to begin with, because the story as it is ends on such a massive cliffhanger and the bonus chapter picks up exactly where it left off and basically fills in the gaps in the story and provides a proper ending. Altogether I spent around four to five hours on it, though of course your mileage may vary (particularly if you don't have a review deadline looming). Horror fans should definitely check out the demo to see if it's their cup of tea. I sincerely hope we see more horror titles from developers Artogon Games in the future because if this one is any indication, they really know how to create a creepy, bumpy ride.

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


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (131 votes)
| Comments (36) | Views (1,067)

BradZee and the Alien MachineAwwwww, yeah! Lemme tell you, I love parties. I love political parties, telephone party lines, search parties and, obviously, impartial third parties. Clickshake's (Steve Castro and Zeebarf) newest point-and-click game deals with a kind of party I'm not familiar with, but that doesn't stop Zee and the Alien Machine from being great. You control the destiny of Zee in this quirky adventure. Zee has a shot at a big promotion, but he'll have to win an election to get it. So, he's throwing a big party to woo the voters, and you'll have to make sure everything goes well and that aliens don't take over the world... ha! Just kidding. That's ridiculous, of course! Why would that ever happen?... Though... there is that strange machine in your roommate's bedroom that keeps warning you that aliens are coming...

In order to earn votes, you can't just get your partygoers a drink and expect everything to work out. You need to really satisfy these people, and usually that means listening to them and getting them what they want. You're probably going to need to get a little creative on your end. Control Zee with your mouse, and click an item to pick it up. If you need to use that item, click on it in your inventory and move it to what you want to use it on. Need to combine two items? Drag the items to the two slots in the upper right corner and hit the "+" button. That's all you need to know to have a successful party. Well, that, and figure out whatever is going on with that machine... you don't suppose... aliens are actually... ?... Naaaaaaah! That's crazy talk.

Zee and the Alien MachineAnalysis: Just as we've come to expect from Jay Ziebarth ("Zeebarf") and Steve Castro, Zee and the Alien Machine looks and plays great. Zeebarf has mastered his distinctive artistic style; you can always look at a game and tell when it's his, but you can also notice the slight differences that compliment the tone and setting of each game. This is a comparatively mundane scenario from a guy who has made games about a bounty hunter in a society that relies heavily on favors and another that features an exterminator in a fantasy setting, but while you won't be seeing a lot of strange things, the art still draws you in. The ordinary setting and situation works, and Zeebarf is good about sprinkling in the more fantastic elements while you're trying to host a successful party.

There aren't a lot of what you might think of as traditional point-and-click puzzles. The game isn't very challenging, but you won't be able to breeze through it without putting some thought into it. Zee and the Alien Machine also feels shorter than Zeebarf's other offerings, but he experiments with some gimmicks to make up for it, like some randomized elements and multiple endings to give you some replay value. If you just want to see the different endings you can restart from the moment you made a particular decision, and the brevity makes it easier to replay.

Zee and the Alien Machine is fun and looks great. It won't take you long to complete, but it's very enjoyable while it lasts. It's imaginative, funny and effective, and is definitely going on my short list of the types of parties I love. (Somewhere between "Beach Blanket Bingo Party" and "Pajama Party".) If you're a fan of Clickshake's work, this is one party you'll definitely want to attend. Just remember to keep your eye on the sky while you do it. Do-DO-do-do-DO-doooooooooo....

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraRise and shine, dearest readers! It's another fabulous day, and Link Dump Friday is here to be the awesome precursor to your awesome weekend. If I sound like I'm in a good mood, well... I am! The sun is shining, tiny squares are meeting a painful fate over and over again, robots everywhere are joining hands in fellowship, invaders are being blown up, and, somewhere, one cat is getting his paws on some well deserved cow juice. If none of that makes sense to you, then you haven't checked out these games yet! What are you waiting for?

  • Infinite Tower RPGInfinite Tower RPG - RPGs get a lot of flack these days, but usually when people say they "practically play themselves", they don't really mean it. Well... until now, anyway. More of a webtoy than a game, this simple little ditty asks you to just handle distributing stats upon level up and managing your hero's upgrades as he stabs his way through an infinite number of enemies, over and over and over and over. The game will basically play itself, so you can let it run in another tab and click over when the stabbing sounds stop to allocate points. (This is how Jay hands out paychecks every month. It's also why I have all these scars. I'm tenacious.)
  • Space is KeySpace is Key - Grease is the word, but apparently the [spacebar] is the key in this fast-paced, frustrating and addictive little arcade game where the goal is simply to make it from one side of the screen to the other. Easier said than done since your brave little square avatar is apparently made of spun sugar and will shatter into a billion pixels if it even gets within breathing distance of an obstacle. The farther you go, the trickier things get, adding traps, tunnels, gaps, and triggers to contend with along with the sense that the developer is just rocking back and forth on his heels, giggling like a maniac at how often you fail.
  • Robo-SocketsRobo-Sockets - Is there anything more heartwarming than joining hands with your fellow man? This cute arcade game that combines Tetris with match-3 gameplay has you trying to link chains of robots together to share energy by stacking them so that their hands interlock. There's a bit too much unpredictability to really allow you to strategize here, especially with the crates and transforming thingamabobber, but it's a cute way to while away the minutes while you're waiting for the next work order for our cruel mechanical overlords.
  • Milk QuestMilk Quest - Cats are awesome. Of course mine are the best, but they're all pretty great. That's why I know you'll want to do all you can to help the kitten in this cute, simple little point-and-click puzzle adventure game. He's all out of milk, you see, and it's up to you to guide him through a series of surreal obstacles on his way to the "Milk Treasure". Being that he's a cat, he'll probably reward you with a pile of vomit in the middle of the night that you won't discover until it's all cold and congealed the next morning and you're walking around barefoot. But, hey. That's Cat for "I love, or at least tolerate you."
  • Particle Wars ExtremeParticle Wars Extreme - Is there anything not improved by a frenzy mode? Seriously, the next time you're brushing your teeth, scream "FRENZY!" and just start thrashing toothpaste everywhere. I guarantee you'll have more fun, or at least get your significant other to cast suspicious glances your way for the next week or two. Invoking classic Space Invaders gameplay and shooter action, Particle Wars Extreme is all about racking up points and combos in the flashiest (frenziest) manner possible. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go do the laundry while frenzied. And then probably clean up a whole load of detergent afterwards.
  • Angry Birds FlashAngry Birds Flash - Although it prominently features birds (familiar angry ones) there's something fishy about the origins of this flash game, so play it while you cangame has been taken down per the copyright holder's request. If you live under a rock/on the moon/in a rabbit hutch/in the small town in the butt-end of nowhere I grew up in, let me clue you in on the Angry Birds phenomenon; the goal in this little physics puzzle is to hurl your limited supply of birds at the pigs on the far side of the screen, trying to demolish all of them before you run out of fowl fodder. While this flash demo is not in English, we like to think the language of bodily hurling tiny kamikaze birds at self-important green pigs is universal. Alllllll we are saaaaaaying... is giiiiiiive peaaaace a chaaaance... or, you know, use birds to solve conflicts. Either way.

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Sky IslandArtbegottiWhen you run into a problem, it's always a good idea to look at things from a different perspective. In Sky Island, the latest puzzle platformer challenge by Neutronized, your perspective changes the entire game. See that island all the way across the map? With the flick of the wrist, you'll be on top of it in no time. Want to worm your way past that enemy over there? A couple quick twists, and you're on your way to safety. It's all about the perspective you take.

You play as the star of the game... er, a star. Your goal is to collect all of the other stars in the level, and perhaps grab some coins to boost your score along the way. You can move using the [arrow] keys or [WASD]. But you can only meander around so far when you stick to looking at things in the same old way. This is where the power of perspective comes into play! You can click and drag the entire playing field left or right to rotate the world 90 (or 180) degrees. Now, certain aspects of the world that you might not have seen before become visible, allowing you to play the same level in a new way.

With the power of perspective, you can tackle fifteen star-hunting levels that introduce a number of twists, such as enemies that need to be bounced upon, tricked to walking over certain blocks, or otherwise manipulated using your world-twisting abilities. You'll also find partial star buttons that all need to be pressed in order to remove a barrier on a level. Once you grab the quota of stars, climb the finish block to move on to the next level!

There are some limitations to the perspectives that you can take, however. You can only rotate the world in increments of 90 degrees. You can also only rotate left and right, although rotating upward can let you catch a glance of an overhead perspective of the entire level. You also can't rotate into a position that puts your character in front of (or behind) any island or other block. This could come in handy though, as you can freeze enemies put into these positions using perspective.

Sky IslandAnalysis: The twist of using perspective to manipulate two-dimensional playing fields in a three-dimensional world is a somewhat untapped genre in the gaming world. It might be a bit tricky to get used to how the rotations effect the playing area at first. Keep this in mind as a rule of thumb: You and your enemies are assumed to be at the foremost position on an island (which is to say, closest to the camera). When you rotate 90 degrees, you will nearly always end up on an edge because of this.

While there's a series of signs that give a tutorial as you play along, it's sometimes helpful to experiment within the game and learn new tricks on your own. Are you having a hard time figuring trying to find a perspective that you can rotate to? Try rotating while jumping to reach higher platforms. This becomes an essential element in later puzzles, but if you experiment a bit, it can be quite useful earlier on.

The world rotates rather smoothly with each turn, but it's sometimes hard to tell if you've moved too far (or far enough). While it might look like you've found a valid "landing spot" for a turn, it could turn out that you're not in a specific 90 degree rotation from the starting position, which means you might just snap back to your original orientation. Some sort of indication that you're aligned with a valid perspective point (such as flashing the edges of the screen) would have been helpful, but without it, it's recommended that you pay attention to any abnormal angles in islands present, or perhaps rotate slightly above or below the horizon to see if your rotation is aligned.

There are a lot of spatial elements in Sky Island to wrap your head around, but when you get the hang of them, you're in for a treat. Each level is designed to make you experiment with different movements to find the correct path to the finish. So go ahead and give it a shot; it's your turn.

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TrickyWizard HultLots of wizards can shoot fireballs. Blasts of ice and electricity aren't so uncommon either. However, creating large stones out of nothingness requires an MC^2 amount of E, so only the most skilled are able to accomplish it. Such is the power of Wizard Hult, star of the new puzzle platformer from Bloblob. Alas, a magnificent beard, an Unseen University scholarship and Earthbending skills that would make Toph and Bumi jealous, is not in and of itself a sufficient display of manliness for the witch, Shiloh, who has caught his eye. And so she wait atop her challenge-filled tower waiting for the wizard to show his dedication... and bring her something expensively shiny.

Wizard Hult is controlled with the [arrow] or [WASD] keys to run and jump, with [down] or [S] used to enter dungeon doors. In each level you use the mouse to drag out rectangles to create stones to jump upon, clicking the blocks again to destroy it, or simply waiting for it to disappear. Your magic gauge limits the stones you can create, but it recharges over time. Enemies such as skeletons and ogre block your path, but the can be killed by dropping a stone of sufficient size and momentum on them. Other obstacles, like ghosts and swinging spiked balls require more platforming finesse. There are twenty levels to travel, twenty treasures to obtain, and many, many deaths between you and your witchy maiden. Go off to see her, wizard!

Wizard Hult screen 2Analysis: There are three things I particularly enjoy about Wizard Hult. First, there is the plot. Basic as it is, It is a delightful twist on the classic "hero storms the castle to rescue the princess and start a romance" tropes. Here, the damsel is a witch and is not the captive but the ruler of her tower and all the challenges therein. What's more, the few lines she has gives her a personality with proper streaks of impish cruelty and greediness. This makes it slightly more realistic that she would feign interest in the lovably-doofy wizard when he shows up to meet her with A) Bags of Treasure and B) The masochistic number of lives lost throughout the castle. I don't think it's a relationship that will last, but the dynamic at play is relatively unusual for video game romances.

Secondly, there is the block-creating spell mechanic in and of itself. This is a genius element to base a game on, and makes for a near perfect balance of its puzzle and platforming elements. I would have liked it if you could create blocks while moving, and some of them seem to disappear way too quickly, but it turns out that a dash of sandbox can work wonders. Thirdly, I always enjoy it when a developer seems to have thought out the full implications of their mechanics, and this here is certainly the case. Sure, the central use of the blocks is the be jumped on, but they can also be dropped on baddies, block fireballs, impede the progress of ogres, and so forth. This might not seem like much but considering this is a medium where wizards with fire spells often have to search for a key instead of being able to light a wooden door on fire, it was nice to see.

Not all of it is perfect, though. There seems to be a couple missed opportunities to use the mechanics in additional ways: physics puzzles and the like. Maybe I'm the only one who never gets tired of the "Drop a weight on the other side of the see-saw to launch yourself into the air" puzzle, but it would have had a natural home here. Also, I would have liked it if wizard could jump the tiniest bit higher... some of the corners of blocks couldn't seem to decide whether I had cleared them or not, making the controls more than a little sticky. Finally, I would have appreciated a little earlier warning re: needing treasures for the "good" ending. Getting some of the treasures requires platforming skill that I apparently don't possess, making it a bit of an anti-climax, though that may be a problem on this side of the screen.

However, the fact that I indeed find myself retrying level after level to collect everything is itself telling. Wizard Hult does have flaws, but they are more than made up for by the unique mechanics at play. Put on your robe and Wizard Hult for a while. You won't regret it.

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Babylon Sticks: Game With A View comic

Congratulations to Trinn 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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JamesAntimatiereIn the land of the blind, one eye is king. Same can be said for the only three-dimensional being in a flat world. But old one-eye lacks depth perception. You, in contrast, can alter reality itself. And all it requires is changing the wallpaper in the first-person puzzle game Antimatiere, created by a group of French video game and interactive media students, Team Antimatiere (Francois Kmetty, Thomas Planques, Joel Gueulin, Robin Poma, and Marie Muller) which took home first place in Kongregate's recent Unity game design competition. Something awfully scientific goes awfully wrong, according to the opening sequence. Scientists, explosion... you get the idea. Then we are in the head of our hero, who upon speaking to the first two-dimensional character wiggling against a wall, learn that they are the only hope in a world thrown into dimensional disarray.

As it turns out, the mixing of dimensions sorta-kinda make you think of Minecraft in an abstract painting while you are standing on your head. The 3D world is divided into various areas, each hosting a few lateral puzzles. It all involves moving textures; apart from moving around the levels with [WASD] and the mouse, all you can do is exchange one texture for another. But this simple mechanism has surprising results. Place a door in the right place and it suddenly becomes an open door. Switch the signs above a door and it changes the room it leads to. Move a ladder and it... becomes a ladder somewhere.

AntimatiereAntimatiere is not deep. Most of the puzzles involve moving doors, ladders or bridges here and there, figuring out how along the way – all strictly linear. There is no pause menu, the game takes up a lot of screen space (you might have to set your browser to full screen) and at least once a game session ended prematurely because the character got stuck in the wall. Antimatiere needs a lot of polish, but it is also not quite anything you've ever played before, unless you are aware of some kind of 'stuck in two dimensions' genre. Antimatiere feels like a competition game – a concerted effort to be the most creative and interesting, which also leaves it with a lot of shortcomings, but a lot of potential, too. It's certainly an interesting ride on the way and maybe we'll see a more in-depth and polished sequel soon.

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Rating: 3.5/5 (107 votes)
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Joshinfect2.jpgAs I recall from my 7th grade Health class, our bodies are pretty darn amazing. With all the germs, viruses, and nasty stuff we're exposed to on a daily basis, most of us have a great internal system to keep us functioning well enough to idly play our casual games without much thought. Inside us though, a microscopic battle is going on. Fanatical white blood cells show up en-masse to crush evil germs before they can infect helpless red blood cells. Meanwhile, a wave of antibiotics levels the battlefield, leaving only a few resistant strains of germs in their wake. Sound epic enough? Manuel Fallmann of MINDistortion thought so way back in 2005 with his drag and drop game infect.evolve.repeat. Now six years later, Manuel has decided to revisit his infection game and update it in infect.evolve.repeat.2.

Like the original, infect.evolve.repeat.2 has you controlling a nasty green germ with the goal of infecting red blood cells while evolving your germ's abilities. Use your mouse to click and drag on the germ to move it around. Release the button over a red blood cell to infect it, making it turn green before disappearing. Between stages, you can spend "evolution points" to beef up your germs. Microscopic meddling includes altering your germ's latency (spawn time), reproduction rate, damage to white blood cells, immunity to antibiotics, and automatic infection rate. Of course, your host body doesn't like your germy handiwork, and begins to send white blood cells and clouds of antibiotics to stop the fun. As your germs get stronger, they can pack more of a punch against the immune system and eventually develop an immunity to antibiotics, just like in real life.

While keeping a similar structure, infect.evolve.repeat.2 has quite a few improvements over its predecessor. Aside from its more modern-looking visuals and larger "characters," there is now a nice set of tutorial levels that help you learn the ropes. Levels also have various goals beyond just infecting cells - you may need to replicate a certain number of your germs, destroy a number of white blood cells, or just survive in your host undetected for a time. There are also amusing achievements earned during gameplay, and a hall of fame for your efforts.

infect.evolve.repeat.2 can be a fun experience, but it can also be a challenging exercise in mouse dexterity and even sheer luck. The game's drag-and-drop mechanic can quickly get frantic with dozens of floating germs that you have to keep track of. Accurate selections and drags are a must, meaning that laptop owners may need to plug in a mouse to properly enjoy this title. As you play more, you'll also notice that the game features random patterns of white blood cells and antibiotics. Sometimes a level may unexpectedly end if one of these enemies passes over your first infected red blood cell, instantly destroying your offspring and making you try again.

If you can get past these issues, however, and don't mind the somewhat repetitive gameplay, infect.evolve.repeat.2 is a unique casual game with personality that's worth checking out. Just be sure to cover your mouth, wash your hands, and get plenty of rest beforehand.

Play infect.evolve.repeat.2


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Weekday Escape

GrinnypBack in January we featured an escape by a relative newcomer, Dghgbakufu. It wasn't the toughest or most original room escape out there, but it was a prime example of the logical flow from one puzzle to the next that makes a really good escape game. Hottategoya is back with a new offering, Escape from the Room Surrounded by Bookshelves 2, and despite the rather clunky name has produced another fine room escape perfect for the mid-week break that is Weekday Escape!

Escape from the Room Surrounded by Bookshelves 2The first offering by Dghgbakufu that we featured, Escape from a Building without Windows, was a light but logical escaping confection dealing with solving your way into a lot of doors that all looked the same, and through the rooms behind the doors offering some enjoyable puzzles. Escape from the Room Surrounded by Bookshelves 2, however, is your classic basic one-room escape. Move around using the bars at the sides of the screen, pick up random but useful objects that some kind soul has left lying around, solve a few tricky puzzles (some color based) and voila, you are out of the room! Of course, those of us who love books might not be in such a hurry to get out. After all, how often are you locked into a room with that much potential entertainment?

Escape from the Room Surrounded by Bookshelves 2 is a pretty stripped down experience. There's no music (and therefore no mute control), no save feature, no changing cursor, and only one way out of the space. On the other hand there is a very large and very friendly "about item" button that makes for easy inventory control. Despite the lack of a changing cursor there's really not that much pixel hunting, either.

So has Dghgbakufu progressed from Escape from a Building without Windows? Despite the stripped down interface and fairly simple graphics, the answer is yes. There are more puzzles, and they are a bit tougher than the first go round. The designer has also forgone using quite so many colors in the color puzzles, eliminating that problem in Escape from a Building without Windows of trying to tell the orange from the yellow (which also looked orange) which caused a few problems in one of the puzzles. The controls could still stand improving and the puzzles could be a little tougher, but Escape from the Room Surrounded by Bookshelves is a step in the right direction from a talented new game designer. Enjoy escaping and look forward to good things to come.

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Rating: 4.4/5 (139 votes)
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joyePicma SquaredSometimes crossing puzzle genres just fizzles out. Nobody was too into my idea of crossing anagrams with a Rubik's Cube. Moonberry Studios has a much more successful marriage in their new game Picma Squared. While the previous smash hit Picma was pure picross goodness, the sequel mixes it up with what might be described as a minesweeper element.

Basically, the game turns minesweeper-ish gameplay to picross-style pixel image drawing purpose. Instead of clues being along the edges of the game field like in picross, you'll see numbers from 0 to 9 scattered across the field itself. A 0 means that neither the clue square nor the up to 8 surrounding squares is colored with a given color; a 9 means that the clue square and 8 squares around it are all colored the given color. Puzzlers must use logic to solve these clues, clicking with the mouse to mark squares that should be colored. At the bottom left, you can click to change from coloring to marking blanks, or blanks can be marked by holding [shift] while clicking. Multiple squares can be dragged over at once with either method. On the right, you can click the green button or hold [ctrl] to drag the game window around, and use the + and - buttons to make the playing field larger and smaller. Clicking outside the window or the [P] button pauses, and in the options menu you can toggle sound and music, and switch between two visual styles for the game window.

There are certain tricks which the game teaches you in the tutorial level, such as a four in the corner or a six along an edge, but the real challenge and fun of the game is after you've bubbled in all these obvious clues and you start looking for interactions that you've missed. Just like in picross, marking squares blank isn't technically necessary to win, but it's practically indispensable to solving it, especially in mulitcolored levels. In these levels with two or more colors, the key to solving it is to remember that a clue square can only either be its own color or blank, never any of the other colors.

Picma SquaredAnalysis: While 48 levels is a solid chunk to play, you might wish the available level sizes were a bit larger. Even a level or two each of 20x20, 25x25 and 30x30 levels would have made the game feel more complete, as the hardest free levels available can all easily be completed in less than twenty minutes, some in as little as five minutes. In this respect, at least, Picma Squared does offer the perfect chunk of casual logic puzzle gaming; something that newcomers can cut their teeth on, and veterans can pick up and enjoy a nice cerebral workout for a while.

When you finish a puzzle, aside from the satisfaction of a brain well-exercised, you're rewarded with a pixel-ish art drawing of a palm tree or a dragon. While you can sometimes tell vaguely what a picture is going to depict as you're solving it, it's rarely worthwhile to actually try to fill in the puzzle squares based on what you think should be filled. A single square here or there can totally mess up everything, and when you try to go back to fix it, you have no way to distinguish what was a guess. Best to stick to cold, hard logic here. You will never have to guess. There will always be something you can deduce. You just have to look harder for it.

If you do find yourself burning through the available levels, you might be glad to know that the developer's site offers access to more for a small fee. The subscription method is a little awkward. You have to register to even see what the subscription costs are. However, Picma Squared does provide a win/win solution for those desperate to play more but unwilling or unable to pay out the money to do so. Create a level in the level editor and submit it. If it's approved, you receive two credits which enable you to buy two individual levels, and your level will be available to be played by others. The game makers are aiming for a 48hr or less turnaround for approving levels.

Picma Squared is offering an experience that, especially in the multicolored format, just isn't being offered anywhere else yet. Established fans of picross looking for something new shouldn't miss this, and anyone who likes visual and logic puzzles will probably want to give it a try as well.

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ChiktionaryAdam & Eve What a great old era the Neolithic period was, when dinosaur meat was plentiful and one gigantic scrambled egg could feed an entire tribe for a week. And matters of the heart were relatively simple; all a man had to do was traverse precarious cliffs, avoid cannibals, voracious dinosaurs and pitfalls, and make it to Paradise in one piece to present his sweetheart with a flower. Well that's how it appears in Gamystar's point-and-click puzzle adventure game, Adam & Eve.

Like Neil the Nail Gamystar continues a tradition of sweet and simple point and-click games; just use your mouse to click on items and interact with the environment, helping Adam safely journey to Paradise to be with Eve. There's very little to challenge you as you play, just click on objects in the right order to progress.

With a simple goal and corresponding gameplay, Adam and Eve is more of a diversion than a cerebral challenge. There is a slight sense of a lack of difficulty when it comes to in-game interaction, but the cute cartoon-style amimated graphics and light, happy music contribute to make this game a pleasure to play. It's really just a fun little interactive story with touches of humor. So help Adam find his Eve and enjoy the stone-age journey along the way.

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The Vault

Dora2011 is already shaping up to be a great year for gamers, whether you're into flashy new hardware, upcoming sequels that may or may not have baked confections, or just new releases from your favourite talented indie developers. But, of course, auld acquaintances should not be forgot, and all that jazz, which is why this week's edition of the Vault features several stellar titles from the last decade. Yes, that's right. I said the last decade. We're all officially gettin' old. I don't know how you're coping with it, but I've seen "Up"; I'm already hoarding balloons.

  • Hitchhiker's Illustrated Guide to the GalaxyHitchhiker's Illustrated Guide to the Galaxy - I have wanted to include this in the vault so badly, but up until recently, the game appeared to be broken. No longer! Now you, too, shall feel the soul-spanning anguish of the babel fish puzzle in this giddy, silly, tricky remake of the original 1984 interactive fiction game based on Douglas Adams' iconic work. The story follows the first novel; you are Arthur Dent, a rather spectacularly unlucky individual (or lucky, depending on your point of view) with a very unusual friend who turns out to be from somewhere much farther away than he suspects. Full of humour both dry and bizarre, with a snappy narrative and memorable cast, this is about as good as interactive fiction gets. The only downside is that if you're unfamiliar with the books, you might find the logic to some of the puzzle solving doesn't exactly make sense. But then, NEITHER DOES YOUR FACE. Yeah. I went there.
  • McDonalds VideogameMcDonalds Videogame - Molle Industria created this disturbing yet satirical simulation game of everyone's favourite clown eating establishment back in 2006, and it still remains just as entertaining, addictive, and worrisome to this day. The job is to juggle everything from buying the land you need to raise your cattle, to hiring (and firing!) employees, and handling marketing decisions. Whether you think its entirely satirical doesn't really have much of an impact on the fact that this is simply a great, though challenging, game with a lot to recommend it, including its simple but appealingly cartoonish visuals. It's probably even better if you actually worked in the fast food industry at some point. (I made it exactly one afternoon shift before I quit in a rage.)
  • Transylmania!Transylmania! - Do you remember when vampires were cool? You don't have to go all the way back to Spike McFang (although I recommend you pay a visit) when 2005 has this painfully adorable little action arcade game from Zeeks about a vampire who just wants to get some beauty sleep. The goal is to convert all the intruding villagers to mindless undead servants and get back to your coffin before the time runs out, avoiding hazards along the way. It's extremely simple to pick up, but hard to put down, and eternity as a shambling monster was never so squishably cute. If you're looking for something sweet yet challenging to put a smile on your face, you could do a lot worse than this treat. Sure, it's not Halloween, but when has that ever stopped us from having fun?

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: 4.4/5 (143 votes)
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TrickyCover Orange Player's Pack 2Knock Knock! Who's There? Orange! Orange who? Orange you glad that there's a brand new pack of levels for Johnny-K's physics puzzle series Cover Orange? Hey, I know I am. And while Cover Orange Player's Pack 2 might not have the prize money backing it up as the first one did, but it's a concept that's still quite fruitful when it comes to fun.

Not-broken gameplay isn't fixed, with mechanics the same as previous entries, backed up by the box2d physics engine. Using the mouse to direct and click, you drop variously shaped objects from the top of the playing field, trying to place them such that they cover or push to safety all the oranges and apples on the screen. Once all the objects have been place, Mean Ol' Mr. Cloud will come to rain spiked balls on your picnic. A few hits from those will ruin the easily-bruised fruit, so make sure they're prepared for the storm! Also, be sure that you prevent them from falling off the screen or getting to close to a bomb: we like our fruit visible, unspiked and unexploded. Sometimes its about skillful placement of objects, sometimes its about timing and sometimes it's about speed. No matter what the time is though, it is quite enjoyable.

There is very little I can say about this second pack of Cover Orange player-created levels that hasn't been said in previous reviews. The visuals are as bouncily cute as ever, the puzzles range from the amusing to the tricky, and the fifty levels should keep you entertained for quite a while. The lack of hand-holding means it's not a particularly great jumping-on point for those new to the concept (though I would certainly recommend the previous installments!), but fans of the series, or physics puzzlers in general, will have a fun afternoon with Cover Orange Player's Pack 2.

Play Cover Orange Player's Pack 2


  • Currently 3.5/5
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Rating: 3.5/5 (54 votes)
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ChiktionaryfittedHave you tested your reflexes lately? How much faith do you have in your mouse? Looking for a game that will literally have you holding your breath, and sitting on the edge of your seat? Try fitted, a beautifully presented side-scrolling avoidance game created by inversecoma. This is a game that looks simple on the surface, but there's a whole lot more to it that will test your skills, patience and perseverance.

To play fitted., use your mouse to move the spacecraft, and either the [W] and [S] keys or the up and down [arrow] keys to adjust the size of the craft. The [A] and [D], or left and right [arrow] keys control the speed. Your score at the end of each level is based upon the average size of your craft and the speed with which you complete the levels. As stated in the tutorial, it's tempting to whiz through a level with a small spacecraft, but doing so will adversely affect your progress later in the game. Collect crystals to buy upgrades, stars to unlock doors, and hit switches to activate various features in each level. And these are just the basics! There are a myriad of obstacles in each level, including lasers that will disable some of your upgrades, but there are also items you can collect in later levels, such as invisibility balls which will help you pass through some of the tougher obstacles.

Getting through each level can be quite challenging, but there's also a delightful learning curve in getting to know each piece of equipment, each craft value and trail, and the power of different combinations. Learning how to use upgrades and the adverse effects of the environmental obstacles is also part of the fun. And I have to add, responsiveness to mouse movements is practically flawless. Not only is there so much to explore in the gameplay itself, there are gorgeous graphics and a funky contemporary soundtrack with songs that can be changed simply by hitting the [ctrl] key.

This lovely game by inversecoma offers everything we could want in a game, and possibly even that much more. Not only visually enchanting with some awesome audio, there are 40 or so levels with an endurance mode as a finale. So much game that asks so little, other then to get into it, explore, play and above all, enjoy.

Play fitted


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Mobile Monday

JohnBHey there, logic puzzle fans who own an Android phone. If words like picross, Link-a-Pix, and hashi get your cortex humming, we've got a few presents for you!

princessnuriko.gifPrincess Nuriko - A logic puzzle of a slightly different kind, Princess Nuriko is an Android re-imagining of the pencil and paper game nurikabe. Your goal is to fill in the "islands" surrounding each number and mark off non-filled spaces. Instead of just blocking off sections of the grid, however, you're partitioning farmland for the people of your kingdom, which is an interesting sort of story to tack on to the logic puzzle solving. Plot or no, the game plays smoothly and looks great. The 3D mode is nice to look at and shows you forests and farmlands as they grow from your completed puzzle. More levels would have been a good thing, but the few dozen that are here will provide a satisfying amount of challenge. A free Princess Nuriko Demo is also available.

picmasquared-android.gifPicma Squared - From Moonberry Studios, the folks who crafted the original picross-themed Picma, comes another logic puzzle game that's nothing but wonderful to play. Similar to Princess Nuriko above, your goal is to use number clues to fill in islands of blocks surrounding numbers. The difference here is each number represents the number of blocks that touch the number square, not the number of spaces to fill in. Even though the concepts are similar, the strategies you'll use are vastly different. Plenty of puzzles to complete, an interface that works well, even on the small mobile screen. Picma Squared Free is also available.

crushthecastle-android.gifCrush the Castle - Ok, we couldn't supply you with a pure stock of logic puzzles. Well, we could, but sometimes you just gotta break down and wheel out the trebuchet. Crush the Castle is the Crush the Castle you'll remember from your browser window since 2009. It's the original Angry Birds, and it's got all the physics-flinging action you could possibly want. Pull back on the trebuchet and let the stones fly. Knock down the castle and ping all the people on the noggin to progress to the next level. It's that simple, and it's that engaging. A great port of the must-play browser game. Just as addicting as before!

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.


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (31 votes)
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BIT.TRIP RUNNER

JohnBBIT.TRIP RUNNER is the latest in a series of loosely-related retro-styled arcade games from Gaijin. You take on the role of CommanderVideo, a blocky little guy who can run, slide, and kick like nobody's business. Work your way through over 50 stages, using rhythm-based platforming as you nail every jump, grab every pile of gold, and avoid every obstacle in your path. Because you're just that awesome.

BIT.TRIP RUNNERBIT.TRIP RUNNER plays a lot like the browser game Canabalt, but there are a few neat differences that really set this one apart. For starters, BIT.TRIP features several additional moves like jumping, kicking, and sliding, along with environmental helpers such as springboards that can send you skyward. The action is still fast-paced and focused on left to right progression, but it's more varied, similar to a classic Sonic the Hedgehog game.

In addition to running and avoiding things, you'll also pick up blocky power-ups floating in the air that switch your mode from "hyper" to "mega", "super", "ultra", and finally "extra". Your mode determines how jazzy the background music is and also provides several visual flairs not present in lower modes. The more advanced your mode, the more difficult of a time you'll have making your journey, but it looks and sounds so much better, you'll want to crank it up to eleven (er, five) nonetheless. Also, depending on which difficulty level you choose, you'll be able to collect stacks of gold bars while running through each stage. Nab them all and you can participate in a bonus round where you go for even more loot! David Crane's Pitfall!, anyone?

Analysis: BIT.TRIP RUNNER is old school to the core. The "try until you get it right" gameplay would be right at home in an arcade cabinet. The music sounds like an NES, and visually, it sort of looks like an old Atari release, with chunky pixellated... everything, two-frame animations, and single color characters. Really, though. BIT.TRIP RUNNER's visuals are totally modern, as once you start playing, you'll see the smoothness in motion, marvel at the intricate details in the background and foreground, and go "ooohhh" when that little rainbow appears behind CommanderVideo.

BIT.TRIP RUNNERAnd now for the music. That wonderful, wonderful music. The BIT.TRIP series has always been about fusing music with gameplay, offering little bonuses like power-ups that play sounds in time with the background when you collect them. That kind of syncopation, when implemented correctly, allows a game to leap the boundaries of player vs. computer screen and really pull you in to the experience. BIT.TRIP RUNNER nails that right on, creating a running game with fantastic chiptune-inspired music you won't be able to get enough of. And having Anamanaguchi guest starring never hurts, either!

Many of the BIT.TRIP games are available only on the Wii Shopping Channel. A few, however, have broken those constraints and worked their way to other platforms, such as BIT.TRIP RUNNER for PC/Mac and BIT.TRIP BEAT for PC, Mac, and iTunes App Store. Each title features a similar trial-and-error/fail sort of gameplay, retro graphics, rhythm-based gameplay, and loads of fun, so if you own a Wii, we highly recommend you check out the rest of the series!

BIT.TRIP RUNNER and the rest of the BIT.TRIP series are really something special to behold. The combination of old school design concepts and modern conveniences make it a great experience for seasoned and less-than-seasoned gamers alike, and the sense of zen mastery you obtain when you finally peg a level is worth working for!

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (via Steam)

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the full version (via Steam)


  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (21 votes)
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Echoes of Sorrow

JohnBYou're not sure who you are. You don't know where you are. And a mysterious dark shadow is following you around, clouding your memory. It's shaping up to be quite a bad day as Echoes of Sorrow, a new casual adventure game from BlitPop, begins. This title drops a few hidden object scenes to flavor an otherwise straight-up free roaming adventure game that emphasizes exploration and inventory puzzles. Not only do you have to gather items from various parts of the game, but you're usually not sure what to do until the very last moment. It's a smartly paced game that hits all the sweet spots for casual adventure fans.

Echoes of SorrowWith very little information to go on, you feel much like the main character in Echoes of Sorrow as you start playing. A short, textless cutscene introduces things, and then you find yourself thrown into the game, staring at a few strange and haunting scenes right off the bat. The interface is standard, assigning all actions to the mouse and a cursor that changes when hovering over something you can interact with, so there's at least one familiar thing you can hold on to at the beginning.

Echoes of Sorrow is divided into small areas that represent a portion of the main character's past. You must unlock these one by one, completing the puzzles within each to learn more about the characters' pasts and freeing pieces of your soul in the process. For example, the first area puts you in your childhood home, filled with mildly disturbing images from your past. You'll eventually move on through your life, setting emotions at ease and filling in the massive gaps in your memory.

Puzzles are largely inventory based and feature a lot of backtracking, collecting, and experimentation. You'll often need to find certain items in order to gain access to parts of the level introduced early on, forcing you to abandon scenes in favor of pressing onward. Eventually you'll gather the things you need and be able to gut the entire level of its secrets, but accomplishing that requires some thorough exploration and a very keen eye.

Echoes of SorrowHidden object scenes are kept at a minimum, with just three or four very short interludes per area. They're also surprisingly easy, with just a dozen or so items to find, none of which are obscured or masked in any strange way. The hit box for clicking on items is also rather large, making it easy to accidentally nab something you weren't even sure you were trying to take. The game's hint system is very generous as well, so if you're not one for hidden object games, you don't have to overlook Echoes of Sorrow!

Analysis: Echoes of Sorrow is a smartly-made game that holds fast to its casual adventure roots. Level design is surprisingly open-ended, affording you the freedom to roam around, click on things that interest you, and gather things as you please. The puzzles are also well-done, though they require more of an eagle eye than a genius brain. If you ever get stuck, it's probably because you missed some detail in a room, not because you can't figure out how to solve a puzzle in front of your face.

The whole amnesia shtick has been done many times before, but in the case of Echoes of Sorrow, it actually works quite well. The story unfolds while you play, introducing bits of information as you solve puzzles and explaining a few things with quick cutscenes before and after each area. Even though it's trite, the story and setting in Echoes of Sorrow is one of the game's several strong points, so don't pass it by simply because it stars an amnesiac!

Although the mini-games are kept to an absolute minimum, Echoes of Sorrow has some of the most creative diversions I've seen in a game of this genre. For example, in the first area, you'll find a child's picture created with bits of fabric. Your job is to drag the cutouts to where they belong, much like an abstract dress-up game. Unusual? Yes. Fun? Very much so.

A strong adventure game that doesn't deviate from its core, Echoes of Sorrow will keep you busy for several intriguing hours, unfolding an interesting story while leading you through an unusual world filled with memories and mildly unsettling images.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (29 votes)
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Puppet Show: Lost Town

DoraYou work fast, don't you detective? Little Suzy hasn't been missing for more than a few hours when you show up in town. But this isn't your normal missing child case; Suzy was kidnapped by a mechanical monstrosity unearthed in the newly excavated series of caves on the outskirts of town, and if you go poking around in them, you might find there are more secrets hidden beyond the rubble than anyone expects. Puppet Show: Lost Town is easily the best title in the popular hidden-object adventure series yet, combining clever puzzles, bizarre environments, and a fantastically creepy vibe for one top-notch experience.

Puppet Show: Lost TownLost Town comes with two difficulty modes, the primary differences between the two being whether or not interactive areas are highlighted and how long your hint/skip button takes to recharge. Gameplay is fairly typical, and handled entirely with the mouse, clicking to pick up or use items, and otherwise interact with the screen. Items you've gathered will be kept in your inventory, which you can access by clicking on the "tools" button on the left side of the screen, and scrolling through any objects you have available. Lost Town strikes an easy balance between hidden-object hunting and standard adventure gameplay, with a healthy dose of puzzle solving to fill things out.

Analysis: The story is, as you've probably come to expect, a little silly, but pleasingly so; the whole series has always been sort of over the top, and if you've played any of the previous titles you know you don't come expecting anything serious. There are trap doors, spider dolls, neme... uh... nemesy... nemeses, and unorthodox puppets galore. There's also a ton of animation this time around, and watching the strange puppet designs lurch to life in cutscenes is as impressive as it is nightmare fuel. If you've played the other games in the series you might be disappointed to hear the same soundtrack recycled here again, but overall you'll be able to see how far the series has come.

There are times when it feels like the game's big environments work against it somewhat. After you pass the first few areas which act as a tutorial of sorts, the number of places you're able to go greatly increases, as does the amount of items you'll have filling your inventory. Keeping track of what item might work where and any unsolved puzzles or things you need to come back to "unlock" can mean a lot of back tracking, especially once hidden-object scenes start repeating themselves. It really is sorely in need of a Sherlock Holmes: Hound of the Baskervilles-style map (I'll stop harping about it when more casual games start doing it.). As anyone who has ever spent a vacation running around Disney World will tell you, even the most interesting places start losing some of their appeal after you've gone back and forth through them six times in one day.

Puppet Show: Lost TownThe puzzles are, even if not particularly difficult, wonderfully creative and a welcome departure from the samey variations plaguing most other games in the hidden-object genre. The game does wind up feeling a little predictable; most of the gameplay revolves around encountering a puzzle that's missing a piece, tracking down that missing component, and then doing it all over again a few steps later. This might be a bit more annoying if not for the fact that all of the environments look fantastic, with a surreal, morbid vibe that makes them wonderful to explore. Everything is packed full of unusual detail, from the areas you'll walk through to the hidden-object scenes themselves; it really feels like the designers just cut loose. If you didn't think puppets were unsettling before with their judgemental, unblinking eyes and rigid limbs, you definitely will after an encounter outside the barbershop in the Lost Town.

The overall length of the game is obviously going to vary, but a ballpark figure for standard mode is probably five to six hours, including the bonus chapter. Whether that merits the purchase is between you and your wallet. For me, at least, I can say that despite a few flaws, I feel that PuppetShow: Lost Town delivers on all fronts. The series as a whole has always reached high for quality, and Lost Town sets the bar even higher on almost all fronts. Does it leave the door open for another installment? You betcha. But for fans of the series, this is hardly bad news, and if you enjoy the genre but have never given the PuppetShow titles a spin, there's no time like the present to 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, 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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Weekend Download

JohnBFuturistic things abound in this edition of Weekend Download! One game explicitly states it takes place in the future, while the other two you pretty much just assume they do, as squares/circles aren't self-aware enough to hate each other in the present, and flamethrower technology has some decades to go before it matches Fire with a Riot.

firewithariot.gifFire with a Riot (Windows, 7.1MB, free) - We all know playing with fire is bad, but in this case, you're just playing. And there's fire there. You're equipped with a flamethrower and have but one task: burn down everything you see. Pixellated bushes. Pixellated fences. Pixellated cars. Pixellated buildings, cows, and more. It's all got to go. You have a limited amount of fire to use, so you have to be a bit strategic about what you set ablaze. Earn points and head to the garage to build better weapons, which is way more satisfying than it should be. Created by Zack Banack, author of TimeStill and PaperDreams.

blockshooter.gifBlockShooter (Windows, 3MB, free) - You are a circle with a massive hatred of squares. Those squares are stacking up and multiplying on the other side of the screen. So, naturally, you've gotta go out and shoot them all. Destroy blocks as efficiently as you can, sweeping up and down to keep the advancing wall of polygons at bay. The occasional power-up gives you a temporary boost in firepower, but eventually those four-cornered jerks will gain the upper hand. How long can you last? That depends on how good you are. Are you circle enough to handle it?

futurebike.gifFuturebike (Windows, 4.5MB, free) - A remarkably difficult top-down racing/stunt game from Jan Willem Nijman, creator of The Gutter (who is now part of the team that created Super Crate Box). Drive your little bike around the flat world, avoiding the nasty white walls and keeping to the narrow path. The green strips are jumps, and you've got to get some speed to leap over the obstacles in your way. Very, very challenging, even if you could see the dimensions of the things you were avoiding!

Note: All games have been confirmed to run under Windows 7 and are virus-free. Mac users should try Boot Camp, Parallels, or CrossOver Games to play Windows titles, Linux users can use Wine. If you know of a great game we should feature, use the Submit link above to send it in!


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (393 votes)
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joyeSneak Thief 3: Triple TroubleFor point-and-click fans, if there's anything they love as much as getting out of a place, it's getting into something they shouldn't be. Hence the success of Pastel Games' Sneak Thief series. In the third entry, Sneak Thief 3: Triple Trouble, the titular thief finds himself in some kind of underground lair with a number of code pads and a safe. Thieves are a lot like adventure gamers, I guess; they just can't resist these things. Will it turn out to be his downfall?

The mechanics are similar to other games of the same genre: point at stuff, click it to manipulate it in some way or pick it up, pick up things in your inventory and click to combine them with other inventory items or the scenery, point, click, point, point, click, click. As a part of a puzzle, you'll have to have keen eyes and note down a number series, but there's no math to be done or such. In fact, one particular puzzle takes advantage of the veteran player's assumption as to how a particular object is generally used. To say more would spoil it.

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

The game features the same busily off-kilter Kamil Kochanski art and animation that Pastel Games fans have come to know and love, which particularly shines in the ending. A brisk fifteen minute-ish diversion, this game will send you off into the weekend whistling. I just want to see if and how Sneak Thief 4 handles that ending!

Play Sneak Thief 3: Triple Trouble


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (514 votes)
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DoraOwl's NestIt's time for an alternative history lesson with Pastel Games' newest point-and-click adventure, Owl's Nest. In it, you play the part of a spy sneaking into a research facility in the Owl mountains in 1943, but will you be prepared for what you find?... what?.... nnnooooo, no, it's not secret Twilight/Avatar crossover fanfiction, although that would be pretty bad. But that's not what we're dealing with here. Think... shambl-y-ier.

Just click on the screen to interact; items you take will appear in your inventory, and to use them, just click once on the item, and then again whenever you want to try using it onscreen. The biggest issue for some players might wind up being having to troll the screen with their cursor looking for hotspots, since it isn't always visibly apparent when a portion of the screen will have an area transition or something to interact with. The game is also fairly short with relatively straight-forward "use item here" puzzles, although if you want to stroke your own ego you could just convince yourself that any ease is because you missed your calling as an International Man/Woman of Mystery. (Yeah, baby!)

But these are admittedly minor quibbles with what is a solid bit of adventuring to get you in the right frame of mind for your weekend. (You never know when you're going to need to infiltrate something.) The artwork is gorgeous and moody, even if the darkness might be a little hard on your eyes, and the atmosphere is that perfect blend of creepy/desolate that makes for great evening gaming. The ending is a little abrupt, but if you're looking for a tasty bite of What If?-style point-and-click gameplay, you could do a lot worse than Owl's Nest.

Play Owl's Nest


(16 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Garden Dash

JohnBHey there, green thumb! Do you know how to manage your time? Barb sure does, and she proves it every day with her fervent dedication to her fast-paced job at Big Corp! The stress is really getting to her, though, and finally both her boss and co-workers insist she take a vacation. Sitting in a diner with her pal, Flo suggests Barb take up gardening to sooth her nerves and restore some balance to her life. What does Barb hear? "Start a business selling fruits and vegetables!" So begins Garden Dash, a time management game that takes place in the Diner Dash universe featuring a host of new ideas, characters, and gameplay!

gardendash.jpgAs with most time management games, Garden Dash is all about learning your trade and performing tasks as efficiently as you can. In this case, however, you're much more focused on the protagonist rather than customers. In fact, hungry shoppers are little more than icons and numbers at the top of the screen. Your real concerns are taking care of the plants and keeping an eye on Barb's nervous system!

Customers march in the door and ask for certain items. You immediately snap to work, filling pots with soil, planting the appropriate seeds, watering and trimming the plants, and finally harvesting them and delivering them to the customers. Each time you harvest a pot a relief leaf token falls to the ground. Grab them to fill the bar at the bottom of the screen. When it's full, unleash Barb's relaxation potential to pause the timer and give full hearts to every plant growing in your garden.

Beating levels isn't about earning money, it's about filling a number of orders within the time limit. Surprisingly, for a game about relaxing, the timer is a bit of a pain and manages to put quite a bit of pressure on you. It won't be long before you feel the sting of repeating a level because you were a few seconds too slow in tending your garden. You can add seconds to the clock by chaining together color combos. Each plant is associated with a particular color (tomatoes are red, grapes are green, etc.). Growing a tomato turns that pot red, so if your next crop is also a tomato, you'll start a chain. Keep these chains going as long as possible to keep the timer at bay!

gardendash2.jpgAnalysis: When you see another game with "Dash" in the name from PlayFirst, you pretty much know what to expect. The series, if anything, has proven its commitment to high-quality titles that stick closely to a set formula, deviating just enough to provide a unique experience with each release. Garden Dash is perhaps the most unique of the lot, switching the focus of the gameplay as well as rearranging other elements to create a game that not only feels different, but one that actually is different.

Not having to worry about customers is a departure for the time management genre, especially games in the Dash series. Instead, Garden Dash shifts the focus to the character and the plants, creating a much more personalized experience. Dealing with anonymous customers, no matter how interesting and unique they are, is dealing with a faceless crowd. Now, you're working with plants and trying to help Barb better herself. It's a subtle shift that adds impact to the game, something you don't see so often in casual games.

Unfortunately, the upgrades shop suffers a bit in Garden Dash, and this is normally one of the high points of any time management game. Some of the bonuses are neat, such as plant pots that harvest themselves, but a few are almost entirely useless, giving you little incentive to actually spend cash between levels.

Garden Dash is a departure from the established time management tradition, but it's a welcome set of changes. Gorgeous visuals, intriguing new styles of gameplay, and a character-driven plot makes this one a clear winner, even if you aren't a fan of time management games!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (82 votes)
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DoraCardboard Box AssemblerLife's a party when you're a Cardboard Box Assembler in Fernando Ramallo and Miguel Ángel Perez Martínez's latest puzzle platformer game! All that monotony, the drudgery, the tedious, repetitive work for no respect and low level pay... awwwww yeah. There's an added perk too, of course, in that if you do enough of it, it just might drive you to have a psychotic episode that transports you to a magical 3D realm with topsy-turvy terrain, magical doors, and shiny gems. Will you ever find your way back? More importantly, do you even want to after a flashy, animated intro like that? (I think I need to go lay down. I feel like my eyeballs just gorged on every anime, ever.)

The world you're in may be unusual, but the controls are pretty straightforward. The [WASD] or [arrow] keys move your intrepid box warrior, and the [spacebar] lets you jump. In each stage, the goal is to get to the exit after collecting any keys you need to do so (the icon in the upper right corner tells you how many keys are left on a level.). Climb around, over, and under every level, in more than one direction, and you'll quickly begin to see where the real challenge lies. You'll also be able to grab gems, which are optional, but unlock special bonus worlds where you can get special upgrades like the eye-watering "3D Anaglyph Mode" for those of you who still have a pair of red and blue 3D glasses banging around (or the means to make your own). Don't worry if you miss a gem, since they're completely optional and you can replay any level you like.

As you progress through this strange boxy wonderland, you'll encounter different obstacles and mechanics you'll need to master in order to proceed, from switches that operate platforms, to switches that flip the gravity. You can't die no matter how far you fall (it seems our hero has Adamantium knees), and the only thing the timer influences is your score. So take your time, take a leap of faith or two, and you'll be the master of your strange domain... eventually.

Cardboard Box AssemblerAnalysis: Cardboard Box Assembler basically winds up feeling a lot like the swankier cousin of Sophie Houlden's BOXGAME, and I mean that in the best possible way. It takes the basic concept and expands upon it, creating something that's smooth and very engaging to play. You never feel like you're fighting the camera with its fixed location, and the box never shifts beneath you as it moves in an unpredictable manner. While mentally keeping track of where any keys and gems are as you try to figure out how to maneuver yourself to get back around to them can be difficult, the fact that you can see the silhouette of the terrain through the box's background can usually help you figure out where you are.

My biggest criticism might actually be that as slick and wonderfully silly as the whole presentation is, the game feels like it's a bit slow to actually get rolling. The game is very slow to introduce new elements initially, so the first three worlds (or "trips") wind up looking and feeling very similar aside from their increasingly complex designs. The bonus worlds are actually the most interesting, both visually and conceptually, and I wish more of that weird/puzzling vibe had been present in more of the standard levels. The farther you go, however, the more intricate and clever the mechanics get until you really feel less like you're just falling around randomly hoping to land on a key and more as if you're actively figuring them out, and after the first four worlds, you'll really have your Big Boy/Girl Puzzle Pants on.

From its clean design to its clever puzzles, to say nothing of its silly cutscenes, Cardboard Box Assembler is both a great way to spend an afternoon, and marks the emergence of a bold new hero that represents the everyman. Provided the everyman has gone insane once in a while after the end of a long work week and willingly hurled themselves out of a window. I think we've all been there. (Ask Jay sometime about how much I've cost him in repairs.) Neither overly complex nor too simplistic, Cardboard Box Assembler is just plain fun, and a great example of the genre. The next time your work gets a bit too much for you, slap a cardboard box on your head, ignore the stares and whispers, and remember that there's someone out there who gets you.

Play Cardboard Box Assembler


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraHey dudes, dudettes, and other assorted mammals! Another week has come and gone, bringing us yet closer to our inevitable demise as time marches inexorably onwards! Yaaaaaay! Let's celebrate by playing games that will help us forget, however briefly, our own fleeting mortality! Sure hope there's nothing about, say, a zombie apocalypse in here to remind us what fragile shells we really... oh. Oh.

  • The Sagittarian 2The Sagittarian 2 - [Parental Advisory: Contains foul language and violence.] I'm beginning to think it's time we sat down with zombies and had a heart-to-heart, Jerry Springer style, about our inherent hostilities, and how we could potentially come to a peaceful solution to all these headshots/braaaaaaaains! In the meantime, though, I guess we'll have to succumb to our baser instincts with this point-and-click adventure follow-up to the original post-apocalyptic romp from Hyptosis. Jerry would be so disappointed in us... he really cares, you know?!
  • Tentacle Wars: The Purple MenaceTentacle Wars: The Purple Menace - Part real-time strategy, part Galcon homage, and part naughty-sounding title, this game should fulfill your needs for tentacled domination. Take over nearby organisms by sprouting tentacles to decrease their numbers, then slicing the appendage off when you've done all you can or need to regenerate your own microbes. If only this was also the approved method for getting the best seats at the movie theater, or the last slice of pizza at a party.
  • Gravity BoyGravity Boy - I'm starting to wonder what kind of grudge developers have against gravity. Did their parents miss their school play to attend a lecture on Isaac Newton? In any case, here's the latest attempt to subjugate that bad ol' force of nature with physics puzzle platforming. As Gravity Boy, you have the power to freeze time and flip the screen around you, and where you or I might use this ability to make all the Reese's Pieces on the other side of the room fall right into our mouths (a practical application if ever I heard one), he uses it to collect all the coins needed to open the exit in each level.
  • iStunt 2iStunt 2 - Because my body reacts resentfully to anything more athletically demanding than my daily workout by trying to make me kill myself with clumsiness, I'm afraid this arcade game about snowboarding will have to be the closest I get to being a celebrated stunt superstar. Just use the [arrow] keys to control your character's flips and turns, grab stars, flags, and watch out for common natural hazards like drops, snow drifts, trees, and low-hanging buzz-saws suspended in midair. (Just another way Mother Nature wants you to know she hates when you enjoy yourself.)
  • Arm Surgery 2Arm Surgery 2 - [Note: Contains a small amount of blood and tissue, and might not be for the squeamish.] If Dark Cut is too much for you, but you're still determined to save lives, then you might want to give this little sim game a whirl. Unsurprisingly, the goal here is to follow the on-screen instructions to perform surgery on someone's arm. (In addition to being a doctor, deducing that also qualifies you to be a detective.) It's short, but a bright, cheery alternative to Alan Probe or actually breaking your arm.
  • Katamari HackKatamari Hack - [Please note that this is made specifically for the Google Chrome browser, and may not work in other browsers.] Because of the limitations of this little webtoy, I've included it as a SUPAR SEEKRIT bonus addition to this week's Link Dump Friday. Intended as an homage to Katamari Damacy, the "game" is simple; just paste the code into the address bar of whatever site you're on, and then roll your little ball around, picking up all the text and images to grow bigger. Limited and admittedly kinda pointless? Sure. But entertaining? You bet. I've sadly never even played Katamari before, but as soon as that music kicked in I felt something akin to love at first sight from across a crowded room. Da-DA-da-da-da-dadada-KATAMARI DAMA-CEEEEE!

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Rating: 4.1/5 (111 votes)
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joyeFlagstaff: Chapter OneSome adventurers seek to rescue a true love. Others seek revenge upon parent-killers and village-burners. I'm not totally sure about the motivations of the adventuring party in Joel Esler's Flagstaff: Chapter One. Yeah, sure, the King (looking stylish in a towel) told them he needs a dungeon infestation cleaned up, but what do they get out of it? Mostly vodka and oranges, apparently. Or maybe they just enjoy the rpg pleasure of turnbased combat in a procedurally generated isometric dungeon? Hey, it's why we're here, so it would make sense.

The game has been slightly tweaked since its first version to be more user friendly. In general, you can use the mouse to do everything: select your party member, select the tile you'd like to move them to, and select a skill. If it's a skill that has a target, select a target. Repeat three more times, then click end turn to give the enemies a go. It's straightforward, but it can be a little tedious, so the first trick is to speed up your character's movement by clicking again after choosing a tile for them to walk to. You'll also want to use hotkeys [1, 2, 3 etc] for quick skill selection and [shift] to switch between players. Lastly, you can scroll around the game window either with [WASD] or by holding down [spacebar] and dragging the window with the mouse. Once you've killed a lot of dudes, you'll receive a notice that you've leveled up, and you can spend points on improving your party so as to kill more dudes. It is the circle of dude-killing.

Even with improvements to some speed aspects, Flagstaff is definitely not a game to be described as "an adrenaline rush" or "a fast-paced thrillfest". Pretty much any blurb that you'd see on a summer blockbuster movie poster doesn't apply, actually. Even among turn-based games, Flagstaff is deliberate, relaxed, low-stakes. The adorable big-eyed and big-headed sprites only add to that feel. "Who's an adorable little skeleton? You are! You are! Oh, and you're carrying a little bow and arrow! I could just kill you! In fact, I will. *thwonk*"

Although you can't save mid-level, each individual level doesn't take too long, which makes this a great choice for a little working day gaming break where you want to relieve stress, not aggravate it.

Play Flagstaff: Chapter One


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Rating: 4.8/5 (73 votes)
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Babylon Sticks: No Problem 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: 4.2/5 (54 votes)
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JamesDuBloxIt is said that you can't put a square inside a circle. As it turns out, putting a square over a square isn't that simple either. In this polished take on a long-lived puzzle classic, Hooda Math's DuBlox is a challenging game where you have to get your blocks at the right spot.

Playing DuBlox drew a mix of two kinds of sensations, somewhere between parallel parking and solving a Rubik's Cube. Both, incidentally, are also terrible examples, because both are the kind of activities that makes people cringe and rather do something else. DuBlox, on the other hand, is the type of game you can play and play and play, no doubt helped by that magic ingredient that makes you keep coming back. You move a grid of blocks along a platform, made from more blocks, by flipping it over, much like 'rolling' a box full of presumably unbreakable stuff (so, no "This Side Up" marking). The aim is to rest your block on the two red blocks designating the end. (Similar to Bloxorz.) To do this you must maneuver your blocks around the space, avoiding the edges or triggering disappearing blocks (there are also teleport and bridge blocks that ought to be activated).

The soothing soundtrack and smooth presentation just makes it all that much better. DuBlox even does the one thing that this reviewer sees as a must in any puzzle game: once you complete a level, the game automatically loads the next challenge, so there is no interruption of the process by having to grab a mouse and click on some annoying button marked "next". Scoring is determined by the number of moves you make to complete a puzzle, while different grades of medals are awarded for your frugality.

There are forty-nine stages to complete as well as a neat level editor to facilitate your own creations. If anything, having Dublox in your browser is a bit of a mercy. If this was on your phone, you'd have no life yet. What am I saying? It'll probably be on your iPhone or Android soon, if it's not there already.

Play DuBlox

You Are Games

ArtbegottiFor a while now, we've been doing these Babylon Sticks Caption Contests as some of our You Are Games escapades. We've done seven of these contests so far, and we've had seven winners, out of over seven hundred comments. Winning seems like an uphill battle, doesn't it? But with the proper focus and concentration on the goal, the winning caption may very well come to you. You must climb higher, and reach farther to achieve caption enlightenment!

bs-contest-enlightened.jpgUntil you hit that point, you've got to start with your feet on the ground, taking a look at the unfinished Babylon Sticks cartoon drawn by James Francis here. Focus. Concentrate. Can you uncover any humorous words of enlightenment in the array of ink? If you can, send it to us! Submit your caption ideas as a comment below using your Casual Gameplay account. Multiple entries are allowed, but remember to keep them appropriate for all ages and obscenity-free. We also tend to like captions that keep a gaming theme, so keep that mantra in mind as well.

And as always with our caption contests:

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

You must complete your quest by Monday, March 21st at 11:59 PM (GMT-5:00), so begin your caption-searching journey now!


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Rating: 4.4/5 (210 votes)
| Comments (67) | Views (733)

DoraPriorIn puzzle platformer Prior by KrangGames, you wake up alone, isolated in some sort of cell, unable to remember anything about yourself or your surroundings. Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move around, and the notes you'll discover laying around the curiously abandoned facility will provide you with further controls and insight. (Though I'll tell you, just because the game drags its feet about this basic function, that [ESC] pauses.) Why are you here? Can you get out? What's waiting for you out there if you do make it?

From a purely mechanical standpoint, Prior is very simple, though executed well. It really is one of those games however, where, for the most part, it all comes down to narrative and atmosphere since the gameplay is simple. At roughly half an hour of play, Prior ends rather abruptly and it's up to you to decide whether you feel it really delivers a satisfying ending after one or two playthroughs. I could fill a whole article with my own feelings and interpretations (as I've done before), but I don't want to colour your own before you've played and completed it yourself. Did I like Prior? Certainly. I feel it's an interesting bit of storytelling wrapped up in a bite-size piece of platforming, and for me, at least, the narrative manages to get me past the relatively bland area design.

But let's try something different here and let me turn the focus back on you. Let's get a little discussion going here, you and I, on the game as a whole. How did you feel about the way the narrative was presented? Do you think the ending was satisfying and would have been spoiled by more story, or did it leave you feeling like it needed more? Did the spartan design add to the overall experience, or inhibit your response? In short; what worked for you, what didn't, and why? You guys are smart, and you've proven time and again that you like a good debate, so let's have at it. What, if anything, did that lonely little black box do for you?

Play Prior


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Rating: 4.3/5 (83 votes)
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Chisel 2

DoraFans of strapping drills on your heads and causing massive property damage, turn those frowns upside-down! Nitrome still loves you and is here to prove it with Chisel 2, the sequel to last year's bouncy, weird arcade game, Chisel. Use your fantabulous drilly/springy/weird-alien-thingy powers to drill your way through 24 levels of enemies, high scores, and deliciously destructible terrain. Use the [arrow] keys to move around, the [spacebar] to start drilling, and follow the on-screen tips for more instructions as to how your new abilities work.

What do you guys think of Nitrome's latest sequel? Have any tips for avoiding terrible turnips? Let us know in the comments! Also, post your review of the game to have it featured here.

Play Chisel 2


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Rating: 3.8/5 (83 votes)
| Comments (12) | Views (109)

DoraCarveola IncidentThey say war is hell, and that's even without someone trying to eat your brains. In WootraGames' shooter/defense hybrid Carveola Incident, you play Sgt. Kirley, a man ordered after the war to join up with former enemy soldiers and defend a massive trench in the middle of nowhere. But what's at the center? And who are you defending it from? I'll give you a hint; it starts with a "Z" and ends with a "MY FLESH, MY FLESH, YOU'RE CHEWING ON MY SUCCULENT FLE-HE-HEEESSSSH!"

The lion's share of the gameplay is given over to something like a first person shooter, with you able to run back and forth along the trench while your fellow soldiers hold their ground and fire at anything that comes within range. Your cursor is a crosshair, so just point and click to fire at incoming shamblers. To begin with, most zombies will only require one shot to the head to go down, but as the levels progress, they'll get stronger, and start to appear in greater variety. Some levels are even fought at night, which greatly decreases your visibility. You can see where the zombies are appearing via the little map in the upper right corner, so you'll know where you should be headed to if they start to get too close. (If things get really desperate, you can even call in a little aerial reinforcement.) You can have a total of twenty soldiers on your side, but they won't be enough to protect every section of the trench, so you'll need to keep moving and keep shooting if you want to hold the line.

You can manually place each soldier where you want him before each stage, but because it's impossible to predict where zombies are going to appear, it's faster and just as effective to hit "random" and then arrange if necessary for even dispersal along the trench. If you do lose a soldier to the unfortunate trait of having flesh too tasty for his own good, you can easily replace him between battles, where you spend money on new weapons and new recruits, some of them more effective than others. Hey, it could be worse; thank goodness we're not being attacked by a lot of broad-sided barns or we'd really be done for.

Carveola IncidentAnalysis: While you can't say Carveola Incident is particularly original, being a blend of several genres we see done fairly frequently, the execution is handled quite nicely. It's great to play a defense/shooter where you feel like you're actually vital to your own success, rather than running around like a gimmicky little gopher while the game handles everything for you. The actual story here at work is delivered in tiny snippets of text between each level, and while it may be doled out a bit too slowly for some, it does a good job of creating an air of mystery surrounding the whole event, especially coupled with the black-and-white film grain aesthetic.

The combat is fairly solid and reliable, if unvaried. If your hand is even moderately steady, pegging headshots on zombies even at a long distance is easy, and you'll probably go quite a few levels without a single enemy getting anywhere near brain-eating distance. (Twelve levels in my case.) What the game winds up feeling like it desperately needs is more variation; after a while the monotone colour scheme can get to you, and you're really going to want some different enemies to shake things up. It feels like the game could have been half as long and been stronger for it by cutting out a lot of the identical stages and just making the rest longer to compensate for cash. If we've already proven that we can deal with your crawling zombies just as easily as the others, do we really need to prove it for four more levels before you start adding new ones to the mix?

And, okay, while we're at it, we might as well mention that the concept does sort of resemble that one chapter from that one book you're contractually obligated to read if you've ever been in the same vicinity as someone watching a zombie movie. But Carveola Incident is an entertaining variant on a genre that's been done to death and back again, and, while not particularly complex, offers a satisfying chunk of head-shootin' action for those of us who just don't feel right with the world until we've done our part to stem the undead threat.

They're coming to get you, Kirrrrrley!

Play Carveola Incident


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Rating: 3.9/5 (85 votes)
| Comments (79) | Views (135)

Weekday Escape

SonicLoverOkay, Triangle probably isn't actually the name of this escape game by SuzumeDr. Its actual name, as far as I can tell, is "?" (a solid black equilateral triangle), but I'll be darned if I can figure out how to type that into the title box, so let's settle for the word the symbol represents: Triangle.

soniclover_triangle_screenshot.gifIt's played just like most escape games. Explore the room, pick up various items, solve various puzzles, and eventually regain your freedom. To use an item, click it once and then click the environment; to examine it closer, double-click.

So what's different about this one? The atmosphere. Triangle is absolutely charming. Its atmosphere is decidedly different from practically every escape game I've ever played before, and for someone who's played as many as I have that's a feat.

The graphics are almost entirely made out of triangles (hence the name, I presume), and 90% of it is either black, white, or red. Most of the sound effects seem to have been recorded using percussion instruments, which has a charm all to itself (my personal favorite is the "dee-dee dee-dah" that means "you try to open this thing, but it's locked").

But the meat of an escape game is its puzzles, and Triangle is strong here as well. Every puzzle is fairly intuitive, but still a bit challenging. There are touches of originality, but also a few samples of the familiar, including the mandatory arithmetic puzzle that will send you rushing for a calculator. The little extra touches, like how used items show up on the nightstand next to the door, don't go unappreciated either.

Triangle is not a game to be missed, unless you're a square. Or a circle, or a pentagon.

Play Triangle


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Rating: 3.3/5 (44 votes)
| Comments (10) | Views (98)

DoraDependant[Please note that if you are colour-blind you may have difficulty playing this game.] Chances are, if you're reading this, you're a person. And if you are a person, you've been stressed out at some point in your life. Maybe it was something simple like someone cutting you off in traffic so you missed a green light, or sitting behind you on the bus lightly kicking the back of your seat over and over. Or maybe you're stuck in Allie Brosh's patented "sneaky hate spiral". (Man, forget birds anyway. You're better than them!) In any case, my point is, we can all use a little relaxing yoga for the brain from time to time, and if this is one of those times for you, then you might want to give Fernando Ramallo's mellow and melodic simple puzzle game a try, Dependant.

Have mouse? Can play! Trackpad users also won't find much issue here, since the core mechanic is just click'n'drag. The goal is to rotate or slide the gray chunks of the screen around until they flash and snap into focus, creating one complete image. The closer you get to the proper position, the more colourful and clearer the portion of screen you're working with becomes. While the game starts you out easy, as you deal with just one or two movable portions of picture, soon you're moving multiple "frames" of the same mobile picture at the same time. There's no limit to how many tries it takes to you click and shuffle the level around, but if you want a good score and for the game to compliment you, you'll have to try to limit your moves to the level's par number... easier said than done. If you're well and truly stuck, you can click the "Pause" button to skip the level you're on, and in general you'll find that beating one level usually unlocks several more.

DependantAnalysis: What you wouldn't call Dependant is particularly challenging, unless you were actually trying to get each level under par. While figuring out what to rotate or slide when and how much can be difficult, to the point where I occasionally felt like calling shenanigans on the par score, Dependant wants you to play at your own place. That lack of pressure is part of what makes the game so appealing; there's no time limit, and you can fiddle and shift pieces to your heart's content, letting the softly undulating visuals, rich colours, and mellow soundtrack soothe your mind. In this regard, Dependant is somewhat of a one trick pony; a very lovely pony, who I would name Buttercup and brush her mane every day in a field of sunflowers, but one trick nonetheless. Whether this is a flaw for you depends largely on how much variety you demand on your plate at any given time.

To be fair, Dependant does go a long way to taking its simple concept and polishing it to an appealing shine. While some of the levels seem particularly fiddly, the ability to skip some of them and even play a lot of the levels in whatever order you like makes the whole thing extremely accessible. If you'll permit me a moment of girl here, I will say that I might have preferred brighter colours in some stages, or simply a wider variety of them, since in a few cases the colour scheme begins to look a bit like vintage mod wallpaper, I still enjoyed the time I spent with it. You don't always need to create something deep or complex to create something worthwhile, and if what you've been wanting is the beautiful but simple product of interactive art and light puzzle gameplay, then Dependant will provide.

Play Dependant

We're mirroring the game here: http://jayisgames.com/games/dependant/ for those who can't play it at the sponsor's site due to browser issues.


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Rating: 3.9/5 (51 votes)
| Comments (18) | Views (52)

TrickyMad PlanetYou might think that the combination of Boys' Life, the monthly scouting magazine for ages 6-18, and retro-action-meister Hamumu make for an unexpected pairing. Heck, I was a cub scout and even I find it a little strange. However, I do know that when the creator of the Robot Wants series releases a flixel platformer based around a trio of differently-abilitied characters fighting their way through an alien landscape, I don't care if it's Tiger Beat or Cat Fancy: I'm there. That game is Mad Planet, and it's got quality worthy of a merit badge.

Generally, using the [arrow] keys to move, the [Z] key to jump, and the [X] key to fire your weapon, you and your animal companion traverse the five biome of the Mad Planet, ranging from the flora and fauna filled Deep Jungle, to the robotic Scrap Yard. Before each level, you choose your player character to control, each with various strengths and weaknesses: Pedro (Boys' Life's mailbag burro mascot) has a double jump, the ability to throw block clearing mail, and can float on water. Pee -Wee Harris (the First Class Scout who appears in a monthly comic) can jump off of walls, has a slingshot which releases a barrage of rocks when fully charged, and is an accomplished singer. Dredd Speed (... who's an astronaut I don't recognize, and likely showed up after my subscription ran out) has a jet-pack that allows you to hover by holding the [Z] key, a comparatively weak laser stream with excellent range and aiming, and sinks like a rock in water... Part of the fun is discovering the different paths and strategies you use for each character in each level. Coming along to help is an animal companion of your choice: Mad Monkey, who attacks enemies for you, Blockatiel, who shields you from attack, and Flutterguy, who occasionally heals you. Collecting the various power-ups scattered around the levels increases your abilities, with a specific one for each character. Good luck!

I suppose that the elephant in the room is that the sponsorship seems a little out of place. Truly it has no real bearing on the quality of the game, but really, there haven't been mascots so blatantly tacked on to a concept since that NES game where the Noid battled people with trading cards. However, judged on its own merits, there's quite a bit to like. The multiple characters allow for some interesting customization options and borderline non-linearity, the graphics and sounds are classic arcade, and frankly, I'm probably going to enjoy most games that let you have a lower-primate on your team.

A word of warning though: this game is tough. T-o-u-g-h, tough. While it's not quite I Wanna Be The Guy, it's at least "Early Castlevania Game" level: lasers fly around the screen, health is sparse, perfect jump timing is required throughout, and those friggin' birds could give the ones in Ninja Gaiden a run for their money. It took me, like, six tries to beat the boss of Sticky Swamp (just barely, using Dredd Speed), and that's only the second level! Be sure to pick up every power-up you see. You'll need them.

While its challenge might be above the 6-18 demographic, Mad Planet is really a lot of fun. The levels are few in number but offer quite a bit of replayability with the different characters. When it comes to difficulty, though, by comparison, making a fire with two sticks is easier.

Play Mad Planet


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The Vault

TrickyThe front of the Othello box promises that it takes "a minute to learn... a lifetime to master". Now, admittedly I've never been all that interested in spending my lifetime becoming a reversi-master (especially if Settlers of Cataan is nearby), but I think the phrasing is something that resonates with us as gamers. We want something that's basic enough to immediately jump in, but challenging enough to make victory seem glorious. Slide the tiles so all fifteen are in order? Rotate the blocks of the cube until all sides are the same color? Weigh the eight balls to find the one that's heavier? They seem so simple, but they're not... and mastering them is a triumph. This week in the JayIsGames Vault, we take a peek a trio of games: puzzle, word, and platform, where the complexity hides just below the surface.

  • BlockdudeBlockdude - A game that's only 40kb gets the same sort of skepticism as a masters thesis only half a page long. The fact that it is an only slightly-upgraded remake of a game fully playable on a graphing calculator would seem to be a second strike. However, Blockdude defies first impressions. Its simplicity masks intense challenge. Moving blocks around in a puzzle barely-platformer doesn't seem hair-pullingly difficult, but you'd better believe it is, dude. Frustrating and engaging in equal measure, Blockdude is a classic, no matter what the platform. If you can beat all 14 levels, you'll prove yourself the head of the pre-calc class that is puzzle games.
  • Double Wires.Double Wires - Is the protagonist of Double Wires more a Spider-Man or a Bionic Commando? It doesn't matter: it's just fun. MS Paint graphics and no sound may turn some off, but those who stay will find physics gameplay that is nothing short of elegant. The ragdoll truly dances as he swings from blob to blob, wires sprouting from his arms with a click of a mouse. The only goal is a high score, but that is enough to keep you playing: Double Wire is a wonderful ballet whose length is determined by your skill. You'll want it to last a long time.
  • Funny FarmFunny Farm - Walter Scott knew well that deception leaves to tangled webs, but I think even he would be surprised at the cleverly convoluted brain teaser that is Funny Farm. An combination of concept mapping and word-association lateral thinking, Funny Farm is a fun brainteaser for the everyday apophenia victim, or everyone who loves a good meta-puzzle. It starts so easily... Surely you can think of words that fit "On The Farm", but soon you'll have expanded the web and your mind. Suddenly, it's two hour later and you're turning your mind over trying to figure the connection between "Board Games" and "Boot", and you need to call in a friend. Devilishly difficult and hard to leave unfinished.

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: 3.8/5 (72 votes)
| Comments (2) | Views (29)

Joshnotebookwars2.jpgLet's face it: we all find ourselves doodling at one time or another. Whether it's during a boring class lecture or some endless board meeting, there always seems to be something much more exciting and epic that needs to be drawn in the margins of a notebook. Keeping this in mind, Francisco Ferreres and Dream Forge Studios channeled their inner teenage artist and brought this imaginative concept to life in the sketch-based shooter, Notebook Wars. Now the colorful fighting doodles are back in their latest follow-up, Notebook Wars 2.

Like Notebook Wars, Dream Forge's newest vertical shooter has you facing off against the forces of penciled-in evil that come from the top and sides of the screen. Your fight begins with a vulnerable, meekly-drawn plane firing a slow stream of bullets, but it can eventually be upgraded to an awesomely-sketched spaceship with armor and multiple weapon slots. You control your ship by moving the mouse, fire its weapons by clicking, and can drop one of its full-screen bombs with the [spacebar]. This time around you can also set your ship to autofire with [A], helping to avoid repetitive strain on your clicker-finger.

Despite the addition of a numeral to the title, Notebook Wars 2 feels more like an extension of the original game rather than a full-blown sequel. That said, there are still some nice aesthetic additions and refinements in place. The graph-paper drawings are still there, but now planes and spacecraft sport realistic shadows. There are also new friendly and enemy ships, weapons, a map-based level select screen, and a refined shopping interface. The basic gameplay hasn't changed much - you still need to get through a level, earn cash by destroying enemies, and upgrade your ship and weapons to face the next enemy threat. Thankfully it doesn't take very long to buy a sufficiently-powerful ship to take on enemies that absorb more punishment.

All told, Notebook Wars 2 is an engaging, classic-style shooter. Much of the game's fun comes in controlling new ships, upgrading to better weapons, and mopping up waves of bad guys. Sadly there's no ending to the game even after getting through all 13 levels, but completionists will enjoy earning 3 stars on each level and earning badges for enemies killed and cash earned. While it would have been neat to see more new gameplay features (perhaps mission-based levels or more creative boss fights) fans of the original and shoot-em-up enthusiasts should be happy with this next round of epic doodle action.

Play Notebook Wars 2


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Rating: 4/5 (62 votes)
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TrickyOmega BoxWould you like a jet-pack? Sure, we all do! However, I'm not so sure I'd be willing to volunteer for the strict testing procedures that would have to be completed before release to market: what with the dodging of missiles, the zapping of lasers, and having to deal with the inevitably-snarky AI running the whole thing. Omega Box, the new action game from Ironzilla, is the tale of a test-subject either much braver or much less lucky than I, who must fly around the experimentation room avoiding everything said snarky AI can throw at him.

Using the [arrow] keys to move around the box, you must survive as long as you can by avoiding the firing weapons, and collecting enough Plasma Packs to keep you in their air to score point combos: blue packs being adding 100 point/1x to the multiplier and red ones adding 500 points/5x. Your actions will determine your amusing after-play ranking as well as unlocking medals to purchase upgrades. The carrot dangling in front of you is the classified area that unlocks at 2,000,000 points. In the interest of full disclosure, I haven't managed to unlock it yet... but boy howdy I'm going to keep trying.

Avoidance games can be quite hit or miss, but there are a few features that differentiates Omega Box from the pack. It starts fast-paced and never lets up. The fuel cell mechanic means that you strive towards some objects as much as you strive away from others, making for a near-perfect play balance. It has that frustrating addictive quality that makes you want to replay time and time again for a better rank and another secret to unlock.

It's not perfect: the explosive blasts you need to avoid are a bit unclear in both their range and how long they can harm you, which is a problem for a game based around one-hit-kills. I would have also preferred if the unlocked Evolutions removed enemies from play instead of making you immune to e.g. one kind of laser and not another. These minor issues aside, Omega Box is quite fun and should keep you playing for quite a while. If you typically avoid avoidance games, this just might be the one that'll change your mind.

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Mobile Monday

JohnBThese games are just too cute. And when I say "too cute", I seriously mean they contain more cuteness than should be allowed. Round pandas munching on bamboo? With sound effects?! Pixel dudes hopping over cliffs? Moo cows floating on buttery clouds?SOMEBODY MAKE THE CUTENESS STOP!!! (Or, not.)

cowtrouble.gifCow Trouble - Farmer Diddle's cows have fled the farm and tried to jump over the moon. They didn't quite make it, though, and landed on soft puffy clouds floating somewhere between. Now, in order to get them down, you need to drop balls from the top of the screen and influence their trajectory to knock the bovines free. It's sort of like Crush the Castle meets simplified pachinko, only with great power-ups and a wonderful pixel art style. Cow Trouble is nothing short of a brilliant combination of simple game types that's udderly addictive. See what we did there?

kamiretro.gifKAMI RETRO - That's right, all caps, baby! KAMI RETRO is a sort of Lemmings meets Mario on a touch screen kind of game. You see, these little bearded bandana-wearing guys hop out of a portal and start running to the right. You must get them to the exit safely, and in order to do that, you'll have to swipe the screen to make each one jump or turn. In addition, you have to place fans, cannons, and other objects to move them around the screen. That's all well and good, but when you have to direct kami after kami, things get hectic fast. Fantastically entertaining, and often laugh out loud funny.

landapanda.gifLand-a Panda - Hey, you wanna shoot pandas out of cannons? Safely? This is so the game for you! Land-a Panda is a gorgeously-illustrated physics puzzle game where you guide a panda through a series of cannons to collect coins and reach his girlfriend on the other side. Think that's cute? Wait until you see the game in motion! The levels are smartly designed and offer a wonderful balance of reflex-based gaming and strategic planning. Those of us who grew up with a SNES will immediately notice a resemblance to certain levels in the original Donkey Kong Country game. And you know what? That's a good thing! The free Land-a Panda Lite is also available.

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


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Rating: 4.1/5 (28 votes)
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Fate of the World

DoraSave the world. It's easy, right? After all, we're not talking about a robot uprising or an alien invasion here... all we need is someone to fix the environment and get everyone working together for the greater good. You could handle that, couldn't you? If you've ever caught yourself thinking, "We could solve poverty/famine/disease/dwindling resources if we would just... " then Red Redemption's strategy simulation game, Fate of the World, the sequel to 2007's Climate Challenge, just might be for you. You have just been named head of the newly formed GEO (Global Environmental Organization) and granted the political clout you need to save the world from itself. Witness real science and research at play as the world reacts to your every choice in every country, from solving an energy crisis in Japan to struggling to instigate a health care program in South Africa while the country suffers from crippling riots amid poor living and working conditions. You can handle that, right? After all, if only the people in charge would "just" make the right decisions, decisions which are of course very obvious, the world would be a better, more stable place... right?

Fate of the WorldIn each stage, you're given an objective to complete within a certain time frame, and very little help as to how to go about achieving it. (Although the game will tell you how you can fail.) Gameplay is turn-based, with each turn representing five years. During each turn, you can do as much as you have the money and manpower for; actions are represented with different cards that you can play in a country, such as starting an education program or opening an office to further technological advancement. All of these are important, since your actions unlock new cards with different advancements that can be of use to you. Every choice and action you take has an affect on the country you're working with, and with so many countries clamouring for your help, you'll have a hard time keeping your most important resources (money and manpower) out of the red. At the end of each turn, time advances five years, and you'll be presented with a summary of how things have changed, from the global temperature to the attitudes of the countries you've been working with.

Of course, humans aren't the only critters nibbling away at the planet. Forgetting to spare a thought for conservation in different countries can mean the extinction of entire species... at the end of the day, will you be able to say those loses were worth it? That there was nothing more you could have done? Remember, in the end the solution to a problem is not only to throw money at it. Take the time to review the issues in each particular country when selecting your cards; while adding more security and technological development might be nice, what they might need is a cleaner environment or better medical care. How will you handle things? Will you be willing to ignore the needs of a few countries so that the rest will flourish? Or will you strain to make everyone happy and risk spreading yourself too thin and not accomplishing as much as you could have?

Fate of the WorldAnalysis: All right, let's get this out of the way right now; even if you don't have any interest in the statements this game is trying to make, or the things it wants you to think about, Fate of the World is still mechanically simply an awesome game. This isn't a title that's coasting by on the ideas behind it; it really looks and plays very, very well, and gamers who enjoy deep, meaty strategic gameplay will find it serves their needs quite well. It's not surprising considering the talent of the team behind it. Is Fate of the World edutainment? Well, sure. But it's an incredibly well made piece of it; just give that soundtrack from Richard Jacques a listen. If his name sounds familiar, it's because you might have heard his work on a little-known video-game called Mass Effect. It's super obscure, you've probably never even heard the name before, I'm sure.

When you're just getting the hang of things, the sheer volume of problems facing the world, typically different in every country, is more than a little frightening. Everyone is clamouring for your attention, and everyone is going to blame you and you alone when things don't go right for them, whether it's a tsunami they feel you could have done more to help fortify them against, or the pollutants put out by the factory you installed to further fuel production. Since you're juggling so many different countries and problems at once, progress can feel like it's slowed to a crawl. In order to really succeed, you need to spend more than ten seconds thinking about how to play your cards in each turn, and in some cases that can take a long time if you really analyze every situation and read up on all the card possibilities. Fate of the World is an incredibly important game, no doubt about that, but there are times when it can feel a bit like a second job everyone is ready to lynch you for performing poorly at.

Fate of the WorldAs a gamer, that's a bitter pill to swallow. On a lot of stages, you can meet the winning conditions and still feel like you've lost because so many things can go wrong. While that does mean the successes and advancements are that much more satisfying, it does mean that many players will find it discouraging and quit before they really get the hang of things. While I can say that playing Climate Challenge will probably give you a decent indication as to whether you'll enjoy Fate of the World, it still makes me wish there was a demo available for you to really get your feet wet with, preferably consisting of the first two stages since the difficulty and scope spikes significantly after the first level. While it might have made the game a bit easier, it does feel like implicating some sort of advisor system (dream team: Gregory House, Anthony Bourdain, and Doctor Who) would have gone a long way towards making you feel like the game wasn't 75% research and might have made it more accessible to a wider audience.

This is definitely not an easy game, and it will never, ever be called a simple one. There's no law governing how you play a game, of course, and whether you choose to simply enjoy it as entertainment or take it as a call to action is entirely your choice. Fate of the World is brutal and sobering, sure, but it's also intelligent, optimistic, and exceptionally deep. For fans of strategy sims it comes highly recommended. For residents of a certain big blue ball, it might also be some important food for thought.

Please note that while this game is currently only available for Windows, a Mac release is scheduled for April 2011.

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WindowsWindows:
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Rating: 4.4/5 (26 votes)
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Dark Parables: The Exiled Prince

joyeLast year, Blue Tea Games gave us a not-so-happily ever after look at the legend of Sleeping Beauty in the game Dark Parables: Curse of Briar Rose. Players took on the role of a fairy tale detective who brilliantly solved the case. You know how it is when you solve one supernatural mystery, your name gets passed around. In the Black Forest of Germany, the chancellor's daughter has mysteriously vanished in an area where, legend has it, the Frog Prince claims those unwise enough to wander into his territory. (Her bodyguard disappears too, but he's treated more like an afterthought.) Who would they call but you? You'll need to find hidden objects and solve puzzles to rescue them in Dark Parables: The Exiled Prince.

Dark Parables: The Exiled PrinceIf you've only ever played regular hidden object games (say, finding a banana, a wallet, seven roses etc in a bathroom that looks like an antiques store exploded in it), the Dark Parables series might throw you for a bit of a loop. You're searching for item fragments rather than intact items in each scene, with each completed hidden object scene rewarding you with an assembled object. These assembled objects will then be used as part of the adventure gameplay. Some people refer to these games as FROGs for "fragmented object games" (as opposed to HOGs which are "hidden object games"). At first glance this seems like an attempt to improve realism, but FROGs have their own set of problems in that arena. This is still a genre that is best accepted on its own terms, without asking troublesome questions like "How come I can take a bunch of metal pieces and reassemble them into a hammer, but I can't figure out some way to break this china urn without using said hammer?"

In addition to assembling objects and using those objects to solve adventure-style puzzles, as with all nefarious supernatural villains, rather than putting his valuables in a safe deposit box, the Frog Prince favors the "puzzle that can be solved in five minutes" approach to home security. You'll swap objects into the correct order, manipulate images and machinery, attempt to assemble arbitrary groups of objects, and more. If I ever become an evil villain of a video game, I'll set up a puzzle at the entrance to my lair's locked door. Anyone who correctly solves the puzzle will receive ten thousand volts. Add that to the evil overlord list, please.

As the last game did, you have the ability to collect 20 "cursed objects" as a bonus. The cursed objects are scattered throughout the game map and may not be activated the first time you visit a room. They flip back and forth between two equally suitable objects for the scene, for example, if the game had a scene taking place at a cafe, the object might switch between a coffee cup and a sugar bowl. When you notice one, click on it to collect it and also to increase the speed your hint meter regenerates. Collecting all twenty gives nothing but a sense of satisfaction.

Dark Parables: The Exiled PrinceAnalysis: The Exiled Prince is strong on drama and generally goes for whatever plot development would have the strongest emotional impact, skimming past any logical gaps, inconsistencies, or outright contradictions. By the end of the game and bonus game, rationality-focused players may be scratching their heads over many of these plot holes. If that kind of thing tends to drive you crazy, this game may not be for you. If you were to put the key events of the game down on paper, you'll find it doesn't make a lot of sense, but the game has emotional cohesion. Pain, loss, grief, fear, resentment; these things mean a lot to the game. The game's translation issues have improved massively over the previous game, which may soothe the writing champions somewhat.

Despite being a "dark" game both emotionally and atmospherically, for the most part the game avoids the pitfall of having its hidden object scenes too dark to distinguish objects. Objects can indeed sometimes be extremely difficult to find, but this is generally when a fragment is hidden in a place where it's literally impossible to distinguish from the surroundings. For example, in one scene, ivy leaves were hidden in A POT OF IVY. I actually said out loud "Really, game? Really?" I used a hint to find them and I just stared at them for a minute after using the hint. They looked identical to the surrounding leaves! That particular example crossed the line into full-blown "unfair" in my perspective. That was the only incident that was quite that bad, thankfully. The hint meter refills quickly, even if you haven't been collecting cursed objects to increase its speed.

The game has some great puzzles and a good variety of them. My favorites were the ones that were almost like point-and-click webtoys, where you basically just push and pull and experiment until the device does something interesting that seems to be towards your target. It gave a kind of freewheeling feeling that perhaps fit the game's emotions over reason style, and the gorgeous, detailed art really shone in those puzzles.

Improving on its predecessor while preserving its strengths, The Exiled Prince shows that Dark Parables is on track to become a very strong series, and with a third game already in the works (the bonus game in the Collector's Edition is in part a sneak peek), hidden object adventure fans have many happy hours ahead of them.

A Collector's Edition is also available. It includes a bonus adventure and extra puzzles to solve. 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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Lucid

JohnBLucid is a simple, colorful, matching-based puzzle game from YeaBoing. It ditches complexity in all its forms in favor of a pure puzzle experience, slowly ratcheting up the difficulty to keep your brain thinking as fast as you can match dreamy-colored tiles.

LucidLucid is all about drawing lines over clusters of colored blocks to clear them from the screen. You can mark as few as two blocks at a time, provided you can draw a straight line between the pieces. Groups of blocks must be cleared according to the color shown in the task slot on the left side of the screen. Clear a group of that color and the next task pops up. Clear enough and you'll move on to the next level!

Even with a puzzle game as focused as Lucid, there are a few bonus blocks to be found. Naturally, the lucid block is one of them, and you'll earn one by pulling off a combo using task blocks. Match the bouncy lucid blocks and you'll clear the screen, very useful for times when the grid doesn't seem to want to work in your favor. You'll also encounter some score bonuses while you play, which are great if you're one of those gaming hounds who likes to drool over high scores!

Later in the game, Lucid starts to get wicked difficult. Instead of simple tasks to complete, for example, you'll have very specific tasks, such as matching groups of three or more colors. The level design also seems to get more intelligent, and if you're observant, you can often see easy combos you can create from the beginning of the level.

LucidAnalysis: Lucid is all about the puzzles, not cutscenes, not cheesy stories, not extras, mini-games, diversions, or cute characters with big eyes that explain everything to you in 30 minute long tutorials. Something about its stark simplicity reminds me of the earlier days of video games, back when all you needed was a good idea and a smart way of implementing it to entertain crowds of people. While that may be going the way of the helicopter ejection seat in modern times, Lucid refuses to bow down to those conventions.

Even though Lucid keeps the gameplay simple, no part of the presentation suffers from the retro stylings. Lucid looks and plays like a dream, with smoothly-animated blocks drifting around while you match them, lines that are wobbly and natural instead of jagged and angular, and a hazy color palette that makes you feel like you're half-asleep. In a good way! The visual package is half the reason you stay riveted to the screen while playing this game.

Lucid displays very smart design from beginning to end. Every aspect of the game is crafted to provide a clean, clever experience where it's just you and the blocks on the grid. No distractions, no sidetracks, just some brilliantly-built puzzles that will keep you busy for hours on end. An excellent puzzle game by any set of standards!

WindowsWindows:
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Weekend Download

JohnBIt's time to make with the games! Or, to play the games that have been made for playing! Several fun little diversions below, and if you ignore hyphens (which, let's face it, we all do), each one has a one-word title. Isn't that... neat?

bundun.jpgBun-Dun (Windows, 18MB, free) - In the beginning, there was nothing. Then there was Bun-Dun. Bun-Dun decided to create everything, so he made the universe. Then, Bun-Dun made himself. Looking out into the universe, he decided it was very empty, so Bun-Dun set out to collect energy so that he could make worlds filled with things to interact with. Help Bun-Dun out by guiding it around each stage, collecting good energy and avoiding just about everything else. The story and sense of imagination is a great wind-up for a simple sort of game, but it's charming and oh-so enjoyable from start to finish. Bonus: Bun-Dun is from the creator of Everclimb!

candles.jpgCandles (Windows, 101MB, free) - If you ate up games like Amnesia and Penumbra, Candles is just your thing! A dark, first person exploration game, you find yourself trapped in the forest with little more than a few torches to show you what's around. Some imps have taken over your house, and you must use the light to clear them out. A remarkably atmospheric game, best played at night when you're feeling extra timid. It's on the short side and is not without its glitches, but well-worth the experience.

monica.gifMonica (Windows, 7MB, free) - Gravity-flipping games are all the rage, especially after VVVVVV graced our screens. Monica is another simple puzzle platformer in that vein of titles. Once upon a time, a little girl was feeling lonely and bored. She wanted to find someone who loved the color pink, so she invented a playmate for herself. You are that imaginary friend, walking and hopping through 20 levels trying to color all the blocks pink by touching them. Tap the [spacebar] to reverse gravity, pulling off some mid-air stunts that would even impress fans of VVVVVV.

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: 4.3/5 (26 votes)
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Matches and Matrimony

joyeDo you enjoy the works of Jane Austen? Hmm, perhaps I should clarify. Do you enjoy the works of Jane Austen in their original form, without zombies and sea monsters? If you require your romantic heroine to do battle with supernatural forces, I'm afraid this isn't the game for you. For all other Austen fans, especially those who have wished they could simulate their own Austen-style romantic adventure, Matches & Matrimony: A Pride And Prejudice Tale from Reflexive gives you the chance. Pursue nine different endings in this clever visual novel. Will you throw caution to the wind for the passionate Colonel Brandon? Succumb to the temptation of the nefarious Mr. Wickleby? Manage to capture the heart of the elusive Mr. Darcy? Or will you end up alone? These and other results will all come from the choices you make.

Matches and MatrimonyThe game leans to the "novel" end of the "visual novel" scale, so if you're not keen on doing a lot of reading, skip this one. Basically, you control the main character of an amalgamation of three classic Jane Austen works: Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Persuasion, with a few original storylines. You get to choose her name, so insert your own if you like or indulge your more childish impulses; for my part, I think Jayisgamesetta is a beautiful name. Read, clicking ahead with the mouse, until you get a part where you must make a choice, such as to accept an invitation to dance or not. At the end of every episode, you'll also have to decide how you're going to spend the weekdays. For example, going visiting will make you kinder and increase your sense of propriety, whereas studying the arts will increase your talent and your sensibility (in the Austen meaning of "passionate"). Some choices will also use up your energy, so it's important to spend some time resting. No one likes a girl who yawns during dancing or conversation! You'll want to save frequently via the menu button in the upper right. While the game automatically saves at the end of every chapter, you may want to go back farther than one chapter, or save at the middle of a chapter.

After you complete any ending, you'll have the opportunity to get some hints about how to achieve various endings. When you start again, you can hit "skip" or hold the [ctrl] key to skip over text you've already read. Don't worry about missing things, because the game will stop whenever you hit new text or a choice. If, despite the advice, you still can't get the ending you desire, you can get a boost by choosing to start the game at chapter ten with stats and past choices suitable to your target.

Matches and MatrimonyAnalysis: Something you should know about me: I am a literary purist, aka a snob. When I saw that Mr. Bennet was dressed in a 18th century powdered wig, I snickered. When the game mentioned "Victorian times", I chortled. When the main character gave her opinion of the works of Oscar Wilde, I rolled my eyes. I was fully prepared to hate this game.

Yet while the makers of the game may have slept through their literary history classes, they were paying close attention in their creative writing ones. The game is wise enough to know that if it is at all possible, the words of Jane Austen herself should be used verbatim. Yet they not only managed to provide seamless transitions between quotes, but displayed great talent in coming up with new content. This shines brightest in the path towards the Mr. Bingley ending. As I said, I'm a purist; the very idea of an Elizabeth Bennet analogue marrying Mr. Bingley instead of her sister Jane was repulsive. Yet the story completely won me over. I won't spoil it, as it is basically an original creation.

It also took a deft hand to combine roles from various novels and end up with a believable character rather than a stilted literary chimera. The best example is the game's Mr. Wickleby, who as his name suggests is a combination of the two great cads of Austen's works, Mr. Wickham and Mr. Willoughby. A few times, the role combining falters, but it's generally hard to imagine how they could have avoided the problem. For example, your player character starts out most like the young heroine of Pride and Prejudice, but can choose to follow the older and wiser heroine's storyline from Persuasion. This unfortunately means that if you choose the latter, your heroine has apparently already lost her looks at the age of twenty. Harsh, game. Harsh.

Matches and MatrimonyThe game provides a healthy challenge. Most of the endings took me a few tries, except for the ending with the odious Mr. Collins, which is unavoidable unless you raise a certain stat in time, as I discovered to my horror. It manages to be difficult without being unfair or illogical. In retrospect the path your character takes makes perfect sense based on what you chose. Yes, sometimes a challenge is suddenly thrown in your path requiring a stat that you haven't been improving and weren't expecting to need, but that's quite realistic, isn't it? At least in this game, you can rewind back and try again, provided you've been diligently making manual saves at critical points. (You have been doing that, right?)

Making the right choices is a lot easier if you're familiar with the source material. Getting Mr. Darcy in particular requires doing a number of things which are counterintuitive at first but make sense in the context of things that wouldn't be revealed until later in the story. That said, the game does not assume you've read Austen, so if you read the text carefully, you should find all you need to know. When all else fails, trial and error is your best bet. Look especially for cues from the main character, who will say things like "I would have done better in that situation if I hadn't neglected to improve my talent" or "Perhaps by choosing not to go into town, I missed out on some opportunity".

Unashamedly romantic and respectful but not slavish to its source material, Matches & Matrimony provides many hours of replay value for the Austen fan or anyone who is looking for a dating sim that is also a window to a gentler, more restrained time. Even if it's not certain if that time is 1750, 1810, or 1890.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 4.1/5 (111 votes)
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TrickyFavimonFavimon, the new HTML/Javascript webtoy from Matthew Hollet is a combination of the two topics the internet was founded on: Pokémon and "Who Would Win In A Fight?". You see, Favicons (the little graphical icons in your browser's address bar) have come to life, ready to attack all other pretenders to the internet throne RPG-style. And yes, you know it's your destiny to try and cache 'em all!

To locate a Favimon, you use the keyboard to type a web address in the box at the top of the page. If the site is in the surprisingly robust database, it appears for a mouse-controlled turn-based battle. Each Favimon has stats for health, attack, defense and speed, as well as four appropriate actions used to dominate your foe. Starting you quest with the original Favimon site icon, defeating other websites adds them to your team and then become available to use in future battles. There's no real goal other than collection, but man, there are thousands to collect.

Favimon relies almost entirely on the novelty of its central gimmick. That's okay though since the gimmick is quite novel indeed. Racking up all those Favimons in your Favidex is just incredibly compelling. Certainly some icons look better in large form than others (and, in a not-updated browser, they'll look more blurry than pixelated), and the attacks do get more generic the further you get from the top domain names. However, this is easy to forgive the second you set up a Google vs. Facebook grudge-match, or use Paypal to zap Wikipedia with a "Transaction Fee" attack. Favimon isn't all that deep, but as a charming time waster it's super effective!

Play Favimon


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraDon't give up! You're almost at the weekend, and here's another installment of Link Dump Friday to sustain you through the day. If anything can give you a reason to go on, surely it would be multiple, horrible things befalling a rabbit who only wants to be reunited with his true love!... no? Well, what about a man who has nothing left to live for after everything he loved has died and so goes on a quest that will likely ultimately lead to his own self destruction?... no? Geez, picky, picky. Next you'll be telling me you like things that are uplifting and cheerful to motivate you. Weirdo.

  • SilkSilk - You guys, you're thinking about your lives too hard. I'd tell you to be a leaf on the wind, but all that gets you is an enormous spike through your chest and a traumatic on-screen death. Instead, I'm going to tell you to relax, let yourself go, and spend a while doodling with this simple but beautiful little webtoy where the only purpose is just to take in the view. Draw lines of "silk" on the screen and then just watch it flow, creating a rippling cascade of colours like the world's loveliest Winamp visualisation. It may seem to lack much of a point, since there aren't any secrets or other elements, but when have you ever needed a reason to appreciate the shinier things in life once in a while?
  • Utigawa RAUtigawa RA - I have a terrible secret. I think there's a disconnect in my brain whenever I'm expected to handle non-linear puzzle solving... being forced to think "outside the box" just frustrates me. While this is only sort of an escape game, it's about as abstract a puzzle game as you can get, with a minimalistic approach and no instructions. Dearest reader Blue sent this one in and suggested it would make an excellent Link Dump Friday entry (it does!) and also suggested some kind soul might make a walkthrough for it (they might!). What say you, brave readers?! Will you answer the call? The call for... directions and spoiler tags?!
  • Epic FailEpic Fail - I'm seven years old, it's my birthday, and my mom gets me a rabbit. I was in paroxysms of joy. Until the following day when I rushed out to play with him before school and discovered that getting a rabbit for your birthday essentially means getting an uncommunicative, uninterested pet that continually generates a stream of unpleasant chores and will never, ever thank you for scraping out the poo enamel it's trying to lay on the floor of its hutch. Maybe that's why I get some sort of mean-spirited pleasure out of this weird little arcade avoidance game about a rabbit continually trying and failing to reunite with the object of his affections. I have a lot of weird stories about rabbit ownership; I suspect if you grew up in rural Canada, you probably do, too.
  • Ancient PowersAncient Powers - If you took Tiny Castle and endeavor and bonked them together while making mwah-mwah-mwah sounds, then you might get something that looks sort of like this single-screen platform adventure puzzler, even down to the retro-ish visuals. While I can't say I support dragging your deceased beloved by her hair to some suspicious old cave so you can dig up the very powers that killed your father is what I would call logical thinking, but I have driven twenty minutes to a convenience store at midnight because I "needed" a cornetto, so I suppose I can't throw stones.
  • Another Cave RunnerAnother Cave Runner - Almost two years down the road, and Canabalt is still breaking hearts and inspiring developers left and right. This snappy little arcade survival game combines everyone's love of running really, really fast with a rockin' theme and some light RPG elements to make a fast-paced, addictive experience. Come on, who amoung us hasn't had a day that wouldn't be wildly improved by running pell-mell down a corridor, leaping over Indiana-Jones-style boulders, and slashing wildly at everything in reach? Awesome is the cure for all life's woes.

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Rating: 4.5/5 (412 votes)
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joyeYuki in Winterland"Cookies crunch, are you listening? In the gorgeously illustrated world, snow is glistening. A kid-friendly game, how happy we... am?, playing Yuki in Winterland." Hmm. Maybe my song-writing needs work. Or maybe I should try to be more like this largely non-verbal point-and-click adventure story from FlashTeam. Well, it worked to tell the story of an adorable little girl on a cookie-delivering quest, but my review of it sadly must use words.

Don't expect a fiendish challenge if you're a veteran escape artist or adventure gamer. This is more in the league of Halo & Pixy and other linear point-and-click games primarily intended for children. Sometimes Yuki in Winterland even indicates where to click. It sidles right up to that "interactive storybook" line, but doesn't quite cross over into it, thanks in part to a few mini-games, such as a stealth game where you must hide from a yeti-thing and a snowboarding game where you must avoid obstacles. Even their difficulty is minimal however. This is a game that any six-year-old with a mouse can play without getting frustrated. Look for obvious or only place to click, click on it. Rinse and repeat, enjoying the soothing sounds of birds and music and the eye-catching designs.

There's a sinister underbelly to all this picture book scenery and big-eyed cuteness, however. Yuki seems to have a fairly... unique sense of morality. Most fairytale heroines behave just as their creators think little girls ought to, whether that's the traditional sweet and demure damsel or the modern I'll-rescue-myself-thanks type. In either case, the heroine generally tries to help the innocent, and if she fails to, she's called out on it and we are meant to learn from her mistake.

It isn't that Yuki is relentlessly evil or sadistic, since she does help several creatures along the way. She's amoral rather than immoral, helping mostly inasmuch as it furthers her own goals and displaying a disturbing willingness to commit mayhem on innocent bystanders, often in situations where it's completely unnecessary. Couldn't Yuki have first tried asking the stranded passenger for his chewing gum, rather than throwing a stick and causing his dog to drag him helplessly over the ice, so as to allow her to steal it from him? Her expressions remain generally serene, whether she's kindly defrosting a wizard or cruelly ripping a worm from a bird's beak. I was expecting at any minute for her to stare directly into my soul and begin intoning in a guttural voice, "Foolish humans! Yuki does not share your pathetic concepts of 'right' and 'wrong'. Now that you have outlived your usefulness, Yuki will destroy you!"

Ah well. At least she'd look darn cute doing it. This would be a great game to play with a child, unless you've noticed any sociopathic tendencies in the kid. If you decide to take the risk, I'd like to say firmly that we here at JayIsGames are not responsible for any bloodbaths and/or book reports on Nietzsche that may result. You have been warned.

Play Yuki in Winterland


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Rating: 4.6/5 (55 votes)
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Babylon Sticks: Casual Pugilism 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: 4.8/5 (397 votes)
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TrickyCactus McCoyIt's a little wild and a little strange, when you make your home out on the range... In other words, you shouldn't pick up a shiny desert gem when the statue holding it warns of a curse. Sadly, Cactus McCoy, the titular protagonist of the new beat-em-up platformer adventure from Flipline Studios, has done just that, and the result is that he's been transformed into a walking, talking, punching Saguaro. So now, if he ever wants to make balloon animals again, he must return the crystal to its proper old west location... all the way pursued by the mercenary gang that hired him to swipe the gem in the first place.

Best of Casual Gameplay 2011Cactus McCoy is played entirely with the keyboard and the controls are pretty standard. The [arrow keys] move you left and right. [A] makes you jump and [S] makes you attack, either with your fists or any of the dozens of weapons you'll come across. [Down] + [A] drops you down a platform. To pick up a weapon, you crouch over it with the [down] key, and can aim it around by holding the [up] key along with [left] and [right] for a diagonal shot. There are various types of weapons: punching ones, throwing ones, whipping ones, and shooting ones. Using the coins you punch out of each "enemigo" (who are weak on their own, but get quite cagey in numbers), you can purchase upgrades between each level. Each level has treasures to find and extra challenges to complete. Yippie-Kai-Yay!

Cactus McCoyAnalysis: When it comes to games, westerns are notably under-represented as a genre. Oh sure, you'll have your occasional Freddy Pharkus or Mad Dog McCree, but they're hard to find amongst the waves of fantasy, science fiction, horror, and war. Even Red Dead Redemption couldn't help but throw zombies into the mix after a while. As such, Cactus McCoy feels a bit of an anomaly. Really, though, it shouldn't: Who doesn't love the thrill of shooting the gun out of the local black-hat's hand (and swiping the coins from his pockets)? Who doesn't like taking on a gang of outlaws with nothing but wits, fisticuffs and a good Smith and Wesson? Who doesn't love the inevitable level that takes place on a moving train? I don't know if Cactus McCoy will herald a casual gaming resurgence of the setting, but, in any case, it's proud to be a western game and as a western game it is near perfect.

I was stunned at the level of depth in Cactus McCoy: it has the amount of pure content usually found only in paid-for titles. The amount of secrets and achievements to discover in each of its twelve levels is truly impressive. That the content is so well done, and the levels are so well-designed only adds to the awe. So many games promise to reward exploration, but Cactus McCoy does it: every nook and cranny yields a treasure or a weapon worth finding, and, in doing so, it becomes as much of a lateral thinking puzzle platformer as a beat-em-up. What's more, I was impressed with the level of humor to be found in what is essentially a dialogue-free game: While Cactus is animated beautifully (especially his cape), his attacks are intentionally jerky, which only adds to the comedy of the creative weapons he uses. Playing cards? Banjos? Buckets of Scorpions? Why not? The animators clearly understand physical humor quite well, and the result is a joy to play through... even if McCoy does look a little picklish at times.

There are a few minor drawbacks: considering how creative the levels are, I was kind of disappointed at the relative lack of boss fights. Taking on waves of henchmen, however well-armed they may be, just doesn't have the same appeal. It brings needless repetition into a game that had otherwise avoided it. Also, a few of jumping puzzles required just a tad too much precision to not be annoying, especially considering the omnipresent bottomless pits. Finally, on a point of personal preference, I kind of disliked the default controls, though the option to change them was well-appreciated (and the fact that the tutorial levels update to reflect any changes).

Even having played all the levels, I feel that I've barely scratched the surface of Cactus McCoy, and I only want to play more. The developer claims that there's ten hours of content in reaching 100%, and I believe them. Don't let that completionist figure turn you away though: Cactus McCoy has the golden combination of being easy to start and challenging to master. Cactus McCoy is just the sting to use against thorny hours of boredom. Needle I say more?

Play Cactus McCoy


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Rating: 4.1/5 (154 votes)
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corygalliherinvisibletrousers.pngIt was a dark and stormy night. James was waiting. Waiting for someone to need his skills as a private eye. Or rather, he would have been if someone hadn't murdered the head of his five-person detective team. Now James is on the case in The Man with the Invisible Trousers, a new puzzle platformer created by Radical Dog with a kooky noir theme.

There's two quirks about this case, though. First off, James' boss spent his entire life in one room. Realism aside, this means that it had to be an inside job... one of the members of the detective team had to have been the murderer. To solve the case, James has to make it through a gauntlet of spike-filled levels. Move with the [arrow] keys and jump with the [spacebar]. Your progress is saved automatically, so you can continue from the last level you finished. Every few levels, James talks to the other detectives and learns a little more about who might have done the despicable deed. This, however, is complicated by the second quirk. James is either wearing the titular invisible trousers or simply has no legs, so he reacts to gravity and curved surfaces in a very unusual way. Walking on a curve tilts James to match the curve, while walking off a corner causes gravity to act on James as if he was being pulled "down" relative to himself.

invisibletrousers.pngYou can only finish a level by leaving through a door, but to open the door James has to be standing upright. This means that most levels consist of trying to manipulate James so you can both end up at the door and be standing the right way to open it. Be prepared to swear just like a film noir detective as you try make this happen, though typically the levels are short enough that having to restart isn't a big problem.

The Man in the Invisible Trousers features a classy, minimalist graphical style and some of the best jazz music in Flash gaming. It's also got a randomized ending; each time you play the killer will vary, though that might not be enough to get most players to go through the whole game multiple times. There's not much to say beyond that; there's one core gameplay concept here and it's done effectively and stylishly. It's worth a look for puzzle fans with a love of jazz and twenty minutes to spare.

Play The Man with the Invisible Trousers


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Rating: 4.7/5 (167 votes)
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Classic Hashi LightArtbegottiLet's say you're stuck on a deserted island. For whatever reason, there's another island over there (*points) that you want to get to. To get to that island, you've got to build yourself a few bridges connecting all of the other islands around you. And there's a limit on how many bridges you can build on each island. After a certain point, you'd probably be tempted to give up and just swim, but some might see this as a puzzle waiting to happen. Classic Hashi Light is another addition to the growing line of Conceptis logic puzzle packs that takes a more abstract view of puzzling.

The goal of a hashi puzzle is to connect all of the numbered islands using a series of bridges so that every island is connected to each other in one system. Bridges may connect horizontally or vertically, but not diagonally, and no more than two bridges can branch off of an island in any direction (meaning an island can have up to eight bridges total). The number listed on each island is the total number of bridges to come off of each island. To place a bridge between two islands, mouse over the island you wish to start from, then move over the shaded direction and click. Click again to add a second bridge, and once more to remove the bridge(s). When all the bridges are in place, you win, and you can relax on your new island home! Or start a new puzzle.

Unlike some of the other entries in the Conceptis Light series of puzzles so far, the final result isn't a clever picture or a pleasant grid of numbers. You'll be left with a tangle of lines that might not be visually appealing. Hashi puts a more abstract twist on logic puzzles, forcing you to play by the numbers more than ever. Since this is Volume 1 in a periodically-released series, the difficulty might be a bit low for the experienced Hashi-head, but it's a great introduction to the puzzle for newcomers. There are even a few larger puzzles that might take more thorough scouring to find where your next move is.

If you've not experienced Hashi before, Classic Hashi Light is ideal for getting familiar with the format. Who knows, perhaps trying out new puzzles will help you build the bridge into more puzzling adventures! Or you could swim.

Play Classic Hashi Light


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Rating: 4.3/5 (154 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypAnd now for something completely different. For each Weekday Escape we tend to favor room escape games filled with logic, shiny cool puzzles, polished graphics, intuitive controls, etc. But every once in a while, all that logical thinking provokes the pendulum to swing the other way. Then, all we crave are seriously surreal, effed up escape games that make absolutely no sense, but are a joy to play for their sheer bizarreness. Enter the Gold Door Escape by Detarou. You're traveling through another dimension...a dimension of lazy sumos and hungry cowardly ninjas...

Gold Door EscapeDon't get me wrong, there are some pretty logical puzzles in Gold Door Escape, they are simply eclipsed by the madness that is going on in this strange place. A place where sumo wrestlers lounge near a lobby where an alien sits, just downstairs from someone in a pink dress who looks like they belong in The Shining, just down the hall from...but half the fun of Gold Door Escape is anticipating what's around the next corner, so I don't want to spoil the many surprises in store.

Despite the surreal images, Gold Door Escape plays a lot more logically than, say, any Minoto game you might care to name. It's the basic room escape convention of navigation by bars, picking up, examining, and using objects, and keeping an eagle-eye for any clues that might be scattered around on the walls, floors, underneath sumo wrestlers, etc. Inventory control is pretty basic, click once on an item to use it, double-click to pull it into close up. And considering that there are four endings (two of which kill you), a save feature would have been nice. Making up for the primitive control structure is the blessing of a changing cursor, indicating where the hotspots are.

For anyone who has ever read Japanese Manga or watched Anime they know that the Japanese have a rather casual attitude towards religious symbolism, especially Christian symbolism. Or, at least, you would know that if you read the original Japanese Manga, as American editors tend to downplay, blur, or change these things sometimes for the American market so as not to offend. Here, Taro uses some religious imagery in a bizarrely amusing way, but perhaps it is not for the faint of heart or those who are easily offended by the use of Christian iconography.

Despite skating the line of being sacrilegious (or, perhaps, because of it) Gold Door Escape is a rollicking good escape the room game. Most of the fun is had in anticipating the bizarre, hilarious, or surreal scenes that await the player as they make their way through the strangest building in existence. Fun, slightly scandalous, and surprisingly logical, Gold Door is the perfect mid-week escape, especially for anyone who appreciates the outlandishness to be found within.

Play Gold Door Escape


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Rating: 4.7/5 (131 votes)
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Everybody EditsJohnBFrom Chris Benjaminsen of Nonoba and Player.IO comes Everybody Edits, a bare-bones platform game played on the backs of the very people who build it! In this charming retro-looking game, you are given basic tools to place blocks, lay gravity-altering objects, and craft mazes and traps of your own design. All of this happens in real-time, meaning you can move and build at the same time, all while people from around the world run around in your world!

Everybody Edits may look like a simple game, but it only sticks to simplicity for the sake of ease of use. Just like most platform games, you can run around a 2D world using the [WASD] or [arrow] keys and jump with the [spacebar]. Unlike most platform games, you use the mouse to select and place blocks chosen from the menu at the bottom. Want to build a staircase? Click a solid block, click the screen, and draw. No wonder all of the character avatars are big smiley faces!

Everybody Edits also gives you the power to mess with the physics of your world. Arrows act as localized gravity wells that push players in that direction, allowing you to bob up and down in mid-air or to create one-way passages to other sections of your world. You can even lay gravity-neutral spots that, in effect, create multi-directional ladders that can make your realm more like a top-down adventure than a platformer!

To top off the experience, you'll also find key blocks that activate when touched, coins, crowns, and a few other game-tweaking items. Nothing too serious, just a few things to spice up the platforming.

Everybody EditsAnalysis: Experiments in user-created content can go wildly wrong. With Everybody Edits, it happened to go wildly right. Similar to how Minecraft structures its building concepts, Everybody Edits allows anyone to hop in and add or subtract blocks from the level. You can craft a password-protected stage if you like, but the magic of silent collaboration that sometimes happens in open worlds is lost in these situations. Still, it's nice to see dedicated, well-created levels in a game so dependent upon its players for content.

As far as playing Everybody Edits goes, your experience depends entirely upon the user-made levels you check out. Some worlds will be rubbish, some will be amazing, while others will be just plain weird. You can copy the URL of any stage via the menu at the bottom of the screen, making it easy to save or share good levels you come across. Otherwise, it's up to luck! In general, protected worlds are a bit more worthwhile than open ones.

So, what's hanging around in Everybody Edits other than a bunch of smileys and user-created worlds? Customization. Microtransactions fuel the servers that host Everybody Edits, and for parting with bits of your cash, you'll unlock new avatars, more blocks, bigger, better worlds to edit and save, as well as a few other extras. Using actual cash is optional, though, as the game runs on both Energy and Gems, the former charging slowly over the course of time, the latter charging from your wallet. Both can be used to purchase any of the items listed above, so in this case, spending money only need be for the impatient. For these benefits, you also have to register.

The game as a whole doesn't project an air of refined polish, but the core underneath exhibits a lot of creativity and allows players to unleash their imaginations wild on the world in a simple, entertaining sort of way. Think of it as a simplified, 2D version of Minecraft and you've got a good handle on what to expect when you fire up Everybody Edits!

Play Everybody Edits

Thanks to Max, Aidan, Drench, Bob, Roomescaper55, and Alex for suggesting this one! And to Dazz for one of the screenshots used in the review.


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (241 votes)
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Joshlightspeeder.jpgWay back in the early 80s, I had a favorite movie. This film featured a future Oscar-winning actor as a young computer hacker that was literally sucked into a computer world where the video games were real. One of its best scenes presented audiences with an intense competition where futuristic-looking motorcycles left deadly trails of light behind them. This realistic depiction of the classic Blockade/Snake game has inspired numerous videogame versions over the years, from Atari's Surround to 3D offerings like GLTron and Armagetron. This time around, the developers at Ayogo Games take a stab at the light cycle game genre with their new Unity title, LightSpeeder.

LightSpeeder is fairly standard 3D light cycle fare. The object is to survive a race against three brightly-colored opponents, avoiding any walls and causing your opponents to crash before you do. You can play in a single-player Tournament mode with three lives, or Quick Play with one or two players (in split screen) simultaneously. To control your single-wheeled LightSpeeder, use the [left and right] arrow keys to turn at 90 degrees angles. If you travel near a wall, you gain speed. In a departure from most light cycle games, you can press [up] to jump over walls, and can customize your LightSpeeder to jump more quickly or slowly.

What separates LightSpeeder from its predecessors is its slick presentation. The developers really take advantage of the Unity platform, as evidenced by the game's impressive models, backgrounds, special glow and particle effects, and sheer sense of speed. The game's dynamic camera is helpful, automatically tilting to a higher vantage point when you approach walls. Your ears should also enjoy LightSpeeder, which has a great techno soundtrack and nifty sound effects (including amusing screams as your enemies wipe out). All the while, a 2D mini-map in the corner shows you and your opponents' top-down positions in the arena, helping you plan ahead for that next tight turn.

It's worth mentioning that the gameplay in LightSpeeder, while relatively simple, is tough and somewhat limited. The AI puts up quite a challenge in the Tournament mode, sometimes prefering to ram into your LightSpeeder even if it means suicide. Assuming you can survive wave after wave, there only appears to be one environment, and a lack of powerups or bonuses remove some needed variety to each race. In addition, the controls also take some getting used to, with very quick reaction time being key to your success. Still, light cycle purists and classic gaming fans should enjoy LightSpeeder, with its visuals, sense of speed, and sheer competition. Think you're ready to hit the grid for some high-speed competition? Get going, program! [END OF LINE]

Play LightSpeeder


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The Vault

TrickyFirst, I input up-up-down-down-left-right-left-right-B-A-start, IDDQD, and XYZZY. Then I call my friend Justin Bailey and have him beat Sheng Long and one hundred polygon-team members on Cruel Melee. Finally, I tape a penny to the cartridge before stopping and swopping it in the drive with a delicious sandwich. There... I just got 30 lives, revived General Leo and unlocked this week's edition of the JayIsGames Vault. Aren't you so happy I did that for you? This week, we have an other-worldly point-and-click classic, a horror shooter that won't stay down, and a tasty bowl of primordial soup.

  • SamorostSamorost - When it appeared on the scene in 2004, point-and-click adventure Samorost was a revolution. I think many had not even considered that flash games could look this good. While aesthetics have caught up to the Samorost level, the engaging tale of a little guy trying to save his home remains a masterpiece as beautiful as it is unique. I think it and its sequel solve the "can games be art" debate once and for all... if the landscapes of Samorost do not qualify as art, what on earth does? Whether you've encountered its joys before or are discovering it for the first time, Samorost remains a special journey.
  • Deanimator.Deanimator - I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that I'm getting a little tired of zombies as game villains. The countless works featuring protagonists using heavy weaponry to easily mow down the legions of the undead has negated a bit of the creature's original threat. And, while it may be an odd criticism to make for a class of monster based around being a grim perversion of mankind... they often look a little too human to be scary. Throwing on green-makeup and a little fake blood can only do so much. What I like most about the Lovecraftian Deanimator is that it presents the undead as the shambling, nigh-unstoppable horrors of nightmares that they truly would be. There are no real "jump scares" of things suddenly appearing on screen or loud noises to startle you: only a slowly approaching shadowy doom. Likewise, the player character is a no behemoth: merely a twitchy scientist who seems well aware that, although he has a gun in his hand, he is far from safe. He must make every shot count, and pausing to reload at the wrong moment will mean death at the hands of his creations. Deanimator is not just scary: it is haunting, and that's rare indeed.
  • flOwflOw - Did we ever find out what grade Jenova Chen received for flOw, the life-sim created along with Nicholas Clark as a fine arts master's thesis project? I certainly hope he got some "cum laudes" on his diploma for it, since his interactive petri dish has yet to be equaled, even by Wil Wright. flOw defies easy categorization: Is it an elegant action game about personal evolution? An interactive artistic celebration of the wonders of life? Maybe even an adventure journey through the world under a microscope? Who knows? The tiny amoebas of flOw are here to sooth, to mesmerize, to relax, and to be interpreted in an individual way.

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: 3.8/5 (57 votes)
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DoraCardianYou kids today and your fancy addictive games of chance. In my day we had Pog, and we got into fights on the playground over who had the best Slammers! But no, not you guys. You need action and strategy and apparently you can't get that by hurling a metal disc at cheaply made cardboard circles. But you can get it with Undefined's new defense title Cardian. Choose from one of three different card decks to battle your way up through the ranks of card masters. While it may not look it, gameplay is actually fairly simple. Your portal is on the left, and your opponent's portal is all the way on the right; you want to use your cards to summon recruits that will defend you and eventually overwhelm your opponent's portal before they destroy yours. Click on a card at the bottom to play it if you have the gold and resources necessary, and click on a troop icon in the upper-left corner of the screen to deploy as many units as you can. Destroy the opposing portal and you'll gain gold you can spend on upgrading your deck so you can purchase better cards to fight more strategically.

Well, I say "strategically", but naturally the fact of the matter is that you wind up needing a little luck, too. You can only buy cards through booster packs, and as anyone who has ever dabbled in certain fantasy themed card games knows you can't rely on a booster pack to give you anything you really need with frequency. If you get carried away and create a deck that's too big, you also run the risk of the game giving you every card except the one you'd need during combat. This is mitigated somewhat by the fact that until you actually get down to bid-nezz and start hurling troops at your foe in earnest, they only make a token effort to bother you with enemies, so as long as you can sit through a few piddling attacks, you can hoard your resources until you have enough to steamroll over any and all opposition.

Still, Cardian still manages to be entertaining and enjoyable not only from that gotta catch 'em all addictive card-gathering standpoint, but from how simple it is to pick up. Once you get the hang of things and build yourself a deck with the proper ratio of stabby-to-resources (something fans of Baten Kaitos are probably already familiar with) you'll be flooding the battlefield with horrendous nightmarish monstrosities or noble upright defenders of truth and light in no time. (Both are reasonable options, but I can tell you which one is awesomer.) Despite some balance issues and the fickle assistance of Lady Luck, fans of defense hybrids and Undefined's own work will find a lot to enjoy here and a solid little title to while away your spare time.

Play Cardian


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Rating: 3.9/5 (97 votes)
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joyeBobblestitchFor adult or adult-ish gamers, especially those of us who have played one too many horror point-and-clicks, the sight of a stuffed animal with sewn-on buttons for eyes and a stitched mouth sets off spine level alarm bells. It's difficult to remember sometimes that some things actually had an innocent meaning once. Bobblestitch, the titular hero of the kid-oriented hidden object and spot-the-difference title from Euclid Games, is a doll hand-made by a little girl, and her love brings him to life, and everything is sweet and nothing gets killed. Really. It may be a little sad that I have to emphasize that I'm not trying to fake you out here. If you're like me, you might have your senses on high alert when you first play, ready to close the window at the first sign of a jump scare, but that's not the game's fault. Get a six year old to play the game and he or she will appreciate it for what it is.

The six year old might be handy in more ways than one, actually, because the hidden objects can be tiny. You're either given a few items to find at a time, or told to find 30 eggs or hearts or whatever, and you click with the mouse to pick them up. To a certain extent this is something that plagues all Flash hidden object games. The size of the game window means that game makers have to choose between featuring scenes with objects that are so large and obvious it's like that Strong Bad kids' show parody ("He's barely obscured by the box!"), or else intricate scenes that will have you two inches from the screen wondering if you're old enough to be needing reading glasses. Bobblestitch goes for the latter. You can mitigate this to some extent by playing with your browser's zoom and your resolution.

Aside from hidden object scenes, the game also features a few mini-games, most prominently some spot the difference scenes, but also jigsaws and others. Throughout, the art is engaging and intricate, the music perfectly suited to the storybook mood. Hints refill quickly, so frustration never sets in. The game is not too long, probably best suited to a 15 to 20 minute break. If you're hankering for something sweet, skip the candy and try Bobblestitch. It's better for your teeth, at least.

Play Bobblestitch


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (63 votes)
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MikeTransmover: New GenerationYou can't jump, you can't fly, you don't have super-strength, and you can barely scrabble over a single blocky hunk of pixels. But you have the finest person-to-block transmover-ray technology available, and that makes you mighty! Transmover: New Generation is the sequel to Polygon Gmen's Transmover, and it features as much great puzzle-platforming and laser-effected teleportation as the original.

Navigate the game's menus using the [spacebar] and [arrow] keys. Once you select a level, move the transmoving stick-dude with the [arrow keys] and fire your transmoving ray-gun with the [WASD] keys. You can blast your laser gun in any of the four orthogonal directions, but you can't jump, and you can only climb over a single block one unit high. The goal of each level is to grab the key and take it to the door, and since both key and door are often placed in remote, unapproachable areas of the level screen, you must rely on Transmotion to zip you hither and yon. Blasting a green block with your transmotion ray will cause you and the block to switch places, which is integral to accessing all those hard-to-reach places. You can zap a block across a chasm to cross it, or use transmotion to engineer bridges and stairways to make unreachable spots a little more reachable.

Zapping other blocks can have other effects. Some, like blocks that can only be zapped on certain sides, or blocks that change the path of your transmotion ray, will be familiar to those who have played the original. Other features, like conjoined blocks, or block-operated switches, are new to Transmover: New Generation. Despite a few new features, there isn't much different between the New and Old generations of Transmover. Graphics and sound get a slight polish but are still largely recognizable from the original. Level design still offers a familiar flavor of puzzle-platforming. But that's good! The original Transmover boasted a clever concept and fun puzzles, and if Transmover: New Generation is more of the same, it's more of the same good casual gaming.

So get moving! Or, dare I say it, get Transmoving! </unabashed pseudo-pun>

Play Transmover: New Generation


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Mobile Monday

JohnBA recent spat of long travel times allowed us to dig deep into Google Play Android Games and uncover a handful of really great games. The first of our findings are presented below for your gaming pleasure! Don't leave home without stocking your phone with awesomeness!

The links below point to Google's official 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.

aliendefender.gifAlien Defender - There's something to be said about simple games, especially on the mobile platform! Alien Defender is a basic arcade-style shooting game that features waves of alien enemies streaming in from the top of the screen. Sitting at the base of your phone is you, tiny pixel ship, firing a constant barrage of bullets and trying to keep the bad guys at bay. Collect power-ups to shield your craft and restore health, and keep an eye out for orbs that fill your missile and supergun powers, as they're really quite handy! Excellent for short bursts of play, and three difficulty modes let you customize how much punishment you take.

traque.gifTraque - Roguelike RPGs are slowly taking over the mobile platforms, but most of them are sloppy and rather un-fun. Traque, on the other hand, is anything but. Featuring big pixel visuals and simple, compelling gameplay, you control a hero who has fallen down a dungeon (oops) and is working to get out. Tap the sides of the screen to move in that direction, and ram into enemies to attack them. To regain health, simply stand still for a few moments, but be careful, as enemies are still active during this time. You can open doors and break cracked blocks by bumping into them, and treasure chests contain some really useful items. Work your way deeper into the dungeon as you gain levels and encounter increasingly dangerous foes!

forbiddenbrakes.gifForbidden Brakes - A great little retro-styled arcade racing game that's for too entertaining for its own good. Seriously, why is this so fun?! Eight unique tracks with time challenge, ghost races, and championship modes available, and a good variety of locations to check out while you squeal around tight curves. The computer-controlled opponents are surprisingly aggressive, and the controls are spot-on: hold the left side of the screen to steer left, the right side to steer right. The free Forbidden Brakes Lite is also available, and you should definitely give it a shot!

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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Relics of Fate

JohnBRelics of Fate: A Penny Macey Mystery is a brand new hidden object adventure from Fuzzy Bug Interactive. It ditches the usual string of still scenes packed with items to find and lists to manage in favor of an adventure-style layout, freeing you up to solve interactive puzzles and stock your inventory with useful items. Top it off with a healthy dose of crime investigation and you've got a wholly enjoyable game on your hands!

Relics of FatePrivate investigator Jack Macey seems to have been kidnapped while investigating the robberies of a set of relics. Arriving at his office one day, his daughter, Penny, notices things seem a bit less tidy than they should be. After cleaning things up a bit, she discovers a note in his filing cabinet instructing her to locate the eight relics before anyone else does. Naturally, Penny immediately sets out to investigate!

Relics of Fate: A Penny Macey Mystery follows a more adventure-oriented layout, sticking to inventory puzzles and environmental challenges as opposed to hidden object-laden scenes. Most of your time will be spent exploring still scenes with the mouse, clicking on areas of interest and looking deeper into certain areas that sparkle on the screen. Yes, you'll still find a laundry list of items or two, but these are very much secondary to the main chunk of the game and mainly serve to provide you with key items.

Relics of Fate utilizes container items made popular by the Treasure Seekers series by Artogon. When you click on certain objects, they'll display a round menu with a few grayed-out items displayed to the side. In order to activate that object, you'll need to find a few things from around the scene and place them in the container. It's immediately intuitive and is actually a lot of fun to do.

Relics of FateSolving puzzles is the central focus of Relics of Fate, and they're pretty interesting from beginning to end. The usual battery of crime-related activities make an appearance, from dusting for fingerprints to searching for clues. But you'll also have to figure out more interesting puzzles, like how to put a drowsy cop to sleep. Relics of Fate also encourages you to really look around each room, checking in drawers, behind cabinets, underneath desks, etc. When you complete an area, you'll really feel like you've gutted it for clues!

Analysis: For the most part, Relics of Fate: A Penny Macey Mystery is a standard hidden object/adventure hybrid game. It leans more toward the adventure side of things with its overall design and emphasis on inventory items and puzzle solving, which works very well for the type of story being told. And if you're in the mood for a more challenging experience, you can choose Challenge Mode when you begin the game, offering fewer, more vague hints and penalties for rapid clicking.

One area where Relics of Fate really stands out is visual design. We've been spoiled by modern development studios pouring money into the artistic side of games, so it takes a bit of extra creativity to stand out from the crowd. With Relics of Fate, still scenes are livened up with a number of animated characters and items, all presented in smooth, shaded 3D. From Penny's icon at the bottom of the screen to the librarian

Relics of Fate: A Penny Macey Mystery doesn't leap out from the legions of hidden object adventure games on the market, but that doesn't stop it from providing an interesting story with great visuals and strong puzzles to solve!

WindowsWindows:
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Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
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Get the full version


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The Serpent of Isis 2

joyeOh, that Isis. She's quite a charmer, even with the whole "annually flooding the Nile river because my husband died boo hoo" thing. She's also apparently very fond of having her artifacts scattered throughout picturesque European cities. In 2009, the first Serpent of Isis game had hidden object fans jetsetting Prague and London in a quest to recover the titular thingummy and fulfill the dream of the hero Robert's dead grandfather. It was an excellent game that soon had people clamoring for a sequel, and now your journey can finally continue in, well, The Serpent of Isis: Your Journey Continues. Gamgo Games have made the new game in much the same mold as the first, with the hidden object scenes being the main attraction and the adventure and puzzle elements only there for a little variety. Enjoy beautiful scenes set in Paris, Venice and more as you search for the Tomb of Isis. Next game: the Vacation Home of Isis?

The Serpent of Isis 2The Serpent of Isis 2 is welcoming to both hidden object pros and newbies, featuring casual mode where sparkles guide the eye to clickable spots and no timer breathes down your neck. It also features an excellent tutorial, which is skippable for those of you who know the hidden object drill already. The game does have a somewhat uncommon set-up for its inventory, however. It can be accessed by clicking on the suitcase in the lower right, or by clicking on the bar at the top. Some objects, generally clues, can be zoomed in on by clicking on the magnifying class on them inside the inventory. Objects are never combined within the inventory, only in the game world.

The hidden object finding is pretty straightforward for the genre: you're given a scene and a list of objects, and you must find all of them. Sometimes some of the objects are listed in blue rather than black. If that's the case, you must manipulate something within the scene, perhaps using an inventory item to do so, in order to uncover the item. You're rewarded with at least one inventory item for every successfully completed hidden object scene, and most frequently these are used in what gamers usually call "inventory puzzles", figuring out what object is needed to coax a cat out of a tree or whatever. The game also contains more straight-up puzzles in order to open locks, piece together torn papers, and manipulate mysterious devices. The puzzles are a nice blend of old standbys like the photograph jigsaw and more challenging ones that require careful consideration of the clues.

Analysis: Hidden object games are a pretty hokey genre. The Serpent of Isis 2 lives and breathes all kinds of hokeyness: melodrama, multiple exclamation points, obsessive collection of useless objects after the useful object has been found. Love it or hate it, that's the game! Personally, I have to love it. It doesn't do anything by halves. Every character has that "my IQ has suddenly plummeted in reaction to this shocking news!" face as an option, and it's pulled out of the avatar repertoire whenever anything even a tiny bit exciting has happened. By the end of the game, I'm pretty sure Robert's face has frozen that way. It's too bad his grandfather didn't leave a note warning him about that. The game is so hilariously sincere that it makes me want to cuddle it and give it a mug of warm milk and a cookie.

The Serpent of Isis 2Luckily, the game is as serious about doing the hidden object gameplay well as it is in living up to the somewhat dubious reputation of hidden object plots. Only two or three times in the entire game did I run into the issue of unclear or ambiguous object names (for example, one scene called for a "mallet" and contained both a croquet mallet and a meat tenderizer; the game only accepted the latter). Objects and scenes are clearly drawn and well lit enough to be fair and eliminate the eyestrain problem that plagues many contemporary hidden object games, but still provide a challenge to even the veteran player. The puzzle and adventure game parts are quite limited, so be aware of that going in; the game assumes you're here for the hidden object scenes and that's how you'll spend the majority of your time. However, they are also very well done. It should be noted that while the hints are given generously, they are almost useless outside of the hidden object scenes. Several times, when I was stuck about where to go next or stymied by a puzzle, I tried a hint, only to be told to do something I'd already done, or something keyboard-face-smashingly-obvious and vague, like "I should look for a clue!"

As the most recent Babylon Sticks comic adeptly demonstrated, there is a supervillain stalking our game shelves, and his name is The Incredible Shrinking Gametime. The problem isn't quite as frustrating when you're paying Big Fish Games' reasonable rates instead of $60 for a console game, but a lot of players are fed up with games where by the time you've finished the demo, the game is more than half-over. Serpent of Isis 2 took me four hours to beat, and I would say that if you're the "run to the walkthrough or ask for help at the first sign of trouble" style gamer, it would still take you at least 3 hours, because no walkthrough in the world can rush you through the game's hidden object scenes; you actually have to depend on your own item finding skills there. This truly makes the game a solid "buy" recommendation for hidden object fans.

WindowsWindows:
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Weekend Download

JohnBThis edition of Weekend Download wants to look back to previous editions for inspiration. Problem is, can you really trust your hindsight? After Weekend Download played Hindsight, Weekend Download is not so sure! *bites nails*

deltaone.gifDelta One (Windows, 7.6Mb, free) - A great stealth platform game that stars a former spy agent (who is also a mouse) named Eric. He's on a mission (his final mission) to kill the rat king, but nothing goes as planned. Hop around the lushly-colored world and use your knife to take out enemies from behind. You'll need to manipulate a lot of objects, such as boxes or dead enemy bodies, to hold switches so you can pass through doors. It's a great blend of action, stealth, and puzzle solving.

hindsight.gifHindsight (Windows, 11.4MB, free) - Don't you just hate it when you do something, look back on said event, and realize you could have done it so much better? Wouldn't you hate it even more if your hindsight played tricks on you? The premise of this unique puzzle platformer is that each level is the same, only it's totally different. Looking back on your previous actions, you discover things weren't as they seem. Or was the original layout the "real" one? Either way, each time you finish the stage, your path to the end secretly changes. You never know what's different until you move up to a block or fall down a gap. Spikes become not-real, blocks vanish, platforms appear. It's a strange and almost dreamlike game that will get you with a little trial and error gameplay. But it's so very worth it!

everclimb.gifEverclimb (Windows, 3.6Mb, free) - Guess what you do in this game? You climb! Forever! Kinda! Designed to be a frustrating platform game, Everclimb from Magnesium Ninja puts you in an autoscrolling tower of platforms and enemies. As the screen moves from bottom to top, you must struggle to keep up, never falling behind and never getting too far ahead. Beat five levels of painfully difficult action and you'll be rewarded by being one of the few people who can actually do that!

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: 4.7/5 (21 votes)
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Dying for Daylight

DoraDying for Daylight is a hidden-object adventure about vampires. Vampires, as it happens, are old news; people know about them, and they're mostly over it as long as they keep their fangs to themselves. But when a vampire crashes a wedding in broad daylight without, y'know, bursting into flames, everyone takes notice... especially other vampires. You are Dhalia, a deceptively young looking vampire sent to New Orleans to investigate the vampire who can suddenly go out in the daytime. You have reason to suspect he may have gotten his hands on the legendary sun potion, and you can probably see why a lot of people are going to want to get a hold of it themselves... whatever it takes.

Dying for DaylightThe gameplay is your standard hidden-object adventure affair, with most of your time spent searching for items to give to other people. You'll unlock various trophies as you progress, and if you get stuck, the hint button can help you during normal play and hidden-object scenes, while the skip button can be used to bypass certain puzzles. The story is broken up into "Episodes", giving the whole thing a structure like a television series (complete with perplexingly unnecessary episode "recaps" at the start of each.). During each one, you'll help Dahlia search through different places across America and deal with a rather eccentric cast of characters. It soon becomes apparent that Dahlia and her master naturally aren't the only ones interested in the sun potion, and tracking it down quickly becomes complicated as more vampires, each with their own agenda, and Dahlia discovers she's got some unwelcome attention snooping around after her.

Analysis: As many people who will flock to this title because of Charlaine Harris's vampire-centric universe, just as many people will stay away for the same reason. Which is a shame, because they're missing out on a title that would have been great even without the brand recognition. It's still not going to be for everyone, of course. Take Laurell K Hamilton's Anita Blake series and mix it up with Sex in the City and you've got a good idea of the sort of tone and content you can expect to find within. Even if contemporary vampires aren't your thing, there's no denying that Dying for Daylight is absolutely gorgeous and exceptionally well made. Everything about it is top-notch, and it's refreshing to see a game that doesn't try to coast by on the big names attached to it. The game just doesn't skimp in the quality in any regard to the visuals, the whole presentation is fantastic. (Even if something about the character design feels really familiar in an, "I've played too many video games," sort of way.)

Dying for DaylightIn places the gameplay does feel a little padded, with fairly simple multipart fetch-quests making up the bulk of it, and a disappointing lack of true puzzles to really challenge. Most of your time is spent tracking down items to use or solving hidden-object scenes. These are, in fact, actually quite well done and can even be a little challenging. More than anything, however, this is a game that feels largely story driven, and in that it succeeds very well. The plot is interesting, the characters diverse and pleasantly eccentric, and the strange environments are a joy to explore.

But the biggest strike against Dying for Daylight is that it just ends after episode four with a big, fat, abrupt TO BE CONTINUED without any real closure or cliffhanger. The problem is there's nothing particularly special about the final episode, no big showdown or revelation to really make for a satisfying cut-off point, so it feels less less like the exciting start of a new series and more like someone took the book you were reading and ripped it in half down the middle. While you may want to wait for Part Two to hit if you can't stand being left in the lurch, there's still a lot to like here, and if you enjoy games (and vampires) that don't take themselves too seriously, you should definitely give the demo a try. It's weird, and at around three to four hours playtime it might run a little short, but even though I'm not a fan of the author myself, Dying for Daylight was a lot of fun and personally, I'm dying for more.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 4.5/5 (128 votes)
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DoraDismantlement: Mobile WatchI don't know about you guys, but I love taking things apart to see how they work. I'm, um. Not so good at the whole "putting it all back together in proper working order" part, but maybe if my Grandmother's radio had had a bomb in it, I would've been a hero instead of just in trouble that one time when I was six. Gam.eBB.jp knows your curiosity will save the day, however, and rather than sending you to bed without any dessert, the Dismantlement series of point-and-click puzzle games rewards your ingenuity!... admittedly by not blowing you up, but hey, that's still something. Dismantlement: Mobile Watch is the latest installment, and once again it's up to you and your beloved screwdriver to expose the sinister, ticking heart behind this deceptively ordinary device.

As usual, the approach is straightforward; just click on various parts of the screen to interact with the watch and look for clues since the solutions won't always be obvious. Gam.eBB.jp has been exposing the insidious truth behind typical objects for nearly two years now, and if their popularity proves anything, it's that all of you harbour secret MacGuyver fantasies. (It's okay; I won't judge you, even though I'm more of a Magnum P.I. gal myself.) It seems unorthodox problem solving versus potential explosive death is a winning combination, and Mobile Watch is another solid installment in the quirky series. So get solving, and then call up anyone who ever got you in trouble for taking things apart as a child and tell them you weren't being a brat, you were just in training.

Play Dismantlement: Mobile Watch


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraYou know, this site might focus on casual gameplay, but sometimes I worry that doesn't come across in the articles enough. They're so rigid... so formulaic... so downright stuffy! So from now on, Link Dump Friday is now Hawaiian Link Dump Friday. You are all expected to wear brightly coloured floral shirts and attend the pig roast in Jay's office after the torch lighting ceremony. (Jay, I'm roasting a pig in your office; I think i forgot to mention this, but you might have already noticed the fire pit and palm fronds.) That is all.

  • Go Go SunshineGo Go Sunshine - Despite the fact that the sun is hovering a scant few feet above their heads, the people in this puzzle platformer are positively shrilled and not, in fact, shrieking in agony while their skin boils and sloughs off their bones. Hop from raincloud to raincloud, dispelling the gloom and letting a little sunshine in, without letting the sun plummet into the ocean below. It may be simple, but darned if I don't love these little MS-Paint-ish graphics.
  • Fancy Pants Adventures Sneak PeekFancy Pants Adventures Sneak Peek - One of my favourite things in the world is seeing a developer turn something that they were doing for fun into something that's also fun and profitable for them. (Fun fact; developers gots to eat too.) Brad Borne is now getting a bite of that tasty pie, as his popular action-adventure platform series, Fancy Pants, is coming to Playstation Network and XBOX Live Arcade this spring! Give this short preview a play to find out what sort of fancy pants shenanigans are in store for you. Don't own either console? Don't despair; World 3 will be coming to PC eventually.
  • Famous Objects from Classic MoviesFamous Objects from Classic Movies - If you like hangman and being a movie snob/film buff, then this simple puzzle game might be for you. Using only a simple stylised object for a clue, figure out the movie title it's supposed to represent. Although it says "classic", you'd be mistaken to think it only uses movies from yesteryear your Grandfather likes to wax on about; films as recent as The King's Speech make an appearance. I guess I'll have to, you know, watch more than approximately two movies a year if I ever hope to be any good at this game.
  • Flaming Zombooka 2 Level PackFlaming Zombooka 2 Level Pack - Turbonuke brings you forty more levels of zombie splattering action in this physics shooter with some familiar faces, a lot of explosions, and even more flailing limbs. If I know you, and I think I do, you've always wanted to be able to say you pulled off a sweet headshot with a bazooka, so here's your chance to fulfill that childhood fantasy. If you don't go for the headshot, you'll probably need a few tries to complete each level as the zombies bounce around the scenery. This never would have happened if you hadn't wasted all our acid rounds on that miniboss battle!
  • The Maester's PathThe Maester's Path - If you are a fan of a certain series of books by a certain guy then you are probably very excited for this coming April. To tide you over, you might want to check out this atmospheric advergame, which is about being a maester, and links that aren't at all like what I pictured they would be but whatever that is totally okay. There's only a little content available right now, with more planned for the coming weeks leading up to the series premiere, and you will need to register an account to play, but presumably if you've stuck with Mr Martin through pounds and pounds of books and delays and chapters where nothing at all happens you aren't going to let a little thing like registration stop you.

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Joshhambo.jpgWar is hell. But it can also be bacon-flavored. Sweet, wood-smoked, bacon-flavored, with a side of vengeance. And if your name is Hambo, then you're out to serve a nice helping of it. You see, the pig police doesn't like pink, bandana-clad mercenaries fresh off a tour of Vietham (yep, you read that right), so they captured one of Hambo's comrades. Armed with an assortment of weapons, the porcine warrior strives to get his friend back in the Donkin robotJAM Flash game, Hambo.

If you like games such as Fragger, you should feel right at home with this physics-based projectile shooter. You control your title character's aim and charging-shot strength with the mouse. Not satisfied to just toss grenades, Hambo has many weapons in his arsenal, including guns, C4, knives, and a certain muscled action character's trademark explosive-tipped arrows. Bad guys have a strength bar above them, and when it gets depleted, the enemy disappears in a bloodless poof of pink dust.

In addition to having extra weapons, Hambo differentiates itself from most artillery games in other ways. Some levels have slippery and bouncy surfaces that cause characters to slide around, bounce, or fall like something out of a John Woo movie. This movement factor forces you to make quick, accurate shots on the move. You're also not immune to explosions and projectiles; a rebounding grenade or bullet spray can make Hambo a casualty in his own war.

Hambo is a fun little title with plenty of gameplay under its hooves. While its 36 levels go by pretty quickly, there are gold medal challenges for those who seek perfection. There's even a versatile editor to make your own devious challenges, and a constantly-updated set of user-created levels from a passionate Hambo community. Mix this with the game's bright and colorful cartoon-like graphics and its amusing sound effects, and you've got a game you can really oink home about.

Play Hambo


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Rating: 3.6/5 (118 votes)
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DoraFood Bank DeliveryFood Bank Delivery is the winner of the 2011 Stanford Hackathon, where the challenge was to create a game that embodied the theme of benevolence in some way within three weeks, with a set of sweet prizes that included a review on a certain casual gaming site. In JacobG's simple arcade entry, you're driving a vehicle making pick-ups and deliveries for your local food bank, earning cash at each stop that you can use to upgrade your speed, acceleration, braking, and so forth. Start moving with the right [arrow] key, and throw on the brakes with the left [arrow], trying to stop in as many green-lit areas as you can before time runs out. As you might have guessed, the game is pretty straightforward. But instead of just putting on our elitist hats and looking down our noses at what is actually a solid if unremarkable example of a relatively new developer getting his feet wet and expanding his skillset, let's instead talk about what's done right, and what needs improving. Awwwww yeah, it's time to get constructive up in here!

The game is pretty simplistic as you might expect, but that's hardly a bad thing, and to be perfectly frank, I have difficulty playing a game in its entirety in three weeks (I'm slow, okay?!), let alone making one in those time restraints. Food Bank Delivery might not have a lot of bells and whistles, but it at least runs smoothly and executes its core concept quite nicely. I might liked to have seen the upgrades have more of an impact on gameplay beyond simply improving the bare-bones basic functions of your vehicle, preferably by introducing new elements and abilities that gave you an incentive to keep playing beyond seeing your score number creep up. As it stands, the lack of any real goal or defined ending is a bit of a disappointment because the experience winds up feeling unfinished and lacking in purpose.

More than anything, it would have been nice to see the contest theme of "benevolence" represented a little more strongly. Despite the name of the game, all you really have is the reassurance that you are in fact making a delivery of food and not picking up orphans at each stop to toil in the salt mines. One of the simplest ways to communicate this would have been through visuals, perhaps making the look and feel of the car more distinctive, or having it stop at families rather than buildings... something that would have made it feel more like the content its name suggests and less "Unmarked Van Stop-n-Go on Abandoned Street".

But for all that, JacobG has managed to create something a lot of people haven't; a simple but fully functional game, and one with a working upgrade system to boot. It's a series of steps that might seem easy to you if the only thing you've ever done is play games, but anyone who has ever cracked open any sort of toolset or program to actually make one knows just how much effort and learning is involved in really turning out a finished product. While JacobG might have a ways to go, Food Bank Delivery definitely proves he's on the right track, and we look forward to seeing just how big and awesome his talent develops in the future. Development, ho!

Play Food Bank Delivery


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Rating: 4.2/5 (65 votes)
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Babylon Sticks: Short Games 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: 3.1/5 (37 votes)
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TrickyDirt Of The DeadCertainly we know about the immediate dangers of the undead: the biting and the clawing and the infecting and the whatnot. What about the larger environmental concerns? I mean, a zombie claws his way out of a shallow grave... who's going to be re-sodding that ground? A vampire explodes in a fiery cloud of dust... someone needs to sweep that up. And don't even get me started on what can happen when a werewolf gets in your flower bed. 3kggames's new action looper Dirt of the Dead shows that the clean-up can get just as intense as the confrontation.

In each level, you are presented with monsters and the dirt they have left behind. The idea is to clear both from the screen, along with any other dirt created. There are a number of runes on the screen, colored to clear a specific color of dirt and a specific category of monster: green for zombies, red for vampires and blue for werewolves. Using the [mouse], you click a rune, drag it to create a rune trail, drag through at least one monster to activate it, circle around the dirt you wish to clear, then complete the loop. Make sure no uncaptured objects are in the loop, or else it won't activate. If you capture five monsters or more in a single loop, one of four bonuses is activated including ones that remove the top layer of dirt, activate a "deep cleaning" mode, kill all monsters on the screen, or freeze them for easy capture. Once all the infected dirt and monsters are gone, you move on to the next level. There are 20 levels to clear, with new creatures introduced as time goes on. Now, let's go for a clean sweep!

Dirt of the DeadAnalysis: While Dirt of the Dead might be the first casual game dedicated to the odd combination of landscaping and necromancy (...okay, maybe the second), the innovative gameplay, expertly animated enemies and impish soundtrack make it a joy to play. I was always surprised that after Loop demonstrated how engaging a lasso mechanic can be, that no other online game really tried to build on its mechanics. The mouse was made for this kind of control scheme, and, in Dirt of the Dead, it pays off. It is supremely satisfying to plot a twisty circle that knocks out five zombies while clearing a huge swath of infected land. Sure, the obstacles on the landscape can lead to difficulty in clearing a last little bit of land, new enemies always seem to pop up to ruin an expertly-plotted loop, and there were more than few times that I kept trying to intersect the wrong baddie with the wrong color, but the originality of Dirt of the Dead's core is evident throughout.

However, while Dirt of the Dead's core is original, many of its surface elements are less so. I kinda felt that the zombies and vampires weren't really integrated to the game's concept. They don't really make the game scarier. They aren't really played for laughs (though some of the level designs are secretly hilarious). They're just... there. Were they included so as to appeal to an internet that's not quite undead-fatigued? Is there really a reason why Dirt of the Dead couldn't have been about a farmer trying to prevent his fields being wrecked by cartoony bunnies? Are werewolves actually known for kicking up clods of blue dirt? As it stands, I fear that the game might be dismissed by those looking for more horror, and avoided by those looking for something less eerie.

If so, that would be a deep shame, since Dirt of the Dead plays so well. There's no real goal beyond completing the levels and beating the expert times, but really, there doesn't need to be: Dirt of the Dead is a demonstration that even the simplest tweaks to a control scheme can open up untold genre possibilities. Now, if you excuse me, I need to make sure Frankenstein isn't messing up my azaleas again.

Play Dirt of the Dead


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (46 votes)
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You Are Games

ArtbegottiImagine a bunch of magnetic blocks that you can stick to your refrigerator. If you put them in the right spots on the fridge door, you can drop a marble from the top of the fridge and have it bounce and fly about until it reaches the target at the bottom. That's the basic idea behind Marble Run, a cooperative webtoy that won the Mozilla Labs Game On open Web game development competition. And yes, it's cooperative, because you're building just one part of a gigantic, continuous marble run with thousands of other players, like refrigerators stacked from here to the moon. Just pray that the milk is in one of the lower ones.

Marble RunOn each, shall we say, "fridge door," you'll find a 10x15 grid with a marble in the top-left corner and the finishing target in the bottom-left corner. Your goal is to get the marble to the target through whatever means possible. Of course, you could just start the machine and let the marble drop straight down, but where's the fun in that? To the right of the grid are a couple boxes full of bricks. Click and drag the bricks into the grid, or click a brick and "paint" them into position, then click each brick to rotate them 90 degrees. How long of a track can you create?

To help you go the distance, there are a few special bricks, such as teleporters and trampolines, that can send the ball flying in all different directions. When you complete a track, you can submit it to the database (be sure to add your name and a title). Each track added boosts the collective track length, and new special pieces are added the longer the track grows!

While addicting in an oddly simplistic way, there are a couple of drawbacks in the Marble Run system. First, with the ability to submit any completed track, some less-than-family-friendly designs have popped up in the database. There's a button to report inappropriate tracks, but as they are not immediately removed, they may still appear, which is the sole reason why we've given this game an Orange rating. Also, for whatever reason, pieces may not behave very predictably at times. It's fun to exploit some of the quirkier characteristics of some blocks (such as trampoline blocks that work as propulsion systems when laid sideways underneath the marble), but occasionally you might not get the same results everytime. Some tracks in the database, while they may have worked for the original poster, might not work for everyone, for whatever reason.

Still, there's a lot of game to be found in such a simple webtoy. You might challenge yourself to produce a track that results in an exact length, or try to see what designs you can make with the blocks. The community element adds to the fun, as you're all working to fulfill a common goal. Give Marble Run a try and see what happens when your track is put into motion.

Play Marble Run


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (198 votes)
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Test Subject Blue

Reader reviewThe following is a reader-submitted review by ducttapeDJ:
Nitrome has really filled a niche. It's a niche that's been open since the Nestle-sponsored Willy Wonka promotional website stopped hosting clever shockwave games featuring their line of original candy products. I guess I think of Nitrome as the Willy Wonka of flash games, since they've got a similar strategy. Take a game that's been done before, add some peppy visuals and music, and toss in a few creative mechanics for flavor.

For example, take their newest title, Test Subject Blue. Start with a platformer, set it in a laboratory, and add some momentum-conserving portals. I bet that's never been done before! Actually, the portals are stationary in this one and you get a real blaster that shoots stuff. The core mechanic is clever, and you'll want to think back to games like Nitrome's own Fault Line for an idea of the sort of mental hoops you'll have to jump through.

Originality aside, the game has the same standard of quality as you'd expect from Nitrome. Great visuals, cool music, and the gameplay would be perfect if not for that one nagging detail. So what's the "one thing" with this Nitrome game? Accuracy. The jumps are unforgiving and sometimes require you stand on the edge of a portal, the blaster sometimes delays a second before shooting and it's hard to predict the timing in mid-air shots, and I still don't know how to tell how close I can safely get to those landmines before they explode.

If you're willing to try, try again to work out the trial-and-error of unforgiving jumps, you'll find 25 well-designed levels that gradually introduce all manner of additional puzzle mechanics, like enemies that must be shot through portals or switches that allow you to turn off the portals for a second and jump past them. Everything in this game is color-coded, too. Orange things kill you, green things don't. This color-coding is slightly misleading at times, as it's not obvious that you can shoot the turrets and monster spawners, but later the game acts as if you should have known from the beginning. Also, in one place the game tells you that a certain monster will delay after it ducks, but trying this advice out reveals that the delay actually comes after it jumps. So maybe take the hints with a grain of salt.

Nitrome's been nice enough not to take the "sadistic computer" route for a story in this one, and you'll notice that the title "Test Subject Blue" clearly implies the potential for a sequel. In fact, other than the "sequel hook" itself, the game has no real plot. You probably wouldn't play this game for the story, but if you're like me and can't get enough new ways to think with portals, you'll probably get a kick out of Test Subject Blue.

Play Test Subject Blue

Thanks to Tobie for sending this one in!


  • Currently 3.5/5
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Rating: 3.5/5 (130 votes)
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TrickyA Short History Of The WorldI think that everyone, if only for a second, has considered the possibilities of traveling through time: chilling with mammoths in the ice age, cracking a joke or two with Mona Lisa, dialing up Alexander Graham Bell, taking one or two small steps with Neil Armstrong... Sadly, we don't have the budget for a TARDIS, an Epoch or even a DeLorean, and even if we did, we'd probably end up having to deal with those friggin' morlocks. So it's up to State Of Play to offer us the next best thing: the fast-paced reflex-testing microgame-fest that is A Short History Of The World.

A Short History of the World plays like many of its WarioWare-styled bretheren. Controlled entirely with the mouse, you are presented with a historical scenario and a task to accomplish in a set amount of time. You must "drag, draw, chop, rotate and shoot" to the satisfaction of the game and before time runs out, or else you will lose one of your four lives. The quicker you are, the more points you score and it's on to the next game, a little bit forward in time. Checkpoints are available every ten levels, and there are thirty-six games to complete. After you finish, you are given one of four ranks, depending on your score. Now get going! Time's a wasting!

A Short History of the World plays well, despite a few snags. Granted, most of those concerns might stem from my side of the screen: A few of the minigames, especially ones requiring tracing of some sort, felt unforgiving to my uncoordinated hand-eye. The fact that the microgames are always chronological means that you are given repeated chance to practice, but also cannot avoid a situation that repeatedly causes a life-losing. That said, while the lack of randomization may seem antithetical to the concept of the microgame, I liked Short History's not-quite-historically accurate 36-stop trip to the present. It's not quite a plot, but it does give it a sense of progression that other games of its genre lack.

While the mechanics may be too finicky for some tastes, there's a lot to like about A Short History of the World. The premise is engagingly brilliant, and the artistic styling of the levels, while appropriately varied, is beautiful. You'll make ample use of the checkpoints throughout, but still persevere on to the present day. This is a game that's made for passing time.

Play A Short History Of The World


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (146 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypThere are often questions (or complaints) about the fact that we tend to stick with certain game designers for Weekday Escape. While we are always looking for something new, it is true that we go back to certain designers again and again for our room escaping pleasure. The reasons for this are two-fold: (1) Most of the designers we feature heavily are good designers, which means that you'll get a fun escape for your mid-week pleasure, and (2) It's nice to see the progression in a designer's work as they create more and more. This week's room escape is by Tesshi-e, a name that should be familiar to our regular readers. Escape from the Lodge marks yet another milestone in the development of Tesshi-e's design, and it's a cracking good way to take a mid-week break.

Escape from the LodgeWhile some great designers have only managed a handful of games (Place of Light), and a few more have managed more than a dozen or so (Neutral, 58 Works), Escape from the Lodge is Tesshi-e's 56th escape game effort. That's a staggering number, you have to admit. You would think that with so many games, each coming out so quickly (for a room game designer, that is), that the quality would suffer but au contraire! The thing that impresses most with Tesshi-e's designs is that while the difficulty level may fluctuate from game to game (from light to complex), the game design itself constantly improves. The first 30 or so games in Tesshi-e's oeuvre are barely worth looking at other than for curiosity's sake; they're all pretty standard, simple room escapes, not much to distinguish them from the crowd. But they have progressed and improved. And then, a breakthrough came with Escape from the Dome Room, Tesshi-e's first big foray into three dimensional space (although there were previous games in 3D, those were very simple in scope). The space became pretty nice to look at, but along with the new graphics came a new appreciation for puzzle design. Ever since then although we have seen some puzzles recycled (and that "wobbly picture" puzzle has been seen in dozens of games, not just Tesshi-e), Tesshi-e has put a lot of effort into creating new and improved ways to cause a casual gamer to bang their head in frustration at yet another new type of puzzle.

Along with the improvement in visuals and puzzle design Tesshi-e has come a long way in terms of the basic structure of the games themselves. The originals were all in Japanese, so you had to solve without verbal clues, depending entirely on logic. These days, with the fantastic translations by idahhh, the games are accessible to everyone in the English-speaking world as well. Now Tesshi-e has included an entirely new feature: the ability to switch to either an all Japanese or all English version of the game. You just have to remember to make the switch before you start the game, or else you might get stuck in a version you don't necessarily understand.

Escape from the LodgeThe setup is, of course, typically Tesshi-e. Worn out and exhausted from all of the recent escaping shenanigans, you the escaper have decided to take a little vacation to a quaint lodge where you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the stunning views of the stars at night. Unfortunately you have managed to get yourself locked into the space, and once again you have to figure your way out if you want to commune with the night sky. Poke around the room, pick up and examine objects, solve a lot of puzzles (some of them color based), and see if you can find one of the four escape scenarios (two involving the standard "happy coin" escape that Tesshi-e games feature). Navigate around the room by bars at the sides and bottom of the screen, use your imagination with a bit of MacGyver-like construction, and soon you'll be enjoying the stunning views from the outside porch.

Analysis: It's nice to see a room escape designer that doesn't rest on their laurels, but who continues to improve and expand with each game that they put out, and Escape from the Lodge is no exception. This is not "Tesshi-e light" by any stretch of the imagination. With lots of puzzles, keys, and other objects to find and solve, this is one of Tesshi-e's longest games, especially if you go back and see if you can find all of the various escape combinations available. This is the reason why we keep featuring Tesshi-e, the games just keep getting better and better.

Not only do the visuals and puzzles keep improving, but Tesshi-e has evolved one of the best control structures around in room escape games. There's the new ability to switch between the Japanese and English version along with a save button, the ability to mute the very familiar music or sound effects, and a very easy and intuitive inventory control. Escape from the Lodge still doesn't feature a changing cursor, but frankly you almost won't miss it, as there is very little pixel hunting this time around. Every clickable area is pretty obvious visually without the need for a changing cursor indicator.

Okay, it has to be said, Escape from the Lodge is Tesshi-e's best effort to date. Complex, amusing, gorgeous to look at, and with easy to understand and use controls this is one fantastic room escape, perfect for the mid-week break. Join Tesshi-e on their vacation from escaping and be prepared for...more escaping fun than ever before.

Play Escape from the Lodge


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Rating: 3.7/5 (69 votes)
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joyeThe Moops: Combos of JoyTen HUT! Are you prepared to go out there into the colorful floating void, soldier? Are you ready to calculate angles on the fly in order to line up chain shots? Why is the ammo so limited? Do you think ammo grows on trees, soldier? No, because that's nonsense. Everyone knows that ammo is produced when you hit three or more targets with one shot. Are you sure you're smart enough to fight this war, soldier? What do you think this is, some kind of arcade game? Spreading smiles to shapes is serious business! I want you to get behind that cannon and cheer up the ever-lovin' crap out of those shapes, soldier! That's an order! It's like you think HeavyBoat made The Moops: Combos of Joy for you to have fun!

You control the cannon in the lower left corner, aiming with the mouse and pointing to shoot. Keep an eye on your ammo, on the left. Unhappy shapes will scroll down in the main window. If you hit them, they become happy. Hmm. Masochism? At any rate, they also disappear when they become happy. You can see how many shapes are left on the bottom of the screen, conveniently arranged by type. Your goal is to clear all the shapes from the level without running out of ammo. To do this, you'll need to make combos by aiming in such a way that your shot bounces off of three or more shapes in a row. You get an additional shot of ammo for the third shape and for each additional shape after three, so, if you hit six shapes, you get four extra ammo. Keep an eye out also for powerups. Not only is hitting them an instant extra shot, but they can provide boosts such as turning your gun into a laser and adding a forcefield to the right edge of the screen.

The Moops: Combos of Joy wants to be about skill, as the repeated reminders from the game to "take your time!" and "try for combos!" shows. However, the difference between a shot that ricochets expertly from shape to shape in a long chain and a shot that hits one shape before speeding off into the void can be hair-thin, and since the playing field is constantly scrolling, you don't have the ability to line up a shot like you would in most angle-centric physics puzzles. This makes The Moops more luck-based than perhaps it realizes, and that can make some of the later levels frustrating, because the ammo given per level is so low.

That said, I didn't start getting peeved at the game's expectations of godlike prowess until the 30-something levels, and even then, there was something addictive that kept me coming back. I'd close the browser window in disgust and go off about my business, and then a few hours later I'd find myself wanting to give it just one more try. It's probably the same kind of thing that sends gamblers back to the tables: it's just so euphoric when the luck does fall your way, and you preen yourself imagining that it was your cool-headed and adroit handling of things which caused that amazing run. It doesn't hurt that the game boasts a marvelous soundtrack and adorable art, either. Arcade fans should give this one a try. At least it's cheaper than Vegas.

Play the Moops: Combos of Joy


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Rating: 4.3/5 (259 votes)
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TrickySugar, SugarIt goes by many titles: sucrose, lactose, dextrose, fructose, glucose. By any other name though, it would taste just as sweet. It's sugar. Perhaps seeing a solid stream of it pour into his morning coffee tickled something in Bart Bonte's mind. Perhaps he's a designer who can find inspiration in anything. In any case, his new simple idea physics game Sugar, Sugar is all about directing those tiny delicious crystals into a multitude of mugs... and oh, honey, honey, I'm so happy I'm not a diabetic.

On each level, a cascade of sugar will pour from the spout of the title's comma. Using your [mouse], you must draw ramps to direct a certain amount of sugar down into the labeled cups. Steep ramps make it go faster, while the shallower ones make it more likely to pool. Some mugs need sugar of a specific color, requiring you to direct it through a colored filter (though no penalty is given for putting the wrong color in the wrong cup). Others require you to hit a button to reverse the gravity of the situation. Some levels have a gap in the bottom in which sugar that drops will appear again at the top, and so forth. A reset button is available if you've misplaced your ramp (though sadly no pause button). There are 30 levels and a freeplay mode to unlock... Sweet!

Play all the Sugar, Sugar games:
Sugar, SugarSugar, Sugar: The Christmas SpecialSugar, Sugar 2

Sugar, Sugar is a game of patience. Don't go in expecting anything too fast: The pace is slow, almost meditative... sort of like a Powder Game installment with objectives... You'll find it dull if just trying to speed-run the levels. The enjoyment comes from careful planning, contemplating the flow, and chilling to the music. It isn't perfect: an option to speed up the flow would've been well appreciated, and I disliked how an untimely swerve of the mouse while drawing a line could force me to restart. Still, there is the uniqueness that one finds in all of Bonte's games. In other words, while Sugar, Sugar might be too slow for some, others will definitely find it a cavity-free treat.

Play Sugar, Sugar


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The Vault

DoraGamers are like super models; what we consider "old" probably doesn't jive with popular perception of the term. In my twilight years, now, as a doddering old lady of 26, all I really want these days is to put on my apple pajamas, sip some chamomile tea, and play something nice and slow. Don't get me wrong; fragging dudes and mashing buttons are still plenty fun, but I don't have quite the tolerance for fast-paced, twitchy games I used to. Thus, this week's peep into the Vault reveals some of the best titles around for relaxing and playing at your own pace, while still providing a great challenge and, most importantly, awesome. Feel free to tell me what a boring lamer you think I am; as long as I wear my apple jammies, I am impervious to all scorn.

  • Ballistic WarsBallistic Wars - Oh man. You guys. You guys. I love turn-based strategy so much, and if they come packaged with oddly hilarious character design like in the Easy Only! Games entry into our 4th Casual Gameplay Design Competition, so much the better. Apparently inspired by Advance Wars to a certain degree, it has all the right qualities to be an absolutely stellar example of the genre; it's easy to grasp, smartly designed, and very fun to play. Ballistic Wars also incorporates physics to a certain degree however, exchanging simple tile-based movement for a clicky-clacky-shooty (technical term) style of gameplay not unlike marbles. (I know at least one person is going to wonder what site "marbles" is hosted on. Kids today make me sad sometimes.) It makes for a unique approach to the genre that, combined with the quirky aesthetic, is a real winner-winner chicken dinner in my book.
  • Launch BallLaunch Ball - Science, and good ol' random faffing around in a lab room and calling it science, has lead to some of our raddest discoveries. Turns out it also lends itself surprisingly well to physics puzzle gameplay! Well, maybe not that surprising; the game was after all made by Preloaded, which should already be synonymous with quality for many of you. Launch Ball is an absolutely stellar puzzle game that fans of titles like Electric Box (or Wallace's Workshop) will definitely want to check out. With a sleek, clean design, simple to grasp gameplay, and some brilliant puzzle design (not to mention the level editor), it's easy to see why so many people still love it.
  • A Bark in the DarkA Bark in the Dark - Bart Bonte is pretty awesome. There's a lot to be said for a reliable developer, and Mr Bonte, in particular, has a knack for creating ridiculously charming titles that make me suspect he was genetically engineered to make people smile. This point-and-click puzzle game was made for our 3rd Casual Gameplay Design Competition (wow that feels like it was a long time ago!) with the theme of replay. It's exceptionally weird, but it's also exceptionally fun, and a great little escape title, of sorts, to sink your teeth into if you haven't already. Plus, the dog. Seriously? Seriously? Why don't I have a stuffed dog like that? I would hug him and name him Mr Jenkins, and, oh, the mysteries we would travel around the country solving!

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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