July 2011 Archives


  • Currently 4.5/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.5/5 (120 votes)
| Comments (7) | Views (568)

grinnyp_sacraterra_banner.jpg

GrinnypAngels and demons both permeate and fascinate western culture. Alawar Games has taken this allure and poured it into their epic new adventure and hidden object hybrid, Sacra Terra: Angelic Night, and wow, did they ever deliver a fantastic game!

grinnyp_sacraterra_screenshot5.jpgSacra Terra: Angelic Night begins as you wake up in an insane asylum, unsure of why you are there or how you arrived. Pretty soon it becomes obvious that (a) this is not your standard psychiatric hospital, and (b) something extremely bad has gone down, as there appears to be no living soul in the complex besides yourself. As you wander through the nightmarish scenery you gather hints as to what has happened from notes, newspaper articles, and a sad angelic presence who pops up every now and then to point you towards another clue. Once again mankind has been meddling where they shouldn't have and has unleashed demons in the form of the seven deadly sins, poised to take over the world unless you can stop their dastardly plan in its tracks.

As you wander around you begin to realize both the scope of the madness that has been unleashed and the size of the asylum, which is not one building but a whole complex that requires a lot of ingenuity to explore. The standard adventure/hidden object hybrid trope of a changing cursor allows you to distinguish between areas that demand a closer look, items that can be picked up, locations where you can travel, and just interesting scenery that can be remarked upon. Items found either in the locations or in the hidden object scenes go into a large inventory until you can find a use for them later. Articles, clues, and the like will go into your handy notebook to allow you to keep track of the ever expanding story as well as information that may become important later. Sparks of light (and cascading sparkles) point out areas of interest or hidden object scenes, at least in the easy mode of the game, and a handy refilling hint timer points out both unseen hidden objects and adventure objectives.

grinnyp_sacraterra_screenshot3.jpgAlong the way you will encounter your angelic friend, the demons portraying the seven deadly sins, as well as a lot of hidden object scenes, mini-games, mini-puzzles, and problem solving. Each puzzle solved and each scene decoded leads you deeper in the heart of darkness and the mystery that surrounds this surreal, nightmarish facility. With only the hints and clues to guide you (there is no voice acting and very little dialogue present) you must fight to the end, whatever the cost, to save both the world and the poor angel who is guiding you.

Analysis: Wow. Just wow. This is one of the best, most elaborate adventure hybrids to come out this year. With the emphasis squarely on the point-and-click adventuring Sacra Terra: Angelic Night is a mind-blowing throwback to the days of yore in adventure gaming with its engrossing story, stunning visuals, and — most importantly — depth of gameplay.

grinnyp_sacraterra_screenshot2.jpgAlawar has created a world which is fascinating to explore and difficult to leave, and the combination of beautiful, otherworldly scenes juxtaposed with the grim, haunting asylum proper makes the entire experience surreal. So much attention has been paid to the details, from the torn-apart, blood spattered hospital rooms to the ethereal cathedral, and from the grim character design of the deadly sins to the haunting angel, the player is tempted to slow down even further just to bask in the glory of it all. The atmosphere is enhanced by the haunting background music and the faint incidental shrieks, groans, and pleas of the damned that echo throughout the facility. With no cheesy voice-overs to break the mood, this is one game that will suck you right into the story and never let go until the final curtain has fallen.

What sets Sacra Terra: Angelic Night apart, though, is the fantastic gameplay to be found within. So many hybrids on the market today tend to pad with either tons of hidden object scenes, tons of puzzles, or both. Not so here, as the bulk of the gameplay is squarely centered on the adventuring side of things, with hidden objects and mini-games being more of a side dish than the main course. Just wandering around and exploring, the heart of the classic adventure game, is the main draw here and depending on the mode of play you choose (easy or advanced) and how much you take advantage of the hint system (and the built-in strategy guide in the Collector's Edition), you may be looking at a whopping six to ten hours of gameplay, not including the "extra" adventure available in the CE. For any causal adventure hybrid these days that is pretty stunning. What makes it even better is that it is almost all meat, no filler.

There are a few minor items in the game that may bug dedicated hybrid fans. The translation of some hidden object list items is a bit chancy (using "toy truck" for "toy car" and the like), and there is some minor repetition of the same items in different hidden object scenes (like the spool of thread being used over and over again). Another problem is some questionable use of found items, most especially needing to find a video tape (and a VCR) to use with an old film-reel camera. However, this is a very small complaint and many players might not even notice if they get caught up in this epic story of good and evil. The only other warning would be this: despite the different modes and difficulties, this is not a game for the entire family. From the opening scene with a bloody teddy bear stabbed with a hypodermic to the name-checking of Sacher-Masoch, Sacra Terra: Angelic Night is definitely not a game for the under 8 set, unless you really want them having both nightmares and questions about "Venus in Furs".

Alawar has done fantastically well with Sacra Terra: Angelic Night. The game is engrossing, gorgeous, atmospheric, and most importantly hefty beyond belief. This is one adventure hybrid that lives up to the grand old games of yesteryear in terms of both visuals and gameplay. Definitely worth checking out, but make sure you have a bit of time first because you're not going to want to stop once you begin the adventure.

Play Sacra Terra: Angelic Night
(free browser version)

A Collector's Edition is also available. It includes wallpapers, concept art, an extra adventure, and a built-in strategy guide. 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:
Not available.
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.


  • Currently 4.5/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.5/5 (25 votes)
| Comments (4) | Views (234)

Chantelise

corygalliherLife isn't easy for fairies. You have to shop in the newborns' clothing section, you leave messy dust everywhere you go, people think that by shaking you around and sprinkling your dandruff on themselves that they can fly. It's a tough life! This is a situation that our heroines Chante and Elise are learning about firsthand in Chantelise: A Tale of Two Sisters, a new action-RPG developed by EasyGameStation and published by Carpe Fulgur. Sound familiar? They should, because the same two teams brought Recettear to the English-speaking world last year!

chantelise.jpgChantelise could be seen as a sort of "prequel" to Recettear with different gameplay, but you'll recognize a lot of art, items and monsters from Recettear. Chante and Elise head out one night under an ominous red moon when Chante is mysteriously cursed and transformed into a fairy. In the hopes of returning Chante to her human form, the pair journey to a small town that's hiding its share of secrets. Dungeon-crawling and adventure await!

You control Elise, the younger sister, while Chante the older-sister-turned-fairy follows you around automatically. Ideally you'll be using a gamepad (a standard Xbox 360 controller works great!) but if not, you can move around with the [arrow] keys, attack with [Z], jump with [X], cast spells with [C], lock the camera with [V] and control the camera with [A] and [S]. Pressing the attack and jump keys together allows you to perform a quick evasive dash that comes in very handy during boss battles. Naturally these controls can be customized as well.

Elise is armed with a sword that she can use to bash monsters, but it's generally a lot more effective to cast spells with Chante instead. As Elise pummels bad guys, magic stones go flying all over the place. Picking these up allows you to use various types of magic based on the stones you grab. For instance, red stones produce fire spells, blue stones tend to be water, green stones are thunder or wind and yellow stones are physical or force-based.

You can also combine various stones to produce new effects. At first you can only mix two of the same color stone, which will usually result in a more powerful spell similar to what you would get with one. Multiple red stones produce cluster grenades and fire walls, multiple blue can freeze enemies or heal Elise, multiple green produce more powerful blasts of lightning and multiple yellow can boost Elise's defense. As you progress through the game you'll unlock new spell combinations to use.

chantelise2With sword and magic you'll adventure through a variety of dungeons. Generally you'll need to clear all the enemies out of each room to progress. Each room also has hidden treasures to discover and at the end of each dungeon you'll fight a powerful boss monster. Between adventures you can shop in town for upgrades — unlike many similar games, Chantelise doesn't feature an experience-based leveling system, so buying upgrades in town is most effective way to improve your character.

Chantelise is presented in a unique 3D style. While the action takes place in a three-dimensional world, most of the characters are actually two-dimensional sprites. This gives the game a striking look, but it can take some time to get used to lining up Elise for attacks since she doesn't actually have any depth.

Analysis: As the "prequel" to Recettear, Chantelise shares quite a bit with that title, most notably its adorable art style, engaging gameplay and hilarious translation. One aspect that the games also share is a remarkable level of difficulty. Elise is fairly fragile and weak unless she's equipped with the proper accessories, which you'll need to switch often to address the types of enemy you'll face. As if this wasn't enough, for the first two hours or so of the game it's impossible to heal without using random and infrequently dropped items. When you finally gain access to healing magic things become a bit more reasonable, but the first couple dungeons are surprisingly brutal and might require inexperienced action gamers to restart a few times.

While the action in Chantelise is excellent despite the difficulty, the real highlight of the game lies in the fantastic story and dialogue. While the plot is fairly standard, it's played for laughs, with Chante threatening to kick people in the shins on a regular basis and Elise doing her best to keep her violence under control. It's all incredibly charming and it does a great job keeping the game fresh.

Fans of the action-RPGs of the PlayStation era will find a lot to love here as it plays a bit like a lost gem from that time. Anyone who enjoyed Recettear should certainly give Chantelise a shot as well. All in all, this is a solid title and deserves a look — just make sure to clean the fairy dust off your keyboard after playing!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 3.7/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 3.7/5 (85 votes)
| Comments (14) | Views (448)

verysimplegame2.jpgJohnBJust how good are you at spotting differences? So good that you can find miniscule discrepancies between moving objects that, by all cursory glances, look and act identically? It's time to activate your visual cortex in a serious way with A Very Simple Game 2: Odd One Out, a game that's so simple, it will stump you time and time again.

The idea is straightforward: find which smiley is different from the rest. What sets one smiley apart from the others is never easy to see, though. Sometimes it's a difference in movement patterns or speed. Sometimes a different placement of dots or shadings. Sometimes, after carefully studying the screen for a few minutes, you have no idea what the difference is and you wildly throw a click out there in the hopes that your luck will make up for your lack of attention to detail. It probably isn't, and you'll lose one of your few lives and get knocked back a level, forcing you to do it all over again. Don't be hasty!

Fortunately, some help is available for those times you get stuck (and you will). A hint system offers one helpful piece of prose for each level, never telling you outright what to look for but instead giving you a cryptic clue you must decipher on your own. It's usually enough to dislodge your sputtering difference-spotting engines, and since solving the hint riddle is almost a game unto itself, it's fun, even when you're "failing". Heck, sometimes it's fun to look up the hint even before you check out the smileys!

A Very Simple Game 2 looks and sounds simple, but don't let that fool you into thinking it's easy. It's not. It's challenging. Quite challenging. So challenging, you'll probably get stuck on the third level. The hints even require some untangling, so there's never a free ride, just a brain teaser left and right.

Also, if having one simple game isn't enough, head back and try the original A Very Simple Game. It uses a lot of the same assets, but instead of spotting differences, you're spotting spots, clicking on colored dots in each level. Not as mind-bending or challenging, but still good for a coffee break or two.

Play A Very Simple Game 2


(16 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (0) | Views (254)

unsolvedmysteryclub-b.jpg

GrinnypEver since "Chariots of the Gods" (and even before) folks have wondered how ancient peoples could have built the things they did. Pyramids, temples, fantastic cities out of stone... did ancient man have help, perhaps from above? That is the question posited by Unsolved Mystery Club: Ancient Astronauts, the fantastic new adventure/hidden object hybrid from Freeze Tag Games. Is that question answered? You'll have to play to find out.

unsolvedmysteryclub.jpgThe action begins with a stunning, swooping tour of the solar system and ending at a mysterious warehouse in the middle of the desert, perhaps even area 51 itself. As a mystery club adventurer you have been called in to help locate your fellow clubbers, each of whom has disappeared whilst checking out rumors of ancient peoples getting their hands on alien technology. These folks are scattered around the globe and travel you must from Mali to Palenque, from Egypt to Peru and even to remotest Antarctica to discover who or what is kidnapping the researchers. Unearth what each of these adventurers have found and attempt to rescue them while trying to uncover a dastardly plan to...well, you'll figure it out in the end.

Exploration is accomplished with the usual changing cursor, an eye for areas to examine, a hand for items to pick up or manipulate, and a spinning globe/arrow combination highlighting areas to travel to. Each country is a self-contained chapter; a place to wander around, interact with the natives, and try to discover the whereabouts of your friends. At the end of each mission you will return to the mysterious warehouse, ready to set out again until you have found everyone and reconstructed a mysterious artifact. Unsolved Mystery Club: Ancient Astronauts also features an extensive inventory (necessary, as you will be picking up a lot of stuff), a refilling hint feature (which can point out items in hidden object scenes and give hints in adventure scenes), and a digital "notebook" which stores information, clues, and mini-animations of information as you discover them. The collector's edition also features a very handy strategy guide.

unsolvedmysteryclub2.jpgAlong the way you will find basic hidden object scenes, mini-games, and a lot of puzzles to solve as you strive to uncover the secrets of ancient peoples and their possible link to alien technology. Unsolved Mystery Club: Ancient Astronauts has a nice mix of all three elements of the traditional hybrid as well as a lot of information about the history of the places you are visiting, although that information is a blend of the real (who knew that Nazi Germany laid claim to part of Antarctica? Am I the only one who didn't know?) and the fanciful (Are the Nazca lines really runways? If you've ever seen them close up you'd know the answer is: doubtful.). Let yourself be drawn in by the intriguing mystery and enjoy the ride to the end.

Analysis: Unsolved Mystery Club: Ancient Astronauts is an artful blend of real historical fact and fantastic UFO speculation, perfect for the adventure/hidden object hybrid genre. One of the strongest features of the game is the storytelling you encounter along the way, leading to the explosive final denouement, definitely worth the time and effort to discover.

The backgrounds are stunning, hand-painted scenes that echo both the location and the time of day the adventure takes place. Mali is dark and mysterious, Egypt bright and sun-washed, Palenque suitably lush and overgrown, etc. A great deal of attention has been paid to the "feel" of each mini-adventure, from the artwork to the music, which also evokes the time and place with African rhythms, plaintive South American flutes and the like. Each piece of music being specifically tailored to that particular location (along with appropriate incidental sounds) certainly amps up the atmosphere to an astonishing degree. Even the hidden object scenes carry the theme with items that (for the most part) belong to each particular place. As for the gameplay, Unsolved Mystery Club: Ancient Astronauts shows a lot of thought and effort behind each adventure. The hidden object scenes can be very tough due to the tricky placement of hand-painted objects on hand-painted backgrounds, the mini-games are a mix of the usual suspects (sliders, Simon puzzles, and the like) which get tougher as you go along, and the use of found objects can be pretty tricky as well. There's a lot of interaction with the surrounding scenery and items that can be found within.

unsolvedmysteryclub3.jpgPerhaps the best thing about Unsolved Mystery Club: Ancient Astronauts is the variety of hand-holding available within the game. The hint system is on a timer that refills very slowly in easy mode, and excruciatingly slowly in advanced mode. There are no glints or sparkles to point your way to interesting areas, you'll have to sweep with that changing cursor to find hidden (or not-so-hidden) items. Small showers of sparks do exist to highlight hidden object scenes, but they don't generally appear right away, they often have to be triggered by another action, such as solving a puzzle, before they deign to point out where to find more objects. The hint timer itself is a work of art in that it allows you to specifically choose which objective you'd like a clue for, rather than just randomly highlighting an area. With the mix of modes, the slow refilling hint timer (and puzzle skip timer), and the ability to ignore the opening tutorial, Unsolved Mystery Club: Ancient Astronauts can be quite a challenge for the advanced gamer while still being easy enough for the beginner.

The only downside is that the animations and voice acting can get a little cheesy in places, which is easy to ignore. The gameplay itself is longer than your average adventure hybrid (you'll probably get a good four hours of play even without the "bonus" adventure) and as a plus the "extra" adventure in the Collector's Edition is truly a side-quest, not a more complete ending to the saga. With its fantastic visuals and engrossing story Unsolved Mystery Club: Ancient Astronauts is not to be missed, even if you are more skeptical than Scully about the whole aliens-interacting-with-ancient-peoples thing.

A Collector's Edition is also available. It includes concept art, character art, the music soundtrack, an extra adventure, and a built-in strategy guide. 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:
Also available: Collector's Edition


| Comments (12) | Views (39)

Weekend Download

JohnBEpic games that claim to be not-so-epic, a battle game about politics, and a pixellated Indiana Jones who runs around stealing priceless artifacts. Welcome to Weekend Download!

itbelongsinan.gifIt Belongs in an Ancient Ruin (Windows, 3.74MB, free) - Another fine game from a group of DigiPen students, this tidy little title borrows elements from several retro games as well as a little character you might have heard of named Indiana Jones. Stealing artifacts is the name of the game, and to do that, you'll need to hotfoot it to avoid lights, hide in plants to sneak around guards, swing from hooks to cross gaps, and generally be a really awesome artifact thief. Grab the loot, head out through the basement, and you're good for the next level!

primeministers.gifPrime Minister's Questions: The Game (Windows, 4.98MB, free) - If politics in the UK were more like a turn-based Pokemon battle, a surge of interest would suddenly spring from the gaming community! A non-adventure game starring you, the Prime Minister, as you field questions from the opposing party on a weekly basis. Choose your "attacks" from below, and see if your responses help or hurt your overall health. Make sure everyone keeps their faith in the PM!

unepic.gifUnepic (Windows, 59MB, beta demo) - Playing a good old real-life RPG with your pals is great, but when you go to the bathroom, everything goes dark. Lighting your lighter you realize you're in a dungeon. Wandering through the passageways, you realize you're in a Castlevania-like sidescrolling action game. It'd be awesome if you were scared for your life! Earn experience to improve your stats and find tons of items and weapons to stash in your inventory. Even though this is just a pre-release demo, there's a lot of stuff to be done. The final product will no doubt be a truly un-unepic game! (Warning: Contains some harsh language.)

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 4.7/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.7/5 (779 votes)
| Comments (8) | Views (899)

superfighters.gifJohnBReady for some brawling? Superfighters from MythoLogic Interactive is a single-screen 2-player versus or single-player fighting game replete with weapons, tactical maneuvers, and chunky pixel art your eyes will adore. It's a game where little dudes shoot, stab, burn, kick, shoot (again) and trick each other until they pass out from non-livingness, and once that round is over, you get to do it all over again!

Superfighters has a bit of an obtuse control scheme that takes some time to get used to. Controls are fully customizable, though, which helps enormously, especially if you have a gamepad handy. Basically, you move with the [arrow] keys and use [N] and [M] for melee and ranged weapons respectively. If a second player is joining you, they'll get their own set of keys on the other side of the keyboard. You have a few special moves available to help add a layer of tactics to the game, namely dash, dive and roll maneuvers as well as a handy "take cover" ability. The game introduces you to everything slowly, but it'll take a few rounds before it all settles in. It's worth the time, though!

Once you're ready to rock, Superfighters offers two main modes of play: vs mode and stage mode. The former is a simple battle to the end where you choose characters, the number of players, which team each player/bot is on, and the stage you'll fight in. Stage mode is similar but gives you a quest of sorts to defeat the opposing team across the game's four stages in three levels of difficulty. Set everything up, hit the [spacebar], and you're ready to brawl!

superfighters2.gifCombat in Superfighters is frantic, strategic, and enormously satisfying. You start with a few basic weapons, a weak melee attack and a few grenades, but since everybody's got those, you need an edge. Check for the location of your opponents, then look for the nearest weapon you can find. Rush to it and be aware that everyone else is coming after you, so both defense and offense should be played equally. Grab something that goes boom and start hunting!

Analysis: Despite its lengthy learning curve for a casual Flash game, Superfighters manages to provide a great brawling experience that's right at home in your browser. It's simple in nature (other than the controls, of course) but opens itself to a lot of possibilities, making each battle wildly different than the previous.

There's no online multiplayer at the moment, which is unfortunate, as this game would be phenomenal with real life players on the other side of those pixel characters, But the AI is reasonably smart, doesn't "cheat" too often, and provides you with a good level of challenge throughout the game. Besides, if one computer-controlled opponent isn't tough enough, try adding seven more, see how easy it is then!

The variety of weapons and stages in Superfighters isn't that great, but you're really not focused on the pick-ups and scenery as you are where the other players are and how you can shoot them without them shooting you. This is a great example of a game with mechanics that outshine its own structure, allowing gameplay to take top shelf while everything else plays a supporting role.

Don't let the initial complexity fool you. Superfighters is a smart and savvy brawling game with a lot of possibility. With more fighters, stages, weapons, and a few tweaks to the camera to make it easier to see the players, it stands to be one of the best fighting games you can play in your browser!

Play Superfighters

Cheers to repairmanman for sending this one in!


  • Currently 4.1/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.1/5 (25 votes)
| Comments (3) | Views (348)

Macabre Mysteries

JohnBBlue Tea Games, a studio that knows its hidden object adventure genre better than a chef knows how to boil water, is at it again. Following series such as Enlightenus, Dark Parables, and Forgotten Riddles is a tough job, but Macabre Mysteries: Curse of the Nightingale definitely holds its own, crafting an environment filled with intrigue, danger, mystery, and loads of shiny objects to find. It's a hidden object/casual adventure game for the most discriminating fans, and it never fails to impress from beginning to end.

Macabre MysteriesThe Nightingale Theater was destroyed by a devastating fire over 40 years ago, leaving charred ruins and destroyed careers in its wake. You receive a golden ticket in the mail from your grandfather inviting you to attend what promises to be an amazing ballet performance. Unfortunately, the only ballet you see is a malefic ghost who stalks the theater grounds, following you from room to room and causing havoc. On top of that, you notice several other apparitions who stalk the area, and before you know it, you're trapped in the haunted theater, alone and frightened. Some dance performance this turned out to be!

Gameplay is a balanced mix between item hunting, puzzle solving, and hidden object scenes. Much of your time is spent moving from area to area, clicking on sparkling spots to get more information or to take a closer look at something important. There's a surprising amount of inventory items just sitting on the ground. You have to keep your eyes open for things on just about every screen, clicking on anything that seems even remotely interesting. You never know when it'll come in handy!

Hidden object scenes are a definite strong point in Macabre Mysteries, and even if you're "meh" about hidden object games in general, this game provides some honestly engaging item hunts. Instead of looking for names from a list below, you're assembling pieces of things based on pictures at the bottom of the screen. Some of objects are genuinely challenging to find, and instead of storing a series of names in your head while your scour the screen, you have to take a different approach to each area. Things like "a strappy thing with gold bits on the end", "swirly golden whatsit", or "cheese grater" will become a common shorthand while you search for items, but it's a good time and a great way to approach hidden object scenes.

Macabre MysteriesAnalysis: If you're familiar with Blue Tea Games, especially the studio's Dark Parables series, you pretty much know what to expect with Macabre Mysteries: Curse of the Nightingale. As far as gameplay and general structure is concerned, of course. Storywise and puzzlewise, Macabre Mysteries is on its own, and it's an experience even hidden object veterans will love jumping into. The game even includes a few nice additions such as "morphing" objects and a bit of time travel-esque abilities!

The hint system in Macabre Mysteries is worth talking about, as it's very precise and allows for a lot of directed information to be spilled your way. Within hidden object scenes, the hint button shows you precisely where an item is stashed. Fair enough, pretty standard, there. Outside, though, you get to drag inventory items to the hint spot and a little window appears showing you where that item can be used. Pretty nice! Also, the map has less obvious hints that points you to the area you should be investigating. You can basically "cheat" your way through most of the game, but nobody's forcing you to use those hints!

Macabre Mysteries: Curse of the Nightingale gets a lot of the more technical aspects of a hidden object game spot-on perfect. It's easy to play, has a storyline that's a bit trite but workable for the genre, and features plenty of mini-games and smart puzzles you keep you engaged from beginning to end!

A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains exclusive bonus gameplay and an in-game strategy guide. 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 4.6/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.6/5 (1262 votes)
| Comments (96) | Views (6,158)

DoraKingdom RushTower defense goes itty-bitty in Ironhide Games' Kingdom Rush, but the clashes are no less fierce! Foul creatures are storming the land, and if you want your rolling green fields and placid sheep to keep looking all idyllic and whatnot, you're going to have to take up the mantle of protector and set to work defending the countryside from swarms of orcs, goblins, and other nasties. Combining snappy, addictive gameplay with a stellar design and sense of style, Kingdom Rush is a real winner and a serious contender to wear the crown for the defense genre.

Game of the Year 2011Enemies appear from one side of the screen and march along a path towards the other. Place towers on patches of land alongside the roads, choosing from several types that each deal a different type of damage... important to consider since some foes resist one type but are weak against another. Heavy brutes like orcs can wade through your soldiers, for example, but don't hold up to a magical bolt to the face from your mage towers quite as well. Best of Casual Gameplay 2011You'll need cash to fund your defenses and tower upgrades, naturally, which is gained by defeating enemies, but you've also got an ace up your sleeve in the form of special abilities that can be played in each battle... call in reinforcements where you need them the most, or go with the good ol' fashioned Rain of Fire if you're a more sentimental sort. These specials are on timers, so use them as much as you want, but think before you throw them out there. You'll want to really strive to complete each level as quickly and tidily as possible, since doing so earns you stars that you can spend on the valuable upgrade tree between stages. If you're feeling particularly tough, you might also want to try replaying levels you've already beaten in Heroic or Iron Challenge mode.

Kingdom RushAnalysis: Kingdom Rush is an absolute gem of a defense game, and probably one of the best examples of the genre to date. Not only does it look and sound fantastic, but the gameplay confidently strides that invisible line between being too complicated and just strategic enough for players to really sink their teeth into. This is not to say that the game is easy; slapping towers down willy nilly without giving much thought to how they might play off one another's strengths is a good way to get yourself thoroughly massacred in short order when enemies really start swarming in greater numbers. Since you can not only adjust the difficulty for each stage before you play it, however, but also reset your upgrades any time you please to tweak your strengths, it's unlikely that you'll ever find yourself at a stalemate and unable to proceed.

Speaking of which, it doesn't take long before the game kicks off your training wheels and starts demanding your lunch money. Initially you might find yourself wishing for a button to speed up the play, but after a few stages as new enemy types are introduced and you have to manage and potentially tweak tower placement on the fly against huge swarms of enemies, the last thing you'll want is for it to move more quickly. Some stages do tend to drag a little, with so many waves made up of so many baddies, but it still doesn't hold the game back from being a joy for fans to play. If you love tower defense and secretly think huge hairy ogres are adorable, you need to check Kingdom Rush out. It's a fantastic, peppy, beautiful little game that will steal your time and your heart!... no, I mean literally! Seriously, dude, that bandit is about to cross the finish line!

Play Kingdom Rush everywhere!

Play Kingdom Rush


  • Currently 4.5/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.5/5 (97 votes)
| Comments (23) | Views (364)

TrickyEscape from Puppy Death FactoryTwenty years after nuclear confrontation wiped out the planet known as Earth, Cosmonaut Laika receives a distress bark from the ruined surface. Armed with your trusty swap-gun, a rainbow shooting device that lets you switch places with pieces of the world around you, you land upon the planet to locate your companions. Every dog has its day, and today is the day you must... Escape from Puppy Death Factory! Brought to you by Arthur Lee and the fine people at Adult Swim. In theaters On your computer screen this summer.

Escape from Puppy Death Factory is a retro puzzle platformer based around exploration and the mechanic of the swapping gun. You move and jump around the landscape with the [arrow] keys, and fire your gun with [Z], [X], or the [spacebar]. Firing the gun shoots a laser which, upon contact with moveable item, switches it with your position when it hits; note emphasis... some puzzles very much rely on shooting then moving to the right place before it hits. Different elements are introduced over time, including reflecting mirrors, platforms that require a battery adjacent to them to function, android cats to avoid, and other pitfalls. There are 35 puppies to collect, and while you can leave the planet at any time... you know you're not going to get the BEST ending if you do that, right?

Analysis: Escape from Puppy Death Factory is a game that got me thinking about the term Metroidvania, and how, for me, it seems to be a designation applied from a certain "feeling" about a game, rather than an indicator of specific qualities. Escape from Puppy Death Factory lacks elements we usually find in such games: it has a fairly linear outline, no areas blocked off, and no power-ups to collect. Most striking is how few enemies there are to encounter and, when you do, how deviously you must use your "switcher" weapon to avoid a confrontation with them. Certainly we've seen quite a few Metroidvania platformers with puzzle elements, but its rare that I would characterize something as a puzzle game with Metroidvania platform elements. Still, with all its dissimilarities, Escape from Puppy Death Factory feels like it should be part of the genre, and I had to think about why that is.

Escape From Puppy Death FactoryI guess it comes down to setting. Escape from Puppy Death Factory is located on a beautifully eerie alien world. I loved charting every nook and cranny while I found each of my puppy companions. Indeed, the collecting seemed almost secondary to moving from screen to screen to gawp at more scenery. Exploration is, of course, standard for Metroidvanias, but it takes something more than that. It's hard to put into words, but perhaps I'm arguing that a Metroidvania is any platform game in which the setting is the most important character. The game could have easily been set up as a series of single-screen puzzle levels. Instead, a gorgeous world has been designed to justify the journey from captive dog to captive dog. I don't mind a little filler, as long as it looks as pretty as it does here.

This is not to suggest Escape from Puppy Death Factory is all surface and no substance. Escape from Puppy Death Factory has the other hallmark of the Metroidvania genre: killer difficulty. This game has devious, even harsh, puzzles that will push your platforming skills to the limit, but they never feel unfair. Just know going in that you'll probably have to send at least a hundred Laikas into the laser grid before you time your jumps exactly right... and have absolute blast doing so.

The main strike against Escape from Puppy Death Factory is conceptual. The game seems confused as to what it wants to be, making for a tone that is indecisive at best. It can't seem to decide whether its an ultra-cute platformer or a parody of ultra-cute platformers. Likewise, there are some elements that clearly reference Metroid and pop culture, but they don't really go anywhere. It's all set-up and no punchline. (The final boss is especially nonsensical in this regard). This confusion extends to the very title of the game; a title which promises a much darker comedy than you actually get. It just feels a little non-organic, as if the developers tried at the last minute to add some edginess to better fit in with its Adult Swim brethren.

Unevenness aside, I definitely recommend Escape from Puppy Death Factory. It's adorable, it's large, it's challenging, and there are robot kitties. What else do you need?

Play Escape from Puppy Death Factory


| Comments (31) | Views (178)

Link Dump Fridays

DoraHoly Weekly Occurrence, Batman! It's Link Dump Friday! Are you surprised? You are, aren't you? I mean, Link Dumps don't just come around every day. This week, we take a heap of raw fish, some toxic sea-sludge, discarded bones, some ice-cream, and serve it all up to you while wearing our most stylish towel! Now, how many game websites are willing to do that for you, eh?... hey, where's everyone going? Aw...

  • Sushi Boy ThunderSushi Boy Thunder - Despite what certain felines may endorse, I've never been a fan of sushi. Maybe that's because it typically isn't served to me while I'm flying through the air, gobbling down shrimp and rolls as I avoid explosives and stuff my pockets full of coins! Such is the aim of this disarmingly adorable yet simple little arcade game. So go ahead; get your nom on. Teppanyaki would be infinitely more entertaining with live grenades, I'll tell you that much.
  • Deep and BlueDeep and Blue - Whales are terrifying; they're massive, you don't matter to them, and they could swallow you and not even realise it until they started burping up tacky resort-themed swim trunks a week later. Still, it's hard not to emphasize with the star of this point-and-click puzzle game, so maybe it's okay to give the lonely guy a hand (fin... whatever) in his quest to find out the meaning behind life, the universe, and everything. Solve the puzzles in each screen in order to progress, and try not to let any untimely fates befall you. Ocean be all hazardous and whatnot.
  • ClostrumClostrum - I tell you what, I've partied pretty hard in my time (this one night I drank four gingerales all by myself!), but I've never woken up in a dirty castle cell with only a manky old skeleton for company. You escape game fiends are probably used to it, but the rest of us have places to go, things to see, people to avoid! We don't have time to assemble a key out of four soda cans, an ancient mystical orb, and a rat tail! Come on... isn't there an app for that yet?
  • Papa's FreezeriaPapa's Freezeria - The Papa's Series of time management simulation games goes ice cold in this sweet treat of an installment. Anyone who has ever heard the siren lure of the build-your-own-sundae bar at restaurants across the land knows the appeal of crafting creamy masterpieces, and Papa's will definitely fill that fantasy if you've got steady hands and an eye for ice-cream perfection. Coming up next; Papa's Charcuteria! (Guest starring Anthony Bourdain. Ohpleaseohpleaseohplease!)
  • Flagstaff Chapter FourFlagstaff Chapter Four - Turn-based RPG action gets pun-ier in this fourth installment of the popular Flagstaff series. This time you're searching for "Crazy Dust" antidote, which is something I would personally love to get my hands on... what? No, not for me! Geez. Rude. While not perhaps the best showing the series has to offer, it still brings to the table all the strategic combat you love, and all the hawt towel fashions you need.

  • Currently 4.5/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
(6 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (93) | Views (102)

You Are Games

Letters in Boxes #9

Humble Indie Bundle 3

ArtbegottiA brand new Humble Indie Bundle has been released, featuring five fantastic indie games all for the price of "whatever you want to pay"! Hits such as And Yet It Moves, Crayon Physics Deluxe, VVVVVV and more are available, representing some of the finest work the independent gaming scene has to offer. Can't do better than that, can you?

Maybe you can! If you want to win one of these snazzy Humble Indie Bundles, here's your chance! All it takes is a little wordplay wizardry. We've got a special five-part Letters In Boxes challenge for you, with a theme that should become clear rather quickly. Solve all five puzzles, and you could win yourself five great games!

Letters in Boxes #9 - Puzzle 1As usual, here's how to play: Click on the image to the right to bring up the first puzzle in a new window. When you've formulated an answer, shift your gaze to your browser's address bar (which will read "http://images.jayisgames.com/lettersinboxes/humblebeginnings.gif"). Change the filename (specifically, humblebeginnings) to your answer, and hit enter to send your browser into action. If you're right, you're one humble step closer to a bundle of a prize! If you're wrong, you'll get an error message, but you can always take a step back and try again.

This batch of puzzles contains five puzzles to solve. On the fifth puzzle, you'll find the email address for sending your final answer. We'll hand out a Humble Indie Bundle to the first correct entry we receive, plus ten additional randomly-selected correct entries. Please include your Casual Gameplay account display name with your entry. You must be at least 13 years of age to enter. Only one submission per participant, please. Offer void where prohibited. Your deadline for submitting your answers is Monday, August 1st at 11:59 PM (GMT-5:00). Good luck, and enjoy!

Update: Congratulations to these 11 winners! :D

  • kdausman ...First!
  • han519
  • bubblecamera
  • jakebaker
  • Apartmento
  • arikiko
  • jakramer75
  • Tweetheart
  • snowmoon
  • nqeron
  • Persona
All eleven winners were given a Humble Indie Bundle #3! Congratulations and thanks for playing with us! Look for another Letters in Boxes again soon!

  • Currently 4/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4/5 (132 votes)
| Comments (12) | Views (182)

joyeCat God vs. Sun KingIf the Sun King had ever read the story of the tower of Babel, he would know that trying to make yourself into a god never ends well. If he had ever gone on the internet, he would know that going up against a cat also will end poorly. Apparently, he failed to do both of these things, so it's up to you to take down his pretensions in Nerdook's crazy latest, Cat God vs. Sun King. It's an interesting volley into the defense genre: the enemy is sending waves to attempt to build a tower, and you're purely and simply trying to destroy them all. Plus you're a cute little cat. Who's a cutie wootie deity patootie? You are! You are!

You start out with just one ability, but each level will give you a new one, and you can also buy three more at the store using scarabs earned through achievements. However, you can only have a max of six abilities at any one time. In level, you can click to select an ability or use hotkeys [1] through [6] to quickly switch. Click to fire an ability. Some abilities automatically act in a certain way, for example, floor spikes attack only the bottom level. Other levels are aimed, such as a lightning bolt which attacks along a vertical line or a sheep curse which transforms a few enemies directly around the cursor. Abilities cost mana and also take reloading time. The more you use abilities, the cheaper, quicker and more powerful they will get, up to a max of three levels per skill. Once you kill every enemy, you win the level.

Once you've beaten all twelve initial levels, you unlock an endless mode where you start with a large amount of mana but the enemies keep coming. That mode ends when the tower is built.

At first glance, twelve levels may seem a bit short, but what Nerdook did was cut out grind almost entirely. You get new skills very quickly, progress in leveling skills counts even in failed levels, and you get new enemies every level as well. Sure, he could have padded it out by having four or five levels per new aspect, but as is, you never get bored. He ends the game just at the point where adding anything further would just make the enemies a swarming, confusing mess and force the player to simply spam attacks rather than using any kind of strategy. So the game feels very tight and focused. And adorable. Even the Sun King himself looks like he just needs a cuddle. Let's hug it out, Cat God and Sun King!

Play Cat God vs. Sun King


  • Currently 4.5/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.5/5 (148 votes)
| Comments (46) | Views (531)

DoraRubble Trouble TokyoYou're in trouble... rubble trouble, that is! The sequel to Rubble Trouble (New York), last year's physics puzzle destruct-em-up from Nitrome, has arrived! Rubble Trouble Tokyo puts you back behind the wrecking ball with the only crew no insurance will touch. After the good work you managed in the last game, the crew has been sent to the bright, shining metropolis of Tokyo to do what they do best; get rid of old, condemned buildings with explosive style. Of course, it doesn't take long for your workers to get sick of boring ol' nitro, and before you know it there's giant mechanical lizards, choppas, grabbers, and more all up ins. Can you do your destructive job and earn your pay without causing any property damage?

As before, on each level you have a monetary goal to meet, and limited tools at your disposal to do so. Demolition items will appear at the bottom of the screen, and it's as simple as clicking the name, and then clicking onscreen wherever you want to use it. But be careful; not only do some items come in limited quantities, but certain levels also have conditions that must be met (or avoided), so think before you go throwing explosions and heavy machinery willy-nilly. You might need to safely retrieve a worker, or manipulate your surroundings so that nearby properties are safe from flying and falling shrapnel... fail at either, and you may find that you don't have enough money to reach your target.

There's a lot to like about Rubble Trouble Tokyo, from its beautiful, catchy soundtrack to its wonderfully detailed, richly coloured environments. The new toys at your disposal are clever and creative, and often really entertaining to watch and play with. (Who among us has not wanted to mechanically burninate?!) On the downside, the physics can still be fairly frustrating; rubble is a little unreliable and can be weirdly "springy" at times, with entire floors bouncing up and down like a pogostick on one solitary square of blocks. Some of the game's thirty levels will also require a bit of experimentation to solve, since the employee patter, while amusing, doesn't always necessarily state how to use new tools as effectively as you might hope. Still, Rubble Trouble Tokyo is a fun, explosive, beautifully visualised little game that will appeal to fans of the original with an appetite for destruction. And speaking of the original, it's since been rebranded to Rubble Trouble New York, and contains two new levels and a very special final stage, so if you're a fan you'll want to check out the new content if you haven't already. In the meantime, slap on your construction hat, pack up your stereotypical red box lunch, and stuff your pants full of poorly contained dynamite... you've got a job to do!

Play Rubble Trouble Tokyo


  • Currently 3.9/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 3.9/5 (116 votes)
| Comments (35) | Views (192)

DoraChallenge AcceptedJacob Pariseau and Marcus Pasell have a challenge for you... are you ready to grab the meme by the horns? Prove you've got the swagger and the skills in Challenge Accepted, a high-difficulty puzzle platformer about one cat with more than his share of lives, a bunch of rooms that defy physics, and a whole lot of spikes. Are you ready to put your skills where your mouth is?... no, you don't make any sense!

Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move your cat around the level. Your objective is to get to the button that opens the exit, and then make your way to that shining beacon. Simple, right? Well, can you do it without jumping? How about while only moving left? In fifteen seconds? While rubbing your belly and patting your head simultaneously? Okay, I made that last one up, but as you play, you'll find that the levels become more fiendish and the challenges more... uh... challenging. If you get stuck, hit [R] to restart, and you can pick up wherever you left off if you take a break by selecting "continue a challenge" from the main menu. Note that you may find that the game responds more slowly in Firefox, so if you have a problem with the timed levels, you may need to try another browser such as Chrome instead.

While the setup and design are vaguely reminiscent of This is the Only Level, here the objective is less adorable pachyderm cavorting and more meme-fuelled nightmare platforming. Some of the levels are downright punishing; level six coats the floor in a slippery substances, and when, after many tries I finally made it to the button, I died a little inside when I realised I had to make it safely all the way back to the exit. More casual platformers might be put off by the quick reflexes demanded in certain levels... while not quite Super Meat Boy, it definitely isn't Super Mario Bros either. But with a winning style, a snappy soundtrack, and a meme-tastic premise, Challenge Accepted just might quench your thirst for a spot of sneaky, tricky platforming. And then next time you go sailing into a bed of spikes, take a deep breath and ask yourself... U MAD BRO?

Update: Jacob has addressed the 2 major complaints that players brought up in the comments and the new version has been uploaded and now available to play here at JIG.

Play Challenge Accepted


  • Currently 4.6/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.6/5 (88 votes)
| Comments (21) | Views (91)

JoshBlipzkrieg"You're a tough, battle-hardened general on a difficult campaign... a campaign of freedom, liberation, and justice. Your enemy? A gray, totalitarian menace, filled with hard-edged soldiers that will stop at nothing to make all your bases belong to them as they leave behind a trail of destruction in their wake. Can you recruit enough troops to fight the enemy? Will your mix of leadership, quick reflexes and tactics win the day? Does this sound epic enough for a game about circles and squares? You'll find out soon enough in GameClay and Noonat's new strategy title, Blipzkrieg.

Blipzkrieg is a unique and stylized game that mixes simple, abstract graphics with intense real-time strategy elements. The objective of the 29-level game is to reach a portal on each stage that advances to the next level. This is a fairly easy task early on, but later levels require you to get past pesky barriers, hostile gray squares, and deadly laser turrets to reach your goal. Eventually you need to take out fortified enemy bases that spawn more hordes of menacing squares to reveal the portal. In order to be successful, you must rely on friendly troops to assist in capturing areas and destroying the enemy.

Meeting your objectives in Blipzkrieg requires an understanding of the controls, which are simple, yet surprisingly robust. When the game starts, you command a blue circle by clicking on it and dragging a path around the screen in a manner similar to mobile titles like Flight Control. The blue circle soon follows your path, and you can speed it up by clicking and holding the arrow icon at the path's end. A key skill in Blipzkrieg is attacking the enemy and capturing areas, which requires troops. Early in the game, you recruit disorganized troops (which are multicolored circles) by moving your blue circle near them, causing them to turn yellow and swarm protectively around you. Later levels require you to spawn new organized troops from a reinforcement portal, with more yellow circles appearing the longer you wait. To attack something, just move your blue circle (with its swarm of troops) near enemy troops or a capture point, and they will automatically fight to the bitter end, often leaving behind pixelated corpses. Capturing areas can also make deadly turrets your allies, helping to defend areas against the enemy squares.

blipzkrieg.jpgAnalysis: This is a game that takes some getting used to, but once you get past the learning curve (made easy thanks to an excellent set of tutorial levels) it can be quite fun and addictive. Many of the levels are cleverly designed, with the AI putting up a significant fight as you try to take over portions of each map section by section while defending your home base. I especially liked the ability to capture (and lose control of) certain areas of a map, with a clear system of dots and colors letting you know who currently controls a barrier or turret, and how strong or weak its control point is. Indeed, the game's use of symbols instead of detailed traditional characters allows for fast gameplay and quick thinking unhindered by unnecessary adornment. Just like a coach's playbook can depict a grinding football play using just X's and O's, Blipzkrieg's use of circles and squares depicts a truly epic struggle taking place.

Despite its deceptively simple controls and graphics, Blipzkrieg is not an easy game, and at times you may find it difficult to get past a level. Some of the later ones are quite tough, and can take up to 10 minutes to pass unless your plans are crisp and your luck is strong. This is part of the game's strengths though; not every map has the exact same strategy to win, and there are enough random elements to keep things interesting. Getting through the game is worth it however, as everything wraps up with a hard but satisfying final level that throws in some surprises. All in all, Blipzkrieg provided me with a challenging and satisfying experience, one where I was looking forward to beating each level to see what was coming next. Will you feel the same? Are you ready to get your war on? Then let's blipz this krieg!

Play Blipzkrieg


  • Currently 4.5/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.5/5 (130 votes)
| Comments (13) | Views (351)

DoraGap MonstersGap Monsters is a negative space puzzle game by Nutcase Nightmare and Peter Gresser, but it's also a pretty good guilt generator too. The goal here is to guide pink blobs with big, trusting "are you my mommy" faces towards their destiny... which, as it turns out, is electrocution. Endless, endless electrocution at the hands of someone they trust. It's okay, they don't feel anything. In fact, they're being teleported to a farm somewhere! Yeah, a big farm where they can run and play and... shut up, sidebar text, I'm working on my denial here!

Use your mouse to push and pull the background to manipulate your hapless critters into the red electric squares on each level; white background pushes a monster, while monsters will just sit on black backgrounds and let themselves be pulled around. Be careful; move two coloured pieces together and they'll combine and you won't be able to pull them apart, which makes maneuvering around immovable blocks on later stages a challenge. Just click on a colour and drag to experiment; you can hit [R] to reset if you make too much of a mess of things, or if you made a mistake while your tears blurred your vision and need to take a moment to compose yourself.

Gap Monsters is one of those rare puzzle games that seems so simple and is executed so beautifully. While there isn't a whole lot of variation, the clean visuals, fantastic peppy soundtrack, and tricky gameplay make it a top-notch bit of puzzling for your coffee break. While you can just do a lot of willy-nilly clicking and sliding and still ultimately get the monsters to their destiny in the same way that pounding on random controller buttons will eventually give you a super combo you can never replicate, managing to solve that same level with only the few moves allowed to get a star is a lot more challenging. Mix in a bit of black humour in the form of the soothingly-phrased but guilt-inducing sidebar texts and you have a recipe for success. Gap Monsters is wickedly amusing, cleverly designed, and is the perfect thing to harden your heart into a lump of coal against future tragedies.

Play Gap Monsters


  • Currently 4.7/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.7/5 (136 votes)
| Comments (82) | Views (3,913)

DoraThe Last Stand - Union CityTake Fallout 3, stitch it together with Left 4 Dead, and then turn the whole thing sideways and you'll have something kind of like what you'll get from playing The Last Stand - Union City. This incredibly ambitious sidescrolling action RPG from developers Con Artist and Armor Games drops you on the outskirts of a city for the start of a zombie apocalypse. Regaining consciousness after a car crash, your only thought is to get home to your significant other, but standing in your way is a huge city teeming with smelly undead bitey-types. To survive and reunite with your beloved, you'll need to be resourceful, merciless, and have an aversion to being chewed on.

At the start of the game you'll create your character, choosing a class that determines the starting strength of certain skills. Your character controls with the [WASD] or [arrow] keys, and uses the mouse to aim and attack. You can hold down the [shift] key to sprint, and occasionally if a zombie gets close enough to grab you, you'll have to rapidly tap the key shown onscreen (usually [A] or [D]) to shove them away. As you dispatch the undead, you'll gain experience points and level up, which nets you points you can spend in your various skills and stats to suit your playstyle; become a fleet-footed gunner or a meat-shield melee expert. Just hover over a particular skill to get a description and plan ahead. If you die, you can choose to respawn with an experience point penalty, or just exit to the main menu to reload your last save; you can save at any time by clicking on the cog in the upper right corner.

The game comes in two difficulties to choose from. "Survivor" mode means your character requires food and sleep; while finding something to eat is largely left up to luck and your survival skill, you can only sleep on beds in Safe Houses, which are few and far between. If that sounds unappetizing, you can just play "Run'n'Gun" where the only thing you have to worry about is weapons, ammo, and health. Either way, you'll want to keep your eyes out for useful items as you press on through the city. A lot of what you'll find is junk (when was the last time you kept your underwear drawer fully supplied for the apocalypse?) and is easily identified as such, but you'll also find weapons (improvised or otherwise), clothing, healing items, and more. Use [E] to search containers when the icon pops up over one, but don't get too greedy; you can only carry a certain weight in items. Fortunately, you can find storage chests in most safe houses, and whatever you put in one, you'll be able to pick out of any other a la Resident Evil. Trans-dimensional storage capabilities; Umbrella Corporation's greatest gift to society right after the Bandersnatch.

The Last Stand - Union CityAnalysis: There's nothing players like more than consequence-free looting and copious amounts of zombies for target practice, and Union City's got you covered to the nth degree. There isn't much of an emphasis on story, but what exists is about what you'd expect; shadowy conspiracies, desperate quests to track down loved ones, body fluids, and panic at the disco. Not that you'll mind; the emphasis here is less on delivering a powerful narrative and more on dropping you into a big city to explore and loot, and Union City is definitely big and ripe for the pickings. The amount of locations and their scope is really impressive, and even if it isn't directly related your current task it's usually worth it to explore the various buildings for sweet, sweet scavengin's and interesting Left4Dead-ish wall scribblings and desperate notes; human suffering is nature's entertainment!

Combat, unfortunately, doesn't feel really as fluid and quick as it needs to to avoid frustration and unnecessary deaths. Enemies tend to move a lot quicker than you do, and when you take the accuracy and damage out of the hands of the player and put it under the charge of a random number generator, someone's going to come away crying. (Seriously, who misses a six foot tall fat guy eight times with a fire axe?) The hordes also seem a bit too random, and the frequency with which they appear both quickly wears thin and makes you think someone needs to call in Mike Holmes to do an inspection of every ceiling in the city. As of this writing, unfortunately, the game is still fairly buggy. Admittedly, that's to be expected with a new release, especially one as big and ambitious as this one, but still frustrating. The good news is you can expect the developers to be hard at work squashing bugs as they come in, so make sure to report any you find.

The Last Stand - Union CityIt should tell you something, however, that even with the occasional glitch rearing its ugly head, I was still more than happy to play Union City straight through. While some skills and abilities don't feel quite as well used or developed as they could have been, as a straight-up free zombie action adventure the game is virtually unmatched. The visual design is a bit strange at first, but works extremely well to create a fantastically detailed and decayed urban environment. Exploring at night with only a flashlight feels appropriately creepy. I did find myself wishing for more variety to the enemies apart from the odd dog and varying visuals, but it's easy to forgive when you realise just how much work must have gone into crafting this game and all the environments, weapons, and other items. Depending on your playstyle, Union City could take several hours or more to complete, but you can bet your hopefully undevoured keister it wasn't built in a day.

The ending, while fairly predictable for anyone who has seen a George Romero zombie disaster movie, is actually a little disappointing in that it kind of makes the whole experience up until then feel pointless from a story perspective. If the story isn't important to you, however, and hack-and-slash action is your "thang", then The Last Stand - Union City is the sort of game you can get wrapped up in for a long time. Remarkably ambitious and crafted with a ton of love and attention to detail, this is one city you'll want to pay a visit to. Just don't forget your zombie repellent. And by zombie repellent I mean multitool. And by multitool I mean bloodstained crowbar. And by bloodstained crowbar I mean... hm. I guess that one's fairly self-explanatory.

Play The Last Stand - Union City


  • Currently 4.1/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.1/5 (103 votes)
| Comments (4) | Views (137)

chiktionarydotapixI have a few concerns when it comes to talking about a paperless society, one of which is the inevitable loss of notebook games we used to play at school, with dog-eared paper and leaking pens. But Conceptis have allayed my fears with their series of logic puzzle games, and they've just released another. Dot-a-Pix Light is a connect-the-dots style game, with all the fun of discovering the emerging images without the eraser crumbs, heavy drawstrokes to cover mistakes and fingers stained with ink.

Like the classic connect-the-dot puzzles of our childhoods, Dot-a-Pix is simple in premise and easy to play. Click on the dots, starting at number one and ending on the final numbered dot that looks like a star, to complete the outline of a mystery image. As your mouse hovers over dots, their corresponding numbers pop a a little, which is a wonderful break from trying to ascertain whether that dot belongs to number 16 or number 17. Some dots are a little conjoined so there is very little if any frustration in making sure you click the correct dot. If you do click the wrong one, it's as simple as double-clicking to undo lines. You can also undo sections instead of the whole puzzle. As you click dots, the connected ones will fade, making it easier to see the unconnected dots and so increase your pace towards the completion of each puzzle.

Apart from being able to click to connect and undo, there are tabs at the top of the screen as in all of Conceptis' games, covering the necessary functions of undo, redo, restart, check, see solution and save. There are three levels comprising thirty puzzles altogether, starting from easy with 30 dots (pfft, I got stuck on the first one, until Jay told me that 14 not 15 comes after 13) gradually ramping up to puzzles with over 100 dots to connect.

There's barely any faulting the Conceptis Light series of games, and Dot-a-Pix is consistent with their light, fun and diversional qualities. Playing this connect-the-dots game still holds the joy of seeing pictures emerge from the scattered dots, and there's a slightly retro appeal to the images, reminiscent of line drawings I remember seeing in books as child. A combination of simple goal and easy to implement controls make this a fluid and relaxing game to play. Okay, so there's not a great deal of challenge, but when were connecting dot games ever really that challenging? And this is only Volume One so we can happily expect more to come.

Whether you call it connect-the-dots or dot-to-dot, Dot-a-Pix Light is what it sounds; light, logical and fun. So put away the pens and paper and enjoy a trip down the lane where your inner child plays.

Play Dot-a-Pix Light


  • Currently 4.4/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.4/5 (94 votes)
| Comments (60) | Views (476)

Weekday Escape

GrinnypWhat if once upon a time you had a friend who consistently locked you into a series of rooms and forced you solve your way out? If you said, "Well, it sounds like I'm that hapless protagonist from Tesshi-e's games" you would be correct. Once upon a time, though, that protagonist decided to turn the tables on said friend and was going to lock him/her into a restaurant, only to find himself once again solving their way out of another room escape. If you were that protagonist, out of curiosity, would you go back to that very same restaurant to meet up with that very same friend again? If your answer is yes, then you've come to the right place, as once again we dip into the slightly deranged mind of Tesshi-e with their latest room escape, Escape from the Restroom.

EscapefromtheRestroomIf you are familiar with the Tesshi-e oeuvre you should recognize the restaurant from the opening sequence. Yes, that is indeed the eatery from Escape from Restaurant Minshio, and once again you've traveled there to meet one of your many incarcerating friends. This time, though, the friend is late and you are sadly left hanging. Not to fear, the wait staff shares the same sense of humor as the rest of your acquaintances and have rigged up a fun little escape in the restrooms for quick-witted patrons to solve their way out of. Yes, in the world of Tesshi-e the escaping madness never ends, does it?

Point and click your way around this beautiful, sparkling clean, and decidedly high-tech bathroom with the aid of navigation bars at the sides, top, and bottom of the screen. There are a few objects to be found, a few puzzles to be solved, and voila, you will be back out into the restaurant proper, hopefully to find your dinner guest has finally shown up. If not, you still have the satisfaction of your brilliant and daring escape to erase the sting of being stood up.

Analysis: Escape from the Restroom is both a classic one-room and out escape, as well as being a classic of Tesshi-e's beautiful design sensibility. For something as impersonal and industrial as a commercial restroom, the place is surprisingly lovely without being overblown and ostentatious. The design of the puzzles and controls are equally fantastic, featuring a mix of found objects, observation, and puzzle solving along with the usual fantastic save/mute/inventory functions.

One of the nice things about Tesshi-e's escapes is how they tend to link together. Often when you make it out of one place you find yourself in another place that ends up featuring in a future escape, such as the bar from Escape from the Small Bar. Small design elements such as decorations and/or furniture also tend to pop up time and again, lending a nice continuity and making each game seem as if they were simply a day in the life of a rabid escape room fan with lots of strange yet obliging friends and neighbors. Best of all is the return of the alternate happy coin escape, where you don't just leave with the happy coin, you need to find an entirely different way out, a true "alternate" ending.

Although we do once again see a retread of the wobbly picture puzzle, there are some new and ingenious puzzles to be dealt with this time around. Escape from the Restroom is a pretty easy game, befitting something that is there to amuse a restaurant patron for a few minutes while awaiting a dinner guest. The puzzles are fun and challenging but not overly difficult, creating a nice, light, easy escape to whet your appetite and leave you wanting more. Tesshi-e games are not the most difficult out there, but they are fantastic appetizers, perfect for a mental mid-week snack.

Play Escape from the Restroom


  • Currently 4/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4/5 (95 votes)
| Comments (9) | Views (111)

TrickyRun from the SunDon't you just hate when you wake up and find out that the sun is exploding? Yeah, me too. What with the shock waves of the supernova and the imminent threat of incineration, it just about ruins your whole day. Then you have to pack up everything into the family rocket ship and blast to each world in your solar system, and because of the ever-approaching wall of flame, there's no time for sight-seeing. All you can do is try to stay one step ahead of the heat-death. Such is the premise of Run from the Sun, by FreakyZoid. And considering the title, it's kind of ironic that it's something you'll want to run towards as quickly as possible.

Run from the Sun is a horizontal-scrolling "race the screen" arcade game with simple mechanics and an engaging aesthetic. You rocket starts on a rotating Earth, and your ship launches with a click of the mouse or a press of the [spacebar]. You blast from planet to planet, keeping ahead of the explosions behind you, always making sure to land before your oxygen runs out. Extra points are scored by aiming for farther planets, using gravity to sling you towards a safe landing, collecting stars, narrowly missing meteors and spotting UFOs. Earning achievements unlocks ships with new abilities. And remember: as you walk away from the sun, try not to come slowly undone.

Run from the Sun is a bit reminiscent of earlier releases like Escape the Red Giant, but its art deco graphics and emphasis on timing makes it unique. Gameplay is fun, if a little repetitive, and inspires that certain "one-more-round" kind of addiction. I will say that the physics require some getting used to. The size of a planet doesn't really seem to give any indication of its gravity, making it hard to plan "gravitational sling-shots", as well as know how close you must get until you can land. Also, I wish that there had been some sort of "self-destruct" option: when a mis-aimed shot sends you careening out in to the black, it really breaks the flow to have to wait until your oxygen runs out. That said, despite its flaws, the game is quite enjoyable and should satisfy anyone looking for a bit of mindless arcadey fun. And since tomorrow may rain... go Run from the Sun!

Play Run from the Sun


  • Currently 4.7/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.7/5 (644 votes)
| Comments (32) | Views (2,437)

DoraNyan Cat FLY!Do you Nyan? You will after playing Krang Games' bizarre and addictive little arcade game Nyan Cat FLY! You may have originally felt the space-faring, rainbow-extruding pop-tart cat's hypnotic pull in a Link Dump Friday article earlier this year, but Nick Yonge, developer, has sent us a batch of special cheat codes that have various strange effects and we wanted to revisit the phenomenon and share them all with you. Why? To celebrate 4 MEEELION PLAYS of the game, and because if my productivity must fall, then so too shall yours.

Controls are simple; use the [arrow] keys to guide Nyan Cat to all the "yummies" (candies and sweets) while avoiding all the vegetables. Fill up your OmNomNometer by eating as many yummies as you can in a row for a bonus, but hit three vegetables and you'll run out of happiness and it's game over for you. Repeat until you get the highest score, or until your significant other screams "I CAN'T TAKE IT" and tries to wrestle the laptop from you in a violent coup to turn off the music.

The Nyan Cat is one of those weird internet cultural things that even Know Your Meme, which I had to consult to write this article, can't make sound coherent, but those who like it embrace it hard. Nyan Cat FLY! is an incredible simple little arcade game that doesn't have a whole lot of depth, but makes up for it with relentless cheer, cuteness, and easy addictive gameplay. The new codes do a variety of things, ranging from reversing the playing field, to putting different costumes on your Nyan, to disabling the rainbow. (BLASPHEMY.) You'll have to be wily and weird to figure them out... or, you know, just check the comments below. There isn't a whole lot to be said about Nyan Cat FLY!; you either love it or you don't, and chances are that by now your mind has been made up. But if you're already on the Nyan Bandwagon, then another excuse to nyannyannyannyan until your eyes glaze over is probably all you needed.

Play Nyan Cat FLY!


  • Currently 4.4/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.4/5 (140 votes)
| Comments (12) | Views (62)

thetreeoflife.jpgJohnBThe Tree of Life is an inventory-based puzzle game from Target Detected. Throughout the game's set of nearly 30 levels, you'll place arrows, element changers, teleporters, etc. on the pathways, guiding your element to collect all of the stars before heading to the exit. It can be tricky navigating some of the game's more sprawling levels, but you didn't expect restoring life to an ancient tree would be an easy affair, did you?

The Tree of Life's story places three space-traveling elements on a quest to help out the sickly tree of life. These elements play a big role in the actual game, creating doors that can only be opened by changing the character's properties via elemental icons. Each scene begins frozen in time, just waiting for you to add an object or two. Use the mouse to grab and place items from the inventory and either click the "go" button or use the [spacebar] to start and stop the action.

Arrows on the ground dictate where the little element travels, and most levels have a few locked in place before you even begin. Pink arrows are immovable, but green arrows can be changed to point in different directions even while the game is active. Figuring out how to use these on-the-fly arrows in conjunction with elemental doors is what you'll spend most of your time doing in this puzzle game, and it'll take a lot of planning and a lot of trial and error to get the job done!

Analysis: Changing arrows. Doors that can only be passed by certain elements. Inventory items that can be set anywhere on the screen. The Tree of Life uses a number of common themes in the puzzle gaming world, set in a pleasantly innocent world of space-traveling sentient elements. They're apparently not all that intelligent, though, as you have to do most of the work for them, dropping and adjusting inventory items to tweak their behaviors so they collect every star and land safely in the exit.

The main drawback to The Tree of Life is how the puzzles become more complex. There can be a fine line between increasing difficulty by creating genuinely challenging puzzles and by multiplying the size of the puzzles. The Tree of Life follows the latter (which, in fairness, most games do), adding complications through repetition instead of forcing you to think your way out of situations. You pretty much use the same set of skills you picked up in the first ten levels throughout the game, you just change the setting and use them in different ways.

Despite coming across as a bit predictable in design, The Tree of Life is enjoyable, and the puzzles do provide some challenge as the levels progress. Plus, you get that warm fuzzy feeling of restoring life to the tree of life. How often do you get do to that?!

Play The Tree of Life


| Comments (4) | Views (45)

The Vault

TrickyI tried to do the cryptic crossword in this morning's paper, but sadly couldn't even figure out 1-Across: Dancing Leap Mixes a Vital Jug (3, 5). Thankfully, when I need to recharge my active vocabulary, I never forget the JiG Vault. So what are we featuring this week, my lord? Words, Words, Words! Be sure to have your thesaurus at the ready for some language games that are worth at least a thousand pictures.

  • CrosswordCrossword - From Taro Ito of GameDesign, Crossword is a wonder of word intersection. An interesting combination of "fill-in" puzzles and cryptograms, the premise of Crossword would feel completely natural in a newspaper. However, it is streamlined and improved by its online form, making for an immensely satisfying kind of puzzle that you'd think would have been ripped-off a million times by now. As it stands, Crossword is a superbly-crafted gem, made all the more special by its uniqueness. An excellent difficulty curve and a distinct lack of ultra-obscure words means that players of all ages should be able to jump in at "beginner", but only a true wordsmith has a chance to persevere to the level of "expert".
  • Word SandwichWord Sandwich - It's often difficult to eat ones words, but Word Sandwich, by Robert McKee makes for a more than satisfying meal. It seems so simple: there's a five letter word to puzzle out. Every time you input a guess, it will tell you if the word is before or after it in the alphabet. Thus you must "sandwich" your way into figuring out where in the alphabet it lies. The faster you guess, the higher your score.. Similar to hangman, but with a sharper strategic element, Word Sandwich will cause you to smack your forehead on occasion ("Of course! 'LIVID'! I should have known that!"), but you'll feel so satisfied when you beat the clock... and the rest of the English-Speaking World on the high score list.
  • 8 Letters8 Letters - Call them anagrams. Call them jumbles. Call them whatever, but when I see a string of apparently random letters, I just cannot rest until I've seen them unscrambled. East of the Web successfully latches on to this psychological quirk of mine with 8 Letters, and I think I won't be alone in becoming addicted. This is a game that's perfect for gathering a group of friends around the computer to shout out answers (and to share the pain at the solution-is-obvious-in-retrospect losing rounds). While sharing a similarity to the equally-classic TextTwist, it's the strength of 8 Letters' dictionary that keeps me coming back for more. All fans of wordplay should check it out, as well as the other games on the East of the Web site.

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 4.3/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.3/5 (146 votes)
| Comments (27) | Views (2,173)

BradSynapsis 2Something has happened. You don't know exactly what, but you know that this place doesn't seem right. This place where the doors don't have hinges or knobs and passing through one feels like you're passing through space and time. No, it doesn't seem quite right, but some things seem...familiar. Such is the strange and wonderful world served up to you by RobotJAM and Rob Donkin in Synapsis 2.

Synapsis 2 is the equally mindbending point-and-click adventure game sequel to the original, Synapsis. You are David Carter, a man who is trapped, maybe inside of his own head, maybe he's between places or maybe he just took a wrong turn somewhere. Either way, he's looking for a way out and to do that you'll have to guide him through a variety of puzzles. The mouse is all you will need to move from place to place, manipulate the environment, pick up and use items.

For a game that's so deliciously weird, the puzzles make sense. There will be times when you scratch your head and a few might cause a little frustration, but for the most part you won't be wondering why you're doing something. The relatively low difficulty of the game means that some players will be able to breeze through Synapsis 2. This is a little disappointing as you'll just want to luxuriate in the unique world and explore more of it, however it also means the game doesn't give itself a chance to get old.

Synapsis 2 is a beautiful looking game. The rooms are varied in appearance and atmosphere and each has their own sounds and music. The whole feel of the game is like a mixture between Twin Peaks' Black Lodge and the introduction to The Twilight Zone ("a place of sight and sound...a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination"). There are plenty of games that are weird, this is one of the few games that I would label as surreal. it's an artfully constructed mixture of the mundane and the bizarre with a story where the confusion is part of the fun and what you see is more important than anything that could be said.

If you're looking for an adventure game that truly takes you to a unique world or you're a fan of film makers like David Lynch of Alejandro Jodorowsky, then you should definitely check out the Synapsis games. It might not take you long to get through Synapsis 2, but the sights and sounds will leave you begging for more.

Play Synapsis 2


  • Currently 3.9/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 3.9/5 (73 votes)
| Comments (8) | Views (80)

joyeInfinite Monkeys Bending RealityAre infinite monkeys tapping at typewriters the best things going? They can do everything. First the works of Shakespeare, and now this puzzle platforming game, Infinite Monkeys Bending Reality. Oh sure, deeper beige claims the credit, but I don't think that's fair if you have infinite monkeys to do your work for you. Who knew that a bunch of simians could create a game that depicts one of their number being cruelly experimented upon, forced to use a reality-bending helmet to manipulate his environment to avoid being killed? Actually, that seems like a fairly natural fit for a monkey. I guess monkeys are into escapist fiction as much as anyone else.

Use either [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move your furry friend around the level, and use the mouse to aim and shoot your reality-bending ray. Pretty simple mechanics, really. There are 18 regular levels, but if you're particularly sneaky, you might be able to find some other path. There are four endings to the game altogether. You can also get various achievements, such as for being "greedy" by collecting all of the bananas.

The game has outstanding art and production values in general, from the goofy little animations of the monkey to the mechanical arm that drags the monkey in at the start to the "madcap mayhem" music to the backgrounds, especially in some of the secret areas. It would be nice if the game allowed you to save your progress mid-game instead of forcing you to play straight through, but luckily each individual ending doesn't take that long to reach, and you do save your achievements progress over time. You'll just have to set aside a chunk of time to focus on this game. Get some infinite monkeys to do your other work. How do you think I manage to create such great reviews for JIG?

Play Infinite Monkeys Bending Reality


  • Currently 4.7/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.7/5 (36 votes)
| Comments (5) | Views (1,789)

Doodle Farm

JohnBFrom the creators of Doodle God, Doodle God 2, and Doodle Devil comes another element combining game for your iOS device! Doodle Farm plays on exactly the same formula that made the first games so successful, allowing you to mix and match increasingly complex elements to expand your universe of animals one group at a time. There's discovery, there's learning, there's over 135 animals, and there's an alien dressed as a farmer. Sounds like a winner to us!

doodlefarm.jpgDoodle Farm works just like the previous games in the series, so if you know how to work one, you're ready to go in this new installment. Tap one of the element groups to open it up, then tap a second group to open those elements on the opposite side of the screen. Touch an element, then touch a second to try combining them. If they're compatible, they swirl around and combine, creating a new life form for you to gawk at. If they're incompatible, you'll just try and try again.

As you make matches, you'll have more and more elements to play with, making the possible creations grow almost exponentially. Going back and trying new animals on old elements is exciting, as you never know what's going to pop up next. Doodle Farm features a hint system that runs on a slow timer, offering you two types of nudges along with optional instant hints you can get through an in-app purchase.

A notable new feature makes Doodle Farm much less guess-centric than previous Doodle God games: borders. Each square features one of three borders that tells you a lot about that element. Solid black means you've used the element, but it doesn't indicate if there are more matches possible. Gray means the element is the end of the line, so you can pretty much ignore it, now. If the border is dotted, that element hasn't been paired with anything yet, meaning you should probably get to trying some combinations!

Analysis: Doodle Farm looks and plays exactly like the Doodle games that came before it, so on one level there really aren't any surprises to be had. On another, though, you can tell this incarnation of the element-combining series has a slightly different angle than before. Mixing animals is, well, imprecise at best, and you can't rely on your innate knowledge of the universe to create most creatures. There's also a number of refined visual and audio touches, as well as Wikipedia links to learn more about each animal you create!

Like Doodle Farm? Try these browser games:

The chief complaint about previous Doodle God games is that it's mostly trial and error element matching, tapping on every possible combination until you find something that works. There isn't as much logic involved, so there's no real challenge, learning curve, or point of mastery. Just touch here, touch there, repeat until it works. While Doodle Farm does add the new borders feature to make guesswork less important, the logic of combinations seems to have suffered. Why, for example, does a cockroach and a mosquito make a housefly? Mixing animals is far less elemental than, you know, mixing actual elements, so the clumsiness can usually be forgiven.

Another excellent game of alchemy from the team behind Doodle God. A great way to kick back, relax, and see what you can discover with a few swipes on your iPhone!


| Comments (6) | Views (56)

Mobile Monday

JohnBMore Android games to keep you busy so you don't have to answer those pesky phone calls/text messages! The standout title this week is, by far, the creative puzzle game Domino Run. If you only try one of the games below, give it a shot. You won't regret it!

dominorun.gifDomino Run - Dominos as gaming devices are centuries old, but rarely do you see them used in this manner. Domino Run is a physics puzzle game that challenges you to knock over a target domino by rearranging other dominos around the screen. Pick up and place pieces ranging from normal dominos to standing, rebounding dominos, cloning dominos, and many more. When everything's set and ready, tap the starting piece, choose the direction to tilt it, and watch everything fall! A superb idea that's executed quite well, although the lack of a true zoom feature and a speed toggle hamper the interface to a certain extent. The free Domino Run Lite is also available.

diversion.gifDiversion - This little diversion happens to provide a bit more than it promises. A running/jumping game along the lines of Canabalt, Diversion takes place in a pseudo-3D world where you must collect gems while avoiding spikes, chasms, zip-lines, slides, ledges, holes, buttons, spiderbots, bouncer bombs, water, laser walls, and, well, lots, lots more. There are over 150 unlockable characters to play (!) with plenty of stage variety and challenges to overcome. Simple action but loads of gameplay possibilities, exactly what we like in our mobile games! From Ezone, creator of the Sling series of browser games.

slitherlink-android.gifSlitherlink - Honestly, it's tough to find a good logic puzzle game on mobile devices. They're common, for sure, but they're usually clunky, feature poor puzzles, have terrible interfaces, or just look like they've been trampled by a herd of elephants who ran through a field of paint. Fortunately, this Slitherlink is exactly the opposite of all that, featuring a tidy interface, plenty of puzzles, and controls that are second only to pencil and paper. Your goal, as with any slitherlink game, is to follow the number clues and draw an unbroken loop surrounding the spaces on the grid. Draw and mark lines with simple taps, and refresh your memory on how to play if you're so inclined. Slitherlink Free 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. Games have been confirmed to run on Android 2.2 on an HTC Incredible.


  • Currently 4.7/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.7/5 (53 votes)
| Comments (15) | Views (740)

Dig n Rig

JamesFrom the study halls of Digipen, whose alumni include parts of the teams behind Portal and Portal 2, comes an epic tale of digging, rigging, and more digging. Sounds as exciting as bathwater, right? But I'll bet you a load of rare minerals that once you get started in Dig-n-Rig, you'll lose your evening. Maybe more!

Dig n RigDig-n-Rig's creators, a team of students at Digipen, describe this free game as "a 2D, futuristic, mining simulator that combines resource management with creative building mechanics." That is like calling Minecraft a "logistics and surveying management experience" or Canabalt a "look into the experience of an Olympic athlete." It's so much less and yet so much more.

There is no real simulation or management in Dig-n-Rig, not in the conventional sense, unless you count checking for bottlenecks and keeping out of the blast radius as management issues. You are Diggit 6400, a robot designed to reach the core of the Earth. Behind him is a sea of white coats — scientists who provide him with new technologies. That tech is not cheap, so Diggit has to transport minerals back to the surface where he can exchange them for more rigging equipment, upgrades and items. Not only do you scoop your way down and down, but you also get to build platforms and ladders (the "rig" part of the title) to help you make your way back up. Nifty!

As Diggit digs deeper down into the dirt, he encounters environmental hazards, giant caverns, and mole people. The journey isn't really that far, but it does take some time. Diggit needs to periodically upgrade his wireless signal, which determines how much further he can descend. Upgrading his three drill bits gets him through the dirt faster, while explosives are useful for some mass mining or taking care of the mole folk — somewhat antsy for you invading their world. Fortunately you are a cold, unfeeling robot. Soon enough you have a jetpack, which like all jetpacks opens the game up to a whole new level. Well, you stop using ladders, any way...

Dig n RigAll this, as mentioned, comes at a cost and is paid for by minerals you mine. Unlike Minecraft, which hides its minerals with the zeal of a neurotic squirrel, Dig-n-Rig's walls literally explode with the stuff. Nearly every pixel you drill or blast apart seems to yield a bounty of the Earth's secrets. To get these upstairs, you have to construct a network of conveyor tracks and scoopers to do the carrying. These you also need to buy, but they are cheap. Diggit uses a lot of rigging equipment and visits to the Lab — the game's shop — are frequent. Fortunately you can call up the store menu no matter where you are.

Analysis: So far this review has referred twice to Minecraft, the indie hit of the past year. And it should probably reference Terraria, I Dig It, Mega Miner, and Motherload, as well. Dig-n-Rig is not Minecraft nor any of these other games, except that both involve obsessive amounts of digging. The Digipen team created a straight-forward platforming experience: you'll have your head wrapped around it in minutes, despite the busy tutorial area. In many ways it resembled the Robot Wants series of games and plays just about as well.

Dig n RigIn all honesty you can rush to the bottom — the only restrictions are your WiFi range, drill upgrades and investing in a jetpack. There is no avoiding the mining and rigging, as you can't afford the upgrades otherwise, but Diggit can reach the core with a minimum of environmental disturbance. Yet the hypnotic lure of rigging systems and high explosives can be very strong — don't be surprised if you end up blasting and mining every inch of dirt between the surface and the core.

Sadly this is where the novelty ends. You might go back and play a few more times, but eventually Dig-n-Rig shows its limits. Being a student project, it lacks all the elements you require in a full title and more resembles a prototype or ambitious browser game. While mining and such is fun, there are only so many approaches to it. The journey to the core is not that long and once you rock some decent upgrades and technologies, no hazard or creature from the deep is much of a match for Diggit. The selection of tech is limited as well and the biggest portion of your riches will pay for rigging gear and items.

None of that is raised as negative points against Dig-n-Rig. It's simply to illustrate that this is still only 80 percent of a game — a fantastic idea and a great framework, but not a full experience yet. It also bears mentioning that there are a few bugs and interface design issues. But the core mechanics are nearly flawless. If Dig-n-Rig ever does take a turn towards or inspires a fuller game, it will be very, very popular!

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

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


  • Currently 4.6/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.6/5 (62 votes)
| Comments (7) | Views (6,124)

Magical Diary

DoraIn Magical Diary from Hanako Games and Spiky Caterpillar, you take on the role of a teenage girl who discovers she isn't as ordinary as she thinks. Your life changes seemingly in an instant when you are invited to enroll in Iris Academy, a secret school for young witches and wizards. There, you find yourself sorted into Horse Hall, where the more adventurous students are said to reside. Sound familiar? While this visual novel/RPG/life simulation may take a lot of structural cues from the Boy Who Lived, passing it off as a shameless clone will only do it a disservice and have you missing out on an extremely enjoyable adventure. Make friends and enemies, join a secret society or find romance, or just concentrate on your studies and expand your repertoire of spells. Trust me; when exams roll around, you're going to need them.

Magical Diary: Horse HallThe game encompasses one year in your new life at the school, and gameplay is made up of classes, exams, and social interactions. At the start of each week, you'll have to choose your classes or activities for each day; there are five different magic classes to choose from, each of which focuses on a different colour, or you can choose to study, sleep to remove stress, or even go to the gym to work out. Different classes grant you different spells the more time you spend with them, so you'll definitely want to apply yourself more often than not. You can save your game at any time, and the game offers so many slots you'll really want to take advantage of it to revisit choices you might wish had gone differently, or challenges you failed.

Throughout the year, you'll have to take a number of exams, which are less pen and paper and more "stick you in a dangerous place and wait for you to think/magic your way out". Closely resembling escape games in their structure, each exam is different, but usually has the same basic structure; your goal is to find your way out, dealing with the various objects in your path in whatever way you see fit. Which, depending on how you've spent your time studying the different colours of magic, can be very different for each player. Just keep an eye on your health and mana; if the former runs out you'll fail the exam, and if the latter runs out you might find yourself stuck. If you can't figure out how to escape, you can click the button to give up and the game will still proceed, but you'll find you've failed for doing so.

Magical Diary: Horse HallAnalysis: Where Magical Diary succeeds where other games in the genre fail is by bringing a lot of the story events to you; rather than relying on luck to be in the right place at the right time to trigger a story scene, most happen on their own either after or before class so that you never feel like you're missing anything. Stress, a statistic common in these games, is also a breeze to manage and usually only needs a nap every other week to keep in check. It's such a streamlined experience that it's a snap to jump into and find yourself engrossed before you know it. The writing is actually really good, and the characters pretty darn likable and interesting across the board. The soundtrack can be a little strange at times, with oddly inappropriate tunes chosen for specific characters (Professor Grabiner is a flamenco dancer?), and the character design as a whole tends to be more than a little androgynous, but on the whole it's a very cheery, bright game with a lot of visual appeal.

If there's one area that Magical Diary falters a little, it's in not having any real over-arching narrative or plot apart from your relationships with other students. Granted, most romances (more on this later) tend to have significant drama and intrigue that they might feel crowded by some big epic adventure happening at the same time, but if you're not interested in cozying up to anyone, you don't really get much of a plot beyond "you are at magic school, and occasionally some things happen". Yeah, okay, I admit it; I was hoping for a chance to save the world (or at least the school) from some Big Bad I would ultimately triumph over after learning the power of friendship and explosions. Fortunately, the little subdramas that happen with your fellow students can be pretty interesting and tends to flesh them out substantially as the game progresses. It's extremely refreshing to see whenever a popular character archetype turns into an actual person as you get to know them, and Magical Diary pulls this off with ease multiple times.

Magical Diary: Horse HallThe exams actually wind up being a big part of the game's attraction, largely due in part to how many varied approaches you can take to each one. It makes you wish there were more of them, or that they were longer, since not only are they surprisingly fun, they're also essentially the only place you really get to use all the spells you learn. Oh, you'll get the odd chance to fire off a specific spell if you've learned it during a story event, but by and large magic only makes an appearance when you're being tested, and as a result, doesn't get the time in the spotlight it feels like it deserves. With the word "magic" right there in the title, you'd kind of expect it to have a bigger focus in the actual gameplay.

The romances fair a bit better than your magical talent in that if you decide to pursue one, they almost feel like they become the main focus of the narrative. There are five options, three males and two females, and while figuring out how to "start" a few of them can be tricky, once they have been triggered they're surprisingly complex. It helps significantly that the people you have the potential for muchas smooches with are pretty varied in personality, with even more depth as you spend time with them, so chances are good you'll find someone who appeals to you and get a nice long, well-written relationship arc in the process. (Some of which are healthier than others, I might argue, but I digress... )

Magical Diary: Horse HallOne complaint about all this I do have is that as a player, when it comes to characterising your Sue, it feels like your choices are severely limited. You don't really get to decide how she reacts to most things; there's no dialogue wheel with options for being nice, a jerk, or anything in between. You just get presented with a problem, choose how you want to deal with it, and your Sue carries on. For a lot of people, this won't be a big issue, but for people hoping to role play a specific type of character, or someone they've created themselves, the Sue's stock, pleasant but somewhat weepy personality is a bit of a downer. Me? I would personally have adopted a more "HOLY JUICES YOU GUYS I AM DOING MAGIC HOW RAD AM I" approach, but not everyone can craft such subtleties into their narrative, I understand.

Despite a few hiccups and quibbles, Magical Diary: Horse Hall is probably the best visual novel/life simulation out there in its fantasy genre right now. It really feels like it could be the start of something big; through conversations with people and lessons during class, you get peeks at something that could expand into a remarkably big and well developed fantasy universe, and it seems we've only just dipped our toe into it. It's absolutely addicting and engrossing, but definitely leaves you wanting more; the game ends after the first year, and you may want to cross your fingers and hope for a "Year 2" expansion. (Currently, only a version for boys has been announced.) Still, the game has a remarkable amount of replay value, with what you thought were simple little scenes in one playthrough expanding into whole subplots on another depending on the choices you make. While it may cost a bit more than your average indie title, Magical Diary is a game I was more than happy to spend my money on, and my time with. Give the demo and try and see if there isn't a spot left open at Iris Academy just for you.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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

LinuxLinux:
Download the demo
Get the full version


  • Currently 3.5/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 3.5/5 (89 votes)
| Comments (27) | Views (162)

DoraThe LanceJousting gets adorable in the new action game from Armor Games and Antony Lavelle, The Lance. Chronicling one family's quest to be the best like no one ever was, you begin the game as the first generation in a line of knights who want to take top place in the king's bi-decadely Joustournament and win the coveted... "The Lance". Standing in your way are more knights with equally lofty aspirations, and the king's own Champion. Will you rise through the ranks to taste the sweet fruit of victory?! Well... probably eventually... but first you'll have to get knocked around a whole bunch.

Gameplay consists of doing your best to pulverise each opponent in a series of matches; victory comes when you manage to knock another knight off his erstwhile steed. At the start of each match, you'll have to click as fast as you can on the big "click" icon to build of speed. When you get close enough, however, you'll have a few seconds to aim your attack; a diagram of your opponent's body appears on the left side of the screen, and you use the cursor to point where you want to try to hit. Do enough damage and you'll send your foe flying, but if nobody is de-horsed, you'll go another round. Win, and you'll net experience points to help level up, and the almighty dollar you can spend between matches and rounds on new, more powerful equipment. Even if a match ends poorly for you, don't worry; you can still continue the game as a descendant of your knightly loins until you ultimately take the prize.

Chances are if you own an iOS device and you've played Infinity Blade, you're going to notice some conceptual similarities, mostly relating to the whole bloodline thing. The Lance actually has a lot going for it; it's beautifully designed with great art by the wonderful Jimp, a snap to play, and moves along at a fast clip. The problem is that at its core, The Lance needs what may feel like an unfair amount of grinding to succeed at the ultimate goal of defeating the Champion who is far too powerful to defeat the first time you encounter him. It's disappointing because it winds up feeling like it comes down to numbers rather than any skill on your part, and players who aren't upgrade fiends might be put off by having to replay relatively easy matches over and over until your equipment is up to par... at which point you might need to upgrade your fingers from all the clicking. Still, if you don't mind the grind, The Lance is an adorable, quick bite of action that's just the ticket for a lazy afternoon... Alan Tudyk, Paul Bettany, Laura Fraser and Mark Addy not included.

Play The Lance


| Comments (9) | Views (68)

Weekend Download

JohnBIt's a Wkeneed Dwnalood mix-up edition! Do you like things? Things that are mixed up with other things to make yet another thing to love? Do you love liking mixed things that are things with other things? I hope you answered "what?" to at least one of those, because here come the games!

momodora2.gifMomodora 2 (Windows, 15.5MB, free) - It's an established fact that you enjoyed last year's Cave Story-inspired platformer Momodora. So, logically, you'll also have a fantastic time with the sequel! This time around, you control Momo, a maiden from Koho village on a mission to defeat the underworld queen. You start with a very basic attack but discover new abilities as you play, such as a double-jump, long-range attack, and health extenders. The action is largely the same as the first game, but everything else is different and improved, making it a sure-fire hit in your Metroidvania-loving household.

station37.gifStation 37 (Windows, 7.34MB, free) - A game of bravery, rescue, and plenty of fire-related action! This 2D platformer tasks you with rescuing civilians from burning buildings one helpless human at a time. Use your fire extinguisher to put out flames in your path and your axe to remove obstacles impeding your progress. When you find a person, carry him/her back to the chief, then head back into the fiery building to do it some more! A short game that can get a bit repetitive, but the concept is different and it's a lot of fun to play the wonderful rescuing hero!

adventureallinthegame.gifAdventure: All in the Game (Windows, 112MB, free) - Familiar with old school adventure games? Prepare to experience an explosion of nostalgia. Adventure: All in the Game takes place behind the scenes of your favorite retro adventure titles and stars Thalia James, agent of the Computer Game Maintenance Squad, who travels around trying to make sure everyone else's adventure runs smoothly, all while mentoring a brand new CGMS agent! If you know your adventure genre, this game is nothing short of a blast from start to finish. If you don't, you'll still enjoy the stuffing out of this well-made game, and Thalia explains key characters to you, so you won't be left out. Wonderfully conceived with some seriously smart puzzles to solve. A must-play game! For real!

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!


(6 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (2) | Views (226)

Paranormal Crime

JohnBIt's Mardi Gras, home of costumed pedestrians, masked partiers, parades, dancing, food, and more crazy things than you can imagine. What could possibly go wrong with everyone in the throes of celebration? Try murder. Murder, and a number of occult happenings shortly thereafter. As you arrive on the scene of the crime, you learn something very strange has been going on in Louisiana, and judging by the glowing tattoo on the dead body, you know it's not going to be an ordinary case. Pick up your fingerprint kit and brush up on your voodoo knowledge, as in the new adventure/hidden object game Paranormal Crime Investigations: Brotherhood of the Crescent Snake, you're going to do some investigating of the supernatural kind!

Paranormal CrimeParanormal Crime Investigations: Brotherhood of the Crescent Snake combines crime scene clues, mini-games, and plentiful hidden object scenes and attaches it all to a sturdy casual adventure backbone. As you investigate crimes, you'll need to explore the area a bit in order to gather more evidence. Your path isn't always a clear one, however, and you must do some puzzle solving in order to continue. The cursor serves as a handy guide, alerting you when there's more information about an object, telling you when you can speak to characters, and allowing you to move from scene to scene.

The Paranormal Crime Investigation kit (PCI) plays a major role in this game, allowing you to extract loads of information from the most unusual pieces of evidence. To use it, simply find an item that glows in your inventory, then move it to the kit on the right side of the screen. A mini-game will appear, usually something very short and not too challenging, and once it's complete, you'll be presented with a bit of evidence. Not too shabby for a magical glowing box of science!

Paranormal CrimeAnalysis: Story is massively important in Paranormal Crime Investigations: Brotherhood of the Crescent Snake, and the tone set by the first scene is carried on throughout the game. You quickly learn an ancient cult is trying to summon an ancient snake god, and by investigating the murders carried out using dark magic, you begin to learn more and more about the Brotherhood of the Crescent Snake. It makes for a painfully long title, that's for sure, but the plot is definitely one of the game's strongest areas.

The mix of hidden object scenes, puzzles, and crime scene investigations is good, if a little heavy on the hidden object areas. Although you won't get stuck very often, the hint system recharges very quickly and can help you in a pinch. Some of the item descriptions can be a bit misleading, though that shouldn't be new to anyone who has played a casual hidden object game before.

On the down side, Paranormal Crime Investigations tends to repeat itself, using backtracking to flesh out the experience and reusing the same few mini-games over and over again. Expect just over three hours of gameplay from this title, nearly an hour more if you factor in the healthy bonus chapter included with the collector's edition. Also, the bonus content extends the ending somewhat, making a must-play if you really get hooked by the game.

Paranormal Crime Investigations: Brotherhood of the Crescent Snake hops right in to the crowded horror/hidden object genre and isn't afraid to start swinging. It's a well-made game from beginning to end, with good visuals, fitting music, and a story that's bound to capture your interest!

A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains exclusive bonus gameplay, wallpapers, a soundtrack, and an in-game strategy guide. 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:
Also available: Collector's Edition


  • Currently 3.3/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 3.3/5 (57 votes)
| Comments (14) | Views (63)

TrickySoap Bubble 2While we at JayIsGames pride ourselves on featuring the best and latest in casual gaming, we always have time to feature quality works that fell through the cracks. Case in point: Soap Bubble, a, if not the, prototypical avoidance game, was originally released in 2002 and became one of the earliest games featured on the site. The charming and devilishly difficult tale of an ultra-delicate bubble making his way through a cave back to his friends was the start of great things for Anders Gustafsson: his releases include the Audience Award winning Gateway series and the coolly claymated The Dream Machine. So it seems that the 2006 sequel which continued the story of the iridescent-sphere-that-could passed us by... until today! Soap Bubble 2 is a great simple idea game that keeps what was best about the original while making the concept its own.

Gameplay is the mostly the same as the original: using the [arrow] keys, float the soap bubble through the factory and explore what you can find. It is, of course, incredibly fragile, and any contact will the scenery will cause you to burst with a disparaging "pop". It has the physics of a floating bubble, meaning it will sink slowly given no input, tend to float in water, and even the slightly touch of momentum (from you or a fan) can send it hurtling. Timing is of the essence, so be careful. Your bubble's lifespan is determined by a "bubble fluid" bar that slowly empties over the course of each level. Popping yourself gives it quite a hit. Run the meter out and it's game over.

Soap Bubble 2 is a worthy follow-up to a classic. The sequel's aesthetic is more gray and technological as compared to the original's shadowy organic feel. It's a little less appealing to my eye, but it does make for some cool level designs. The difficulty is intense, even frustrating at times, which is just the way I want it to be. There's a sense of humor to the proceeding: levels that seem impossible until you realize the gimmick at play, playful shifts of scenery that force a quick rethinking of strategy, moments that trick you into thinking things will happen when they won't... I must have failed a thousand times, but wouldn't stop till the finish. Thankfully, the new lives system is much more generous that the original, even if the slowly emptying bar makes you feel you should move faster than you should. One drawback: the password system does feel a little unnecessarily archaic. Overall though, Soap Bubble 2 uses simple mechanics to create devious challenge. Be sure not to blow it off!

Play Soap Bubble 2


| Comments (22) | Views (26)

Link Dump Fridays

DoraI bet you think Link Dump Fridays just happen, don't you? You never stop to think about all the work and research that goes into them, all the blood, sweat, and tears... why, it's a highly scientific process that involves a laptop, reruns of Pawn Stars playing in the background, several popular portals, and staring into space at irregular intervals while thinking up tired jokes just like this one!

  • Dude and ZombiesDude and Zombies - [Parental Warning: Contains violence and gore.] The Dude abides in this zombie defense shooter... or a Dude, anyway. When your car gets into a rather spectacular accident on a lonely country road, it's up to you do repair it while simultaneously fending off the waves of flesh-eating monsters headed your way. A miserly checkpoint system and lack of variety hold it back somewhat, but ultimately it's got a winning style and charm that make it worth checking out. Plus, zombie bunnies! D'awwww, lookit its little OHMYGODYMYFACEITSONMYFACEANYAWASRIGHT
  • Farm HeroFarm Hero - Small is Beautiful brings us this aggressively adorable spot the difference game about a chicken and a very special egg. Despite some easy gameplay and a blink-and-you'll-miss-it hint system, this is the perfect game to pull your child onto your lap to enjoy the beautiful artwork together. Or, if you're like me and you don't have kids, play it anyway and then kick back and think about how awesome it is nobody is making you wipe anything off their person and you don't have to share your Playstation with anyone. Awwww yeaaah.
  • 100th100th - There's nothing at all sinister about this charming little platformer about a boy and his balloon. After all, balloons aren't scary! They're shiny, they're squeaky, they make your hair stand on end if you hold them above you, they can stick to you, and... most importantly... they float. And what's so scary about that? After all... We all float down here.
  • Wheelbox: The Fallen StarWheelbox: The Fallen Star - With a style strongly reminiscent of Little Wheel and gameplay strongly reminiscent of something that makes you want to set something else on fire, this little platformer wants you to guide a little uniwheel robot in search of a fallen star. The cludgy controls and unforgiving gameplay ultimately work against it, but if you have the patience and zen-like skillz, you'll be able to immerse yourself in the beautiful swanky atmosphere... right up until the umpteenth time you go rolling gaily into yet more spiky death. Wheee!
  • ColormixerColormixer - [Note: People with colorblindness may find this game difficult to play.] Since my artistic talent can be summed up solely by a picture of a stickman with a lopsided head, I was never good for much in high school art class aside from mixing colours. And, surprise! Here's a game that speaks directly to those colourful skills. (Or, rather, colorful. You Americans is so crazy.) You'll be presented with a particular colour and shade, and then, depending on the mode you're playing in, be tasked to replicate it as best you can by mixing other colours together. It's simple and occasionally maddening, but for some of us, it's as close to artistic glory as we're going to get.

  • Currently 4.4/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.4/5 (129 votes)
| Comments (30) | Views (143)

Joshcurvy.jpgAre you the type of person that likes to bring order out of chaos? Do you see a mass of tangled cords around the house and feel an overwhelming need to organize them, complete with twist-ties and little labels? Is your favorite card game "52 Pickup" due to the sheer joy of returning cards scattered on the floor back to their numerical, suited order in their pack? If so (or if you just like puzzles), you should find much stimulation in FlamingLunchbox's HTML5 adaptation of their Android puzzler, Curvy.

Line-based hexagon puzzles are nothing new; most recently we reviewed Gopherwood Studios' Entanglement (another HTML5 offering) back in June of 2010. While Entanglement's goal was to get a high score by forming the longest segment of lines possible, Curvy, by contrast, is a randomized game with a definite solution every time. The object of Curvy is to solve a completely visible hexagon puzzle so there is a proper connection across all segments. To turn a hex, either click it with the mouse or click and drag the hex to twist it around. There is no time limit, and you can customize the layout at the onset. Options include multiple colors and greater complexity, as well as various numbers of columns and rows (with 7 x 5 being the default). Since the size of the hexes shrink to fit on one screen, those with a magnifying glass handy or gluttons for punishment (200 x 200, anyone?) can try increasingly greater columns and rows.

Despite the game seeming graphically and conceptually simple, Curvy is surprisingly fun and satisfying. There's a soothing method to solving the smoothly-flowing lines and shapes, similar to the feeling you get when you're in the rhythm of a good Sudoku puzzle. Watching the pieces turn until they fit correctly has a certain Zen to it; like despite all the difficulties and complexities around you, the Curvy hex shape fits, so all is right with the world. Everything is fair, and there are no tricks, just pure logic. My only gripe is that on larger layouts, it would be nice to have an easy way to identify which hexes are still problematic. That said, Curvy is still a work in progress, with features like a scoring system and user preferences still on the drawing board. Regardless, the bottom line is that playing Curvy should make you feel good as you solve it, and isn't feeling good something we could all use more of?

Play Curvy


  • Currently 4.4/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
(6 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (93) | Views (147)

You Are Games

Letters in Boxes #8

ArtbegottiWe'll cut to the chase on this one: This Letters In Boxes challenge is a bit more hands-on than normal. Please note that this week, you may need access to a printer, some scissors and maybe some tape to solve some puzzles (it's possible to solve them without these things, but it will likely be much harder). We're always trying new things to keep the puzzling experience fresh, and we always take your comments into consideration! So this week, we'll ask you to jump right into the fold and take our tricky tribulations for a spin, then let us know what you think.

If you're not familiar with how our series works, here's a quick review: If you click the image below, you can bring up the first puzzle in a new window. When you think you've solved it, focus on your browser's address bar (which in this case reads "http://images.jayisgames.com/lettersinboxes/eightisntenough.gif"). Change the filename (namely, "eightisntenough") to your answer, using all lower-case letters and no spaces (be sure you stay in the same directory). If you're right, you'll find the next puzzle appearing before your eyes. If not, take another look at your work and try again.

Letters in Boxes #8 - Puzzle 1This batch of puzzles contains four puzzles to solve. On the fourth puzzle, you'll find the email address for sending your final answer. Note: Please read the directions carefully on the fourth puzzle, as we've tweaked the rules a little bit for this week's puzzle series. We'll hand out a prize to the first correct entry we receive, plus ten additional randomly-selected correct entries. Please include your Casual Gameplay account display name with your entry. You must be at least 13 years of age to enter. Only one submission per participant, please. Offer void where prohibited. Your deadline for submitting your answers is Monday, July 25th at 11:59 PM (GMT-5:00). When you're ready, your challenge awaits, and we also await your thoughts!

Update: Congratulations to these 11 winners! :D

  • BobBobBobson ...First!
  • mercurious2001
  • kdausman
  • Vespert
  • Kim.V
  • tigrita
  • Mr.Boomp
  • bluemoose19
  • Metacom
  • physkid94
  • han519
All eleven winners were given a choice of prizes or an entry into a GRAND PRIZE drawing to be held at the end of August! Congratulations and thanks for playing with us! Look for another Letters in Boxes again soon!

  • Currently 3.5/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 3.5/5 (53 votes)
| Comments (2) | Views (51)

spaceparasite.gifJohnBYou know, somewhere deep in the blackness of infinite space, there have to be all sorts of life forms bouncing around the void. Space clowns, for example, could exist here, living off of stray particles or digesting dark matter itself. With these life forms comes the inevitable life forms that feed off of them. In the case of Space Parasite, an arcade/action game by Kale Kramlack and Andy Wolff, you are that life form, infecting every piece of space life that floats your way!

You can use either the [arrow] keys or the mouse to move, but the former is far more accurate and is recommended over mouse control. All you have to do is bounce around your tiny corner of space, trying to run into any of the creatures that float by. When you do, you infect them, inhabiting their body until you tap any button on the keyboard. Blasting out of the foes and killing them earns you points (and crystals, which are worth more points), and if you chain together kills you'll earn mega tons of points, which is better than non-mega amounts.

The gameplay itself is pretty simple, but the customization and upgrades are what will make you come back for more. Earning points levels you up, and with each level you'll get a point you can spend to increase any of six attributes: time, speed, chain, force, enemy, and prize. While most games let you customize the protagonist and leave it at that, in Space Parasite, you can spend points to change the game itself, adding new enemies to the mix and making them drop additional gems when they die. Unlocking new enemies is an interesting mechanic as well as an attribute you'll be dying to max out as soon as possible. New enemies bring new abilities, and who doesn't want space foes that explode when you inhabit their bodies?!

Analysis: At first, Space Parasite will seem like a lot of boring and random clicking/button mashing. Until you see the deeper mechanics behind those chunky pixels. At its core rests a comfy little combo system that, when mastered, unlocks the potential of the rest of the game. It's not just randomly flying around the screen and tapping buttons. It's slowly, strategically moving yourself from one space creature to another, increasing that chain multiplier with each careful move.

Another big part of Space Parasite is the upgrades system. Since your points can affect the whole game, you'll often want to upgrade attributes that have nothing to do with the parasite itself. Upgrading the time limit for each round is much more useful at the beginning than increasing your speed, and adding new enemies is more fun than slowing the chain meter's crawl to nothingness.

It's repetitive at times, seeing as how you essentially replay the same small arena over and over again, but something about Space Parasite makes you want to come back for more. Keep playing, keep earning points, upgrade your attributes, fiddle with the enemies and unlock new power-ups. It's all there, wrapped in a lovely audio/visual package and waiting for you to take control!

Play Space Parasite


  • Currently 3.5/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 3.5/5 (276 votes)
| Comments (4) | Views (165)

Joshragdollcannon4.jpgZounds! Are you ready for some death-defying stunts, truly mind-boggling in their impressiveness? Can you handle the thrill of physics-based pixels flying through the air with the greatest of ease? The drama? The excitement? The intensity?! Then my friends, step right this way and witness, for the benefit of Messrs. Johnny-K and Anton Koshechkin (the game designers), a new entry in the esteemed Ragdoll Cannon series: Ragdoll Cannon 4!

Like most of its previous incarnations, Ragdoll Cannon 4 takes place in a sketch-like, physics-based world where the object is to fire one or more stickman-like ragdolls towards a "HERE" target. Aim your ragdoll cannon by moving the target reticle with your mouse, and click to fire. The further away your reticle is from the cannon, the more powerful the shot. Each shot lets loose a ragdoll that flails through the air. You get an unlimited amount of these Normal bouncy ragdolls, but there are also Bomb ragdolls (which blow up certain walls on contact) and Sticky ragdolls (which can add weight to certain obstacles). These new ordinances come into play on many of the 50 new levels, adding an extra bit of challenge and novelty to the overall experience.

If you were a fan of the gameplay in other Ragdoll Cannon games, this latest entry should not disappoint. The clever level design that has been a staple of the series is in full effect here, complete with moving platforms, bouncing balls, explosives, and strange mechanical contraptions. On top of this is the inclusion of the two new ragdoll types (collectable on each level) which help get your brain thinking in new directions. The fluid physics and sound effects are great, though the baroque-sounding music can quickly get repetitive. While Ragdoll Cannon 4 has achievements like its predecessor, its level editor is strangely absent. Nevertheless, with its compelling gameplay and tried-and-true theme, there's certainly plenty of entertainment value here to satisfy your need for more high-flying antics.

Play Ragdoll Cannon 4


  • Currently 4.4/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.4/5 (374 votes)
| Comments (29) | Views (2,199)

JoshC MegaMiner'Dig' is a beautiful and multi-faceted word. When hip cats think something is cool, they dig it. When monocled archeologists excavate dinosaur bones, that's a dig. And when an upgradable drill-bot travels through a vast expanse of dirt in search of precious gems and metals, that too is digging.

Mega Miner, brought to us by the team at Alistair Maunder (allilm), educates us on this third definition with an eerily precise representation of the term. Bringing to mind other classics like Motherload, Mega Miner is a mining simulation game that's all about repeated trips to the underground that challenge you to balance your fuel levels and item capacity for maximum efficiency, all so you can make your drill-bot the best it can be. For some reason, this is INSANELY ADDICTIVE. Hours will disappear.

You control the little fella with the [arrow] keys or [WASD] and interact with [spacebar], though menus are mouse-guided. These menus are where your machine gets the real juicy upgrades and items, and therefore where the real strategy of the game comes into play. Do you want to focus on fuel capacity, or rely on your teleporter and spend more money on item space?

There's no day limit or score counter, so the game relies on your compulsive need to make your machine the best ever to drive gameplay, and it works pretty well. There are also bonus missions, such as special items to find and goals to reach, that will give you a much needed boost of cash and send you closer to the drill of your dreams. There's no real end to anything, and it's pretty hard to die, so it's more a way to pass the time than something to win or defeat.

There are a couple things that could have improved it, like an upgrade to the drill-bots vision range or movement speed, as digging through the giant map searching for a single item can be very time-consuming and frustrating. As it is, it's relaxing but kind of repetitive, so an option with something more at stake would have been welcome. I'd be interested to see something with enemies or daily goals to achieve, something that's a little more than dig, upgrade, rinse, repeat. Also, if it kept track of how many trips you took or how much of the map you've revealed, there might be a little more sense of achievement.

That said, it's still more than worth a play, especially if you have a lot of extra time on your hands. And I mean a lot. There's something wildly addictive about unearthing gems, and let me tell you, one hip cat to another, I dig it. Can you dig it?

Play Mega Miner


  • Currently 4.1/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.1/5 (252 votes)
| Comments (29) | Views (1,067)

Weekday Escape

GrinnypWhile here at Weekday Escape we tend to stick to certain proven game designers, once in a while it's fun to discover and experience something new. How nice (and coincidental) that a few days ago we ran across a new designer, TeraLumina, and his fantastic new room escape, Ruby Loft Escape. Serendipity!

RubyLoftEscapeThe basic premise of Ruby Loft Escape is twofold: you must explore the room and do the usual actions to escape (find objects, use objects, solve puzzles) while at the same time complete a secondary quest, that of finding rubies hidden in the loft. Rather a lot of rubies, really, and although it's a lovely loft and features some nice furnishings (including a Steinway piano and a Warhol painting) one wonders what sort of person leaves that many unset rubies just lying around for anyone to find. Someone with a lot of money and not a lot of common sense, I'm thinking. Maybe Donald Trump?

Navigating around this loft is, well, pretty darn easy since you've only the one head-on view of the loft, rather reminiscent of Petithima's early work with one or two wall escapes. In this case, though, although you are not turning around in a three dimensional space there is a lot to explore in this richly appointed apartment. You can examine different areas by clicking on them for a close up, and the more you click around the more you will discover as you search for a way out (and red, red riches at the same time). Said exploration is helped along by the blessed relief of a changing cursor, something other game designers could bother to master (not that I'm naming names or anything, Tesshi-e). Click on an object to examine it or pick it up, find a use for some of the odder things you gather, solve a few puzzles, and pretty soon you'll be out into a lovely mountainous outdoors, refreshed and ready to start the day.

The puzzles in Ruby Loft Escape aren't terribly difficult and depend mostly on your observational skills as you wander around the place stealing precious stones. What makes the game so fun is the challenge of getting a high score, a combination of quickness of escape (yes, there is a timer keeping track) and ability to find the rubies themselves (bonus points for finding them all). This is more of a ten minutes and out type of deal, perfect for a mid-week refresher.

While not the most difficult escape we've ever featured (as a point of fact, one of the easier ones), Ruby Loft Escape is nonetheless a wonderful and bracing mid-week treat, a visual and logical delight from a relative newcomer, one we're looking forward to seeing more of. So have fun robbing some poor rich person blind, and hey, my birthday's coming up soon and I happen to really like rubies...

Play Ruby Loft Escape


  • Currently 4.6/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.6/5 (54 votes)
| Comments (32) | Views (1,891)

DoraChoice of IntriguesThe sequel to 2010's Choice of Romance, the text RPG from the talented souls at Choice of Games has finally arrived! You can check back later for our review, but there's no reason not to leap right into the game. Before you can play Choice of Intrigues, however, you will need to have played the original Choice of Romance all the way through, but then, if you're at all excited about this you've probably already done so. If not, you can play through Choice of Romance and continue the adventure!

"What will you do with your new-found power? Will you manage to keep hold of it as the tides of the court ebb and flow around you? Maybe you will even be one who controls those tides... but maybe you will drown underneath them. The stakes are now higher than ever!"

Play Choice of Intrigues


  • Currently 4.2/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.2/5 (75 votes)
| Comments (18) | Views (297)

DoraSweatshopHey buddy! Nice shoes! Did you ever stop to think about where they come from? And I don't mean "the shoe store" or even just your favourite designer... I mean how your shoes, and all the others that were sitting in identical boxes on the shelf when you bought them, were made. Sweatshop by Littleloud is a strategy simulation that puts you in the shoes of a newly appointed manager at a factory somewhere overseas. According to your boss, it's your job to make sure you meet the factory's quota on time, by managing the workers on the floor that struggle to create the items that come down the conveyor belt. Shoes, designer handbags, hats... they've gotta come from somewhere, right? The people you hire are willing to work hard for you... or maybe they've got no choice. And this isn't some home Etsy business, either; the production line has to be humming at all times, churning out dozens of items for the consumers overseas, or someone's neck is on the line. Will you be able to treat your workers well when the pressure is on to deliver the goods?

On each stage, you'll be required to have your workers complete a certain amount of items (displayed in green in the upper right corner) without ruining more than a few (the number displayed in red.) As unfinished items move from one end of the conveyor belt to another, nearby workers will attempt to complete it as it moves past them; you can hire more workers, some of whom are better at particular items, by clicking on their icon at the top of the screen and dragging them to where you want them to work on the line. This, as you'd expect, costs money, which you only earn when an item is completed. On the left side of the screen is an arrow button that you can press to modify the speed of the conveyor belt; click it once, and the belt will move faster, but your employees will have to work harder to keep up. Eventually, your workers will require watercoolers nearby, which helps keep them hydrated so they don't collapse, but costs a chunk of change each time you use it. If you're willing to spend the cash, you can also click on a worker and click "upgrade" to train them, which refreshes them temporarily and makes them work faster.

At the end of each stage, you'll be graded on a percentage based on how quickly you made your items, and how much cash you had left over. There are three factories you'll have to take charge of throughout the course of the game, and the conditions for success get more demanding as you go. You might even be tempted to hire a child laborer or two... after all, they don't work fast, but they're cheap, and more money means a higher score... which is what matters, isn't it?

SweatshopAnalysis: Sweatshop is easy as pie to pick up, but if you really want to maximize your output without sacrificing your workers' well being, it becomes a lot harder. If you're a high-score hound then it's going to become even more tempting to cut corners and push your workers harder just to boost your percentage. Littleloud has also managed to make the whole thing look great visually, with eye-catching colours, exaggerated characters, and catchy music. There's even a bit of humour to be found in your cartoonishly overdone boss who berates you and delivers backhanded compliments, his hairpiece flying askew whenever he's excited or angry. Some other jokes, such as cheerfully talking about eating the family pets, may make you raise an eyebrow. Is the cheery design and humour appropriate? That likely depends on how you think the game executes its concept and message. Sweatshop is, after all, one of those games where the premise makes you wince a little when you stop to think about what you're really doing.

I was initially fairly skeptical at Sweatshop's ability to deliver its message as well as, say, a game like Ayiti: The Cost of Life. With most of the gameplay's serious material handled in what feels like a cautiously cartoonish fashion, the majority of the important information falls to be delivered by the adorable moppet between stages, and unfortunately it fails to really have much of an impact since it sits on the periphery of the game itself. As time passes and you start to feel the pressure more and more from your employers, however, you do start to grasp just how difficult it can really be to maintain a healthy, productive work environment when the people you answer to really couldn't care less. The game is actually pretty good at representing the pressure that comes in from all sides to make the supply for the demand, and it's easy to see where the people doing all the hard work get lost in the shuffle.

Games designed around important but uncomfortable issues are difficult to make, or at least difficult to make well. Be too heavy-handed and the thing isn't fun to play, which means people aren't even going to be interested, but if you pull back on the tone too far you risk offending people who don't think you're taking the subject matter seriously enough. The thing here isn't to wallow in guilt, but to raise awareness and to get people to start thinking and looking into where the things we normally don't look twice at come from. (If you want to know more, you might want to check out the fairly excellent British documentary miniseries Blood, Sweat, and T-Shirts.) Sweatshop is a bit of an odd duck that doesn't quite nail the formula necessary to become as impactful as it could have been, but it's still more than worth a look.

Play Sweatshop


  • Currently 4.4/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.4/5 (52 votes)
| Comments (4) | Views (96)

joyeWhere I Go At NightAt night, it isn't me. It's like there's someone else controlling me. Making me do horrible things. I try to fight it. During the day I set up barricades. Yet when I regain control in the morning, they've been smashed away... and I see corpses... Before werewolves became sexy shirtless jailbait on the big screen, they used to be, y'know, scary. And what made them so scary was that there was a person inside who was helpless to keep himself from murdering people. It draws on that deep fear we all have within us about losing control and doing something we'd never do in our right minds. The fear of splitting into two people, and even worse, the fear that the murderer is the real you. Where I Go At Night by Pat Kemp explores this split by making it the focus of a local, 2-player versus game. It also reveals a surprising amount of strategy behind its 8-bit retro surface. Grab a friend, or another personality, to try it.

One player controls using [WASD] to move and [Q] to act, and the other player uses the [arrow] keys and [space]. You'll play one round with one of you as the man-form and the other as the wolf-form, with a round lasting three days and nights; then you'll switch roles for a second round. The man-form gains 3 points for every elixir found, and the wolf-form gains 1 point for every person eaten. The man-form can drop barriers (up to 10 per day) with his action button. The wolf-form can use his action button to tear down barriers, whether those dropped by the man-form, or doors in the town. After two rounds, the player with the most points wins. (It's not mentioned in the instructions, by the way, but during the flashing back and forth at twilight and dawn, both players can try to move the character, and you can both pick up elixirs and kill people.)

Where I Go At NightAnalysis: At first Where I Go At Night seems hopelessly unbalanced. When I played with my husband, I started as the human form, and I wanted to quit after the first day and night. "This is so unfair! You can do so much more than I can!" But actually that's kind of the point. The wolf form is stronger and faster than his human form. All the human can really do is think long term in the placement of the barricades and try to slow down the slaughter. To stop it entirely is impossible. The wolf-player is almost guaranteed to earn more points than the man-player. That's why roles switch at the end of the round. To beat your local versus opponent, you want to be better at both roles.

Although the townsfolk run, they don't show a lot of sense in how they run, and sometimes will run straight into the wolf. And after the first night of bloodshed, you'd think they wouldn't walk so nonchalantly past the bloodied remains of their neighbors. But even with my suspension of disbelief hanging by a cable, I'm still struck by the low key brilliance of representing the classic werewolf "it's like I'm being controlled by someone else" dilemma by literally having two people control the character, and having them in conflict.

Even by the end of just one game, we started to realize the addictive potential for strategizing and impromptu decision-making in this game. The randomized layouts always add the potential for a sudden monkey wrench in the works, such as when I carefully laid down my barricades just before sundown and went to go hide in a house to find it filled to the gills with people innocently milling about. Chomp chomp chomp. Local 2-player versus mode is always a bit awkward, and the [WASD] [Q] player is at somewhat of a disadvantage, as I found it much easier to pound away at the spacebar. But these flaws don't detract from the overall fun. Plus, you know, being forced into such close proximity means that when you're tempted to rage-quit you can just reach over a few inches and flick your opponent in the forehead. Just claim "Sorry, that wasn't me... it was like someone else made me do it..."

Play Where I Go At Night


| Comments (1) | Views (31)

The Vault

TrickyWelcome to Vault-o-mania! Not actually a Vault article, but an incredible simulation! Wait... I'm sorry, I've mixed up my notes. What I meant to say is that this is a Vault article about the mania I have over these incredible simulations. This week, we look into the JayIsGames archives to highlight three games perfect for those of us who like to escape reality by showing how much better it could be if they were in charge of running it.

  • Coffee ShopCoffee Shop - Forget the lemonade stand! Coffee's the beverage I couldn't live without, and Armor Games knows how picky we caffeine-addicts can be when it comes to mixing up a brew. Coffee Shop is a fun business simulation with enough options to keep things interesting, and streamlined mechanics that keep things simple. Balancing the economics and customer satisfaction of a perfect recipe can be a challenge, but the impish sense of humor on display means it is never tedious. Polished and seriously addictive, Coffee Shop is undeniably good to the last drop.
  • ElectrocityElectrocity - A city simulator with an energy management focus, Electrocity has the spark of open-ended realism to it that is the hallmark of the best re-creations. Educational without being dry, not to mention quite pretty to look at, Electrocity will keep you clicking as your town grows before your eyes. I especially love the graphical detail: things like the little sheep on the farms, the fireworks exploding as your town grows... even the haze and decay you'll see in a ultra-polluted city has its charm. (4 nuclear power plants and a smelting factory... life is great in Trickyopolis!) Electrocity may have been commissioned by Genesis Energy, New Zealand's top electricity retailer, who obviously have a stake in the policy debates. However, the developers have clearly striven to avoid what bias they can. It makes for a game that's neither pointlessly optimistic nor needlessly pessimistic, and Electrocity is all the better for it.
  • Via Sol 2Via Sol 2 - Take Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri and hold it up to a twisted fun house mirror, and the reflection you'll be staring at is Via Sol 2. I like Alpha Centauri as well as fun house mirrors, so really, this is the perfect game for me. A world-simulator with a darkly twisted sense of humor, Flyborg Games shows just why there's so much competition for the God-Emperor position in modern politics. Via Sol 2 isn't just about jokey cynicism though: it has strategic depth aplenty and a grim futuristic aesthetic that's hard not to like. Whether you decide to go for the totalitarian government dystopia or the privatized corporate dystopia, a smile is sure to be on your face... if not necessarily your citizens'.

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 3.9/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 3.9/5 (61 votes)
| Comments (11) | Views (170)

DoraS.H.M.U.P.Shawn Tanner (Afro-Ninja), Hyptosis, and the musical stylings of Josh Kemp combine to resurrect the gentleman's sport of reducing your opponents to so much space junk in the vertical scrolling shooter S.H.M.U.P.. Which, as it happens, stands for Save Helios Minor From Unwanted Presence... although it could also stand for Super Happy Minotaur Unbalace Party... or Swinging Hip Monkeys Under Plexiglass... but I suppose if you want to get all technical about it, the original definition is probably closer to the gameplay. You play a lone fighter pilot who receives a distress call from nearby Helios Minor and arrive to find it under siege by a lot (like, a lot lot) of enemy fighters. The solution? Hot space lead!

Your super high-tech fighter ship of tomorrow controls with the [arrow] keys for movement, and if you hold down [Z] you'll let out a steady stream of good ol' fashioned pyew pyew pyew blaster fire. Blasting enemies out of the sky gives experience points, which grant stat increases when you level up, but destroyed ships also occasionally drop green crystals that you can spend on upgrades at the docking bay between stages. If the rain of bullets becomes too much for you and you wind up getting reduced to space junk, you can just try a stage again and keep 1/3 of the gems and experience points you earned before you were blown up.

While S.H.M.U.P. doesn't really do much to set itself apart from other shooters, it does succeed at what it sets out to do pretty well. The difficulty ramps up significantly after the first level, with more enemies onscreen that use different flying tactics to try to turn you into space swiss cheese. The artwork courtesy of Hyptosis looks great, despite a tendency for smaller, faster enemies to blur into the background somewhat when lots of foes are onscreen, and the sound effects and music are pretty much perfect, immediately recalling the sort of experience you'd expect to get in an arcade. The speed upgrades do wind up feeling like they shouldn't even be necessary, unfortunately, since sappy, responsive controls are essential for playing bullet h-e-double-hockeysticks shooters if you don't want a bunch of grinding, but the rest of the upgrades add a satisfying amount of playability. All it really needs are a bunch of gonzo powerups to be dropped during normal gameplay and you'd have the makings of something beautiful. As it stands, S.H.M.U.P. is still a great treat for the start of the week for twitchy fighter pilots out there everywhere.

Play S.H.M.U.P.


  • Currently 3.4/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 3.4/5 (39 votes)
| Comments (18) | Views (70)

joyeScrape ScraperteethThe reactions people have to art games versus "regular" games is a lot like the reactions people have to art cinema versus popcorn movies. On the one side, people who like it will praise it for being challenging, satirical, intellectual or evocative. On the other side, many people slam art games for being cliched, melodramatic, pretentious, and covering up for a lack of game-making skill. So it's a "love it or hate it" thing, and the dichotomy doesn't get much more stark than in the works of Jason Nelson, probably best known for game, game, game and again game. Probably because while many art games can at least be enjoyed aesthetically, his works are aggressively ugly.

His latest piece, Scrape Scraperteeth, was sponsored by the San Francisco Gallery of Modern Art. If you're the kind of person who wouldn't be caught dead going to visit a museum of modern art, or who says things like "my kid could do this" about its contents, you're definitely going to fall on the wrong side of this game's reaction dichotomy and you might as well scroll past this review now. The rest of you should play it to see what you think.

Scrape Scraperteeth actually has you start out the game by reading and acknowledging a satirical "warning", pointing out its flaws before the critics can do so: it's easy (you can't die or fail), it's ugly (well... just look at the screencap), it's strange. Once you acknowledge the warning, the rest of the game plays by the same platforming mechanics you know and love: [arrow] keys to move, and [spacebar] to jump.

Eventually, unless you give up, you will get to the end. If you try to apply usual platform game logic and get there as soon as possible, the game's going to be over very fast and you'll be leaving a scathing comment here about the muddy movement or poor level design. Platforming enjoyment is not what you're signing up for when you play this game. Slow down and take the time to watch all that happens as you move around the levels, to read the text, and to figure out the subtext. On the other hand, while the game goes ahead and tells you on the menu screen that this game is "about the real estate crash", it also says "stop trying to 'get it'". So maybe you should just let the cognitive dissonance wash over you like metal on metal. Not for everyone, but it might be for you.

Play Scrape Scraperteeth


  • Currently 3.7/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 3.7/5 (90 votes)
| Comments (27) | Views (64)

Joshlegendofmulida.jpgOld school, 8-bit Zelda. It's like a refreshing glass of cold lemonade on a warm day. Simple graphics, easy-to-learn gameplay, and great characters keep you returning to it again and again. With this in mind, many developers have designed fitting odes to this classic, but none quite like Nora Shishi of Noragames, with his latest side-scrolling Flixel offering, The Legend of Mulida.

When you first start this game with its familiar pixel art, you immediately notice something is amiss. Yes, as usual it's dangerous to go alone, but this time around there's no sword for you. Instead, you find yourself dropped in a world that feels like Super Mario Bros., grabbing powerups while dodging endless waves of the very swords you felt entitled to. Strangest of all is the control scheme, which requires you to move your character left and right with the mouse (your character follows the cursor) while clicking to jump. Some players will immediately decry this as unnecessarily difficult, but those who can make it to the end despite the pokey controls will be rewarded with a bonus quest containing more robust gameplay and some new surprises.

The Legend of Mulida is a game with classic charm, a nice amount of challenge, and old-school fun. The graphics, while not an exact pixel reproduction of Nintendo's masterpiece, effectively evokes the past while you play. Your sense of nostalgia gets further heightened by chip-tune melodies that loop in your ears, accompanied by familiar sound effects. Yes, gameplay is short, and I agree that getting the hang of the mouse control is tricky, but I urge you to play through the game with it in order to unlock the second quest and the surprises that await. All told, with The Legend of Mulida, Noragames taps into the essence of a classic title and gives you something fun and different to try on your next break. So, brave adventurer, why not click the Link and give it a try?

Play The Legend of Mulida


| Comments (2) | Views (39)

Mobile Monday

JohnBQuite by accident, this week's selection of iOS games all revolve around physics puzzles in some shape or form. I swear, that wasn't on purpose! No, don't check my diary to see if I wrote about it last night. No, don't look on my Mobile Monday schedule to see if it says "pretend the theme was accidental". Just... just go play games. Ok? Please?

amazingbreaker.gifAmazing Breaker (iPhone, iPod Touch) - Ever seen a lovely, colored, delicate ice sculpture and just want to smash it to bits? With bombs? Amazing Breaker is just that, creating a satisfying physics puzzle game in the process. Fling bombs towards the ice statue above, trying to destroy at least 90% of the object before you run out of ammo. There are a number of bomb types that add some strategy to the mix, such as green bombs that can split into three small bombs, and ghost bombs that pass through objects and can be influenced by swiping on the screen. Amazing Breaker Free is also available.

cavorite.gifCavorite (iPhone, iPod Touch) - Puzzle platformer, hurrah! Back in 1989, a new substance, cavorite, was discovered. It had the unique property of not being affected by gravity, which is really rather cool! A professor built a spacecraft, covered it in cavorite, and flew to the moon, only to discover a bunch of aliens there who trapped him in the caverns below the surface. Darn! Now, using blocks, buttons, and your own smarts, help the professor escape the moon by spraying cavorite on substances to make them defy gravity!

juicebelts.gifJuice Belts (universal) - A physics building game with the most delicious product of all time: fresh-squeezed juice! Place gears, fans, timers and other contraptions on the screen, then wrap belts around them to create moving platforms. Use those platforms to transport the falling fruits from the crates to the beaker, the end result being a yummy bit of fruit juice! The game takes its time to turn on the difficulty, but once you're turned loose and have to build everything from scratch, timing your moves to keep rotten fruits out of the beverages, you'll realize just how complex drinks can be.

NOTE: Games noted as 'universal' have been designed for iPod Touch, iPad, and iPhone devices alike. Any game not listed for iPad will work on the system, but native full screen will not be present. Games listed may not be available outside of North America. Prices are subject to change and are therefore unlisted. Please see the individual game pages for purchasing info.


  • Currently 4.8/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.8/5 (21 votes)
| Comments (8) | Views (99)

Back to the Future: Season 1

JamesStupid time-traveling. Just the other day my brain had to yet again churn over the concept in Terminator 2: that Skynet and its robot horde would not have existed if it didn't send a robot back to a time before it did exist. That makes my gray matter slap itself repeatedly, probably because time is the "fourth" dimension and we can only really operate in three. Introduce some chaos beyond that and you have a cascade of events, changing everything in the future. One would think that nobody understood this better than Marty McFly, arguably the most time-traveled person in the history of the world. Yet he still manages to go back in time and mess it up. But he fixes it too — what else would you be doing in Back to the Future: The Game?

Back to the FutureTelltale is the lone island of episodic adventure games — point-and-click sagas that emerge one chapter at a time each month. Back to the Future started in December, which we reviewed, and has since completed its run. It all started with rescuing Doc Brown, the mad scientist who built a time-travelling sports car which enables all this timeline wrangling. Caught in a 1930s jail, he has to be sprung by Marty. But something is inevitably changed and when they return to 1985 (the present year of the movies), things are right. As always it will fall upon Marty to save the day, but in this epic things get very convoluted with mobsters, totalitarian societies and even Doc fighting against Marty to stop the progress of science — Great Scott!

Analysis: The difficulty of Telltale's adventure games vary, but Back to the Future would comfortably sit in the easier bracket. While the season dishes up some crafty puzzles, it is not out to make you suffer for the story. In fact, at times the game seems a bit too keen on talking to characters and appears lax to roll out the puzzles. After a big splash with the first episode, which was terrific, the season stumbled a bit with the second chapter. Then it became a bit too story-focused with chapter three, but here things also pick up pace. Using that momentum, the fourth and fifth chapters bring it all together very nicely — some sharp challenges and a few fun twists ultimately delivers a really entertaining story.

Back to the FutureIt is harder to say if this series will appeal to someone who has never seen the original movie series. It doesn't rely on knowledge of the movie trilogy and fan references mostly fall away by the second episode, making this very much its own story. But because Back to the Future always takes place in the same town, just in different eras or time lines, Marty revisits some places (like the town square) a lot — as in every single of the five episodes. Each episode also has its own new areas, but the core of it all maintains a bit of a familiar feel. If you aren't invested in the fates of Marty and the Doc, this might start feeling a bit tedious. And much of that interest, at least for me, came from my enjoyment of the original trilogy. While the game does a sterling job staying away from relying on arcane canon knowledge from the series, it is still a part of Back to the Future.

Putting the story and characters aside for a moment, this season has a fair amount of fun adventure gameplay in it. A hint system makes it easy to get ahead, but puzzles are rarely that infuriating. There are moments of frustration, especially when you have to keep repeating a sequence to figure out what you are doing wrong. But this is not the toughest series Telltale has made. A large amount of time is also spent on story — if you prefer your adventure games to be solitary endeavors with little exposition, Back to the Future might disappoint. Likewise, if you are holding out for a large variety of locations, as with Telltale's Sam & Max or Monkey Island games, this will fall short.

But within the confines of the Back to the Future universe, the game works very well. Getting Christopher Lloyd (and, for the final episode, Michael J. Fox) for the main voices is great and the writing is respectful of the series without lathering it with fan drool. Like any 'season' there are a few missteps and stumbles. I wasn't a fan of the clumsy inventory system and at times there just seemed to be too much pointless dialog. But it all plays out well, creating an epic adventure that is worthy to be counted alongside the original three movies. It certainly gives high hopes for when Telltale releases the first episode of Jurassic Park.

WindowsWindows:
Get Episode 1 free (registration required)
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get Episode 1 free (registration required)
Get the full version


  • Currently 4.7/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.7/5 (20 votes)
| Comments (1) | Views (265)

Breath of Death VII

DoraIt's the end of the world was we know it, and we feel fine... mostly because we're now all hideous undead monstrosities. But that hasn't kept (un)life from moving on, and towns full of people still exist... they're just deader than they were before. Dem is a great hero, if a bit on the bony side, who works hard to defend the nearby town of boils and ghouls from threat and isn't really interested in seeing what the rest of the world has to offer. That is, until the day the exuberant, pushy ghost Sara forcibly joins forces with him and drags him off on a journey to visit the great ruins from around the world and annoy him as much as possible in the process. Chock full of gaming references, strategic turn-based battles, geeky vampires, zombie princes, antiheroes, and even the obligatory sewer level (it's the law), Breath of Death VII is the perfect afternoon RPG parody treat from Zeboyd Games for anyone who remembers an era when 16-bit was the height of fashion and the cartridge was king.

Breath of Death VIIAs Dem, who gets along just fine without a tongue and vocal cords thankyouverramuch, you'll have to lead your party all over the world, through towns and into dungeons where treasure may lie. (But usually just horrible, searing pain from all the monsters.) Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move around, [spacebar] to open the menu, [ESC] gives you the option to quit, [enter] to select or interact, and the left [shift] key to cancel. You can save the game at any time by selecting the option to do so from the [spacebar] menu. The only items you get are potions (just "potion", really) that completely heal and revive you during battle, but can only be found in chests.

Battle is (you guessed it) turn-based in very classic RPG fashion, but with a twist. Successful consecutive attacks by any character increase your combo count, and when this is high, certain special attacks can deal massive damage to enemies... something you'll want to learn, since after each round, enemy strength increases by ten percent, so flattening them sooner rather than later is usually a good idea. As you might expect, winning battles nets you experience points, and when each character levels up, you'll be given the choice between two different sets of upgrades to apply to them, such as a batch of stat increases or a new ability. After each battle, your hit-points will be restored, but magic points need to be regained by renewal points, sleeping at an inn, or using a potion. (They do regenerate slightly after each battle depending on how well you did.) Each area has a finite number of random encounters, but if you want to grind some cash or levels, you can just select "fight" from the [spacebar] menu to duke things out as much as you like.

Breath of Death VIIAnalysis: Do not adjust your monitor... we control the horizontal, the vertical... oh, and also Breath of Death VII is supposed to look like it was made decades ago. While the style is clearly a love letter to the gaming days of yore, you'll also notice subtle and not-so-subtle nods to all types of games and pop culture. The constant references can get a bit old from time to time, especially since the game can be more than funny enough on its own. Erik the zombie prince, for instance, is a fresh (... figuratively speaking for a shambling corpse... ) spin on the "dashing, handsome prince" character.

Breath of Death VIIThe dungeons, unfortunately, all tend to have a bad case of "endless corridor" going on, with otherwise interesting locales ruined by trudging down identical, winding hallways while fending off waves of random encounters. While you can mitigate this somewhat by parking yourself next to a renewal point and just plowing through all the stock battles so you can walk unharassed, and you can argue that this is sort of a staple of ye olde retro RPGs as a whole, that doesn't stop it from occasionally being more than a little annoying. These renewal points also make grinding levels obscenely easy if you're patient, and mean virtually every battle except the boss fights are a piece of heavily pixellated cake.

But where Breath of Death VII really succeeds is at crafting a short, sweet casual RPG experience that doesn't take itself too seriously. I personally took around four hours to finish it, and while I don't really feel the need to go back and do it again on a harder difficulty level, for a game made in three months by two guys (plus a handful of freelancers for the fantastic soundtrack) at under $3 US it's an absolute steal. The game does somewhat feel like it had the potential to be a lot bigger than it was, story-wise, and with a bit more variety it could have been an instant classic, but as it stands I still enjoyed every minute I spent with it. Robert Boyd and Bill Stiernberg are clearly a match made in nerdy RPG heaven, so it's a good thing they already have one other game available, with another in the works at the time of this writing. Breath of Death VII (no, there aren't six other games) has its flaws, but is absolutely worth your time.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

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


(5 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (0) | Views (268)

Gourmania 3: Zoo Zoom

JohnBGourmania 3: Zoo Zoom, from Alawar Games, takes a few common casual gaming genres and breaks their molds all to pieces, creating a game that's one half hidden object game, one half time management simulation. How do you combine a sit and think genre with a frantic click-fest genre? Easy! You hunt for ingredients in a crowded restaurant to cook dishes for impatient customers!

Gourmania 3: Zoo ZoomVictoria wears a lot of pink and is more than a bit spoiled in her rich girl life. Her father sees it fit to cut her off from the family fortune, challenging her to earn her own cash if she wants frivolities like a pedicure for her puppy. Using some of her family's half-built restaurants, Victoria sets out to earn cash as best she can, one restaurant, one zoo, and one ghost of a chef at a time!

Gameplay is pleasantly split between hidden object and time management genres, allowing you to work with customers and foods in a timely manner while searching for items in a crowded scene. Here, each area is a restaurant fully stocked with food. The problem is, those foods are scattered around all helter skelter, forcing you to go on a bit of a hunt to find even the most basic things.

Customers enter your restaurant and ask for a meal. Click on the customer and the first ingredient will be revealed. Search it out in the messy scene below, click it, and the next piece of food will be shown. One by one you assemble a dish, then, at the end, you cook it using the appropriate method. When all is complete, collect your tip and move on to the next level!

Between levels you can spend the cash you've earned to upgrade the zoo, an attraction Victoria is building to hold animals from her family crest and to attract customers to the area. There are also a few mini-games between some of the levels, serving as a short, skippable break in the often-intense time management/hidden object action.

Gourmania 3: Zoo ZoomAnalysis: Gourmania 3: Zoo Zoom is one of those games that will surprise you with its smart design. It's not a hidden object game, it's not a time management game, but it pulls the best from both genres to create something every casual player can enjoy. Even if playing against the clock bugs you, you can choose Casual Mode from the beginning of the game to ensure customers don't lose their patience as you sift for ingredients.

Multiple customers are always in your restaurant at once, making sure you have several items you can search for at a time. The game is smart enough to know that you can use any sort of pepper, tomato, cucumber, etc. on the screen, not a particular one. This cuts down on frustration enormously and allows you a bit of freedom in your mouse clicking.

On the down side, Gourmania 3 assumes you have a bit of knowledge in the culinary world, so if you don't know your spatula from a food turner, you could stumble a few times in this game. Fear not, though, for the hint system allows you to pinpoint the exact item you're having trouble locating, so you never get stuck, even if you don't know what a potato looks like!

It's a bit heavy on the cooking terminology and some of the ingredients can be tough to find, but otherwise, Gourmania 3: Zoo Zoom is an absolutely flawless hybrid of the time management and hidden object genres. You owe it to yourself to give it a try, if for nothing other than its unique design!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


(8 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (26) | Views (3,866)

timelessforgotten-b.jpg

GrinnypAs we get older we begin to develop a nostalgia for the past, and sometimes that past is not our own but something further back in time. Some folks long for the return of the 50s, some want to travel back to Victorian times, and one massively popular novel series makes folks want to travel back to Scotland around the time of Culloden. Strange, really, because most of us when faced with the actual reality of those times would head for the nearest exit, especially once they sussed out the bathroom facilities...

timelessforgotten.jpgWhere was I going with this? Oh yes, if you want to travel back to a kinder, gentler time but don't want to deal with all of the hassles (uncomfortable clothes, the societal attitudes, etc.) then perhaps you should check out Boolat Games' latest adventure/hidden object hybrid Timeless: The Forgotten Town, which takes you back to the past without having to deal with the lack of personal hygiene and dodging horse poop in the streets.

Timeless: The Forgotten Town begins with you, the hero (or heroine) on a train heading for the next destination of your lovely European vacation. As the train passes through a tunnel something strange happens when a mysterious red-cloaked figure starts cackling maniacally in your general direction and the next thing you know your fellow passengers have disappeared and you are on a train to nowhere, all alone. Mind you, the train itself has transformed into the luxurious accommodations of a private car belonging to one of the filthy rich back in the Edwardian era, so at least you won't be uncomfortable. Pretty soon you'll (hopefully) manage to stop the train and disembark at the town that time forgot, inhabited by sad or angry ghosts and the aforementioned dude in red who has targeted you as the next victim of his nefarious scheme. Aided by the ghosts and the writings of at least one other traveler who unfortunately fell victim to the plot you must explore this lovely place and piece together the clues of what happened and stop the madness before you, too, succumb to a fate worse than death.

Basically, the game is a classic point-and-click adventure with an overlay of hidden object finding, so navigating your way around the train (and later, the town) is accomplished with a click of the mouse. Timeless: The Forgotten Town features the standard changing cursor option that reveals items you can pick up (a hand), places that can be examined (a magnifying glass), and of course, places where you can travel (an arrow). Your objective, if you choose to accept it, is to wander around, pick up and examine a lot of objects, solve some mini-games and puzzles, and defeat the evil red cape guy to free this poor town (and its ghost inhabitants) from his nefarious curse. Useful information found along the way goes into a handy journal and useful items go into a bottom-screen inventory to be used later. The game also features a nice refilling hint timer that can be used both within hidden object scenes and without.

timelessforgotten2.jpgPerhaps the thing most hybrid adventure players will appreciate is the fact that Timeless: The Forgotten Town has both a skippable tutorial and two modes of play: easy for those who are newer to the genre and advanced for those who disdain hand-holding. The easy mode features a plethora of hints featuring glints, sparkles, and cascades of colored light to highlight interesting areas, as well as a quickly refilling hint timer that also doubles as a skip feature for the mini-games. The advanced mode, on the other hand, disdains all but a tiny, minor glint of light to indicate areas of interest, including the hidden object scenes, along with a hint timer that refills very slowly and a "too many clicks" penalty that last a lot longer than in the easy mode. The beginning tutorial is skippable as well once you've found your journal and hint timer. The different gameplay modes and the skippable (or not) tutorial make this a game that a wide spectrum of players can enjoy, from the amateur to the hardcore adventurer.

Analysis: Yes, yet another adventure/hidden object hybrid, and a Collector's Edition to boot. Just because the market is glutted right now with a lot of knock-offs and copycats doesn't mean that you shouldn't give a really well-designed game like Timeless: The Forgotten Town a try. In fact, you should definitely give it a whirl as it is decidedly worth the effort both in terms of visual beauty and fantastic gameplay, especially the mini-games and puzzles, which are a mix of the comfortably familiar (gear puzzles, etc.) and the wickedly original (the cunning slot machine/mini-adventure game).

timelessforgotten3.jpgThe backgrounds of both the train and the town that time forgot are stunning hand-painted masterpieces that fit the time (1907) and the place (a quaint town somewhere in Europe, perhaps Germany or Switzerland, judging by the scenery). Despite the ghosts and the evil red guy the musical accompaniment is not full of blaring horns or spooky riffs, but rather light and pastoral airs that match the atmosphere of this adorable little town. Spookiness is added by the advancing storyline and the quiet yet effective incidental sounds: bird song, creaking wood, rustling leaves, that serve to emphasize the point that not only has time passed this place by but it is deserted of all human life save yours.

If there is a downside to Timeless: The Forgotten Town it is that gameplay is rather short, especially if you play in easy mode. And as is common in many Collector's Editions you don't get a satisfying ending or a complete story unless you play the "extra" adventure, which at least adds another hour to the playing time. These "extra" adventure sections should not feel like they were amputated from the end of the story, leaving those who buy the regular edition to feel cheated out of a "proper" ending. However, you still do get an ending in the regular gameplay, even it it does feel a bit rushed and doesn't answer many outstanding questions.

In this case, it is definitely worth the extra few bucks to purchase the Collector's Edition for the extra gameplay, which not only rounds out the story but adds a considerable amount of playing time to this time-traveling adventure. Gorgeous, entertaining, and fit for both the noob and the advanced adventure gamer, Timeless: The Forgotten Town is a feast of astounding visuals and amusing gameplay. Do not, however, expect an exciting roller-coaster ride of adventure in game form. Instead, enjoy a quiet and meditative stroll down avenues of the past, probably a lot more entertaining than actually being there.

A Collector's Edition is also available. It includes wallpapers, concept art, the music soundtrack, a hefty extra adventure, and a built-in strategy guide. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions (or 2 club credits), and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.

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

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


| Comments (13) | Views (41)

Weekend Download

JohnBNeed a little weirdness in your life? Never hurts to have more, does it?! *high five* A couple of rather strange games on this edition of Weekend Download, one featuring a character whose name is an anagram of a common North American tree, one with solid boulders that are suddenly affected by gravity with you touch them, and a shooter by the creator of Knytt. How's that for odd?

blubluble.gifblubLuble (Windows, 17MB, free) - A tiny little game co-created by Knytt designer Nifflas and Steffi Degiorgio for an event at a recent Game Developer's Conference. blubLuble is a colorful sidescrolling shmup that can fire two types of beams: a reverse boomerang-style red beam and a forwards blue beam. Use the correct weapon to take out the shields of foes, and be sure to avoid the laser blasts that are emitted when they die. Each time you get hit you lose a bit of your tail, so play it safe and keep firing! It's a short and simple game, but it's charming and easy to get into. Note: You'll need to scroll down on the game page to find the download link.

subterra2.gifSubTerra II (Windows, 5MB, free) - Classically-styled, tons of levels, plenty of obstacles to overcome, and more puzzles than you can shake a downwards-rolling boulder at. SubTerra II is a top-down adventure puzzle game where you race around the level collecting gems and avoiding obstacles. Both of which there are many! The game plays a lot like the Adventures of Lolo series but with a decidedly more complex set of mechanics. For example, you can reverse gravity, have a pet dog, work with wiring systems, and much, much more. A fantastic adventure/puzzle game you'll want to grab like, before you finish reading this sentence!

oka.gifOka (Windows, 6.7MB, free) - Cute and simple, this little action/puzzle game from Andrew Brophy fits a bit of challenge into a short game. You play as Oka who's on a quest to find his brother, only he doesn't quite remember what he looks like. Walk around the land obeying the signs as best you can to continue forward. The game plays with your reasoning in a few ways, forcing you to figure out a few riddles in order to progress, but if you stick with it, five or ten minutes later you'll reach the end. Not much to it, but it's a fun little diversion!

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 4.2/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.2/5 (44 votes)
| Comments (21) | Views (1,047)

DoraCrush the Castle TDIf they're breaking out the trumpets, it must mean it's time to get our epic on, and that must mean it's time for Crush the Castle TD from Joey Betz and Toge Productions. After a long and successful series built around destroying castles in the most spectacular fashion possible (who doesn't love a trebuchet?), you might not expect to be called to put your skills to work saving the very sort of structures you once so gleefully pulverised, but that's just what's going on in this tower defense game. Once again you take up the mantle of Siege Master, but this time to defend your kingdom from invaders. Forget Sun Tzu and complicated military tactics; you know all it really takes to win the battle is a few finely tuned catapults and the will to use them. Come on, be perfectly honest; if mounting some siege weaponry to the roof of your car wouldn't get you thrown in Super Crazy Person Prison, you'd totally do it.

The actual gameplay is pretty simple; click on a tower's icon at the bottom of the screen, and then click anywhere on the map that doesn't display as red to place it. Your tower will take a second to be built, and then voila! Instant death machine. You can control the speed of the gameplay with the pause, play, and fast-forward buttons in the upper right of the screen. Enemies will appear from the banner at the edge of the screen and march towards your castle, and it's your job to stop them from getting there. Towers will attack anything in range, so proper tower placement is a must... especially since on levels where there isn't a road, enemies will walk wherever they darn well please. Killing an enemy nets you gold which you'll use to spend on upgrading your existing towers, or building news ones. There are also several special structures you can build that, while not able to attack the enemy themselves, will enable you to use certain upgrades to better facilitate your dude skewering. After each stage, you'll be awarded sweet, sweet experience points based on how well you do, and when you earn enough to gain a level, you can spend it on new upgrades to apply to your towers in game.

Crush the Castle TDAnalysis: Crush the Castle TD is actually a pretty good looking game, as tower defense titles go, marrying clean design with appealing sprites during the game and an appropriately bombastic fantasy soundtrack. Things do fall curiously silent during actual gameplay, however, which makes me wonder if being a Siege Master is a lot like being a golfer, and everyone just politely claps softly whenever you turn someone into a smear on the landscape so they don't break your concentration. Having been privy to an early build of the game while it was still in development, I'm actually fairly impressed by how far it's come and how much the gameplay has been developed. The group of towers at your disposal that unlock as you play are all useful, and often the right type of tower in the right location can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

It isn't until the second area, when roads become a luxury and enemies stop filing in like obedient gradeschoolers to your gauntlet of death, that the game really becomes interesting and challenging. The first few times you encounter a stage that's largely road-less, you'll probably have to do a little trial-and-error tower placement to figure out what works, but working out how to use the terrain and your towers to force enemies to go where you want them won't take long. It's just disappointing that the skill tree feels somewhat underdeveloped and tacked on... like you're just paying someone to have the privilege of paying someone else. It might have been nice to be able to unlock a bunch of new useful abilities to pick and choose from, rather than just a series of upgrades that, while helpful, don't really feel like they do much other than make what you've already got work better.

Crush the Castle TD doesn't necessarily break the mold, but it does provide a sturdy experience that fans of the genre and Joey Betz's work in general will really appreciate. It plays well, it feels balanced, and requires just enough strategy to get that shiny gold medal that tweakers will enjoy it, but not so much that casual fans will feel intimidated. While actually preventing a castle from being crushed might go against everything you hold dear, you'll still want to give this one a try and see how the other (non-crushed) side of society lives.

Play Crush the Castle TD

Special thanks to Gordon! for sending this one in.


(10 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (2) | Views (161)

F.A.C.E.S.

JohnBFrom the horror-themed hidden object masters at Vogat Interactive comes F.A.C.E.S., another casual adventure tale filled with mystery, occult occurrences, and plenty of strange human abilities. You play a young woman who can travel into photographs and carry things back to the real world. She's trapped in an asylum at the game's outset, however, and knows she's about to endure the scientists' final experiment. Not good! To escape, she'll need to find the right photographs and scurry her way out into the world beyond!

F.A.C.E.S.The scenes in F.A.C.E.S. are fully packed with things to investigate, and if you choose Advanced Mode from the beginning as opposed to Casual, you won't be notified of areas of interest. Use your mouse to click things you'd like more information about. A number of spots have close-up views available, while others present you with a bit of information, a hidden object scene, or an item for your cozy little inventory.

Puzzles are everywhere and you'll find more questions than you will answers during your first pass through each section. Hidden object scenes are frequent in F.A.C.E.S., but they're generally short and not too difficult to solve. When you complete one you're rewarded with a new item that stashes itself in your inventory. Use it to solve one of the many pressing puzzles standing between you and the next area!

Most areas in F.A.C.E.S. are solved without too much exploration or head-scratching on your part. Many puzzles require you to find a certain number of an item scattered around a few screens or stashed inside hidden object areas. Logic is your friend, and the game never twists things around for the sake of pumping up the difficulty or lengthening the experience.

F.A.C.E.S.Analysis: Vogat knows hidden object adventures, and F.A.C.E.S. shows the studio has gotten the formula down to an art. The visuals are, as expected, grand, and the all-important atmosphere is spot-on spooky. Some really disturbed people must work at Vogat to conjure up some of these events, but they make for a great casual hidden object game!

One interesting fact about F.A.C.E.S. is that it features no voice acting, just haunting music and silent text to read. The sound effects are rather sparse, too, creating a cut-off, eerily quiet world for you to explore. You really feel like you're stuffed inside this crazy(?) girl's head, lending a somewhat twisted slant to the game as a whole.

The bonus content in the collector's edition of F.A.C.E.S. includes a chapter that adds another hour or so of gameplay. You can preview this mode before purchasing, which is a great option for those of us who like to try everything out before we buy. All in all, F.A.C.E.S. provides around five hours of play time (not including the bonus chapter), which is a bit longer than most hidden object games on the market.

While F.A.C.E.S. is yet another asylum-based mystery hidden object game, Vogat has a special talent that turns these experiences into genuine fun. If you're ready for a great story that's filled with haunting images and smart puzzles, F.A.C.E.S. was made for you!

(P.S. Yes, F.A.C.E.S. does stand for something!)

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

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

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


| Comments (12) | Views (111)

Link Dump Fridays

DoraWho stole the cookie from the cookie jar? You stole the cookie from the cookie jar! Who me? Yes, you! Couldn't be! Then who? Dora stole the cookie from the cookie jar!

HEY FORGET YOU GUYS, YOU CAN'T PROVE ANYTHING, GEEZ, WHAT'S WITH THE THIRD DEGREE?! I WAS MAKING LINK DUMP FRIDAY ALL EVENING, I DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT ANY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES!... uh... oh. Are... are we doing a thing here? Like... a rhyming thing?... I knew that! I wasn't... I mean... look, those cookies were asking for it, okay? It's not like I'm a hardened criminal or anything! Just... don't go prodding around any uneven lumps in my backyard.

  • SecretnetSecretnet - Think you have what it takes to be a SUPAR SEEKRIT double agent and infiltrate the black market? Give it your best shot in this clever text adventure that puts you in the shoes of someone trying to infiltrate a chatroom full of folks that aren't exactly on the up-and-up. You have to love a super secret organisation whose security methods basically consist of asking you point blank if you're a cop, and then making you promise not to tell anyone about them. Presumably the Wii version of this would have included a special waggle for pinky-swearing.
  • Way of an Idea 2Way of an Idea 2 - Gravity is the star of this little physics puzzle game, as you draw lines to ensure that an apple falls on a certain historical figure's head. If only all life's problems could be solved by dropping fruit on famous people! I'm sure I can think of a few people who might benefit from a watermelon hitting them from a great height.
  • The Soul DriverThe Soul Driver - Being a massive fan of Rockstar's irresponsibility simulator Grand Theft Auto, there's definitely something I can get behind about a game centered on racing away from the cops as your wanted level rises. This arcade game sees you zipping down the road, dodging the popo, trying to rack up sweet, sweet moolah to upgrade your vehicle. To be frank, even if you were the world's most law abiding citizen, I don't think the face of the protagonist is exactly one that inspires trust and good will in people on the best of days.
  • RejoinRejoin - Everyone loves a good puzzle platformer, and everyone loves helping suspicious shadowy entities reunite with lost pieces of themselves, amirite? I mean... what could go wrong?! *cue sad trombone music* While certain hazards seem to have frustratingly finicky hit detection and are only too happy to kill you if you so much as glance at them, fans of stylish, evil-deity-centric action will want to check this one out.
  • Fat WizardFat Wizard - Big Boned Wizard is the latest action defense game from Matt Thorson centered around magic, mayhem, and... mouse movements! Fend off invaders as they swarm towards your precious dragon egg using a number of useful wizardly abilities, if you can master them. Although difficult to get the hang of, there's no denying the game is cheery, adorable, and frantic. Usually when I want to keep my husband away from something I want to eat later I just yell "HEY, BACK OFF BUTTSKI"... and then he ignores me. So maybe there is something to this flashy lightning stuff after all!

  • Currently 4.5/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.5/5 (142 votes)
| Comments (74) | Views (3,275)

TrickyLegend of KalevalaHere is transcription of the inner monologue I had when playing Legend of Kalevala, the new adventure-platformer from Dit Dah Games: Huh.... that spaceship on the title screen looks like Samus Aran's. Guess I should hit play... Great... I'm apparently waking up in an unfamiliar place with amnesia... Like THAT'S never been done before. However, those are some pretty sweet VGA retro-jungle graphi- Wait. Am I that purple metallic pterodactyl-wolf? Who talks like an archaeologist? That's new... And I can shoot quills? Okay. I'm in love with this game. Admittedly, you make have different standards for enjoyment, but I think you'll be convinced just as quick.

The pterodactyl-wolf moves with the [arrow] keys, jumps with [X] and, once you've gained the ability, fires with [C]. Scattered around the world are various switches and ability power-ups, activated with the [up] key, as well as the brain icons which grant you a little of your memory back. New abilities are introduced and explained over the course of the game. The game is fairly non-linear and rewards exploration, but should you need a push in the right direction, the [N] key brings up the map with the general location of your next objective. Be prepared to discover every nook and cranny to fully regain your memory and, just maybe, make your way to a place you can call home.

Analysis: Legend of Kalevala has that perfect mix of old and new, alien and human, story and action. Certainly it's not out of place with metroidvania bretheren, but it reminded me most of Another World, with a shade of Flashback: The Quest for Identity. It's easy to make a mysterious world and throw an amnesiac in it. It's much harder to answer those mysteries in a way that is complete, sensical and intriguing, and this game does just that. Likewise, Legend of Kalavela manages the balance of making its player-character unfamiliar but empathize-able. The player shares his sense of surprise as he learns all that he can do and of his role in the world around him. It is cool that he is so definitely an animal. A sentient and intelligent one certainly, but one that approaches the world in a not-quite-human human way. It's quite a departure from the usual no-backstory Space Marine, and just might be my favorite new game character so far this year. He deserves to be in a game with stunning visuals and a catchy soundtrack and this is just that.

Legend of KalevalaSome of the game's strongest points do end up being weaknesses in a way: The graphics are so pretty that they distract from being functional. Some doors are easy to miss in the shadows, and foreground/background elements look like things you should really be able to land on. Eventually I was able to work out what sprites were jump-off-able, but that was only after some missed jumps and a bit of annoying backtracking. Also considering the number of airborne enemies, I found that I kept trying to shoot while jumping, even though my conscious mind told me that it wasn't going to work. Having the ability from the start would have eased a lot of frustration. Finally, and this is going to sound really petty, but using [N] and not [M] to bring up the map goes against everything I hold dear.

If I may digress into a mini-rant, the thing that confused me the most about Legend of Kalevala was its name. I realize that "Legend of X" has been a common game titling scheme ever since Link first realized that it was dangerous to go alone. Likewise when developers use cool sounding non-English words to name in-universe planets, it gives it that little twist of onomastic flair. However, the combination really doesn't work here considering the actual Legend of Kalevala that this game has little to do with, except obliquely near the end. I suppose this is just the influence of Finnish epics, MST3K episodes or Scrooge McDuck comics, but man, if you invoke Kalevala, I darn well expect a Sampo to show up quick!

Mythological quibbling aside, Legend of Kalevala is an excellent game! Its easy enough to jump straight in, but has a ton of hidden secrets for experts to find (especially if you want the best ending)... along with a few locked doors that just beg for further expansion. This game is a perfect antidote to the doldrums of summer.

Play Legend of Kalevala

Thanks to Valerie, Alkalannar, Ray, Felix, Cyberjar88, and Ldog for sending this one in!


  • Currently 4.2/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.2/5 (98 votes)
| Comments (25) | Views (356)

ellegoldenheart.pngSo it's a lazy midsummer day, Weekday Escape has come and gone, yet you still have a hankering for an easy afternoon escape? Well, dear friends, we here at JIG are nothing if not aiming to please, ready to bring the world to you on a silver platter and so, voila! As a special Bastille Day treat, you are whisked away to beautiful Paris, France, to an enchanting little café named Golden Heart. Enjoy your stay, go take in the sights, the music, the dancers, the shops . . . but first, you need to find your way out in this newest escape game by TomaTea.

While here, we discover that a visitor's necklace broke, all the tiny heart charms scattered everywhere, and now he's worried about missing his wedding anniversary. No worries, sir. We can find the heart pieces and fix the necklace as we search for the keys. Like many other escape-the-room scenarios, click on the sides or bottom of the screen to navigate this little café-turned-trap. Also click items to pick them up or to examine them more closely. By solving some puzzles and deciphering a few codes, you'll be able to unlock cupboards, open doors, activate a lovely can-can girl music box and, ultimately, find the key so we can get out of here.

It's not such a bad situation to be in, really: the cheerful sounds of French accordion melodies and a very charming decor make our tasks light and amusing. Like TomaTea's other recent offerings, Pearl Room Escape and Blossom Spring Escape, each brain-teaser in Golden Heart is just complex enough to require thought without being overly perplexing. Although, one puzzle will be much easier to those who know how to read and play piano music, our host provides all the necessary information to elucidate even the tone deaf; it's challenging, but a bit of logic and experimentation will solve it. Soon we'll be out, laughing about the mishap, and sharing stories with friends back home of our funny adventure while in the city of lights.

Play Golden Heart


  • Currently 4.2/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
(8 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (71) | Views (669)

You Are Games

Letters in Boxes #7

ArtbegottiIt's no secret that really unique challenges tempt. That's why for this week's Letters In Boxes puzzle, we're trying something different. We're giving you all the information you need to solve these puzzles upfront. In fact, you're reading through that deluge of information in this very paragraph. We hope you don't rail against us when you realize these puzzles might be a bit easier than normal, but we still want the experience to be gratifying. | For example, did you know that the average Letters In Boxes challenge takes 8,267,101 milliseconds to create? Also, did you know that the first random fruit I can think of is a lemon? But that's only because it was in last week's series. Anyway, that's probably enough information to crawl through, let's get on with the actual puzzles, shall we?

You've got all the information you need above, and now here's some information on how to play. Click on the starter puzzle below to open it up in a new window. Once you've fiddled around with it enough to think you know the answer to the puzzle, focus your attention on your browser's address bar (which in this case reads "http://images.jayisgames.com/lettersinboxes/startofseven.gif"). Change the filename (namely, "startofseven") to your answer, using all lower-case letters and no spaces (make sure you use the same extension and directory). If your guess is correct, you're on to the next puzzle. If not, you'll likely get an error message, but you can feel free to go back and try again.

Letters in Boxes #7 - Puzzle 1This batch of puzzles contains four puzzles to solve. On the fourth puzzle, you'll find the email address for sending your final answer. We'll hand out a prize to the first correct entry we receive, plus ten additional randomly-selected correct entries. Please include your Casual Gameplay account display name with your entry. You must be at least 13 years of age to enter. Only one submission per participant, please. Offer void where prohibited. Your deadline for submitting your answers is Monday, July 18th at 11:59 PM (GMT-5:00). Good luck, and don't forget that everything you need to solve today's puzzles are at the top of this post!

Update: Congratulations to these 11 winners! :D

  • ThemePark ...First!
  • BobBobBobson
  • ajslama
  • metacom
  • bluemoose19
  • OtherBill
  • sillyme2
  • Binks
  • DAM
  • Nigma
  • lemonsaurus
All eleven winners were given a choice of prizes or an entry into a GRAND PRIZE drawing to be held at the end of August! Congratulations and thanks for playing with us! Look for another Letters in Boxes again soon!

  • Currently 4.2/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.2/5 (145 votes)
| Comments (23) | Views (350)

TrinnTotally OddIf you want to jump right into the subject of bizzare, an easy place to start is the art of clay animation. Consider the fantastic adventures of the iconic duo Gumby and Pokey, the wacky professor Wallace and his silent companion Grommit, or the still-beating heart of the Corpse Bride. Plasticine characters go hand-in-hand with the world of the surreal and, in this case, the Totally Odd. This surreal point-and-click puzzler is a test of your wit and will as you explore the treacherous chambers of the Horrificorp headquarters.

The controls and features are only as basic and bare-boned as necessary for a game of this genre. From the main menu you can select one of eight levels to play or replay, and reaching the door in one room will unlock the next level in the menu. The mouse is used for all purposes such as picking up items, zooming in to a certain area, or interacting with the environment. Figuring out what you can do in each level is a matter of dragging the cursor around the scene, but fortunately, the cursor icon changes to highlight hotspots and the levels are compact enough that the exploration process never becomes a cumbersome pixel hunt.

Don't let their lumpy Play Doh-like exteriors fool you... much of the seemingly innocuous scenery is actually a looming deathtrap. After you've been crushed, zapped, devoured, and impaled enough times, the quirky logic and esoteric clues sprinkled around each level will eventually start to click. Some levels include notes with hints or instructions that can occasionally be obscure or confusing, probably due to poor translation. However, most of the puzzles can be solved simply by trial-and-error and a little observation. Given the short length of each room and the relatively low difficulty, you can expect to take no more than 10 or 15 minutes to complete the entire game.

It doesn't take an expert to see the handcrafted clay models add a breath of life to what would have otherwise been a somewhat visually simplistic game. There is a deliberate lack of perfection apparent at even a casual glance... say, a pole that could easily have been set straight that curves and loops with smudges and bends. This distortion lends a dream-like quality to the game, while the subject matter seems more the stuff of nightmares. While stop-motion can sometimes look choppy or disjointed, the animations here flow seamlessly. Totally Odd packs together a great bundle of clever thinking and creative presentation. Don't let those three little words "trial-and-error" dissuade you from the thoroughly enjoyable gameplay. With a bit of persistence and patience, that "Ah-ha!" moment when you finally solve a tricky puzzle becomes all the more gratifying. If you're hungry for mental stimulation in a cute little wrapper with an unusual dash of spice, Totally Odd is the perfect brain food.

Play Totally Odd


  • Currently 4.7/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.7/5 (224 votes)
| Comments (16) | Views (449)

DoraZombotronBest described as what would happen if a physics puzzle and a zombie platform shooter were thrown in a blender, Ant Karlov's Zombotron has arrived. Is it glorious? Just a bit. You play a lone mechanical warrior on a planet apparently overrun by all manner of surly undead, and you're not just going to stand idly by while they wander around with buckets on their heads, blowing things up willy-nilly! (Admittedly, not their fault; kind of hard to see where you're going without a head.) Just be careful, since the place is literally falling apart around you, and some irresponsible jerk has gone and left a bunch of explosive canisters next to all the crumbling woodwork!... hmm... wonder if you could use that to your advantage?

Use [WASD] to move and jump around, and the mouse to aim and shoot. Your weapon and ammo are kept track of on the upper left of the screen, and your health is on the upper left; make your way to the end of each stage, gathering coins to purchase upgrades, and try not to get wiped out by the remarkably persistent monsters. (You wouldn't think mechanical warriors were even that tasty, but I guess zombies don't discriminate.) Fortunately for you, even if you run out of ammo, if you're resourceful you can usually find a way to kill your foes just by manipulating the environment; push barrels or rocks onto clueless enemies, knock down structures, bring elevators down on zombie heads, and more. Each level also introduces new baddies, like killer robots, relentless machine gun turrets, skeleton warriors, and more. Basically, it's like every piece of Evil Dead fan-fiction I ever wrote, despite a disappointing lack of Bruce Campbell's magnificent, chiseled jaw.

ZombotronAnalysis: There are a lot of zombie shooters out there, so it helps that Zombotron comes with a gleefully destructive environment and ragdoll physics, which makes it stand out from the pack surprisingly well. It doesn't hurt matters that the visuals are actually quite lovely in a dreamy, otherworldly environment sort of way, which isn't typically a compliment I get to play to a game that prominently features headless bombers and hatchet-wielding robots. It's a strange bit of criticism, but part of the enjoyment of most zombie games is the cathartic potential of charging in guns-a-blazin' while going "ARRRR", and Zombotron doesn't really pull that off. It's like sight-seeing in a beautiful, highly flammable and poorly constructed location with heavy weaponry. Actually, scratch that "poorly constructed bit", since a big part of what makes Zombotron cool is making use of the carefully placed physics devices throughout each level, where a single shot can set off a satisfyingly explosive chain of events at just the right time.

On the downside of things, the actual shooting and platforming don't feel quite as responsive as you might hope them to be, mainly because a vaguely sluggish feel to the controls makes it seem like you're operating underwater. The fact that your shots are also all over the place to a certain degree, no matter how steady your cursor is, makes picking off monsters on the other side of obstacles annoying. Enemies also just aren't that smart, which is admittedly understandable if you're talking about someone whose brain is a pile of gray mush (or who has no brain at all), but it's still somewhat disappointing to know you can deal with even the largest zombie horde simply by standing on the other side of a pit and watching them drop off as they try to reach you. It's like if Wile E Coyote wanted to eat your brains; maybe the sequel will have you painting a tunnel on a brick wall with some ACME paint.

But even with its problems, Zombotron is still a welcome respite from the tide of samey, gorey zombie shooters, and brings a much needed touch of creativity to the genre. The levels are nice and big, with a great sense of exploration lent to the way you find your way around that almost gives the game a bit of a Metroidvania feel. The additional "missions" for each level (finish in less than three minutes, with less than sixty shots fired, and so forth) will provide a nice challenge for some, but even if all you want is just some get-down, monster-thrashin' action, Zombotron is worth checking out. Besides, you want to be ready for anything when the world goes all apocalyptic and junk, don't you? This way when the whatever hits the fan and the zombies, skeletons, and robots start coming for you, you'll be all, "Pssshh! Come at me, bro!" and the sane folks can all get away while the monsters are distracted with your tender flesh.

Play Zombotron


  • Currently 3.6/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 3.6/5 (61 votes)
| Comments (2) | Views (62)

joyePenguin OverlordsMaybe we should start off with what Penguin Overlords isn't, in case you for one are ready to welcome them. This is not a game about the Spheniscidae aristocracy tramping its collective webbed foot upon the downtrodden. This is a game where turtles are evil. And can hide under the ground sometimes. And also carry military-grade weapons on the backs of their shells. Look, turtles bad, penguins good, alright? You've got to upgrade la resistance manchot if you're going to stand a chance. Say by hacking off the beak and replacing it with a zombie beak. And then watching from a topdown perspective while the penguin/turtle throwdown commences. Why are you looking at me like that? Blame the developer, Christopher Gregorio.

You start off on ice, which is rather natural for penguins, but soon enough you'll be sending your rampaging army into the jungle and beyond. During the actual battle screens, you can't do anything at first except mouse around to pick up money that is dropped by dead turtles. Eventually you'll earn enough to buy upgrades to do things like provide a health boost to your penguin soldiers or even get in the fray personally by dropping a bomb. But even at max upgrade level your ability to participate is rather limited. Instead, it's all about the upgrades. Spend your money wisely in the shop, and soon you'll be picking bits of shell out of your teeth.

Like many upgrade-centric games, there's a certain detachment in the playing experience here. It's not like the worst grinding games where you can pretty much flip over to another window and the game plays itself, but emotionally there's still a certain amount of feeling like you're watching the game rather than playing it during battle sequences. This almost gives the game more of a simulation feel rather than an action shooter.

However, there's something to be said for being the general sometimes rather than the footsoldier. Actually in Penguin Overlords, it's more like being the Secretary of Acquisitions and Spending. It would have been nice if there was a bit more strategy involved in equipping the penguins (the equipment upgrades are linear improvements), but there is definite strategy in choosing what order to buy things in. Plus, you know, penguins are better than turtles. That's just fact.

Play Penguin Overlords


  • Currently 4.8/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.8/5 (228 votes)
| Comments (39) | Views (963)

Weekday Escape

GrinnypAh, the title Ancient Scripts is a fantastic one for a room escape, isn't it? It conjures up visions of Indiana Jones and hunting through dark, mysterious ruins seeking a hidden treasure. So does Robamimi's latest escape actually take place in a tomb, or a cave, or a pyramid? Sadly, no, but don't let that put you off, no indeed. Ancient Scripts may take place in a sedately furnished modern room, but it is definitely worth checking out. And, hey, no snakes or spiders jumping out of dark corners, so that's a plus!

AncientScriptsWhile Ancient Scripts is sadly lacking in far away places, skeletons, or jump scares what it does supply is some fantastic room escaping. This is a standard one and a half room escape, but what it lacks in story or background it makes up for with tricky puzzles and easy on the eyes scenery. Navigation is the usual bars and arrows at the edges of the screens, and there's a lovely changing cursor to indicate areas of interest. As you explore you need to find a few objects, solve a few puzzles, and eventually you will make it out into the sunshine. And, hey, no strange giant rabbit to appease this time around.

Even better than the lovely backgrounds is the musical accompaniment which is...not music at all. Instead as you search frantically for a way out you will be serenaded with splendid recordings of wild birds which only add to the atmosphere of isolation in this sparsely furnished room. The birdsong is a nice change from room escape designers using the same music clip over and over and over again (I'm looking at you, Tesshi-e). For folks who are colorblind there is at least one color-based puzzle so be warned, escaping might be a bit difficult for you.

Analysis: There's a lot of debate about what makes a good escape game. Some folks prefer snazzy graphics, some folks prefer tough puzzles, and some folks prefer easy puzzles. I, myself, prefer a game where everything flows together logically from point A to point B and on and on until you reach point Z and hopefully escape. Robamimi has always done this, but they add a little something extra that elevates their games above much of the pack, elegance.

I can hear it right now. "Sure, the backgrounds are nice, but elegant?" That's not what we're talking about here. Elegance in both hints and puzzles is something hard to define, but it's the difference between staring at something for a while and having a light bulb go off above your head ("oh, that's what I'm supposed to do") or having a shiver run down your spine ("wow, so that's what that means!"). Robamimi tends to traffic in really elegant clues and solutions, and a perfect example of that can be found in the last Robamimi escape we featured, Hermit Rabi and Wonder Fountain. The wobbly picture puzzle has been done so many times before, but rarely has a clue for the solution been so...elegant, and what made it even better was that the clue itself was not just the solution to the picture puzzle (spoiler alert!), but also doubled as the first route in the maze. In Ancient Scripts, Robamimi has gone one better and produced two clues that serve double duty for two puzzles each, upping that "wow" factor even more.

The puzzles in Ancient Scripts are not the hardest we've ever seen, but if the only criteria for a good escape game was terribly difficult puzzles then Smile for Me would have a much better rating than it has. What Ancient Scripts has that many other games don't have though is that indefinable elegance of design, in the controls, in the backgrounds, and most especially in the puzzles. It's time for your mid-week break, and this one is a doozy! Just don't be expecting the title to have much to do with the game and you'll do just fine.

Play Ancient Scripts


  • Currently 4.6/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.6/5 (206 votes)
| Comments (34) | Views (487)

ImpasseArtbegottiWhen you're writing about a minimalist game, particularly when it's a puzzle game where half the fun of the game is discovering the rules yourself, it's really hard not to go overboard with nonsense in a review. You could turn the entire thing into a sonnet or some other metric form, or talk up the game in incredibly vague and flowery terms. Impasse by Wanderlands doesn't need that. It's a clever but tricky puzzler that speaks for itself, even if it lacks so much as a title screen.

Without spoiling too much of the actual gameplay, the goal is to navigate your circle (the plus) to the finish line (the check) in each level using the [arrow] keys. Along the way, you'll encounter different obstacles that create an impasse for you. These obstacles behave in different ways, so you've got to figure out what each one does and why. There are twenty-four levels to traverse with increasing difficulty. The shortest distance between two points certainly isn't a straight line here, as you'll end up making circles around yourself to find the correct path to the exit.

The simplistic presentation of a handful of circles and symbols with subtle sound effects works well for a puzzler of this sort, where concentration and calmness come in handy. On the other hand, the minimalistic approach does leave a few helpful items out, such as the ability to select puzzles. While you can skip an unlimited number of levels through the menu using the [Esc] key, you can't actually backtrack and play a previous level without resetting the entire game. Also, it feels as though too many puzzle elements were crammed into such a small package, as you're still being introduced to new circle types within the last few levels of the game.

That said, there's a tremendous amount of brainbusting to be found in such a tiny game. You only have thirty spots to move to, but you'll be trekking around the grid for a good long time. It'll be pretty hard to pass up this Impasse.

Play Impasse

Thanks to Donut and Taylor for sending this one in!


  • Currently 4.8/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.8/5 (2599 votes)
| Comments (75) | Views (3,869)

TrickyStealing the DiamondBank robbery can be fun, and Escaping from Prison is satisfying, but diamonds are a stickman's best friend. And, wouldn't ya know it, the Tunisian Diamond is on display at Stickville Museum. It's night, so the usual rabble has gone home. It's just a couple of guards standing between you and an early retirement. With all your technology on-hand, they should prove no problem, right?... WRONG! Puffballs United is back with another comical adventure, Stealing the Diamond. It's schadenfreuderiffic!

Stealing the Diamond is set-up choose-your-own-adventure style. An animation plays, and every so often you use the mouse (and occasionally the keyboard) to make a choice as to what your stickman avatar should do to proceed. The main divergence comes at the beginning, where you choose between Busting In and Sneaking In. The choices of the former generally have a time limit (giving it the feel of an old laser-disc game), while the latter's do not. There are three paths to a successful heist and forty ways to fail. There's no particular rhyme or reason as to what choices will succeed or fail, so progress will inevitably include dying a lot. Of course, that's sort of the point. A 7% chance of victory may seem low, but remember... it's a very big diamond.

This interactive movie might be more movie than interactive, but otherwise it has the complete package: smooth animation, hilarious writing, impressive voice-acting, snarky death messages, and a kickin' soundtrack. Puffballs clearly has an understanding of the nature of animated physical comedy, and many of the situations he creates wouldn't be out of place in the best Road Runner cartoons. I also really liked the background scenery of the museum. There's so many jokes to spot that I'm sure I missed a few by blinking. There are also quite a few internet-culture references herein: those who know their FALCON PAAAAAAUNCH! from their SHOOP-DA-WHOOP will probably enjoy this more than those who don't. Still, there are more than enough crashing into walls for everyone to enjoy. Achievement hunters might have preferred the inclusion of a save system, but, overall, Stealing the Diamond is a real gem.

Play Stealing the Diamond

Thanks to Chris and Joshua for sending this one in!


| Comments (5) | Views (31)

The Vault

TrickyAs I sit here drinking a cool refreshing Dr. Pepper™, typing on a Dell™ computer with an Intel™ Pentium™ Processor, I check my Omega™ sports watch and realize it's time for another edition of the JayIsGames™ Vault™. (Lets all pause a second to have a hunger-satisfying Snickers™ and to lace up our Reeboks™) This week, we feature three of the best advergames from our archives. If only all commercials could be this fun!

  • RSVPRSVP - Admittedly I haven't watched much Lifetime TV since they cancelled Supermarket Sweep... though I think I saw the movie they did about the dangers of casual-gaming addiction. It must not have taken, since I still can't tear myself away from This Is Pop's RSVP. The party-planning show it was created to hock is long gone from the airwaves, and so we are left with one of the best card games ever put on the web. The retro visuals and classic gameplay could fool you into thinking this game was invented in the Nineteen-Fifties rather than the Twenty-Aughties and the easy-to-learn mechanics makes for a excellent difficulty curve. Planning a seating chart has never been more enjoyable!
  • Jack The GrooveJack the Groove - John Moore once said "It's practically impossible to look at a penguin and feel angry". Well, give that penguin some friends, a hat and a Hawaiian shirt, and it's practically impossible to not have a good game. Jack the Groove, also known as The Malibu 9 Rescues Mr. Malibu (and 6/9 of the Deepfried Posse), is a rhythm platformer that makes me smiley. Is it the techno soundtrack? Is it the surreal landscapes and enemies? Is it the flamingo in a sombrero? I don't know, I just love it. I doubt I'll ever get to Club Malibu, it being in Sweden and possibly no longer in existence. Still, this game definitely deserves a round on the house.
  • Telescope GameTelescope Game - Dyson... maker of quality home appliances and, apparently, quality simple idea puzzle games. I suppose Telescope Game makes for a poor vacuum advertisement since it doesn't suck at all. It's a game of push and pull as you use the power of telescopic extension to move a silver ball into the hole. Sadly, as far as I can tell, some of the level packs once available have disappeared from the Dyson site. However, the 25+ levels still up are more than enough to tease your brain for a half hour. Also, while you're there, those interested in action-based vacuum-shilling fun should check out Dyson's Ball Game.

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 4.6/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.6/5 (78 votes)
| Comments (8) | Views (825)

MikeDropI like games that use the Unity engine, and I like musical games that are also random soundtrack generators, but I usually don't like physics puzzlers. So I suppose that Drop, a musical physics puzzler in Unity from Quick Fingers, gets two out of three! Actually, Drop is a great example of how an often mediocre genre can be original and fun with just the right presentation. Drop doesn't have an elaborate backstory or hamfisted theme, but instead relies on cool, clean visuals and some clever sound design for a game that's often quite fun to play.

Sandbox mode gives you a free screen to draw on and play with, while the actual gameplay is found in Puzzle mode. The goal of Drop's Puzzle mode is to fill all the end pipes with bouncy white projectiles. These projectiles appear from one or more other pipes throughout the level, and you can maneuver projectiles around obstacles and to their goal by drawing lines across the screen, off of which they will readily ricochet. Draw a line by clicking and dragging with the left mouse button, and delete it by clicking on it with the right button. Certain colors indicate that obstacles will behave in certain ways; white acts pretty much like a line you draw, red destroys projectiles, blue is super-elastic, etc. You can only draw a certain number of lines each level, so the challenge is in shuttling the projectiles around obstacles as efficiently as you can.

While many Unity games make use of its 3D capabilities, Drop doesn't have a 3D appearance, and instead uses Unity to manage the game's physics. The look that results is simple, colorful, and "computer-y" in a Tron sort of way that looks great. The sound design is perhaps Drop's most unique feature: Every time a projectile bounces off a non-red surface, it plays a random pitch that fits a given key. In Sandbox mode, you can create elaborate physical soundtrack machines in this way, and for levels with many lines and obstacles, the result is a bloopy, carnival soundtrack that makes even the most tricky levels fun to listen to. Levels in Drop range from fairly easy to pretty challenging, and the hardest levels require a great deal of finesse and attention. Thankfully due to a recent update to the game, you can now move and edit endpoints thus making fine tuning of your designs a breeze.

Overall, Drop contains smart level design, fun effects, and spiffy presentation. Drop is a fine physics-puzzle game that shows a little clever attention to detail can liven up an otherwise ordinary game.

Play Drop


  • Currently 3.6/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 3.6/5 (43 votes)
| Comments (2) | Views (30)

JamesFroggish SwimmerIt's surprising that you don't see more 'one button' games. With the age of touch screens upon us, it's likely to be a booming genre soon, but currently they only appear every now and then. Fortunately each one has a fresh take on the concept; perhaps this is why many developer steer clear of one button games, as they require some lateral game design that seems so obvious once you see it in action. Like, what is so hard about coming up with a game about moving a frog through murky levels using mouse clicks? No idea, but Remar Games and Ludosity's action arcade game Froggish Swimmer was first.

Presented in crispy pixel graphics and a soundtrack reminiscent of truly old console gaming, Froggish Swimmer is a fiendish little offering where you guide your frog towards a whirlpool. In his way are various obstacles, some to be avoided, others to be bombed away. The frog responds to your cursor; a click will see it jump towards the mouse's virtual appendage. But its leaps are limited, so you need several clicks to have him hop or swim along. On occasion you can snap up flies and dragonflies - the latter extends your tongue's reach, adding another dimension to the puzzles.

Each level is a challenge, involving dexterity and puzzle-solving, with the added pressure of losing points for each click. On top of that Froggish Swimmer serves up challenges related to its own physics. It is possible, using timely clicks, to boost your frog out of the water at high speed or get a higher bounce on top of water surfaces. The later areas use this quite a lot and it's not easy. There are Five areas, each giving you a click count after completion, so you can replay each one and refine your skill. It might be necessary, since the game starts becoming aggressively demanding on your dexterity and clicking prowess towards the end of the third area.

This is a one button game like no other, with an eventual demand on skill and timing well beyond most platform games. That also makes it a game you'll likely love or hate. And let the score posting begin!

(I got 98 clicks on the first level.)

Play Froggish Swimmer


  • Currently 4.7/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.7/5 (29 votes)
| Comments (5) | Views (720)

Pocket Academy

DoraFor those of you who ever sat in class, watching their teacher drone through an analysis of HP Lovecraft's effect on modern literature and thought to yourselves, This is so boring. I could do better... Kairosoft, creator of Game Dev Story and Grand Prix Story, wants you to whip out your iOS of choice and prove it. Pocket Academy is their latest casual simulation, and this time you're put in charge of a newly constructed, struggling school. With only a handful of students, a single teacher, limited facilities and even more limited funds, will you be able to build it up to be one of the highest ranked schools in the country?

Pocket AcademyYour academy, for the most part, runs itself... though not very well. Students will go to class and teachers will show up, but for your school to grow and improve you'll have to take direct action. As time passes and students move through their years, you need to play closer attention to their dreams and suggestions, and work to make sure your school (and your faculty) has everything they need to graduate successfully. There are actually two types of currency in the game; cold, hard cash, and a system of points in different areas of learning (Research Points). Both are important since you need to spend them both for research projects, special tests, items, challenges, and more. While points are earned over time through regular activities, cash is primarily earned through tuition, which is paid on a schedule. Balancing the school's maintenance fees and teacher salaries with making new improvements often becomes the biggest issue at hand. (So installing that new vibrating, Mai-Tai dispensing deluxe chair in the administrator's office probably won't go over well.)

In the beginning, you'll want to take things slow and resist the temptation to start spending immediately; allow your funds and points to accumulate while you figure out what your students really need. You start out with the basics, but there's a lot of room for you to build with. The game uses a simple touch based control for everything, including moving around the map, and opening the menu. From the menu, you can access the build screen, which will let you place new facilities and decorations wherever you please (as long as you've got the dough), and also the administrative screens where you can research new school additions, arrange for special tests or challenges, and more. Faculty management is also important; you want skilled people teaching your students, but more qualified applicants (or those you train yourself) are more costly. Geez, it's like teachers expect to be paid well for the time and efforts they put into their work... who do they think they are, indie game developers?!

Pocket AcademyAnalysis: Only Kairosoft could take every aspect about school and make it adorable. That's right; no creepy janitor with the wandering eye, no teacher who sprays spit when she talks to you and smells like mothballs and regret. Everything about Pocket Academy is cheerful, colourful, and a joy to watch, with Kairosoft's trademark sprites and beautiful, simple artwork. As time passes and your school grows, the little changes that crop up are neat to catch; the way plants change with the weather, the different uniforms and behaviours certain students adopt when different activities are going on, all of it combines to keep your eyes and your brain entertained. The game's tone almost plays everything too straight, however, and it feels like the game might have benefitted from a touch of zany, anime-style comedy charm to people and events to give it more character.

If Pocket Academy falters, however, it's because it feels like you take a far too passive role in the school's growth. There's a bit too much time simply watching your students mill around, and simply not enough random events or decision making on your part to really make you feel like you're having a direct impact on the school itself. A tutorial also might have been a nice touch, since the game offers little direction beyond pointing you towards the in-game help menu. Assistant lady, what am I paying you for? Where do you go when you're not nagging me about placement scores? That's it, I'm totally blocking Farmville from school computers! Next up is Myspace and sneezing panda videos! Yeah, that's right, I know what kids these days are into!

If what you want is something simple and easy to dive right in without a whole lot of complicated management, however, Pocket Academy is an easy recommendation. It's staying power will largely depend on how attached you are to a high score, but even if you don't care about numbers the game has a lot of content to show you. The way the game paces unlocking options and facilities may chafe a little on subsequent playthroughs, but on your first run the progression feels natural. After a slow start, Pocket Academy serves up a bustling, addictive experience full of charming characters and diverse activities. While it lacks real depth, Pocket Academy is just the right sort of easy to pick up but hard to put down gameplay that fans of the genre will definitely want to check out.


| Comments (0) | Views (86)

Mobile Monday

JohnBPuzzles! Physics things! Monsters that only have the face of monsters but don't actually do anything monster-like! All this and probably a few more things in the latest edition of Mobile Monday: Android Style!

micropuzzle.gifMicroPuzzle - Logic gates are usually reserved for the highly geek-minded, but with games like SpaceChem, KOHCTPYKTOP: Engineer of the People, and Manufactoria around, that is rapidly changing. MicroPuzzle is a game built around the rules of digital circuits. You are given a number of wires whose input must be matched to the expected output. You have a limited number of circuit transformers to place on the grid, so you have to put them in the right place and in the right order to get everything sorted out. Loads of puzzles to complete, and ample tutorial stages help acclimate you to the knowledge-rich puzzle environment!

apparatus.gifApparatus - Aah, physics and building games. How you help make the days go by faster! Similar to Fantastic Contraption, Apparatus is one of the more free-form construction games that requires you to not only arrange pieces where they need to be, but also to attach, disengage, and rotate things to put them in the proper position. In essence, you're building a complex machine to perform the simple task of moving a ball to the blue bucket. Best of all, sandbox mode allows you to work with your contraptions however you like, all with a smooth touch interface that works extraordinarily well on tablets! The free Apparatus LITE is also available.

amonsteratemy.gifA Monster Ate My Homework - The oldest excuse in the book (after the monsters took over and dogs became extinct following the fourth World War), this charming 3D physics puzzle game is all about saving stacks of homework from the nasty (but mostly immobile) monster blocks. Tap the screen to throw a ball at the monsters. Knock them all off without sending your homework tumbling to move on to the next stage. Some of the configurations of monsters/books is daunting, and you'll fail a number of times before finding just the right way to get rid of the bad guys safely.

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 4.4/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.4/5 (29 votes)
| Comments (29) | Views (301)

Robot Unlock

ArtbegottiRobot Unlock is a puzzle game by Madflame Software in which you're challenged to program a robot to perform certain tasks. What sort of tasks, you ask? Is it vacuuming the carpet starting along the outside walls and working in toward the center? Is it making breakfast sandwiches and wrapping them in foil for you and your co-workers to nosh on during the day? Is it riding a unicycle through a world of perilous flashing neon blocks? Nope, it's a much simpler, more worthy task. MATHS. Write that down in your copy book now.

Robot UnlockIn each level of Robot Unlock, your goal is to program a path for your Executor robot to travel around a series of command tiles that alter the robot's stored memory. Your memory consists of four slots, each of which hold a number. In some levels your starting digits are randomly generated, while in others the numbers are constants, but your goal always remains the same; change the input (Initial Code) in your memory to match the output (Required Code) on the right. As instructed by Ted, your friendly robot guide, the Required Code has to match a certain set of criteria based on the Initial Code, such as swapping the numbers in the first two memory slots or comparing the input values and moving the third-largest to slot 1.

Your instruments through this journey are a range of mathematical stepping stones which can be placed along the Executor's path, as well as two indicators to mark your position in the memory, colored dark green and light green. You can move the memory pointers left and right using the double-arrow tiles, then perform mathematical equations that compare the numbers held by the pointers, with the output replacing the number in one of your slots. It would take a long time to discuss every possible operation, but know that you can perform the four basic operation (add, subtract, multiply, divide), force the robot to take a detour if one number is greater than another, and other functions.

Once you think you know how to program your speedy robot, use the toolbars at the top to select the tiles to drop down below. You have three palettes to choose from, including one that features commands relating to the dark green memory pointer, one for the light green pointer, and a blue tileset that corresponds to the movements of the Executor itself. Click on a tile to use, then click on the grid to plop it down there. When everything's in place, hit the play button and watch as your robot works it's magical mathematical mojo. Your bot will follow the tiles you've set until it falls into "the abyss" surrounding the play area. If your memory matches the required output, you'll unlock a new level for fiddling about in.

Analysis: Robot Unlock taps into a very basic concept employed by what is essentially its chemistry-based predecessor, SpaceChem. Each level challenges you to solve a complicated problem using only the resources and space provided. As I was playing through this game, I found myself frequently longing for a way to change higher numbers into 1s and 0s quickly, without repeatedly ticking down one digit at a time until the target is reached. There's not a false sense of difficulty that comes from the lack of available tools, but a pleasurable challenge of simplicity that hits you in the forehead when you realize how quick and easy the task is (for example, dividing a number by itself gives you a 1, subtracting a number from itself gives you 0).

Robot UnlockThat said, finding those solutions can still be a tricky mess. Determining the plan of action is often times the hardest part of each puzzle, given how few resources you have to work with. One factor that greatly contributes to the difficulty is the randomness of the input numbers given. Very much unlike SpaceChem, where the inputs are constants (or are limited to three possibilities), any integer (with a limit of +/-100ish) is fair game. You can't just program a path that works for one set of numbers that you think might pop up, you've got to program a path that works for every set of numbers.

Along this same vein, there's a pseudo-bug worth mentioning. Since the numbers are randomly generated, it's entirely possible that a set of numbers will satisfy the output conditions, without a single tile laid down. In the early levels, this is overlooked and treated as a valid solution. As far as introducing people to concepts goes, this isn't the greatest way to start off the game, since you can bypass levels in which you familiarize yourself with critical strategies. However, this is corrected in later levels with the requirement that your program must function three consecutive times in order to pass. It's a good save, but it really would be worth considering for use earlier in the game.

Unfortunately, this game's interface is a bit crude, which can lead to some confusion if you're not careful. One problem is that while selecting tiles, there's no way to tell what tile in the palette you've selected, such as highlighting your choice or a separate indicator. Also, Ted's instructions, though helpful, can linger on the screen a bit too long with no way of working around them or clearing them without waiting a short period of time. They're minor presentation quibbles, but they can become grating after a while.

Still, Robot Unlock packs some difficult challenges into a fun atmosphere. Just like other programming games, you might spend more time working outside of the game to produce an answer, but seeing your analysis pay off in the end (with, well, pixely fireworks) is worth it, just to know you trounced the troublesome task. If you're looking for a number-crunching challenge that emphasizes how you crunch rather than the numbers themselves, Robot Unlock is here to satisfy your need. And who knows, maybe it does help with the vacuuming.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

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


(8 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (4) | Views (335)

Vampire Saga: Welcome to Hell Lock

JohnBYou wake up. Disoriented. Outside of an abandoned town. All you know is your motorcycle is ruined, but a series of vague images continually float through your mind. The town you're stranded outside of was evacuated decades ago because of a fire in the mines. Coal is still burning below the surface, and something ghostly walks the streets above ground. Vampire Saga: Welcome to Hell Lock, a sequel to Vampire Saga: Pandora's Box, is an extraordinarily well-done hidden object adventure that incorporates classic horror film methods to create a creepy, captivating world that draws your interest out with each and every step you take.

Vampire Saga: Welcome to Hell LockA casual adventure at its core, Vampire Saga unleashes hidden object scenes at a long pace, leaving you plenty of time to enjoy the game's wealth of inventory-related puzzles. Search for areas you can take a closer look at by clicking on the shining spots, then figure out what you might need to solve the puzzle. Move from scene to scene by clicking the navigation arrows, and when you find an item you think might come in handy, try using it! More often than not, the object that solves a puzzle will be easily found and immediately obvious what you'll need to do with it, it's just a matter of getting there and getting things done.

Vampire Saga features a few shortcut mechanics that every single hidden object game released in the future should incorporate. The first is a sort of hot/cold radar for locating items during the hidden object scenes. Move the cursor around the area and watch the list of items below. See some of them slowly turning green? The greener the word, the closer your cursor is to the object. No more scouring every pixel to find a pair of binoculars! Vampire Saga makes it so you have automatic help if you need it, turning hidden object scenes into pure fun.

The second feature in Vampire Saga that should be emulated is the quick-travel photo album. After visiting a scene, you can access their images by clicking on the photographs below. Look at a shot, see if there's something you need to do there, then click the "travel" button to instantly transport yourself there. No more tedious clicking to backtrack, just instant travel for instant puzzle solving. It's simple, but it goes a long way to making the game more accessible and more entertaining.

Vampire Saga: Welcome to Hell LockAnalysis: Do mystery games intrigue you? Does the horror genre make you all goosebumpey and happy on the inside? Vampire Saga: Welcome to Hell Lock is totally the game for you. Casual adventure games rarely get this sort of genre right, often resorting to cheesy gimmicks or tired tropes in an attempt to coax a scare out of the player. Here, though, you'll be genuinely interested, especially after you see the, well, "smoke human" and find your own face on an empty can. I'll say no more!

Vampire Saga has the unfortunate habit of holding your hand a bit too frequently, providing loud sparkles for objects you need to interact with, and a hint system that walks you right to the next task. Depending on where you stand on the subject, this may or may not be a drawback. And besides, most of the helpful nudges the game gives you can simply be ignored, so if you want more of a challenge, just don't ask for help!

Also worth noting: Vampire Saga is longer than your average hidden object title, clocking it at five to six hours of playtime for most users. It's a rare game that's genuinely scary without resorting to cheap thrills, Vampire Saga: Welcome to Hell Lock is a satisfying hidden object adventure with a number of great gameplay features that make it a complete joy to experience!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


(7 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (0) | Views (78)

Foreign Dreams

JohnBThe business of fixing dreams is a delicate one. It requires a lot of time and energy, the clients are few, and let's face it, the pay probably isn't that great. That doesn't stop a young woman from helping out her tormented friend, Victor, from sussing out the source of his nightmares by traveling within his world of dreams. Foreign Dreams is a visually stylish hidden object adventure game that lays on imagery and mystery in its unusually-crafted world. As you follow a frightening young girl through Victor's dreams, you begin to piece together a bit of the puzzle surrounding the source of his nightmares.

Foreign DreamsForeign Dreams follows a very simple structure that is divided into dreams that contain a number of scenes of their own. You start out by visiting one of Victor's nightmares and looking for fragments of imagery laying around the rooftop. Click on objects that are shown by silhouette at the bottom of the screen to collect them. Occasionally you can zoom into certain parts of an area to find more items. You'll also discover new pieces of information that can add to your list of objects to find, all of which are stored in a scrolling bar at the bottom of the screen.

Keep your eyes peeled for anything that looks out of place, as Foreign Dreams often requires you to backtrack a few steps to find items that complete new puzzles. To exit a dream, for example, you must locate pieces of a dreamcatcher. These pieces can be found throughout the dream's previous scenes, so if you were paying attention the whole time, you can quickly zap back and pick them up. If you get stuck, the hint system is pretty smart, so no worries!

There are lots of mini-games to complete in Foreign Dreams, most of which are fairly standard in the casual gaming world. Jigsaw puzzles, tile arranging puzzles and the like help string together scenes into a cohesive whole, each one directly related to the dream at hand.

Foreign DreamsAnalysis: Unusual in construction and style, Foreign Dreams slips under most radars simply because it doesn't follow the "make a spooky story with vampires/wolves/ancient relics and add laundry lists of items to find in the jungle" format. It doesn't try to be epic with its storytelling or design, instead offering a rather straightforward experience with mystery and charm around every scene.

Foreign Dreams runs an average length for a hidden object adventure game, clocking in at three hours or more, depending on your skills at finding items. Unfortunately, because of the game's thin structure, many of the latter dreams feel repetitive since they follow the same format as the dreams before it, making the last half of the experience feel stale.

Foreign Dreams uses a lot of imagery to tell its story, and rightfully so, seeing as how most of the game takes place in the symbolic world of dreams. All of this is shown with the game's intriguing art style that makes heavy use of dark, cool colors and thick-lined objects, giving it a hand-drawn manga sort of appearance. The animations even look great, distracting you from the sometimes-awkward excuses the main character finds to stay and look for objects instead of continuing the story.

Foreign Dreams isn't a perfect game, but it tries something different and does so with a charming sort of style. You'll love the imagery, the references to popular occult figures, and the visual style from beginning to end!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


| Comments (8) | Views (43)

Weekend Download

JohnBMemorization has been a part of video gaming history since the very early days. Want to make it through the next level? Memorize everything, it's the only way. Arcade cabinets mastered this technique to get players to feed them more coins, but the concept has carried on through today, especially in action-oriented games.

proun.gifProun (Windows, 70MB, pay what you want) - An arcade racer with an artistic style you'd have to look far and wide in the indie gaming realm to match. Proun puts you in control of a ball racing against other balls down a wire. You can move around this wire, rotating the world as you do, to keep your path free and clear of dastardly geometric obstacles. The game is mostly about memorizing track patterns and working with your reflexes to refine your times, but it's hard to talk about the game without gushing over its beautiful visuals. I mean, look at that screenshot! Look at the other screenshots! It's like a playable painting! Proun also sports multiplayer splitscreen, online highscores, unlockable speeds, several tracks, and modding tools that help you create your own levels. Note: Proun is released on a pay what you want model, meaning you can even get the full game for free. If you give some cash, though, you'll walk away with a bonus track!

dontloseyour.gifDon't Lose Your Head (Windows, 5.7MB, free) - It's time for another extra-challenging 2D platform game! This simply-illustrated game plays high on your "ooh, that's artsy" meter with its stark visuals and neat "DEATH" text splattered everywhere you bite the dust. The goal is to reach the pulsating orb at the end of the level. The obstacles include spikes, rolling mines (with spikes), and an eye that loves to shoot laser goo at you whenever it possibly can (no spikes there, at least). Frustration can sometimes set in, hence the game's title, but the challenge is there, and you'll never give up because the game is working against you. Only because you haven't mastered the short level yet!

gridpix.gifGridpix - Retro Heroes (Windows, 3.3MB, free) - You like picross puzzles as much as we do? You like retro games as much as we do? Hey, looks like Simple-Media is your new hero! Gridpix is a very simple logic game with 32 puzzles complete, spread across 8x8 and 16x16 grids. It's missing most convenience features modern players are used to, such as lines marking 5x5 spaces, clue numbers crossing themselves out when the row/column is complete, and a mouse cursor that can draw straight lines even if you move the mouse all waggly. Despite that, the puzzles are pretty good, the music is great, and the challenge level is nice and high, perfect for fans of picross!


(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (7) | Views (177)

themissing-b.jpg

GrinnypThe life of a search and rescue pilot is an exciting one, isn't it? At any given moment you might be hauling crab fishermen from the Bering Sea, making a daring rescue three quarters of the way up Mount Everest, heck, you might even be the second in line to the throne of England! Although, come to think of it, only one particular search and rescue pilot would be able to fulfill that last one. Nevertheless, it's an exciting and extremely dangerous job, and it just happens to be the occupation of the hero of The Mission: A Search and Rescue Mystery, the newest adventure/hidden object hybrid from Sulus Games. I'm thinking, though, that in this game this particular pilot is not exactly the Duke of Cambridge.

themissing.jpgA professor and his four students have gone missing on a tiny, almost invisible island (actually two islands) in the middle of the ocean, the only clue to their fate is a mysterious rescue call from said island. Our intrepid pilot friend rushes to the scene only to be trapped by the strange and unseasonable weather that is swirling about the place. Pretty soon it becomes apparent that something pretty bad has gone down and that there is more to the disappearances than just bad luck and chancy weather. The professor's research, you see, has awakened something, and that something is stalking every living thing on the island. Can the plucky pilot fix whatever has gone wrong and find all of the missing folks before time runs out? That, dear gamer, is entirely in your hands.

After the harrowing opening animation the game begins on Toto island, home of Professor Kelvin and his research team. The player must navigate their way around the island and interact with the scenery with a simple point and click of the mouse. The Mission: A Search and Rescue Mystery features that staple of the adventure hybrid, a changing cursor, which indicates things that can be picked up, things that can be examined, and areas to which you can travel. Sparkles of various colors indicate either places of interest, mini-games and puzzles, and of course the obligatory hidden object scenes where you collect a lot of stuff to find one useful item. Found items will then be used to solve other games and puzzles and eventually the central mystery of the island itself and the fate of its inhabitants will be revealed.

themissing2.jpgThe mini-games and puzzles are the best part of The Mission: A Search and Rescue Mystery. Although there will be some familiar tropes along the way (it's just not an adventure hybrid without a pipe puzzle, is it?) many are either new and original or ones that are not used all that often in the adventure/hidden object field. Better yet is the difficulty of the puzzles which increases the further into the island you go, involving a lot of spatial reasoning, logic, and observational skills. Good thing there's your trusty notebook keeping track of various clues you find along the way, otherwise you'd be in for a lot of backtracking. Eventually you will reason your way to the dramatic ending and learn the secrets of the mysterious islands.

Analysis: The MIssion: A Search and Rescue Mystery is not your average adventure hybrid, which is a good thing. The emphasis here is on the mini-games and puzzles with the hidden objects scenes seeming to be almost an afterthought, not that that's a bad thing. Oh contraire! With less emphasis on picking up tons of items and more emphasis on pure logic The Mission plays almost like a pure adventure game, or even their modern flash descendants, room escape games.

themissing3.jpgA lot of work and effort has gone into the look and feel of The Mission: A Search and Rescue Mystery. The backgrounds are pretty stunning, even in the gloomy light of the storm (and the later conjured darkness), and the moody music and incidental sounds only add to the increasing tension as you rush to rescue the professor and his students from...whatever fate awaits them. Sorry, you'll have to enjoy the ratcheting tension spoiler free.

If there is a downside to this atmospheric and challenging game it is that those beautiful backgrounds are a bit underutilized. They're pretty to look at, but there's not much to do in any of the scenes that you wander through during your adventure. More hidden object scenes are not necessarily needed, which would simply feel like padding, but when you've created such exciting and elaborate places to visit it would be nice if you could interact with them more. Because you can't, and due to the fact that each hidden object scene is only accessed once, that means that The Mission: A Search and Rescue Mystery is shorter than it could have been. Of course, most of the adventure hybrids on the market today suffer from the same problem: shrinking gameplay. The story itself, although interesting, is also pretty predictable and the storyline, characters, and settings seem a bit ripped off from Lost.

Despite the shortcomings The Mission: A Search and Rescue Mystery is still a blast to play if only for those puzzles. For those who miss the days of classic point-and-click adventuring this is a game that, while not completely resurrecting the old days, certainly comes closer than most on the market. Moody, atmospheric, and challenging, this game is one that will grip the player from the first crack of thunder to the dramatic denouement. Give The Mission: A Search and Rescue Mystery a whirl and become the heroic pilot you've always wanted to be without the accompanying danger (or Discovery Channel camera crews).

A Collector's Edition is also available. It includes concept art, wallpapers, a well-written built-in game guide, and a hefty side adventure that covers the professor's early days on the island, long before he was a professor. 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:
Also available: Collector's Edition


| Comments (20) | Views (36)

Link Dump Fridays

DoraWEEOOOOO! What's that? Why, it's the sound the Internet Police make, and unfortunately for you, they know all about that thing you did that one time! (And frankly, we are shocked and appalled but also slightly intrigued.) Do not pass "GO", do not collect your weekly Link Dump games, go directly to Monday. I'm serious, now. Don't click those games, they're not for you! Wh... HEY. NO. BAD. I said NO. Oooohhh, you're gonna be so mad at yourself when you go to Internet Court. The judge is the U MAD guy, and the jury is just twelve of the Caramelldansen girls... let's see how cute and catchy you think it is after fourteen hours, buddy.

  • Droid AssaultDroid Assault - These aren't the droids you're looking for... unless the droids you're looking for are in an arena shooter, in which case they're totally right here! Indulge in a little fast-paced pew-pew-pew action as you blast your mechanical brethren to smithereens and then cannibalize (... robotilize?) them for scrap to upgrade yourself. It's like if Buffalo Bill lived in the Star Wars galaxy! It puts the gears on its chassis or else it gets the EMP again...
  • Mr Strange and the CoreMr Strange and the Core - Fans of floppy, skinny teddy-bears... unite! Mr Strange, who is apparently a gentleman, needs to solve a series of physics puzzle sliding mazes in order to escape from a mad scientist's lair. Because, you know, that's the sort of thing mad scientists do when they don't even have any ill-tempered sea bass laying around, which is kind of sad when you think about it. Aw.
  • The Pied Piper of HamelinThe Pied Piper of Hamelin - Minoto puts a signature point-and-click puzzle spin on the classic tale of rats and pipes, and the little lads who love them. You'll need to figure out how to save all the mice being menaced by various predicaments in order to proceed, and it's all done in wonderful, typical, surreal Minoto fashion. It's funny that I can't think of this without remembering that one jerk in Black and White who totally used to run off with all the village's children, but I suppose that was probably a better fate than being eaten by a giant, ill-behaved mystical cow.
  • Bazooki: A Silent AffairBazooki: A Silent Affair - Twirl your mustache and don your ironic monocle for this easy yet stylish physics projectile puzzle. Just make sure you do it quietly, since this is all old-timey and whatnot, and we don't have noise back in the day... just black cards with sound effects written on them we'd hold up to communicate. It was like Hush, but nowhere near as terrifying. Tru fax, yo,
  • Mia's Happy DayMia's Happy Day - Hamumu's latest platformer is all about an adorable puppy having a good time performing stunts for high scores. The dedication is a little bit heartbreaking, but I'm sure any dog would be happy being able to frolic, leap, dig, wall-climb, and backflip for all eternity. You can also grind along telephone wires, which makes me wonder if Mia has been taking lessons from Cole MacGrath, in which case I look forward to the level where she has to save Zeke from himself again.

  • Currently 4.6/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.6/5 (1791 votes)
| Comments (72) | Views (857)

TrickyStory of the BlanksMy Little Pony, My Little Pony, what will today's adventure be? Well, in Friendship is Magic: Story of the Blanks, a retro-NES experience by Donitz, Applebloom talks herself into going with Twilight Sparkle to deliver a package to the magician in the forest. But the woods are dark and scary, and you'll never know what you will find... Flowers? Friendship? Magic? Love? Diamonds? Candy? Who knows? You'll need a beautiful heart, faithful and strong, to make it to the end, but a little bit of magic should make it all complete.

Story of the Blanks has a simple control scheme, befitting its 8-bit appearance. [Arrow keys] to move Applebloom and [z] to talk to her pony friends, pick up and deliver items, and any other sort of interaction with the world of the blanks.

Story of the Blanks makes for a nice pastiche of old-school licensed games. I thought it cool that staying within the limitations of the NES hardware was clearly a consideration by the developer and musicians. It's not quite up to the Great Gatsby level, but I could easily imagine this requiring repeated cartridge blowing to start up. The game not particularly long or difficult, and while a knowledge of the cartoon may add to your enjoyment, it's not required. Please note by the rating that there are elements that don't exactly fit with the kidsafe nature of the cartoon... that's the internet for ya, I guess. Still, Friendship is Magic: The Story of the Blanks is short, twisty, and demented in all the right ways. Whether you're playing it for the meme or just as a break, I think you'll enjoy it.

Play Friendship is Magic: Story of the Blanks


  • Currently 4.6/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.3/5 (36 votes)
| Comments (9) | Views (50)

Babylon Sticks: Easter Spoiler comic

Congratulations to Ken 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.


  • Currently 4.6/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
(11 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (107) | Views (173)

You Are Games

Letters in Boxes #6

ArtbegottiSuddenly, Letters In Boxes! Thousands of them! Well, it's the sixth one in the series at least. This week, we're proud to bring you a challenge like you've never seen before. Which isn't saying much, because we try to come up with new puzzles every week. But we think we've hit the jackpot this week. We've come up with a twist SO INCREDIBLE it will virtually BLOW YOUR MIND in a stream of RATHER UNNECESSARY CAPITAL LETTERS.

IN BOXES.

Before I start hyperventilating, take a look at your starter puzzle down below. If you click on it, you can open it up in its own window. Once you think you've figured out the word or phrase that's the solution, shift your eyes to your browser's address bar (which in this case reads "http://images.jayisgames.com/lettersinboxes/seesixstart.gif"). Change the filename (namely, "seesixstart") to your answer, using all lower-case letters and no spaces (make sure you use the same extension and directory). If you're right, the next puzzle will flash before your eyes! If you're wrong, an error message will appear, kindly inviting you to check your address and try again. (Error message varies by browser. Limit two hundred per customer. See store for details.)

Letters in Boxes #5 - Puzzle 1This batch of puzzles contains four puzzles to solve. On the fourth puzzle, you'll find the email address for sending your final answer. [Edit: We have also uploaded a gif for the final answer, if you wish to check your work before you submit.] We'll hand out a prize to the first correct entry we receive, plus ten additional randomly-selected correct entries. Please include your Casual Gameplay account display name with your entry. You must be at least 13 years of age to enter. Only one submission per participant, please. Offer void where prohibited. Your deadline for submitting your answers is Monday, July 11th at 11:59 PM (GMT-5:00). Keep your eyes peeled, you never know what's going to pop out of the boxes today!

Update: Congratulations to these 11 winners! :D

  • ViciousChicken ...First!
  • SirNiko
  • zxo
  • curiousgeorgie
  • CurtisFir
  • ajikeshi
  • Isi
  • mercurious2001
  • raddaya
  • dhaisud
  • chibzinator
All eleven winners were given a choice of prizes or an entry into a GRAND PRIZE drawing to be held at the end of August! Congratulations and thanks for playing with us! Look for another Letters in Boxes again soon!

  • Currently 4/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4/5 (66 votes)
| Comments (8) | Views (97)

TrickyMr. Vengeance: Act OneMaybe I'm expecting crime syndicates to have a unreasonable level of precognition, but I gotta say... I really can't see how killing the family of a guy named Mr. Vengeance is going to end positively. I mean, you have to think that with that name might get a little ticked off and have access to revenge-friendly weaponry. But hey, you have to kick off a rail shooter somehow, and you can't argue with what works. It's Mr. Vengeance: Act One by Russian developer TxGames. He'll roar. He'll rampage. He'll get bloody satisfaction.

Controls are typical for the genre. Point and click the mouse to advance scenes and fire weapons. Switch to a different one with the [1], [2], [3] and [4] keys, and reload with [R]. [Spacebar] uses a health pack. Bullets make bad guys dead.

I really dug Mr. Vengeance, but I can't deny its flawed writing. If you took Max Payne and ran its text through Babelfish several times, you'd pretty much have the script for Mr. Vengeance. Let's just say quite a bit gets lost in translation, and while it's absolutely hilarious, I don't think it was meant to be. Of course, it's not like Max Payne didn't have an obvious debt to John Woo, Death Wish, and the Matrix, but Max never said he was in a laundry room that "felt unbearable smell of dampness".

This caveat aside, Mr. Vengeance has a distinct edge of cool. The graphics and animations are absolutely gorgeous for a stick-figure game, with a stark monochrome-and-red color palette that really makes the action pop. It's also has a good range difficulty, with health-packs and ammo aplenty for noobs like me, and harder replay modes for the more skilled. It would have been nice to have different enemy models to blast, but I kind of like how it implies the targets have become indistinguishable in Mr. Vengeance rage... though, again, I don't think that was a consideration by the author.

Mr. Vengeance isn't a revelation, but it's twitchy, bloody and fun. That's really all it need to be and, as I was playing, all I wanted it to be. "Act One" implies the development of an "Act Two", and frankly, I can't wait.

Play Mr. Vengeance: Act One


  • Currently 4.4/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.4/5 (105 votes)
| Comments (33) | Views (439)

DoraThe Haunted RuinsFrom Taro Ito of Game Design.jp comes The Haunted Ruins, a retro rpg dungeon crawling experience so old school you need to be wearing pink leg warmers and remember the New Kids on the Block just to play it. Seems an evil witch (yes, this time it was some evil witches, or at least one) has caused a lot of trouble for the Tiny Fantasy Village du jour, and it's up to you to delve into the local ruins and sort it all out before the nasty creatures inside become too much of a problem. The game is played entirely with the mouse, which lets you interact with your surroundings and select various options. In the ruins, just click on the walls to turn and navigate, and move into monsters to attack with turn-based combat. As you defeat enemies, you'll gain experience and levels, and of course the almighty coin, which will let you purchase items back at the village. If you're lucky and thorough in your explorations, you could encounter a helpful mouse who'll give you some useful items, or a wizard who'll bestow a new spell upon you. Just keep an eye on your hit points; if you die, you'll lose half your cash and be warped back to town, but whenever you enter the ruins you'll pick right off at the second-to-last floor you explored.

I won't lie to you; The Haunted Ruins is retro. Like, really retro, and it's important you understand that before you play. This game thinks Shining Force and Ogre Battle are high-falutin'. The story is fairly straightforward RPG stuff, though it has a few surprises that get revealed as you play, so make sure you visit the town from time to time the as you progress. The biggest strike against the game, however, winds up being repetition, since you can go a long time without seeing much variation to your environment, and the deeper you go, the harder it can be to navigate on larger floors with the lack of a map. If you make it a point to fully explore each floor of the ruins and deal with every enemy, you'll probably be in good shape to deal with nearly everything that comes your way for a while, but past the 15th floor it feels like the brute force of the monsters spikes significantly, which might necessitate a bit too much backtracking and grinding for some players.

The Haunted RuinsIt's interesting that most of what we modern fancy-pants gamers see as issues were just par for the course back in the early baby-steps of RPGs the game is an homage to. While today it might be unthinkable to create a game where the player can't spend skill points upon leveling up, or have a story that doesn't have dialogue options between Y/N and fourteen love interests,, back in "The Day" that was just how things were done. Does this make The Haunted Ruins good or bad? Well... that's entirely dependent on you and whether you think a game made in 2011 needs to look and play like it was made within the last decade.

The Haunted Ruins is a lovingly crafted throwback to gaming as it used to be and is actually fairly addictive if you're just looking for something lighthearted. If dungeon crawling doesn't mean something dirty to you and the plinky-plunk of MIDI tracks are music to your ears, you'll want to spend some time in The Haunted Ruins, even if it does miss an opportunity for a "But thou must!" joke. Besides, if you're under twenty years old, this is practically a history lesson for you, so it's educational to boot!

Play The Haunted Ruins


  • Currently 4.7/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.7/5 (237 votes)
| Comments (24) | Views (967)

ElleOn-SenThose who have never played escape games might imagine being locked in some room, unable to exit before piecing together a series of cryptic clues as the makings of a frantic horror movie. Yet here comes 58 Works with the ultimate in relaxing accommodations: On-Sen, the halcyon hot spring waters in which to recompose and let worries wash away. In Japan, the onsen are often exclusive, most with restrictions and requisites for entry, a place many would look forward to visiting and might never want to leave. Nevertheless, to escape-the-room is the objective and so onward through the onsen we go.

Follow the on-screen arrows to explore your surroundings, looking for "Doubtful spots" to click on and investigate further. Along with some clues to help you along, a cursor that changes from an arrow to a hand will signal when an item or area should be explored in more depth. This makes exploration intuitive and effortless. Inventory items are within easy reach, needing only a simple click to examine, use or combine. Like some real onsen, this game is quiet and without music, although an occasional chime sounds when a key item is found.

On-SenAnalysis: 58 works is well known here at Casual Gameplay for its masterful escapes replete with logical puzzles and lush environments; remember Cottage and Kalaquli? Like its peers, every scene in On-Sen is picturesque, beguiling, and very peaceful, so it makes sense that the puzzles would be equally accessible, not too strenuous or taxing. Also following suit, On-Sen has a number of rooms to explore and discovering each adds more joy to the gaming experience. While finally unlocking a door only to enter a new puzzle situation could be considered torture in the wrong scenario, here it becomes a happy mini-reward for sleuthing done well.

On-Sen's puzzles are few and uncomplicated but they do fit seamlessly into the atmosphere of the game and that quality is one of On-Sen's great strengths. Its weaknesses include an ordinarily preferred feature: the changing cursor. If not for that visual clue, almost like a spoiler, exploration would require more attention to detail and thus necessitating a more meditative approach to gameplay. Have you ever grumbled while pixel-hunting through a Mild Escape by Tesshi-e? Well, here's an instance when that non-compliant cursor would be a blessing.

If you're good with puzzles or are a regular room-escape player, your departure from this onsen might seem abrupt and very disappointing. Being used to longer or more challenging 58 Works titles, just as you might expect a new area to escape, "Congratulations" is dancing across the screen. While it may seem too abbreviated, the visit to On-Sen is still very gratifying; the only reason to complain the game is short or easy is because it provides the kind of enjoyment you want to savor. Yet given the choice between nothing or only a little, most of us will be happy with a little. Overall, On-Sen is a pleasure to experience, even if it is only a quick dip rather than a long soak.

Play On-Sen Escape

Thanks to Cyberjar88 and Nicop for sending this one in!


  • Currently 4.6/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.6/5 (130 votes)
| Comments (43) | Views (308)

Weekday Escape

GrinnypI've said it before and I'll say it again, I want to live in Tesshi-e's world! I want friends/co-workers/bosses/total strangers who have nothing better to do than find really creative ways to lock me into a room so I can figure my way out. Only, I want them to make sure that it's a place where there's a bathroom attached, dontcha know, 'cause sometimes I'm a little slow with the escaping and a person has needs. Yes, Tesshi-e is back with their 60th (and isn't that a mind boggling number) room escape, Escape from the Kid's Room, which plays like Tesshi-e: The Greatest Hits Collector's Edition 2.

Escape from the Kids RoomOur story begins with Mr. Y, the protagonist of Escape from Mr. Y's Room 2. Mr. Y has called and invited us over to his house for some room escaping fun. This time around, instead of a cozy yet minimal living room Mr. Y has gone all out and turned his kids' room into a room escaping treat, featuring a lot of puzzles and items that should look very familiar to anyone with a passing knowledge of Tesshi-e games. Wander around this charming and faintly alarming room, poking into every nook and cranny, solve some logical puzzles, find a lot of items, and even perform a tiny bit of construction to find your way out. Ah, welcome back, I've missed you, wacky Tesshi-e construction!

If you're not familiar with the Tesshi-e oeuvre (and, if so, why not?) then the game is pretty simple as room escapes go. Wander around either by using the navigation bars at the sides of the screens or click on objects for a closer look. Find some objects (actually, rather a lot of objects), figure out how to use them, solve some puzzles, and pretty soon you'll be wandering the night streets, either with or without the usual happy coin. As you take the time to explore this child's room you will begin to see a lot of familiar things. Hey, isn't that the bird figurine from Escape from the Hexagonal Room? And there are some hungry hippos, just like in Escape from the Snowman's Room. Look, there's capsules just like in Escape from Bed Room! And yes, that digital clock puzzle looks a bit like the one in the original Escape from Mr. Y's Room 2. Ah, the memories...

Analysis: So, yes, there's a lot that's familiar in Escape from the Kid's Room, but there's also some fresh new puzzle fun to be had as well. The puzzles are Tesshi-e's usual mix of logic, math, letters, and colors, and while not the most difficult out there are definitely a fun challenge. This is the best thing about Tesshi-e's escapes, the logic and the flow of the challenges. Many room escape designers never seem to master this ability to make the puzzles flow logically from one to the next in a wonderful progression.

Of course the visuals are stunning as always. This time around the designer has eschewed the use of a lot of shiny and reflective services which only highlights both the realism and the charm of a kid's bedroom. The only problem is that it's a bit...well, industrial, isn't it? Almost jail-like with those white cinderblock walls and small windows, as if Mr. Y has not just created an interesting room but an interesting prison for his tykes. Mind you, the sparseness of the room makes the fact that there is no changing cursor easier to bear, as pixel hunting is kept to a minimum. Accompanying your exploration is also one kicking jazz tune rather than the usual, more plaintive music we've become accustomed to with Tesshi-e.

It's amazing how far we've come from Escape from Mr. Y's Room 2 to this point. Now we have fantastic English translations, better inventory control, and better controls (that save button is fantastic when you want to find both endings). We're still waiting, though, for Tesshi-e to pump up the puzzles into more difficult territory. Let's not sweat the small stuff. Escape from the Kid's Room is the perfect mid-week break, challenging but not too difficult, and a nostalgic look back for one of our most popular room escape designers. Pretty to look at and fun to play, Escape from the Kid's Room is definitely the perfect escape for those not wanting to spend too much time locked into a strange kid's room. And hey, maybe for giggles we can lock the kids in their later and see if they can make it out.

Play Escape from the Kid's Room


  • Currently 4/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4/5 (79 votes)
| Comments (10) | Views (57)

JoshCCombat Hero AdventuresBloody arena shooters are great and all, but they're just not adorable enough. Though we've long been blasting through enemies, capturing flags and holding command points, there's always been that hole left in our hearts. But all is not lost! Combat Hero Adventures by Jay Armstrong is that same arena shooty action you crave, but with new, cartoony graphics, just for you. Think a simplified Armor Mayhem with cartoony graphics and a sense of humor. But simple does not mean that there's any less action, it just means there's more bullets and less to think about. No grenades, one weapon at a time, simple weapon shop and upgrades, it all means nothing but twitchy shooting action, one hundred percent of the time. Some might call it shallow, but I'd call it pure.

The controls are simple: run, jump, pickup and shoot. You can use a keyboard and mouse combo, or keyboard solely, or gamepad, if you have one. Keyboard controls use [WASD] to move around, and the mouse to aim and shoot. No ammo, no orders, no acrobatics, and it works perfectly fine. There's the standard game modes here too, nothing you haven't seen in your multiplayer shooters, but much more adorable. There's no true multiplayer, but the bots are pretty smart, and you'll only rarely have to yell at them to flippin' defend the stupid flag when they're following you around happily. There's a shop system too, though any weapon you buy becomes available to everybody, so it's not driven as much by character advancement as it is by just wanting every shiny gun there is. There's nothing wrong with that.

In fact, there's not a lot wrong with Combat Hero Adventures at all. There's just not a lot that's new about it either. You would think that the cartoony aesthetic and simple gameplay might mean it's aimed toward younger players, but the slightly off-color humor and rampant bloodshed means it's not exactly kidsafe. It does have a campaign mode, made up of standard matches loosely tied together by a self-aware and occasionally funny storyline, but the gameplay's not really that different from the instant action mode, which is, of course, much more customizable. The weapons are well-balanced and mostly interesting, and the matches get all the more chaotic for each new gun, making it well worth it to catch them all.

So if you're looking for a quick spot of arena-style shootin' and killin', you can't go wrong here. It's not perfect and it's nothing new, but it is fun, frenetic and oh so adorable.

Play Combat Hero Adventures


  • Currently 3.7/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 3.7/5 (48 votes)
| Comments (24) | Views (122)

DoraOffice TrapKids, let me tell you something; it's a dog-eat-dog world out there. Adults would have you believe that you just make sure you're qualified, don't smell, and fill out a few forms and then BAM; employment. But that's a lie. Heck, to get my job here, I had to wrestle my predecessor to the death Star Trek style, which was actually harder than it sounds since my predecessor was a remarkably clever baboon who liked to go for the eyes. My point is, you've gotta be ready for anything, and Nitrome is going to help toughen you up for the world of employment with Office Trap, a modern snarky spin on Knight Trap.

If you want to keep your new job in this arcade platformer, you'll have to survive the Office of Doom, which means getting a certain number of employees to the helicopters at the end of each level. (Remember, there's no "I" in "TEAM"... but... there is a "ME", so... uh, nevermind.) Just use [WASD] or the [arrow] keys to run and jump and make your way up through the floors, avoiding all the typical office hazards (like toxic waste, buzz saws, low-res traps, and more) to reach safety. Getting to the helicopter is usually fairly simple, if hazardous, but snagging all the coins and stranded employees to boost your high score (imperative for your performance appraisal I'm sure) is the hard part. If you have a friend you can coerce to the keyboard, you can also indulge in a little multiplayer action.

While Office Trap's gameplay and concept are pretty familiar to anyone who played Knight Trap earlier this year, it avoids feeling like a lot of same ol', same ol' by providing not only a great new design, but a lot of traps and obstacles that are unique to this game. The low-res trap is particularly fiendish, since most everything on a floor becomes virtually unrecogniseable once it's activated. Seeing what else the game decides to throw at you is a great incentive to progress, especially since it's all rendered in Nitrome's signature pixel style. (Death by treadmill fireball incineration was never so cute.) It's still going to be hard to shake the sense of déjà-vu if you've played Knight Trap, and some traps are definitely a lot more frustrating than they are entertaining (I DEFY YOU, WATERFALL), but Office Trap has loads of charm and is more of that run-y, jump-y, turn-into-a-skeleton-y action fans will enjoy. Besides, it's important you get toughened up for the real world. If you can't crawl through a deluge, leap over fireballs, and snag the spring-loaded key, how are you ever going to use the copy room?

Play Office Trap


| Comments (8) | Views (19)

The Vault

TrickyI recently checked out my ol' arcade at the hometown mall... Have to tell ya, things were pretty dire. It was once an Aladdin's Castle, but nowadays it's more of an Aladdin's Shack or, perhaps, an Aladdin's Hovel. The only things close-to-functional were a claw machine filled with stuffed animals of questionable copyright status (and lead content), an Addams Family Pinball game with a broken right flipper, and a Cruisin' USA machine that had a pool of liquid on the seat that I can only hope was water. Needless to say, the $5 in my pocket ended up going to a pretzel instead. At least the JiG Vault is here to make up for what reality lacks. This week we have three awesome arcade-styled games that deserve your tokens and your attention.

  • TontieTontie v.1.0 - With all due respect to the Grow Series, my favorite eyezmaze creation has always been Tontie. It's a little reflex-testing game of skill that starts out simple and easy, but has increasingly complex rules of engagement that will drive your fingers to a dance of madness. Imagine an adorable Whack A Mole machine created by a demented wizard of the arcane, and you'll have a pretty good idea what to expect. The game works best with a keypad, which makes it non-ideal for laptops. On the other hand, my desktop computer's Num Lock key had been patiently waiting for the chance to shine. I guess it all works out then.
  • Vector RunnerVector Runner - Have wire frame graphics ever not been awesome? Answer: No... no they haven't. I could end my case for Dig Your Own Grave's Vector Runner right there and then. However, it's got more than just a pretty face. It's 3Daction you can get lost in, your heart beating faster as your cube accelerates. Your score climbs ever-higher, but you're afraid to blink for fear of missing a power-up. You hold your breath without realizing it, and when you're about to crash, you mentally brace for impact. Vector Runner is not just fast... it's sleek.
  • Heli Attack 3Heli Attack 3 - So many levels! So many weapons! So many helicopters! So many explosions! Released back in 2005, Heli Attack 3 by Square Circle Co was a platform shooter ahead of its time that still holds up today. Though it clearly owes a debt to the Metal Slug series, its emphasis on raw survival makes it its own. Some of the features that once set it apart, like the keyboard/mouse control scheme and the original score, may have become commonplace, but at Heli Attack 3's core is the simple joy of shooting stuff to make it go boom. That, my friends, is timeless.

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 3.4/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 3.4/5 (43 votes)
| Comments (15) | Views (71)

Ellebattlestance_human_campaign.jpgLet me start right off by being honest: I don't usually play battle-themed or defense games. Nevertheless, I'm often willing to venture into the unknown and take on a new challenge. Besides, when the Call to Adventure is sounded, who can refuse? This is why Game Launch Project's Battle Stance: Human Campaign won me over. Brimming with attention to detail, artistic touches and many customizable options, this real time strategy fantasy game is designed to entice every ilk of casual gamer into medieval hero.

Proving once again you can never trust an orc, Battle Stance puts you in charge of dealing with a very nasty invasion that has resulted in enemy strongholds springing up all over your land. In each level, you'll have to balance defending your own home base with amassing enough army power to march across the map and rout the enemy fortress... easier said than done since you'll find yourself under almost constant attack. Enemies will swarm towards you, and you'll have to direct your troops to intercept them and keep your own castle safe, holding the line until you have enough manpower to push through and launch your own assaults. (A handy in-game tutorial goes over the finer points of troop management.) Training soldiers takes time and money, but when you get enough of the latter, you can spend it on a skill tree in game to provide big bonuses to your troops. If you're particularly powerful, you can even complete "quests" (essentially level restrictions and demands) that will give you a permanent bonus for the rest of the game.

Players can use the [WASD] keys to navigate while utilizing either keyboard shortcuts or clicking buttons to perform actions. If you prefer, select "mouse scroll" and the game becomes playable entirely via point-and-click. This customization makes the game accessible equally to seasoned real time strategy gamers and to the more casual, needing-a-quick-diversion-from-work type.

battlestance_screen2.gifAnalysis: Battle Stance: Human Campaign's features allow us learn-as-you-go-along types a lot of leeway. Personally, I'd be lost without that ability to go back and re-attempt failed quests. Perhaps there are seasoned pros who can master each chapter's quest without a second try, but I found some quests to be too impossible to complete given the initial resources. Fortunately, you are able to return after gaining some new fighting classes, towers and catapults to try again. The retread will be worth it; questing success means accumulating even more advantageous upgrades.

The gameplay itself can be a bit dry, but there are controls to increase speed up to five times the normal (which is going to be too slow for most) or to call on the next wave. Frankly, there were times I wished I could increase the speed to ten times the normal: aside from a variety of new resources and a different game map to explore, each chapter is much like the next. Battle Stance: Human Campaign furnishes players with more choices; "casual," "normal" and "hard." I stayed on "casual" the entire time and, as long as I patiently built up resources before venturing past base camp, being in no hurry and having no concern for meeting quest goals, I was ultimately able to reach victory and make my way through. Some would say that's neither the adventuresome nor proper way to play a defense game; for those sort, no doubt solid strategy, planning, and some quick maneuvering on the game field are essentials to tower survival.

As soon as Battle Stance: Human Campaign opens, operatic music rises up to pull you into the moment. Also helpful are sound effects that signal the next wave of enemies, the throes of battle and other key actions. While you can opt to turn the sound off, you'll probably want to use it as an alert to aid your battle tactics. Despite its drawbacks, with so many remarkable features such as the ability to upgrade, artistic graphics, climatic music and a multitude of customizations, Battle Stance: Human Campaign is worth a venture.

Play Battle Stance: Human Campaign


  • Currently 4.2/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.2/5 (86 votes)
| Comments (14) | Views (146)

TrickyRed Remover Player Pack 2I wanted to start this article by saying how assu___ I felt that your bo___om would be shatte___ by Gaz's new release and how much it lives up to its inc___ible p___ecessors. Sadly, though it seems I was a bit too eager in removing the "red"s. Yep, another forty levels of adorably devious puzzles are here in Red Remover Player Pack 2. If you've been wanting awesome tumble-drop physics challenges, look no further: the boxy faces of Red Remover aim to please.

The object is the same: remove all the red frowny shapes from the playing field, either by vanishing them with a click of the mouse, or letting gravity careen them into the void. Also, smiley green shapes must always remain on the screen. Finally, the blue shapes are neutral and can stay or go as you wish. It's that simple... Oh, and shapes fall in the direction their faces are pointing, so don't expect what goes up to necessarily come down. Each level has a par to meet/beat, and a level editor is included for your own submissions for Red Remover Player Pack Tres.

Red Remover Player Pack 2 is a expansion pack, which means few surprises. If you liked the previous ones in the series, you'll like having more of it. If you've never seen it before, this should make for a good introduction. The levels are well-designed and have a good mix of timing, sequential strategy, and clever gimmickry therein. A few seemed to require lucky bounces to par, which is frustrating, but for the most part, it's your skill against the designer's. One that did annoy me was the puzzle reset mechanism: You have to pause the game, then hit the "reset" button in a different position than the pause button, and easily confused with the "resume" button right next to it. It just seemed like a step could be removed from the process. These minor issues are extremely ignorable once you get into a groove, and I'm certain Red Remover will keep you clicking until you've finished the final level... or at least that's my expert p___iction

Play Red Remover Player Pack 2


| Comments (4) | Views (173)

Mobile Monday

JohnBHow tiny is your tower? Is it one bit big, or even bigger? Could you cram it into a crate, or are you not ninja enough? Before you even attempt it, be sure to do a little stretching to make your bits more nimble.

tinytower.gifTiny Tower (universal) - NimbleBit releases another hit with Tiny Tower, and it is possibly the best, least-nag-filled freemium game on the App Store! Best of Casual Gameplay 2011Manage the creation and staffing of every floor of your pixel tower. Choose from a number of floor types (residential, commercial, service, etc.) and wait in real-time while the construction is complete. When your floor is ready, staff it with one of your bitizens, matching each person's strengths with that type of shop. The only real maintenance you have to do is restocking shelves, all of which is done by choosing between items that range from a few minutes to an hour or so to obtain, then just make sure you have a good mix of floors available. You can opt to spend real cash to buy in-game towerbux to speed things up, but this is one game that plays remarkably well without using your own money.

1bitninja.gif1-bit Ninja (universal) - Remember when we had that grand argument about 2D vs. 3D? Me neither, but 1-bit Ninja decided to solve the issue by being both two dimensional and three dimensional at the same time! This retro-looking platform game plays out on a flat plane and allows you to run to the right, collect bits (coins), potions and the like, all while avoiding enemies and hunting for secrets. To find said secrets, you'll need to use 1-bit Ninja's secret trick: perspective changing! Simply drag the top of the screen to tilt the game world to the side, taking a 3D look at your surroundings. Often, you'll find passageways you couldn't have seen before in this view, making frequent "stop and look" sessions a must!

konascrate.gifKona's Crate (iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad; Android) - Gotta deliver the crate to the chief! Too bad it's on a wobbly platform controlled by independent jet boosters that have only two positions: off, and OMGFAST. Move the crate-toting platform by firing these jets with your left and right hands, tilting and shoving yourself through levels as best you can. Be prepared to crash about a dozen times before you get the hang of things, but fortunately Kona's Crate isn't too picky about how you get the crate to the chief. Just as long as it's there, you're good to go! A smart arcade game that gets better as the levels go by! Kona's Crate HD for iPad is also available, as well as Kona's Crate and a Lite version for Android phones/tablets.

NOTE: Games noted as 'universal' have been designed for iPod Touch, iPad, and iPhone devices alike. Any game not listed for iPad will work on the system, but native full screen will not be present. Games listed may not be available outside of North America. Prices are subject to change and are therefore unlisted. Please see the individual game pages for purchasing info.


  • Currently 4.4/5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Rating: 4.4/5 (24 votes)
| Comments (7) | Views (130)

Puzzle Agent

DoraWhat do you get when you combine the dark mystery of Twin Peaks with the absurdity of Deadly Premonition and a Saturday morning cartoon crossed with Miss Marple? Apparently, Puzzle Agent from Telltale Games is the unlikely answer! In this bizarre mystery point-and-click adventure series, you join forces with a very unusual hero; Nelson Tethers, who works for the FBI Department of Puzzle Research, and is assigned to the small town of Scoggins, Minnesota, when their eraser factory shuts down following the disappearance of their foreman, Isaac Davner. Since the factory supplies all the erasers to the government, this is a bigger deal than you might expect, but Nelson is about to find out that the same holds true for the case he's trying to solve. Scoggins has a lot of secrets, and its townsfolk are more than a little eccentric, but are the rumours and local legends the result of a lot of small town gossip, or has Nelson really stumbled across some sort of conspiracy?

Puzzle AgentThe Puzzle Agent series consists of two games, with the recently released sequel picking up just a few months after the original and continuing the story. In Puzzle Agent 2, Nelson returns to the burg of Scoggins, dissatisfied with the FBI's apparent disinterest in finding out the truth, and discovers that the truth may be even more complicated (and weirder) than he'd previously suspected. The townspeople don't seem to want to cooperate, someone is leaving him coded messages, and of course there are the Hidden People that don't seem to appreciate his prying.

All you need to do to play is click. Clicking anywhere onscreen that isn't itself an interactive hotspot will send out a circular pulse that highlights places you can do something with. A magnifying glass, for example, means Nelson can take a closer look at an object. Unlike most point-and-click titles, there's no inventory to manage; progress is made by talking to people and exhausting topics in Nelson's notebook, and also by solving the various puzzles in your way. Puzzles can range from mathematical problems to mazes to logic and more. If you find yourself stymied, you can use some gum (which helps Nelson concentrate) to get up to three hints, so keep your eyes peeled for gum stuck all over town... yes, even the previously chewed stuff. Ewwwww.

Puzzle AgentAnalysis: There really are no words for how badly Puzzle Agent needs to be its own television series, but I'll take its signature brand of casual, sneaky humour and surprisingly freaky mystery any way I can get it. Artist Graham Annable's work lends Puzzle Agent much of its charm and humour, with Nelson's nebbishy, perpetually worried expressions and oddball townsfolk making for some surprisingly funny scenes, often without a word of dialogue. The atmosphere perfectly captures the drama and eccentricities of small town life and people, and then exaggerates them just enough to make them absurd and stirs in exactly the right amount of creepiness.

The bad news, then, is that for a game with the word "puzzle" right there in the title, the puzzles fail to impress, and feel like they're doing little more than refusing to let you proceed with the story until you've solved a page from one of those Big Book 'o' Puzzles you can buy for two dollars at the supermarket cash register next to People and Woman's Weekly. Most of them are logic puzzle variations that can be frustrating to the point where the game really just needs an option to skip them by paying a fee in gum. One puzzle that involves flipping tiles to connect a ridiculously long and complicated pipe path, is actually done twice in a row after a silly complication once you solve it the first time that requires you to solve the exact same puzzle seconds later.

Puzzle AgentSo it's both good and bad, then, that the sequel, which picks up the story shortly after the end of the original, is more of the same. Good because it's a return to the surreal, funny, just a little creepy adventures of Nelson, but bad because it doesn't really do much to improve on what was a flawed formula to begin with. At least most of the blander puzzles have been retooled somewhat and presented in a more entertaining fashion. It's still a disappointment since the rest of the package is so stellar, and the characters and world of Scoggins really are such a treat to experience. It almost makes me wish the game were more of a traditional point-and-click type with your typical inventory/item use activities than Professor Layton by way of Fargo. As for the story in the sequel itself, it significantly fleshes out the mystery in new and unexpected ways, while expanding the cast and Skoggins itself so you don't feel as if you're just rehashing old territory.

While Puzzle Agent hasn't quite found its groove, it's still more than worth playing for the story alone. Both games will take you around four hours to complete, depending on how the puzzles trip you up and whether you track down and solve the "bonus" puzzles to boot. The game also looks and plays great on the iPad, if you have one, where the touch controls feel perfectly natural. Nelson Tethers likely isn't going to dethrone Professor Layton anytime soon, but it's hard to dislike a guy who rocks that flap hat so hard. If you like humour, strangeness, conspiracies, and little guys with beards and red hats, make a trip to Scoggins today. And make sure you try the Hot Dish... it's awesome.

WindowsWindows:
Order Puzzle Agent
Order Puzzle Agent 2

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Order Puzzle Agent
Order Puzzle Agent 2


(15 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (3) | Views (188)

Sandra Fleming Chronicles

JohnBFrom Intenium, the makers of the equally awesome Insider Tales: The Stolen Venus 2 and Tulula: Legend of a Volcano, comes Sandra Fleming Chronicles: Crystal Skulls, a hidden object adventure with heavy emphasis on the latter. Sandra Fleming cuts out most of the casual stuff we see in modern games, leaving you alone with a strange world with nothing but your wits to get you out. It's a challenging and intriguing game that goes to greater lengths to satisfy your puzzle solving itch than most other games of its species!

Sandra Fleming ChroniclesSummoned to the museum by a curator friend, you learn of the legend of the Crystal Skulls, relics of the old world hidden away by the natives of South America and sought after by conquistadors. The museum has one of the skulls, but now, information has surfaced leading to the remainder of them, sparking your pal Tom to head out on an adventure. You quickly follow, landing on the beach ready to scour the landscape for clues.

Sandra Fleming Chronicles: Crystal Skulls is much more adventure-oriented than most hidden object hybrids out these days, and for that reason alone, you should try it. You'll spend most of your time searching scenes for the odd item or two, poking your cursor around sparkling areas and investigating small mini-scenes within the larger areas. Often times you'll come up with a useful item or two, stashing it in your inventory for later use. Only when you collect the right things can you start solving puzzles, and even then you'll find you have to go exploring to pick out more necessary objects.

Puzzles take the form of multi-part riddles that require a number of items as well as some sleuthing on your part. For example, early on you'll be confronted with a locked safe with a three digit combination. Normally, a casual adventure game would throw the numbers on a piece of paper and place it right in front of your head. In Sandra Fleming Chronicles, however, you'll learn these numbers one at a time, but only if you're paying attention to your surroundings. They're never thrown right in your face, forcing you to actually get involved in the game!

Sandra Fleming ChroniclesAnalysis: Sandra Fleming Chronicles: Crystal Skulls isn't quite your ordinary hidden object adventure hybrid game. In fact, in a number of areas it goes out of its way to be just the opposite, preferring not to hold the player's hand and opting instead to throw you in head first to see if you can survive. Fortunately, even for non-adventure game buffs, it's easy enough to stay afloat, as the difficulty level won't drown you as long as you keep an eye peeled for random clues hidden right in front of your face!

Sandra Fleming Chronicles: Crystal Skulls has a lot of nice animations that are both fun to play with but also serve to liven up the hidden object scenes. Some of them add a bit of depth to a scene, like doors that open to conceal items hidden on shelves, or things you have to repeatedly click to swing them out of the way. Try clicking on everything, see what moves!

Sandra Fleming Chronicles dares to do what every other popular hidden object game does: provide a challenge, and draw the player in to the game's world. If the same old formula is what you're looking for, this game probably won't please you. If you want something different enough to be satisfying, Sandra Fleming Chronicles: Crystal Skulls should be the very next game on your "to buy" list!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


(8 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (2) | Views (430)

Hide and Secret: The Lost World

JohnBYou want action? We got that. You want cheesy storylines with French villains obsessed about obtaining immortality, kidnapped scientists, plane crashes and giant spiders? Got that, too. Hide and Secret: The Lost World from Anarchy Enterprises is the fourth game in the hidden object adventure series, featuring a classic-styled plot ripped out of your favorite dime novel from a century ago.

Hide and Secret: The Lost WorldYour arch nemesis, Jacques, has stolen an ancient relic and kidnapped Professor Columbia, absconding with them both to the Lost World. There, his plan is to sacrifice the professor to reveal the relic's secret: eternal life. Your team of fit adventurers sets out to stop him, but before you make it, your plane crashes in the jungle. Rescue your crew who are barely holding on to their lives (quicksand, collapsed pillars, etc.), then set out to stop that Jacques!

Hide and Secret: The Lost World blends frequent hidden object scenes with a multitude of mini-game segments scattered around an exploration-based adventure core. Move from place to place, investigating pieces of each scene and hunting for items that will help you progress. Sometimes you can find the objects you need laying around the place, but most of the time you'll need to find your next inventory prize at the end of a hidden object scene.

You can choose between Relaxed and Expert modes from the beginning of your game. The former offers faster hint recharges and makes the mini-game skip button fill much faster. Also, there's no click penalty in Relaxed, which many hidden object fans will appreciate! Expert mode shortens the timers and slaps you on the wrist for clicking too frequently in hidden object scenes.

Hide and Secret: The Lost WorldAnalysis: Hide and Secret: The Lost World is definitely a wild, if predictable, ride. The storyline is one of the game's biggest selling points. It's based on every trope from the last hundred years of creative writing, but somehow it comes across as a caricature of the genre, not a poor example of it. Sometimes that sort of cheese is exactly the food we need in our games!

You'll spend quite a lot of time in Hide and Secret 4 sifting through the hidden object scenes that seem to appear every few minutes. For the most part, they aren't overly challenging, though you'll often wonder why you have to continue with the exercise once you've found the key inventory item you want to walk away with.

Some of the puzzles, unfortunately, feel rather pointless and end up serving as busywork rather than honest challenge. The hint system also doesn't function properly all of the time, leaving you a bit stranded when the game wants you to trigger a specific event before continuing. If you're a thorough player, this probably won't be an issue, however.

Visually, Hide and Secret: The Lost World is lush and polished. The scenes are filled with animation and lots of dramatic mood, something the storyline demands to be shown. The characters look remarkably stiff, though, and seem to have been rendered with software from 1994. Cardboard actors aren't much of a problem when you're laughing at them, of course!

Hide and Secret: The Lost World has a lot of hits and misses to its name, with muddled puzzles but good challenge and length. It's definitely worth checking out, especially if you're itching to see if Jacques gets that immortality he so desperately wants!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


| Comments (72) | Views (424)

Weekend Download

JohnB3D games? 2D games? Can't we all just be games and get along and have happy times together? What? Nobody's debating this and there's no contention in the gaming community over the game types? Then, why am I still writing interrogative sentences?!

beret.gifBeret (Mac/Win/Linux, ~40MB, free) - The 2D puzzle platform will never die, and Beret, despite its amateurish visual exterior, is another reason the genre should continue to thrive. Playing as a scientist who has gained telekinetic powers, you decide your employer, Evil Corporation, is too evil for your liking and decide to overthrow it and punish the wrongdoers. You do this with a smattering of telekinetic abilities that allows you to pick up and arrange blocks with the mouse, constructing platforms and re-building bridges as you move across the stage. Lots of levels to play, loads of collectible items, and a level editor you can unlock make this one well-stocked indie game!

mythology.gifMythology (Windows, 19.8MB, free) - A 3D action adventure game not unlike the later Legend of Zelda titles. You play as Timaeus who is searching for his parents who were lost at sea. You start off on a rather stiff dolphin-assisted escape from a hydra and end up running around ancient Greece with a sword and shield. NPCs to interact with, treasure chests to find, quests to fulfill, and items to find, this lovable game has got everything you would expect! Mythology may be a bit rough around the edges, but the gameplay is enjoyable in an old school sort of way.

oneandlight.gifOne and Light (Windows, 7.3MB, free) - A short, unpolished 3D platform game created in three days for a contest themed "shrinking". This curious little game gives you the ability to grow and shrink with the press of a button (er, two buttons, but you get the picture). Size yourself down to make tiny areas appropriately explorable, then get big again to traverse difficult landscapes. Quite a confusing experience at first, but once you get the hang of it, you'll see how interesting on-the-fly size changing can be!

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!


(18 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (5) | Views (166)

Nightmare Realm

DoraAsk any child of the 1980s and we'll tell you; fantasy isn't always happy. We learned that from Sarah, and even from Fantasia. Four years after a freak car accident that killed her husband and left her daughter Emily without a father, Kathleen knows better than anyone that life isn't always a fairytale. But what she doesn't know is that doesn't mean there isn't any magic left in her life. Nightmare Realm is a stunning and engrossing hidden-object dark fantasy adventure from Lesta Games and Films that's full of surprises and blows almost all competition out of the water.

Nightmare RealmA moment before midnight the day before Emily's seventh birthday, something strange and terrifying happens. Kathleen is woken by Emily's visiting uncle Peter, who brings her downstairs just in time to witness Emily's abduction. The police aren't going to be much help with this one, however, since "big black cloud of noxious evil with eyes made of glowing hate" generally doesn't translate well to a suspect sketch. Kathleen has no choice but to pursue, and she and Peter unknowingly step into a massive conspiracy from another realm that endangers all the bright young minds of the future. What is the "bridge of seven"? Who are the "Extractors", and what do they want with Emily?

Gameplay is simple and done simply by clicking with the mouse. In casual difficulty, objects you can interact with will sparkle or cause the cursor to change as you mouse over them. Make sure you investigate everything; there are clues everywhere, and Kathleen's journal will keep track of objects or places of note that could come in handy. Most puzzles don't come with instructions, but if you're stuck, the hint button will tell you what you should be doing. It will also provide you with a nudge in the right direction if you're at a loss as to what to do or where to go during normal gameplay. Just make sure to keep your eyes peeled for origami figurines; collect all 33, and you'll unlock something special.

Nightmare RealmAnalysis: Nightmare Realm is a fairly unusual hidden-object adventure in that it places such a large emphasis on story, and also in that the story itself is actually really good. While it starts out somewhat predictable (seen one adorable moppet kidnapped by supernatural forces, seen 'em all), Nightmare Realm has more than enough twists and turns to keep feeling fresh and original, and players who dismiss it based on the first fifteen minutes of play are going to be sorely missing out. The world design here is also top notch, creating a realm that feels strange and otherworldly without relying on typical fantasy tropes to do so. Nightmare Realm really felt like it could have been a top-notch dark fantasy film in the form of Labyrinth (only without David Bowie's painted on pants), but as a game it still delivers better than most other casual titles out there.

If there's a downside to the story, however, it's that it's a little anticlimactic, has a few plot holes, and leaves you wanting a lot more. If you buy the Collector's Edition you'll gain access to a bonus chapter that provides some more story and an entirely new set of areas to explore, clocking in at over an hour of extra playtime. The standard gameplay will probably take most players around four hours to complete, which may seem a little light to some for a Collector's Edition purchase price, but the quality of the whole package is simply outstanding and I personally would happily pay for it again. Some of the animations applied to otherwise static figures look odd, but the artwork and area designs are gorgeous and made the whole thing a joy to experience.

Nightmare RealmNightmare Realm is no slouch where the gameplay is concerned either. Hidden-object scenes are full of fantastic detail and mini-puzzles, object solutions are logical but inventive, and the environments you explore are packed with great detail and while the puzzles are mostly variations on types you've seen before, they're still presented in a creative fashion. The only real downside is that the game does force you to do a fair amount of back-tracking from time to time, and there are only a handful of hidden-object scenes that repeat throughout the course of the game.

In a nutshell, Nightmare Realm is everything I want every game in the genre to be; creative, captivating, beautiful, creepy, and fun. I played it all in one sitting although I only meant to try the demo, and wished it have been even longer when I was done with it. It's sorely in need of a sequel to flesh out the backstory to the premise, but even taken on its own, Nightmare Realm is a fantastic adventure that comes highly recommended. Try the demo and then keep your eyes on the developer for future releases. Nightmare Realm is just plain good, period.

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

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

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


| Comments (17) | Views (23)

Link Dump Fridays

DoraTo all of you Canadian peeps and peepettes... Happy Canada Day! To all of you American bros and... uh... broitas, Happy Early Fourth of July! And to everyone else... Happy Friday! What, you don't think that's worth celebrating? I beg to differ! And to prove it, here's another batch of the best little games you might not have played yet.

  • Apocalypse BasketballApocalypse Basketball - The end of the world was never so adorable. Death and his def posse (... that is what the kids say, right?) show up at your home one day, but rather than makin' trouble in your neighbourhood, they just want to shoot some hoops with you. Of course, you can't expect the Four Horsemen to play fair, and on each level you'll have to contend with each Apocalyptic baddie's attempts at hindering your shots. The gameplay may be simple, but it more than makes up for it with the downright cheeriest heralds of the end of days, ever.
  • MittensMittens - I've been saying it for years; cats rule and adventurers drool! In this short little action title, you play the role of a kitten who was given to a travelling hero (it's dangerous to go alone, after all), and who might be a little bit better at this whole "hero" stuff than your newfound master. Made in just 48 hours for a recent Ludum Dare, it's very short, but a true and accurate depiction of the role of kittens in the middle ages.
  • DuskDusk - Liebot may disagree, but right now, the saddest thing is a little expressionless square in a platforming adventure in the dark, out to erase the wrongs of his past. Moody and stylish (if somewhat familiar... ), it's just the right bit of time-bending puzzling for those of you who felt your morning needed to be just a bit more depressing to really start off on the right foot. Yaaaaaay, existence is bleak and fraught with sadness!
  • znRevolutionsznRevolutions - Zink Interactive calls this "an experiment in cyclic game design", but we call it ooooohhh. This short and simple but oh-so-lovely little puzzle platformer asks you to get from point A to point B in a "cylindrical world". Originally created for the Experimental Gameplay Project in April 2010, with a bit more flesh on its bones this could be a real winner, but as it stands it's still pretty sleek.
  • LuftrauserLuftrauser - Snoopy would agree, vlambeer's little aerial dogfighting game is the neeeeeeeeeeowwwwwww, ra-tat-tat-tat-tatest title around. Swoop, dive, and stay alive as long as possible while blowing incoming foes out of the sky without getting filled full of holes yourself. Simple and addictive, it's just the ticket to polish up those rusty "running around the room with our arms out like an airplane going brrrrrrmmm" skills most of us left behind in the third grade.

Recent Comments

 

Display 5 more comments
Limit to the last 5 comments

Casual game of the week

Haunted Hotel: Death Sentence

Your Favorite Games edit

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

Monthly Archives

Legal notice

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

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


Visit our great partner: maxcdn!