August 2011 Archives


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Rating: 4/5 (205 votes)
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DoraChickaboomIt seems like there's something sort of disconcerting about the premise behind PhotonStorm's chain-reaction game Chickaboom, where the goal is to coat defenseless, fat yellow birdies with cheeeeeewing gum until they burst, spattering their nearby oblivious avian friends so the cycle completes until no more remain. Just click and hold anywhere on the screen to blow a bubble, but be careful; you've only got a finite amount of air to blow with, and when that's gone you'll lose the level if even a single birdie remains un-burst. It may sound easy, and it is... at least in the beginning. As the stages progress and the numbers of birds increase, along with the complexity of their initially aimless flying patterns, you'll have to think more carefully about where you place your bubbles... especially since that parrot's got your number and will burst any bubbles he comes into contact with as he flies past.

Chickaboom is one of those simple little games that needed a bit more of a kick to elevate it above "coffee break" status, but thrives on its beautiful presentation and quick gameplay. For the most part, the game is fairly easy until about level fifteen or so despite it something being difficult to predict how much air even small bubbles will consume, and it sort of makes you wish there was a bit more variety; different types of birds or gum or even backgrounds. Still, Chickaboom is lovely to behold and oddly addictive to play, and can put a smile on your face in the time that it lasts. Just don't blame us if the next time you go out for a stroll you notice all the birdsong has been silenced and the sparrows are silently perched along the power lines above you... watching... waiting... soon..

Play Chickaboom


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (180 votes)
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Tricky56 Sage StreetIt's been a rough day. You finally made it to London with visions of super-wealth in your head. This was you big chance to show those back home that you could make it in the big city. Then your backpack was stolen. All you've got now is four pounds in your wallet and a cell phone. But, as you stand flummoxed in the rain, someone in a car driving by take pity on you and offers to give you a lift to the police station. That said person turns out to be local millionaire Mr. C, whose ailing health has conveniently left him in search for a young successor to run his empire, can only be called coincidence. Still, now opportunity knocks, and if you make some smart choices, you just might make it to the penthouse at... 56 Sage Street. A role-playing/simulation advergame from Barclays, BBH London and B-Reel that's out to provide a bit of financial literacy education, 56 Sage Street has quality you can take to the bank.

Played entirely with the mouse, save for a few of the minigames, the goal of 56 State Street is to show enough financial savvy to prove yourself to be a worthy inheritor to Mr. C's fortune. Making money relies on many things, with your main stats of reputation, energy and appearance represented at the bottom left of the screen, and the time of day at the upper left. Around the map are icons referring to the various business of the city. Doing jobs makes cash, naturally, but it requires spending time and energy. Some jobs you can't even get without a good enough appearance or reputation. Food and rest restores energy, shops and stylists can help with your appearance, doing jobs and making connections improves your reputation, and banks make it easier to keep track of your financial obligations At the bottom of the screen is your cellphone, used to keep track of finance and receive assignments from Mr. C. Progressing enough unlocks various mini-games to play and new parts of the city to explore. Do well enough and you'll rule London... or at least a couple streets.

56 Sage Street56 Sage Street is a very impressive game, even if, as edutainment, it's a little simplistic. The target for the educational portion is obviously teens who are beginners to personal finance. The challenge is thus muted a bit for those who've been balancing their checkbooks for years. That said, even if the advice the game gives is basic, it is well worth listening to: live within your means, don't overdraw your bank account, get a haircut and do your laundry before a job interview, and don't give that friendly African prince your PIN code. Of course, a game based around the theme of equating success to money, a swanky apartment and the coolest fashion leaves itself open to criticism. However, that may be asking too much philosophy from a work in which you can just show up to work a shift at the local firework factory whenever you please.

Where 56 Sage Street really shines is in its aesthetics. B Reel has put its high-production values to work in designing a truly awesome setting. Its a darker brooding cousin of Sim City with enough graffiti and garish neon to feel living and lived it. It's impressively stocked with businesses of all kinds and prices. Certainly some are interchangeable: it probably doesn't matter whether you choose to restock your energy with fish and chips at one place or tikka masala at another, but merely having those kinds of options feels very cool. This attention to detail is maintained in all aspects of the work and is one reason the game is so addictive. While 56 Sage Street does fall victim to the same problem many of its life sim brethren have (the accurate repetitiveness of the work, eat, sleep cycle), the world is wonderful to spend time in and you'll be hard pressed to stop until you make it to the top.

Note: While it is perfectly playable from start to finish without it, 56 Sage Street uses Facebook Connect to save your progress, and to optionally request gameplay bonuses from friends.

Play 56 Sage Street


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (68 votes)
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Joshmercx.jpgShoot. Run. Jump. Switch guns. What more does a 1980s side-scrolling videogame need? How about a storyline involving a mercenary hired to rescue a biologist's daughter, incoming bad guys and robots, and a nefarious plot by an evil scientist who's determined to take over the world with cyborg soldiers? Mix that with pixelated tile-based environments, traditional boss fights, and coins locked in breakable crates, and what do you get? You get MercX, an ode to classic 1980s action titles by the retro-specialist, Alistair Maunder (alillm).

Like some of his previous offerings, MercX is a run-and-gun pixel-based game that draws on classic Castlevania elements of exploring, shooting, collecting, and upgrading. After being dropped off into a combat zone, you control your pink-haired mercenary with the [arrow] keys, and can jump and aim by pressing [up] and [down]. You carry three weapons - a machine gun, a shotgun, and a bazooka, which you fire with [Z] and switch with [X]. Each of the six missions begins with a briefing and a chance to upgrade your health and weapons using cash collected at the end of each mission. The stages are pretty lengthy, but luckily there are checkpoints along the way in case your mercenary bites the dust. Like classic home console games, most missions include a boss fight that requires you to recognize attack patterns and fire away until the enemy's health bar is depleted.

MercX is not a deep game by any means, but it offers players with straightforward retro-gaming goodness that kept us playing late on school nights back in the day. The action is simple, yet satisfying, with predictable enemies you can take down without too much trouble. The parallax-scrolling environments are nicely varied in their simplicity (with neat animated weather effects), while the old-school sounding chiptunes further set you in a classic frame of mind. The pixelly-theme does have a downside in that the text in mission briefings and tutorials can be hard to read, but it is something you get used to after a while. Besides, it's all about the action anyway, right? So channel your inner pixelated Rambo and learn what it's like to live as MercX.

Play MercX


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (114 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypOf all of the weird, wild set-up scenarios in Tesshi-e escapes, one of the stand-outs is arguably the Escape Hotel. Just think of it, a place to go on vacation where everything becomes a real-life room escape. Hopefully our faithful readers here at Weekday Escape find the concept just as charming, since it is the central theme to this week's slice of escaping heaven. Yes, the Escape Hotel is back in The Escape Hotel 3, and this time the fun begins before you ever make it to your room.

ShapeHow hard can it be to escape a hotel lobby, you might ask? Harder than you'd think, especially since you're not escaping to get out, but to get into your room. All you have to do is navigate around the spacious area, figure out your hotel room number, discover how to make the elevator work, and break into a few "employee only" areas. Tesshi-e has packed a lot into this fabulous escape, lots of puzzles, lots of keys, and even returns to that trademark puzzle type that we love so well, construction. But wait, there's more! Escape Hotel 3 relies heavily not only on problem solving skills but observational skills as well, including at least one color puzzle that may bedevil those with impaired eyesight. The game includes the usual bells and whistles of a fantastic control structure, beautiful visuals, tricky puzzles, and of course the alternate "happy coin" ending that is another Tesshi-e trademark.

What is there left to say about Tesshi-e's latest effort? Beautiful? Surely. Logical? Of course. Fun? Do you even have to ask? Harder than usual? Well, there is that. It's nice to see the difficulty level ramped up a bit after the last few mild escapes. Definitely an amusing challenge for the mid-week, one you know you want to accept. Come, let's take a vacation tailor-made for those of us who find pleasure in being locked in small spaces and forced to logic our way out of the situation. You know, like MacGyver, but for couch potatoes who don't happen to carry duct tape wherever they go.

Play The Escape Hotel 3


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Rating: 3.9/5 (129 votes)
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DoraOfficeDetarou's latest escape game has arrived, and Office is every bit as weird, surreal, and intriguing as we've come to expect. Your goal; find a way out of the bizarre place you find yourself trapped in by scouring your environment for puzzles and clues. Why? Well, hey, if you're comfortable with being locked in a room with a giant, wall-mounted head, a violent little girl, a mushroom max in a box and a old man plant, that's your kettle of fish and we won't judge you for it. Those of you who want to find a way out, however, will want to click your way around the environment, watching for a changing cursor to hint at interactions and using the arrows at the side of the screen to change perspective. You can even save your game this time, and since there are four three endings to discover (some better than others) you just might want to take advantage of that.

Detarou's unique style and sense of whimsical weirdness is by now pretty recogniseable if you're a fan of the genre. What makes these games great for most (and just downright strange to others) is how the game manages to marry unexpected humour in ordinary environments and wrap them up in a clean, appealing presentation to boot. The downside is that if you like your escape game puzzles straight-forward and no-nonsense, the level of oddness on display might prove to be too much of a confusing distraction, especially since some of the things you can click on aren't there to do anything else but entertain. Office, fortunately, usually doesn't let silly style take the place of substance in most puzzles, and even if the item use can be a little abstract now and again you can usually find clues and success if you're willing to experiment. Of course, we all know you're wondering if the JiG offices are as strange as Detarou's, and really, we'd love to tell you all about how normal and well-adjusted we all are, but the Kool-Aid man just escaped his enclosure again and we have to go put on our Power Rangers suits so we can combine to summon Agatha Christie before he rampages all over Townsville again.

Play Office


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (3457 votes)
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DoraGeneral Zoi's Pony CreatorMy Little Pony, My Little Pony, aaaa-aaa-aaaa-aaaaahhh... Those of you who just grimaced and scrolled past this article, we bid you a sad farewell. The rest of you, brony or unwary soul, welcome to the Pony Creator, a webtoy 20% cooler than most, and made by (and hosted with kind permission from) General Zoi where you can create your own ponies straight out of Hasbro's cartoon dynamo My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. (Sorry, no ponycorns.) Select from a staggering variety of manes, tails, wings, horns, accessories, colours, poses, backgrounds and more to create the pony you've always wanted to be... you can even create and import your own cutiemark! Just use the buttons to click through all the options available and the pony preview will change. Feel free to share your ponies in the comments below and commiserate with one another how sad you are because they will never, ever be as awesome as Pinkie Pie.

Best of Casual Gameplay 2011Friendship is Magic has really turned out to be ragingly successful, not just among its target audience of little girls, but also enjoying a surprising amount of popularity with the adult viewer... although perhaps not that surprisingly, since series developer Lauren Faust was also the mastermind behind the wickedly addictive Power Puff Girls and has so clearly been practicing her dark, adorable craft to perfection for years now. While it isn't a game, the Pony Creator is a great example of the creativity and love fans have for the source material, and General Zoi has put together a fantastic little webtoy with a ton of customization options that looks wonderful and is easy to use. So go ahead and unleash your inner pony. No, no, it's cool. We understand. We don't actually know anything about the show either. It's, uh... it's just for kids, right?

Play Pony Creator


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (134 votes)
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joyeInfestorBalances of power are delicate things. When you introduce a small and somewhat cute little green blob that has the power to take over people's bodies into your planetary conflict, expect things to get a little... squishy. That's the premise of Infestor, a sneaky puzzle platformer where you can crawl into a guard's brain and shoot his buddy in the back before bursting out of his body while jumping through deadly lasers. Only in cute, pixelated fashion, as is typical of WoblyWare, makers of the similarly adorable Insidia.

[Arrow] keys move your little infestor around, with either [up] or [Z] to jump. When you're standing near a potential victim, [X] will take them over, and you can use [C] to jump out of them when you're through. That's a quite literal jump, by the way. Several levels require you to use a hapless human as a sort of trampoline, forcing them to jump and then exploding out of them to a higher surface. It's quite a macabre premise, but the game is never gory or too explicit. Infestor excels with tight, responsive controls and clever, bite-sized levels, so crawl in the skull of someone with a computer and give it a play.

Play Infestor


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The Vault

TrickySome times while gazing up at the celestial firmament, I realize that, out there in this big world of ours, there are thousands of unlucky 8 month-olds who have never experienced a JiG Casual Game Design Competition. It's a tragedy really. And while those poor tots might not be required to wait too much longer, we can takes some comfort in how the 9 previous iterations each provide more than the daily requirement of epic that growing children need. This week, the JiG Vault features some favorites from past CGDCs. Future entrants be warned: you've got some tough acts to follow.

  • Rings and SticksRings and Sticks - Rings and Sticks, a puzzle game by Komix, might have had the most literal interpretation of CGDC 2's grow theme. Said interpretation that served it well, however, since it made for an entry most relaxingly zen and zen-ly relaxing. Fractal growth has never seen better use in a game than this one, and when combined with the atmosphere of a childhood walk in the park, the result is nothing short of beautiful. Rings and Sticks has a elegance that is easier to experience than describe, but undoubtedly, it is a game that blossoms before your eyes.
  • ThiefThief - Thief, Phillip Reagan's puzzling point-and-click entry from CGDC 1, is one of the most impressively streamlined games ever developed. There's no wasted space: every detail must be observed if to unlock the mysteries at its core. This presentational care pays off as, without ever breaking its minimalist tone, the game absolutely sparkles with wit and personality: The puzzles are satisfying to solve, the aesthetics are subtle and affecting, and the soundtrack has a technological impishness that's easy to enjoy. Finally, while it might spoil to mention Thief even has a plot, the simple and seamless way it's presented is a masterful moment in casual game storytelling. Allow Thief to steal a bit of your time as soon as possible.
  • Absolute Awesome Ball GameAbsolute Awesome Ball Game - Imagine if you will an incredibly complicated toy. One that's visually stunning, but whose functions are opaque and whose instruction manual has long since been lost. You flip its switches and turn its dials and things happen, but they seem completely random. Soon, however, you figure out the madness's method and you are lost for hours. Absolute Awesome Ball Game, a ball physics themed CGDC 4 entry by Felix Reidl, is that toy. It's not a game for those who don't want to spend the time experimenting and deducing, but the skilled and the patient will be amply rewarded. Only a deaf, dumb, and blind kid wouldn't be able to see what a mean game of pinball this truly is.

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


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Rating: 4.3/5 (77 votes)
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ellerevenant_arkandian_title3.pngYour body feels like goblins have been chewing on it, your head is throbbing in pain and you can't remember your name. To top it off, you're sharing a jail cell with the skeletal remains of some other poor sap who was once just like you. What do you do? Well, in Undefined's newest RPG adventure, Arkandian Legends Chapter 2: Revenant, you do exactly as any brave hero would: you kill the guard, grab your new pal Billy, and embark on a campaign to save Arkandia from the revenant! Ghouls, shaman, lizard men, werewolf pups, sewer thieves and ever more nefarious foes stand between you and victory.

Controls in Revenant are largely point and click to access menus, move defenses on the grid, and choose between casting a spell or launching a heavy attack. In dungeons, use [WASD] or arrow keys to navigate. Combat is turn-based, both in the dungeons as you fight one-on-one with increasingly difficult foes and in the fields as you rally your defenses against enemy troops. Conflicts can easily lead to death for the unprepared; you'll need equipment and skills if you want to survive for long around here. Fortunately, just about everything you do provides experience to increase stats, gold for hiring units, or items (weapons, magic scrolls, alchemy items and more) to loot. When you've gathered enough resources and have found the required recipes, you can make potions, weapons, and armor... even a special recipe that Undefined made just for JIG:

JIG book recipe

Fans of Undefined's popular and well-received Arkandian Legends: Crusade will be happy to know that Revenant lives up to its predecessor in all regards. There are endless possibilities for tailoring Revenant to meet your playing style, including three races of hero: Arkandian, Necretian, and a Demon/Ascended if you've completed the previous chapter. Entering Warlock Tola's House to catch him dabbling in necromancy or fighting an army of orcs on the battlefield are just a tiny part of the vast fun in Revenant—and all you have to do is don your Bunny Slippers of Brutality, equip your Katana of Alacrity and battle your way to glory!

Play Arkandian Legends Chapter 2: Revenant


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (209 votes)
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TrickyFrantic FrigatesAhoy ye barnacle-blistered land-lubbers, and welcome about the JayIsGames galleon! Today we be featurin' Frantic Frigates, a topdown action shooter from Berzerk Studio. Thar be rumors of sharks, pirates, and alien ghosts swarming the seas, and they've been leaving folk mighty groggy. Only ye and yer motley crew of constantly firin' cannoneers even stand a chance to calm the waters. Those wantin' for a treasure chest of frenzied fun will find it here, I swear by my tattoo.

Frantic Frigates is played largely with mouse movement. Your cursor is marked with an X and your ship will head towards it at a constant speed. Your ships fires its cannons automatically at a constant rate towards the nearest enemy. and there'll be a lot of them. Treasure chests and defeated enemies drop loot. Once picked up, the loot is used to purchase larger ships and better upgrades at the store, accessed with the [spacebar]. At the upper right is a meter that fills with each enemy defeated. Defeat enough and the boss battle begins. Achievements unlock more cash at the start of your next game. And if you want a little bonus cash from Captain Lachhh, I'd suggest moving to a new tab for a bit...

Casual shooters can get a little interchangeable, so it's nice to see a work like Frantic Frigates that willing to shake up the formula. Not everything it tries out works perfectly, but enough do to make a quite an enjoyable time. The interface of you-steer-CPU-shoots takes getting used to, but it streamlines gameplay and plays well into the concept that you are the captain of a ship who trusts his crew to man the cannon. Certainly, the later levels' bullet-hell elements wouldn't be so well integrated without it, especially the final boss. On the down side, restarting the game from scratch every time you lose feels like an artificial way to lengthen a short game, regardless of how much cash you're granted at the start. The game's willingness to shill for microtransaction advantages makes that design choice suspect at best. That said, overall, Frantic Frigates is a nifty piece of nautical action that has quite a bit of ch-ARR-m.

Play Frantic Frigates


(4 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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iBlast Moki 2

JohnBScattered across the land, the adorable little mokis are in trouble. But guess what? You get to rescue them! Using bombs! iBlast Moki 2 is Godzilab's follow up to the epic iOS physics puzzle game iBlast Moki, and it stuffs every ounce of material you could want into a single robust mobile package. Time to (safely) bomb some mokis!

iBlast Moki 2Your job, owner of the spiffy touch screen device, is to get every single moki to the pulsing red exit. These guys are pretty lazy, so they really won't help you very much in the process. Fortunately, mokis are remarkably resilient, able to withstand any number of close-range bomb blasts and survive some of the strangest potions and liquids one can dream up.

As per the structure of most physics-based puzzle games, iBlast Moki 2 takes place across a series of worlds, each subdivided into levels you can work your way through from beginning to end. Naturally, the difficulty and complexity gradually increases as you go, so expect to spend more and more time with each area the further you get in the game. Individual stages are unlocked groups at a time, so if you ever get stuck on one puzzle, you can easily hop to another one for a little break.

The inventory bar on the right side of the screen holds the items you can use in each stage. Bombs are pretty standard (though you won't have them in every stage) and can be placed next to mokis to send them flying. The closer the bomb, the farther the moki will go once it explodes. You can change the timing of the bomb's explosion by twisting the wheel around an individual bomb, allowing you to set up chain reactions and delayed explosions with great precision.

In addition to bombs, iBlast Moki 2 makes heavy use of something new and fun: paint bombs. These colorful little critters explode and can be delayed just like regular bombs, but instead of sending mokis flying, paint bombs cover the immediate area with a physics-altering coat of paint. Want a moki to zip through an area? Try a yellow bomb. Need to jump? Red bomb! Want to glue something together? Green is your friend. In addition to paint bombs, you'll also make use of ropes, balloons, metal rods and more, all adding a thick layer of construction to the already dense physics puzzle game.

iBlast Moki 2Analysis: iBlast Moki 2 is exactly what a sequel should be. The original iBlast Moki has been a shining star of the iTunes App Store since its release back in 2009. The sequel does nothing but improve that experience, keeping the same quirky level design intact while adding new items that expand and diversify the gameplay.

iBlast Moki 2 is quite the social game. You can view friends' solutions to levels with the tap of a button, showing a replay of their crazy/smart/crazy smart bomb placements that earned them passage to the next puzzle. The level editor is also a blast (yeah, terrible pun there) and lets you both create levels and play stages crafted by other iBlast Moki 2 players.

Sagging a bit in the middle, some of iBlast Moki 2's levels break the game's habit of providing genuinely thoughtful puzzles and resort to recycling the old. In these stages, you immediately see the solution to the level, but beating it requires loads of trial and error, bomb timing adjustment, and minute positioning of items. It's sort of jarring to have these sprinkled around the otherwise strong set of levels, but they far from ruin the game.

iBlast Moki 2 is stuffed to the seams with features, levels, and creativity. It's a huge package for anyone to digest and has a lot of elements you don't normally find in mobile games. For a physics puzzler, you can't do much better than this crazy title.


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Mobile Monday

JohnBSomewhere, contrasted with the daylight, sits an EDGE. On this EDGE there's a secret to be found, but only Bjorn knows where it is. Can the mere mortal locate this edgy mystery, or will it be lost forever to limbo...?

contrejour.gifContre Jour (iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad) - Physics games work very well on iOS devices thanks to their lovely little touch interface. Contre Jour at once looks and feels familiar but plays like something new. The visual style hits somewhere between World of Goo and LIMBO, whereas the gameplay is something akin to Cut the Rope and Bumpy Road. But, you know, different. Assimilated aspects aside, this game really does differentiate itself from the pack with some great puzzle design. You must guide Petit through each level by transforming the land to push him along. Goo-like tentacles can also be used to swing Petit to new platforms, and in later levels, new tentacles appear with unique properties. It's a great game filled with lots of personality, one that should definitely find a home on your iOS device. Contre Jour HD, a universal app, is also available.

secretofchateau.jpgThe Secret of Chateau de Moreau (iPhone/iPod Touch) - As intriguing stories go, The Secret of Chateau de Moreau certainly scores high on the Intrigue-o-Meter. The game plays like a visual novel crossed with Phoenix Wright, with a few compelling differences. You play as Antoine, stepson of Count Moreau who has just died under mysterious circumstances. You must investigate the crime while you solve puzzles to prove your own innocence. A few mis-steps and you have to start the chapter over again, which puts a damper on the story progression, but it does encourage you to pay rapt attention and absorb every little detail, of which this game features many! It's an active, text-heavy drama mystery with plenty of gaming elements to keep you engaged. Definitely one to check out if you're a fan of mysteries or the written word. A free version, The Secret of Chateau de Moreau Lite, is also available.

pegglehd.jpgPeggle HD (iPad) - It's Peggle. For your iPad! PopCap has finally seen it fit to extend Peggle's reach to the big screened iOS device, coming far too long after the original iPhone release of two years ago. Now the wait is over and you get to play Peggle in its full glory, no more "2x" scaled up graphics! Unfortunately there are no new levels, tweaks or perks, but when it comes to Peggle, all you need is... well... Peggle. In addition, Peggle Nights is available as an in-app purchase!

edgeextended.gifEDGE Extended (universal) - How could anyone possibly say no to more EDGE? Just released as a PC/Mac download, EDGE has been the favorite action/puzzle child of the mobile market for several years now. EDGE Extended introduces a new 3D physics engine, improved visuals, and almost as many levels as the original game, making it a healthy addition to the already stellar experience.

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.


(8 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Lost Souls: Enchanted Paintings

JohnBA friendly reminder from your internet pals: if a mysterious painting of a spooky old castle appears on your doorstep late one night, do not let your child hang it in his or her room. Mischievous things are bound to happen, and not the sort of madcap adventures one would find in an episode of Scooby Doo. Lost Souls: Enchanted Paintings, from Fenomen Games, tells the story of a missing boy who suffers the unfortunate fate of getting sucked into a painting. His mother, Bella, will do anything to get him back, including enlisting the help of some otherwordly friends.

Lost Souls: Enchanted PaintingsLost Souls: Enchanted Paintings is a "mostly adventure but sometimes there are hidden object scenes" game. You play the role of Bella who must enter a series of paintings to rescue her son. Within each painting you'll find a world, complete with a map that has a number of places you can visit. The game allows you to travel from zone to zone, picking up items you might need and using them in different locations. It's quite a bit of fun to scoot around these lushly-drawn scenes and scrutinize the environment for things you can use!

Hidden object scenes are fairly common and feature a short laundry list of items to find. Apart from those, you'll also do quite a bit of investigating to find items scattered around the main part of the game. Using objects from your inventory is key to solving most puzzles, and with a bit of logic any clever casual gamer can determine how to use a shovel to clear off some snow hiding a neat little shining item below!

Analysis: Lost Souls: Enchanted Paintings goes well beyond the norm to create a lush world that resembles a painted fairytale. The music is sort of stilted in areas and doesn't quite fit the mood, but the images on your screen are so vivid, you honestly won't pay the soundtrack much attention. It's all about pretty colors and bright pictures.

Lost Souls: Enchanted PaintingsOne aspect of Lost Souls that can't be ignored is how user-friendly this game is. Every aspect of the interface was sculpted to make it easier to play, from solid click mechanics to well-grounded puzzles and hidden object scenes that never toss logic out the door. Click detection is unusually precise, something that can be a nuisance in some hidden object games. Here, though, it works surprisingly well, encouraging you to take your time and be thorough in your investigations instead of just wildly flogging the mouse button until you reach the end.

Lost Souls falls on the short side of the hidden object game length scale, clocking in at just over three hours for an average player. The diminished size is largely due to the game's low level of difficulty. Puzzles and quests are interesting, but they don't really go the extra step required to make them challenging. It's fun pecking around to find out what goes where, but you won't feel it necessary to hit the hint button very often.

Simple and effortless to play, Lost Souls: Enchanted Paintings delivers exactly what a casual hidden object game should deliver: satisfying gameplay and lush visuals. No gimmicks to get in the way, just a good (if short) casual adventure game to help pass the evening.

A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains exclusive wallpapers, concept art, a bonus free roam mode, 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

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EDGE

JohnBOwners of iOS devices have been enjoying Mobigame's isometric arcade/puzzle game EDGE for over two years now. The game survived legal battles and multiple removals from the iTunes App Store to win a number of awards for mobile gaming excellence. Now, Mac and PC can come to the party thanks to the porting prowess of Two Tribes! EDGE has arrived on Steam, carrying with it all the content of the mobile release with updated visuals and a new interface.

edgepc.jpgIn EDGE, you control a cube that moves along an isometric grid by rolling side over side. Clip clop through each level collecting small cubes and dealing with moving platforms that can either help you to higher ground or shove you into the big empty void below. In addition to being surprisingly adept at rolling (you know, for a cube and all), our little buddy can also cling to the sides of walls for a few moments and even shrink to miniature size, allowing you to scale up walls and move through small spaces.

The first few levels in EDGE let you get used to the gameplay with some basic puzzles that are little more than reflex tests. Soon, though, stages get increasingly complex and feature puzzles braided into puzzles, forcing you to actually think before you start rolling. The action also gets more intense with moving blocks, launchers, switches and other elements that can toy with your balance and send you careening around the level at dangerous speeds.

edgepc2.jpgAnalysis: EDGE is as challenging as it is beautiful. One of the reasons this title received so many accolades in its mobile form is because it looks stunning, featuring clean visuals that make sparse use of color, creating a futuristic sort of world where geometry is king. The action-oriented puzzles are also smartly constructed to challenge you throughout the game's 50 or so levels.

Level design is crucial in a game like this, and EDGE's designers got things just about perfect. Gradually increasing complexity, strange contraptions that do even stranger things with the cube, and stage layouts that are simultaneously challenging to both the reflexes and the critical mind. The emphasis of the game is on getting a high score and then trying to beat it, making old school arcade gamers feel right at home.

Try out EDGE and EDGE Extended for iPhone and iPad!

EDGE does fantastic as a mobile game, but it suffers a bit making the transition to the desktop/laptop world. The controls, for example, are a serious issue. Touch screen navigation is easy and intuitive, while isometric movement with a keyboard is always a hassle, even if you're used to the [up] arrow moving you northeast. The options screen allows a bit of leeway, but in the end, EDGE loses a lot in the translation from being a "touchable" title to sticking a mouse and keyboard between you and the game.

Regardless of the minor controls issue, EDGE looks and sounds even better on the big screen and contains every bit of content found in the original mobile release. It's a clever, engaging, unique sort of game that's an excellent fit for the casual gamer who enjoys a bit of edge-like perfection!

WindowsWindows:
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Mac OS XMac OS X:
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Get the full version


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Rating: 4.4/5 (232 votes)
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DoraCoinbox HeroIf there was ever a game best described by a series of inarticulate, baffled sounds and some helpless gestures towards the screenshots and a link to play for yourself, jmtb02's latest action arcade game Coinbox Hero might be it. Use the [arrow] keys to jump and batter yourself against a floating coinbox in Germany while polka music plays and collect the coins that fly out to purchase upgrades at the shops with the [spacebar] to better facilitate your coinbox beat-down. Why? Because coinboxes are lame (... apparently... ) and need to be destroyed, but this one isn't going to go down so easily. There's only one thing that can really destroy a coinbox, and it takes more than a little pocket change, so if I were you, I'd get jumping. And maybe hire some workers while you're at it. After all, he who hammers his head against bricks alone gets avoided at parties and on the subway for dribbling onto his collar. That's an ancient Chinese proverb, you know.

Coinbox Hero is one of those games that kind of makes you ask yourself, "What am I doing with my time?", but still find yourself playing ten minutes later. It's simple, weird, entertaining and queerly addictive, but at the same time is more than a little repetitive since it winds up playing itself after a while. Mike Shadow: I Paid For It had essentially the same concept, but with considerably more flash and flair in its upgrades. Coinbox Hero, by contrast, goes more for the absurdity in its presentation, and takes a while to really get anywhere, but if you stick with it and are clever with your upgrades you'll soon find the screen a veritable whirlwind of coinage. You might wonder if the payoff for all this, which comes after you finally save up enough to purchase a nuke, is worth it. You might wonder if this game could possibly get any weirder. More importantly... you might wonder if your health insurance covers all this head trauma.

Please note that there are still some minor glitches in this game. During my play I discovered it would pause randomly during prolonged machine-gun fire, and it does appear to be possible to actually force the coinbox off the screen with enough bullets from one over-powered source.

Play Coinbox Hero


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Rating: 4.6/5 (23 votes)
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grinnyp_awakeningthegoblinkingdom_banner.png

GrinnypBest of Casual Gameplay 2011If you've ever seen Disney's version of "Sleeping Beauty" you would think that all a cursed princess had to do was fall asleep for 100 years and wait for a handsome prince to rescue her. It goes without saying that they lived happily ever after, and she probably never lifted a finger again. Unfortunately for Princess Sophia, the heroine of Boomzap's fabulous new hidden object adventure hybrid, happily ever after seems a long time coming. First she had to find her way out of her own cursed castle, encountering no handsome prince, merely a series of disgruntled goblins. Then she had to find her way through an enchanted wood to find the fairy queen. Now, In Awakening: The Goblin Kingdom, there is still no rest for the weary Princess as she must journey to the heart of the goblin kingdom to discover where the heck her people have gone. What with all the questing and puzzle solving involved the poor girl must be exhausted by now. Where's a prince when you need him? Or at least a cab?

awakeningthegoblinkingdom3.jpgAwakening: The Goblin Kingdom is the third of the fabulous Awakening series of adventure games. In Awakening: The Dreaming Castle poor Sophia awoke from her hundred year nap to find the castle deserted (except for the aforementioned goblins) and she had to find her way out using mostly her wits as the poor girl was born with a bit of a problem: she had no intrinsic magical powers, a rarity amongst her people. In Awakening: Moonfell Wood Sophia trudged onwards, searching for her family and the rest of the folks of the kingdom, aided only by a helper fairy and a cute little pocket dragon. Now Sophia is back and still searching, accompanied by the pocket dragon and a new companion to aid her along the way, a rather stuck-up little owl named Randolph who is at least helpful with the hints as the story unfolds. Something is rotten in the state of Goblinhome and Sophia must discover what is up before war erupts between the humans and the goblins, with the other magical creatures of the forest such as gnomes and fairies caught in the middle of the conflict.

As with the first two games, Awakening: The Goblin Kingdom plays like a point-and-click adventure with some hidden object elements tacked on. The game is very puzzle-heavy, with the familiar (pipe puzzles, jigsaws, sliders and the like) mixed with a few original puzzles (mostly code-breaker types). Effort has been made to up the ante with the hidden object finding, including the necessity of rearranging things within the scene to find a certain object mixed with scenes that depend not on lists of things to find but pictures, silhouettes, or finding items based on hints and riddles. The mini-games and puzzles range from amazingly easy to difficult and can be skipped after a certain amount of time. Exploring the various locations is as simple as the click of a mouse, and a changing cursor is around to indicate areas to go, places to explore, puzzles, and conversations to be had. Yes, Princess Sophia can't do it all on her own so she will be depending upon the help and guidance of goblins, gnomes, the fairy queen (in a cameo appearance) and her own traveling companions. Eventually, hopefully, she will finally find the rest of the humans and prevent a major war.

awakeningthegoblinkingdom2.jpgAnalysis: The Awakening series of adventures has always been reliable for two things: beautiful graphics and puzzle-heavy gameplay, and Awakening: The Goblin Kingdom delivers both in spades. Boomzap has eschewed the hyper-realism of 3D rendering and gone with a fantastic, fantastical hand-painted look that suits the storyline perfectly. Lovely, lyrical music accompanies the poor princess along the way as she journeys from deep in a mine to a train station, from a cell in the goblin king's castle to a seedy tavern, from the gnome village to the goblin king's throne room, and multiple points in-between.

The puzzles and mini-games are a mixed bag of difficulties and special effort has been made to add little twists here and there to make gameplay more interesting. The pipe puzzles and other familiar games each have their own unique signature and the original puzzles are amusing and challenging. And just as The Dreaming Castle featured a large series of "goblinjong" puzzles (aka mahjong), and Moonfell Wood featured card-based games, The Goblin Kingdom has kept the pattern with a new batch of repeating games, this time tangrams, those tricky geometric re-create the shape puzzles. Also keeping the gameplay fresh are the varieties available within the hidden object finding, which even include a "reverse" hidden object scene reminiscent of Enlightenus, where the player has to put objects back into the scene rather than find them. The designers have also found a nice balance of hand-holding within the game, ranging from discreet sparks of light to helpful hints from Randolph the snooty owl, as well as a handy journal that not only keeps track of found information but a running list of goals to accomplish as well so the gamer rarely flounders about without a clue.

grinnyp_awakeningthegoblinkingdom_screenshot1.pngAs stunning as the lush artwork is, however, it can be a bit of a handicap in the hidden object scenes, where finding painted objects laid out on top of a painted scene can be a bit difficult for anyone with less than perfect eyesight. There are also minor problems with clickable areas which can be especially tight within the hidden object scenes, as well as overlap with navigation areas causing a bit of confusion at times. On the plus side is the widely varied gameplay, including two modes, "normal" and "casual", making the game accessible to a wide audience and with a wide variety of adventuring skills.

Awakening: The Goblin Kingdom is a magical enchanted ride and a worthy successor to the games that preceded it. As before when you complete the main story there are a nice variety of the main puzzles (tangrams) available from the game menu to prolong the experience. If you disdain skipping puzzles and prefer to play in the more advanced ("normal") mode the adventurer can look forward to around four to five hours of gaming time for the story plus the Epilogue, pretty good for an adventure hybrid these days. Gorgeous, fun and compelling, The Goblin Kingdom is everything you could want in a hidden object adventure hybrid and more.

A Collector's Edition is also available. It includes wallpapers, concept art, the soundtrack, cut-scenes, bonus gameplay, 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:
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Also available: Collector's Edition

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Weekend Download

JohnBYou wouldn't forget a thing like me, not even if you caught me red-handed in the crime zone. If you did, I might run away, screaming AAAAA until I managed to escape.

forgetme.gifForget-Me-Not (Mac/Win, 5MB, free) - You played the iOS game by Nyarlu Labs called Forget-Me-Not, correct? Now you can enjoy the same hyper-difficult arcade-meets-roguelike-RPG action on your Mac/Windows computer! Run around the Pac-Man-esque mazes as you pick up dots and shoot enemies that get in your way. Get the key, go for the door, and try to collect everything you can along the way. It's a good old-fashioned high score challenge, and the smart enemies combined with the wealth of in-game events makes it a fresh experience every time you pick it up.

crimezone.gifCrime Zone (Windows, 2MB, free) - This game... is an experience. It's styled like a classic adventure title, but the content is something almost completely different. Each screen puts you in front of the streets as a different cop. You're working hard, checking out strange happenings, patrolling like a boss, and then you change locations and thus shift personalities. Some really odd things happen in the Crime Zone, and you find yourself being drawn to a strange hotel. Also: what the heck is going on?

aaaaa.gifAAAAA (Windows, 2.4MB, free) - You like demakes? This little release from a GameJolt demake competition simplifies and flattens AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! A Reckless Disregard for Gravity, turning it into a pre-8-bit diving game. Hop from the building and float left and right, passing between barriers and aiming for the colored rectangles sitting in-between. It's surprisingly difficult to navigate safely as you fall from the top of the tower, even though there are only two dimensions you have to worry about.

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


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Rating: 4.7/5 (800 votes)
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DoraClickPLAY RainbowGet ready to point-and-click your way through another weird and wonderful world of puzzles and mini-games with NinjaDoodle's latest installment in the ClickPLAY series, ClickPLAY Rainbow! The goal? To find and click the play button, wherever it may be hiding. Each stage is a little puzzle to figure out how to make the button appear, whether it be by tearing the scenery apart, deciphering a code, appeasing the physics gods, or meeting the demands of a snooty robot waiter. Click around and experiment; since each level has different rules that you'll have to figure out for yourself, the solution is never the same twice.

Play all the ClickPLAY games:
Click PLAYClick PLAY 2Click PLAY 3Click PLAY RainbowClick PLAY Rainbow 2Click PLAY Quickfire 1Click PLAY Quickfire 2Click PLAY Quickfire 3

If there's one thing we as a species should be able to get behind, it's light-hearted puzzles featuring adorable muppet creatures, and NinjaDoodle continues to deliver that in spades. Rainbow has a lot going on, both in terms of creativity and charm, and figuring out the answer to each abstract stage is always fun. There are, however, a few stages that may be frustratingly fiddly because of physics or timing or both (stupid ball, don't you want to go in your home?!) or require a bit of trial-and-error even when you know what you're supposed to be doing. But if you're quick of mind and pure of heart (or just clever and patient) you'll find a lot to enjoy here and just the right amount of easy-going puzzling solving to prime you up for the rest of your week.

Play ClickPLAY Rainbow


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Rating: 4.4/5 (21 votes)
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Age of Enigma: The Secret of the Sixth Ghost

JohnBA g-g-g-ghost! More than one, even! Actually, the mansion Ashley finds herself called to is practically heaving with spectres, all of them with unfinished business, and a mysterious being informs her that she is the only one who can set them free. Age of Enigma: The Secret of the Sixth Ghost is a point-and-click adventure from Casual Box. It looks stunning, almost like a playable Saturday morning cartoon (readers aged 30 and over, that reference is for you!), and even though the puzzle elements are a bit thin, the game manages to paint an atmosphere of intrigue that draws you right in.

Age of Enigma: The Secret of the Sixth GhostFor starters, Age of Enigma is about as close to an adventure game as any casual game can get. There are no hidden object scenes of the traditional sort (i.e. find a list of items to proceed), over two dozen mini-games, and plenty of inventory items to find, combine, and utilize. All you need is your trusty mouse and a button to click and you're ready to go. The cursor changes to indicate actions you can perform, such as walking to new rooms, interacting with items, or just getting some more information out of a curious sight.

Your job is to walk around and help out half a dozen souls who have become trapped in this realm. That's a real bummer for them, but since it's pretty easy for you to lend a hand, you might as well. You'll encounter a handful of moderately-frightening things in the game, a few of which are really bone-jarring in nature (giant eyeball in the keyhole, anyone?). Most puzzles can be completed by visiting a few adjacent rooms, so backtracking is practically non-existent, even though there's a map and a diary to help you keep track of things. A few broken things to find, a couple of items to assemble, and you get to call it a successful ghost-helping session!

Age of Enigma: The Secret of the Sixth GhostAnalysis: Visually, Age of Enigma: The Secret of the Sixth Ghost is beyond captivating. Seriously, try looking at one scene in motion and then walking away without looking at a few more. It's a gorgeous game, with artwork that would be right at home in a finely-crafted graphic novel.

The gameplay, unfortunately, is way too easy, and all but the most inexperienced casual gamers will breeze through the game in three hours or so. Puzzles are pretty much spelled out right in front of your eyes, and if you're stuck, there's an in-game guide to unstick you. Ghosts are quite helpful and your diary fills in any blank you could possibly imagine. Plus, every mini-game is skippable right from the start. And that's on the free-roaming "hard" mode!

The Age of Enigma soundtrack is available for download on iTunes!

Age of Enigma has the visual punch necessary to stand out from the crowd, but pieces of it feel awkwardly incomplete, almost as if it were rushed out the door to meet a deadline and someone forgot to add challenge. More time in the gameplay incubator would have done this one well! Still, this is the perfect sort of game to receive a sequel, as the developers have some room to improve on an already promising concept.

WindowsWindows:
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Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
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Get the full version


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Rating: 4.1/5 (112 votes)
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TrickyMinesweeper 3D UniverseFlush with the success of its recent movie adaptation, Minesweeper's star had never been higher in the eyes of the world. However, taking to heart the criticism that it's puzzle gameplay had gotten a little "flat" since the Windows 3.1 years, it began to seek a new dimension in its to hook the younger audience. One conference with foreign auteur Vjekoslav Krajacic later, and the result is Minesweeper 3D: Universe. Now with depth!

The rules of Minesweeper are probably burned in the mind of 95% of the target audience, but let's review for the Mac users and those that couldn't pull themselves away from Rodent's Revenge: The object of the game is locate all the mines on the board without activating any of them. Using the mouse, click various squares on the board. If the revealed square has a number (or, as here, a die symbol) beneath, it indicates how many of the adjacent squares (including diagonals) have mines under them. Clicking a square with no mines adjacent will automatically clear those around it. Clicking a mine will end the game. The [spacebar] toggles markers to be placed on a spaces where you believe a mine to be. Putting on totally sweet shades to celebrate victory is not required, but heartily recommended.

It's pretty hard to screw up a concept like "Minesweeper... IN SPAAAAAAAAAAACE!", and Minesweeper 3D: Universe doesn't disappoint. It has a nice mix of difficulties and rotating solids to play with, even if unlocking them all should come quicker. It would have been interesting to play rounds on some of the crazier topological surfaces: Tori, Mobius Strips... A Klein Bottle might be too much to ask for, but darned if it wouldn't be fun to sweep mines on it. Also, it was more difficult than expected to disregard the muscle memory that years of Windows gaming have made reflexive: righting-clicking for flags and the like. Still, those who enjoy Minesweeper in two dimensions will find it just as enjoyable a time-waster, and a very pretty one at that.

Play Minesweeper 3D: Universe


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraTHE INTERNET. A vast and untamed frontier, populated by wild popups, feral novelty cursors, enraged LOLcats, and those brave enough to try to eke out a living by sowing the seeds of their creativity within this unstable wilderness. COME. Take part of the bounty these brave few have cultivated, sprinkled liberally with action, puzzles, and even that most finicky of creatures... the physics game!

  • AsplodeAsplode - If you're looking for Boomshine but sleepier, look no further than this simple, dreamy little game about chain reactions, pleasant music, and things bumping gently against other things. You can practically hear each bubble exclaim, "Oh, no no no, pardon me," every time it happens.
  • Color TangleColor Tangle - If you're looking for all the satisfaction of simple puzzle solving with the acidic sting of a game expressing its disappointment at how slow you took to succeed, this is the title for you. Click and drag nodes through lines of the same colour until the whole mess of wires onscreen is untangled, upon which the game will grudgingly bestow victory upon you, but remark in a very passive-aggressive manner that you took your sweet time doing so. Sort of like if your significant other's disapproving parents were a flash game.
  • Safari TimeSafari Time - They may not be as addicting as peanut butter jelly time, but safaris still make for a pretty good time too. Or at least, that's the assumption the world's sketchiest looking zebra seems to be operating under when a brochure falls out of the sky. Manipulate the objects in each level of this physics puzzler to ensure that the zebra can travel unimpeded. I'd do it if I were you... this looks like the sort of zebra who'd have you wake up in a tub of ice if you crossed him.
  • Hippos FeederHippo's Feeder - Hippos may look adorably squishy and cuddly, but get on their bad side and they're about as terrifying as an animal can become without also being mounted on a charging grizzly bear. (With a copy of Fatal Frame taped to its head.) So it might behoove you to perfect the art of chucking watermelons in their gaping mouths in this physics game. You know, just in case you're ever in a situation where you have a rampaging hippo coming straight at you and several melons in easy reach. Isn't that a Scouts badge?
  • Cave of No ReturnCave of No Return - Somewhat less popular than the Cave of Pleasant Strolls and Cave of Moderately Priced Giftshops, this simple arcade game throws you into a cave that's literally falling apart behind you and tells you to run as fast as you can for as long as you can. It looks great, though it lacks variety, and you have to wonder about someone who goes inside a place with the words "No Return" there in the name.

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Rating: 4.5/5 (409 votes)
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DoraHero's AdventureIf you're looking for a good dose of "What have I done?!" look no further than Terry Cavanagh's extremely short and extremely creepy little RPG, Hero's Adventure. Made for Klik of the Month (and in less than a day), it follows a lonely little boy who heads out into the forest one day to play and, uh... well, you'll see. Use the [arrow] keys to move around, and the [spacebar] to choose options or interact with things. It won't take you more than five minutes or so to play, but you'll be glad you did. Maybe. Possibly. We, uh... we won't judge you either way. (Well, I might. A bit.)

Despite its length, this is one of those games that generated a lot of discussion with some very different opinions amoung the writers here on the site. Some felt it was brilliant, some thought it was funny, and others were just a little bit freaked out. To say much more would be spoiling it, and this is one of those things best taken with only the barest of preparation... and maybe a grain of salt. Once you've played it, let us know what, if anything, you thought in the comments, but remember... if you've played an RPG before, chances are you've had your share of random encounters too.

Play Hero's Adventure


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(6 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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You Are Games

Letters in Boxes #12

ArtbegottiThis heavily mathematics-oriented edition of Letters In Boxes has been brought to you by the number 10. But why, if it's the 12th in the series? Because 10 is what 12 looks like in base-12. Base-12 is an interesting number system, when you think about it. If we lived in a base-12 world (instead of the base-10 world we have), there'd be ten inches in a foot, 50 seconds in a minute, and 20 hours in a day. Cool, huh?

Letters in Boxes #11 - Puzzle 1To solve this week's puzzles, you need to know a bit about mathematical bases, and the easiest way to explain it is by looking at the base-10 system we're used to. When you see the number 179, we know that it's the sum of 9 ones, 7 tens, and 1 hundred. (These values are calculated by 10 to the 0th power, 10 to the 1st power, and 10 to the 2nd power.) But when you calculate the same value in base-12, you'll find that it's made of 11 ones, 2 dozens, and 1 gross (12 to the 0th, 12 to the 1st, and 12 to the 2nd powers). In other words, as you move from right to left the value of the digit in that position multiplies by the base number.

So armed with that little bit of knowledge, you should be ready to tackle this week's excessively numerical challenge. (Hint: Expect a lot of A=1, B=2, etc.) Click on the image below to open up this week's starter puzzle in a new window. When you think you've solved it, change the filename (in this case, "dimeadozen") to your answer, making sure you keep the same directory and .gif extension. If you're right, you're straight through to the next puzzle. If you're wrong, you'll get an error message, but you're free to recalculate your work and try again.

Letters in Boxes #12 - 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, August 29th at 11:59 PM (GMT-5:00). Can you become the Ace of Bases? Play along to find out!

Update: Congratulations to these eleven winners! :D

  • ViciousChicken ...First!
  • Ajslama
  • nqeron
  • han519
  • donhuando
  • DebbyA
  • Chaos
  • ladodger
  • Vespert
  • Nigma
  • RUSHAFX
All eleven winners were given a choice of prizes or an entry into our GRAND PRIZE drawing held at the end of August! Congratulations and thanks for playing with us! Look for another Letters in Boxes again soon!

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Rating: 3.8/5 (47 votes)
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corygalliherMetal Sphere SolidEuclid taught us that spheres are masters of espionage. Tactical espionage, that is. One might even say tactical espionage action. This is a basic property of the sphere taught in every high school geometry class... all the good ones, anyway... and it's put to work in Metal Sphere Solid, a new stealth action physics game made by Matthias Zarzecki. As a green sphere, your job is to escape from the base of the villainous Cuboids, rescuing your round brethren in the process. Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move around. If a Cuboid sees you, it'll sound an alarm and the doors leading out of your current area will be locked down, which is bad news. What's more, there are plenty of spikes and mines lying around the area that will cause your sphere to explode into bits if you touch them; fortunately, these traps are also effective on the Cuboids.

The name of the game is stealth. You'll have to sneak past the Cuboids to reach your goals. Thankfully, it's possible to see their fields of vision, which makes tip-toeing about much easier. In some cases a Cuboid's vision might block off a path entirely. In that case, you'll need to find a way to covertly dispose of the block, such as by shoving it onto some conveniently placed spikes. All the while you'll need to remember that you're a sphere, so ramps and slopes might prove to be a problem if you're not careful. If this sounds like a bizarre concept, that's because, well, it is. Fortunately it's well executed and there's none of the frustration that indie stealth games tend to cause. If you're caught, it's always your own fault rather than a problem with the game being cheap or too difficult, and since you can reset the area by hiding being caught isn't the disaster it often is in other stealth games.

Metal Sphere Solid is a short game that can be completed in five to ten minutes, but it's still an innovative take on the stealth genre. A longer game of this nature would be great, but everyone with a bit of time to spare should give Metal Sphere Solid a shot. It certainly beats geometry class!

Play Metal Sphere Solid


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Rating: 4.2/5 (86 votes)
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joyeLinxConnections are important, whether it's between people or between shiny pixelated blocks. You can make one hundred and twenty levels of connections in Retrocade's puzzler Linx, along with its expansion packs Linx: Easy Set and Linx: Hard set. You might connect the concept with the well-received 3D Logic series of spatial logic games. This one is just in a 2d package. And the game's developers have even sought to make connections with the colorblind community by including a colorblind mode! Are you feeling warm and fuzzy connections to all of life yet? Because you should be.

Pick a color (or a texture in colorblind mode) by clicking on a node, then click or click and drag to draw lines with that color. You can also select an "eraser" mode on the left or hold the [spacebar] while clicking to erase lines. This button can also be changed in the options. The idea is to connect all nodes of the same color without any differently colored lines crossing each other. That is, every tile contains either one color or no colors.

The easy set is so easy that experienced spatial logic fans will probably want to skip straight to the hard. In some levels, the trick is figuring out how to connect the rainbow of different nodes without anyone getting boxed in by other colors. The game calls these levels "routing" levels. In other levels, you're only dealing with one color but you have an extremely limited number of tiles. The game calls these "limiting" levels. The switch-off between the two different types helps keep the player stimulated since they call for different strategies. The interface is simple and extremely intuitive and user-friendly. The only potential drawback is that you have to solve the puzzles strictly in order, so if, for example, you prefer the routing type to the limiting type, you can't just skip the kind you don't like. But both types are likely to appeal to the same kind of player, so connect with your inner genius and play away.

Play Linx

Play Linx: Easy Set

Play Linx: Hard Set


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Rating: 4/5 (109 votes)
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Kyhkyh_moonlight_title.jpgMoonlight is a gorgeous spot-the-difference title from Difference Games that tells the touching tale of a young man and what he finds in the forest one night. Each scene is offered in stereo vision with a duplicate, circular cursor on the opposite side to your arrow, and you simply look for and click on the differences between each scene, with misclicks causing a point penalty. Moonlight offers three levels of difficulty to play, with the first two vary only in the amount of differences you must find per scene, but once medium is completed, the third level is unlocked. Not only does the hard difficulty require you to find even more differences, but it also has a completely different set of them than those in the other two levels. As an added bonus, there is a new scene near the end of this magical story for those brave enough to play that far. Unfortunately, we can't all be master difference-finders, so there is a hint system, which is set on a timer and has two forms: Shake, which will waver the area of a difference for a short time and use up less of your hint bar, and Reveal, which will highlight that area until clicked.

Stephanie Herrera's artwork (previously seen in Dreams) is captivating and well-suited to this form of expression. It's not often nowadays to find a storyteller who can weave such a fantastic tale with so few words. The story is more compelling than most of this genre, so don't be surprised to find yourself emotionally attached to the main characters. The music adds to the attraction of the game and fits well with the mood Herrera sets. Whether you're a beginner looking to play through once to look at the story or a spot-the-difference pro who must play each level through without any hints for maximum points, you would be remiss to pass by this mystical mystery.

Play Moonlight


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Rating: 3.9/5 (80 votes)
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TrickyBattle BeaversIt was a time of peace. The tribe was ruled by a fair and just leader named Bold, a ruler known across the plains for his fairness and generosity. However, trouble was brewing in the Mountains of Moira: Rangor the Terrible had raised a dread army of conquest, and sprung an attack in which no prisoner was taken. With his village decimated and his son kidnapped, Bold once again took up the garments of a warrior to lay siege to the hordes pillaging the land. Oh... and by the way, Bold is a Beaver. That would presumably explain why the name of Rob Almighty's and John Donkin's new RPG-brawler is Battle Beavers. 'Twould only make sense.

The [arrow] keys move your beaver, with [A] performing a quick light attack, [S] a slow powerful attack, and [D] blocking an attack from an enemies. Hitting attacks in certain orders make for more powerful combos. Different magic spells are unlocked throughout the game, and, should you have enough magic points on hand, are fired with the [1-6] number keys. Defeating enemies grants you XP, and with each level you gain, you'll have stat points to distribute for greater attack, defense, vitality/health, agility, critical hit luck, and magic. Also, defeated enemies drop shells which can be traded at Otto's Shop for weapons and equipment that grants various stat bonuses. You'll need all the stats you can get to face off against the Ferrety-Vikings, Beaver-Pirates, Foxy-Centurions, Badger-Mercenaries, Squirrelly-Spartans, and Martin-the-Warrior-knows what else.

For a game about woodland critters, Battle Beavers has quite the hardcore edge to it. There's an impressive amount of customization to be found here, and while the enemies are nicely varied, they can be quite unforgiving. It's definitely a mark against that some areas require much grinding to pass, and that some of the enemies suffer questionable hit detection along the y-axis, but the art and story are uniquely engaging. If you're in the mood for classic River City Ransom brawling excitement, with a dash of fantasy, you'll be happy to leave it to Battle Beavers.

Play Battle Beavers


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Rating: 4.1/5 (287 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypHere at Weekday Escape we're always trying to bring you the latest and greatest in room escaping, although sometimes latest doesn't always mean greatest and vice versa. In this case we're going back in time, digging through archives of our favorite designers and coming up with a gem by Kotorinosu, Shape. Yes, long before Shadow, Dangerous GenKan Escape 2, or Mirror Escape, Kotorinosu decided to taunt us with a room escape that depends on your spatial perception and ability to observe and deduce using various shapes found around the room. This makes for not only one interesting theme (something often lacking in the room escape genre) but a lot of fun for the mid-week break.

ShapeThe room in Shape is very bare, with sparse furnishings and little decoration. Move around this barren space with side-screen navigation bars and the occasional clicking on an item to gain a close up view. There is the usual room escape shenanigans involving finding and using any object that isn't nailed down, but the central theme of Shape are the puzzles and the shapes used to solve them. Despite the paucity of furnishings or other decor there is a lot of puzzle-solving to be had in this amusing little room escape.

Other than the lack of a changing cursor to indicate hot-spots there's not a lot to criticize in this wonderful mind exercise by Kotorinosu. The puzzles are logical and flow pretty easily from one to the other, there are no color puzzles to trip up the color challenged, numbers and letters are in English, and a keyboard is included in the game for the one puzzle that depends on a specific keyboard format. What is left is logical, fun, challenging escaping awesomeness for your room escaping entertainment.

Play Shape


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Rating: 4.4/5 (127 votes)
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DoraPrelude of the Chambered48 hours may seem like just a little while, but if you're Markus Persson of Minecraft fame it's apparently more than enough time to craft one big dungeon-crawling adventure. In Prelude of the Chambered, a first-person game of exploration and puzzles made for the August 2011 Ludum Dare, you find yourself in a cell. And because you are, presumably, not some sort of boring cell-lover, you want to escape, and if you keep your eyes peeled you might just find a whole lot of secrets and treasure along the way. Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move around, the [1] to [8] number keys to cycle through your inventory, and the [spacebar] to interact. In the beginning you can't do much except for break down weakened walls, but as you explore you'll soon discover all sorts of useful items hidden around, and before you know it, you'll be punching floating greenish eyeball thingers in the face with the best of them. Just keep your wits about you; your health is counted next to the heart at the bottom of the screen, and if that runs out, it's game over, and green health restoring potions are few and far between.

For a game made in such a relatively small window of time, Prelude of the Chambered is both simple in execution and surprisingly big. There's no story, no goal other than the typical hard-wired instincts that drive all players (find bling, get out, punch stuff), and as far as aesthetics go you might say the game... has a, uh, great personality, since it can be hard at times to tell what you're looking at or where you're going. Combine that with a lack of a map and an unforgiving death system that means starting all over from the beginning, and some players may find it a somewhat difficult bite to swallow. Still, considering the development time Prelude of the Chambered is actually pretty remarkable; there's something vaguely Zelda-ish to uncovering new items to aid you in your quest (although sadly without the doo-doo-doo-doo-doo! new item sound effect), and figuring out the various puzzles presented to you in each new area is oddly satisfyingly. Despite its shortcomings, Prelude of the Chambered is a great way to pass a coffee break or two, and is probably right up your alley if you've ever wanted to run up and start wildly swinging punches at a misshapen green monster spitting balls of corrosive green goo in your face.

Prelude of the Chambered

Thanks to Haikiba and Ixidorsbane for sending this one in!


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Rating: 3.8/5 (68 votes)
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bradGranny Strikes BackMost Grannies are pretty hard working; in between colour-coordinating their pastel blouses and making sure all their bingo dobbers are primed and ready to go, they also have the arduous task of spoiling kids rotten and then foisting the sugar-crazed rugrats back on their parents. But there's one Granny who may work harder than them all. In SilenGames' latest defense shooter, Granny Strikes Back, you'll help the eponymous Granny as she fends off snowmen commanded by aliens who need her raspberry jam to fuel their spaceship. Yes, you read that right. Well... what else do you use jam for?

You have two options for controlling Granny: a strictly keyboard option where you'll use [WASD] to move and the [arrow] keys to shoot or a keyboard and mouse option where the mouse is used to aim and shoot. In both modes, the [Q] and [E] keys will cycle through your weapons and the [spacebar] tosses out a bomb. You've also got three modes of play to choose from; Siege mode, where you'll have to defend Granny's cabin from attacking snowmen, Defense mode, which finds you trying to stop enemies from crossing from one side of the screen to the other, and Survival mode, in which you have a set number of lives and have to survive against a certain amount of enemies. On top of that, levels have three challenges that will give you extra experience or money if completed. As usual, experience counts towards earning levels. Each levels gives you some skill points to increase your stats. Money is used to buy upgrades, mostly for the structures you'll find on most levels. You see, you won't be alone out there... you can also raise buildings that can distract or damage enemies.

Granny Strikes Back is one of those rare games that provides both quality and quantity, with three different kinds of levels, bonus levels, boss battles and challenges too. The levels tend to go by fast and frantic, without becoming overwhelming, which allows for the feeling of, "Oh no!" when things look like they're about to get the best of you, but won't sentence you to grinding purgatory. It also helps that the game is easy on the eyes, with entertaining, colourful visual full of little touches, such as some snowmen carrying a battering ram or holding a flag, make them fun to watch and kill to the overly dramatic soundtrack. Granny Strikes Back is a great defense game that has a ton of entertaining elements. If you're a fan of the genre, you'll be hard pressed not to like this one; it's silly, beautifully designed, fun, and just like Grandma used to make.

Play Granny Strikes Back


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Rating: 3.9/5 (93 votes)
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theboywithtape.gifJohnBOk, so what have we got here? A couch. A window. Some scissors suspended from the ceiling. A present with a lid that's firmly taped down. And The Boy with Tape on His Face in the middle of it all. From BBC Three comes a short, comedy-driven point-and-click game starring Sam Wills as his quiet little character with a slab of tape over his mouth. His goal is quite simple, and if you're going to help him get inside that box, you'll need to solve some pretty strange puzzles.

All you'll need for this full motion video adventure is your mouse, and all you'll need to do with it is figure out what needs to be clicked on and click on it! The boy takes care of the rest. As you complete actions and view short video scenes, the present meter on the right slowly fills up, showing your progress to full opening of the deliciously-wrapped box. If, in your clicking explorations, you trigger the same video more than once, a handy "skip" button appears at the bottom of the screen, allowing you to move right past videos you've already seen.

The Boy with Tape on His Face is more of an entertainment piece than a traditional game, even by casual standards. The puzzles are less challenging and more, well, inevitable. Keep clicking on things and you'll get to the end. Keep getting it wrong and the game will show you what's next. It's not about the work that goes into solving the puzzles, however, it's about the antics of the boy with tape on his face. If you've ever seen Sam's show you'll know what kind of humor to expect, so hop in and enjoy the brief but comical game starring the boy with tape on his face!

Play The Boy with Tape on His Face


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The Vault

TrickyThe visual technology of gaming is advancing at a pace like never before, reaching heights of graphical complexity never before seen. And yet, we still find something to admire in the games of the past that pushed their engines to the limit, even if their achievements were dwarfed by the raw CPU power of later generations. Developers no longer have to use programming "cheats" to create 3D effects, but we respect the skill of those who wanted to and did. This week, the JiG Vault features three excellent pseudo-3D games from our archives. It may have been five years since their graphics were cutting-edge, but the fun is timeless.

  • The Missile GameThe Missile Game 3D - Even the most pacifist among us can probably see the appeal of riding horseback on a cruising missile. Damien, of DXInteractive, cleverly tapped into this Jungian drive with the release of The Missile game 3D, and it's arcade-style awesomeness. It's hard to prevent moving your whole body along with the mouse as you dodge every obstacle the corridor throws at you. With the elegance that comes with a masterful exploration of a simple premise, The Missile Game 3D will keep you addicted even as its velocity increases from "speedy" to "insane". Plus, there's the possibility of it giving you a seizure! That's living on the edge, my friends!... Seriously though, epileptics might want to skip this one.
  • Nimian HunterNimian Hunter - If it wasn't for how smoothly it plays, one could be easily fooled into thinking that Nimian Hunter was a just-released Unity action game, rather than Flash from 2006. ProtoPop beat the limitations of Flash 8 like no other, and the result combines a gorgeously bleak post-apocalyptic landscape, twisted creatures of fantasy, and a narrative all the more engaging for its minimalism. The Hunter's quest to revive his land borrows quite a bit from Shadow of the Colossus... but, really, why is that a bad thing? Nimian Hunter is short, sweet, and well worth a replay to see the second ending.
  • ArchipelagoArchipelago - Archipelago, a point-and-click puzzle game from Dark Room maestro Jonathan May, seems to draw its inspiration from the Hypercard adventures of the 90s. Don't get too Myst-y eyed with nostalgia though: this tropical chain of islands is filled with devious inventions, perplexing riddles, and a not-quite-inactive volcano. Archipelago is will vex, confuse, and frustrate you and you'll love every minute of it. Navigation hasn't aged as well as the atmosphere has, but Archipelago is enjoyable, even if you do nothing more than move from island to island, listening to the waves crash and the wind blow. It and its sequel make for a quite relaxing vacation... all that's missing is a drink in a coconut shell.

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


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Rating: 3.8/5 (399 votes)
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DoraNo Place Like HomeThey say home is where the heart is, and in the case of No Place Like Home by Sachka and Ray, it looks like your heart has pretty low standards. In this escape game, you find yourself unable to sleep in a room that has definitely seen better days. You're restless; you've read all your books before, and the television keeps playing the same movie over and over. Yet you can't leave... for a number of reasons. Click around to explore and use the arrows at the edge of the screen to navigate. When you pick up an item, you can double-click it in your inventory to examine it more closely, something you'll need to do to to solve a few particular puzzles and combine certain objects. Since the game doesn't repeat text, you can click on "..." in the lower right above your inventory to scroll through a log of everything you've read so far.

Despite the vaguely unsettling vibe the game gives off (or maybe even a little because of it), No Place Like Home is a beautiful game wrapped up in an engrossing atmosphere that perfectly draws you into the sad, scattered brain of the main character. It's also fairly difficult, no thanks to a lack of changing cursor that can leave you click-click-clicking around when you're stuck, but also because the puzzles can be a bit abstract and require quite a bit of fiddling with your inventory. What makes it great, however, is the way the story and setting creep up on you as you explore your dingy little world bit by bit. It's a great example of telling a narrative through your environment, using setting and clues rather than simply setting the player down and explaining everything. While it may require more than a little thought (you asked for a brain, didn't you?), and a dose of patience besides, No Place Like Home is a challenging, beautiful escape game that expertly weaves story and gameplay together for a great experience.

Play No Place Like Home


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Rating: 4.5/5 (371 votes)
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DoraVision By ProxyIt's the heartwarming tale of a little alien just trying to find his way home by stealing the eyes of unsuspecting people in Vision By Proxy: Second Edition from DeLeonGames, a fully authorised remake of a student project from Georgia Tech (Team Rose) that debuted at 2010's E3 IndieCade showcase. In this little puzzle platforming adventure, you'll guide our little blue bided outsider in search of the missing part he needs to repair his ship after he crashes on Earth. He's only got the one eye, however, and our world looks foreign to him... so it's time to give The Sandman a run for his money and snatch the eyeballs of various characters, which lets you see the world in different ways. Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move, [spacebar] to jump, and click on any eyes you get at the top of the screen, or use the number keys to swap between them.

A little cute and a little creepy (okay, maybe more than a little), Vision By Proxy is a clever concept with a slightly clunky execution. With its repetitious stages it winds up still feeling more experimental than anything else, and a few different eyeballs to yank would have done wonders for keeping it fresh as you go along. Despite this, however, the game still plays and looks quite good, with its storybook illustrations and beautiful artwork. The idea of having the landscape change vastly depending on whose eye you happen to be looking through makes for an interesting spot of gameplay that we'd love to see explored more in the future. Have a peek at it, but just remember; eyeball stealing is not a game and is more likely to earn you a jacket that gives you continuous hugs than it is a nifty flying saucer.

Play Vision By Proxy


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Rating: 4.8/5 (25 votes)
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Mega Mall Story

DoraAh, the thrill of the mall! The disdain of the barista serving you your overpriced latte, the obnoxious spraytans loitering outside the polo shirt store calling each other "bra", the sales on stuff you don't need but will buy anyway because you're weak... it can all be yours with Kairosoft's latest installment in the simulation "Story" series (Game Dev Story, anyone?) Mega Mall Story for your iOS device. You've got fifteen years to turn your struggling little strip mall into a sprawling megaplex worth five stars, and while you may not have much to begin with, with a little bit of planning and a little bit of funding to improve and grease the wheels of the local community, you'll be rolling in dough in no time. Selling out was never so addictive!

Mega Mall StoryYou'll start out with only a few shops available and a few floors on which to build, but don't worry... that's all going to change. While it might be slow going at first, concentrate on letting your mall build up a modest amount of cash; since you have to pay for restocking, maintenance, and any advertising at the end of each day, you don't want to spend money faster than you can make it. Initially, you won't be able to build many things, but as your reputation increases you'll be able to buy more blueprints, and, if you're lucky, loyal customers will become investors or introduce you to certain people or products that are worth your while. When you've got enough money, you'll also want to start thinking about investing in the local neighbourhood; not only does it look good for you, but it also attracts new customers to the area, and can even apply certain upgrades that will help you in the long run, such as covered walkways for rainy days and an economy that doesn't feel the sting of a recession quite as badly.

There are two types of currency in the game; cold, hard cash and "hearts". Hearts are earned whenever a customer is particularly happy with their shopping experience and can be spent not only on blueprints for new facilities, but also on improving your stores and holding sales. Cash, naturally, is important for the day-to-day running of your mall and building new shops and the like. Your shops can't earn you money if they can't meet the demand of your customers, however, so make sure you keep an eye on them; as shops level up, you can spend hearts on them to increase their inventory, or even add new, more expensive items to sell. All of this is important since you'll have to meet certain requirements in sales, shops, and loyal customers before the mall association will grant you a precious star and bring you that much closer to your goal...

Mega Mall StoryAnalysis: While it might be the simplest Story title yet, Mega Mall also might just be the most easily accessible and addictive. Like most recent Story titles, this one sorely needs a fast-forward button, especially in the early stages, but by keeping its gameplay relatively simple and snappy it doesn't take long before your screen is swarming with hundreds of tiny, strange hypnotic shoppers. The ability to pay a small fee to simply swap stores around lets you easily manipulate your layout without losing your upgrades, which means those of us with obsessive compulsive tendencies can lay out everything just so and earn all the combos as they become available without dropping a lot of extra cash.

Of course, it helps that the game can be unintentionally hilarious; I promise you the first time someone storms into your pet store screaming "WHAT'S THIS?!" and drops tens of thousands of dollars on cleaning out your entire stock of puppies you'll laugh (... nervously... ) too. Like most of the Story titles, Mega Mall suffers from repetition and doesn't feel like it necessarily holds a lot of replay value once you've "won", especially since after you've plunked down a good number of shops it kind of feels like the mall is running itself and you're just standing around with a chequebook. Fortunately, there are a lot of stores and combos to find, and since many of them only unlock once you've satisfied certain conditions, completionists will be playing for a long time indeed. The game is chock full of strange characters too, so those of you who have always wanted a store where ducks, UFOs, and luchadores could shop side-by-side in harmony will find a kindred spirit here. Fast and simple but oh so fun, Mega Mall Story is a bright and colourful little game you can lose minutes or hours to without even realising it.


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Mobile Monday

JohnBPreviously on Mobile Monday: mobile games! Currently on Mobile Monday: mobile games! The future of Mobile Monday: ultra mobile games you can play on your ocular implants!

hardlines.gifHard Lines (universal) - Attention everyone who loves the classic arcade game Snake: Hard Lines is Snake times one billion! Guide Lionel, the glowing yellow line, through several game types as he undertakes epic tasks such as killing all of the other lines, collecting glowing light things, and just generally not crashing into anything. It's classic Snake mixed with the lightcycle game from Tron with a whole lot of style and twists and turns, and you'll have a hard time putting it down.

velocispider.gifVelocispider (universal) - In addition to being the scariest thing you could imagine finding in your bathroom late at night, Velocispider is also the lone defender of a trio of endangered araknasaur eggs. Armed with an auto-firing gun, tilt your iOS device left and right to slide along the bottom of the screen, shooting at the aliens above Space Invaders-style. On occasion you'll pick up a nice power-up that temporarily boosts your firepower, but other than that, it's just you and a seemingly endless supply of aliens. Protect those eggs! The free Velocispider Zero is also available.

4towers.gif4Towers (iPhone/iPod Touch) - It's been several years since the first big breakout browser tower defense games started capturing big audiences. The genre has rolled along just fine on the mobile platform, featuring some very stylish interpretations of the strategic genre. As 4Towers wants to prove, you can also have an interesting story to go along with deep, customizable gameplay. Start with a few basic towers defending your base from creeps. Then, when the terrain allows it, combine units to form brand new towers that do some wonderful, wonderful things. It looks great, plays well, and gradually increases the complexity to keep you hooked wave after wave.

orbitalsling.gifOrbital Slingshot (universal) - Every space-based game of orbital gravity physics (see Gravitee Wars for a fine example) rolled into a lovely mobile package, Orbital Slingshot is two parts puzzle, one part arcade game. Your overall goal is to aim a probe and fire its sensors at nearby objects, picking a spot to fire at and adjusting your target to compensate for gravitational pull of the planets. It's never as easy as it sounds! Featuring six modes of play ranging from "hit the planet with the beam" to "try to almost hit planets with the beam" and well beyond, there's plenty of strategy and plenty of arcade action to be had in this tense game. Orbital Slingshot FREE is also available.

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.


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Rating: 4.8/5 (125 votes)
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Bastion

DoraFrom indie developers Supergiant Games send you to another world in Bastion, a rich, atmospheric action RPG adventure. You take on the role of "the Kid", a white-haired lad who wakes up one morning to discover the rest of the world has literally collapsed away, but finds paths rise up beneath his feet as he travels through a hostile realm to find... well, that would be spoiling things. Discovery plays a big part in your journey as you visit the ruins of a once-great civilization struck down by a Calamity, your only companion a narrator who speaks to you as you travel, gradually filling in the gaps in your knowledge as you discover what must be done.

BastionIf you're expecting a more traditional RPG with towns and party members and anything less than an action-packed romp through a series of surreal realms, Bastion might not be the game for you. Most of Bastion's gameplay revolves around effectively mastering the combat, since the world is a lot more unfriendly than it used to be. Enemies constantly harass you as you travel, and defeating them earns you blue shards you can spend to upgrade your weapons or buy other items at the Lost and Found.

The game offers three control schemes; mouse, keyboard, and gamepad, and you can configure the keys under the options menu. The action takes place in real time, with an isometric viewing angle. You'll explore various locations that have survived the Calamity (... somewhat...), fending off hostile creatures and gathering certain items you'll need to ensure the rebuilding of the world.

The Kid is able to carry two weapons at any time: a melee and a ranged, and there are multiple varieties of each to discovered scattered throughout the realm, ranging from swords to pistols to muskets to a magical flame-belching bellows and more. As you progress, you'll be able to build different structures that will allow you to do everything from adjust your equipment, to equip potions that grant passive bonuses, to unlock special challenges by appealing to the deities, and so on. You'll also find challenge areas that can grant you special items and upgrade materials if you feel particularly confident with your weapon of choice. The game has two different endings, hinging on the last decision you make, and completing the game once allows you to unlock New Game Plus, which lets you keep all your equipment and experience among other things the next time you start a new game.

BastionAnalysis: If there ever was a game world that made you feel like you wanted to fall on your back in the grass beneath the sun and watch the clouds roll by for hours, Bastion is it. From the amazingly rich, rolling acoustic guitar soundtrack by Darren Korb to the lush colours and striking artwork, Bastion is beautiful from every angle. The narration is one of those things that sounded novel and interesting when it was announced, but also like something that would get old or even annoying as time went by. Happily, the Narrator never becomes unwelcome, but more importantly actually feels integral to the experience rather than a gimmick. As you explore, he comments on your actions and surroundings in a way that not only slowly fills you in on the history of the world, never repeating himself, but also infuses a remarkable amount of personality and character in everything from the environment to monsters to inanimate objects.

The hack-and-slash top-down gameplay brings to mind old classics like The Legend of Zelda or Secret of Evermore, with objectives that mainly consist of "go here", "kill that dude", "take that thinger" and "stop falling off, stupid". Enemies rarely feel like they're smart enough to pose much of a challenge, and seem to rely on simply hitting harder or swarming while you can use the landscape to your advantage. It feels like the game needs a few more big, flashy, different boss battles to break things up a bit. As it is, however, the game still manages to keep from feeling repetitive by creating mesmerizing and alien environments and areas that all feel different and exciting despite the near-identical objectives. The story and narration drives you on, compelling you to want to discover what's around every corner, and you'll never find yourself at a loss as to where to go next.

Bastion is one of those rare experiences you never really feel like you get enough time with. The endings might be a little unsatisfying given how abrupt they feel, but the adventure as a whole is not to be missed. It manages to tell a captivating story in an extremely engaging way that makes you feel as if the events are happening around you and being driven by you Most players will probably spend around six to eight hours on a playthrough, more if they chase down every optional weapon challenge. But the bottom line is... is Bastion worth it? Yes. Absolutely yes. Fans of more traditional RPGs will want to try the demo first, but try the demo they should. It's a gorgeous experience from beginning to end that hits more than it misses, and provides more heart and soul than most other games in the genre out there.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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spiritsoup-b.jpg

GrinnypIt's been a long, strange year, hasn't it? First your great uncle passed away, then you had to move to the odd little town of Queensbury to help your grandmother run the family soup stall, then a curse hits the town and suddenly the only thing standing between the townsfolk and complete chaos is your great-uncle's magical spirit soup recipe. Wait, wha? Seriously, that's the premise behind newcomer Twilight Games' fabulously goofy new adventure, Spirit Soup: The Queensbury Curse. Yes, seriously.

spiritsoup.jpgOne morning on your way to help grandma at ye olde soupe stalle, the curse begins to manifest itself with strange formations opening in the earth and even stranger spiked trees popping up out of nowhere, slowly strangling the sunny medieval village of Queensbury and it is up to you (and grandma) to find the recipe, suss out the ingredients, solve a few puzzles, maybe get arrested, and (hopefully) eventually save the town from the malificence that is overwhelming it. You know, the basic adventure staples that include an ungrateful dude whose cart keeps breaking down, a slimy merchant who pays non-union wage, an absentee Queen, and her efficient (and officious) guards. As you do.

Spirit Soup: The Queensbury Curse may be billed as a hidden object hybrid but it really isn't. What it is, fantastically so, is a pure point-and-click adventure game with maybe three tiny hidden object elements in the entire story. Spirit Soup hearkens back to the classic adventure days of yore and involves a lot of wandering around using only the click of a mouse to navigate, pick up objects, and solve puzzles and problems along the way. Included within this wacky story are the usual suspects: a changing cursor to indicate areas of interest, a map to keep track of where you've been, a journal to keep track of your keen observations, a scrolling inventory of odd items to be used at a later point, and a rapidly refilling hint timer to help you along the way. All you have to do is solve a lot of puzzles and problems to help this poor town in distress. Or, you know, leave them to their fate.

spiritsoup2.jpgAnalysis: Spirit Soup: The Queensbury Curse is over-the-top, goofy, cheesy, adventurey fun of a type not seen for many, many years, hearkening back to the days of such amusements as Monkey Island and the like, a breath of fresh air in a market increasingly crowded by dark, dank, angsty adventure hybrids. You've gotta love a game where despite the curse the townsfolk go about their everyday business, gouging you for free labor, free repairs, and tossing you in the can for picking berries where you shouldn't.

The graphics are sharp, clear, cartoony 3D of the Pixar school, with appropriate, vaguely Elizabethan era music to back up the adventure. The atmosphere is relentlessly bright and sunny despite the urgency of the curse, and the characters you meet along the way are all amusing and so self-absorbed that most don't even seem to know that a deadly curse is destroying the town around them. The puzzles are a bit of a mixed bag, ranging from amazingly simple to complex, and most of them variations on the standards like pipe puzzles and the like. The few (very few) hidden object elements are so fleeting you might almost miss them in the rush to rescue the townsfolk from a doom that doesn't seem to bother them overtly, which is just part of the fun.

spiritsoup4.jpgAmazing fun though it is, Spirit Soup: The Queensbury Curse contains a few flaws. Some of the puzzles are almost excruciatingly easy, the hint timer, despite its quick filling time, is of very limited help in some areas, there are a few minor glitches with clickable areas, and the gameplay is rather...well, short, especially if you are not a novice to adventuring. For those who've got more than one quest under their belts we're talking maybe two to three hours playing time, which is pretty short even for these days of incredibly shrinking gameplay.

On the plus side the wacky characters and situations are quite fun, along with the whole premise of the story. How often do you get a chance to play a game where a tasty soup saves the day? Not too often, these days. There are also some extra puzzles of certain varieties that unlock after you've passed a similar type in the game, giving a little extra bang for the buck when the adventure is over. Frankly it's worth it just for the joy of playing a game that doesn't take itself too seriously, opening the way for the amusements of the town of Queensbury and its strange, strange inhabitants.

Can you make a delicious batch of soup to soothe the tortured souls of the curse? Will that dude with the broken down cart (that keeps breaking down) ever get out of your way? Does the Queen really give life sentences for picking berries? Will the stall-holder ever pay minimum wage? Oh, yeah, and will the curse get lifted in time to save the town? Spirit Soup: The Queensbury Curse is worth playing just to find out.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 3.6/5 (104 votes)
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corygalliherTransdimensionalIt's not a well-publicized fact, but we here at JayIsGames spend a lot of our time hopping between dimensions. You might even call it a hobby. We fund our massive office parties through jaunts to the Dinero Dimension, load up on snacks from the Elemental Plane of Nachos and relax in the Waterbed Universe when it's all over. It should come as no surprise, then, that we felt a certain kinship with the robotic hero of TransDimensional, a new platform adventure game from Willem Rosenthal.

Our hero is an employee of the Trans-Dimensional Personal and Business Travel Agency. He can go about his job by using the [left] and [right] keys to walk around, [Z] to jump, [C] or [down] to interact with the environment and [shift] to carry items. When he's eventually armed, our robotic buddy can use his weapon with [X] and aim with [up] and [down].

It doesn't take long for our metal friend's first job for Trans-Dimensional to go wrong and he's thrown into another dimension thanks to some malfunctioning hardware. He finds himself in a strange land of bureaucrats, scientists and hippies. It's your job to lead him home...or at least as close to home as he can get!

TransdimensionalAnalysis: Anyone who's played the classic SNES game Earthbound will feel right at home with TransDimensional. The two have a fair amount in common, from their styles of humor to their styles of music; even the scenes when you die are almost identical in both games. There's a certain air of irreverent weirdness about the proceedings that makes TransDimensional feel like something special.

Graphically, the game follows an abstract retro aesthetic. Everything's pleasing to the eye and bizarre enough that it's enjoyable to keep going just to see what strange environment might pop up next. The real highlight of the presentation, though, is the music. It's pretty darn catchy for what might just be random MIDI notes.

In terms of gameplay, TransDimensional is a fairly straightforward platformer. Instant death spikes and pits abound, but the game's far too short for these to become all that aggravating. While you're given a gun fairly early on, it doesn't see a whole lot of use and the majority of the challenges are based around platforming instead of combat. The game's physics are nicely balanced and avoid the "floatiness" that plagues a lot of indie platformers, so while there will probably be a fair amount of falling, it's generally due to player error rather than the game. This can still frustrating but it's much easier to correct.

TransDimensional's unique presentation is pulled off well enough that it's certainly worth a look. At around 20 minutes long, it doesn't require much of a time investment and fans of platformers are bound to have a good time hopping between dimensions. And you won't have to visit the Elemental Plane of Nachos. The cheddar elementals there are killer.

Play TransDimensional


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Weekend Download

JohnBKittens, cases, and groups of miserable people in 1800s France? How on Earth does one mix those elements together? Answer: one doesn't! One just adds them to Weekend Download and let everyone else decide which games they want to play! All right!

casecase.gifCase Case (Windows, 13MB, free) - Here's an infuriatingly simple game that would feel right at home on those old LCD handheld "gaming systems". Your goal is to grab the suitcase, and then keep grabbing it as it reappears on different floors. You can move left and right, jump a little, and control the direction all of the doors/bad guys travel in. Each time you touch a white door you move up a level and exit through the gray door. So, before you step in, make sure you aren't stepping out to certain death. Play it over and over again until you get the hang of it, then keep replaying it until you actually collect a few cases before dying!

goright.gifGo Right (Windows, 21MB, free) - Much like You Have to Burn the Rope, this little game tells you exactly what you need to do to win. Fire it up, go right, and you win! But... actually... what happens if you don't go right? It's not like anything can hurt you. Sure, there's spikes and fire and stuff, but all that narrator is doing is trying to make you mad. Who cares what the narrator says. You do what you wanna do! You and your pet kitty Fluffems!

lesmis.jpgLes Miserables: The Game of the Book (Windows, 128.5MB, free) - The classic 19th century tale, transformed into a visual, game-like point and click experience. Les Miserables is Victor Hugo's story of ex-convict Jean Valjean, struggling to redeem himself against the philosophically thick world of Paris, France. It's a love story, it's a story of sacrifice, it's a story of pain. But it's also a story of redemption, and this unique telling of the tale focuses on visual aspects with game-like elements mixed in at appropriate times. It's a very different kind of experience, and one everyone should experience regardless of their familiarity with the source material. The company behind this game, Enter the Story, has several other games available based on works of classic literature, so be sure to check those out if Les Mis gets you hooked!

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


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Twisted Lands: Insomniac

Dora"I don't want to scare you, but we're going to do a lobotomy." Here's a protip; if anyone ever says that to you... worry. Especially when you're the one strapped to a hospital bed. In Alawar Games' hidden-object adventure Twisted Lands: Insomniac, you play Angel, whom you might remember, an amnesiac young woman who was found wandering on a beach and has since been committed to psychiatric care after terrifying visions and hallucinations have reduced her to hysterics. Rather than succumb to the (questionable) efforts of her doctors, she decides to escape, but her bizarre nightmares won't leave her alone and she might not be as crazy as she appears.

Twisted Lands: InsomniacIn this direct continuation of Twisted Lands: Shadow Town, as Angel you'll travel between the sinister hospital she's been locked in, and a bizarre dark other world. The gameplay is your standard pointy-clicky, puzzle-solvey affair, and you'll hunt for objects and clues under the watchful eyes of a whole host of creepy ghost kids. (Is there any other kind?) While the "skip" button on puzzles takes a long time to charge, the game's "hint" button is extremely helpful and will even point you exactly where you need to go if you click on it during normal gameplay. As such, you might want to resist the temptation to use it unless you want the experience to feel like you're being lead around by the hand by a fussy, over-protective mother. "Did you tie your shoes? Are you sure you have all the puzzle pieces you need to open the infernal gate to the Hellmouth? Make sure you take a tinkle before you go... you don't want to have to turn back!" *sigh* Yes, moooooooom...

Twisted Lands: InsomniacAnalysis: Insomniac is vastly superior to Shadow Town in nearly every way. Sporting significantly flashier visuals, cutscenes, and even a bit of voice acting, Insomniac is not only presented beautifully but plays great too. Strange things constantly happen around you, clues and scenes drive the plot forward, and the hidden-object scenes are clean and well-rendered so you never feel like you're straining your eyes. The downside is there's a fair amount of backtracking, and the game is more than happy to make you repeat some hidden-object scenes in a relatively short window of time. Fortunately, Insomniac really works to keep you interested and rarely lets more than a few minutes pass without something strange and spooky happening, or the plot advancing in some fashion. You might not call it scary unless you're the sort of person who generally jumps at shadows, but it definitely isn't boring. Having finished Shadow Town isn't necessary a strict requirement to enjoy the game, but there are so many nods and mentions and answers directed at it that a lot of the plot might go right over your head otherwise.

The game's biggest flaws, however, might be both that the hint system makes the game extremely easy if you rely on it, and that even if you've played Shadow Town the plot is sort of confusing. Don't get the wrong impression; if you're looking for an eye-catching, surreal hidden-object adventure then Insomniac is a great choice for a relaxed evening's play, but as you're bombared with strange images and cryptic notes you'll probably be doing your own version of an adorable YouTube pug-head-tilt video more than once. On the other hand, this strangeness works in the game's favour to a certain degree, since you're always driven to find out more about what's going on, and if a purple skeleton or a creepy shadow pops up once in a while as you're doing so, all the better. Twisted Lands: Insomniac isn't quite perfect, but it's a game you can have a lot of fun with, packed full of surprises and weirdness. You can probably expect a playthrough to last over four hours, and if you've been wanting a not-too-spooky but definitely ambitious and well made title to lose an evening in, you'll definitely want to check out the demo.

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

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

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


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Rating: 4.2/5 (85 votes)
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DoraCanopyNitrome's latest "weird critter" physics arcade game has arrived in the form of Canopy, a mouse-driven title about a hungry monster with enormous hands who swings through the trees, searching for delicious fruit to squish. (Look, we already said it was weird.) The goal is to get to the, uh, goal at the end of each level by climbing through the trees, avoiding enemies and grabbing fruit for bonuses. The creature's hands follow your mouse; just click on a nearby branch to grab on, and the other hand will release, allowing you to climb and swing through the trees. Just be careful; there are other nasty creatures lurking in the limbs, and three hits and you're done for. It ain't all just monkey-bars gymnastics, however; you'll need to learn how to shake the tree you're in to propel yourself higher or lower (you can even shake the trees to dislodge hanging fruit and enemies for points!), how to handle different climbing materials, and more.

Canopy just might be the all-around strangest game Nitrome has put out in a while, but darned if it won't make you smile. From the energetic, toe-tapping soundtrack to the bouncy gameplay, to the adorable visuals and sound-effects Canopy is feel-good cute candy for the soul. If it doesn't make you melt a little every time our hero lets out a delighted Wookie grrrrroooonk! every time he reaches the end of a level, well, we just don't know what to say. The springy gameplay can be a little difficult to master; if you try to move too quickly, the movement can feel too snappy and unpredictable, and figuring out how to bounce yourself higher by shaking takes practice. Combine that with how tricky some objects can be to grab while you're moving, and the way just being within breathing distance of the ground or an enemy can count as a hit, and some players may find the game too frustrating to handle. If you can get the hang of things, however, and you'll discover just how creative and fun the game can be. The amount of different content in terms of environment and things to climb on is really impressive, and shaking startled bugs out of trees is never not amusing. Canopy is a game that requires a little time and patience to master, but it's a remarkably endearing and enjoyable little bit of creativity that you'll want to try at least once.

Play Canopy


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (124 votes)
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joyeCastaway Island TDPeople love the Castaway series, and there's a lot to love. That plucky protagonist with his spiky hair. His adorable pets. The funky tropical locale and seafaring music. Tower defense fans looked on in envy. Well envy no more, because Likwid has come to your rescue with Castaway Island TD.

Borrowing some controls from the action rpg originals, you actually have to move your character around with the [WASD] or [arrow] keys and interact with potential tower slots through the [spacebar], using the mouse to select which option you want. You also have to move around yourself to collect the coins that enemies leave behind when they die. In addition to attacking enemies with towers, you can also lay traps for them, either by clicking on the desired trap in the lower right or by hitting hotkeys [1] through [8]. Traps drop right where you are. The game includes the signature pet feature of the earlier games. You permanently pick one of three pets to help you, and they act automatically. The one big drawback is if you're hunting for a "speed up" button. There isn't one.

This is no mere rushed attempt to exploit a franchise by exporting it to another genre all slapdash like. The makers clearly put some thought into making this its own game, and they understand what the genre's fans like. So you can stand proud, tower defense fans. You have a Castaway game of your very own!

Play Castaway Island TD


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraOkie dokie lokie! No time to waste. It's Friday and you know what that means... time to break out the corpses, the lurking rabbitmen, the alarmingly well-equipped rats and the endless tide of soulless robots! If none of that sounds appealing, then clearly you aren't cut out for this week's Link Dump Friday. I don't know why... it's all good, clean, wholesome stuff. Did you see the segment Martha Stewart did on shambling corpses last week? It was gorgeous!

  • The Saddest ZombieThe Saddest Zombie - [Parental Advisory: Contains extreme violence and gore.] Oh, what a lovely little spot-the-difference game! Sure, it's got zombies, but it'll probably be all heartwarming and junk... it is very Christmassy, after all! So let's just click on the next few pages andARRRRRRRRRGH! Wha... what is... why would you eveWAAAAAAAAAUGH! W-well... I'm sure that it's... kind of endearing? Let me just take another looBLAAAAAARGH!
  • Mechanical PuzzlesMechanical Puzzles - Puzzles and physics! They go together like sardines and jam! (Oh, and I suppose your tastes are so perfect and universally loved?) In this homage to games like The Incredible Machine, you'll Rube Golderberg your way through a serious of increasingly elaborate contraptions... that is, when the physics decide to play nice.
  • We Are the Robots 2We Are the Robots 2 - Robots are all about teamwork, which is why when the mechanical uprising comes it will be as brutal and painful as it will be swift and colour-coded for easy reference. Make chains and earn power-ups and upgrades in this match-3, Tetris-like, falling blocks game. It might be easy, but don't let them hear you say that. Robots are also all about swift and merciless retribution on their detractors.
  • Gentlemen Rats in OuterspaceGentlemen Rats in Outer Space - Anyone who grew up in the '80s knows that rats are anything but gentlemen, but as long as they're confining themselves to elaborate rodent-driven contraptions in outerspace they can call themselves whatever they want. Set your rocket's power and trajectory to help the rat conquer the moon (which is made of cheese, you see) while avoiding all the obstacles and perils in its way. Just make sure you don't shine any black lights around after the rat is gone because, seriously, ughughughugh you are better off not knowing.
  • YokuaruYokuaru - If you're into surreal escape games then there's a good chance Detarou already holds the key to your heart. With strange men standing silently in closets, clues hidden everywhere, and bunnymen doing dramatic reveals on the balcony, this is another fine installment in What The Heck Did I Just Play? Kind of makes you wonder what would happen if Minoto and Detarou combined forces. (Answer: The universe couldn't handle it.)

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Rating: 3.7/5 (147 votes)
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TrinnSleepwalker's Troubles: Brunhilda's HutBubble, bubble, toil and Sleepwalker's Troubles: Brunhilda's Hut room escape on the double! Okay, so maybe I stink at spells. Fortunately, wizened sorcerers and wide-eyed Muggles alike can enjoy this crafty point-and-click escape game by Ficus Frenzy.
Playing the role of an unfortunate hero who is cursed with the habit of sleepwalking, you awake to find yourself in an unfamiliar witch's hut. Since witches aren't exactly known for their hospitality, you're tasked with escaping the building before she returns, using only your wit and maybe a few handy magical resources.

Use the mouse to explore, investigate, and interact with the environment. To combine items, click one inventory item from the bar at the bottom of the screen to select it and then click a different item to attempt to add them together. Navigating is done by simply clicking the directional arrows at the sides of the screen. If you get stuck, there's a convenient hint button in the upper right corner that will advise you on the next action to take based on what scene you're currently looking at. Unity web player is required to access this game, and the developers took full advantage of this tool. The three-dimensional graphics are a perfect blend of cute and spooky elements and the animations are equally impressive. While the background music is a charming addition to the atmosphere, there is a mute button provided at the bottom left corner for those who appreciate silence.

Much of the gameplay consists of inventory management, so the difficulty level is relatively low. Veteran escape artists should have no trouble breezing through the game in a matter of minutes, although some players may lament the lack of a changing cursor. Admittedly, the cursor can also be annoyingly picky when trying to use inventory items on the scenery. For the most part, however, no pixel hunting is necessary... just a keen eye, a little curiosity, and perhaps a hint of magic.

Play Sleepwalker's Troubles: Brunhilda's Hut


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(7 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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You Are Games

Letters in Boxes #11

ArtbegottiAh, the magic of the perfect ripple shuffle. You take the top half of the deck (face down, of course) in your left hand, then with a fluid motion, let the bottom card slip out of your left hand, then the right, then the left, continuing until both hands are depleted of cards. Repeat that twice (minding the jokers along the way), and you've got a perfect deck with cards ready for Canfield, Crazy Eights, or Contract Bridge. The process, when done flawlessly, is stunning to watch, and makes you look like a card shark without ever betting a chip.

Being a word shark can win you a prize you can sink your teeth into! (Amazingly, I'm already out of shark jokes.) This week's Letters In Boxes challenge requires you to shuffle around a little bit looking for the answers. Solve all four puzzles, send in your answer, and if you trump the competition, you'll be a winner!

As usual, your first puzzle is located just below. Click on it to open it up in a new window. Solve it, then change the filename in the address bar (in this case, "eleveneleveneleven") to your answer (making sure you use the same directory and extension as before). If you're right, you're pegging your way closer to the prize! If you're not right, you can always discard your answer and try again.

Letters in Boxes #11 - 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, August 22nd at 11:59 PM (GMT-5:00). Do the cards hold a prize in your future? You've got to play to find out!

Update: Congratulations to these 11 winners! :D

  • OtherBill ...First!
  • Dom
  • Ryusui
  • squawky
  • Tweetheart
  • m5rammy
  • bluemoose19
  • Dragonxpert
  • DAM
  • kublai
  • eugenides
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!

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Rating: 4.1/5 (249 votes)
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DoraMugeinIn Mugein, a room(s) escape point-and-click puzzle game from LimitHouse, you get to relive the thrill of discovering you've locked yourself out of your house over and over without the luxury of a window to try to force your butt through. (Also not included; neighbours watching and laughing from behind their curtains.) Your goal is to figure out how to open each door to proceed to the next by examining your environment and working with the limited tools you have available. While the doors may look identical, the more you open the trickier they get. Just click to interact, and double click objects in your inventory when you've picked them up to examine them closer. It may start out simple, but if you don't pay attention to your surroundings (and what you've got in your pockets-es) you may find yourself trapped for a long, long time.

What sets Mugein apart from other games in the genre is how much it does with so little, keeping each room deviously simple in appearance without ever making the whole thing feel too repetitive. The lack of a changing cursor to denote an interactive area can get potentially frustrating here, since you're never really sure if there really isn't anything left to discover in the room, or if you just haven't messed around with your items enough. Fortunately, at ten rooms, Mugein doesn't wear out its welcome, and in general if you're willing to experiment with your inventory and pay attention to your surroundings you'll usually find the clue you need to turn on the proverbial lightbulb. Mugein is tricky but not obnoxiously so, and if you're an escape fanatic looking for a rapid-fire dose to see you through the week, this is one door you won't mind knocking at, complete with a celebratory fanfare you'll wish more games employed for your efforts.

Play Mugein


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Rating: 3.8/5 (68 votes)
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Kyhkyh_psychopomps_title.jpgEver have one of those mornings when you've grossly overslept, can't decide whether you should be eating breakfast or lunch and your phone's blinking with a voicemail from your work? Usually, you can simply clean yourself up, apologize profusely to your boss and show up to work a little embarrassed and disheveled. Not so for Anubis, the main protagonist of the retro metroidvania platformer Psychopomps, developed by Team Psychopimp, made up of Phill Spiess, Tan Teck Wang and Jordan Roherty. When Anubis oversleeps, his fellow soul ushers are imprisoned and evil spirits become powerful, having profited from their absences. There's no time for him to groggily shower and eat a bowl of cereal... he has to be out the door and ready to pound on some bad guys to rescue his fellow psychopompers and set things back on track.

Using [WAD], move Anubis around while aiming and shooting with the mouse, and using [S] to interact with your environment whenever a question mark appears overhead. Once you've rescued your fellow psychopomps, you can choose to play as them by pressing [1], [2] or [3]. As you get to play each character, you'll find that they have different attacks and abilities, which you'll have to use to your advantage to get to the end. Killing an enemy rewards you with coins, which increase your experience, and red soul orbs, which replenish your health. Fill your experience bar to upgrade your weapon, but while each character has a different experience bar, all of them share the same life bar, making finding the hidden heart upgrades essential!

kyh_psychopomps_beetle.jpgAnalysis: If you enjoy playing characters that are a little dark and, perhaps, a little evil, you may be attracted to this game from the get-go. Cue the 8-bit music and pixelated jackal-man, and it might be love at first sight. Team Psychopimp has really delivered a game that perfectly captures the spirit of classic metroidvania titles without making it feel as if it's just "more of the same", something you've seen a hundred times before. It helps that the concept and characters are so neat, further carried along by some solid writing, and makes for an experience you'd really like to see more of, and more fleshed out, in the future. The game is difficult enough to keep most players interested yet easy enough for the more casual player to finish.

There are a few issues, such as jumps where you have to go up through a gap one square wide that can take several tries to get exactly centered and make it through. Areas also tend to look similar enough that they can feel a bit repetitive, and don't provide enough deviation to really make you feel like you're exploring. Other complaints are quite minor, however, such as having to wait for some of the dead enemies to spit out their reward. Considering the game was made in only one month for Something Awful's GameDev VI Challenge, it's quite impressive indeed. If you can make a game that doesn't feel like it was crunched out under a time limit you're doing something right, and the effort they've put into the game is obvious. If you're a fan of retro aesthetic with old-school metroidvania style platforming gameplay, you'll definitely want to give this one a try. After all, if you're late to work because of it, well, at least you don't have dark spirits lying in wait to steal your job, right?

Play Psychopomps


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Rating: 4.4/5 (1420 votes)
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DoraThe Secret of Grisly ManorIn The Secret of Grisly Manor, a point-and-click adventure by Fire Maple Games, you arrive at the reassuringly named Grisly Manor at your grandfather's behest, but find nobody there to greet you. Maybe not that surprising since your grandfather, an eccentric inventor, was reported missing some time ago... but then, who sent you that letter? (James Sunderland probably has some advice in this situation.) Just click to look around, pick up items, or zoom in on objects of interest. There's no changing cursor to indicate a "hot spot", but places you can fiddle around with are typically pretty obvious. Click on your inventory to use your items, and click "menu" to go back to the title screen if you want to take a break. Scaredy-cats can play without fear, since this mystery is more Scooby-Doo than spooky, but you'll still need to put on your detective's hat if you want to find out what's going on, since this house is chock full of puzzles, secrets, and strange mechanisms galore.

Also available: The Lost City for iPhone (iOS), Android, Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire!

If you're sick of point-and-clicks global conspiracies, twisted supernatural secrets, and psychological drama, than Grisly Manor may be just the sort of light-hearted, fun adventure you've been looking for. The puzzles are simple and logical, pixel-hunting is surprisingly absent even without a changing cursor, and the presentation is clean and professional. What the game isn't, of course, is particularly challenging, though it doesn't seem like it was meant to be and there are still a few neat little "a-ha!" moments that'll make you feel like you deserve a pat on the back. It's a short little game at around a half hour or so of play at most, with a silly plot, but if you just want a spot of adventure and mystery in your day this is one decidedly un-grisly little game you might want to try.

Play The Secret of Grisly Manor


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Rating: 3.7/5 (87 votes)
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DoraNeopodsYou don't have to be a rocket surgeon (that's the saying, right?) to handle the complex technology at work in HeadFizz's latest physics puzzle game. Neopods wants you to do your part in assembling Neobots by getting the cores to the empty bot awaiting them... after which they presumably totter off and do their part in the enslavement of the human race for our new mechanical overlords. Just try to figure out how to manipulate the environment to get pod to bot; certain obstacles can be removed or manipulated by clicking them, and when you have everything all lined up nicely click on your neopod to release it and watch it roll (hopefully) towards its intended destination. Your score ticks down with each passing second, but there's no limit to the amount of time you can take or tries required, and hey... failure is what the retry button is for!

There are only thirty levels in Neopods, and the first few involve more than a little hand-holding, so players looking for a big, meaty mechanical challenge might be a little disappointed. Where Neopods succeeds, however, is in its stunning, clean presentation and simple, enoyable gameplay. It's the sort of thing you can relax and zone out with during a coffee break; the physics are reliable, the visuals are gorgeous and sleek, and while the game is short levels are generally well designed enough to just give you brain the little kickstart you need to feel like a champ. With new elements getting introduced as you go along to keep you on your toes, Neopods is a straightforward but beautifully presented and designed little physics game that will bring out the neotechnician in you. (Sidenote: Neotechnicians get paid slightly less per hour than the average gas station attendee, but that's what job satisfaction is for, right?... right?)

Play Neopods


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Rating: 3.4/5 (122 votes)
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JayMonitor PostWhat would you do if you were stuck in a locked room with a post filled with monitors? Find keys and solve puzzles to unlock the door, of course! Silly question, sure, but this is just the situation in store for you in Monitor Post, a short and sharp-looking escape game from Ninja Motion.

Visible navigation bars on the left and right edges of the screen move the perspective around the room, but you'll have to pixel hunt for the first key that will get the game started (not a terrible offense). The graphics and animation are reminiscent of games by Toshimitsu Takagi, one of the first escape game designers.

With just enough keys and puzzles to keep you busy for a distraction break, the game will please all but the most hardcore of escapers out there who require a bit more challenge than this has to offer. I got out in about 10 minutes with the "Normal End", can you find any other endings?

Play Monitor Post


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Rating: 3.9/5 (114 votes)
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TrickyVampire VisionIs there a occupation cooler than Vampire Hunter? After seeing the exploits of Van Helsing, Buffy, Blade, Alucard and D, I'd be surprised if high-schoolers don't flock around the recruiting table at every annual career day. However, not all of us have time for the years of intensive training that is required to spot vampires on sight. After all, in this age of gothic fashions and Stephanie Myers novels, there are so many normal humans with pale skin, fangs and garlic-aversion... and society so frowns on staking first and asking questions later. Thankfully, the University of Washington's Center for Game Science has developed an online training program that will focus your Vampire Vision through a combination of arcade puzzling and hidden object spotting... and it just might improve your regular vision too.

Each round you are presented with a series of Tarot cards that inform you what attributes to look for. Perhaps the vampires will all have fangs. Perhaps they'll all have wings. Perhaps they will move around a lot. Whatever the description, click them with the mouse to stake them into a pile of dust. Your score is based on what percentages of humans get out alive. Watch out though: while you don't want to stake any innocents, vampires will gladly add another to their ranks when given a chance. Doing well unlocks various bonuses and power-ups and, as the "About" screen claims, develops visual perception skills.

Vampire Vision tests many parts of the brain: observation, reflexes, memory, and strategy to name a few. Its core concept wouldn't be out of place in a brain training regimen, and I mean that as a compliment. Combining an original concept with some cartoonishly spooky graphics and a twisted sense of humor, I don't know if Vampire Vision will bring you closer to 20/20, but you'll have fun finding out. There are a few negatives, most of which focus around how small the characters appear in your field of vision. Particularly, since the game lags the more people are on the screen, you'll want to lower the graphical quality. However, doing so may blur the very features you're looking for. Also, the mini-games throughout don't add much. The most prevalent involves identifying an off-center dot in a screen of many: it's the kind of thing most aren't going to be interested in unless they're being paid by someone doing research outside the dining hall. It's an unfortunate distraction because the vampire hunting itself is solid once you get into the mechanics. If you're looking for some enjoyable calisthenics of the senses, Vampire Vision is worth sinking your teeth into.

Play Vampire Vision


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Rating: 4.6/5 (114 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypAh, the Mysterious Mr. K, purveyor of locked room escapes, where would our Wednesdays be without him? We can wonder why this strange and mysterious man likes to create room puzzles wherein he locks certain hapless protagonists into various spaces and challenges them to get out, buy why bother? The return of Mr. K to our radar for the third time can mean only one thing — yes, Tesshi-e is back and once again we must battle wits with the elusive Mr. K to find our way out. Welcome to Escape from Mr. K's Room 3 and welcome to Weekday Escape!

Escape from Mr. K's Room 3Thankfully we have to enjoy the great control structure we have come to expect from Tesshi-e: easy, intuitive inventory control; great English translations (just remember to set the game to English before you start); various options to mute the incidental sounds and oh-so-familiar music; and a handy save feature that is especially useful for going back to find the second, happy coin escape. Yes, of course there is a happy coin escape, this is Tesshi-e after all!

The puzzles are the usual mix of the familiar (could someone please either fix that wobbly picture or burn it?) and the new, and Tesshi-e has even tried its hand at a feature we here at Weekday Escape rather enjoy in our escape games: one clue that serves as the answer for two different puzzles, depending upon how you look at it. It's nice to see the growth in the challenge of the puzzles even if they haven't quite reached the level of, say, Neutral or Kotorinosu. There is still the lack of a changing cursor to deal with, but in this almost empty room there is very little pixel hunting even without the extra help. Perhaps the biggest complaint is that once again the game features a puzzle with Roman Numerals that appears to come from the Windows Japanese font set, which means some gamers will be very confused and only see a blank box instead of the necessary clue.

The one thing that makes Tesshi-e room escapes so popular is not only the wonderful logical flow of the puzzle solutions but the progression that is evident in each new room they release. To see this for yourself, go back to some of the early stuff like Escape from the Dome Room or Escape from the Underground Space and compare to this game. You will see the huge strides made both in control design and puzzle design, making this designer one of our favorites because they are always reaching, stretching, and improving upon the escaping experience. So welcome to Wednesday and welcome to yet another strange friend of Tesshi-e who loves nothing more than to lock hapless strangers into a puzzle room. Mr. K is back and we are very glad, and hopefully he'll be back again as long as no one punches him out for, you know, kidnapping and imprisonment, and forcing them to make their own snow-cones. Seriously bad hosting there, dude.

Play Escape from Mr. K's Room 3


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Cloned mobile games

JohnBWe don't normally feature articles that aren't game reviews or round-ups on our site, but this bit of news is a special case, as it affects everyone who plays and enjoys independently created games, both in our browsers and beyond.

In the past few months (arguably even longer than that), a pattern of blatant plagiarism has surged in the gaming community. Studios large and small have taken creative, original ideas released by independent developers and repackaged them for release on the iTunes App Store. These products are not merely "based upon" or "inspired by" another game, they are blatant, shameless copies of the original with only minor differences in appearance and gameplay. The screenshot you see above is a prime example of this, showing Andrew Moorish's free game Super Puzzle Platformer as compared to its iOS clone on the right.

Now, everybody knows that stealing is wrong, but this kind of thievery manages to slide by for a number of reasons. Some of our favorite indie developers have fallen victim to this mobile thievery, including Vlambeer, creator of Super Crate Box and Radical Fishing, Andrew Moorish with Super Puzzle Platformer, as well as Halfbot that found its game, The Blocks Cometh, "released" on iOS devices with the exact same name before it was even finished!

"The best weapon against game cloning is us, the players, who can vote with our wallets, report clones when we spot them, and support indie developers whenever we can."

Independent developers make unique, often free games that push creativity beyond its normal bounds. It's largely indie content that fills our pages on a daily basis. Developers and artists are hurt by this practice, and there are very few ways to fight back. The best weapon against game cloning is us, the players, who can vote with our wallets, report clones when we spot them, and support indie developers whenever we can.

If you want to read more about the cloning business that's been going on, feel free to check out the following articles on some of our favorite gaming sites:

Thanks, and remember to enjoy and support indie games!


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Rating: 4.5/5 (106 votes)
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joyeBiogemsYou wouldn't think it, but cute animals face a lot of peril in Flash games. Sometimes they're under suicidal pressure from humans. Other times, like in Biogems from Mochi Games, adorable little creatures are locked in some kind of internecine conflict... in space. And it's going to take all your match-3, turn-based battling skills to defend your puppy, kitty or bunny against bears, snakes, and bugs. All of which are also pretty cute, to be honest, but they're the designated villains here.

The match-3-as-battle method has really come into its own lately, and Biogems takes it a little bit further in terms of strategy. Both you and the dueled enemy use the same board to make your matches, so in addition to considering what the best combination is for you, you also want to avoid giving your opponent opportunities. You click on a gem and then click on another adjacent gem to swap it. Some gems attack, others heal, restore energy, up defense, load a counterattack, or fill your rage meter. Once your rage meter is fully charged, you unleash an extra powerful attack. Any row of 3 or more grants you some attack or benefit, 4 or more gives you an extra turn, and 5 or more gives you a rainbow gem, which you can swap with any adjacent gem to claim all gems of that type on the board. Some gems have shiny, metallic borders, and making chains with those gems grants you extra rubies, which you use between matches to upgrade your character.

BiogemsAnalysis: In addition to the strategic consideration of your opponent's next turn, the ability to shield or load a counterattack adds an additional dimension for the budding Sun Tzu of gem-swapping. If you're fully shielded and have a counterattack ready, your opponent's attack can actually be turned against him without you taking any damage. However, if your opponent doesn't attack, the shield and counterattack go away when your turn begins again, thus making it a wasted effort. Luck plays a large part in the game, as it does in any match-3 game, but it requires a keen eye to grab those lucky opportunities while the timer is counting down. The AI of the opponent is on the dim side and it's often possible to predict that he will go for the three special attack gems rather than the five energy gems.

You proceed from opponent to opponent until you reach the final boss. You can use MochiCoins to buy rubies to upgrade yourself, but that really isn't necessary, as you get to keep any rubies you earn in a lost match, and you can play previous opponents for even more rubies if you want to. This makes the game's microtransactions more of a shortcut cheat for impatient players than something that the game feels incomplete without. The high energy electronic soundtrack and effects keep you pumped up even through a few defeats, anyway. The only mystery is why these cuddly astro-pets feel the need to wail on each other anyway. If snuggly little kittens can't get along with giant squids, is there hope for the rest of us?

Play Biogems


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Rating: 4.7/5 (183 votes)
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DoraCycloManiacs 2Absolute power corrupts absolutely... and really, really weird... ly. (Sun Tzu said that, probably. Or maybe Abraham Lincoln. Look it up.) robotJAM and longanimals, heady off their victory with CycloManiacs, have opened a new theme park with the same goal as all budding entrepreneurs... world domination. They've trained all their best riders to be deadly ninja assassins, and it's up to you and your mad cycling skillz to stop them in the new racing game CycloManiacs 2. You'll be exploring Ninja World this time, the deadly theme park crafted by the creators, and by completing races under certain conditions you'll unlock new characters and items that will help you gain access to other areas, and eventually the lair of the supervillains themselves. Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to control yourself during races, balancing speed with stability; performing sweet tricks in the air is tempting, but just make sure you land neatly or you'll wipe out and find your opponents thumbing their noses at you as they speed past. Use your winnings between races to upgrade your cyclist to be a racing machine; in the world of CycloManiacs, there's no shame in a little painful testing and performance-enhancing rider augmentation!

Leave it to Turbonuke (the combined superpowers of robotJAM and longanimals) to craft a sequel that captures the wild spirit of fun and unfettered weirdness of the original, but also takes it off into strange and wonderful new directions. They've kept the great gameplay and quirky style players loved, and built up around it with an entertaining new premise and new surprises. There are mini-games and little point-and-click puzzles hidden around as well, which rewards those of you intrepid (and nosy) enough to click around your base of operations. The controls are still sensitive in a way that might put off players who prefer simpler racing games, but if you've got the patience to master the balance and the speed, you'll find a lot to love here. With a massive amount of things to unlock, secrets to find, races to win, and a world to save to boot, CycloManiacs 2 hasn't reinvented the genre (or the wheel) but still takes you on one wild and weird ride.

Play CycloManiacs 2


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Rating: 4.5/5 (152 votes)
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Joshscuba.jpgSurely you've heard of Minecraft by now. What? You haven't heard of that popular downloadable indie-game where you run around in a virtual 3D world consisting of pixel-like blocks, harvesting anything that isn't tied down to create tools, structures, and even entire worlds? Hmm, you say you're intrigued, but you don't have the time and energy to invest in such a robust and addictive product? Well in that case, it sounds like you should give Scuba by Louissi and Mapoga a try.

Directly inspired by titles like Minecraft and Terraria, Scuba is a casual game of discovery, crafting, and exploration across a randomly-generated, side-scrolling world. The story begins with a meteor-deflected rocket ship that needs to make a quick landing on a cube-like planet. As the stranded pilot, you must find parts to build a new motor so you can take off again. Armed with only a puny mining laser, you need to guide your character on land and under the sea, collecting 10 types of resources and crafting them to form dozens of new materials and objects. You control your diver-character with the standard [WASD] keys, and click and hold the mouse within a defined radius to collect resources. Back at your rocket ship, you can place items from your inventory into a 3 X 3 grid to craft other materials and objects from a list of recipes accessed by pressing [R]. Only through persistence and lots of collecting will you be able to build your new engine and return home.

While there are a limited number of resources on the surface, most of the better materials are found underwater, requiring you to dive. You start out with a limited oxygen supply, a shallow pressure suit, a weak flashlight, and feeble boots. As you dive, you have to watch your air, pressure, and battery meters. The deeper you go, the darker it gets, and the added pressure uses up your limited air supply more rapidly. You can keep returning to the surface and your rocket ship, but for more time and bounty underwater, it's quicker to build submersible mobile workbenches, air cabinets, lights, and battery chargers.

scuba2.jpgAnalysis: Even if you haven't really played Minecraft, by playing Scuba you can get a sense of how the former game can be so popular. There's something satisfying about creating increasingly-advanced items from scratch, knowing that you went out of your way to find the nuts and bolts that went towards their creation. With Scuba, there's a definite goal you have to reach, and certain milestones along the way that give your character powerups and a sense of direction. Need the level 3 diving helmet? That'll require a level 2 helmet, two iron, and two gold. How do you get gold? That's four coal, one energy unit, and one glow bulb. Short on energy units? You can craft one out of stone, mushrooms, and glow bulbs, or you can go diving and zap the energy from swimming creatures. And so on. The fun part is that there's an arcadey-element to running around and zapping the stuff you need, and a puzzly part to finding the right combinations and forming them on the 3 X 3 grid.

Of course, there are some problems with the game as well. The screen's scrolling motion (as of v1.1) can be extremely jerky in certain browsers, though it's something you get used to after a while. Navigation can also be difficult, since there's no mini-map to tell you where you are in relation to anything (other than your rocket ship). It's also possible to accidentally destroy your mobile workbench, forcing you to backtrack to your rocket ship before you can build it again.

Most of that can be overlooked, however, compared to Scuba's pluses. The graphics, while tile based, are nicely detailed and stylized, using lighting effects and nifty shading gradients. In addition, the music is varied and relaxing, keeping you going throughout your quest. All this coupled with the fact that the random world generation gives you a new experience each time means you may be coming back to this title more than once. While it would have been fun to face off against tougher monsters than the neutral underwater creatures, Scuba's casual and forgiving gameplay is a nice gateway to more advanced crafting games. Even if you're already a hard-core Minecrafter, Scuba's fun gameplay and underwater aspects definitely make it a casual title worth checking out.

Play Scuba

Thanks to Crankyanker and Cyberjar88 for sending this one in! :)


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The Vault

TrickyHere it comes, here comes the JiG Vault! It's a demon on wheels! It's a demon and it's going to be chasing after someone. It's gaining on you so you'd better look alive: with three of the best games we found in our archives! Go the JiG Vault! Go the JiG Vault! Go the JiG Vault, Goooooo! This week, be sure to keep a checkered flag at the ready, as we feature three racing games that leave the competition in the dust. Now excuse me... I need to go chuck some spikey blue shells into traffic.

  • Redline RumbleRedline Rumble - Redline Rumble has the shiny graphics of a sit-down arcade racer, and the action of the World's Wildest Police Chases. The game condenses street-racing into to its pure white-knuckled essence: two cars, a busy highway, winner takes all. You'll need quick reflexes and nerves of steel to beat your opponents... and escape the law. A number of sequels to Redline Rumble can be found on the game's site, but, if I had to wager my pink slip, I'd still argue the first in the series to be the fastest, the most furious, and, by extension, the Vin Dieseliest of the lot.
  • TG Motocross 2TG Motocross 2 - Not gonna lie: since most of my life has been spent in locations where any evidence of nature is paved over immediately upon being spotted, my experience with Motocross has been limited to ExciteBike, You're a Good Sport Charlie Brown and TeaGames Motocross series. Though, to be fair, the latter is just about the best substitution a city slicker like me could hope for. With a game engine that became the genre-standard for many physics racers that followed, TG Motocross captured the thrill of massive flips and the harshness of gravity in a way few game have equaled. Whether you perfectly speed through each of the time trials like Ricky Carmichael or wipe out in a manner so painful, you can feel it through the screen, the immersive atmosphere and earthy visuals will keep you hitting the courses time and time again.
  • Hamster RaceHamster Race - One of the simplest of the many simple idea games we've featured on this site, Hamster Racing is a cute little action game from the nation of Japan. A little hamster scurries around the track and you make it slowly turn to the left by holding the mouse button... It really shouldn't be as addictive as it is, but whenever I start, I shan't cease for a good dozen playthroughs. A game so simple really shouldn't cause my heart to beat as rapid a pace, but it totally does. The titular hamster's tiny wiggling tale shouldn't be as cute as it is, but it can really only be described as... adowwable. The only thing missing is a constant loop of that "dee ba dee ba dee baa doh doh" song playing in the background.

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


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Rating: 4.8/5 (365 votes)
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joyeWonderputtHow to characterize Wonderputt, the new mini-golf putting game from Reece Millidge of Damp Gnat? You're pushing a little ball around eighteen holes in pursuit of the lowest score, so it may seem like an open-and-shut adventure golf game with a healthy helping of physics to power some impossible in the real world issues like a course that's inspired by M. C. Escher's Waterfall. But just look at that screencap! That's some seriously wonderful art there, and wait until you see it animated.

The control scheme should be familiar, especially to those who have played the studio's previous release Adverputt: move the cursor around, and an arrow will show where you're aiming and how powerful the hit will be. Then just click to launch the ball. Simple as that. If you're playing in normal mode (the mode that's available when you first start the game), Best of Casual Gameplay 2011your only goal is to complete each hole with the fewest strokes possible. After you beat the game once, you'll unlock a mode where collectables (little rainbow gems) will appear on the course, and collecting them will fill up a rainbow and add points to your score.

The upper left corner contains sound and music controls, as well as an "i" icon that takes you to something like a menu screen. Here, you can check out your achievements for things like speed completion, check your current and previous scores, and jump to a specific hole if you've already completed the game.

WonderputtAnalysis: The world of Wonderputt is a delightfully surreal locale. I started to write a bit about some of the surprises in store, but it's really better for you to discover the, yes, wonders of the animations during and between holes yourself. The myriad sound effects and music work perfectly with the visuals, so don't turn the sound and music off unless you don't have a choice otherwise.

Reece could have simply made this a webtoy if sharing the art with no effort on the player's part was all that he wanted to do. Some holes require quite a lot of effort, actually. The physics aren't unfair or broken, it's just some of the requirements are very precise, with numerous holes featuring narrow platforms, ramps, ledges, and even water traps. You can take as many strokes as you need to finish a hole, although you might feel somewhat depressed when you finally finish a hole, feeling triumphant, and then see "bogey x 15" pop up on the screen. But then a tiny orca or something comes along in the transitional animation and distracts you from this depression and all is right with the world again. It's like the Flash game version of an ice cream from the snack shop to cheer yourself up after the windmill hole completely owns you at the miniature golf course. And since Wonderputt involves 100% less public humiliation, I'd say it's a clear advantage to Wonderputt. Well played, Wonderputt. Well. Played.

Play Wonderputt


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Rating: 4.7/5 (63 votes)
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Kyhmixsudokulight-vol2.gifFor all those casual games out there with flashy graphics and 3D environments, it's nice to just have something with a simple look. Take Mix Sudoku Light Vol. 2, for example, a brand new puzzle release from Conceptis. These games are all about the puzzles and how they stretch your logic skills. There's nothing more satisfying than solving a difficult puzzle so thoroughly that you can develop a strategy to apply to others of that type. Forget the Friday New York Times crossword puzzle, you just solved a Level 6 sudoku puzzle!

Mix Sudoku Light Vol. 2 ups the challenge significantly from the first volume, Mix Sudoku Light. It includes the same variety of puzzles from the everyday classic to the more complex, irregular, or multi sudoku puzzles. The useful gameplay features from before are also there: undo/redo buttons, checking your current answers against the solution, saving your progress and 'penciling in' possibilities. It's the ease of pencil and paper without the hassles of finding an eraser. Whereas Volume 1 had levels ranked 1-3, Volume 2 sports the increasingly difficult levels 4-6 , so be prepared for brow furrowing-induced headaches! If you're new to sudoku or haven't had your hand in the variations before, I'd suggest starting with the milder Volume 1. Then, when you've mastered them (or start to become bored), hop on over to Volume 2 and let the frustration begin!

Play Mix Sudoku Light Vol. 2


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Mobile Monday

JohnBSo many pretty pictures to look at! And they're all from very pretty games you get to play! So much better than the museum, where everybody's all "Sir, you can't lick the paintings."

cuttheropeexper.jpgCut the Rope: Experiments (iPhone/iPod Touch; iPad) - Do you like cutting ropes as much as we do? Do you like feeding that adorable little monster Om Nom? Well, Cut the Rope is back with even more rope cutting to be had. Over 75 new levels in this sequel of sorts, introducing a few new mechanics and a whole lot of challenging physics puzzles to solve. In each stage, you must find a way to move the candy to Om Nom's hungry little mouse. Ropes, spiders, air blowers, and loads of other contraptions get in your way/help you out a ton, so you have to learn to act fast, thing smart, and never be afraid to retry the level. Swipe the screen to cut ropes, and feel free to collect those stars you see floating around. Can't hurt, right? Cut the Rope: Experiments HD for iPad is also available.

srmistu.gifSr. Mistu (iPhone/iPod Touch; iPad) - A game that may be too simple for its own good, Sr. Mistu more than makes up for fragile gameplay with a phenomenal presentation. Our little blind protagonist has run out of olives for his pizza. So, naturally, he wanders around the world looking for olives floating on the ground. To traverse each level, you must draw a path for his dog, Gaido, to lead him on. Avoid the moving obstacles by predicting their location when Mistu reaches that point. It isn't a very deep game, but it's somehow satisfying thanks to the colored pencil visuals and soothing music. Sr. Mistu HD for iPad is also available.

nyxquest-iphone.jpgNyxQuest (iPhone/iPod Touch; iPad) - Over the Top Games' PC/Mac game has made the transition to iOS devices, and hey, it went over better than you might think! The story centers around Nyx and Icarus, pals at first until Icarus gets struck down by the sun. Nyx decides to go find him, so she sets out across the sun-drenched Earth, an army of enemies and puzzles standing in her way. You begin with very few abilities but soon earn telekinesis and the ability to create fireballs, which is not too shabby! The touch controls are predictably awesome, making this port possibly a bit more accessible than its grown-up WiiWare and computer counterparts. You can also grab NyxQuest Lite for iPhone as well as NyxQuest HD and NyxQuest HD Lite for iPad.

dreamscape.jpgDream:scape (universal) - For touch screen systems, playing 3D games is still a strange experience.A flat plastic panel with no tactile feedback isn't exactly the best way to move a character in a three dimensional world, but this hasn't stopped developers from trying. Dream:scape is one such effort, and even though it isn't a perfect game, it takes some huge strides into the realm of atmospheric exploration games on the iPhone and iPad platforms. Built using the Unreal engine, you control a character who can move freely about a country setting, exploring his past. Trigger certain events to continue the tale, and you'll need items at certain points in order to proceed. Overall, it isn't a very action-filled experience, but the prospect of exploring an atmospheric world on your iOS device is still intriguing. The free Dream:scape Lite is also available.

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.


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Hidden Expedition: The Uncharted Islands banner

GrinnypAccording to folks in the know (most of whom write fantastical books about UFOs and Bigfoot), time runs a bit differently in the Bermuda Triangle. It's the interference of natural forces, or aliens, or whatever is the theory of the moment to account for the vast numbers of missing boats, planes, and people in that cursed region. Something must be messing with our sense of time, after all, because it seems like just yesterday we had entered the area looking for a missing pilot and here it is nearly two years later and we still haven't completed the task. Wait, don't tell me you forgot this important mission? Fortunately Hidden Expedition: The Uncharted Islands, the latest adventure/hidden object hybrid from Big Fish Games Studios and Floodlight Games, and the latest installment in the Hidden Expedition series, is here to remind us all.

grinnyp_HEunchartedislands_screenshot1.jpgYes, the long-awaited sequel to Hidden Expedition: The Devil's Triangle has finally arrived! H.E.A.T. (that's the Hidden Expedition Adventure Team to newbs) is back and is finally going to rescue the pilot! Well, maybe rescue the pilot. More like get involved in a 300 year old family feud involving an inventor who stole from DaVinci, his resentful daughter, and some dude named Baron Undertow who, as you may have guessed by the name, has no sense of humor (or fashion sense for that matter). But no matter, you have the whole team backing you up! Although, come to think of it, the team consists of (a) you, and (b) a somewhat loopy submarine pilot/mechanic who is stuck somewhere on the first island you encountered. Oops, looks like you're on your own with this one.

The story picks up as you wake up from the rather spectacular glider crash that ended The Devil's Triangle. You meet a mysterious woman named Kathy who immediately fills you in on the back story, so no playing of the first game is necessary (although you really should, it's a gorgeous, fun game in its own right). Kathy, caught in the middle between father and daughter (and apparent owner of a kicking gingerbread recipe) needs you to help this oh so dysfunctional family before the real villain of the piece, the Baron, manages to break the DaVinci node, the object that is keeping him, his minions, you, and everyone else trapped on this small series of islands. If the Baron isn't stopped he will take the fantastical technology developed by Gideon (the father) and unleash his evil upon the world.

grinnyp_HEunchartedislands_screenshot4.jpgHidden Expedition: The Uncharted Islands plays like a standard point-and-click adventure, with all actions accomplished with the click of a mouse. It features the usual tropes of a changing cursor to indicate items or navigation points, showers of sparkles to indicate areas of interest, a refilling hint feature, a puzzle skip timer, and the standard adventurer's notebook to keep track of the vast array of clues that you will stumble upon as you wander these islands, interacting with the poor folks who are stranded therein. Also involved is a lot of wandering around, puzzle solving, hidden object scenes, and mini-games, all of the bells and whistles of today's adventure hybrids.

The mini-games are a mix of the usual (sliders, pipe puzzles, etc.) and some nice original games as well. As for the hidden objects scenes there are four types: The standard "list" type (find a list of objects in a pile of junk); a "find the matching pairs" type (find two related objects that make a pair); general hint types of the "find all of the butterflies in the picture" mode; and most spectacularly a "layered" type which features digging through multiple layers of complexity involving a lot of finding, manipulation, and problem solving. For those who love hidden object gaming Hidden Expedition: The Uncharted Islands has something for everyone.

Analysis: Big Fish Games Studios is known for their stunning and amazing games, and Hidden Expedition: The Uncharted Islands is a worthy successor to that tradition, no matter how long it took to arrive. The quality shows in every area of the game: the complexity of the hidden object scenes, the dazzling array of puzzles, the gorgeous scenery, the wonderful music, and most especially the intriguing and amusing story and characters.

grinnyp_HEunchartedislands_screenshot3.jpgThe backgrounds are of course lovely to look at, although they do pale slightly in comparison to the luminous scenery of The Devil's Triangle. Visuals are crisp, clear, and easy on the eyes, even in the hidden object scenes. The music matches the mood perfectly to where you are in the story, be it on Noferia (sort of a second rate "island of lost boys"), the underwater scenes, or the final battle atop the island that houses the DaVinci Node. the difficulty levels of the mini-games range from mind-bogglingly easy (tic-tac-toe, seriously?) to head-bangingly hard, especially in the "extra" adventure that comes with the collector's edition. The hidden object scenes are very tough due to a combination of factors including the dreaded "shrink something down to thimble size and hide it behind something else" mentality that pops up every now and again.

There are a few minor problems with the gameplay that I found. The hidden object scenes, already tough from the "layering" and other variations, can be difficult to see especially if your vision isn't at its best. Hiding a small dark object in the corner of a dark background is not particularly clever. A couple of the puzzles are picky in their click points, which can stop a player in their tracks trying to figure out what went wrong. And the "clickable" areas in the hidden object scenes range from too small (it can take multiple tries to snag a really small object) to too large (the navigation area to move out of the scene can interfere with picking up items near the bottom of the screen).

So was the nearly two year wait for Hidden Expedition: The Uncharted Islands worth it? Without hesitation, a resounding: YES! Despite the minor flaws in the gameplay this is a fantastic game, permeated with the humor that the Hidden Expedition series is known for. And it's even worth playing just to read the constant narration in the "journal" set down by the intrepid explorer you are playing, as well as for the little touches like the signs, graffiti, conversations, and the various notes and articles scattered around the game. Who doesn't love reading an article in a newspaper called The Daily Peril (motto: "read about people worse off than you")? By refusing to take itself too seriously Uncharted Islands proves a breath of fresh air and an antidote to the glut of "dark, mysterious, spooky, angsty" hybrids flooding the market these days. With two modes of play, casual and expert, and the ability to turn off the tutorial, Hidden Expedition: The Uncharted Islands is fun for everyone, from newbies to the most hard-core adventure addicts. Most definitely worth the wait!

A Collector's Edition is also available. It includes wallpapers, concept art, screensavers, the 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:
Download the demo
Get the full version
Also available: Collector's Edition


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (83 votes)
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Kyhpixle.gifMeet Pixle: a grey humanoid with white glowing eyes. He lives in a world where plants are green circles, rocks are brown circles, and water is blue lava going through a perpetual animation cycle. He's got an alphabetic hankering that can only be satisfied by collecting letter blocks, which conveniently open a metallic portal to another area containing more letter blocks ripe for the collecting. Such is the premise of the new Adventures of Lolo-inspired, tile based puzzler by Divine Games named after our little hero, Pixle.

Move around the grid with either the [arrow] keys or [WASD] and push objects by simply running into them. You can only push, not pull, so watch out for those pesky corners! After a few tutorial levels introducing you to the mechanics of the game, you are exposed to spike squares which can shoot at you in all four directions. In order to walk by, you must figure out how to move objects around to block the deadly spikes. As the game progresses, this becomes harder and requires more planning. You eventually earn the ability to shoot projectiles with [X] and [Z], which expand your abilities to move things around and can change your strategy. If you get stuck, use [R] to reset the level and try again.

The graphics may be simple, but what will really catch you is the gameplay. I was too sucked into the puzzle to care that the circle I was running into was meant to represent a tree. I just had to figure out that level so I could finish it and consider it 'defeated' by my ingenuity. I was pleasantly reminded of Chip's Challenge by Epyx, one of the best casual games of my childhood. If you're too young to know what that is or I just unknowingly referenced an obscure game, then by all means forget I said it. Just go play Pixle and let this game be a great memory for you!

Play Pixle


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (562 votes)
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SonicLoversoniclover_tanookytracks_screenshot2.gifOne thing you don't want in your house is an infestation of tanookys. Tanookys are devious little creatures, mischievous spirits that like to hide in objects similar to their characters. Alfa and Max, the two inhabitants of the house in which BenRadish Games' Tanooky Tracks takes place, happen to have a dozen of the little pests hiding in and around their four-story house, and are counting on you, you crafty tanooky exterminator you, to track them down.

Tanooky Tracks is more or less a point-and-click adventure game with a pinch of hidden object seasoning and a surreal twist. Pick up or manipulate objects by clicking on them; a changing cursor alerts you of when you can do so. Click the top and bottom edges of the screen to explore all four levels of the slightly unusual house in search of useful items and clues. Solve the riddles in the hint book to find out what to use where; find and lure out all twelve tanookys and the game is won!

Analysis: When I first got my hands on this game, I knew I'd enjoy it. I have something of a fascination with puzzley puzzler-puzzling puzzles, and Tanooky Tracks definitely fits into that category. The clues are smartly written and make perfect sense without giving too much away, and there are even some additional hints at the very end of the book in case you're REALLY stumped.

The atmosphere of the game is a rather interesting dash of surreal that somehow complements things perfectly. The tanookys themselves look as though they were designed by Eyezmaze or Amanita Design, and the house's architecture, while mostly sensible (seriously, where are the stairs?!), somehow helps add to the surrealism, as does the slightly whimsical music.

If I had to pick one thing about Tanooky Tracks that seriously needed improving, I would... well, I'd have to get pretty desperate to find one. Just about everything in the game is good. If BenRadish intends to create a sequel and it turns out to be more of the same, I wouldn't see anything wrong with that. But for now, let's just go and help Alfa and Max with their...

...Uh-oh. Don't look now, but I think the object just to the left of you right now might be concealing a tanooky. Got a plan for bringing it out of hiding? I'd suggest applying the last thing you handled before using your computer.

Play Tanooky Tracks


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Weekend Download

JohnBOne word for all you weekend downloaders: Hide. Not hide as the verb, or even hide as the animal skin noun. Hide as the name of the game that's right below this. Hide. Hide! HIDE! Also, Approaching Dawn and WARP!

hide.gifHide (Mac/Windows, 14MB, free) - Want to play just one game this weekend? Make it Hide. It's short. Atmospheric. Hauntingly creepy. And it's all about exploration. You're in a snowy field with alarms ringing in the background. Wander around the grainy 3D world and see what you can see. Eventually you'll come across one of five signposts, and when you do, things get even more interesting. Something with a flashlight is out to get you, and your only defense is to hide. Created by shouldice for a Super Friendship Club game-making pageant.

vesttrials.gifVest Trials: Approaching Dawn (Windows, 10-27MB, free) - Exploration-based platformer, anyone? Vest Trials: Approaching Dawn is a phenomenal game with a big overworld to explore, ten levels to investigate, unlockable items, secrets, and all of the other things you would expect from a game in this genre. Control Dareo as he explores an abandoned temple area by area, unlocking more worlds to explore as you progress. Lots of action, spikes, moving platforms, and other traps! It feels a bit like Knytt in design, though it's a fundamentally more action-filled experience.

warp.gifWARP (Windows, 3.73MB, free) - A pleasing little single-screen platform game that doesn't overcomplicate itself with wacky gimmicks. Your goal is to make it to the exit door on each level. To get there, you'll have to make use of screen warps, stepping off one edge of the level to appear on the other side. It's a tad disorienting at first since your character doesn't just slide smoothly through like in most games, but very quickly you get the hang of it, and the game becomes about smart jumps and stupid mistakes instead! A browser version is playable here.

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


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Redemption Cemetery

JohnBDo you think you're safe from the denizens of the night just because you turned the light on? Does the warmth of the sun scare away evil just because it's bright and cheery? Think again. As Redemption Cemetery: Children's Plight aims to prove, you're never safe from the demons of this world (or any other world). A follow-up to the first point-and-click hidden object/adventure hybrid from ERS Game Studios, Redemption Cemetery: Curse of the Raven, this installment forces you to ask the difficult question: how the heck am I going to fall asleep tonight after witnessing that?

Redemption CemeteryYour day starts off with a major bummer: a powerful warlock has recently escaped from his ancient tomb, and he decides the first thing he's going to do is mess with you. You survive the encounter thanks to a helpful crow (a.k.a. a friendly wizard guy), but you were cursed and are now trapped in a cemetery. The only way to get out is to find the warlock and defeat him.

Pointing and clicking are all you'll need to do in this game, so ignore your keyboard and snuggle close to that mouse of yours. The cursor (a skeleton's hand, yikes) changes when you can interact with objects or take a closer look at certain areas, so a few quick swipes across the screen and you'll get a good idea of what you should do next. Puzzles, even though they might be staring you in the face, usually can't be solved until you find certain items, usually by grabbing them in a hidden object scene or finding them laying around the adventure portions of the game.

As for the hidden object scenes, expect a mix of riddle-style items as well as straight-up laundry list searching. Some things you'll have to create or assemble before ticking them off of your list. For example, to find a jack-o-lantern, you'll need to locate a knife, then use it on the pumpkin to carve a nice face into the front. Only then can you collect the item and call it a day!

Redemption CemeteryAnalysis: Did you pick up Redemption Cemetery: Curse of the Raven? Then you know exactly what to expect from this spook-fest of a sequel! A solid four to five hours of gameplay round out the experience, complete with a number of challenging chapters, mini-games, puzzles, and the like. The visuals are superb, the music is quite fitting, and the atmosphere of doom and gloom is excellent, exactly the kind of thing you expect from ERS Game Studio.

Detracting from Redemption Cemetery: Children's Plight's almost pristine exterior is the sad fact that it's structured almost exactly like every other ERS hidden object adventure release. While that list includes some fantastic titles (Grim Facade: Mystery of Venice, PuppetShow: Lost Town, and Haunted Halls: Green Hills Sanitarium, just to name a few), sometimes it's nice to have something different to satisfy that casual hidden object yearning we often have. The spooky/eerie dark and dreary casual adventure game has been done, and while Redemption Cemetery does it extraordinarily well, it doesn't exactly reinvent the casual wheel, so to speak.

Lack of innovation aside, Redemption Cemetery: Children's Plight never fails to entertain. Solid challenge, good length, appropriately creepy story, and excellent visuals packed with fluid animations. It's hard to go wrong with an ERS Game Studio release!

A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains exclusive bonus gameplay, wallpapers, screensavers, concept art, 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 3.4/5
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Rating: 3.4/5 (56 votes)
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ellefinddwarfs_summer2011.pngYay, it's still summertime (in the Northern Hemisphere)! Don't you just love it? Camping. Boating. Kickin' back down on the beach with all your good dwarf buddies. What, you don't have any of these peppy pint-sized pals? Such a blight in your social network can be readily remedied, don't fret. Here's Nekonote, an old cohort known to us at JIG for Nekonote Escape 7: Doll and who just happens to be in-the-know when it comes to befriending dwarfs, as you can see by this delightful point-and-click island hide-and-seek: Find Dwarfs in Summer 2011.

Although they're a tad shy, finding dwarfs is as easy as an August breeze. Somewhat similar to the 10 Gnomes series, the gnomes in which also come in tens and enjoy hiding at the Seashore, the Nekonote summer dwarf is uncovered by pointing at and clicking on any spot you could imagine a dwarf might squirm his tiny self into. Spa-like, leisure-inspired music not only makes a lovely soundtrack, the soothing tunes help lure, um, I mean, entertain the hidden minis so they're more likely to appear. A snoozing bear and sailing chicken are among others who will join your friend-making quest, provided you gather and arrange the proper items. If you want the happiest ending, all ten are needed so be sure to have a nice, cozy spot to gather everybody together; dwarfs are really rather wiggly. Try that itty bitty cage in the corner, for instance. Those little peepers will love it in there, I swear!

Play Find Dwarfs in Summer 2011


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Link Dump Fridays

JohnBA friendly warning to everyone enjoying this edition of Link Dump Friday: 40% of the facts stated below are blatantly false. In fact, that fact is untrue. Really, you should take everything you read with a grain of salt. Did you know that salt was invented by the natives of a frozen continent over 50 years ago? It's true!

  • upgradeenemyUpgrade Your Enemy - Did you know that the practice of upgrading enemies dates back to beetles in the 14th century? It's true! Just like this unique little shooting game, the beetles of old would use glue-like spittle and attach weapons onto their foes, increasing their stats while they received a random stat upgrade of their own. Then, each round became an exercise of moving close to the bad guy, taking them out one at a time, and hoping they survived to the next upgrade!
  • RunaticRunatic - Did you know the word "runatic" is a combination of the two words "run" and "attic"? You can tell because this crazy arcade game (no offense intended) is all about running! You have escaped from the asylum, and now you're running around with a curtain rod (or is it a giant Q-tip?) beating everything up in sight. Complete goals to get things, then beat up a building just because you can. It's pretty much straight-up destructive carnage with a few missions tied to it, but boy is it fun running around in that attic. (Note: Attic is what I call everything outside of my office.)
  • dorthedwarfDor the Dwarf - The first recorded sighting of a fully-bearded dwarf was in the year 0714.3 AED on the planet Notearth. Represented in this game is the dwarf in their current, modern form, starring in a point-and-click adventure that stands out for one strange reason: you can lose. And you can lose in a number of ways. Solve puzzles on each screen by clicking on items in the correct order, moving things about the screen so you can progress Dor from area to area. If you do something wrong, you'll have to retry, which is not something you see in these sorts of games!
  • SpaceblastersSpaceblasters - Awrite! Time to blast some things in space! Did you know that if you took a real laser gun into space, fired it, and tried to eat a sandwich, the sandwich would taste like pizza? You wouldn't know it from this shooter, though, because it's all about dual stick-type control, moving in one direction and simultaneously firing in the other. Nice techno-ish design, complete with pulsing visuals and a thumping soundtrack. And the first boss? A vector cube. How retro awesome is that?!
  • CogCog - Cogs have been used since the age of dinosaurs when the woolly mammoths would attach them to their feet so they could skate across the ice that was formed when the first meteorites landed. This cog, however, has a decidedly different purpose: to rotate. How novel! Use the [arrow] keys to turn the game board clockwise and counterclockwise, tipping things so the ball rolls towards the red circle goal. It's more of a reflexes game than a puzzle experience, but it's well-tuned and has a number of neat obstacles to keep you on your toes.

  • Currently 3.4/5
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(6 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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You Are Games

Letters in Boxes #10

ArtbegottiHappy birthday to us! Well, sort of. Today we release the tenth installment of our Letters In Boxes series! We're not actually celebrating any birthdays yet, given we've not even been around three whole months yet. We don't have any cake or presents, or even a donkey to pin tails to. But that's not a problem, we can make do with what we've got. (Though we'll gladly take the cake and presents.)

For the tenth time, here's how Letters In Boxes works: Below we've got a puzzle to start you off. Click on it to open it in a new window. When you've worked out a solution, focus your attention on your browser's address bar, which in this case reads "http://images.jayisgames.com/lettersinboxes/starterforten.gif". Change the filename (namely, "starterforten") to your answer, using all lower-case letters and no spaces (be sure you stay in the same directory). If you're right, you're one step closer to winning a fabulous prize! If you're not, you'll get an error message, but you're free to back up and try again.

Letters in Boxes #10 - 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, August 15th at 11:59 PM (GMT-5:00). Give it a whirl, you might end up with a nice present if you win!

Update: Congratulations to these 11 winners! :D

  • SirNiko ...First!
  • eoyount
  • sillyme2
  • tigrita
  • ThemePark
  • LaserGhost
  • An Onyx Mouse
  • lunalein
  • snickerless1
  • CurtisFir
  • saytn
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
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Rating: 4.2/5 (103 votes)
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Deep Chalk 4After a long hiatus, Zack Livestone is back to take us deep within his chalky, imaginative world filled with perplexing puzzles and captivating characters. Enter the stark world of Deep Chalk 4, the latest installment in his Deep Chalk series and arguably the most elaborate and deep experience yet.

As with the previous games in the series, make sure you have either headphones or a good sound system at the ready for your adventure because Zack puts as much emphasis into the ambience of his monochrome worlds as the puzzles that will impede your progress, thus making each moment rich with texture.

Check out all the Deep Chalk games and experience one of the Web's most endeared point-and-click puzzle series.

Play Deep Chalk 4

Play the entire Deep Chalk series...


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (84 votes)
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MikeBripitolA new, simple, yet highly original puzzle game for your browser? It must be the newest release from Tonypa! I keeping expecting that the well that is Tonypa's prodigious enigmatological imagination must eventually run dry, but Bripitol, a sort of deliberately-paced matching game, continues the master puzzle designer's run of designs for games that are simple, easy to grasp, yet unique and compelling.

The goal of Bripitol is to click on symbols to make them disappear. You can click on a symbol if there is a matching symbol to the left or right, or above or below, and there is no non-matching symbol in between. This clears the symbol and all its matching orthogonal neighbors. Keep finding and clearing matches to advance the game. There are three modes of play: Level mode has you clear a certain number of matches before advancing to the next level, Rush has you score as high as you can in two minutes, and Clear has you leave as few symbols behind as possible before finishing a level.

In all modes of play, the key is to make sure that you have enough matching symbols available to clear a set. This requires a little more care and premeditation than many similar games, which is a large part of what makes Bripitol unique. Unfortunately, once you get the hang of it, the shallow difficulty curve means that Bripitol is a little more repetitive than it could be if it became a little more challenging more quickly. Still, it remains a fun, thoughtful experience, perfect for small breaks in your day. With appealing abstract design and a cool, though oddly creepy, soundtrack from Kevin Macleod, Bripitol is a fine edition to Tonypa's library of puzzlers.

Play Bripitol


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (474 votes)
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TrickyThe Book of Living MagicOnce upon a time, there was a girl named Raven Locks Smith. If you made fun of her name, she would hit you with a shovel. She lived in the city of Dull, and although she loved her motivational-speaker parents, she wished for something more. One night, as she considered her boredom, a dream came to her and told her of a life changing tome that could be found near the Mountains of Oddness. Soon she walked there, and found it to be a most interesting place. But just because the new land was interesting, it didn't mean that it was safe: there's rumors of a Terrible Monsterbeast of Unvanquishable Doom and, even worse, of truly nightmarish experiments carried out by Evil Doctor McSelfish. And so, in this new point-and-click adventure game by Jonas and Verena Kyratzes, set in the same universe as their earlier The Strange and Somewhat Sinister Tale of the House at Desert Bridge, you help Raven search through the quite unusual Land of Dreams in search of The Book of Living Magic.

Best of Casual Gameplay 2011
The Book of Living Magic is played entirely with the mouse, like an ol' fashioned Hypercard game. Click objects in the game window to bring up their description, or to start a conversation with another character. Conversations are carried out by clicking on the appropriate topic. Navigation around the Land of Dreams is handled by clicking on the arrows at the bottom of the screen. To the lower-right is a clickable inventory and a list of "notes" that will remind you of your current goals. Your goal is to make it to the Temple of Gloop and read the titular book, but there's more than enough other things to enjoy along the way...

Analysis: While the trend towards gender-neutrality in online games is probably a positive one, the comparative lack of main roles for female characters is still lamentable. We're still at the point where a young girl as protagonist is notable in and of itself, especially when combined with the excellent writing that The Book of Living Magic certainly possesses. Obviously, any story about a girl encountering fantastic creatures in a surreal landscape can't help but owe a debt to Lewis Carrol. However, Book of Living Magic reminds me more specifically of Terry Prachett's Tiffany Aching series or, to jump two levels in obscurity, Epic Megagames' Dare to Dream: it has that deft balance of being a coming-of-age story, while at the same time subtly parodying the tropes of the genre with a host of wordplay and references-that-aren't-distracting-if-you-don't-understand-them-but-are-hilarious-if-you-do. If the prose is a little precious at times, it is still an absolute joy to read, and the authors' wit is displayed in even the most minor of object descriptions. You'll be wanting to click everything you can see by the end. Throw in a light touch of the macabre, and you have a modern fairy tale just waiting to be enjoyed.

The Book of Living MagicThe presentation of The Book of Living Magic more than lives up to its writing. The hand-drawn marker-y graphics are static and lack polish, but that just makes me like them more. They fit perfectly into the storybook world the authors have created. It is also a world filled with a wonderfully designed supporting cast, whose dialogue sparkles. The puzzles in the game aren't particularly challenging, being mainly of the "bring the thing to the character that specifically asked for it" variety, but they have the appropriate sense of absurd logic and serve the purpose of drawing you deeper into the adventure

There are a few drawbacks worth mentioning. First of all, as much as I enjoyed the protagonist, I wish she had been fleshed out a tad more: I wish her half of the conversation with other characters was written out as dialogue, rather than as a list of topics. What's more, I wish that there had been an indication as to what topics had already been chosen and which were new. Finally, I found the music, while passably adventurous, to be a bit blaring and repetitive. A mute button would have been a good addition to the Land of Dreams, methinks.

If you enjoyed this game, be sure to play The Fabulous Screech, a game that takes you back to the magical world of Oddness Standing.

Despite its relative short length, The Book of Living Magic has a distinct air of gravitas to it. To get the most out of it, you'll need to settle to play without distraction. If you do, you shall be amply rewarded with a wonderful story and a wonderful journey. It is a game that combines the conventional comfort of a classic fable with the unconventionality of an imaginary world crafted lovingly by its authors. Highly recommended to all lovers of classic adventure games or fantasy in general.

Play The Book of Living Magic


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (294 votes)
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DoraThe EndIn The End, a surreal new puzzle platforming adventure from Channel 4 and Preloaded (with writing by Tom Chatfield and music by Phonotheque), the world goes out with a bang one sunny afternoon and you find yourself trapped in a bizarre shadow realm watched over by enormous otherworldly beings. There, between being sassed by monster-driven flesh golems and exploring the strange, puzzle-laden worlds, you might just discover a little bit about yourself in the process. Parents are advised that while the actual gameplay is tame, some of the concepts talked about might be a bit heavy for younger children.

At the start of the game, you'll create a character to be your avatar, and from then on the gameplay is fairly straight-forward. [AS] or the left and right [arrow] keys moves around, the [spacebar] jumps, [E] turns your special shadow power on and off, and [W] or the up [arrow] is used to interact with switches, open doors, or climb ladders. Most of the gameplay is fairly straightforward; you explore three different realms, collecting stars for special challenges, and answering questions designed to make you think about your personality a little more. After each level, however, you'll have to challenge the realm's guardian to a game of Death Cards, a simple but tricky strategy game where you vie for dominance over a board by placing numbered cards on a grid and trying to flip your opponent's pieces with higher numbers. Win, and you'll be granted an object that represents a philosophical concept and allowed to proceed. Fail, and... well, just try again.

While the game is entirely free and primarily single player, if you don't want to connect your Facebook account to take advantage of the social features, you'll need to give the game an e-mail address to let it generate a unique code to save your progress and continue your game from any computer.

The EndAnalysis: Simply put, The End looks fantastic. The art design by Luke Pearson is pretty spectacular in a way that conjures up memories of old MTV cartoons or Rocco's Modern Life spliced with Doctor Seuss, and does an amazing job of crafting the characters and the environment. But while I've always been a big advocate of using games as a means to make us think about deeper personal emotions and issues, it feels like The End doesn't quite combine its philosophical bent with its gameplay. The bulk of the game is standard run-jump-die puzzle platforming that someone interrupts every once in a while to ask you personal questions without much of a narrative to tie the two together.

This is not, however, a critical strike against the game itself. The platforming puzzles are somewhat let down by some frustratingly stiff movement, but manage to become more creative and challenging as you proceed. The card battle is implemented in a wonderfully simple fashion that, along with the power-ups you'll earn, can lead to some satisfyingly strategic gameplay without overwhelming the player with rules and difficulty. A beautifully presented attempt to get you to consider aspects of life you might not normally think about, The End is both strange and strangely satisfying, and I mean that in the best possible way.

Play The End


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Rating: 3.9/5 (78 votes)
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TrickySymphonic Tower DefenseTower Defense games have cast you in many different roles as protector: Soldier. Wizard. Monkey. Sunflower. I'm pretty sure though that Symphonic Tower Defense, the new music game by FrozenFire and Jon Sandness, is the first time that a band conductor (a balding one at that) has been tasked with guarding against a nigh-unstoppable attack. I suppose it's justified in this case, as it so happens that it is music itself that's out of control. Should the songs escape... terrible unspecified things will happen to us all. Get ready to take some notes and make your enemies treble with bass fear, as you orchestrate the sharpest defense possible!

Symphonic Tower Defense is based around notes traveling across three staffs to the beat of a song playing in the background. You must destroy the notes before they reach the other side of the screen, or else you lose a life. Each song has an "analysis" graphic that informs you which combination of five major aspects the song will focus on: Melody, Bass, Synth/Strings, Percussion, and Miscellaneous songs. Each one has a corresponding tower you can buy with a specific type of regular and special attacks. When the song focuses on that aspect, the regular attacks become more powerful and the special attacks charge quicker. Blasting notes gets you more cash, which can be used to buy/upgrade towers or power-ups like Sforzando Bombs, pausing Fermatas and Rests, slowing Decrescendos, and restarting Repeat Signs. There are nine songs in total, all available for download. And-a one, and-a two...

I don't think that there's any variety of casual game that couldn't be improved by the addition of a kicking soundtrack, and Symphonic Tower Defense is a case in point. Of course, what kinds of soundtracks you find to be kicking matter quite a great deal when it comes to music games. Symphonic Tower Defense leans quite heavily on electronic music, as, admittedly, many rhythm games do. Those who couldn't say what separates "trance" from "techno" might be turned away, especially since you must complete every song to unlock the next one, and some are a bit lengthy. Those who like the musical styling, however, will undoubtedly love the game (Two Words: Ronald Jenkees). Though without the songs, it would be a more than capable tower defense game, the addition is no mere gimmick. The developers have clearly taken the time to fully integrate music into the genre in ways that feel as natural as they are innovative. I was a little skeptical of the charts that specifically tell what the coming songs would focus on, but I can't deny you'll need every advantage you can get to triumph against the accurately named "Hard Mode". While a few hopefully-soon-to-be-fixed programming glitches make it a little discordant, overall Symphonic Tower Defense has a nice beat that's fun to dance to.

Play Symphonic Tower Defense


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Rating: 3.1/5 (92 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypOne of the best things about doing Weekday Escape is the chance to peruse the work of new room escape designers. There's a lot of...well, not-so-good stuff out there, but every once in a while you happen across someone who really gets the genre, and then it is a pleasure to introduce them to our faithful readers. This week we're featuring one of those relatively new designers (at least, new to Weekday Escape), Tsukisuna-sou and their wonderful room escape gem Escape from the Room 202.

Escape from the Room 202Despite the unimaginative name this is quite a fun and imaginative little classic one-room escape. The puzzles are nicely varied and there is a lot of combination and use of found objects, always a plus when trying to find your way out of a locked space. Navigation can be a little tricky at first due to the fact that the usual side-screen bars tend to only move you about 45 degrees as opposed to the usual 90 degrees, resulting in some lovely head-on and kitty-corner views of this pretty little room. There is an easy to use inventory system (which features a lovely "about" button), the ability to mute both the incidental sounds and the rather repetitious music clip, all that's missing control-wise is a save button, which would be nice because Escape from the Room 202 has two endings, albeit the simplest iteration of two escape endings (getting out with or without a particular object in hand).

On the downside (and isn't there always a downside?) the game is in Japanese, so the beginning and ending text is incomprehensible to anyone who doesn't read the language, rather like Tesshi-e games used to be. Inside the game, however, the dialogue text is thankfully in both English and Japanese, so while you may not understand the set-up or conclusion you will not be confused within the game itself. At least, not confused as to language, the puzzles might confuse you a bit at first. The other problem is the usual lack of a changing cursor and the concomitant pixel hunting. Some of the visual clues can be a bit hard to see amongst the brightness that permeates the space as well.

What is nice to see with Escape from the Room 202, though, is a designer who seriously understands how an escape game should flow. The puzzles are pretty logical and easy to figure out, making this escape a perfect bite-sized mid-week break. There is also something else we like to see in room escape designs, lively little touches that are not necessarily important to the gameplay but that add that extra something that elevates an escape from standard to delightful. You have to love a game that features both an Akabeko (think Japanese bobble-head paper mache cow) and the idea that anything is better with a little olive oil (a person after my own heart). Let's welcome Tsukisuna-sou to the ranks of promising game designers and have fun playing this wonderful new effort.

Play Escape from the Room 202


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Rating: 3.9/5 (54 votes)
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Joshimmortalsoulsflash.jpgMonsters. Slimy ghouls. Lightsaber-wielding Knights Templar. And one vengeful trench coat-wearing vampire with guns, claws, and a trusty baseball bat. Mix them all together and you've got the dark, gothic backdrop of the online Flash version of Comic Book RPG's 2010 indie strategy-RPG title, Immortal Souls: Dark Crusade.

In Immortal Souls, you play John Turner, a reluctant vampire on an action-filled mission where he takes down hordes of impressively-animated enemies across eight story-filled chapters. The turn-based gameplay is similar to Bejeweled and Puzzle Quest, with a 4 x 3 grid of icons representing different colored attacks and defenses. Enemies have weaknesses to certain colored attacks, encouraging you to find specific patterns on the grid for maximum success. Clicking on chains of the same icons leads to longer, more powerful attacks, and is the key to winning battles against multiple enemies. Outside of the battles, there are also RPG elements that let you level up your character, add skills and attributes, and purchase equipment to strengthen your attacks.

While much remains the same from the downloadable version, Immortal Souls now features multiple enhancements. One of the biggest updates is the new character class system. There are three classes (Warrior, Scoundrel, and Manipulator) to choose from at the onset that grant your character various powers to manipulate the 4 x 3 icon grid. These manipulations (called "Tech Skills") prove essential during battles whenever the random layout of the grid deals you a bad hand. Some Tech Skills let you reshuffle the layout, while others add bonus chain icons or make normal attacks more powerful. In addition to these Tech Skills, there are also special power icons on the grid that let you combine different colors in chains, leading to some awesome combos. Players of the original will also note that now enemies can sometimes miss, healing and defense can be chained like attacks, and animations feel faster and smoother.

immortalsoulsflash2.jpgAnalysis: This new version of Immortal Souls, with its updates and additions, feels much more refined and a lot more fun. Some elements, like the graphics and animations, still shine in their original hand-painted comic-book look, while the story is now less complicated and the action feels more fair. I especially like the class system, with its Tech Skills that can turn the tide in your favor when all seems lost. The new achievement system also makes fighting through the repetitive rounds of enemies feel more compelling.

At the same time, certain issues still remain. There's still no way to exit battles early, and the game's over-emphasis on earning gold trophies by beating enemies quickly doesn't have much of a payoff. It would have also been neat to see enemies perform attacks that affect your icon grid, as is done in games like Puzzle Quest. Regardless, with its new layers of features and streamlined, turn-based action, Immortal Souls has become a more accessible title for the casual gaming public... one you shouldn't be afraid to sink your teeth into.

Play Immortal Souls: Dark Crusade


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Rating: 4.4/5 (297 votes)
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DoraGreyKevin McGrath's Grey is a short, artsy little platformer about a boy travelling through a lifeless landscape trying to find objects with colour to return to his... girlfriend? Sister? Platonic Hermione Granger-type best friend? Whoever she is, she's listless and unresponsive despite the boy's attempts to get through to her. Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move around and explore; standing near the girl will bring up a series of coloured arrows that will point the way towards the items you're looking for. Track them down and bring back a little colour into her life, even if you find yourself slipping away in the process.

Best of Casual Gameplay 2011
Originally making an appearance in a recent installment of Link Dump Friday, Grey surprised a lot of us site-bound word monkeys by going over extraordinarily well with a lot of people. But maybe that's not so surprising after all; since art is mostly subjective, and not everyone experiences the same things the same way in life, it stands to reason that something one person would pass by without a backward glance would cause another to stop in their tracks and stare. With a haunting soundtrack courtesy of shadow6nothing9 and a striking, slowly changing visual design, Grey provides a great canvas for players to project onto, but its repetitive, bland gameplay and loosey-goosey controls let it down in the actual "game" department. Like all art games, however, Grey has the potential to deliver an intensely personal experience that people will choose to interpret in different ways; it may bring a tear to your eye, it may make you shake your head and sigh, but Grey is still a thoughtfully made little title that may find its mark with you.

Play Grey


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Rating: 4.5/5 (164 votes)
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GrinnypDismantlementToyPortableChurchAs a whole the Dismantlement series of point-and-click demolition games has been one of the most popular ever here at Jayisgames. For a lovely morning treat welcome to the oddest Dismantlement puzzle game yet! Yes, even odder than the infamous burger, Gam.eBB.jp proudly brings us Dismantlement: Toy Portable Church for our puzzling pleasure. Must be a cultural thing, 'cause I certainly don't remember playing with toy portable Buddhist shrines when I was a wee thing...

Per usual with all the games in this series you must bravely tackle your task with only a screwdriver. Reduce this beautiful little toy to its basic components by solving an array of puzzles that involve sound, alphabet, numbers, colors, and Kao-moji. Simply click on areas for a close up (or to manipulate them), and use the arrows and navigation buttons that appear at the sides and top of the screen. Toy Portable Church is a bit unusual in that there is not just a "front" and "back" to the piece, but all four sides of the structure must be solved to make the overall solution work in a nice twist. Of course, all Dismantlement gadgets have that extra-special surprise at their core, and, yes, there is a bomb buried underneath that angry, angry bird. The puzzles are pretty simple but are nicely varied, and this is definitely a fun way to start the day. Just don't mute the sound, otherwise you'll be stuck from the beginning. Wake up and grab a screwdriver!

Play Dismantlement: Toy Portable Church


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The Vault

DoraAwwwwww yeah, we're gettin' all multiplayer and whatnot on this week's edition of the Vault. While I am mostly strictly a singleplayer type of gal, from time to time a MMO has stolen my heart and all my free time, and we'd be remiss if we didn't talk about some of the oldest and best examples still tottering around out there on the web, yelling at children to get off their internets, and making you listen to endless stories about how in their day you used your imagination for graphics and by gosh you liked it. Here are three of my favourite golden oldie online gaming experiences that still stand the test of time and are just the ticket to dip your toe into whenever you feel like being social.

  • Legend of the Green DragonLegend of the Green Dragon - With its roots firmly entrenched in the original 1989 classic of a different hue, this text-based RPG may have snow on the roof, but there's still fire inside. You play a young aspiring hero who wants only to slay the titular green dragon... just like everyone else in town, naturally. Combining turn-based combat, a robust community of erstwhile dragon-slayers, and a remarkable amount of secrets to uncover, treasure to find, and monsters to slay, it's a remarkably engrossing experience despite only allowing you to play for a little each day, and one I was always eager to come back to. To say it's spawned a lot of similar games is a bit of an understatement, and you'll probably recognise bits and pieces of its design elsewhere, but if you're looking for the perfect bit of "prithee my good sir/madam" online fantasy with just a bit of silly sass, Legend of the Green Dragon is still the choice of champions.
  • Kingdom of LoathingKingdom of Loathing - Chances are if you've got any interest in free online multiplayer RPGs at all, you've at least heard of this supremely silly and hilarious game. It's been around for quite some time and has almost become the standard by which all other RPG parodies are judged, so you know it's got to be good. Eschewing the traditional adventurer classes like "bard" and "barbarian" and "Leroy Jenkins", Kingdom of Loathing sends you out to save the world in the shoes of, say, a venerable Pastamancer, Disco Bandit, or Turtle Tamer. Get a Blood-Faced Volleyball for a familiar, or craft a meat car, hunt down a magical MacGuffin or just kneel at the Altar of Literacy. There are a ridiculous amount of quests, all packed with silly puns and jokes, and with a clever approach to replay value once you finish the main story it's easy to see why people have been coming back for more and more for over eight years now.
  • Urban DeadUrban Dead - This zombie apocalypse themed text RPG holds a personal record for me for "most times rage quit, come back to, then rage quit harder", although you should take that more as a testament to how bad at it I was than the quality of the game itself. Urban Dead has a somewhat steep difficult curve and, at least at the time, lacked any sort of tutorial, so it meant the task of surviving and not getting stranded out when night fell or your character ran out of turns took a lot of trial and error. You explored a vast city, working with (or against!) other players or alone, trying to scavenge supplies and stay one step ahead of the zombie horde... lest you become one yourself, which happened often. In the years since, however, the Urban Dead has continued to expand and now provides a remarkably robust zombie-themed apocalypse role-playing experience. While it may take more effort to learn the ropes and become successful than the other two titles in this article, Urban Dead is still a stellar, challenging game you'll be happy to sink your crumbling, fetid teeth into.

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


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Rating: 3.7/5 (155 votes)
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JohnBplayroom.jpgKids get the weirdest toys. Dinosaurs with wheels. Monster trucks that roar and eat cavemen. Toy robot bears with color-coded buttons that correspond to wallpaper trim with arms that can be positioned to write encoded messages to other playmates. You know, the usual stuff. Playroom, a brand new room escape game from Imagia creator Kayzerfish, takes place in just such a location, and in order to escape from this abode, you'll need to do some serious code breaking, map drawing, and item hunting in this colorful and challenging title.

Use the mouse to do everything in this game, nudging it to the edge of the screen to move around and clicking on items to pick them up or take a closer look. There are a number of areas you'll need to step in and scrutinize, such as the posters and the travel chest, and their appearance in both views can be important. Keep a lookout for items hidden in plain sight, stuffed behind corners or sitting almost-hidden right in front of your nose. The little details can matter quite a bit!

Items automatically slide into your inventory, and in many cases you can examine them by clicking on them. Some can even be manipulated while in a close-up view, and you'll have to use this to solve a few of the game's many perplexing puzzles. Again, watch for small details, even on items, and think logically.

Analysis: The room escape formula is quite established at this point in time, and Playroom doesn't really deviate from those set standards. It does, however, take a bit more of a cryptic path to many of its puzzles, preferring to lay most of them out in tangled, often confusing codes. Bears with their arms raised representing letters? O...k... How about cities on a map that need to be connected? Or colored shapes that must be deciphered? Yikes!

Relatively difficult puzzles aside, the rest of Playroom is very well-constructed, featuring an easy navigation system, an inventory that works without too much hassle, and hotspots that are generous enough to allow you to do what you need to do without fussing with individual pixels. A few of the items are difficult to spot, but if everything was splayed out on the table for you, this wouldn't be much of a game, would it?

Another room escape game from Kayzerfish is never a bad thing, and Playroom looks to be a great start to a new series of games.

Play Playroom


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Rating: 4.5/5 (110 votes)
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JamesLee-Lee's QuestPlatforms? Check. Roaming enemies? Check. Collecting stuff? Check. Bouncing pads? Check. Unrelenting sarcasm? Check. Wait, wha...? Apparently Marcus Richert never does anything the normal way. Just look at his new platformer, Lee-Lee's Quest. It's really not normal. Ironically this platformer is possibly the most normal platform game you have ever played; use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move as usual. Turn off all the sound and you might be fooled into thinking that this is a slick if unimaginative project where you run around navigating obstacles and picking up stuff. In this case you gather shovels, which your character has a bit to say about. In fact, whereas most platform stars tend to restrain their vocabulary to jumping grunts and whoops of gold star ecstacy, Lee-Lee has quite a mouthful (thanks to voice work by Joshua Tomar). Ditto for all the enemies roaming this platform world. Largely more geometric that the oval-shaped Lee-Lee, they clearly think the main character is some kind of a snob. He is obviously dillussional, as the intro video shows, but a snob? It gives you the motivation for any platformer's tried and tested weapon: bouncing on their heads.

It's tempting to call Lee-Lee's Quest a parody of platformers, but it doesn't delve that deep. Yet if you would settle for the idea of a comedy platformer, this is it. The banter between the characters and the ridiculous achievements make for a funny adventure. Even the last boss is a poke at overpowered final characters. Or maybe I was just terrible at trying to beat him. It doesn't matter; die a few times and the game gives you an out (but gets to poke fun at you). You won't be playing this for the gameplay, tight as it may be. Lee-Lee's Quest is more of a platformer doing it at the expense of the genre. In fact, start it in style; when the game starts and Lee-Lee awaits your movement commands, just hold back and do nothing. He's got a few things to say.

Play Lee-Lee's Quest


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Rating: 4.7/5 (2122 votes)
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Kyhkyh_papasfreezeria_topstation.pngPapa isn't done conquering the restaurant industry. He did the pizza thing, nailed the custom-made burgers,and captured the hearts of taco lovers everywhere. Given all these savory foods Papa's been serving up, it only makes sense that he would decide to explore the world of sweets in Flipline Studio's newest time management release for the Papa's series, Papa's Freezeria. In this game, you'll be serving sugary delights in the form of 'Freezer' sundaes to ever picky customers. It seems like it should be a breeze working for Papa at his new shop. After all, it's located on the tropical Calypso Island with a population of only twelve potential customers... oh, and I suppose that mob exiting the large cruise ship over there may decide to stop by too. You'll be fine, don't worry.

Using only your mouse, you control the actions of either Alberto or Penny, whom you choose at the beginning of the game. You jot down your customers' wishes at the Order Station, fill their selected cup size at the Build Station, blend it all together at the Mix Station and finish it off at the Top Station. When you're done with their order, you wait with bated breath to see what score you've achieved. A higher score grants you better tips from that customer for both that particular day and in all future visits.

While the Order Station is as it always has been, the Build Station is where Flipline has added a new twist. Instead of simply clicking the essential ingredients to make your sundae, each part of it (the ice cream, mix-in and syrup) requires you to hit a timed 'Pour' button. An indicator runs back and forth across a meter and you have one chance to get it to stop in the green section. Doing so earns you extra tips and guarantees a higher percentage for that area, otherwise, you just get a lower score. The faster you can stop the indicator in the green the better the reward, but if this makes you feel nervous, just wait after a few cycles back and forth for it to slow. The Mix Station functions much like the previous games' Grill Stations, involving keeping track of how long the sundae is left in the blender, and the Top Station takes from Papa's Taco Mia, having you wiggle your mouse back and forth to pour the desired toppings. The Doorbell and Alarms are back to help keep watch over the different stations and new to this game are the Blender Boosters which allow you to speed up the time spent at the Mix Station (be careful not to boost into the red or else risk breaking the blender for the day) and the Auto Ice Cream, which expertly handles the first timed pour, giving you the best tip.

kyh_papasfreezeria_buildstation.jpgHaving to be pretty strict with how the food is made, Flipline Studios has added a more 'creative' feature in Papa's Freezeria. All the funky posters and add-ons you're used to purchasing to upgrade your shop and help your score are now configured within the shop at your own discretion! That's right. If you want to sell your wall to the highest bidder, cover it with ads for Kahuna's Surf Shack and the cruise ship S.S. Louis. Want floor-to-ceiling windows and a floor covered in pinball machines? Sure, why not? If Papa's not happy with it, he shouldn't have left you to your own devices.

Analysis: Being a big fan of time management games in general and the Papa's series specifically, I was beyond excited to see this new entry. As always, the cartoon graphics lend a lovable quality to the characters (my favorite being Captain Cory, the gruff, female, tattooed sailor), and no matter how demanding a customer may be, I still find myself liking them.

I think the new features in Freezeria work well in enticing you to try it out while the gameplay keeps you hooked. Though I felt it started out too slowly, and I found myself being bored during the first game week, it soon picked up and became a more comfortable challenge where I was able to develop a rhythm to keep my scores high. While all the decorative upgrades are a plus, the ones for behind the counter are a must! Just in time to help you beat the heat of summer, sit back, grab a cold one (sundae, that is) and spend a few hours running Papa's Freezeria.

Play Papa's Freezeria


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Kickin Momma

JohnBMore pachinko, anyone? Kickin' Momma is the latest from Hothead Games, the team that is perhaps most famous for creating the Penny Arcade adventure episodes beginning with On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness. Now, though, the studio is focusing some efforts on the iOS market, creating a crazy sort of game that's very similar to Peggle.

kickinmonna.jpgThe story centers around the momma monster who is in love with a dazzling jewel necklace. She can't afford it, though, so to make enough cash to purchase the bauble, she decides to take her offspring (swarmites) and boot them off the edge of a cliff, causing them to fall, strike pegs, and hit gems that are transported back to momma's bottomless pockets. Simple, and mildly disturbing, but it's all done in good cartoon fun, so there's no need to hide the children.

You can succinctly describe Kickin' Momma as "horizontal Peggle with monsters instead of balls". That's pretty much the gist of things, and it's easy to jump right in to this game without much practice. Tap the screen and slide your finger to take aim, using the arrows on the left side to fine-tune your trajectory. When you're ready to fire, press "kick" and send that baby flying. Monsterlets strike pegs just like in any pachinko game, and when they finally hit the bottom, your score is totaled, pegs are cleared, and any gems you touched are vacuumed right up.

Later levels introduce new pegs with some interesting effects, such as splitters that spawn multiple monster babies when struck, explosive pegs, fire, rock, and ice pegs, etc. You have to work through a good chunk of the game's 36 levels to find these different pegs, which is a bit of a letdown. Fortunately a few cosmetic unlockables give you something to strive for apart from obtaining a high score. There's nothin' like seeing a big blue momma monster with a monocle, boots, and mustache!

kickinmonna2.jpgAnalysis: The most interesting part of Kickin' Momma? How utterly surreal it can be. First of all, the premise is mad. A monster booting her babies down a cliff so she can buy a necklace? For real?! Next, momma likes to dance, and you'll catch her busting some moves while her children are bouncing around the side of a cliff.

Luck is more of a factor in Kickin' Momma than raw skill, though that doesn't mean you can kick those swarmites all over the place and still come out victorious. Peg placement, where gems fall, and what happens after the first few ricochets often seems totally random, and more than one time you'll watch a shot fall completely flat after thinking it would be a big points winner. The window in the upper left corner of the screen lets you adjust your moves with great precision, so use it, live by it, and think before you kick those babies!

If there's anything "wrong" with Kickin' Momma, it's that it's a bit too similar to Peggle for comfort, and it doesn't really add anything new to the genre. In fact, the game is too sparse in some areas, featuring very little variety, a low level of challenge, and relatively few stages to complete. There's space for a new world in an upcoming update, so hopefully this will add some much-needed variety to the game.

Kickin' Momma scores big points for looking great and playing smoothly, and its blend of pachinko and arcade gameplay styles is a winner no matter how you cut it. If you're looking for a cute, no-stress game that's very similar to Peggle and lets you kick baby monsters all day, look no further than Kickin' Momma!


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Mobile Monday

JohnBThe song. THE SONG! Dear Zeus the song will not leave my head! Why is the baby monkey riding on the back of that pig? AND WHY IS IT FACING BACKWARDS?!! *pulls hair out*

babymonkey.gifBaby Monkey (going backwards on a pig) (iPhone, iPod Touch) - Baby monkey! Baby monkey! It's the baby monkey game, baby monkey! Grab a banana! Crash through a pumpkin! Backwards on a pig, baby monkey! And that's all you need to know! Make the monkey jump, make the pig jump, collect bananas, avoid non-banana things. That's about all there is, but it's so sugar-sweet cute, you'll try again and again with this arcade-style running game. Extra super bonus challenge: play the game for 30 seconds and spend the next hour trying to get the song out of your head!

pushmortypush.gifPush Morty Push (universal) - The block pushing sokoban puzzle genre shall live forever, and games like Push Morty Push ensure that the experience never gets old. Tap on the screen to send Morty to any unoccupied square. To move blocks around, tap them then tap where you want them to go. The goal is to shove all the blocks to their proper locations in the warehouse, thus opening new areas to explore. It's a simple set-up that's executed extraordinarily well. The controls are spot-on, and the game never tried to trick you with lame gimmicks, providing solid sokoban action from beginning to end. The Push Morty Push FREE is also available.

connectrode.gifConnectrode (universal) - Enjoy puzzle games that take some time to really get into? Then meet your new addiction! Your goal is to connect little connectrodes by placing the chips that appear at the top of the screen. One at a time you fill the grid, making sure you don't block off areas as you go. The more connectrodes you include in a match, the higher your score. Building large chains of connectrodes is extremely tough to do and takes a lot of practice, strategizing, and more practice. But it pays off! A simple game that's easy to get into but difficult to master, sort of like the iOS puzzle game from Jason Rohrer, Primrose.

touchdetective.gifTouch Detective (iPhone, iPod Touch) - A few years ago, a cute-looking point-and-click mystery game was released for the Nintendo DS by the name of Touch Detective. Now, that very same title has been ported to iOS, bringing the same cartoonish gothic art style to the mobile scene. And it's made the transition without a hitch! Control detective Mackenzie as she solves mysteries in her small (but strange) home town. A reviewer once noted the game's visual style was like "a Tim Burton version of a Jhonen Vasquez comic", which is a nigh-perfect comparison for the stellar artwork in this game. Includes new content as well as chapters unlockable via in-game purchases.

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 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (117 votes)
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LIMBO

JohnBSeveral years in the making, the darkly atmospheric (and strangely realistic) platform game LIMBO has finally migrated from console download to the PC ecosphere. Crafted by Danish studio Playdead, LIMBO drops you in a shadowy world filled with dangers, immensely difficult puzzles, and more ways to die than you would really want to count. It's an incredibly stylistic and engaging game, one that just about any player can pick up and enjoy from beginning to end.

limbo.jpgLIMBO begins with a nameless boy waking in the middle of the forest. He's looking for his missing sister, but he mostly comes in contact with creatures great and small, most notably a massive spider whose legs are as sharp as steel. Soon, as you work your way through different puzzles, you wind up in a village, an abandoned city, and finally in the forest again. Can he locate his sister? Who are these mysterious few people he keeps seeing? And why can't he fall more than a meter without dying?!

LIMBO is similar to games like Another World, where realistic physics take a front seat to exaggerated leaps and fantastic feats of physical prowess. You have a modest jumping ability, can hang on to ledges, ropes and the like, and will be, er, "subjected to" one or two other temporary skills as the game progresses. It's not about what you can do, it's about figuring out how to navigate the strange world using your limited set of moves.

Analysis: Games like LIMBO are rare jewels that should be unearthed, polished, played with, and admired for a great many years. The sense of desolation illustrated by the "one boy against the world" motif is both magnified and contrasted with the landscape, presenting dark, shadowy images that hint at a world of activity recently departed. How recent, though, and are you about to get eaten by a spider? You can never really tell, which is just part of what makes this game so engaging.

limbo2.jpgHaving a limited movement ability further sets you against the bleak world of LIMBO. Navigating even the smallest gaps can be difficult, something Mario or that guy with really fancy pants would never even think twice about. But you, you're forced to deal with tiny obstacles made big by their realism. After all, you're just one tiny boy against a big, shadowy world.

The only potential down side to LIMBO is its tendency to emphasize failure. Dying is simply a part of this game. You have to do it multiple times in order to figure out what to do. Solving puzzles means you try something, fail miserably, watch that poor boy suffer a gory (but not explicitly so, owing to the monotone visuals) death, then try again, starting over from a nearby checkpoint. Replaying areas so many times can lead to frustration for some gamers, as it isn't a mechanism that's favored in modern games, especially not casually-oriented ones. If you can take the "punishment", LIMBO rewards you a hundred times over with every other aspect of its presentation and gameplay.

LIMBO is filled with genius moments of art and puzzle direction. It is storytelling at its most minimal, using sights and sounds to convey meaning and tightly-constructed obstacles to carve a delicate path to the end. It's easily one of the finest realistic platform games released in the last few years, and you owe it to yourself to play, if for nothing other than to see its marvelous ingenuity at work.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
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
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Written Legends: Nightmare at Sea

DoraShiver ye whatevers, you've got some questing to do! In Written Legends: Nightmare at Sea, the new hidden-object adventure from Vast Studios, you find yourself stranded under the sea with nary a pineapple to call your own. Curiously, you're still alive... or at least, you think you are, but right now you've got more pressing matters to worry about. You soon discover that none other than Davy "Stink Eye" Jones himself is behind your predicament, and he's a class A jerk who has no intention of letting you go unless you adhere to his demands... and if you fail, it isn't just your soul on the line. Your dear old pappy's been dad-napped and the others Davy Jones has sunk seem to have given up. Will you be able to rescue everyone and break free, or are you destined to become some more deep-sea flotsam, floating around underwater for all eternity?

Written Legends: Nightmare at SeaLike most games in the genre, you'll find your time split between good ol' fashioned adventurin', and good ol' fashioned hidden-object huntin'. But while there's plenty of the latter to be done, much of the focus is on the former, liberally sprinkled with puzzles to taste. Sparkles and glimmers draw your attention towards objects of interest, and your cursor will change to a hand or magnifying glass when you move it over interactive areas. The locations you'll be exploring are surprisingly large and varied, so you should keep track of what you're supposed to be up to by referring to your tasks in your journal if you ever get lost. On the opposite side of the screen, the lantern offers up a random item during hidden-object scenes, but also lights the way towards hints and clues if you have business you can handle in the area you're currently in. So, yes, it's just like I've been telling people for years now... button mashing is the solution to everything.

Written Legends: Nightmare at SeaAnalysis: The underwater locales are beautiful, dark, imaginative, and strange... exactly the sort of place you can picture The downside, unfortunately, is that because the visuals are going for the whole "shabby-chic abandoned at the bottom of the briny deep for an eternity" vibe, that grim griminess sometimes interferes with hidden-object scenes. On the plus side, it is the sort of thing your eyes naturally adapt to as you play, and if you've been waiting for an epic, cheesy adventure this is definitely it. The story is somewhat bizarre, but enjoyably so; trapped and tortured souls, an underwater doom fortress, blood scrolls, and even a dancing skeleton parrot all make an appearance. There's actually a heavy emphasis placed on narrative, which is a welcome change in a hidden-object title, and the game is packed full of eccentric characters to talk to and twists aplenty. It helps keep the plot first and foremost and make you feel like you're actually engaged in an adventure rather than just trudging around a series of tenuously connected puzzles and mounds of items to sift through.

As far as the actual gameplay goes, Nightmare at Sea is pleasingly varied, if not particularly challenging. Item usage can occasionally be finicky, demanding you to click on the precise spot, and hidden-object scenes can be likewise fussy. Where the game shines, however, is in how well its theme and setting is integrated into everything from its hidden-object scenes to the puzzles themselves; while most are variations on types you've seen before in other games, the puzzles herein are beautifully designed to fit their eerie underwater setting. Written Legends: Nightmare at Sea is just plain outlandish, swashbuckling fun. It's chock-a-block with oddballs, legendary figures, and dark, creative environments. Clocking in at somewhere between three to four hours in length for most players, it manages to overcome its flaws to deliver an imaginative and engaging undersea adventure, so genre fans will want to check out the demo for sure. It does make one wonder, however, why Davy Jones got the starring role when everyone knows that the Flying Dutchman is clearly the more terrifying choice. Regardless, dive on in with this fun undersea excursion... just remember to keep one hand on your Krabby Patties at all times.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (390 votes)
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defendyournuts.jpgJohnBHey! Orcs, skeletons, giants, mosquitoes, bunnies, and evil bees! Those acorns are mine! Armed with a bow and arrows and a few other more boom-inducing weapons, Elliot Pace's Defend Your Nuts is a fast-paced defense game that puts you in the furry shoes of a squirrel perched on a tree. As evil minions tromp in from the right side of the screen, take aim and fire to send them back to the flames of Hades where they belong, keeping your winter stash safe and secure from their muck-covered paws!

When it comes to shooting armies of undead, you can't go wrong with a bow and arrow. But pointy sticks aren't always the best thing when the bad guys start to get bigger and tougher. Defend Your Nuts employs a coin-based upgrades system that allows you to improve weapons that unlock after you've played through a certain number of days. First, the shotgun becomes available, allowing you a more powerful spread shot to deal with clumps of evils. Next, a precise rifle, and finally, a big ole rocket launcher. Each weapon can be charged to full power by clicking and holding the [left] mouse button, so charge up, take aim, and clear out some bad guys.

Headshots deal more damage than body blows, so go for their noggins to deal maximum damage. Keep an eye out for coins and ammunition icons that drop from defeated enemies. You can collect them by swiping the cursor over top, and you'll need every extra shot and every coin you can get. You can also buy and upgrade land mines and a protective fence to keep your acorns safe for as long as possible!

Analysis: Mmm, artillery plus squirrels plus zombie skeletons! You can't go wrong with a starting formula like that, and Defend Your Nuts does indeed hit all the right marks in its design. Good visuals, a simple but nice upgrades system, intuitive progression and selectable difficulty levels make it easy to get into, and everything culminates in a final battle that's perfectly suited for a defense game.

Defend Your Nuts can drag a little bit around the dozen-day mark, a point when you've managed to upgrade a few weapons to give you a big advantage over the baddies and you can pretty much coast for a few levels, racking up coins to upgrade the rest of your inventory. You'll need things as maxed out as possible, too, as a few days later, you'll meet the game's final boss. Eeep!

If you need practice defending your stash of acorns and all you've got is a bazooka, consider Defend Your Nuts the finest browser-based training routine you can adopt!

Play Defend Your Nuts


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Weekend Download

JohnBIf you had the choice between a game that promised to kick your game-playing behind and a game that promised you'd look like an idiot when you first played it, which would you choose? Perhaps a complex personality test should be developed around that question? Perhaps... we'll just play some more games and forget about all that psychiatry stuff!

omnicron.gifOmnicron (Windows, 20MB, free) - An 8-bit-styled shooter that's full of everything you love in a shooter: lots of enemies, lots of guns, lots of things to dodge, the occasional screen-clearing bomb, and big, big bosses. Your ship fires automatically, you just need to position yourself to clear things out with weapons fire. Left click the mouse to charge your bomb, absorbing projectiles in the process. When it's ready, right click to unleash the boom, sparing your life for a few seconds. Gather gun upgrades to get bigger and bigger weapons arrays, and hope you can make it through the gauntlet alive!

flail.gifFLaiL (Windows, 11MB, free) - Just when you think you've seen every "platform game with an attitude", you discover FLaiL, an action game from Matt Thorson, creator of An Untitled Story as well as MoneySeize. In FLaiL you, quite naturally, flail around each level, jumping from platform to platform as you try to make it to the red light at the end. You have a spiffy flying ability that lets you "dash" in any direction, and there are a number of power-ups that change the physics of the game quite a bit. Lots of levels, multiplayer support, and plenty of other extras you'll love to devour. Note: You'll need to scroll down a touch to find the download link.

tigl.gifThe Indie Game Legend (Windows, 21MB, free) - Are you a devout follower of the indie gaming scene? Do you enjoy retro games that let you shoot a lot of things, upgrade things, and rescue people who wish you could meet in real life? The Indie Game Legend is what you desire! Similar to a few classic NES games such as The Legend of Zelda and The Guardian Legend, pick up your weapons and fight your way through 125 rooms in this action/RPG, your lofty goal being to rescue the kidnapped indie developers. Sure, it's a lot more fun if you get all of the inside jokes and such, but even if you don't, just pretend Derek Yu is some guy whose calculator you borrowed in class and never gave it back.

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


(12 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Grim Tales: The Bride

DoraPushed from a bridge by a shadowy figure, your dear twin sister Luisa is dead. You haven't seen her since you were both children, but you find yourself driven by a burning desire to uncover her fate and the identity of her killer and return home for the first time in years. A mysterious creature offers you the chance to relive Luisa's memories and uncover the truth, maybe even save her, but if you fail, your soul will be forfeit. Will you be able to untangle the mystery surrounding the sister you thought you knew in Elephant Games' creepy time-trotting hidden-object adventure Grim Tales: The Bride? No, go ahead, it's cool. I'm sure you won't live to regret your deal with the devil at all. Those things always work out so well.

Grim Tales: The BrideTo uncover the truth about Luisa and maybe save her life in the process, you'll split your time between tracking down photos in your family home that transport you back in time, and tokens that have some sort of relationship with Luisa herself. While most of the gameplay can be summed up with "I can't open X without Y", you'll also solve puzzles, hunt for clues, master mental control over the insect realm, and... also, a chipmunk will bring you a slingshot at one point. (Curtis would be proud, you rodent whisperer you.) Depending on the difficulty setting you choose at the beginning, interactive areas may or may not be highlighted with Cullen sparklies, but if you examine each area carefully and watch for the cursor to change, you should be fine. In a pinch, clicking your unusual pocket-watch during ordinary gameplay will also tell you where to go next, and also can be used to skip particularly frustrating puzzles. Handy!

Grim Tales: The BrideAnalysis: If you're going to take a trip through your estranged sister's increasingly miserable final days, it might as well be scenic, and The Bride has that in spades. The artwork is beautiful, the environments are atmospheric, and the soundtrack is actually surprisingly well done, mingling vaguely discordant tracks for an eerie feel in some locations and knowing just when to kick in or fade away. If the game falls short, it's because it initially fails to really marry its narrative and gameplay. You're left to infer a lot on your own and check your journal frequently to get a lot of context that really should have come across better within the game itself. It goes without saying that throughout the course of your journey back in time, you'll uncover a few dark family secrets, which is de riguer for any fashionable young lady these days. The occasionally goofy gameplay and item use at times feels as though it's at odds with the atmosphere and tone the game is striving for, but, well... I was on board the moment Darth Malak crawled out of the fireplace.

Fortunately for fans of the genre who prefer gameplay to story, there is a great deal of the former to be had. Throughout the course of the game you'll visit a remarkable number of different locations packed with all manner of hidden-object scenes that never repeat, which is a feat itself. There is a fair amount of backtracking, but there's also a remarkable amount of puzzles and new areas to explore so that just when a location is beginning to feel old, you're transported somewhere new. Depending on your play style, the game could take four hours or significantly longer, and maintains just the right amount of low-key creepiness throughout. While the ending seems a little abrupt, the bonus chapter in the Collector's Edition does, for once, feel like an actual bonus rather than a final installment of a story you need to play to understand the rest. While it doesn't quite reach instant classic status, Grim Tales: The Bride is a beautifully designed and well-made adventure from start to finish that offers a satisfying, meaty chunk of cheesy ghoulish fun. Try the demo before you buy it, but if you're a fan of the hidden-object hunting and impeccably dressed demons, you'll want to try it for sure.

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


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (82 votes)
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joyeExit Path 2Ever seen a summer action blockbuster? You know how there's usually that scene where the heroes are running down some kind of dangerous industrial corridor and there's this huge swinging blade for no reason at all and the blade's all like "Bwo-bwo-bwo-bwo" and the heroes are leaving behind trails of light and running with the soundtrack all "watchachachacha" and they're diving and jumping all over the place in their sunglasses without a hair getting out of place and you're in your seat going "Whooooooooaaaaa" through a mouthful of popcorn? Actually more like "Whomphpoaoaahamphph" due to the popcorn factor. And generally these films were sequels, right? Well now you can live that cinematic experience for yourself with less possibility of choking to death in Exit Path 2 by jmtb02, the sequel to the run and jump smash hit from last year. Uniplayer and multiplayer return with a vengeance, plus some extra challenges and bonuses available to players who donate to the game in a pay what you like schema.

The controls are the same as the last go around: [arrow] keys or [WASD] to move around, and once you get enough running behind you, a "flow" bar fills up allowing you to make like the Six Million Dollar Man by hitting [spacebar] or [shift]. [Q] toggles quality, and you can control other things like sound through the pause menu via [P]. "Uniplayer" mode is what other games would call single player or campaign, and it's pretty long, enough to interest a player who doesn't care about multiplayer. Multiplayer mode pits five runners from across the internets in a knock down, no holds bar match to see who can run the fastest while wearing a silly hat and carrying a pair of scissors. See, this is where "flair" comes in, little customizables that you unlock through the game, as well as some you get for buying an "exitPASS".

Like all of jmtb02's games, this one has a ton of unlockables and achievements, generally for collecting signs and "flitters" (they look like little fireflies) as well as more humdrum stuff like leveling up or completing areas.

Exit Path 2Analysis: Those of you who break out in hives at the thought of microtransactions might be reaching for your antihistamine right now, but you needn't bother. The game implements them in a very lowkey fashion; donate any amount, even a penny, to get in, and for this you are rewarded with 40 pieces of exitPASS-only flair, and ten bonus challenge levels. You don't gain any advantage in multiplayer, so don't get concerned about being at a disadvantage if you can't or don't want to donate.

The bonus challenges are ten short levels that are, frankly, for the hardest of the core, or the corest of the hard, or in any case someone more talented than me. You have thirty seconds to complete a level. The timer restarts when you die before a checkpoint, and rewinds back to the time you hit the checkpoint if you die after a checkpoint, but if you run out of time after a checkpoint, you're sent back to the beginning. If you're too cool to take 30 seconds, there's a further challenge of trying to ace a level in 20 seconds. There's a certain amount of luck or patience involved here as well, because the whirling blades etc keep rotating or moving at all times, and there's usually one exact safe sequence that you have to start from at the beginning. Psst: you can game the system by hitting pause and waiting to unpause at the right point in the sequence.

The game, particularly the multiplayer, can be a little processor-intensive, so those of you on older machines may want to hedge your bets by playing with no other tabs open, leaving off flair, and lowering the quality. The game as a whole is remarkably forgiving to a wide range of skill levels without being too easy for the more hardcore player. Frequent checkpoints, for example, ease the frustration of a player like myself, while timed runs challenge the elite. Even the multiplayer acts on this basis, automatching players based on skills so that races feel competitive. In another sign of its summer blockbuster of Flash-dom status, this game will appeal to a wide variety of people and pack them in the seats. And hey, there's no reason you can't celebrate a win with a little popcorn.

Play Exit Path 2


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraTake heart, good people! For August has arrived, and that means we're halfway to Christmas, with stops along the way for such awesome holidays as Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the month-long street celebration that is my birthday. (In Canada, there are figure flattering floats, parades, and costumed Doras that hand out Reeses Pieces... and then snatch them back and eat them in front of you.) To celebrate this milestone, this week's Link Dump Friday is... exactly the same as any other! Which means it's full of awesome little games made by talented developers! Yaaaaaay, consistency! It's the gift that keeps on giving... literally!

  • FlurFlur - In Ninja Kiwi's latest, you play as a lovely young student at Beauxbaton Academy where you are chosen to represent at the Triwizard Tou... what? Oh. OH. Flur, not Fleur. Well, that changes things! In this arcade game you play a beautiful glowing fairy collecting orbs of light so you can go compete in the Triwizard TOH FINE... glowing orbs of light so you can collect more glowing orbs of light, only faster and shinier. Sounds like a good evening to me!
  • EctologyEctology - I ain't afraid of no ghost, and you won't be either after you play this haunt hunting game. You job is to track down glowing orbs and other supernatural beings in various spooky locations, and then absorb them for study without killing them... somehow? I mean... how does that even work? You can't kill something that's already dead unless your last name is Summers or Hellsing, right? Man, this is some heavy metaphysical stuff... I think I need to go lie down...
  • IntrudedIntruded - Playing this strange little... sneaky... adventure... avoidance... ish... type game kind of reminds me of playing early Resident Evil games way back on the PSOne, in that the camera hates you and wants you to die. Navigate yourself through a tricky environment where your only point of view comes from the security cameras that track your every move and delight in your disorientation. If you think walking a straight line along a wooden plank is tough, wait til you get to the room with the swingy camera and disappearing floor. I dunno about you dudes, but if this is the sort of thing thieves put up with, you can count me out. Guess I'm not cut out for intruded-ing.
  • GreyGrey - I'm grey aba-dee-aba-die... what, isn't that how it goes? In this artsy platformer you play a blocky little fellow who must explore his monochrome environment looking for colourful items to bring back to his curiously emotionally distant girlfriend, as well as brightening the world in the process. You know us ladeez, always with the bling bling, amirite?! Now get out there and bring me back a whole buttload of diamonds!
  • Cuboy Hot PantsCuboy Hot Pants - Hey good lookin'! Whatcha got cookin'?... oh, whoa, that's your pants I smell burning? Well, guess I shouldn't have expected any less from Cuboy, who it seems this time is racing down a rocky (cube-y) slope ahead of lava in this arcade game, trying to avoid being burnt to cinders. It's highscore arcade action, starring everyone's favourite blockhead... assuming you're not a Peanuts fan, of course.

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Rating: 4.4/5 (88 votes)
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Josh1899steamandspirit.jpgSir Winston Churchill was many things during his long and distinguished career... a globe-hopping soldier, Nobel Prize-winning author, and even Prime Minister on two occasions. But what about his life as a secret agent onboard a Mediterranean steamer in 1899? While biographers have stated that Churchill spent that year in Britain writing about his army experiences, the Italian game developers at Moloc Lab offer a different take on history. In their old-school point-and-click adventure called 1899 Steam & Spirit, you get to play as a young Lieutenant Churchill (and bump into other historic characters) on a mission to Algiers filled with mystery, ingenuity, and discovery.

Moloc Lab's DHTML (HTML + Javascript) adventure takes place in the late 1890s, but with its large pixel-like appearance and control scheme, it has a quaint look and feel like something from the early 1990s. You control young Winston Churchill with the mouse by clicking around the screen. Selecting items of interest brings up a series of icons that let you pick things up, use them, examine them, or talk to them. Your inventory is spread across the bottom of the screen, and you can combine items or use your inventory on things in the world. If you get stuck looking for hotspots on screen, there's even a handy help feature that reveals all a room's clickable areas.

Despite its minimalist appearance, 1899 Steam & Spirit is a fun little adventure game with quite a bit of potential. Everything takes place in a compact world that, despite its size, still has a rich flavor to it. The game's characters, while not detailed visually, have amusing personalities that emerge based on their short conversations. Players should find that most of the puzzles are fairly straight-forward, though some object combinations and interactions are a little more obscure. In typical old-school style, moving around the screen requires you to wait for Winston to walk around, which can be somewhat tiresome, especially when you have to revisit areas. Regardless, the game's episodic nature offers a nice bite size experience for adventure and escape game fans. In addition, as a technical presentation (which seems to work on iOS platforms) it shows that you don't always have to design games in Flash to get fun and robust gameplay. Want to make your next break your "finest hour"? Then "never surrender" and go full steam ahead with 1899 Steam & Spirit.

Play 1899 Steam & Spirit


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (359 votes)
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joyeNot to ScaleFlash games have come a long way, baby. If the graphics aren't slick, the sounds aren't atmospheric, and the controls aren't top notch, many of us won't even bother. But every so often, you get a little diamond in the rough like this tile swapping puzzler from randomdragoon, Not to Scale. You may be thinking, "A tile swapping puzzle that looks like the final project for someone's Flash Programming 101 course? What could possibly be worth my time here?" And you'd end up missing a really enjoyable experience. By using slots for the tiles of varying sizes, and carefully selected photographs, the game gives you a unique spatial sense twisting challenge.

You click on one tile, and then click on another to swap them. That's it. It's the same controls you've seen on mini-games in escape the room and hidden object games over and over. But that simple twist, of making the tiles stretch and warp in different slots, ends up taking that frankly tired premise and spiking it up. It's one of those things that's difficult to describe... you just suddenly realize that you've been hunched over your monitor for ten minutes trying to tease apart a picture of an elephant. The photographs are well chosen and sliced in such a way as to maximize your confusion as to what goes where. You'll find yourself relying more on meta aspects like pixelation. There are only 12 levels, and the first three are more like tutorials, so this plays more like a proof of concept, yet it's compelling. I would love to see this fleshed out into a longer, and yes, more flashy and artistically presented game. But better a fun idea simply presented than a hyped up game with a boring core.

Play Not to Scale


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Rating: 4.2/5 (106 votes)
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JoshCSoul TaxIt is said that only two things are certain: Death and Taxes. In Soul Tax, a new possession puzzle platformer from Jarod Long, the story centers on these two facts of... death. See, you're a ghost who's been haunting this extremely complex office complex, and one day the grim reaper shows up and lets you know that you owe tax on all the time you spent being an ethereal spirit. And how are you going to pay these taxes? Easy. Defenestration and pixellated murder.

You control your ghost with [ESDF] or [WASD] (you can change this on the title screen with [C]), possess or leave victims with the [spacebar], and make your victims punch, kick, and use their special abilities with [J], [K], and [L], respectively. Using these bystanders, you have to help Death reach his required soul count by, well, killing people. It's all in the name of cosmic balance. And it's just a little fun. Each victim/target has a special ability that you can exploit to make sure you hit your death quota by the end of the time limit, and this lends strategy to the arcadey play, forcing you to make hard decisions about who dies and when. Some levels can be conquered through simply raging out and punching your way through, but, by and large, you're going to need to exercise your brain muscle to really do this thing right.

That, and Soul Tax is hilarious. Do not skip the dialogue! Just don't. It's well-written and funny, and there's even a darkly comic character arc that's almost harrowing. It seems very much like something that would be at home with Adult Swim. The graphics are pixelly and tight, and the controls are intuitive, though a little loose. It might also frustrate some that [ESDF] is the default, since [WASD] is the standard. It's never too difficult, and you might wonder why the bystanders aren't fighting back or running from murderous possessed madmen, but it stays interesting the whole way through. The puzzle elements are a huge draw, and the game makes good use of the various special abilities for interesting levels. There's definitely room for even more, and I'd love to see a sequel with more abilities and hazards. This is a fun, funny, and original game that works a good balance between puzzle, platformer, and arcade action. Grim and bloody but so much fun, Soul Tax is the most entertaining death and taxes will ever be.

Play Soul Tax


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (270 votes)
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Kyhkyh_experimentalshooter_24shots.jpgWhen playing a game like Asteroids, you imagine you're the spaceship, or a pilot on the ship... you are that object. But what if it talked to you as a separate entity? Not in an encouraging, "Great job! Keep it up! We can do it!" kind of way but more like, "Hey, that was a decent job, for a beginner." If that sounds like the type of interaction you want in a game, then Experimental Shooter is the one for you! As the name suggests, iLegendary has created a puzzle shooter that is far from normal, snarky cannon aside. Playing with just your mouse, you swing the barrel of the cannon around and shoot with the press of the left button. The rest of the rules are up to you to figure out, as each level contains a different set to follow to achieve the goal... keep your eyes peeled for clues and pay attention to detail; each level's title may hold the key.

I initially played the game muted, which turned out to be a big mistake. From the easy going elevator music of the menu to the funky, pop instrumental of the levels, which sounds like it was taken straight out of OMC's "How Bizarre", it's a great companion to the gameplay. At 21 levels, Experimental Shooter is the perfect length for a moderate challenge. If you find yourself stuck, then, as the game suggests, read the name of the level, unless you don't know what freeze tag is. Your little friend, the cannon, may even offer you a good balance to all the praise you hear throughout the day at school/work/home/etc. So get out there and start shooting... if you can figure out how.

Play Experimental Shooter


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Rating: 4.1/5 (141 votes)
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TrickyCairnCairn, the new point-and-click puzzle adventure by Aaron Price, takes place in a land that is cursed. For centuries, countless have tried to explore it; To discover its secrets. None have returned. Some claim it's coincidence, others say something keeps them from leaving, but you've never been one to take them at their word... The intro goes on like this for a while, but let's speed ahead to the point: You're in a meadow. It's eerie. That monument over there looks like a sliding puzzle. Get to it, dude. Cairn is played entirely with the mouse. By moving to the left or right side of the screen you pan across the meadow to find various ruins, plants, and journal entries. Clicking interacts with them. Explore the world, unlock its mysteries, and find your way home.

Cairn reminds me quite a bit of Myst, and I mean that with both positive and negative connotations. On the good side, Cairn builds its atmosphere perfectly, with a intriguing fusion of the organic and the mechanical that reminds me of the tone of the Samorost series. Also, there are some pretty neat brain teasing challenges. Yes, some of them are a little familiar (or maybe I've just been playing a lot of Curvy lately), but they're well presented and give you that satisfying moment of "A-Ha!" when you've figured out the logic behind them.

Of course... that implies that you've figured out the logic behind them, which brings us to the downsides. Very few instructions are given in Cairn, something that, in no small part, contributes to its air of mystery. However, the logic behind the puzzles can be quite obtuse, even opaque. There were puzzles I solved by brutely forcing every combination, and others that I didn't realizing I was solving until something happened. I don't think I'll be alone in saying that I spent a great deal of time furiously clicking everything, trying to make something happen, then feeling a little dumb when I realized what it was I was supposed to do. Also, there is the game's text. Boy howdy there's quite a bit of it, and it doesn't convey much. It's well-written, yes, but there's only so many ways to say "Man, this place is vaguely mysterious" before you run out of adjectives.

Despite the above, I quite liked Cairn. It's short, it's sweet, and it put my brain through a gauntlet. It's the perfect thing for coffee-breakers looking for a challenge.

Play Cairn


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Rating: 4.1/5 (133 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypWelcome back, Petithima! We have missed you here at Weekday Escape! Yes, this week's adventure in mid-week escaping is from the fabulous Petithima, who has graced us with a delightful little confection called simply Room 9. Why Room 9 you might ask? Does the title hint at some mysterious prison on the coast of Wales where everyone is only known by a number? Is it an homage to the worst movie ever made? Or, just possibly, is it because it is Petithima's 9th room escape effort? You decide.

Room9Navigation in this lovely room is accomplished by arrows at the sides, top, and bottom of the screen, as well as with close-ups indicated by the changing cursor. Once again we have no set-up or backstory, just a simple room done up in lovely shades of tan and brown. The objective is, as per usual with this sort of thing, to pick up anything not nailed down, figure out how to use it, solve a few puzzles, and make your way to the clean, non-incensed air of the outside. Seriously, that piggy incense burner is cute and all, but if you can't crack a window then a room like this could become problematic for folks with allergies or asthma. Just saying, in case you take it into your head to lock a friend, relative, acquaintance, or total stranger into a trick room and make them solve their way out. That wouldn't be very nice.

The wonderful thing about Petithima's designs is the simplicity evident in every aspect. A simple room design; simple, easy to understand controls; and simple puzzles when added together make for a wonderful experience that is not too heavy on the palate. Game designers who concentrate too heavily on only one aspect of their room escapes, be it the backgrounds (gorgeous backgrounds hiding inferior or illogical puzzles), the controls (a nice escape experience can be ruined by hard to decipher controls or pixel hunting), or just puzzles (astoundingly difficult puzzles but no logic or flow to the escape itself) risk creating an unbalanced and occasionally unpleasant experience for room escape fans. Fortunately we have games like Room 9 to fall back on, secure in the knowledge that the escaping fun will be logical, amusing, and flow easily from one challenge to the next.

Some folks don't like room escapes that are this short and easy, but take it from someone who knows: size isn't everything. A quick five minutes and out game can be just as satisfying as the longer, more complicated escapes as long as it is done well, and Petithima does quick and easy exceedingly well. The only real criticism you can level against this charming escape is the fact that at least one puzzle is color-based, thus making it through to the outside might be a tad difficult for those who have visual problems. True escape aficionados will appreciate the balance evident in this delightfully amusing mid-week escape from the everyday.

Play Room 9


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Rating: 3.9/5 (93 votes)
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Kyh
kyh_alight_ruins.jpgTwofold Secret likes to tell stories through their games, and in their newest release, Alight, a platformrevealing the tale of the unnamed protagonist, who is struggling through some deeply personal issues. Like the developer's previous releases, Where We Remain and Sanctuary 17, the narrative unfolds through messages you discover as you explore the surreal world. Use the [arrow] keys, or the [spaceber] in place of [up], to move the character throughout his dream world, represented by the disturbed surroundings of his real life. Having wings in his dream, something we can all identify with, continuing to hold [up] after an initial jump will allow him to float through the air from which you can again propel yourself upward. A bar at the top of the screen indicates the amount of flight power you have left, each propulsion using a set amount, which is reset when you either land on a surface or get picked up by a flock of birds.

The goal of each of the seven levels, dream revelations aside, is to find a platform with three items, one of which you must take back to an empty pillar in the main building of the level. Your choice of items on each level changes the tone of the story as you play. Once you've chosen an item, a maze of fatal shadows appears, forcing you to alter your course to get home. The item you select affects your trip in different ways, sometimes forcing you through a different route altogether. The candle gives you a shield of light to ward against certain flying hazards, and the feather gives you an additional use of your flight power to reach distant platforms. Instead of an advantage, the alarm clock imposes a time limit on your return trip, which may seem like a reason to avoid it completely, but there is a reason its an option...

To help ease the frustration of the shadow challenges, you can activate torches along your route that act as save spots. Once you've put the item you chose in its rightful place, a previously unusable door will become available for you to use to exit to the next level. After stepping through that seventh door, you can see the end of the story unfold. While I found the plot somewhat predictable, I thoroughly enjoyed the gameplay, which was challenging without being too frustrating. Learning how to fly effectively takes some work, especially in regards to catching a ride with a flock of birds and being propelled by directional wind. If you have an hour or so, I recommend getting lost in the atmospheric music and playing through at least once... like me you may even be tempted to return to the dream again to master all the levels and uncover the secret ending.

Play Alight


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Rating: 3.6/5 (25 votes)
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pusher.gifJohnBRobots. The bane of our existence! It's time to get rid of those immobile, block-like things that do nothing but sit there, mocking us with their smug, yellow-eyed looks of supremacy! In the unassuming little puzzle game from Sergei Gainullin, Pusher, you play a little guy who takes hairstyling tips from The Beatles and has the power to rid the world of robots, one sliding block at a time!

Pusher is a lot like Orbox B meeting a sokoban puzzle game, combining elements of both in a very interesting way. You can't touch the robots directly, as they're charged with an electric field (they would, those mechanical menaces), but you can grab certain blocks and charge at them with all your might. You can slide around the world by using the [arrow] keys or [WASD], but each time you move, you stay in motion until you run into a wall. When you're next to a movable block, tap the [spacebar] to put your little paws on it, then slide around just like before. Crash into all the robots to clear the level and move on to the next!

Grabbing blocks changes the gameplay of Pusher enormously. For starters, it alters your shape, making you unable to fit through some spaces but allowing you to stop at new locations so you can access other parts of the screen. You can nab a block, slide around, then let go to hit places you couldn't dream of visiting before. Secondly, blocks protect you from danger, stopping lasers in their tracks and landing on spikes like they're made out of feathers. So, in other words, Pusher teaches us that robots are evil and non-sentient blocks are good!

pusher2.gifThere are a total of 40 levels, but the difficulty doesn't really start to set in until you reach level 15 or so. Then, you can see the brilliance in which Pusher's puzzles have been crafted, forcing you to think in new ways while incorporating tricks you learned in the stages before. New obstacles are also introduced, including breakable bricks, blocks that fade in and out of existence, and more. There's a lot going on in these puzzles, plenty to keep you interested the whole way through.

Analysis: Pusher features basic gameplay elements from puzzle genres we're all quite familiar with. That makes it an easy game to hop right in and start playing. The difficulty curve encourages just that, and you really don't have to dissect the game's inner workings until you've completed a dozen or so levels. Then, however, it's time to get serious and put your block pushing skills to the test.

Scoring is based on the number of moves you take to complete each stage. The fewer, obviously, the better. You can restart levels by tapping the [R] key, a feature you'll utilize far more often than you'll admit to your friends. You can be surprisingly economical with your movements when you put your mind to it, but there's nothing stopping you from experimenting with block positions and moving around as much as you like.

Pusher is an unassuming game with a simple visual presentation and music right out of the Cheery Music for Flash Games class. Don't let that lack of originality turn you away, though, as there's a lengthy, challenging, and unique puzzle experience to be had with this title!

Play Pusher


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The Vault

TrickySince my computer room tends to have people in it, most of the time my speakers have to stay muted. Still, when I get the urge to be a heroic guitarist, a revolutionary dancer, or an elite agent of beat, no one can stop me from having the volume go up to 11. To quote Dire Straits: I want my JiG! This week in The Vault, lets give a round of sound for three games whose awesome audio is music to my ears.

  • Sound FactorySound Factory - A rare fusion of the rhythm and time management genres, Sound Factory, by Luke Whittaker is a cartoony feast for the eyes and ears. Helping Dink balance his commitments both to making tires and to making music with whatever he can find around the factory is a little daunting at first. However, there are beautiful harmonies waiting in the chaos to be found my you. From the popping of tires to the squeaking chorus of mice, this is the home version Stomp could only dream of. Ten minutes with Sound Factory and Luke's previously featured A Break in the Road will remind you just how much music is in the world around us. All we have to do is listen.
  • Music BrothersMusic Brothers - Music Brothers, by Korean developer HanGame is a music game stripped to its barest essentials. Hit the right key and a pleasant tone is played and you feel happy. Hit the wrong key and you sound a unpleasant tone that makes you feel just terrible. While superficially similar to DDR, Music Brothers is more a game of proper sequencing than keeping to the beat, making it easy for even someone as anti-rhythmic as me to pick up. Watch out though... the cute and chirpy graphics masks how crushing the difficulty gets by the end of level 20. Take your best shot, maestro!
  • la Pâte á Sonla Pâte á Son - Ever wonder what a one-man-band built by The Incredible Machine would be like? One look at this Shockwave webtoy by LeCielEstBleu convinces me that it would be awesome. la Pâte á Son is a cool piece of creative experimentation that gives you the tools and the freedom to create absolutely mesmerizing melodies by making chain-reaction devices Rube Goldberg would adore. Beautiful pastel visuals and a Dr. Seuss-like collection of instrument parts gives the game an infectious sense of whimsey that's hard not to like. If any game can be described as "impressionist", surely this is it.

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


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Rating: 4.1/5 (68 votes)
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KyhMrRunner2.jpgYou run. You love to run. You jump. You love to jump. You wall jump. You love to wall jump. Wait . . . what? That's right. In Bit Battalion's high-speed and high-difficulty jump-and-run platformer, Mr. Runner 2, the mechanics have been smoothed out from its predecessor to match its shiny new look and sound. Gone are the chunky 8-bit graphics and accompanying bleeps. Now, don't get me wrong, I love a retro feel, but this game just feels 'right' in its upgrade. Mr. Runner looks so sleek, there's no reason why he shouldn't run quickly.

As before, the [arrow] keys move Mr. Runner around with [space] bar available instead of [up] for jumping. Bit Battalion has kindly kept his waypoints (which now change from red to green once you've hit them), and your goal is a purple dot. You have three worlds with over a dozen levels each in which to jump, slide, float through the air and die and die and die. Whether you're searching for the five chests hidden in each world or racing to the finish to unlock the next level, you're bound to have 'a few' deaths while figuring out how to get to the end. With bronze, silver, gold and platinum medals to earn for your quick trips to the finish, you're likely to replay a level once you've got the path streamlined. Because when there's platinum to earn, gold just isn't good enough.

Play Mr. Runner 2


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Rating: 3.6/5 (59 votes)
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Joshmuse-quest.jpgCan you imagine playing Super Mario Bros. without hearing its trademark da-da-da, da-da, daaaaa theme? Or any Final Fantasy game without its epic soundtracks? Music and games often go hand in hand to help set the mood or tell a story, and most casual games have joined their mainstream brethren in featuring original tunes. Recently, to help stress the importance of music in games, Kongregate teamed up with Ubisoft to launch a contest called Project Eden: Experience the Music. The goal was to get developers to create a game that synchronizes music with unique gameplay. Heeding this call was the indie game developer Submu, with their musical platformer called Muse Quest. In order to advance, your character acts as a sort of "muse" to a series of pushable potato heads that resemble Japanese Kodama spirits.

You control your character with the standard [arrow] / [WASD] keys, and eventually collect music notes to get new songs. Once you have these songs, you can play them to create a special "music radius" that affects the potato heads. Your first song (triggered with [X]) makes the potatoes start walking, while the second song (triggered with [C]) gets them jumping. This "muse" mechanic, along with pressing colored switches to remove blocks, leads to some interesting cooperative single-player gameplay with the potato heads.

With its musical theme and cooperative elements, Muse Quest is an interesting game with enough extra personality and uniqueness to help it stand out from standard platformers. Kevin MacLeod's songs are nice, ranging from soft piano music to tribal-like beats and new-age synth, covering for the lack of sound effects. Graphically, Muse Quest presents itself with stark, stylized grey silhouette backgrounds covering a muted landscape. It's effective, though it would have been nice to see more attention paid to the tile-based art throughout the entire game. As a whole, the game experience feels somewhat unfinished, with only 10 fairly brief levels and a few quirks. You have to manually restart if you do something that makes beating a level impossible, and jumping off potato heads to reach higher areas doesn't feel quite as precise as it should. Ultimately, however, the puzzle-like gameplay and enjoyable music trumps most of Muse Quest's faults. As a demonstration of music mixed with platforming, the developers have indeed found their muse, so heed the call and give it a try.

Play Muse Quest


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (37 votes)
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BradToxie Radd 3DJoining the pantheon of Rad Dudes Who Don't Need Both Hands To Fight Monsters (whose patron saint is obviously Ash) is Joe, the machine-gun-armed hero of Xplored's newest first-person rail shooter Toxie Radd 3D, a wonderfully cheesy and impressive game House of the Dead would be proud to call one of its own. Joe was an inmate whose arm was replaced with a gatling gun as part of an experiment, but soon after, zombies started attacking the city and now he's fighting to survive. As a railshooter, the game drives you from one area to the next. Your job is to concentrate on killing zombies by aiming with your mouse and firing with the left mouse button. Hit the [spacebar] to perform a melee attack, and hop left and right by hitting the [A] and [D] keys to dodge enemy projectiles. Scattered around you'll find power-ups that alter your weapon for a brief time, and skill coins that can be used between levels to upgrade your stats, so don't be afraid to blast any crates you come across.

Toxie Radd 3D keeps up a fast pace; aside from the between-level breaks, there's not a moment when you're not surrounded by enemies, but with infinite ammo you don't have to worry about reloading or counting bullets. This lets you focus on the fun stuff: blowing away the zombie horde while dodging enemy axes and acid balls and making sure zombie rats aren't chomping on you feet. This makes for some frantically fun moments, aided by a smooth difficulty curve and a generous approach to death; you'll jusually restart a few steps away with full health. Unfortunately, the camera sometimes hampers the fun moves to an angle that makes it hard to see enemies on the floor or at far corners. This isn't a gamekiller, but it does make things frustrating at times.

The boss battles every few levels could be one of the best parts of the game, but since they're all the same apart from a few tricks for added difficulty it's a bit of a let down. Still, they break the game up and maintain the on-your-toes pace. The game's "3D" graphics are well done, even if they're not the prettiest (perhaps appropriate for a game about disgusting mutants), but some more variety in the environments would have been welcome. In spite of these complaints, Toxie Radd 3D is a fun, fast-paced game that fans of classic arcade shooters where you point plastic guns at the screen will enjoy. If you love killing zombies and want a game that doesn't take breaks from splattering them, then Toxie Radd 3D is right up your alley.

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Mobile Monday

JohnBTrue fact: this edition of Mobile Monday was written almost two hours later than originally planned. Why? Because the games below occupied more of my time than I had ever anticipated. Seriously, mobile game developers, why are you doing such cool things these days?!

groovecoaster.gifGroove Coaster (universal) - An utterly phenomenal rhythm/music game from Taito that strongly mirrors the style and structure of Space Invaders: Infinity Gene. All you have to do is tap the screen each time your craft comes across one of the little spots. Your tapping goes in time with the music, and soon you'll have to tap, beat, flick, hold and more, all while you take a fantastically sci-fi-infused journey through 3D vector space. The visuals and music make this game an enormously attractive package, but throw in unlockable bonuses and you've got a seriously addictive game on your hands.

gesundheit-iphone.gifGesundheit! (iPhone, iPod Touch; iPad) - It's been nearly four years since Matt Hammill unleashed the original downloadable game Gesundheit! on the world, and boy have we missed it! Playing like a cross between Theseus and the Minotaur and a stealth game, you play a little piglet dude who is trying to rescue his friends from some monsters. This piglet is sick, and as he discovers, the monsters love his snot. Fling some boogers to draw the monsters around the screen, using them to open gates by stepping on switches and the like. Move them into the traps to win the level! This has got to be simultaneously the most well-illustrated and most disgusting games we have ever played. And it's great! Gesundheit! HD for iPad is also available.

dicesoccer.gifDice Soccer (universal) - We love games that aren't usually played with dice but then, well, are. Lock 'n' Roll and Dice Wars are prime examples! Dice Soccer combines what is arguably the world's most well-known sport with the art of rolling dice, allowing you to customize your team using player cards and push through the field to score goals by rolling dice. Tap or shake to turn your players into dice. If your side has the highest numbers, you move forward. Wild cards, multipliers, and other tricky math things come into play, adding some strategy to the actual dice rolling and creating a game you absolutely won't be able to stop enjoying.

ionocraft.gifIonocraft HD (iPad) - If racing and steampunk are your friends, Ionocraft is where you should live! Not in the real game, though, because that world would be depressing and dour. Except for the races, of course, which is what this game is all about! Create your own steampunk racer by buying and placing parts in the shop, then head to the track to try out your creation. It's a surprisingly intense racing game for the mobile platform, and even though the control layout seems a little awkward at first, soon you'll be racing smoothly instead of crashing like a klutz.

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.

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