September 2011 Archives


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Rating: 4.4/5 (21 votes)
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grinnyp_echoesofthepast_banner.jpg

GrinnypDing dong the witch is dead! Wait, what? She's still not dead? Not only that, the old hag is back and badder than ever creating havoc in the museum in Echoes of the Past: The Citadels of Time, the latest hidden object adventure hybrid by Orneon and sequel to both Echoes of the Past: Royal House of Stone and Echoes of the Past: The Castle of Shadows. Perhaps it's time to stop hanging out in that darn museum? Just saying.

grinnyp_echoesofthepast_screenshot1.jpgIn this, the third time around, the witch is getting really ticked off with your interfering with her plans, and once again she has cast a curse upon the museum, this time freezing various parts of it in time and trapping the inhabitants of the past (the museum was once a castle) as ghostly apparitions. It is up to you to explore this spooky museum, travel back in time, and find all the pieces of the cursed clock to set things right and hopefully defeat the witch yet again. Maybe she'll stay defeated this time around? Please?

Wandering through the museum (and the other parts of the castle trapped in time) is accomplished with the usual click of a button. A handy changing cursor indicates areas to examine, places to go, people to see, and items to acquire. The controls are pretty standard for the usual adventure/hidden object hybrid with one notable exception: the top loading inventory. As most hybrids have the inventory on the bottom of the screen, this can take a bit of getting used to. Acquire items either through picking them up as many useful things are just laying around, by solving hidden object scenes to get that one perfect item, or by solving a large array of mini-games and puzzles. A handy refilling hint feature and the obligatory notebook to keep track of clues round out the adventure experience.

Analysis: Although Echoes of the Past: The Citadels of Time is the same story of the witch and the museum and the castle, it is definitely worth a look-see. The visuals are lovely with amazing little details and animations that really bring them to life. What's even better is how interactive the backgrounds are, with puzzles, games, and other details packed in everywhere you look. Yes, the story has been done before (and not just in the Echoes of the Past series), but it's always gratifying to see it done right.

grinnyp_echoesofthepast_screenshot2.jpgA lot of adventuring and hidden object finding is packed within the confines of the five chapters (and bonus adventure if you get the collector's edition) and that, more than anything, is what makes Echoes of the Past: The Citadels of Time a real treat and elevates it past many of the hybrids on the market. The hidden objects scenes are the first of what makes the game so fabulous as they are not completely static and require some interaction to find all of the items on your shopping list. Amusingly enough, you will never see the one item that eventually goes into your inventory until you find everything else you've been ordered to find which cuts down on the "okay, I've found the shovel, so why do I have to find all this other crap?" type of hidden object scene. Best of all are the "reverse" hidden object scenes (a la Enlightenus) in which items you previously found in other hidden object scenes then need to be placed back into another scene, mixing up the gameplay.

The mini-games and puzzles are pretty familiar but done really well, although almost every puzzle is missing pieces that must be found along the way. Considering the sheer volume of games and puzzles, this can be a bit annoying and feel more like padding as the game goes on. A nice feature of the collector's edition is not only the extra adventure but the ability to go back and play some of the mini-games and puzzles over just for the fun of it without the tedious finding of parts to activate them.

While not the perfect adventure hybrid, Echoes of the Past: The Citadels of Time is nevertheless one of the better ones out there, with lots of adventure and gameplay to be had. With two modes (easy and advanced) controlling the amount of hand-holding the game can be fun for amateur and seasoned explorer alike and a great way to spend some time exploring both the modern world and the distant past. With its gorgeous visuals, spooky music, and packed gameplay this is an adventure/hidden object game done right! Perhaps it's best if that annoying witch doesn't stay defeated...

A Collector's Edition is also available. It includes wallpapers, an extra adventure, the ability to play some of the mini-games and puzzles, 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


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Rating: 4.7/5 (241 votes)
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Factory Balls 4ArtbegottiSome might argue that life working on a conveyor belt is tedious work, but not if you're working for Bart Bonte Manufacturing. As white balls come rolling down the line, your job is to custom craft each ball to a specific order in Factory Balls 4, the latest in the series of Factory Balls puzzlers. You've got all the tools you need to fulfill each order... except the instruction manual.

In each of this installment's 30 levels, you'll see the target design on the shipping box. Grab one of the balls from the tumbler and get to work wrapping, painting, and stretching the ball to match the design by dragging it to the tool you want to use (or by clicking on the tool). If you can create a copycat of the target ball, it's ready for shipping and you're off to your next design puzzle. But you have to be careful, because some actions can't be undone, so you'll have to plan out the order of your moves, or else you'll have to scrap the project and start again.

Play all the Factory Balls games:
Factory BallsFactory Balls 2Factory Balls 3Factory Balls Christmas EditionFactory Balls 4

Factory balls continues in its challenging tradition of making you think hard about how to achieve the perfect design with lots of layering and careful attention to detail. While solving the puzzles might be slightly problematic for people with colorblindness, the simple, no-nonsense interface (a Bonte trademark) makes this game accessible to any puzzling level, though the difficulty ramps up rather quickly! It's helpful to remember how you accomplish certain patterns for use in later levels, as the puzzles stack on each other, creating new levels of complexity to plow through. If you've got the puzzling intuition, Factory Balls 4 is the perfect diversion to keep you working hard (unless if playing this game means you're shirking off on your real job!)

Play Factory Balls 4


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Rating: 4.2/5 (201 votes)
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joyeAurora 2He may have escaped from Aurora once before, but he couldn't let matters rest there. Maybe he's worried about Mary, who pretends she doesn't know him, asks for his help, and then disappears. But even without that, it seems like the protagonist of Aurora 2 has got this mystery under his skin, and he won't stop until he finds out just who Aurora is... and stops her. Steel your courage and ready your cursor for a creepy point-and-click game from the team at Pastel Games.

Click around with your mouse and pick up and use inventory items from the bottom of your screen to chase after this seemingly mundane dance hall poster girl who appears to have some seriously warped powers over space, time, and maybe even the weather. The game is divided into chapters which only end once you've done everything the story wants you to.

Aurora 2Analysis: Aurora 2 differs a bit from its predecessor. While the horror/Western/mystery theme continues, the game moves into more of an visual novel direction, with a strict linearity enforced in early scenes. Players who enjoy point and click games chiefly for the challenge will likely chafe at being placed on rails in this way. Later "chapters" open up a bit more, but dividing the game into chapters at all reflects the artistic decision to force you to get some parts of the story before others. It's better to go into it with the attitude that it's a visual novel with point and click elements.

The game expands a little bit on the Aurora mythos, but mostly in the form of raising more questions, not answering the mysteries already raised in the previous game, and while the ending is less abrupt, it's even more of a cliffhanger this time around. The horror rises a little more to the fore with visions (flashbacks? hallucinations? an alternate reality?) showing a much darker side of the current environment, but these are never done as jump scares. Middle games in a series like this are always tough to pull off, but this one lays the groundwork for what could be a seriously cool conclusion.

Play Aurora 2


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraIt's Friday, people! Before you get out there and partypartyparty (or lay on the couch and watch television while the cat lays on you, whichever) you should stock up on awesome with today's edition of Link Dump Friday! After all, if dino-butt rampages, floating doom fortresses, and massive monster murdering don't get you in the mood to get out there and enjoy yourself, I don't know what will. I mean, I do have that stack of pancakes, these feather boas, and those thirteen shar-pei puppies, but this is a lot easier to prepare.

  • SlayinSlayin - Trundle back and forth in this little action arcade game, slaying enemies as they pop up and gaining levels and gold to buy new equipment. Despite several bosses and changing areas, it's still fairly repetitive, but a great retro style and simple, addictive gameplay make this one little gem you could spend longer on than you intended to. Plus, if you're over twenty-five you're hard-wired to respond positively to anything that isn't 3D rendered due to the recently passed Nostalgia Law.
  • Fortress MagnusFortress Magnus - Controlling a flying war fortress is as easy as one, two, pew-pew-pew! Upgrade and defend your fortress as long as you can against incoming waves of baddies by blasting them out of the sky and rescuing the odd falling scantily clad princess. Naturally, the flaw behind this is both repetition and in the game assuming that if you were given a flying doom fortress with infinite cannons you would not automatically start rolling over your job, your school, and that one restaurant that never gets your order right.
  • Space Punk RacerSpace Punk Racer - Good news for everyone who loves to stare at fake butts bobbing and weaving on their computer screen! Jimp has put together this appealingly cartoony little racing game with a great visual style that really makes whipping around the tracks to collect cash and avoid obstacles a sight to behold. Kind of makes you wonder why nobody has created Space Punk Nerfherder yet.
  • Draw a StickmanDraw a Stickman - Don't you love it when a game's title also serves as the instructions? More webtoy than proper game, really, this cute little diversion lets you draw a stick-figure and all the items he needs to get through a series of obstacles. The downside is it doesn't really matter what you draw since there's no change to the gameplay, but as a means to send an adorable greeting card to the one you love (and remind them of how awful their drawing skills truly are) it's pretty cute. Plus, if you're terrible like me, there's something morbidly hilarious in watching your unintentionally misshapen stickman lurch around. F-fffffffrieeeeeeend?
  • Dino QuakeDino Quake - Now you know the true reason dinosaurs became extinct... irresponsible use of dino-butt! In this little arcade platformer from Neutronized, you control a pudgy orange dinosaur whose only means of acquiring food is by unleashing a magnificent butt-quake that turns other dinosaurs into things like cherries. It seems like a good idea until you realise how few of us would ever use a power like this responsibly, and how much more I'd like certain people if they could be rendered into delicious fruit.

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Rating: 3.9/5 (58 votes)
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TrickyThelemiteEven with the promise of super-abilities, volunteering to undergo tests performed by mysterious organizations is the kind of thing that seems like it could go either way. Even if this FreeMedExperiments.eu turns out to be on the up and up, who knows what they will expect if the experiment is successful. That said, it's already too late for the mild-mannered and slightly-jerkish Melex Archer: he's signed his name on the dotted line and, with the influence of radioactive Thelemite, he's been given a ton of power and no particular sense of responsibility. Sure, he'll spring into action and brawl his way through waves of mutants, but it's sure as heck not because mission control is telling him to. No sir. In this fun little retro fighting game from Mikolaj Kaminski (Sos), the hero is as much a danger to the populace as the mutants.

Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to run around the landscape and climb up buildings. Attack with [X], jump with [Z], and, once charged up, launch a special attack with [C]. Smash mutants with combo attacks and grab power-ups to become more epic. Collect Thelemite from defeated enemies to purchase upgrades in the store. Mission control will give you directions to your next objective, as well as plenty of snark. Defeat all four bosses to save the city... well, save the city from everyone except you.

Inspired by (and almost a de-make of) Prototype, Thelemite is a neat mix of dark comedy and hyperactive attack-spamming. This is a game that will rise and fall on your skill at button-mashing. While the action is fluid and engaging, it is often quite difficult to tell what exactly is going on. Everything just moves so fast and explodes so quickly. Also, while the writing is clever, its abrasive tone wears thin as time goes on. There's only so many ways to insult a player-character after all. Still, Thelemite is worth playing, if only to try out the awesome combat. Besides, has smashing through an entire city ever not been fun?

Play Thelemite


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Rating: 3.6/5 (30 votes)
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Joshrevengezombees.jpgWhen you think about zombies (and who doesn't on a daily basis?), have you ever wondered why the undead plague is relegated to the human population? Couldn't dogs, cats, and the northern spotted owl be susceptible to zombification? And most importantly, why not bees? Yes, those flying pollinators we shrink back in terror from at picnics and other outdoor events could be prime candidates. The developers at Adult Swim seemed to think so, and they have even allowed YOU to control an undead swarm in their latest offering, Revenge of the Zombees.

Zombees? That's right. Where did they come from? Why are they attacking? In this game, it doesn't really matter. The point is to cause the maximum amount of damage and carnage across five retro-looking levels. Like Miami Shark, your killer members of the animal kingdom wreak havoc on everything from equipment and machinery, to buildings, tanks, and even planes. The controls are simple - just move the mouse around the screen and keep clicking at different areas to get the swarm to follow. Clicking on floating honeycombs and passing over stray bees will add to your numbers. Do more damage to fill your damage meter, and eventually your bees will catch on fire, causing even more mayhem. And that's about it. It's silly and simple fun, with excessive pixel gore we've come to expect from Adult Swim titles. Sound intriguing? Why not give bees a chance and exact some undead revenge on your next coffee break.

Play Revenge of the Zombees


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Rating: 4.7/5 (23 votes)
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You Are Games

Letters in Boxes #16

ArtbegottiNo one ever said school would be easy. Running from one end of the building to another for your next class, stopping to grab a book along the way, dodging the bullies in the hallway... Oh, and the classes are pretty hard too! Math, science, geography, language... And the older you get, the more they frown on you using fingerpaints in art class! School ain't no cakewalk.

For this Letters In Boxes challenge, you've got to go back to school, do a bit of research, and fix one student's silly slip-ups. (The name is a coincidence, I swear.) Click on the image below to open up your first puzzle. When you think you've found an answer, change the filename in the address bar (in this case, "classofsixteen") to your answer, making sure you stay in the same directory and keep the same file extension. If you're right, you'll graduate to the next puzzle! If you're wrong, check your work and try again.

Letters in Boxes #16 - 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 one additional randomly-selected correct entry. 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, October 3rd at 11:59 PM (GMT-5:00). Can you fix the mistakes and graduate with honors? (Really, any help you could give would be greatly appreciated!) Good luck!

Update: Congratulations to the following winners! :D

  • Ajslama ...First!
  • dsrtrosy1
Both winners were given a choice of prizes. Congratulations and thanks for playing with us! Look for another Letters in Boxes again soon!

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Rating: 3.9/5 (123 votes)
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DoraMonster CorpBe honest; if you suddenly gained the resources to grow and clone massive ancient monsters, there'd probably be less altruism and science, and more rampaging through the streets screaming "How do you like me now?!" In LittleGiantWorld's simulation time management game Monster Corp, however, you have to act like a grown up and be responsible with your newly-grown beasts... which, naturally, means trying to make a profit. It's your job to run an accident waiting to happenUHIMEAN facility where people can come and view these creatures, while simultaneously managing hunts to get new DNA types to make more beasties. You have certain goals to meet each month, both cash and visitor related, and you'll also be in charge of hiring hunters and sending them out into the world to track down rumours of monsters, hoping to bring back monster juice and other supplies. This is fairly important, since to create a monster you'll not only need its DNA, but specific items (such as eggs) before you can actually grow one; you can check each monster's requirements on the monster information screen through the clipboard icon.

Of course, there's a bit more to it than that. You can only hunt at the start of each month, and the rest of your time is spent managing the facility. Each monster needs to be cleaned, fed and cared for according to its specific needs, you'll need staff to help with the upkeep and keep visitors safe, there's a market to buy or sell monsters and new DNA and more. You'll even find secondary items you can equip on your showcase beasts to give them a boost, and also be able to purchase advertising to help drive more visitors to your expo hall. Just use the tabs on each screen to navigate between selections and pay attention to your secretary/scientist/token blonde girl's advice, since she'll guide you through the basics. The building, test tube, and clipboard icons during regular gameplay cycle you through the different locations and menus; the expo hall is where you can place your monsters for display and where visitors will pay to be (use the [WASD] or click and drag to move around), the laboratory is where you create new creatures, and the manage screen lets you do everything from set ticket prices to view your statistics and inventory. If things are moving too slowly for you, try clicking the round green 1x, 2x, and 3x buttons on the top right to speed up game time. Just keep an eye on your monthly goals; fail to meet them, and you'll have to replay the stage until you do.

Monster Corp has a lot going for it, from its appealing cartoony style (apart from the teeny-tiny text), easy to pick up gameplay, and intriguing concept; who amoung us wouldn't jump at the chance to have our very own bloodthirsty creatures of legend? (And then immediately work on engineering tiny red and white balls to fit them into.) Unfortunately, it also starts to feel a little repetitive after a while, and the tutorial glosses over the finer points of the game so that you'll probably figure more out experimenting on your own. After a while, the lack of any real specific goal other than "make X amount of money" ceases to be a motivator, and Monster Corp's staying power for you will depend on your need to catch (or grow) 'em all and purchase the top tier of absolutely everything. While the gameplay doesn't feel quite as developed as it might have been, however, Monster Corp is still a weirdly appealing little title packed with charm and well worth experimenting for anyone who loves mythological beasts and profit. Yes, by all means pack those squishy, tasty, defenseless humans into a room full of monsters contained by flimsy enclosures! What could possibly go wrong?

Play Monster Corp


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Rating: 4.6/5 (124 votes)
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TrickyRaze 2Raze 2 by AddisonR and Juice-Tin is the latest in a long line of action arena shooters with spacey-marines and/or one-word non-indicative titles. Let's count them off: Doom, Quake, Halo, Descent, Unreal, and, uh... Haze. It's surprising there are any alien-demon-zombie menaces left to battle, considering how quickly we can deploy a near-endless supply of Master Chiefs. It's a good thing then that Raze 2 has the quality gameplay and presentation to distinguish itself from the competition.

Raze 2 tries for a fairly in-depth story mode, but it boils down to this: You're a human. Over there are alien-zombies. Get them. Using the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move around and the mouse to aim and shoot, you must outkill your opponents or reach your objective, with or without a partner by your side. Cycle through your weapons with [Q] and [E], or wield them directly with the [number keys]. Use various special abilities with the [F] key. Each round grants you credits to be used to purchase upgrades, new abilities and other items. Complete the first campaign, and you'll have a chance to take revenge on those slimy humans.

Raze 2 is fast, frenetic and fun... should your CPU be able to handle the load. Fans of the original will recognize this as the half-update/half-sequel that it is. That's not a bad thing, though: with streamlined gameplay, a host of new weapons maps and play-modes, and one of the best soundtracks heard so far this year, Raze 2 might seems a little generic to those not already sold on the concept of racing around maps blasting zombie-aliens. However, fans of the genre should enjoy the multitude of play options, the two-perspective campaign, and the touch of juvenile humor: letting the player know that they've succeeded in eliminating their foe with a shot to the butt may not be the most mature thing in the world, but hey, in a war-zone you have to make your own entertainment. It would have been better if teammates were more distinguishable from enemies, and the lack of online multiplayer is a sad omission, but for fans of arena shooters, Raze 2 raises the bar.

Play Raze 2


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Rating: 4.7/5 (283 votes)
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Weekday Escape

SonicLoverAh, Kotorinosu. What fiendish escape have you prepared for us this time around? We've played Shadow tag, we've gotten in Shape, we've peered into the Mirror... perhaps now we've got a Device to fiddle with?

DeviceA typical Kotoriscape consists of a handful of well-designed puzzles that follow a specific theme revealed by its title, and Device does not disappoint. There are all kinds of devices to fiddle with in the vaguely Oriental room: a smartphone with a dead battery, a mysteriously fast-running clock, a service robot with three cranks on its head, and many more. As usual, click objects in the environment to examine them further, manipulate them, or pick them up. Navigate by clicking the directional bars at the edge of the screen when they appear, and examine or use items in your inventory with one click.

Logical puzzles, soft and pleasing gradient-filled graphics, and a save feature for when you need a break are also hallmarks of Kotorinosu that stay with us for Device. There's no changing cursor, but there really isn't any pixel-hunting to be done anyhow. Still, Device is slightly harder than previous games in the series; it's not exactly one that can be cruised through without a keen sense of observation and a willingness to try things that might not be fully obviously logical. But that's not a severe downer, and it's a good game nonetheless. One can only wonder what Kotorinosu's next themed escape will be. Sound? Water? Numbers? Well, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. For now...

Play Device


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (68 votes)
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JamesRoly-Poly Eliminator IIJohnny-K's Roly-Poly physics puzzle series is a tad elaborate, and now the monsters are taking central stage in Roly-Poly Eliminator 2. Playing with your mouse, you have to kill all the monsters on-screen. To do so you have to remove blocks or pop bubbles by clicking on them, alternatively slashing through chains with a sweep movement. The point is to work out the sequence required to get all of the monsters. Challenges alternate between triggering chain reactions, quick reflex clicking and setting up a sequence by moving elements around. For example, at several points you have to nudge a bubble forward through an explosion, using it in turn to blast something now reachable. All of this is rooted in physics puzzle solving, a Johnny-k specialty. It has been a few years since he and his team delivered the first Eliminator game. A lot has advanced in the series' personality and presentation, while the various phuzzle gameplay mechanics have been tightened. If you were to play this after indulging in the other Roly-Poly games (Roly-Poly Cannon, Roly-Poly Monsters), the evolution seems natural. But if you made the jump from Roly-Poly Eliminator 1 to 2, the differences will stand up and shout.

Play all the Roly-Poly series games:

Roly Poly CannonRoly Poly Cannon 2Roly Poly EliminatorRoly Poly Eliminator 2Roly Poly MonstersRoly Poly Cannon: Bloody Monsters Pack

As mentioned, this is not Johnny-k and co.'s first stab at physics in games. The gameplay is solid; rarely did a freaky physics occurrence derail an attempt. Graphically things are animated and charming, though it's a pity the monsters don't get their end-of-level night-day transition anymore. At least the theme song has finally changed. The puzzles are not particularly challenging and lean more towards having fun. Suitably the deaths (which are bloody, but this can be disabled) are very entertaining and once you work out how to solve a puzzle, it feels slick and intuitive. There is a difficulty curve, but it steeps slowly over the fifty levels. If you enjoyed the rest of the series, you'll be all over this. And if you haven't, but like the idea of some physics-puzzle fun, hit the button below...

Play Roly-Poly Eliminator 2


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Rating: 3.9/5 (69 votes)
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elleelle_sketchquest_image3.pngYes, you've been overheard mumbling to yourself how you could design more outstandingly blastiful weapons and truly amazing bufferific gear. As a habit, when you're left holding a pencil, doodles appear across the page almost without thought. And you know, down inside, a bit of snark resides waiting to find kinship in an action platformer. Hrmm? Okay, even if none of that is true, Sketch Quest, a new sketch-your-own side-scrolling platform game by Page52 is hot off the drawing board to put the mightiness of the quill in your hands and empower your secret artistic ambitions to shine through with colorful kismet.

Gratifyingly fun although disappointingly brief, Sketch Quest is like your typical platform game in these ways: use [A] and [D] or the arrow keys to move; space, [W] or up arrow to jump (hit twice to double-jump); [S] or mouse clicks to attack. As usual, enemies will come at you teeth bared and obstacles will demand dexterous dodging. Each level progression means more difficulty. Don't think hens laying exploding eggs is a challenge? Sketch Quest does have some tricky moments but it's never cruel—after dying, you will regenerate at the beginning of an obstacle to retry your moves while still fresh in mind. The weapon power option seems a bit dubious and attack controls slightly imprecise; then again, if you're stabbing with an onion, that might be expected.

The best part? Sketch Quest departs from typical at the very start when your screen fills with intricately interesting sketches then it continues into extraordinary, stopping to command you to customize your character, "Draw your own weapon... hat... enemy...." When you advance, more options are given. Juvenile Pee Chee Folder motifs might be inspired here. Although dotted lines suggest the shape of such invention, in your Sketch Quest notebook, a simple palate of pencil and six watercolors—and imagination—are the only limitations.

Note: Be it a Picasso or Rembrandt or Cyke, you can show off your creation by including an image link when posting your comments below (keep them site appropriate, please!)

Play Sketch Quest


  • Currently 3.4/5
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Rating: 3.4/5 (34 votes)
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MikeFall DamageAnthony LaVelle, creator of the K.O.L.M. series of moody platform games, brings us a lighter offering with Fall Damage, a vertical-scrolling platformer in which you guide a flightless, half-hatched baby bird (whom I'll call Sheldon, naturally) groundwards, without falling too much, too fast. Guide the little fledgling with the [left] and [right] arrow keys. Watch your step, as too big a drop will damage poor little Sheldon, and too much falling damage ends the game. You can move into a vertical surface to slide down and slow your rate of fall, and you can also make use of a handful of gravity-fighting power-ups, including parachutes (deployed with the [spacebar]) and pogo sticks. It's a good thing someone thought to litter Sheldon's path with these unlikely artifacts of human civilization, or he'd never make it past all the hazards and obstacles that stand between him and the safety of the ground below.

Fall Damage is a fine though uncomplicated diversion. Similar how-low-can-you-go games have been made before, but few strike such a relaxed pace. From the cute little eggman protagonist to the gentle background music (apart from the pathos-filled piano cadenza when you fall for the last time), the production strives for a soothing, low-key experience. For the most part the same can be said for the gameplay, though the semi-random level designs don't always give Sheldon a chance to fall undamaged. Still, while not the most addictive title, the helpless little birdie is sympathetic enough that you'll want to play again, just for another chance not to let him down and see him to his goal. Falling Damage is cute, simple, and worthy of a few moments in your day.

Play Fall Damage


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The Vault

DoraPeople are always telling you not to play with your food, but if you listen to them then you'll get no fun out of this week's Vault at all! Proving once again that tasty treats are the great unifiers, this week's theme is delectable edibles of all kinds, and features a wide variety of gameplay styles to boot.

  • Sushi Go RoundSushi Go Round - What's not to like about sushi? Cold raw fish packed into cold sticky rice wrapped in dried seaweed! Mmm-mm! But even if you're a sushi philistine (we should make a club) you'll still find a lot to like in Lucidrine's adorable time management simulation starring everyone's favourite chilled fish snack. As the new chef, it's your job to quickly dish up and serve each customer's order as it files past them, but you'll also need to keep track of the ingredients to boot. While it may be fairly repetitive, however, Sushi Go Round manages to land smack dab in the middle of "just one more game" territory, and its simple, snappy gameplay combined with smart looking pixel graphics makes it a formidable contender for your free time.
  • HotcornHotcorn - Ninja Kiwi has always been great at taking simple concepts and whipping them into addictive arcade action. Take this little gem starring everyone's favourite fluffy white movie treat. No, I'm not talking about the smooshed, sweaty marshmallows you smuggled past the usher in your socks... popcorn! You'll need quick reflexes to master this one, which involves guiding a smoldering spark around the screen and popping all the kernels into stuck-between-your-teeth goodness while avoiding hazards... all within a time limit, naturally. It starts off easy but quickly will have you sweating bullets within the level constraints, yet somehow never stops being fun. There's not a lot of depth to it, but the frantic gameplay and action makes it the perfect size to fill up a coffee break before you know it.
  • Jelly BattleJelly Battle - You're going to have to think on your feet to win at this turn-based strategy game... and what adorable, pudgy, tasty jelly feet they are! The clock is ticking as you try to figure out the best course to take to guide your chubby avatar around the board, picking up power-ups and weapons to lay waste to your opponents while simultaneously struggling to avoid splattering yourself all over the map in the process. It's a bouncy, frenetic game that's far from relaxing but manages to hit that sweet-spot where the action is just fast enough to keep you on your toes and quick enough to jump into to make it a breeze to pick up... and hard to put down. Sporting a multiplayer option for those of you who've always wanted to unleash jelly carnage on your buddies and a gorgeous visual style, it's one weird, wacky, and morbidly delightful little game that's fun to play by yourself but even better with a buddy.

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


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (96 votes)
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joyeFear is VigilanceMarcy and Justine just want to do a good deed, handing out free personal safety alarms on campus. How dare those stupid students feel so safe that they refuse this offer? Clearly they don't understand the danger they're in. It's time to teach them, brawler style. It's for their own good, because Fear is Vigilance, at least according to this spruced up former Ludum Dare entry by randomnine. It's a side-scrolling beat-em-up fighter with an artsy, ironical soul, where you kick unconscious people on the ground... to save them.

You start out attempting to hand out the devices by walking up to people and hitting [X]. You probably won't have much success the first day. At night, you put on your ninja costume and sneak around, using [X] to hit people out for a nighttime stroll and [Z] to break through their blocks with a shoulder thrust. You can run into a dark area and stand still to hide, or in later levels, loop around the park to lose pursuers.

Once you've played through the five day story mode, you unlock an arcade mode and some badges for replay challenge. The game is not difficult and not intended to challenge serious fighting fans, as long as you employ a little patience in your vigilante activity. The game's incisive, satirical point makes itself clear through the cut scenes, and will surely have people thinking about whom fear benefits.

Play Fear is Vigilance


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (245 votes)
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soniclover_libra_screenshot.pngSonicLoverWell, this is yet another fine tropical mess you've gotten yourself into in Evolution, 58 Works' latest escape puzzle adventure. After you escaped your Solitude on a deserted island, your newly acquired mini-sub ran into an unfortunate cave-in, and now you're stuck with the task of finding a new way to escape from... wherever you are. Evolution has you wandering a rocky underground base filled with mysteries and puzzles, your only company an egg-headed scientist who really likes bananas and seems to have lost his pet cat. As is the 58 Works custom, you'll pick up and use various items that come in handy here and there, and more uniquely acquire pieces of a rather cool bodysuit that gives you all sorts of new abilities.

Everything that made Solitude great, such as an interesting environment, totally logical puzzles, simple but appropriate graphics and sound, is back in Evolution, and the new content like intermittent short cutscenes, and a somewhat more artificial setting, is nothing to sneeze at either. The level of challenge is just right; as you work you way through the game you may get stuck from time to time, but a second look at the clues and resources you gather can help get that much-needed "aha!" moment. There's still no save feature, but that's a small errant stitch in an otherwise majestic carpet.

The central gimmick of collecting pieces to the aforementioned bodysuit is well designed, and helps to tie everything together. Our protagonist "evolves" piece by piece, gaining new abilities all the while. The excitement of getting each new part and getting all antsy about what you'll be able to do with it is nearly unmatched. Go now, readers. Play this game, and let your supersuit fantasies come to life, part by part.

Play Evolution


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Galaxy Express

JohnBIt's super space puzzle action! In space! And, you get to be a delivery boy! In space! How could life get any more exciting than that? How about pirates, a snarky robot companion, a boss with an attitude to match his mustache, black holes, portals, and bombs? There, that should do it. The comedy-laden puzzle game Galaxy Express for iOS devices is all about twisting your brain while making you laugh, and it does so while looking spectacular!

Galaxy ExpressFresh from your two week vacation, you play as Johnny, delivery boy and "expert" pilot. Making deliveries and hitting waypoints is no easy task, as space flight is a complex feat. Fortunately you can accomplish marvelous things with nothing more than a few directional arrows in your inventory. The ship flies in a straight line, turning each time it encounters an obstacle or a wall. By placing arrows on the grid, you can affect where it goes, sending it all sorts of places before finally arriving at the planet/goal. Easy, right? And before you think it, yes, it's a bit like ChuChu Rocket.

Galaxy Express only gets better as the levels progress, and there are around 100 of them to keep you quite busy. New elements are introduced at a nice pace, allowing you the privilege of contending with enemy space pirate ships, cannons, black holes, bombs, and wormholes. Bombs add layers of puzzles to levels, forcing you to think about what will be in their vicinity when they go boom. Will it be your enemies in pieces? Asteroids? Your own ship? Plan ahead and use those arrows wisely. Wormholes are portals that send you to other parts of the level, adding a bit of trickery where you can get to different areas by entering a portal via a different direction. Sneaky!

Galaxy ExpressAnalysis: Simple on the surface but with layers of complexity, that's exactly what you want in a mobile puzzle game. Galaxy Express embodies a smart balance of challenge, off-beat humor, and creative level design. Frustration never really enters the equation, even though you'll get stumped more than once. It's just pure puzzle solving, pirate avoiding, package delivering fun!

The extras in Galaxy Express really round out the experience, adding things like bonus levels and neat achievements you can work towards. A level editor is in the works and should release soon, which will really open the game up for some wild times. The story, too, adds to the experience, introducing some characters who are one or two quarks short of a proton. Your mechanical companion Kim-bot accompanies you, and she's as full of sarcasm as she is metal. Every time you complete a level she seems completely shocked, which doesn't exactly help your morale. But hey, she has lovely eyes, doesn't she?

Frugality is greatly rewarded in this mobile game, and the fewer arrows you manage to use in each level, the better. Scores are saved locally so you can try to best your own solutions, and the top online scores are shown right beside your own, allowing you to see how good you are compared to other Galaxy Express players. Many games of the "place stuff on a grid to direct other stuff around" genre tend to go overboard with puzzle pieces, but this one keeps things basic, and for that it's a hundred times as rewarding.

A near-perfect puzzle game with great visual effects and plenty of content to keep you coming back for more. Plus, that music playing on the title screen is way too catchy!


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Mobile Monday

JohnBBack in 1991, when the original Another World was released, if you had told players they would be able to hold the game in their hands and play it with enhanced visuals using a full touch screen device, they would have laughed. Laughed in an "OMG THAT'LL BE AWESOME I LOVE THE FUTURE" kind of way. And now, with the iOS release of Another World, the prediction made by that creepy time traveler we met 20 years ago has come true!

dodoegg.gifDo Do EGG! (universal) - From Ponos, the same team behind Mr.AahH! and Mr.Ninja, comes a puzzle game that's just a little different than the others. Instead of swapping, matching, setting or tapping things to clear the board, your job is to break eggs by drawing lines through them. You can only break like-colored eggs, of course, but to do so, there has to be at least two eggs between them in the line. Once you get the hang of it, this opens the door to some massively creative chain reactions. It's got that spark of creative uniqueness that Bejeweled Twist and Yosumin! have, only this one's on iOS! There are several modes of play, but unfortunately they're only unlockable through achieving impressive high scores or in-app purchases, which is quite a bummer.

hypershipios.gifHypership Out of Control (universal) - Insane, this game is. Really, really fast and insane. You know how shmups like to throw a lot of things at you at a rather quick speed? Well, imagine that being the central focus of a vertical shmup, but then imagine it being completely playable and enjoyable to a casual, mobile crowd. An arcade game in the most basic way, Hypership Out of Control puts you in the cockpit of a spaceship with no brakes (space brakes?), careening through the black collecting coins, shooting asteroids, nabbing power-ups, and avoiding things that make you go splat. The level design is by far the strongest aspect of this game, and expect some close shaves with moving blocks along with coin trails that attempt to lead you into a wall. A brilliant, crazy-fun game!

anotherworldios.gifAnother World - 20th Anniversary Edition (universal) - The 15th anniversary updated graphical release has been out on PC/Mac for some time now, but finally iOS gamers can see what all the fuss is about. This groundbreaking realistic sidescrolling adventure game by Eric Chahi is an exercise in storytelling and pacing. You play as Lester, a physicist teleported to an alien planet who is subsequently kidnapped. He escapes and meets an alien friend who helps him get out of the prison. With realistic-styled physics, including limited jumping, climbing, and combat abilities, the game in minimal in almost every respect. The cinematic storytelling is still breathtaking, even decades after its original release. The touch controls definitely take some getting used to on the iOS iteration, but the two-fingered swipe mechanic that allows you to instantly switch between retro and updated visual modes is a great way to compare the old and new styles.

grandprixios.gifGrand Prix Story (iPhone, iPod Touch) - Remember back in June when we reviewed Grand Prix Story for Android devices? Remember when everyone was all "iOS too, please"? Guess what? It's out! Same game, different platform, and if you're familiar with the other releases in the Story series (Game Dev Story, for example), you know just what to expect from this racing management/simulation game. There's no demo to try, but the price seems to be lower in most countries than its Android counterpart, so that's a worthy trade off. Besides, it's a Kairosoft game. You know you'll play it until your iPhone falls apart, don't you?

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 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (23 votes)
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Celestial Mechanica

JohnBCelestial Mechanica is a quietly impressive platform adventure (a.k.a. "metroidvania") game along the lines of Knytt Stories and the Robot Wants series of games. Created by Roger Hicks (author of rComplex) and Paul Veer (animator of Super Crate Box), it's the sort of game that sits quietly off to the side, never begging you to play it, but once you do, you'll be hooked 'til the end.

Celestial MechanicaIn the distant future, Earth grew tired of the abuse brought to it by humans, and so it shattered itself to pieces. Within seconds of the event, a race of celestial beings appeared and restored the planet's stability. For 100 years afterwards, the beings maintained the planet's integrity from a fortress high in the clouds called Mechanica. Nothing was known about the inhabitants of the Mechanica. That is, until one fell from the sky. Meeting with another fallen being, the two of you work together to find a way back to the clouds.

Controls are quite straightforward and involve the [arrow] keys for movement and one button for jumping. The special abilities you discover are explained as you obtain them, but they're usually very simple things like the double jump or gaining the ability to push blocks. As you progress through the map's distinct, interconnected areas, you'll learn to use your skills in every way possible to get past the game's obstacles and solve the puzzles preventing your progress. The map, found by pressing [enter], will come in very handy.

Even though it looks all cute and inviting, Celestial Mechanica can be a very challenging game. There are two saving graces keeping the old school difficulty from ruining your day: infinite lives, and close proximity respawns. If you die (well, "when you die six times at the same spot"), you simply reappear where you entered the screen. No penalty other than having to do a short spurt of the game over again.

Celestial MechanicaAnalysis: Celestial Mechanica is a representative of the growing group of games that borrow from Cave Story, Knytt, and many other sidescrolling action games of a similar ilk. It's all about the adventure, but with a strong influence of exploration, character upgrades, and puzzles that usually involve pressing buttons to move things in the environment. Simple construction, but the results are highly engaging!

The only real issue in the game (unless high difficulty is a problem for you) is the camera in full screen mode. The screen likes to follow you precisely, and when you do a lot of jumping, this can hide parts of the ground below your view, leading to a number of deaths because you couldn't see what was coming. It doesn't seem as jerky when played in window mode, so your mileage may vary, and it's not something you can't get accustomed to by looking before you leap.

Visually, Celestial Mechanica looks like a 16-bit SNES game, which will draw absolutely no complaints from the nostalgic retro crowds among us. Everything looks simple but gorgeous, from the backdrops to the soldiers firing homing missiles at you. The soundtrack by Roger Hicks is also something stunning, and you can listen to it in its entirety as well as purchase for yourself.

With a low price tag and a great presentation, Celestial Mechanica is a sound investment for an afternoon's worth of entertainment. It's great to watch in motion and even better to play!

WindowsWindows:
Get the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the free full version


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (134 votes)
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TrickyLeila and the Magic BallLeila is a toddler. She doesn't know much about platforming, and even less about physics. All she knows is that she wants her bottle, and there are all sorts of things in her way. Fortunately though, she has an ally: a ball that she can call to her hand; a ball that will smash against anything in its path and which is just perfect for bouncing off from. She's got a lot of places to explore, and a lot of bottles to collect, but she would have to do it alone. Leila and the Magic Ball, new from Paul Gene Thompson, is a cute little game that will keep you playing right up until nap time.

Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move and jump around the landscape. Holding [X] or [N] will call Leila's magic ball to you. Once it's in your hand, hold and release the [X] or [N] key to chuck it at the suspiciously destructible planks and I-Beams in the area. The longer you hold, the harder the throw. You can also bounce off your ball for a boost of height. Naturally, there are also the prerequisite switches to be activated by the weight of you or a convenient crate. You (or the ball) must collect all the bottles in the level and have the ball in your possession to progress to the next. Each level also has a hidden star that can be collected for a 5 second time bonus. There are 20 levels to complete, and, as long as you have your favorite binky in your mouth, you'll do just fine.

There's a charming sense of youth to Leila and the Magic Ball. One can almost imagine Leila telling her disbelieving parents that it wasn't her that destroyed all the structures in the backyard, but rather her friend MB. It does have a somewhat schizophrenic tone: some levels are cute, bordering on precious, while others have an eerie darkness reminiscent of something like LIMBO. Some levels require devious manipulation of the (slightly loose) physics engine, while others require fairly intense platforming skill. It's hard to tell what genre Leila and the Magic Ball wants to be, or, for that matter, what the target audience is. Still, these concerns are more than made up with by the quality gameplay and clever level designs. Fans of physics platformers are sure to have a ball!

Play Leila and the Magic Ball


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grinnyp_worldriddlessecrets-b.jpg

GrinnypOne of the best things about casual games is that they can take you to far off places you'll likely never make it to in real life. It's especially nice if the game can manage to take you to another time as well since that pesky time machine is still in cost overruns at some secret, hidden government facility. Never fear, World Riddles: Secrets of the Ages is here to transport you to ancient civilizations in Europe, the Far East, and Central America where you can marvel at the stunning scenery and learn a bit about the culture. Oh, yes, and play tons of picross!

grinnyp_worldriddlessecrets_screenshot1.jpgPicross has been around a long time, long before computer games even. Those of an older generation may know of it by the names "color by numbers" or "pencil puzzles". The basic upshot of picross is to create a picture from an empty grid, using the numbers at the top and side of the grid as clues. The numbers tell a player how many blocks need to be filled in with an empty space around each group of numbers. If you've never played picross before there is a handy tutorial within the first section that is easily skippable by those who have loved this game for many a moon. Eventually every block in the grid will either have been filled in or removed to reveal an image. For those who love logic puzzles, picross is among the best!

The controls are easy to master and include a hand cursor (to fill in spaces) and a hammer cursor (to remove spaces) that can be switched either with an on-screen button or with a handy right-click of the mouse. For those new to picross there is an "autofill" option available in the options menu that removes empty spaces automatically. For those who disdain the hand-holding the autofill does not automatically come on, it must be chosen as an option.

grinnyp_worldriddlessecrets_screenshot2.jpgAs with many picross games there's not much story to World Riddles: Secrets of the Ages. You simply travel to one of seven eras of history, solve a simple slider puzzle, and then off you go on the picross adventure. World Riddles has some nice features to help break up the gameplay, not only with the slider puzzles that open each era but also with the ability to "enhance" each location by buying new items to place within. Earn points by solving a puzzle below the expert time, by finishing without using hints, or by finishing with no errors and use those points to buy things to decorate the spaces, and get a short history lesson about these artifacts as well. Finishing each era, which involves 20 tough picross puzzles, unlocks a speed-play bonus round for that era. Bonus round play is fast and furious on a countdown timer and each era's bonus round is tougher than the last.

Analysis: World Riddles: Seven Wonders, the precursor to Secrets of the Ages, wasl a fantastic picross game that featured an easy to use interface, but was an otherwise pretty bare-bones game. Secrets of the Ages has kept the easy interface but ramped up the backgrounds and other visuals to make the playing experience even more enjoyable. Rather than grainy and static the backgrounds are colorful and include small animations to add more interest and the filled-in picross pictures now come in colors rather than monochrome.

grinnyp_worldriddlessecrets_screenshot3.jpgThere is a downside to all of the visual interest, however. With the tiles appearing in color against the more colorful backgrounds it can occasionally be difficult to distinguish between an empty space, a space that hasn't been clicked, and a filled-in space in some of the puzzles. This can cause problems not only to those who have colorblindness but also to those whose eyesight is a little blurry, making a few of the puzzles more difficult than they need to be.

Despite a few missteps with the colors, however, World Riddles: Secrets of the Ages is a worthy successor to Seven Wonders and is a definite must for all picross puzzle fans. Hours and hours of gameplay awaits along with a lot of interesting trivia about various objects from different historical times. Be warned, however, picross can be very addicting. Just try to remember to take a break every once in a while.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 3.4/5
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Rating: 3.4/5 (386 votes)
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joyeTotems AwakeningSome snoozing totems get a rude awakening in the aptly titled physics puzzler Totems Awakening by Forsh Vladislov and Krasnova Alina. Inspired by Soccer Balls' ball-passing mechanic and sometimes wacky Rube Goldberg-like contraptions, but somewhat refined and with a refreshing tropical twist. With 30 levels that are easy to comprehend but difficult to master, the game will attract both veterans and dilettantes of the genre.

The controls couldn't be simpler: just aim, paying attention to the yellow trajectory line, and click to throw the coconut. Veteran "phuzzle" fans may be scoffing at this and thinking it makes the game way too easy, but in fact, that's what makes the game possible. The game isn't about your aim; it's about figuring out where to click and when. Hint: fast.

Gold-starring a level requires not only perfection in cursor placement but also deftness. All the gold stars are certainly achievable, but it's doubtful you'll attain any on your first play through of a level, and some might evade you through many attempts. This grants replay value for the more determined players while not shutting out more casual players entirely. That said, the timing on some levels can be very tight, even if you've given up hope of getting the gold star, so there's plenty of challenge here even for those who just want to pass all the levels.

Play Totems Awakening


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Rating: 4.5/5 (81 votes)
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joyeVector StuntWay back in the mists of time, aka 2007, Dig Your Own Grave released Vector Runner, a psychedelic, futuristic driving game featuring the hottest 3-D graphics of 1982. Now that plucky little vector-drawn ship is back, and this time he's not avoiding anything. In the new arcade action driving game, Vector Stunt, he's gonna pull some rad jumps and do some sweet tricks with you at the helm. Sometimes literally, in a first person pilot view. You can play with the thumping electronic soundtrack by indie band Aerodrone, or you can load your own MP3 to personalize your game.

Use the [left] and [right] arrow keys to control the ship. The track contains squares which represent notes, and picking them up gains you points depending on the color of the note, with the most common note able to be chained for extra points. You can also jump off of ramps to perform tricks by different combinations of the arrow keys. Chain jumps by hitting ramps continuously or by jumping on the rail once in between ramps to get multipliers, up to 10x. Special ramps marked with red allow you to potentially gain a ruby red note for ten thousand points, and those in the middle of the track marked with white allow you to go into first person "pilot mode", which is disorienting but gives a x2 multiplier. Nothing can hurt you except falling off the side, which will cost you ten thousand points a pop, so beware of that. You can use the [WASD] keys as an alternative to arrow keys, and [P] or [Esc] will pause the game and bring up the instructions, if you need a refresher.

At first glance the game might appear to be a music game like Audiosurf, but although the MP3 you load does affect the notes that appear, the overall integration between the music and the gameplay is not that deep, making this more of a "choose your own soundtrack" feature. You can see the music that other people are playing, but only the in-game song has a high score table, so if you want to fight with your friend over who can do better at "Chariots of Fire", you may have to settle that one offline. Slow and gentle music doesn't fare very well, but the provided song "Ready to Love" is perfectly suited to the gameplay, and so are similar energetic songs you might have lurking on your hard drive. It may take a few tries to get the hang of pilot mode, but once you do, you might find it the best part of the game. So crank up your speakers, load your fastest song, warm up those gaming fingers and get ready to chain up a high score.

Play Vector Stunt


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Weekend Download

JohnBDemakes, you say? Retro games? We got those! Another weekend of nostalgia on this edition of Weekend Download, featuring games that both remind us of the past and games that directly copy titles from that bygone era. Point of fact: any game that simulates the original Game Boy is a winner.

supersmashland.gifSuper Smash Land (Windows, 18MB, free) - Like Super Smash Bros.? Of course you do! The complete Game Boy-style demake has finally been released, featuring Mario, Link, PIkachu and Kirby as playable characters (and Mega Man as an unlockable one!) with all the same brawl-style combat you'd expect. Each character has a stage to play, complete with demade music to fit the scene. Everything in the game has been appropriately scaled down as if it were on the original Game Boy system, cutting out a lot of content found in its big brother and simplifying the control scheme to the limited button layout. Even though it's been chopped down, Super Smash Land is still a ton of fun, especially with a friend.

shudder.gifShudder (Windows, 13MB, free) - Terror. As in, real terror, not the kind that consists of things jumping out of locked doors to strangle you. Shudder is an action game that puts you in control of a kid who loves paintball, fighting off ethereal nightmares that are slowly coming after him. To make matters worse, you're trapped in a nightmare world and are trying to find your way back. Top-down and with plenty of retro flare, this game really hits the terror sweet spot and makes you wish you were at home cuddling with a stuffed animal.

bythetorchlight.gifBy the Torchlight (Windows, 4MB, free) - Short, spooky, and in 3D! A simple game made to send a little chill down your spine, you journey into a dark cave (with yellow walls, like you do) populated by shadowy creatures that linger in the dark. Navigate the maze slowly, watching for glowing red eyes in the background, and avoid the shots fired by the sparse enemies. Your goal is to grab the orb of light and escape, but naturally, you won't be able to do that without some searching. A very basic game in most senses, but quite good nonetheless.

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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Cursed Memories: The Secret of Agony Creek

DoraYou don't remember much... an explosion in a mine, someone dragging you away, a face in a doorway... but when you come to shackled to the floor in a dirty room, it's clear you're in a lot of trouble. A phone call from a stranger warns you not to trust the police officer who bursts in the door to rescue you a moment later. Who can you trust? What happened to the town? Cursed Memories: The Secret of Agony Creek is a hidden-object adventure from Vast Studios that plays like a mystery thriller, making for a surprisingly engrossing experience despite a relatively short length and easy ride along the way.

Cursed Memories: The Secret of Agony CreekUltimately, your goal is to figure out what happened to you... easier said than done since everyone you meet seems to be vying for "Most Suspicious of the Year" and the town itself appears to be largely abandoned. Click around for clues; the game has two difficulty settings, for those of you who prefer to play without helpful sparkles and quick hint timers, but if you pay attention to your surroundings and explore you should be able to find your way regardless. The hint candles will not only point-out items in hidden-object scenes, but also indicate a place you're able to accomplish something in the current area. Just... for the future, in order to avoid being kidnapped entirely, maybe you ought to avoid places with portentous names like Agony Creek and stick to friendlier sounding places... for instance, I hear Cholera Canyon is lovely this time of year.

Cursed Memories: The Secret of Agony CreekAnalysis: There aren't a lot of games that manage to snag you as firmly as Agony Creek does in the first five minutes. It's rare to find a mystery game that actually feels like a mystery, and the plot works extremely hard to make it difficult to figure out who to trust and what's happening to you. The plot is fairly convoluted, with a big reveal that almost feels a bit trite compared to all the whodunnit build up, but there's still more than enough going on to keep you intrigued until the end with a lot of twists and turns along the way. The artwork is nice, despite some graininess and strange "animation, and the voice acting is actually surprisingly good, even if Vincenzo seems to be channeling Luis Sera by way of Ben Urich. (Minus the fascination with "ballistas".)

The game is, unfortunately, not the most challenging; some of the hidden-object scenes feel token and tacked on, while the actual gameplay and puzzles are enjoyable but so straight-forward most players will proceed at a quick clip throughout most of the game regardless of their chosen difficulty setting. An average playtime is likely around three hours, not counting the bonus chapter, and the story loses momentum a bit; it almost feels like the game should have been twice as long to really give the characters and story more screen time. Still, while it lasts Cursed Memories: The Secret of Agony Creek manages to craft an atmosphere of mystery and menace that few other titles in the genre can match, and will keep you guessing until the end. Strange, creepy, and even a little thrilling, it's a short but surprisingly well crafted little mystery that's worth checking out if you have an evening to spare.

A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains a bonus chapter, art gallery, 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
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Also available: Collector's Edition


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Rating: 4.2/5 (312 votes)
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DoraDiamond Hollow 2Diamonds are a girl's best friend, but regardless of your gender you'll probably get pretty attached to them in Arkeus' latest action platformer, Diamond Hollow 2. A young boy wakes up alone at the bottom of a massive cave teeming with monsters, but quickly gains an ally in the form of a sentient gun more than willing to work with him to find a way out and discover what's going on. Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move around, and the mouse to aim and shoot. You can collect diamonds of various colours to upgrade your guns and abilities (press [Tab] to open the upgrade screen) and even find different attachments to give your weapons new capabilities. Just keep an eye on your hearts; if you take too much damage, you'll have to respawn back at the last checkpoint you touched. Just don't be shy about exploring; heart crystals are the only way to increase your health, and both they and a surplus of sweet, sweet diamonds can be found hidden in secret places throughout each stage.

Diamond Hollow 2 originally started out as a 48 hour Ludum Dare creation where the goal was simply to climb as far as you could before dying. With the addition of a story campaign, bosses, several different unlockable play modes, and more, this second iteration feels less like a sequel and more like the game the original was meant to be. You know, kind of like those 1990's teen rom-coms where they teach the "nerdy" girl to brush her hair and take off her glasses and suddenly she's a babe? If you loved the first game, chances are Diamond Hollow 2 will be right up your alley, and you'll really be able to appreciate all the work that's gone into making feel like a proper game rather than a simple time waster. While some of the audio tracks can get a bit repetitive, on the whole the entire design is great and really brings to mind old-school classics on the NES, only without the annoying bits where your parents make you give your little brother a turn. (He just keeps DYING! GAWD.)

Some story levels, unfortunately, do feel a bit drawn out, without enough variety to the layout or enemies to really keep you engaged, and as a result feel like they could have been about half as long if not for the need to grind diamonds. You might also wish dialogue simply threw up a big text window and paused the game, since the little box at the bottom of the screen is almost too small, and easily missed. These are minor quibbles, however, and Diamond Hollow 2 is a great little bit of retro gaming packed with secret areas, achievements, and more. The modest difficulty curve help keeps things accessible to most players, while even hardcore platformers will find a lot to enjoy about it as they trick out their talking gun to the best of its abilities. Cute, ambitious, and easy to get into, Diamond Hollow 2 is a lot of fun and more than worth a look.

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Rating: 3.9/5 (35 votes)
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Kyhkyh_bowmasterwinterstorm_lvl17.jpgIt's been five long years. Your string fingers are twitching and your quiver's full with freshly fletched arrows. You're ready to play the newest release by LostVectors. It's Bowmaster Winter Storm! For fans of the previous BowMaster Prelude, you'll see a lot of familiar aspects of the game was carried over. One major change in gameplay is the addition of the easier point and click method of aiming versus the pull string method, which gives a more authentic feeling of the archery theme. Choosing the pull string option does give you more gold when you earn shot bonuses, so you're not putting yourself through the difficulties for nothing. Aiming and shooting is all done with the mouse, and you use [WASD] to move your character around and [spacebar] to jump. [Q] and [E] switch between shooting with a higher or lower trajectory. This mainly comes in handy when trying to avoid shooting characters (like scouts) between you and your target.

This game has a lot of customization as far as the direction your character can take as they level up in rank. At the beginning, you will be given a choice of class: hunter, destroyer or mage. The game remains the same, it is just your attributes (arrow reload times, damage dealt, etc.) which change. So if you're more of a twitchy shooter, the hunter may be the class for you. Perhaps you're all about playing female characters. Hey, no judgment here, just choose the mage class. Once you've started playing and first purchase upgrades, you may be overwhelmed by the sheer number of skills at your fingertips. Just let your arrow rest and take a moment to peruse the selection. Hovering your mouse over each option will pop up a box showing the stats for that skill as well as display the requirements at the bottom and whether or not you've met them. The first tab will contain the more familiar upgrades such as the flak bomb arrow. The next tab down has all the options for your army. That's right, as before you can send out minions of your own to fight the enemy. Be aware that this will compound the amount of things you need to pay attention to on the battlefield.

The game starts you off at your home and begins a tale of an old enemy out in the land again. Between levels you will see your progress along the game and also see the type of quest the level is. These range from the defensive 'Protect the Allied Scouts' to boss fights with a single enemy. While the goal of each level is set, the terrain is randomized, so if you're finding it hard to complete a battlefield quest on an open plain, perhaps the next time you'll be given towers or trees from which you can shoot. Those of you who loved the first Bowmaster will pluck at the upgrade to the graphics and music, and those of you who never experienced it will simply find a good defense game in Winter Storm. Just perhaps it'll even have a few of you who rage-quit Prelude quivering with excitement at a second chance to love this series... and possibly smile at the subtle archery puns in this review.

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraIt's Friday, September 23rd, and where are you?! If you said anything other than "plunking down to indulge in a little Link Dump Friday", well, that's just wrong! Social and financial obligations can wait when you have games to play! This week we have action, arcade, physics, platforming, and of course... ninjas, dinosaurs, and post-apocalyptic wastelands! You wouldn't want to miss out on that, now, would you?

  • Run Ninja Run!Run Ninja Run! - If you've ever wanted to perform a daring escape and kick people in the face so hard they disintegrate, this action arcade game is most definitely for you, oh honorable one. Run, jump, slide, and, yes, ka-rah-tay your way through a series of levels filled with dastardly ninja, collecting gold coins along the way to upgrade your skills. Because, as any accomplished martial artist will tell you, hard work and dedication is for suckers; money makes the man.
  • Speedboat HeroSpeedboat Hero - Even if the best you could ever achieve in a real-life speedboat was to putter around in loose circles before your friends take the wheel with a pitying sigh (no, I'm not projecting), you'll still find a lot to like about this bizarre racing game packed full of dinosaurs, sweet tricks, and hapless bystanders. You can create your own tracks and even send the link to your friends to have them race against your ghost... and dinosaurs. It's still in beta, and the handling takes some getting used to, but this is one boat game you'll want to at least give a shot.
  • Red Ball 3Red Ball 3 - Red Ball just can't catch a break; the creepy Girl Ball he's giving creepy smooches is creepily abducted before they can have all the creepy ball babies they're dreaming of, and so he's off to rescue her in a physics platformer that is itself... not particularly creepy, actually. Red Ball has actually come quite far since his original appearance in 2009, which is an admirable sign of the developer's... uh... developing skill, and fans of challenging platformers will want to check it out.
  • Delivery ManDelivery Man - Delivery Man, Delivery Man, does whatever a Delivery Man can! Which is, apparently, sit under Kaylee's parasol on the back of a speeding vehicle and take pot-shots at the marauders who come close enough to try to steal his goods. This action-packed test of reflexes is from Berzerk Studio, and is probably further evidence of how poorly I would do in an actual post-apocalyptic scenario that did not involve me being a charred corpse. Purchase and upgrade your weapons as you race through the wasteland... it's like Outlander, only bloodier and not quite as repetitive!

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Rating: 4.8/5 (380 votes)
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Hoshi Saga Ringohime

JayHoshi Saga Ringohime is the latest installment of the popular and revered Hoshi Saga series by Yoshio Ishii, and it's in full, glorious full color as all the "Ringo" versions of the series have been. There are 25 new stages to clear, so don't just sit there, click and play! :)

Hoshi Saga RingohimeFor anyone uninitiated to Hoshi Saga, there is but one objective: find the star in each stage. How you go about doing that will be different with each new stage you come to, so you'll have to use your imagination to find it. The artwork is gorgeous with its soft and striking watercolor hues and textured backgrounds. So beautiful, in fact, that you won't mind just staring at it for a while as you work through what to do.

Ringohime continues the relatively light difficulty of puzzles as with the rest of the Ringo series, and some of the more hardcore puzzlers out there have complained about this. However, when you consider the fact that the series enjoys an enormous fan-base, it's also not difficult to understand why the games have drifted into light and casual territory.

Play the entire Hoshi Saga Series:

Hoshi SagaHoshi Saga 2Hoshi Saga 3Hoshi Saga RingoHoshi Saga RingoameHoshi Saga RingoenHoshi Saga RingohimeHoshi Saga Dokuringo

Ringohime is believed to the be last installment in the "Ringo" set of games with this one ending at level 100, just as the first 3 Hoshi Saga games came to a conclusion before Ringo. Considering the popularity of the series, I am sure we can expect more Hoshi Saga in the future as this has become a tremendously successful puzzle series for its author. Hoshi Saga Next, please, and be quick about it.

Play Hoshi Saga Ringohime

Walkthroughs for the Hoshi Saga series...

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Rating: 4.7/5 (109 votes)
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TrickyPedro and the Pearls of PerilPedro and the Pearls of Peril is the kind of game that's likely to appeal to multiple demographics. First of all, there will be those in the mood for a good action-shooter, with some shades of Metroidvania and a masochistic edge of difficulty. Then there will be those who'll be convinced once they see the name of Robot Wants retro-maven Hamumu on the title screen. There will be those Cub Scouts who just happened to stumble over the game on the Boys Life website, and are intrigued by what wacky new adventures Pedro the Mail Burro has gotten himself into this time. And last, but not least, there is the not insignificant group of gamers who have a thing for alliteration. Never count them out.

See, your friendly neighborhood postal-donkey has flown out to the Bermuda Triangle in order to recover the mail recently lost in a barge capsizing. Use the [arrow] keys to swim around and collect envelopes scattered about the landscape. There are also enemies to deal with, and the more envelopes you recover, the more aggressive they get. Aim and shoot your weapons with the mouse. The more you use a weapon, the more XP it gains with upgrades to choose at every level. Floating near clams gives you a chance of discovering a pearl. These pearls can be traded to your friend Ordep in exchange for new weapons (switched between with the [1-5] keys), power-ups and upgrades. Specifically, you'll be required to get some rock-destroying mines or lasers to reach the lower parts of the ocean. There are 49 envelopes to find... and one more that won't be gotten without a fight.

Analysis: Hamumu's other work for Boy's Life, including the previously reviewed Mad Planet, has had that maddening combination of quality presentation and nerve-shattering twitiness. While Pedro and the Pearls of Peril continues that general trend, the difficulty is better integrated into the proceedings giving it a much greater sense of fairness. It does still has the oddity of tacked-on sponsorship: as far as can be told, Hamumu originated the premise in a Ludum Dare entry, with the scuba-diving envelope-collecting donkey a late and not-entirely sensical addition to the premise. That said, one should never look a gift-burro in the mouth, especially when the burro is delivering quality retro action.

Pedro and the Pearls of PerilThe difficulty of Pedro and the Pearls of Peril is indeed relentless, but that itself distinguishes it from other Metroidvania analogues. While buying power-ups makes the central goal of finding envelopes easier, the "more envelopes = more enemy aggression" is a touch of gameplay-mechanical genius that prevents things from ever getting tedious. Even when nearing the end, players will still get that jolt of "Oh crap!" when a pack of piranhas, electric eels, and chompy angler fish descend on the hapless mail-donkey.

The trade-off for this consistency is a steep initial learning curve. When one is told that collecting envelopes will lead to victory, it is only natural that it will become your primary objective. By the time it is realized that the game is practically impossible without certain upgrades, the aggression of the enemies may be too high. With their their random locations and diminution of supply upon death, it can be keyboard-poundingly difficult to initially amass the number of pearls needed to even reach the lower levels of the ocean. Perhaps this is the peril the title alludes to? Combined with how weak the rock-blasting weapons start off as, any first attempts into tunneling will be met by more deadly nautical ambushes than the average film from The Asylum.

While this difficulty spike at the start may be too much for the local Bobcat or WEBLOS, it shouldn't prove too much for the seasoned online gamer, especially one who knows in advance that they'll have to play smart to survive. The combination of gorgeous pixel art, frenetic gameplay, and octopi in pirate hats is just too hard to resist. It just goes to show that Hamumu is the kind of developer who'll never just mail something in.

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Rating: 4.2/5 (56 votes)
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JamesSleepy Stu's AdventureFollowing in the tradition of VVVVVV and Gravinaytor is Paradoxon Games' Sleepy Stu's Adventure, probably the hardest platform puzzler you will play this year. Stu, a black block of some sort, is having trouble sleeping in the noisy city, so he journeys off to try and reach a rustic country house. Between him and the house, however, lies an obstacle course arrange sin a series of platform levels. With each level Stu gets to use certain powers: the abilities to move left and right, jump and double jump [arrow] keys, not to mention sticking his head to the roof and levitating. He can even spit out brown balls. But because Stu is sleepy, the abilities he can access on each level varies, introducing a puzzle element to the proceedings. Just how will you pass this level with only moving right, jumping and head-stickiness at your disposal?

It would be a simpler task were the puzzles not pretty lateral and quite demanding on your platform-fu. Dexterity and timing are vital; if you don't believe me, work your way up to level 26 or 28. These seem to have most people stumped and really do take a paradigm shift in how you would play a platform game. Hint: Stu can double-jump, and WHEN you execute each one of those two jumps plays a big role in making the other side safely. Diabolical is an appropriate word and one ponders how Paradoxon Games created such fiendish levels. It's worth asking if they kidnap and keep level designers in their closet. That said, while Sleepy Stu's Adventure will be a challenge except for a select few vastly over-stimulated people, it is very satisfying once you beat a level. There is some system involving karma and good/bad decisions. [Edit: it is the game's shortcut system; if you are stuck, shoot randomly at walls until you open a red portal. It will take you to the next level, but costs points. Thanks JIGuest!] To be honest I never figured that out. I was too busy screaming in annoyance before trying again...

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Rating: 4.5/5 (315 votes)
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TrickyBob the RobberAlright, let's make sure we've got everything: Black and white stripped shirt? Check! Domino mask? Check! Lock picks? Check! Green toque? Check! Anti-heroic sense of morality that makes you more than happy to lift some cash from the unfriendly neighborhood mob boss? Oh, you'd better bet that's a check! Such is the checklist of Bob the Robber, star of the new stealth puzzle platformer from Meowbeast. All you burglars out there in the burg should get ready to burgle til there's nothing left to burgle. Robble robble!

Move Bob around the heist location with the [WASD] or [arrow] keys. The goal is to gradually make your way to the goal and back out again, without being spotted too many times by any of the various forms of surveillance. Locked doors that stand can be opened with lockpicks by holding [up], or by inputting the proper numerical code. Likewise, laser grids can be disabled by holding [up] at the proper electrical box. Extra cash can be found by searching the scenery with [up]. Robots, cameras and security guards stand in your way and will turn from green to yellow to red if they catch you in their line of sight. You'll automatically slink into available shadows, but get spotted for too long and a siren will sound that will keep everyone on edge for a bit. Too many sirens and you're looking at hard time in the big house.

Bob the Robber undeniably feels like stripped-down version of Yahtzee's Trilby: Art of Theft. Then again, Art of Theft felt like a stripped down version of Thief and Out of This World. Perhaps it is pointless to debate what robbery game stole what from who: at least they're swiping from the best. That said, with its cartoonish graphics, intriguing level design, and bouncy soundtrack, Bob the Robber has an infectious sense of fun that keeps you smiling. It's not a perfect crime: the controls are a little wonky, and, with only five levels, things start wrapping up as soon as it gets started. Overall, though, you should be happy to let Bob the Robber steal a bit of your afternoon.

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Rating: 4/5 (60 votes)
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TrickyLittle FinsSometimes, it's not that bad to be a little fish in a big pond. Or at least it isn't when it means Neutronized is the one at the helm of a new action-arcade game. Little Fins stars a goldfish who wants nothing more than to explore the ocean and clean up some of the soda cans laying about. Unfortunately, there's sharks and rays and squid afoot... err... a-fin. So with heaven above and the sea below, you must help a little fishy on the go!

Click and hold the mouse to guide your fishy around the seascape, the farther you point your mouse, the faster it goes. Avoid enemies and spikes and make it to the end-of-level checkered-ring. Currents will push you, and colliding with sponges will bounce you around. Eating smaller fish will make you grow and allow you to plow through rock formations and swim against currents for a short while. If a door blocks your way, swim through each of the rotating gate to open it. Collecting cans grants clean-up points, with a bonus given for collecting all of them in a given level. There are fifteen levels in total: complete them all and you're golden!

Little Fins calls to mind other ocean-based games, specifically Ecco the Dolphin. That is to say that it combines a soothing aquatic aesthetic with a few surprising spikes of difficult platforming... fewer controllers will be broken in half, but it's always fun when games are able to be cute without sacrificing difficulty. Certainly some of the challenge comes from the loose mouse controls, but even those are forgivable since they do a good job of mimicking the struggle of pushing against the ocean current. Throw in the retro sprite-polygon meshed graphics and an emotive soundtrack and you've a nice little game that plays, well, swimmingly.

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  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (118 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypA few weeks back the popular Japanese room escape designer Tesshi-e took us back to the Escape Hotel, that wacky vacation spot that caters to the needs of those who feel the need to logic their way out a locked room, any locked room, at least once a week. But reasoning your way to your hotel room isn't really an escape, is it? It felt more like an appetizer, enough to whet the appetite but leaving one longing for more. Where, the reader may ask, is the really fun bit, where you get locked into your hotel room and can't get out? Fortunately, Tesshi-e has provided that more with a beefy main course of The Escape Hotel 4. Now this is proper room escaping!

Escape Hotel 4Like its predecessor The Escape Hotel 3, Escape Hotel 4 is one of Tesshi-e's better efforts as it involves a wacky vacation paradise that consists of lots of logic, math, color puzzles, and the frustrations of being locked in by mischievous staff. Escape Hotel 4 leaves off most of the construction and concentrates on good old logic to find your way to dinner or, if you're lucky and can find the lucky coin alternate escape, something even more relaxing. Included are all the bells and whistles common in any Tesshi-e escape: tight controls, logical progression, easy inventory, the ability to switch languages and save your efforts, and the ever-present wobbly picture puzzle. Yes, that thing is back again, some more.

Regular Tesshi-e fans might be surprised by this one as the gamer faces a lot less construction and a lot more logic, especially math. The room itself is a lovely, tranquil, traditional Japanese-style space that is so soothing the player might be tempted to just hang around a while. Fortunately the familiar music will soon motivate to get the heck out of dodge, if only to flee before that particular tune becomes permanently imbedded in the psyche. There's very little to complain about with Escape Hotel 4: the puzzles are logical and flow, the navigation is pretty intuitive (except in some hidden spaces), the translations are excellent, and the pixel hunting is at a minimum. The puzzles do seem to rely a bit more heavily on color than is usual, and for those of the "math is hard" school, well, the puzzles might be a little more difficult. Otherwise, this is Tesshi-e room escaping at its finest, a satisfying and filling mid-week break from the everyday. Oh, if only a hotel like this existed in real life!

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Rating: 4.3/5 (161 votes)
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soniclover_libra_screenshot.pngSonicLoverLibra (September 23rd through October 22nd): Your ruling planet is Venus. You desire a consistent life with few complications, and your childhood dream is to meet the boy or girl of your dreams, although failure to meet this goal can lead to a fairly independent life which can make you successful in business. Today you are likely to play an escape game by Otousan, maker of Bird Escape, with puzzles themed around determining the weight of objects by various means.

As is the custom with Otousan's games, Libra places you in a four-walled room with various features. Click around the screen with the mouse to navigate and interact, sometimes picking up objects that are appropriately useful. Select or deselect an item in your inventory by clicking it; when selected, use it by clicking on the environment, or inspect it with the "About Item" button. When Otousan picks a theme, they play with it in seemingly every way they can; Libra is no exception. It has all the hallmarks of an Otougame: a group of well-designed themed puzzles with some simple minor ones to tie them together, a simplistic atmosphere that makes sure you know what you're messing with without being distracting, a changing cursor, and unfortunately no save feature. Being a Gemini myself, I guess I'll have to wait a bit longer to find an escape game themed around my sign. For now...

Play Libra


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Rating: 3.6/5 (47 votes)
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KateFodo.pngAn insidious menace lurks in the sky, above the cotton candy colored trees and higher than the fluffy clouds. This threat to humanity comes from a most surprising place, a place of candy sprinkles and delicious icing. People of Earth, beware, for the doughnuts are finally coming for us in Fodo!, an arcade action planet defense game from John Evelyn of RobotHouseGames. Fodo!, logically enough, stands for Feed Our Doughnut Overlords exclamation mark, and feed those doughnuts you must if the planet is to survive.

Right-click to pull items like flowers or houses off the planet and feed them to the doughnut invaders as they drop from the sky. Feed a regular attacker its favorite food (a windmill, perhaps?) for more points and its hunger will be sated. Simply roll the cursor over tiny Dinks to pop them, but larger doughnuts require more firepower, so grab that active volcano and fire away. Use [arrows] to rotate the planet in your search for the perfect food and to prevent too much damage to the earth. Let a doughnut hit the ground and it will drill away at the planet, burrowing under the surface in hopes of reaching the delicious coffee candy core within. If the core is breached, your game is over.

You'll earn cash after each successful level to spend on various elements for your planet. Flowers are cheap, but offer only one measly percentage point, so doughnuts with a high percentage of hunger won't be stopped easily by them. Storm clouds and stars act as defensive weapons, stunning the enemy for a short time. More items become available as the game progresses. Your planet can only hold 50 items at once, but I never managed to hit that limit while playing.

Fodo.pngAnalysis: The soundtrack is great, the tutorial couldn't be clearer, and the control scheme is easy-peasy, but just look at this game for a minute. These graphics are cutey-pie perfection, all pastel and fluffy and sweet like a delectable doughnut should be. The art style is a visual gem polished to a high gloss, and the sense of whimsy here matches the game's quirky concept beautifully. Where Fodo! falters is in the customization aspect. The shop is only open in between levels, and you have no way of knowing which type of enemy is coming next, making it difficult to prepare and forcing you to buy for quantity, not quality. Also, unless you play in full-screen mode, the descriptive text for each item is nearly impossible to read.

Some sort of doughnutapedia would be a welcome addition to the game, as, after the tutorial is over, it becomes difficult to tell one doughnut from another. Overfeeding an Exploder, for example, unleashes a swarm of Dinks, a mistake I've made often. Speaking of those teensy tiny Dinks, they can often be hidden behind larger elements on the planet's surface, making it hard to tell that your coffee candy core is in danger. Fodo! offers more treats than tricks, however. The game is pure fun, and charming to boot. It gets high marks for originality and has a decent replay value, and I know those dapper doughnuts in their fancy bowler hats and monocles don't stand a chance against you. Now get out there and save the planet!

Play Fodo!


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Rating: 4.4/5 (91 votes)
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siegeheroviking.jpgJohnBPolished to a shine and featuring over 150 levels, the original release of Siege Hero (a spiritual companion to the browser game Sieger) for iOS devices has been an easy way to whittle the time away throwing rocks at conquering warriors. Now, browser-based fans of physics games can join in on the fun with the release of Siege Hero - Viking Vengeance, a port of the first few dozen levels from the iPhone/iPad release with one epically awesome bonus: a level editor and community-made content!

Siege Hero - Viking Vengeance is easy to understand. All you have to do is click the screen where you want to throw a rock and let gravity do the rest. Your plan is to give all of the bad guys a good bump on the head while leaving the innocent peasants alone, causing as much damage as you can using just a few pieces of ammunition. Naturally, as you progress, more tossable things become available, such as bombs, barrels of boiling oil, fire potions, etc. You get a ton of points for unused ammo at the end of the level, though, so if you're shooting for the gold crown, conserve!

Now for the real reason to get excited: user content. "People's Empire" on the title screen opens a menu that allows you to browse levels submitted by other players. Browse by date or popularity, and track favorites as well as check out your own creations. There's already a healthy serving of Siege Hero goodness to be found here, and as time goes by, it'll only get better. And wackier. Some of those stages are just pure insanity!

The Castle Builder is where you could really lose your afternoon. You're given access to every material in the game and can construct things as simple as a two-tiered fortress to a catapult that flings exploding barrels. Best of all, the editor is extremely easy to use, and after a few short minutes you'll be crafting like a pro. Save, edit, and tweak your creation, then upload it for the world to see!

Siege Hero - Viking Vengeance has all the depth and realistic physics of its iOS brother, only now it's in your browser. There are only a small handful of developer-made levels to see, but with the avalanche of user-made stages, you won't run out of structures to siege any time soon. And if you do, you can just build your own!

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The Vault

DoraIt's so simple! Or at least this week's installment of the Vault is. We're focusing on simple ideas today, games that do a lot with a little to make you go ooooh. (Whether you add the aaaaah is up to you; no pressure.) Here's just a few of our favourite titles that embody the concept of simplicity... whether it be in style, controls, or gameplay... and serve up a game that manages to clobber your best efforts at productivity.

  • Free Rider 2Free Rider 2 - Continuing in the oddly compelling vein of Line Rider, this webtoy combines physics with user creativity to deliver the world's most unsafe biking experience. Use the tools at the side of the screen to create a track as gentle or as crazy as you want, and then send your oblivious little biker down it at break-neck speeds that would make mothers everywhere fly to their windows and bawl "Get down from there!" Not only is watching your biker painfully wipe out entertaining, but the toolset practically begs for one-upmanship, for you to call your buddies over to the computer and proudly crow, "Check this out!" as you show off your painstaking recreation of Universal Studios' Hulk Roller Coaster.
  • CoBaCoLiCoBaCoLi - Tonypa has been mastering the art of the fiendishly simple game for years now, and this strategic puzzle game was striking enough to take home the "Best of 2008" award in the simple idea category. The goal sounds easy; hit lines with balls of the same colour to make them disappear without running out of shots. Of course, the tricky bit is that the only ball you can control is a white ball; to get the coloured balls to the lines, you'll have to plot out your angles and even work a little physics mastery. The end result is an elegant and addictive experience that will keep you coming back until you succeed, making it the perfect combination of easy concept and challenging execution.
  • Chat NoirChat Noir - Taro Ito's incredibly stylish little puzzle game about a coy black cat requires more than a little planning on your part. The turn-based gameplay revolves around trying to corral the feline by clicking on spots to turn them dark before he escapes off the edges of the map. Which is probably going to happen, at least once or twice, but Chat Noir is one of those games you can't help but keep coming back to; the level design is random, the visuals are clean and elegant, and while it arguably could do with a snappy skee-bop-diddly-ho! jazz soundtrack, it's still somehow as addictive and relaxing as Solitaire.

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


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (220 votes)
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DoraHood: Episode OneA small town in the middle of nowhere claims to suffer a witch, and a lone rider with some special kills and a whole lot of facial hair has been called in to deal with it, but is everything as it seems? Hood: Episode One, the first installment in a new point-and-click adventure series by Alice is Dead co-creator Hyptosis. Just click on the red arrows to navigate your way around the town and speak to people to discover where their "witch" has gone. (Don't expect everyone to be thrilled to see you.) Items you pick up appear in your inventory and some can also be combined, and since the cursor doesn't change you'll want to be nosy and click everywhere.

Play the entire Hood series:
Hood: Episode 1Hood: Episode 2Hood: Episode 3Hood: Episode 4

Hood has Hyptosis' signature style all over it, from the imaginative artwork and atmospheric film grain effect to the penchant for eerie, slightly-off-kilter musical tracks. There are a few minor issues that feel like they hold the game back from really reaching its full potential; the writing is a bit stiff, navigating dialogue can get repetitive since the game doesn't remember your choices, having to manually close narrative windows is a little annoying, and some items you need to pick up are small and nondescript enough (or just not even visible onscreen) that pixel-hunting can be an issue. As a re-telling of the classic tale, however, it definitely gets your intention; the game does a great job about suggesting a bigger, stranger world with its own complex mythos in just a few snippets of text. Unfortunately, the game is quite short, but fortunately Hyptosis has stated he plans to release sequels very quickly, so with any luck you won't have to wait long to get more answers to the big fat cliffhanger at the end of this installment. Despite its flaws, Hood: Episode One is intriguing, creepy, and satisfyingly weird in all the right ways, and fans of Hyptosis and creepy fairytales in general will want to give this one a peek.

Play Hood: Episode One


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (94 votes)
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JamesZombocalypseWhile on a surveillance mission over the suburbs, your helicopter goes down and you find yourself on the ground surrounded by the living dead. What do you do? What DO you DO? Because everyone on the planet must have seen something with a zombie in it by now, the answer is simple: 1. Don't Panic. 2. Lock 'n Load. It's action, it's survival, it's Zombocalypse time...

Zombocalypse is about marathon survival, a recurring theme in Ironzilla's games and the studio's most polished game yet. Moving left and right on a horizontal playing field (not unlike Zombie Knight), you have to keep the hordes of zombies at bay by lopping off their heads and employing all the firepower that falls from the heavens (presumably military supply drops). You can't hoard weapons, just fire them until the clip is empty. Then you nab the next gun that hits the ground or resort to your trusty machete. It's all locked to the keyboard: [left] and [right] [arrow] keys to move side-to-side and [spacebar] to open fire. [Down] picks up a weapon or power-up and [up] engages the backup weapon.

Back-up assaults are rewarded through escalating your kill combo; it's just what you need when the zombies (which come on three variants) start mobbing. Weapon drops include fun stuff like chainguns and flamethrowers; you soon learn that nothing, not even the slower sniper rifle or uncomfortably intimate riot shield, are off-limits when it comes to zombie carnage. You'd throw your shoes if you could... Backing all of this is a nicely rounded upgrade and achievement system that helps keep the momentum going. But if those don't get you hooked, you are likely to find Zombocalypse a try-once experience. It would have been nice to have a melee attack for when a zombie manages to sidle up next to you and while the ability to change heads is cute, it's a pity you can't do the same for backgrounds. Still, Zombocalypse is fun, reasonably difficult, and addictive; if escalation and nerves of steel seems like your thing, slap in another clip and start firing...

Play Zombocalypse


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (1237 votes)
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Kyhkyh_crystalstory_battle.jpgOh man, it's the start of another week, and you're chained back to your obligations instead of running around enjoying yourself. Guess there's nothing left to do but suck it up, right? Wrong! Why give up when there's still salvation in the form of the solid, entertaining Crystal Story, an RPG by Emmanuel Salva Cruz? Play as the lovable cast of Mercenary, Inc. as they do their best to defeat the evil witch, Rita, down the depths of the Evil Cave. They don't do this for the glory but for the money (they are mercenaries after all) provided by the gallant yet lazy Hiro the hero. Gotta love a pun!

Best of Casual Gameplay 2011The controls of Crystal Story should be familiar to regular players of RPGs. Use your mouse to navigate the various menus, and while in dungeon mode, which is an overhead view of the party, click the mouse over the area where you'd like them to go. This could involve running into an enemy to enter the combat screen, hitting a treasure chest to collect its contents or entering an opening in the wall to go to the next area of the level. Combat is one of the few times there are keyboard shortcuts available, [1] - [4] represents the different actions available to your characters, though you still have to click the target of your actions to execute them. At most times, [ESC] can be used to access the main menu. Hey, the fewer keyboard shortcuts, the less likely you are to play the game two-handed, great for when you're feeling lazy. But don't be too lazy about exploring the levels. They're randomly generated, and the only way to save a particular layout is to completely explore it. Great for when you need to go back to a level or load a game after a gaming break for that thing people call 'sleep'.

While dungeon crawling, you'll encounter warp points which can transport you back to the town where you can restore your stats in the inn, sell your loot at the aptly named shop and take on sidequests at the tavern. The sidequests take several forms from the match-3 zombie defense mini-game to the tamagotchi style pet slime that will spew a treasure once it's feed meter is filled. Eat up these bones, little slimey. Mama needs a new Wind Slasher! Also at the tavern is a Wanted List with most of the mini bosses listed. That's right, when you've defeated each of the ten underlings (not mandatory as combat can mostly be evaded when you want) you get a cash prize and complimentary equipment. Yay!

kyh_crystalstory_match3.jpgAnalysis: As with all RPGs, the combat plays a big role and being able to pick what class of magic each character can put their ability points into is a nice way of stepping back from the restrictions of picking a specific class that's usually encountered. On the other hand, not having your characters have a specialization can cause some combat confusion. Attack with melee, attack with magic? It's up in the air, because they're balanced and neither is stronger in a given character. The back and forth between the town and dungeon occupies most of the gameplay, but the well balanced combat doesn't drone on as every few levels you'll get a funny cut scene to keep you motivated to continue descending. The sidequests keep it fun too; you can't help but laugh at Reuben's efforts to woo Miss Bubbles.

There is a minor bug when healing your party in the skill or inventory submenu as the changes are not reflected in the main menu stats (though they do still occur). Crystal Story isn't innovative, but it is a good RPG. It has anime style graphics that fit right in with the humor, epic music by Morgan King that will take you back to when you played Final Fantasy (the number depending on your age) and a storyline to put a smile on your face. It's a lazy few hours of gaming that await you, so put on some comfy clothes and grab a bag of snacks. You'll be glad you did.

Play Crystal Story


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (33 votes)
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King of Dragon Pass

JohnBOne part strategy, one part text-driven choose your own story adventure, King of Dragon Pass is exactly the game you want to lose yourself in. Ported to iOS from the original PC/Mac release of 1999 (and recently packaged into a Windows-friendly release by GOG.com), this storytelling experience is rich in its own history and affords you a vast amount of control over what happens within. Wage war, explore the land, trade with your neighbors, manage your tribe, and read pages upon pages of text explicating the world you're actively participating in. It's great to see a title like this brought back for a new wave of gamers to play, and it works quite well on the iPhone platform.

King of Dragon PassKing of Dragon Pass aims for a high measure of realism, allowing you to make the decisions you wish to make but building related consequences around every choice. There are no sudden endings, cheap plot tricks, or moments when your hand is more than forced to taking a particular option. You're in charge of your tribe, and you must run it like your ancestors would have (which, awesomely enough, is also based on choices you make). All of this is done using text and still images, both of which paint a deep, riveting picture of the world you're interacting with. It's more like a text-based version of Civilization rather than a limited-scope Choice Of game.

After spending some time customizing your tribe's history by participating in a few rounds of questions, the game begins with a short tutorial that takes place while you play. You're walked through a few bits of the tale first, then turned on your own, a wide world of strategic possibilities at your disposal. Do you take to exploring or try to conquer your neighbor? Listen to your advisors or go ahead and trade with your enemy? It's up to you, but the consequences are very real.

The mobile game comes with a manual you can read inside the app (the GOG download features a separate manual), and for once, you should seriously consider reading it. You have to manage things from population, how to get food (trade? farming?), where your clan's wealth comes from, which neighbors owe you favors and who you owe favors to, battles, and diplomacy to an extreme level of detail. There are so many choices to make you'll immediately worry you're doing something wrong. As the game reminds you early on, however, there are no "right" or "wrong" choices, just different ones. So read the manual, stay true to your clan's history, and don't act like a jerk!

King of Dragon PassAnalysis: Video games, according to everyone wearing those retro-colored glasses, have done nothing but lose depth and intrigue in the modern times. It's hard to argue that when a game like King of Dragon Pass is resurrected. It has more text than a work of interactive fiction and more strategy than any casual strategy game out there. The replay value is very high, as each time you play you're almost guaranteed a different experience at every turn.

Text ages very well, as we've been reading the same sort of words for hundreds of years. In this respect, King of Dragon Pass could have been released as a new game last week and no one would have been the wiser. Some of the archetypes are a little too familiar now, what with the fantasy genre exploding over the last decade or two, but that never detracts from the overall experience. The artwork holds up almost as well, as everything was hand-drawn and filled with detail.

Drawbacks? If a steep learning curve scares you or if the phrase "read the manual" makes you feel sick, King of Dragon pass isn't your thing. If you don't mind doing a bit of reading and research to play your game, step right in! It's worth noting that King of Dragon Pass carries a steep price tag for an iPhone game (the download version is much less expensive), and it looks like an iPad release isn't possible owing to the nature of the original artwork. Slight bummers, if anything, but almost inconsequential in the shadow of the colossal game we now have at our fingertips.

King of Dragon Pass is a difficult game to do justice to in a short review. If you can imagine a game like Civilization played out in a text-based, choose your own adventure world, you have a good idea what to expect. It worked well over a decade ago, and it works well now on mobile devices. If you can read, you should play King of Dragon Pass.

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Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.


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Mobile Monday

JohnBWacky, serious, filled with animals, containing goat kisses, and populated by sentient glops of furry... whatever. It's not a Mobile Monday if you don't reach for the disinfectant spray!

goatup.gifGoatUp (universal) - From Llamasoft, creator of some truly delicious games, comes a strange sort of arcade game that's all about goats kissing. Sort of. Your main goat pal must hop to climb platforms higher and higher up the mountain. Kiss goats and eat grass to make kids, and pick up every item you come across (there are loads of them). Enemies, of course, make an appearance, but really it's all about kissing goats as you much on grass and hop around like a mad... goat.

spaceshooterfree.gifA Space Shooter for Free (iPhone, iPod Touch) - P. Jefferson is a little too nerdy for his own good. Tortured by bullies in school, Jefferson makes himself more manly via the art of lifting weights. Eventually, he becomes a pilot, blasting aliens and asteroids in space like nobody's business. That's where you come in! Ported from the PSP download game, A Space Shooter for Free turns your finger into the control stick of a ship, shooting everything out of the black sky that crosses your path. Missiles, shields, and other gun power-ups are at your disposal, and you'll collect currency during your travels that can be used to upgrade your ship. It's got everything you could want from a shmup, including a bad attitude and comic book-style cutscenes, and is exactly the sort of thing you should think of when you see the phrase "casual shmup". Also available on Google Play Android Games for Android phones..

riotrings.gifRiot Rings (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad) - No casual gamer worth their Bejeweled gems hasn't played a marble popper puzzle game at one time or another. The genre waxes and wanes with the times, and Riot Rings looks to bring it back on the portable touch screen. The animals are trying to get out of the zoo, but unluckily for them, they've rolled themselves in to highly-matchable balls and are rolling around a track. Tap to lob animals into the chain, making matches of three or more to clear the ring before the lock and key meet. Simple, and it never tries to reinvent the genre, but it looks great and plays without a hitch, making it a sound pickup for anyone looking for some casual marble matching. Riot Rings XL is also available for iPad.

globulos.gifGlobulos Mania (universal) - An iOS translation of the online multiplayer browser game GlobZ, Globulos features almost two dozen different mini-games that center around a single competitive mechanic. Each player has a few seconds to choose a direction and velocity for each of his or her globulos critters. Your goal can vary but will usually involve something like knocking a soccer ball into the goal. Make your choices, tap on "go", and see what your opponent has done. It's a fun concept that's been proven on the web for years, only now it's in the palm of your touch-friendly hand!

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.


(16 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Mystery Legends: Beauty and the Beast

DoraYou experienced the thin line between love and obsession in The Phantom of the Opera, and now Pixel Storm Entertainment leads you down a darker path towards familiar but twisted territory with their latest hidden-object adventure, Mystery Legends: Beauty and the Beast. When Belle's love saved the Beast from the curse placed on him by an evil enchantress, they were supposed to get their happily-ever-after, but a bizarre and unsettling letter calling Belle back home may bring a premature end to their fairytale. Turns out when you scorn and best an evil enchantress, they don't exactly take it very well, and this one is out to rain on your parade in the most elaborate, mua-ha-ha-ha fashion possible, and unlike burly Frenchmen, she doesn't have the decency to take a swan-dive onto a wrought-iron fence. Will Belle break the curse and save the kingdom from eeeeeeeeeeeevil or has her luck run out?

Mystery Legends: Beauty and the BeastAs Belle, you'll travel a long way to save your Prince from his Beastly imprisonment... a long, long way, since the entire kingdom has been blighted with the enchantress' magic. There are three levels of difficulty to choose from at the start of the game, but all of them will have you solving puzzles, scouring hidden-object scenes, and performing tasks to aid the residents of the kingdom in their de-cursing. (It's like a de-lousing, but more magical.) The cursor changes to indicate an interactive area, and the usual hint and skip buttons make an appearance for the impatient in the crowd. If you tap the hint button in normal gameplay, it'll only tell you if you can do something in the location you're currently in, but luckily for you, your journal has a map. The map not only displays your current location, but highlights places you can go to and accomplish something in, so make sure you check it frequently if you're stuck. Just don't go looking to Beast for help, since he's supremely useless. "Heeeeeeelp me, Belle! Find the Magic MacGuffins, Belle! Chase these spiders away, Belle!" As if being turned to stone is any excuse for not being useful! At least Gaston had a catchy song, and was probably just as hairy.

Mystery Legends: Beauty and the BeastAnalysis: Beauty and the Beast might just be the most visually stunning and cinematic hidden-object adventure to come along in quite some time. Sporting fantastic voice acting, gorgeous artwork, and a rich, imaginative fantasy theme, it's the sort of adventure you really can get lost in. Locations are beautifully made, and exploring them feels appropriately like stepping into another world with just the right spice of danger. While twee fairytale critters with names like "Mr Beak" and mildly cheesecake-ish characters like "Saucy the Leprechaun" mean this doesn't quite capture the eerie, foreboding atmosphere of Phantom of the Opera and isn't as story-driven, the sheer quality of the whole thing means there's likely something for everyone inside it. Just because it's comparatively lighter in tone doesn't mean us creep-fiends won't find a lot to love in the style and design.

The fantasy design extends to the gameplay as well, with "adventure logic" here being replaced by "fairytale logic". While you'll find your share of objects with straight-forward uses, many places require a little bit of abstract thinking. A request for gold, for instance, might not be literal, while clockwork doggies require a special sort of fuel. Since you can always refer to your map for direction, getting stuck is unlikely. While this time around each hidden-object scene consists of items you'd probably be likely to find in that location rather than a random mish-mash of junk, the trade-off is that some of them are... kind of boring to look at, especially when they start repeating. Seen one enchanted toyshop, seen 'em all, amirite? Fortunately, the game offers up several creative puzzles, and the too-brief jaunts into other fairytales are a nice touch.

It isn't the sequel Phantom Phans (hurr hurr) have been waiting for, although you should keep your eyes peeled for a few references, but Mystery Legends: Beauty and the Beast is a big, gorgeous adventure worthy of praise in its own right. Most players will probably spend between four and five hours on the main adventure, with the unlockable Collector's Edition "bonus chapter" tacking on close to another hour. Packed with charm, magic, danger, and beauty, this is one fantastical fairytale that you should definitely check out. Highly recommended, especially if you're fond of chipper butler bots with "genocide modes".

A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains a bonus chapter, art gallery, 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


(18 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Blocks That Matter

JohnBBlocks That Matter, an indie game from Swing Swing Submarine, likes to do things a little bit differently. It likes to break the rules, mix up genres, tear down that fourth wall, and borrow the best from some of the most popular games ever released and turn it into something new. Blocks That Matter is part Tetris, part Minecraft, part Dig Dug, part platformer all wrapped into one, with a cute main character leading the whole thing up that serves as the perfect gateway to a game you won't be able to get enough of.

blocksthatmatter.jpgTwo indie game developers, Alexey and Markus, are in trouble. As Tetrobot, their unfinished creation, you're the only one who can save them. Tetrobot can drill blocks on either side and bump them from below, slowly turning them into collectible pieces of material. Each material acts differently in different circumstances, so sand won't hold its position unless something is beneath it, ice slides all over the place, and obsidian is... well, geez, who could hope to drill something like that into a usable item?!

The other, more brain-taxing part of the game is arranging blocks to meet your needs. Pausing the action in Blocks That Matter, you can place blocks in groups of four at a time. Arrange them to form steps, bridge gaps, hold enemies at bay, or otherwise help you through the stage. You can also clear groups of eight blocks at a time, something that almost always has grand consequences on the environment's landscape.

Blocks That Matter never pulls its punches when it comes to level design, and you'll have to utterly master the block laying mechanisms in order to get anywhere. As you progress, you unlock new abilities, uncover new enemies, and learn new tricks for dealing with blocks in your path. You'll have to utilize a touch of trial and error in order to get through, but it's only the game's gentle learning curve easing you in to the game that matters!

blocksthatmatter2.jpgAnalysis: It's easy to see the source material shining bright in Blocks That Matter. Material types from Minecraft, block arranging from Tetris, for example. But the game doesn't directly rip off anything from another game, opting instead to mix everything up to birth something surprisingly new. A little bit of action, a little bit of puzzle solving, a little bit of humor... this game has got it all!

In-jokes and buried secrets are two things that stand out of the experience in a very muted sort of manner. Finding the secret treasures in the levels isn't necessary to beat the game, but you know what? You'll really, really want to do it. Because they're filled with in-jokes surrounding the indie gaming scene. It's also another way of rewarding players for exploring the levels, something that's never easy to do given the premium you'll place on blocks from time to time.

The learning curve is the only real obstacle standing between Blocks That Matter and absolute perfection. It's shallow, but protracted, and figuring out all of the tricks to solving block-based puzzles can be enormously frustrating at first. Once you get it, you get it, however, and it's worth putting in a little bit of time to experience the wonder this game has to offer.

Scream in frustration, laugh with delight when you solve a puzzle, raise an eyebrow at the questionable antics of the game's villain. All of these and a whole lot more await you in Blocks That Matter, a game that will matter a lot to you after just a few minutes!

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

LinuxLinux:
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  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (48 votes)
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Kyhkyh_thecell_10.jpgYou're in prison. You can't help it, you're a convict; that's what convicts do. But then again, you're no ordinary criminal... your name is Sidney and you have special powers worthy of the X-Men: you can make a clone (or two) of yourself. As Kevin Glass' pixelated puzzler entry for the recent Ludum Dare, The Cell takes you through ten levels of prison escaping. Using the [arrow] keys to move around and [spacebar] to create a duplicate of yourself in whichever direction you are facing, it is your mission to have all the red buttons depressed to open the exit. Standing in your way is a small assortment of traps and dozing guards, who will wake if you enter an adjacent square (though not your clones).

It is no easy feat getting out of a prison cell again and again and again. There to aid you are your trusty clones, who follow your every move unless an object is blocking them, and wooden crates, which can be pushed around to serve several functions. Considering that this game can be finished in under an hour, this imaginary world must be filled with casual gaming felons who are imprisoned for no more than twenty minutes before they're out breaking the law again. How much time would you serve in this hypothetical place? Play through Glass' 48 hour creation and find out.

Play The Cell


(13 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Urban Legends: The Maze

DoraThey've been saying for years now that reality television rots your brain, but nobody ever really expects it to kill you. Urban Legends: The Maze is a new hidden-object adventure from Elephant Games that puts you in the spotlight... for murder! Dun dun dun! The popular reality television competition show "The Maze" comes to an abrupt end one night during the finale when one of the competitors appears to die on screen, and the rest go missing immediately afterwards. The families of the lost have hired you, but exploring the bizarre sets and traps that make up the Maze proves this is one unique investigation... especially when you realise you're not alone in the sprawling structure, and the shadowy figure doesn't have your best interests in heart. Unless, of course, you find spring-loaded crossbows, bear traps, and near-fatal plunges romantic.

Urban Legends: The MazeTo track down the missing contestants, you'll have to venture into The Maze itself, which isn't your ordinary television studio. The tricks that were only supposed to confound the players have turned deadly, and the various sets are more than a little surreal. You'll have to solve puzzles and hidden-object scenes to earn items you'll need to proceed, keeping an eye out for danger all the while. You won't be entirely without help, however. Clicking once on an interactive area will give you a generic description, but a second click will usually net you a more direct clue about what you need to proceed, and hitting the hint button in regular gameplay will flat-out tell you what your next step should be. If you prefer to figure things out for yourself, try the map attached to your diary; it's colour-coded to indicate areas you can accomplish something in.

Analysis: Elephant Games is one of the most underrated hidden-object adventure developers, consistently turning out wildly creative titles that blend the surreal with the creepy to craft engaging, memorable experiences. The Maze is no different; with its strange settings, beautiful art, eclectic soundtrack, and weird plot that keeps you guessing. It's more of a straight-up mystery thriller than most games, and there are a few really clever sequences, such as a quick-sand pit, that make it stand apart from other games in the genre. The frequent use of short animated cutscenes also helps to keep you engaged in the experience, making it feel like you're in a thriller movie rather than just staring at a series of static images. Chasing down a malevolent scarecrow/jack-o-lantern dude through a series of fantastical environments, outwitting traps and performing acts of heroism? Awwwww yeah, that's the stuff.

Urban Legends: The MazeWhile the difficulty level for the actual gameplay is fairly sedate across the board, The Maze earns high marks for how often it takes you to a new location so you never get bored. In each set of areas you'll find yourself doing a fair amount of back-tracking within them, and since interactive spots aren't always immediately visually obvious you'll need to poke around with your cursor to be sure you aren't missing something from time to time, but as you progress you'll move deeper and deeper into The Maze, and each level has its own unique set of challenges and designs. You'll run into the typical mildly frustrating adventure game scenarios of having a bunch of items perfectly suited to the task at hand but needing to track down the one specific thing for each use, but largely the game remains annoyance free. (Apart from one surprisingly drawn out helicopter puzzle.) Heck, you never even repeat the same hidden-object scene twice, which is incredibly refreshing.

While we always advise you try the demo before you buy (be aware that this one ends at a predetermined point regardless of whether your hour is up), Urban Legends: The Maze should be a no-brainer purchase decision for fans of hidden-object adventures with originality and mystery. The over-the-top cheese-tastic plot might put off fans who prefer their adventures supar seeerious, but if you like a sense of humour and unique flair to your gaming, you'll never be bored with Urban Legends: The Maze, and at over five hours to finish for most players, it's significant bang for your buck. Highly recommended, and thoroughly enjoyed by your humble word monkey.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (42 votes)
| Comments (22) | Views (154)

Youda Fisherman

elleNot long ago, Leo's dad's fishing company went broke because of pirates, what with their nasty looting and scaring of workers through nefarious pirate ways. Leo's a scientist, not a fighter—he needs the help of someone who is destined for great things. And it's just so that Youda Fisherman who can do it! Once again, you are in the captain's seat in this addictingly enjoyable time management simulation release from the folks at Youda Games. By managing resources, trading on the markets, making use of fantastic inventions and fending off marauders, you will be written into the fame of angler's lore as you save Leo's family business from ruin.

elle_youdafisherman_resize1.jpgIt's true that rebuilding a thriving industry is no easy task: it takes thoughtful strategy and quick action to accomplish. A lot is happening at once in Youda Fisherman, much more than meets the eye. At first you're given the simple task of hiring fishing boats and gathering up fish. An occasional pirate might show up but you have a Tesla Tower to jolt pirates into surrender with blasts of electricity. No problem at all. Yet, as the company expands, the action picks up; you'll construct factories and negotiate market trades for the supplies needed for making such products as seafood pizza, caviar cakes, and pearl necklaces. Leo is an ingenious inventor, though. He'll supply you with more amazing contraptions such as Tornado Towers to assist in gathering stockpiled resources and Invisible Shields to protect your machines from storm damage.

Each level of Youda Fisherman has a set of goals to accomplish. If you choose the Tutorial in the game option menu, you'll receive guidance and hints from Leo on how to progress. At times you'll need to purchase blueprints to build or upgrade factories before you can progress to the next level. Successfully completing a level earns you tokens along with bonuses for time and gold accumulation. Invest those tokens in your company offices, acquiring beneficial upgrades that will, for example, speed up resource production or gain larger profits for your products.

youdafisherman2.jpgAnalysis: With fifty levels, Youda Fisherman is certainly a good buy in terms of length. It succeeds in combining a variety of popular time management and simulation elements in a way that makes sense. You might be reminded of other Youda Games titles such as Youda Farmer or Youda Survivor while you gather resources, but Youda Fisherman also has a fast-paced, quick-thinking aspect that is reminiscent of the Roads of Rome series. Youda Fisherman is very clicky—like Roads of Rome, you'll gain greater success when you apply a well-planned strategy to fast clicking. This facet of play can be deeply satisfying although it can be frustrating to restart a level when the gold medal is missed. Achievement-philes have hundreds of trophies and achievements to aim for including kudos for Defensive Strategy, Wrecking Havoc, Gone with the Wind, and As Good as Advertised. If you get a warm feeling of accomplishment when a challenge is surmounted, you'll quickly find yourself gratified in Youda Fisherman.

The story surrounding Youda Fisherman seems roughly constructed solely to introduce nifty upgrades and machinery; why you, the heroic-yet-ordinary guy, come in to save the day is based entirely on the irresistible nature of open sea battles even though pirate attacks are a small (though reoccurring) part of the gameplay. The story of how a fisherman's son named Leo becomes such a talented inventor isn't fully explained but . . . well, who cares? Those inventions are huge fun and it's always a treat to discover the latest machine for thwarting foes or increasing production! An overall refreshing take on the genre, Youda Fisherman delivers the goods in engaging casual gameplay and fast-paced fun.

Play Youda Fisherman Flash Demo

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

MacWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (116 votes)
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TrickyThe Google PuzzleSo, there's this company named Google. You might have heard of them. One day this company has a meeting. The big boss guy stands up at the front and says: "People... we are obviously crushing the competition in the fields of searching, mailing, mapping, translating, and plussing. Now... we did drop the ball on "waving", but we all agreed never to speak of that again. What we really need now is an html5 puzzle game to highlight our achievements. Also, we need it to be completely friggin' insane. Because of that, we're outsourcing development to the Japanese puzzle-smiths at SCRAP." And so, from that simple brainstorming session came great things: The Google Puzzle... and it's ready to wreck a desktop near you.

The Google Puzzle has a simple plot: the Google logo has lost its "o", and, not wanting to spend the rest of its life as "Go gle" it needs your help to track it down. Doing so will require intelligence, intuition, and the convenient featuring of Google's most popular products. The game begins with five riddles to solve, each requiring a typed one word answer. These solutions are then combined in a final puzzle whose completion will reunite o and Go_gle and grant you the right to inscribe your name in the Google Hall of Fame.

Artistic, hyperactive, and more than a little draining on the CPU, The Google Puzzle leaves no programming trick untried and no brick in the fourth wall un-demolished. The solutions of The Google Puzzle are generally easy to determine, but require a certain brand of lateral thinking you will find either brilliant or annoying. This is a undoubtedly busy game with windows popping open and shut, animations dancing, music blaring, and scripts running. Eclectic is a good word for it, and, like many eclectic things, it's likely The Google Puzzle will divide opinion. That said, there are some really clever ideas at play, and it's always interesting to see how and when a developer is able to integrate non-gaming applications into the fun. Even if The Google Puzzle's flash outweighs its substance, it's does pretty well with both.

Note: The Google Puzzle has been developed and optimized for the Google Chrome browser. In practice, the game seems to be reasonably playable on other browsers, though the nature of the game may make for some apparently weird behavior.

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Weekend Download

JohnBMore Ludum Dare games, anyone? The 48-hour game creation-a-thon has ended yet another competition, inspiring developers from around the world to create almost 600 new games, all centered around the theme of "escape"! The voting has ended, the scores have been tallied, and we've picked some of our favorite downloadable titles to share with you!

stratus.gifStratus (Windows, 4MB, free) - Point and click room escape game, meet the world of 3D! This curious text-less game places you on a flying vehicle and challenges you to figure out a series of puzzles using only icons at the bottom of the screen. Move around, check out the interior of the ship, and try to determine what you need to do given the sparse set of clues. It's a very short game that ends as soon as it starts getting exciting, but it's a nice accomplishment in such a short amount of time and a concept we would love to see expanded! Created by RichMakeGame, author of PlasmaPig.

epacse.gifepacse (Mac/Win/Linux, 1MB, free) - This somewhat gloomy little escape game from Marach drops you in a cave filled with traps, puzzles, different types of particles. You can move around with the [WASD] keys and blast said particles around with the mouse. Now, how to get from place to place in this confusing world? Try moving sand around, getting it out of your way or knocking it around so it stacks and forms a platform? A surprisingly long experience for a 48 hour game, and the puzzles are very well-thought-out.

awol.gifAWOL (Mac/Win, 11MB, free) - This gorgeous driving/shooting game by quickfingers is all about escaping a prison facility and making it as far away as you can. Hijacking a tank that can transform into a flying vehicle, which is all kinds of awesome, drive, fly, and shoot your way through enemies that get progressively tougher and more numerous as you go. See how far you can get without going the way of the big ka-boom! A web version is also available.

tohellandback.gifTo Hell and Back (Windows, 1MB, free) - This point and click graphical adventure game by Kayamon mixes an art style you might recognize from one of those Final Fantasy games us kids in the 90s used to rave about with everything that's best about the adventure genre. You play as Ragnar who really wants to escape from wherever it is that he happens to be. Loitering ghosts? Three-headed dogs? No thanks, it's time to make it back to the real world. If you can solve the intense puzzles, that is. A funny and entertaining game, very impressive for a two day effort, though the dialogue scrolls by very slowly and you'll wish there was a shortcut key to access different commands.

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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grinnyp_voodoochronicles_banner.jpg

GrinnypOften when game designers try to throw everything but the kitchen sink into an adventure/hidden object hybrid, what you end up with is an incoherent mess. In the case of Voodoo Chronicles: The First Sign by Space Monkey Games, start with a hard-boiled detective film noir, cross it with a horror movie, add in elements of steampunk, and the result is a fantastic, glorious sprawling mess of a game that is very difficult to put down and harder still to walk away from.

grinnyp_voodoochronicles_screenshot1.jpgThis is not the story of New Orleans/Haiti religious group gone wrong. No indeed. The Voodoo in the title refers to the main character, a Chandleresque private detective named Voodoo. The game begins with a dark, horrifying tale of greed splashed out in an epic cut-scene of three characters committing dastardly deeds. The hero of the story, private investigator James Voodoo, receives a phone call about a mysterious break-in involving one of those characters, and suddenly you're off into a fantastical alternate universe America investigating murder, greed, magic, and a giant squid attacking the city. Can James Voodoo solve the multiple mysteries he is presented with before the city falls victim to this tenticular menace and save the day? That all depends on your puzzle-solving, hidden object finding, and wolf-bashing skills.

Gameplay is the standard adventure hybrid setup navigating your way through multiple areas. A changing cursor indicates places to check out, items to investigate, or various objects that can be picked up for later use. Depending upon the mode of play there are also glints of light to indicate hotspots and a cascade of question marks to highlight hidden object scenes. Clues as to what is going on are derived from notes, newspaper articles, conversations with a vast array of colorful characters, and the detective's handy notebook, which keeps track of not only what he's learned but keeps a nice running list of goals on helpful post-it notes within the pages. A refilling hint timer is nice, but what is even better are the little "spies" embedded within the game. Find them and you can rack up "instant" hints that don't need to refuel, and earn more by not skipping the mini-games!

grinnyp_voodoochronicles_screenshot2.jpgAnalysis: Voodoo Chronicles: The First Sign creates a stunning, fantastical roller-coaster ride of an adventure hybrid with memorable characters, astonishing scenery, breathtaking animations, and amazingly amusing gameplay. A nice blend of hidden object finding, puzzle solving psychedelia is the result of this imaginative blending.

The hidden object scenes are difficult, of the "shrink objects and put them in a dark shadow in the background" variety. The puzzles cover a wide range of familiar (pipe, gear, slider, etc.) and refreshingly new. Gameplay is broken into easy to manage chapters, so while there is a lot of wandering and backtracking within each area, the overall gameplay is refreshingly linear. Or as linear as you can get when jumping from the mean streets of the city to a wild zeppelin ride, then to a dark foreboding town with wolf problems and eventually to the acid-flashback-inducing end. Half the fun of Voodoo Chronicles is the amazing tonal shifts from chapter to chapter, as you're never quite sure which genre will leap to the forefront as the game progresses.

grinnyp_voodoochronicles_screenshot3.jpgWhile the mish-mash of genres works surprisingly well within the structure of the game, there are a few downsides. The clickable areas to pick up hidden objects is occasionally tiny, making some of the hidden object scenes frustrating. The characters, while nominally American, all appear to have been imported from somewhere in Europe, what with all of the British, French, Italian, and generic Romanian villager accents flying around. Other minor annoyances include some dodgy grammar and strange item names in the hidden object finding lists.

Despite the flaws, Voodoo Chronicles: The First Sign is a gloriously loopy and beautiful ride through someone's imagination, although you can't help wonder if that imagination was fueled by, well, let's say a wide variety of pharmacopeia, shall we? A ton of fantastic gameplay awaits those who dare to solve the mystery and take a ride on the steampunk/noir wild side.

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:
Not available.
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (29 votes)
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TrickyGreat MatemasterChess: Favorite pastime of Machiavellian rulers, rogue Artificial Intelligences and cool old guys in the park. The game that Goethe proclaimed as the touchstone of intellect. The sea in which a gnat may drink and an elephant may bathe. The basis for programs as imposing as the human-crushing Deep Blue and as totally sweet as Interplay's Battle Chess. At JayIsGames, we're always on the lookout for quality casual versions of classic board games, and Alex Gagin's new release of Great MateMaster is just that. Like the previous less-great MateMaster, the focus here is on chess puzzles. Its huge wealth of content and polished presentation makes it something you should definitely check, mate.

Though regular chess play is available, endgame puzzles are Great MateMaster's raison d'etre, of the "Mate in 3" variety. You play as white, and clicking on a piece with the mouse shows all the possible moves for that piece. The goal is to checkmate the black king in the specified number of moves or less, which is to say to threaten the black king while preventing any possible means of his escape. There are some other rules, but that's the general gist... and with a good 16,000 puzzles to solve you'll have plenty of chances for practice.

Analysis: The AI in Great MateMaster is only fair, and shouldn't pose too much of a problem to stomp. This is appropriate for what the game sets out to do: one gets the feeling that its true purpose is not to pose a Kasparov-ian level challenge to the local grandmaster, nor to teach beginners the basics. If anything, this game is squarely aimed at helping the intermediate level player develop her skills. If you don't understand the basics of chess, Great MateMaster won't hold your hand. If you are an expert, the limitations of the game's engine may make it feel a trifle, even on fiendish. However, if you've been looking to boost the strategy of your endgame, Great MateMaster is the tutor for you.

Great MatemasterNaturally, it is easier to practice the beginning of a chess game than its conclusion: it takes 30 seconds to set up the pieces and hours to put them back in the box. This can lead to a noticeably spike in difficulty as players learn how to start a game, but not how to end it. While Great MateMaster is a fine puzzle game, it also, perhaps unintentionally,
functions surprisingly well as a trainer. With its literal thousands of likely and unlikely positions from which it challenges you to find checkmate, it can't help but educate your eye as to the nuances of the endgame.

The biggest stumbles for Great MateMaster come in trying to play a regular game. Minor stuff: not having an option to play as black against the CPU, or, for that matter, the ability to play against another person on the same computer. It's not game-breaking by any means, but there are some strange omissions. Likewise, it would have been nice to be able to view which problems are and aren't solved in a scrollable list form. Finally, while admittedly, games like this don't require sound at all, an affirming "ding" upon completion of a puzzle wouldn't have hurt.

There remains little to be said. Undoubtedly, Great MateMaster, as a work, appeals to a quite specific gaming niche. If you're not a chess fan, this game probably won't change your mind. However, if you are, it's as clear as black and white that you'll be wowed with quality and quantity. Reti or not, here it comes!

Play Great MateMaster


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Rating: 4.7/5 (505 votes)
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TrinnVulpin AdventureA wild RPG appears! Vulpin, I choose yo- oh woops, wrong game. You'll understand the mix-up once you've played the adorable turn-based role playing game by Firequill, Vulpin Adventure. Customize, train, and gear up your own fox-like creature to reclaim the fragments of the precious Star Stone and drive out the enemy monster invasion. No rare candies necessary!

After you've dolled up and named your colorful little buddy, maybe spent some time petting him in the starting area to increase his mood, you do the only thing that can be done with cuddly, cartoon animal creatures... make them fight for their lives! Hover your mouse around the edges of the screen to navigate your Vulpin as you side-scroll through lush forests, icy caverns, and barren deserts. Click on areas of interest to search for loot or to travel to the next zone. Swap spells in the abilities tab before battle to strategize element-based attacks to their full tactical advantage. Winning fights means finding more powerful items or spells and collecting AP to increase your Vulpin's health, strength, defense, and speed. Be sure to keep an eye on your pet's happiness; an unhappy Vulpin means a weaker Vulpin.

Vulpin AdventureWhat Vulpin Adventure may lack in depth is more than made up for in charm and a fair bit of nostalgia. You're bound to notice the nods made to beloved games of yore, and it's impressive how well this game manages to incorporate those features. Although most of the zones are actually quite short and decidedly on the easy side, it may take you a while to go through them because Vulpins are apparently slower than pangea. Have a bit of patience, however, and you're sure to quickly find a lot to love.

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  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (43 votes)
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JamesOne Man And His DinosaurDinosaur! Rawr! Sheep! RAWR! Don't eat the sheep! Rawr?! Guide them! Guide them! Rawr! Eat that! RAWR! RAWR! Vegetables! Bite the vegetables!! RAWR!!! More sheep! Grass! Make them eat grass! RAWR!! Watch out for the giant STOMP! robot foot... Boys and girls, it's Adult Swim time with a delightful yarn of sheep herding from Megadev, One Man And His Dinosaur, an action reflex game. But there is no man, just a herding dinosaur. The man appears to die somewhere between the menu and the game. And the dinosaur does not actually take the herd anywhere.

Once you clear the final stage, it loops right back to the green pastures of first level England. This game is a conveyor belt, continuing endlessly while you try and pile on the points. It's pretty simple: Use your mouse to move the dinosaur (which in turn moves the herd) and click on things that need to be eaten. These do not include the sheep. You will try to eat the sheep, however... the temptation is just too big. Fortunately plenty of other things stumble along to get chewed on. Badgers, lions, crazed watermelon people... The levels are littered with other obstacles, from spiked pits and acid pools to pylons shooting electricity. You gather points by eating things, picking up food and guiding flocks over grass. Lose all your sheep and it's game over. Fortunately rogue sheep can be added to your flock if you can nudge them in time.

One Man And His DinosaurOne Man And His Dinosaur is a typical 'twitch' game, where fast mouse reflexes and good accuracy gets you ahead of the rest. Very good pixel art gives it a lot of charm; it's nice to see Megadev reach up to the same visual level seen in Super Sloth Bomber. There are also small touches galore, like the numerous emoticons the sheep make (from LOL'ing at something's fate to O.O when surviving a close shave). But the actual gameplay might be a love/hate thing. The dinosaur and sheep respond differently depending on whether you click or simply move your mouse.

Levels are tolerably short (and impressively varied), but the obstacles are harrowing and numerous. Devolving into haphazard clicking and moments of freaking out can reduce your flock of woolly mammals with frustrating quickness. And sometimes it's just plain bad luck, like a rampaging rhino or the annoying moving bushes in the vegetable level, that decimates your flock to near nought. When luck is a requirement to do well in a game, it might be a bit too much for some. But who ever said being a dinosaur herding sheep through a robot war zone would be easy?

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraWell, it's September 16th today, and you know what that means! The horrors contained within your closet were content to simply stare at your sleeping form and count your breaths in the night! Hooray! To celebrate, why not keep the darkness at bay with this pack of freshly picked games, straight from the orchard of the internets?

  • Office EscapeOffice Escape - [Please note that this game requires the Unity plugin.] Made in just 48 hours for a recent Ludum Dare competition, this quirky little avoidance/escape game centers on one of those hapless souls who has what we hear is called a "real job". He needs to sneak out to attend his son's baseball game, but to do so you'll need to guide him past his chatterbox coworkers who want nothing more than to pile more work on. It's super short and super easy, but it's also super quirky, and the smile it can put on your face means its worth the short investment.
  • TeelombiesTeelombies - Combining all the thrill of Crush the Castle with the over-the-top ridiculous invasion methods of Infectonator, this weird little game manages to be both perversely entertaining and gruesome at the same time. Launch your zombies over the walls of the human forts and watch hilarity ensue as they chow down on the survivors; do well and you'll even be able to upgrade your horde between stages for more efficient slaughtering. Frankly, this is a much more preferable way to spend the undead apocalypse than being the one holed up and sobbing for mercy.
  • Feed UsFeed Us - [Warning: Contains violence and gore.] If you've ever wanted to be a swarm of piranhas bringing gnashing, rending terror to unwary swimmers, well, you're pretty weird, but apparently someone out there understands you and is willing to meet all your carnivorous fish fantasy needs. (Isn't the internet wonderful?) Dodge sharks, chow down, and upgrade your fish to be the very best (like no one ever was). It's the action arcade game for the sociopathic killer fish in all of us.
  • The First HeroThe First Hero - This little point-and-click puzzler gets high marks for style, but gets a point deducted for being about a legendary hero who isn't Thor or the man who wrote Don't Stop Believin'. Solve a series of single-screen puzzles to proceed through ancient Greece and eventually become the very best (like no one ever was (I'll stop referencing it when you give in and sing along)) hero the land has ever seen. It has its share of typos, but the sleek art style and simple adventure makes this a great choice for anyone who needs to feel like they've accomplished something legendary before noon.
  • EdgestoneEdgestone - If you've always wanted to be a secret agent, then dust off your velvet jacket, because you're about to infiltrate a facility and check out some aliens, baby, yeah! Your task, should you accept it, is to sneak into this facility and find your way to the bottom, where Extra Terrestrial secrets lie, guarded by a series of puzzles and locked doors. This point-and-click puzzle adventure is simple and straight-forward, but also well made. Don't worry, as soon as you prove you can handle this and successfully disarm an ill-tempered sea bass with a head-mounted laser, we'll give you a more difficult mission.

  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (136 votes)
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DoraThe King's LeagueTiny horse? Check. Tiny bow and arrow? Check. Tiny suit of armor? Check! It looks like you're all set to take on the latest adorable strategic management tiny heroes simulation from Kurechii Studio, The King's League. Lacking any heir and getting tired of his king-type duties, the tiny King (sorry, they're just soooo cute!) has decided that whoever can best him in a tournament will be the next ruler of the realm. You'll need to recruit and train heroes from across the land, capturing territory and completing quests to fund them, if you want to work your way up through the ranks to become the next king. Is this seriously how royalty works? Because I'm pretty sure I can take Kate Middleton.

The gameplay, controlled entirely by clicking on the different icons as the tutorial explains, works thus; each season, you'll participate in a series of matches, trying to work your way up to the champion's place to be able to challenge the King. A timer on the map screen counts down the remaining days to a match, and you can use that time to recruit new soldiers from nearby areas, train your existing warriors, complete quests for fame and cash, or capture territory to earn a monthly income to help pay your troops. You start off with just a single fighter, but you'll be able to unlock more types (and even get a chance to recruit powerful heroes) as you play. Just remember; your soldiers need to be paid and fed each month, so keep an eye on your funds and take quests whenever possible. Battles are automatic, and all you can do is sit back, cross your fingers, and hope you've trained your fighters enough that they squeak out a victory. If you succeed at a ranked battle, you'll move up a place in the rankings, but if you fail you'll lose fame. Don't worry if you lose or if you miss out on a chance to challenge the King entirely; between seasons you can use your downtime to focus on training, harvesting cash, capturing helpless kingdoms, and so forth.

The King's LeagueThere's no denying that this is a beautiful little game; from its adorable characters to its clean design and soft colour palette, it looks and feels extremely professional. (And adorable.) It's easy to get sucked into since it proceeds so quickly, and the gameplay is easy to get the hang of. The downside is that after a certain point the game starts to feel fairly repetitive, and you'll probably run out of things to do before you win the crown. The King's League can be a lot of fun if what you want is some simple, easy fantasy action wrapped up in one cuuuuute package, but players who prefer more in-depth experiences may be slightly put-off by the lack of ability to really get their fingers dirty in battle. If you're not looking for a lot of challenge, however, The King's League is a fun, easy to like game that can easily eat up the better part of an hour if you let it.

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

Letters in Boxes #15

ArtbegottiWe're jumping the gun a bit with our celebrations, but next week is the autumnal equinox. It's one of two days out of the year where the sun is directly above the equator, and (in theory, but not exactly) gives an equal amount of daylight and darkness. In this week's Letters In Boxes challenge, we take that half-and-half attitude to heart. In all of this week's puzzles, you've got to make look at both sides of the picture to find the winning answers.

Just as in weeks past, the first puzzle is pictured below. Click on it to bring it up in a new window and start solving. When you've got an answer, change the filename of the image (in this case, "15weeksto2012" (give or take a few days)) to your answer, making sure you stay in the same directory and keep the same extension. If you're right, you'll flash forward to the next puzzle. If you're wrong, you might get lost on the dark side of the moon, but you can always back up and try again.

Letters in Boxes #15 - 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 one additional randomly-selected correct entry. 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, September 19th at 11:59 PM (GMT-5:00). Can you keep both sides balanced to win the prize? Good luck!

Update: Congratulations to the following winners! :D

  • Mattbert ...First!
  • spaceloaf
Both winners were given a choice of prizes. Congratulations and thanks for playing with us! Look for another Letters in Boxes again soon!

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Rating: 4.2/5 (72 votes)
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Kyhkyh_tamusandmitta_screen.pngWhat do you get when you cross a stegosaurus with a bear? You get the lovable creatures in Tamus and Mitta, a new puzzleplatformer produced by Lartar Games with programming by Hector Sobrevilla and art by Axolot Studio. The sun has had all its toys stolen by evil bats, and it's your job, playing as either Tamus or Mitta, to get all 120 of them back (though you can finish the game with just 100) so the sun can shine again. Control your chosen stego-bear with [arrow] keys, jump with [X] and use an item or pay a fee with [Z], or customize these controls in the main menu if you like. You would think in a world where candy is used as currency no dark creatures would exist, but they do and they need to be jumped on and stunned!

The outside world acts as a level select area with the actual gameplay occurring in the mines. Although they are numbered, the mines do not have to be played in order and, in fact, you have to backtrack to previous levels as certain toys may be blocked by an obstruction that you cannot get through without acquiring the proper tool. Don't worry, standing at the door of the mine will pop up information showing how many toys you have left to attain there, how many miners to save and if there are any tools to acquire. This saves you from having to hunt through each mine to find something you need. Once you enter a mine, you'll only have your lonely candle (which has an upgrade later in the game) to help light the way, so you'll need to rely on the mini-map in the upper right corner to navigate each level. The map will only show the locations of the platforms and torches, but part of being evil toy-snatchers involves your eyes glowing in the dark meaning you can use your enemies ocular whereabouts to your advantage. As you progress in the game, the map becomes more valuable since you'll need to carefully plan your route to reach the next torch before your candle dies out. While you won't die if your candlelight fails, you will be sent back outside, losing all the toys you collected or miners you rescued during that run. Only exiting the level will save your progress.

Moles and scorpions and ghosts, oh my! Okay, so you're playing as a cute, cuddly creature buying your way into mines with candy and recovering toys for the sun. You lose candlelight instead of health and the worst you can do is stun a baddie. Well, don't let this kid-friendly exterior deter you from playing a well made, challenging platformer that will likely have you playing a few levels more than once. Even those of us kids who take vitamins that aren't Flintstones-shaped can appreciate this game. It's nice to see a developer create something meant for the whole family to enjoy. Gather 'round everyone and help out! Can you find the blue candies, get all 120 toys and get the sun back to its cheery old self?

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Rating: 4.1/5 (44 votes)
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joyeThe Night CircusMagic doesn't have to be the workaday, taken for granted thing it often becomes in games, a mere tool for a purpose, not really any different than a sword or a key. In the Night Circus, a game advertising the new book of the same title, players are encouraged to appreciate the wonder, the enchantment of a world where an illusionist's cloak becomes ravens and a dragon on a carousel just might be alive, all entwined with the lure of the circus. Made in a collaboration between the novelist Erin Morgenstern and Failbetter Games, the team behind the similarly text-based and Twitter/Facebook-linked Echo Bazaar, the Night Circus is a trip into the dazzling black, white, and red world of the rêveurs, those who follow after a mysterious circus which vanishes and reappears all over the world, and a brief tour of the possible stories lurking there.

Compared to Echo Bazaar, the game is much more streamlined. Because the game is paid for by Random House as an advertisement for the novel, there are no microtransactions or turn limits. The Night Circus is entirely played with a deck of cards, which has a limit of six cards at a time and which refills at a rate of one card per four minutes. Simply click on the deck to deal a bank of up to three cards, and click on those cards to make choices and explore the first performance.

You'll be given goals of things to find, and as you progress, you'll collect mementos, a fittingly ambiguous term as they can be either items or memories, things like a feather from an angel's wing or a chunk of iced gingerbread, but also sweet sorrows, shivers down your spine, and even profound joy. Occasionally mementos themselves can be used; if that's the case, they'll have a red border. You'll eventually find a card that will allow you to leave the first performance if you choose. At the time of this review, only two performances are available, but it appears that at least four will be available eventually.

The Night CircusYou must connect a Twitter or Facebook account in order to play the game at all, including one forced Tweet or status update. The only way to increase in rank is to invite people to join via your diary, and some choices can only be taken by those of a certain rank, so those who cannot entice roughly ten people to join via that link will be completely shut out of a certain amount of content. Since their goal is to increase exposure of the book the game is based on, it's an understandable decision, but they might have considered the ill-feeling it might cause in players who don't wish to spam their Twitter or Facebook friends with invitations to apps. Of course, if that's the case, you can always create a dummy account for either Twitter or Facebook solely for playing, just as many chose to do with Echo Bazaar. (Feel free to post your username in the comments if you're looking for friends!)

That major drawback aside, the world of the Night Circus is a place well worth exploring. The artwork is striking in its engraving-like simplicity, enlivened here and there with a touch of color. Yet fittingly for a book-inspired game, the true beauty is in the prose and the imagery that you create in your own imagination. By turns elegant, mystical, adorable, fantastic, ornate, and even delicious ("That popcorn needs eating more than any popcorn in all the histories of all the kingdoms of the earth."), it will pique your curiosity as effectively as it satisfies your craving for the most beautiful imagery of all: that which you see with your mind's eye.

Play the Night Circus


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Rating: 4.3/5 (39 votes)
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Kakuro LightArtbegottiMmm, crosswords! Mmm, sudoku! (*collision) Hey, you got crosswords in my sudoku! And you got sudoku in my crosswords! The mix of numbers and logic isn't that unlikely of a combination with Kakuro Light, the latest puzzle pack released by Conceptis in their Conceptis Light series. By putting numbers into the grid so that each row and column meet their given requirements, you can solve these puzzles of chocolatey, peanut buttery goodness.

Each puzzle starts out empty, save for the clue numbers in triangles at the top of each column and left-hand edge of each row. These clue numbers tell you the sum of all the digits in the row associated with that clue. You can use any numbers from 1 to 9 to make your sums, but remember the important sudoku rule that no digit can appear more than once in any given string of numbers that make a sum. (Note that a row or column may be broken by a black box. It's legal to have a digit appear in both of these separate strings of digits.) The numbers don't have to appear in any particular order, as long as all directions have their respective sums accounted for.

After a while, you'll spot certain patterns that make puzzle-solving much easier, like common sums (a 3 as the sum for a two-box string will always be 1-2 in some order, a 17-sum for the same length is always 8-9, etc.). While the smaller puzzles are perfect for beginners to get the hang of how to play, the difficulty ramps up nicely in the larger puzzles to keep you searching for the best next move. It only takes a bit of logic and some simple sum-searching to solve these Kakuro challenges!

Play Kakuro Light


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Rating: 4.2/5 (374 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypA couple of months ago we welcomed a new room escape designer into the fold, TeraLumina, and we said then that we were looking forward to more. It's a few months later and more has definitely happened! TeraLumina is back with Diamond Penthouse Escape 2, and it's all kinds of good all up in the house. Or penthouse, as the case may be. Time to go searching for treasure! This designer certainly has a thing for gemstones, doesn't he?

Diamond Penthouse Escape 2Diamond Penthouse Escape 2 is definitely an improvement on Ruby Loft Escape, the last featured game by this designer. For one, TeraLumina has made the leap into true three dimensional space this time around, giving us a room that we can navigate rather than a single point-of-view. There are more puzzles, more places to explore, and yes, more diamonds to find in this fantastic little mid-week break. Navigation is the standard bars at the edges of the screen, and the blessed relief of the changing cursor means that the gamer spends more time worrying about the puzzles involved than pixel hunting.

The visuals are quite lovely and are a nice touch, although the music loop is short and quickly annoying. You won't see puzzles with the complexity of, say, Neutral, but what is there is fun and involving and perfect for a quick escape. TeraLumina has also included a fun fake-out along with one of the more bizarre room escape endings we've seen here at Weekday Escape. In this case Marilyn Monroe said it best, "A kiss on the hand may be quite continental, but diamonds are a girl's best friend."

Play Diamond Penthouse Escape 2


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Rating: 4.5/5 (299 votes)
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TrickyBrotherIt's another chilly day in the frigid mountainous north-lands. As seems to happen so often, an errant gust of wind has blown your family away from the safety of your cavern. With all the clanking machinery, dangerous lava pits, and mysterious ruins lying about, they could be just about anywhere. Yet... a icy wind is blowing and the fire is never as warm when you sit by it alone. And so you tighten the hood of your parka and set out for adventure. After all, protecting the sibs is what a Brother is supposed to do, right? This quirky new point-and-click puzzle game from Luke Thompson may have an arctic aesthetic, but it has a very warm heart indeed.

Using the mouse, you must click your way about the mountain range, solving puzzles and collecting items with the ultimate goal of rescuing your family members. Clicked items can be manipulated or added to your inventory. Some puzzles have clear rules to be followed, while others require experimentation to proceed. The fires scattered about act as transporters, and can save you quite a bit of walking once they're lit. Above all, Brother is a game of exploration and observation, and it's hard not to be soothed by its measured pacing.

With its cute visuals and sedate atmosphere, Brother is reminiscent of Samorost, if with a more technical edge to its challenges. The frozen landscapes have a gorgeous sparseness and the plot, while minimalistic, is immediately gripping: invoking concern for a lost family may be an easy way to create drama, but it is undeniably effective. Some of the puzzles do tend to the brute force solution of "clicking everything to see what works", which is compounded by the distinct lack of documentation. It's relatively easy to suss out what your goals are through trial and error, but it's frustrating when a "help" button sends you to a YouTube video, rather than an instruction screen. Still, the parka-clad protagonists with their colorful garments and pictogram language have a distinct charm. Their adorableness may certainly cause you to feel that you owe it to them to solve every puzzle and bring them home. Overall, Brother has the appeal of a mug of hot cider at the end of a blustery day.

Play Brother


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Rating: 4.2/5 (120 votes)
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TrickyFlee BusterFlee Buster is about a little human escaping abduction from an alien tractor beam. No wait, it's about a spaceship on the run from Pac-Man's violent quadrilateral cousins. No, actually it's about a frog trying to jump as far up as he can from some evil looking spike-water. Schizophrenic? Perhaps. But the retro action-arcade game that took first place overall in Ludum Dare 21, by Chevy Ray, is much more reminiscent of Neapolitan ice cream: its three great tastes just taste great together.

The gimmick of Flee Buster is that it cycles through three different games, each controlled with the [arrow] or [WASD] keys. At the bottom is a timer that lets you know when the switch will take place. First up is a standard platformer, where you must out jump and out run a malevolent spaceship that's hot on your heels, while dodging the typical spiked pits. Second is a top-down space race with some nasty looking chompers trying to take a bit out of you. Last is a vertical-scrolling jumping game, where the only way to escape the rising tide is up. This one takes a little finesse, since you can only control your movement once in midair. With practice, though, you'll get the hang of it. Failure in any of them and it's Game Over... and if simple survival isn't hard enough, there's 130 scattered tokens to serve as bragging rights.

Many arcade games become easier once you are able to find some sort of groove. Flee Buster, with its Baz Luhrmann cuts between three not-quite-similar concepts, actively resists such a groove: reorienting yourself is undoubtedly the greatest source of the game's difficulty. You will find this mechanic either refreshingly challenging or needlessly frustrating. Not that the games by themselves are any slouch. Death always seems a centimeter away, and the "cliffhanger" sense evoked by the switching keeps suspense high. Altogether, Flee Buster has the hallmarks of the best 48-hour games: a solid work in itself, but one more than ready for expansion.

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The Vault

TrickyI can't get no.... satisfaction. I can't get no... gaming action. But I try! And I try! And I try! And I try!... and I realize that I can probably just look to the JiG archives for all the games I could ever want. Take that, double negative! This week in The Vault we've got three action games that are sure to fire your imagination.

  • A Murder of ScarecrowsA Murder of Scarecrows - A Murder of Scarecrows by My Pet Skeleton is the perfect game to kick off the slow march to Halloween. With its measured pacing and visuals reminiscent of the "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" series, A Murder of Scarecrows is hauntingly beautiful and more than a little ghoulish. The seed-launch mechanism takes some getting used to, but the animated thrashing of the straw-men and piercing cries of the crows will keep you happily spooked. A Murder of Scarecrows feels like a painting come to life... a painting that you don't trust to look away from for too long.
  • BoomshineBoomshine - Simple, colorful and psychedelic, Boomshine, by Danny Miller, is the gaming equivalent of a lava lamp. One of the surprise hits of 2007, games with chain reaction gameplay had been done before, but never so beautifully or so intuitively. Boomshine relaxes the body, while posing a challenge that stresses the mind to the breaking point: that level 12 is a killer! Special mention needs to be made of Tim Halbert's music, which would be equally at home as the background for some zen meditation as it is for popping bubbles. Boomshine may look like a screensaver, but it will move your mouse for hours.
  • AvalancheAvalanche - You are a marshmallow! Blocks are falling from the sky and threaten to crush you! You need to climb them or get melted by acidic Kool Aid! Sometimes, that's really all the plot you need. Fluid, slippery, and sometimes blatantly unfair, Beast Games' Avalanche plays like a lost 80s arcade game designed to rob you of as many quarters as possible. With dramatic jumps every few seconds and constant skin-of-your-teeth escapes, Avalanche will inspire profanity with each loss. However, you'll always be glad to hit the replay button for just one more round of punishment.

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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DoraGlissariaWARRIORS. Make ready your swords! And your shields! And your defenses! And your resources! And your magical shuffling tile board! And your... oh, just go ahead and pile it all on the pack mule... you're going to need it. Originally made for Ludum Dare, Glissaria by Arkeus is part RPG, part tower defense, and part match-5. You play Prince Trey, a young man sent to the edges of his kingdom to help bolster its defenses against the invading monster army. Swap tiles to gain resources to build and upgrade towers, increase the Prince's abilities, or gain powerful gems and treasure to better see your enemies driven before you. You might also hear the lamentations of your women. I don't know. Do slime beasts have women? Well, something has to lament or it isn't a real fantasy game!

The game can seem a little complicated at first glance. There are two windows; one is where you click and drag tiles around to gain resources (five of a kind), and the other is where you'll keep track of the invasion and build your defenses. Monsters will march along the road towards the castle, and while Prince Trey will move to attack them as they approach, he can't handle everything alone. You'll need to swap wood tiles to gather enough to build, and different minerals to upgrade your towers as you go; as the stage wears on, your available tiles will change depending on what region your gatherers move to. You can also find treasure from chests to equip the Prince, or magical gems from golden tiles that you can slot into towers to give them special abilities. While red tiles heal the Prince when matched, don't worry about him too much; if his health runs out, he just respawns back at the castle. Instead, concentrate on hoarding your resources and improving your defenses. Hit the [spacebar] to pause the game; while you can't swap tiles while paused, you can build or upgrade towers and equip the Prince. Remember; while the prince keeps any equipment he's wearing and all the levels he's gained across all the stages, you can't take your resources or gems with you, so don't be too stingy with them.

GlissariaAnalysis: To say Glissaria is ambitious is kind of an understatement, since juggling so many different genres is something a lot of developers would balk at. There were a lot of ways this could have gone terribly wrong, so it's more than a little impressive that Arkeus has managed to pull it off as well as he has in such a short development time, with only 48 hours to create the original build. Of course, what you're playing now is already significantly improved, since he's working hard to expand and develop it into a full game... though that's not to say that's what here isn't already a lot of fun. The style and presentation is great, the different towers and gem varieties allow for a surprising bit of customisation and strategy, and once you get the hang of things it's easy to want to get sucked into Endless Mode for long stretches of time.

That's not to say there isn't room for improvement. The tile-shuffling is almost too clunky at first encounter since it takes a lot of sliding around, while the lack of any real penalty for Prince Trey's death makes it difficult to care about healing him unless you want to get rid of all the red cluttering the board. Neither the enemies or the stages feel like they provide enough variety, which may make you wish for more distinct characters, bosses, or even terrain penalties to shake things up. Story mode also feels underdeveloped, since none of the levels really feel any different and not much story actually happens while you play. And while we're talking about it, why does completing a level boot you back to the main menu every time instead of at the very least taking you to the stage select?! You're telling me I have to click on an extra thing in order to get to the next stage? Man, my life is so hard!

This issues shouldn't be taken as nails in Glissaria's coffin, however, especially since Arkeus has shown every indication of continuing to change and tweak it based on community feedback. While there's no doubt that eventually this is going to be one of the internet's great time wasters, what exists now is still more than playable and a lot of fun to boot. With a remarkable amount of work behind (and ahead) of it, snappy addictive gameplay, and a vaguely retro aesthetic that will reel in the dewy-eyed nostalgic gamers (you know how we do), Glissaria is easily worth a look, and definitely one to keep your eye on.

Play Glissaria


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The Last Rocket

JohnBThe Last Rocket, from Shaun Inman, looks and sounds like it belongs on the top shelf of your Game Boy Color library. It plays like a puzzle-oriented version of VVVVVV, high level of difficulty and retro presentation included. It's the sort of game that will challenge you to make precise movements, quick decisions, and flawless maneuvers, and if you fail, you die and have to start the level all over again. But hey, you don't get to be the big hero without crashing into spikes a few dozen times, do you?

The Last RocketThe only rocket left on a spaceship careening towards a star, Flip has the lofty task of trying to save the on-board Autonomous Mechanical Intelligence (AMI). To do so, you must help him escape by navigating through over 60 levels of intense arcade/puzzle action, pulling off some crazy moves to collect all of the stage's gears and reach the exit. Spikes, fans, flame jets and more stand in your way, as do a series of seemingly impossible obstacles that can only be passed after practice.

Rockets aren't known for their agility, but Flip possesses a few neat tricks to help you get the job done. Tap the screen to blast off from a standing position, and tap it while you're in mid-air to reverse direction. If you land in a fan's breeze, you can hold position and swipe to change directions. Tap and hold the screen to duck down, useful for avoiding low-hanging spikes. You can land on any solid surface, but getting there can be tricky, and oftentimes you won't have the luxury of standing still for more than half a second.

The Last RocketAnalysis: The level design is by far The Last Rocket's greatest feature, and you won't be able to find many mobile games with as much attention to structure as this one. Beyond your limited scope of moves, each single-screen level twists and turns around, forcing you to navigate tight spaces with expert timing. Moving platforms, breakable landing platforms, flame jets that sputter on and off — you can't be off by a fraction of a second, otherwise you'll hear that all-too-familiar "death jingle". It will make you shudder late at night.

The Last Rocket has a very high level of difficulty and forces you to play and re-play levels in order to proceed. Part of that difficulty comes from Flip's highly-sensitive hit box, one that almost seems to extend beyond his own pixels. Turning in front of spikes takes a lot of practice, as if you bump even just the tips of the metal you'll bite the dust. It's frustrating, and that happens frequently even after you get the controls down, so be prepared to grit your teeth and ragequit on more than one occasion.

Even with the frustrating arcade-style gameplay, The Last Rocket will endear itself to you more than other games of its kind. The artwork is fantastic, the soundtrack is pure bliss, and the personality squeezed into each sprite make the world seem friendly and cute. Even when it kills you for the 14th time in as many seconds. The Last Rocket is the kind of game every iOS owner needs to play. It doesn't matter if you're not a fan of ultra-challenging platform puzzle games. It doesn't matter if you hate pixel art, get sick at the sound of superb retro video game music, or just don't like rockets very much. Give it a try and see why The Last Rocket is good for your reflexes and for your brain!

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Mobile Monday

JohnBSubtitles: what do they add to your game? In the case of Samurai Bloodshow, they add about 30 letters, a trip to your French dictionary, and some artistic imagery. In the case of Sprinkle, they tell you exactly what to expect from the game. So, in the spirit of game subtitles, this edition of Mobile Monday has a subtitle. Mobile Monday: it's got games you can play!

samuraibloodshow.jpgSAMURAI BLOODSHOW: les vagues blanches, les nuages rouges (universal) - Surprise! Here is a very, very good card-based strategy defense game illustrated in the style of emakimono, or Japanese picture scrolls. The unique visuals may be what draws you in, but what will keep you interested is the gradually-paced tactical progression you experience while traveling across the map, fighting greater and greater foes. Each level pits you against ten waves of enemies. Draw cards to place your battle units on the grid, then level them up or place more as you see fit. After each victory you get a new card, and after tough battles you might even get a new unit. Organize your decks between matches to deal with the more difficult enemies, then jump into battle for even more strategical fun.

sprinkle-iphone.jpgSprinkle: Water splashing fire fighting fun! (universal) - Fires tend to destroy everything they get their little flames on, but fortunately for the flammable materials of the world, you've got a water cannon mounted on a crane! Adjust the height and angle of the cannon and fire water by touching the screen. Spray the gloopy stuff all over the fire, moving things out of your way, activating traps and otherwise dealing with a strong world of physics-based puzzles in an attempt to extinguish every dot of fire you can see. It's ridiculous amounts of fun to get this level of control over a water cannon, and the physics/puzzles of the game are well-implemented, keeping you hooked level after level!

pickpawcket.gifPickpawcket (universal) - All of the cat art has been stolen by the dogs, and it's your job to steal it back! Sneak into the dog museums and paw your way across the floor, collecting gems and avoiding the guard dog's gaze. If that weren't enough, Pickpawcket provides you with ways to distract the guards and disguise yourself, separating it from the pack of stealth-based puzzle games out there. Couple that with some fine level design and a good visual presentation (not to mention the wacky premise) and you've got the ingredients for a long, satisfying mobile game! Pickpawcket 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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Ultima 1, 2, 3

JohnBReady for some very serious RPG adventuring? The Ultima series has been grabbing players and pulling them into complex worlds for over 30 years, creating games that may look primitive on the surface but have helped define what a role playing game is since the beginning. The titles have graced almost every gaming platform known to humans, from the Apple II to the NES, PlayStation, and modern computers. Now, thanks to the nostalgia-hungry folks at GOG.com, the Ultima series is being made available as a series of digital downloads, packaging the games together in groups of three for all to enjoy, starting with Ultima 1+2+3!

ultima123.gifIf you're unfamiliar with the Ultima games, what you need to know to get started is this: they are the RPG experience. It's possible to wax on for hours about any single game, but for starters, just know they practically birthed the genre and contain elements most modern role playing games are build around. The Ultima series slowly perfected the formula and expanded it with each new release, providing a good story along with plenty of gameplay to digest.

The first clump of titles with a digital release is Ultima I, Ultima II, and Ultima III, representing the early stages of the series where the formula was established and ultimately transformed into the seed of the modern role playing genre. It all begins with Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness where the Stranger (you) is summoned to Sosaria to defeat an evil wizard. Par for the course as far as role playing games are concerned, but then you end up locating a time machine and traveling back in time to defeat the wizard. There's even an arcade-like first-person space shooter section! Most of the elements found at the core of the Ultima experience are rooted here, and the game attempts to translate traditional pen and paper elements, including character creation, spells, and the like, to the video game world as best as it can. A great game that stumbles at times, especially if you're not giddy-nostalgic for the series, but worth experiencing for the bragging rights alone.

Ultima II: Revenge of the Enchantress hit shelves two years after Ultima I and is stylistically similar to its predecessor. The most notable new feature: a larger world to explore, including optional dungeons to complete and different planets to visit in the solar system. This time around, you're working to defeat an enchantress who was a lover of Mondain, the wizard you defeated in the first game, as she spreads evil across worlds. This release is often considered the weakest in the Ultima series, though that bar is admittedly quite high considering the stock it's derived from.

ultima123b.gifThe third game in the series, Ultima III: Exodus, was released in 1983 and had the player returning to the world of Sosaria to destroy the final remnants of Mondain and Minax. The game took quite a technological leap forward from the previous games. Now, animated characters could be displayed, and your party increased from just one character to four. Battles took place on a separate screen, and the 3D elements were greatly improved, allowing hidden paths, treasures, and secret characters to be discovered. This game is credited as spawning the type of RPG that thrived on early console systems, including Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy.

Analysis: Summarizing a single Ultima game within a short article can be considered madness, so what does that say about featuring three at the same time? Fitting any of the games within a few paragraphs or less is a lot like writing your autobiography as a Twitter message. Lots of juicy details are left out, but the gist of the experience is conveyed. And, when you've got games as epic as Ultima, that's the best you can hope for with a mere few hundred words!

Who is going to enjoy the first three Ultima games? Most likely devoted RPG fans and nostalgic retro gamers. Your average gamer is probably a bit frightened of these primitive-looking titles, and the series has a reputation for being unfriendly and confusing for the uninitiated. That doesn't mean there's a lot of entertainment to be had, even for casual gamers. If you take little bites of the games, you'll realize it's more easily digestible than rumor would have you believe.

The entire Ultima series changed the world of computer role playing games. They created a cozy little den where epic adventures could thrive, providing dozens of hours of play time with a seemingly limitless supply of quests, spells, enemies, NPCs, items, treasures, etc. If you want a good, if dated, RPG experience, any of the above games will do you just fine. The only obstacle to entry is the decades-old visuals and interface, which is admittedly off-putting to many. But the gameplay is there, the story is there, and the creativity most certainly is there, and that stands the test of time better than anything.

More Ultima games have been released as digital downloads, and with any luck the entire series will soon be available. You might want to clear your calendar for a few weeks so you can sit down and absorb them properly!

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

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


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grinnyp_buildalotvacation_banner.jpg

GrinnypThe long wait is finally over and those who seek their thrills through building and development can finally get their kicks again! The latest in Hipsoft's popular Build-a-lot time management series has finally arrived — Build-a-Lot: On Vacation — and it's a wild ride through the adventurous world of real estate development. So what if the bottom has dropped out of the housing market, you can still get your thrills vicariously!

grinnyp_buildalotvacation_screenshot1.jpgIf you've never played any of the Build-a-lot games (and, seriously, this is the sixth in the series, so why haven't you?) the premise is a very basic one: begin with a town that has a limited amount of resources (money, labor, materials) and a need (more housing development, more tourism, more nature). It's your job to right the real estate-related wrong by creating new housing developments (and collecting rent on those properties!) and setting up shops, all while managing workers and resources to produce maximum profit. Finish a level in expert time and you receive a lot of praise, finish before the timer runs out and at least pass on to the next level. Don't finish before the timer and you are stuck repeating the level until you get it right.

For those who are familiar with the series, Hipsoft has removed the disasters and buildings from Build-a-Lot 3 and the power grid demands from Build-a-Lot 4, leaving a stripped down classic version of the game familiar to those who loved Build-a-Lot and Build-a-Lot 2. That's not to say that there are no changes, as Build-a-Lot: On Vacation has added three things that twist the old gameplay in new and interesting ways: Wooded lots, Industrial Zones, and a Real Estate Office.

Wooded lots are simply a variation on the old "empty lot", an undeveloped piece of land waiting to be built on. However, the wooded lots are more expensive than the basic empty lots, and the difference is the natural resource growing therein, the wood itself. Lots can harvested for either wood or money, and the more expensive the lot, the more materials or cash you can recoup from your investment. In some levels the wooded lots can be more expensive than buying a lot with a house on it, making it a key piece of strategy. Industrial zones are another nice touch in that building any type of industrial building has absolutely no impact on the overall approval rating of a town, nor does it affect nearby buildings. However, not every level has industrial zones.

grinnyp_buildalotvacation_screenshot2.jpgThe most interesting twist is that provided by the Real Estate office, which actually has several functions. The first is the ability to "stage" a house, which turns it into a model home upping the rent without the resulting materials cost that upgrading a house entails. The second is the appraisal ability, which once applied to a home insures that it will sell for its exact retail price, no matter how many other houses are on the market at the same time. The third is the ability to force a sale of any lot or home for twice its asking price, saving the player from having to wait for a choice piece of property to come onto the market.

Analysis: Even if it was a retread with a fancy new skin (I'm looking at you, Build-a-Lot: The Elizabethan Era), Build-a-Lot: On Vacation would still be worth a look for anyone who loves frantic time management and tycoon sim gameplay. Fortunately for those who do, the different lots and the real estate office twist the classic gameplay in new and interesting directions, fantastic news for those still hooked on the series.

As the name implies, Build-a-Lot: On Vacation deals entirely with vacation resorts and the houses, scenery, and upgrades reflect the theme. Hipsoft has even added larger build projects in some levels (familiar to anyone who has played Be Rich or Virtual City) to add even more complexity. There are now even more levels of play, including an easy tutorial section, the Career play section, the Expert Section, the Casual play section, and a new Quick Play section that drops you into a scenario with no kind words from an elected official, simply a goal list and off you go.

If there are any down sides to Build-a-Lot: On Vacation, it's that Hipsoft still hasn't done much by way of upgrading the backgrounds, houses, or animations. Granted the gameplay moves from wooded highlands to deserts to ski resorts to beach resorts, but it's all scenery that's been seen before. Even the houses are very familiar, and it would be nice to see some sort of visual cue aside from the stars to show an upgraded building. As this is the sixth game in the series the visuals (and the oh-so-familiar music) are beginning to get a little stale. The scenery is still lovely, but been there, done that, got the t-shirt, burned it, and scattered the ashes.

Despite the static visuals, Build-a-Lot: On vacation is still casual gameplay that sucks you in and doesn't let you go until you've expert leveled the last scenario. Fans of the series will appreciate the new twists in strategy and newbs will just love the addictive gameplay. Forget the depressed real estate market; it's time to get building!

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: 3.7/5 (36 votes)
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TrickyThe RaceSing it with me! Jay Is Gamers sing this song! Doo-dah! Doo-dah! Online race-track nine miles long! Oh the doo-dah day!... Okay the track in The Race, a multiplayer action advergame developed by Akestam.Holst and Plan8 for Swedish horse-racing board ATG, measures only about eight inches and the horses are the size of a nickel. But the chance to take on jockeys from all over the world should no doubt keep those camp-town ladies singing.

The Race starts with you being assigned one of six horses, each having various stats that will determine its performance in the competition to come. Once the other five slots are filled either with human or CPU competitors, the starting bell sounds... and they're off! There are several ways to move your horse forward. The most constant requires typing keys on the keyboard: a graphic is displayed that divides the keyboard into Red, Green, and Blue areas. When a color card pops up, type a couple of keys from the proper section to advance. Also, using the mouse to answer trivia questions and click popping-up carrots will give your nag a burst of speed. Finally, if you have your microphone enabled, you can make a specific cheer to drive your horse on. First to cross the finish line wins... and, should you have your webcam enabled, you just might see yourself in the photo-finish! Note: The Scandinavian Keyboard is slightly different from the QWERTY Keyboard, though the position of the keys generally remain the same. If all else fails, you can type [A]-[Z] for red, [G]-[B] for green, and [O]-[P] for blue. It's less complicated than it sounds.

With its steam-punk carnival aesthetics and quirky mechanics, The Race is one of the most unique casual game releases of the year. Naturally, it's more fun to play against other people than a computer, especially with international bragging rights at stake, but even against a computer, there's a air of breezy fun. The shiny surface gimmickry pulls a lot of weight to make up for the slightly-shallow gameplay, but whether you win, place, or show, The Race has charm to spare.

Play The Race


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Weekend Download

JohnBIt's time for a super special demo-only edition of Weekend Download! A number of extremely promising demo games have been released in the past few weeks, showing off some big titles from big indie developers that will soon be released as full-fledged games. And, if you're like most people, you hate waiting like you hate ketchup on ice cream, so these will give you a little taste of the awesomeness to come! Look for more coverage when the full versions of these games hit.

malditacastillademo.gifMaldita Castilla (Windows, 4.6MB, demo) - Retro games master Locomalito, creator of Viriax, L'Abbaye des Morts, 8-bit Killer, and Hydorah, is working on an action/arcade game that draws inspiration from super-tough old school platformers such as Ghosts 'n' Goblins, Shinobi, and Trojan. Maldita Castilla puts you in the boots of Don Ramiro as he expels evil throughout the cursed land by tossing swords at everything that moves. The challenge level is certainly high, and the game screams retro from every angle. Locomalito hasn't announced a release window for Castilla, only saying there is a "lot of work" to be done.

owlboydemo.gifOwlboy (Windows, 79.6MB, demo) - D-Pad Studio has been hard at work on this platform adventure for some time, and the results really show in this early-release demo. Owlboy is centered around flight, opening up a wide world of vertical and horizontal exploration to be had. You can also carry around a gunner to help dispatch enemies, something you'll find difficult to do without a real weapon of any sort. The pixel artwork is by far the most appealing feature of Owlboy, and it looks even better in motion than on the screenshots. The full version of Owlboy is expected before the end of 2011.

citydemo.gifCity (Windows, 9.72MB, demo) - From Ben Chandler, creator of a whole host of retro-style adventure games (Awakener, Annie Android, Featherweight, Eternally Us), comes a demo for the upcoming game called City. City is a cyberpunk-style adventure with some of the most impressive visual sceneries Chandler has ever presented, and the plan is to make its environments some of the largest he has ever constructed to date. City isn't about grandiose plots or saving the world. Instead, it centers around people and their place in a futuristic world. A big adventure game filled with secrets to discover all brought back down to Earth by relatable characters? Yes, please!

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!


(13 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Haunted Legends: The Bronze Horseman

DoraThe superstition about a malicious, supernatural horseman riding the streets after torrential rainfall and floods in the small town you've been summoned to seems like a silly one... right up until you see the statue come to life in the middle of town. In Haunted Legends: The Bronze Horseman, a hidden-object adventure from ERS Game Studio, the local legends might be the least of your worries. The mayor's son has gone missing, a familiar tiny demonic (though impeccably dressed) figure is causing mayhem in the streets, and as more and more townsfolk vanish you start noticing a series of bizarre crystals all competing for "World's Derpiest Expression" showing up. Look, as your friend, I have to tell you; if this is "all in a day's work" for you, you might think about asking for a raise.

Haunted Legends: The Bronze HorsemanBeing an old-timey fantasy detective is, it turns out, very similar to playing a point-and-click computer game. In fact, it IS a point-and-click computer game! How convenient! You'll explore the town and the surrounding area, solving hidden-object scenes and looking for clues to achieve your objective; namely, to solve the mystery of the disappearing townsfolk and the statuesque horseman that appears to be tormenting them. The game has two levels of difficulty, with the only real differences being how fast your hint and skip buttons recharge and whether the interactive areas coyly vie for your attention with "come hither" sparklies. (Flirts.)

Analysis: By now, ERS are old hats (which is a compliment, believe it or not) at game design, and if you've played any of their previous titles (including the predecessor to Bronze Horseman, The Queen of Spades) you've likely already come to expect a certain degree of quality from them. Which, happily, The Bronze Horseman delivers in nearly every regard. The overall design might be the best in an ERS Game Studio title to date, mixing bizarre architecture with the aesthetics of a warped fairytale to create an environment that's worth admiring as you explore. The story features a surprising amount of animation and a fair amount of voice acting, which can be very hit-and-miss, but still isn't quite as annoying as the protagonists' fussy derision over doing even the simplest, slightly messy tasks with their bare hands. Seriously, I am going to take all your Man Cards away from you if this keeps up. Yes, even if you're a lady.

Haunted Legends: The Bronze HorsemanClick detection is, unfortunately, a little finicky, with picking out thin or tiny items in hidden-object scenes being the worst. It's not uncommon for games in this genre to repeat hidden-object scenes, but the Bronze Horseman is happy to make you do the same scene over within the span of five or ten minutes. However, the game also might be the most intriguing one the developers have done in regards to the story and mystery, which only gets stranger the more you play. It's a welcome change from games that tell you everything within the first fifteen minutes, and exhibits a lot of creativity that makes you want to see what it's going to come up with next.

While Haunted Legends: The Bronze Horseman has a robust variety of puzzles (including one that pays homage to gods of the doodle variety), it still isn't particularly difficult regardless of whether you choose casual or advanced at the beginning. Objects have a tendency to show up right when you need them, usually within a screen or two of where they need to be, so unless this is your very first hidden-object adventure game ever, chances are you're going to be proceeding at a respectable clip throughout the whole title. This isn't a bad thing; unless you demand a lot of challenge, The Bronze Horseman is still easily recommended for its excellent quality. Speedsters can finish the game in around three hours, but for most people it'll likely run closer to five without the bonus chapter. While it might not be an instant classic, Haunted Legends: The Bronze Horseman is still a beautifully made and imaginative title. If you like hidden-object adventures and snail/horse hybrid statuettes, then trying the demo should be an instant no-brainer. Just a pro-tip for future city planners, however; if you don't want to have your citizens beset by unholy creatures and demonic horsemen, you might want to avoid designing your entire city around the concept of misshapen horse monstrosities and horse-related mechanisms. Just a thought.

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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Link Dump Fridays

DoraPhysics puzzles, mad painters, goo with eyeballs... that can mean only one thing! Good morning, entertainment consumers, and welcome to another edition of Link Dump Friday, where we gather together a host of the internet's most powerful games and train them to be an elite, fun-force squadron! It's like... it's like they're the Avengers, and I'm Nick Fury!... WHY ISN'T IT 2012 YET?!

  • Dead MetalDead Metal - Hero Interactive brings us this hilariously over-the-top macho top-down arena shooter about spaceships, aliens, and the blowing up thereof. If you like pouty, buxom heroines with lots of facial accoutrements, random profanity, and zipping around an enclosed space while someone pew-pew-pews rockets up your tailpipes, this just may be the game for you.
  • The PainterThe Painter - Some of us might have enjoyed art class a lot more if it were less about figure drawing and more about spraying glowing paint all over the place to try to find our way through the dark. This little puzzle platformer is about just that, and wrapped up in a silly, cheerful retro aesthetic to boot. Cheers!
  • Toys vs NightmaresToys vs Nightmares - I'd like to make fun of the kid in this defense game, but considering I was actually able to give myself nightmares just recently by thinking of the trailer for Insidious before I go to bed, I guess I can't throw stones. Use your imagination and arsenal of toys to defend your young tot against waves of incoming bad dreams in a fashion that will probably seem very familiar, but will appeal to tower defense fans just the same.
  • GoosplosionGoosplosion - Click and drag your way through this goopy, gooey chain reaction game centering around making cheerful little round balls of ooze go pop! It's easy to imagine that these must be Spewer's lab buddies, but don't let that hold you back from making them burst all over the place... they don't seem to mind.
  • Gluey 2Gluey 2 - Slurp, blorp, blooooooooop! Oh, sorry, I was just auditioning for this weird little physics game about oddly hypnotic, slippery colours and a soundtrack conceived by Dr Seuss. If you remember the original Gluey, you'll be glad to find even more mesmerizing, squelchy action in the sequel. Just the sort of thing to get your weekend off on the right foot!

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

Letters in Boxes #14

ArtbegottiKeeping with our fall curriculum of Learning Through Educational Puzzles, we continue LIB 12's lesson on base mathematics with a practical application of what you've learned in the context of paramathematical temporal delineations. We're all familiar with temporal pseudodelineations, as they are used in farming pigs, but the introduction of this new form of mathematics creates a gyroscopic plane of multidimensional hydroelectrology that transcends wonder to create this week's Letters In Boxes challenge.

Or, there's no specific theme to this week's puzzles.

As usual, your first puzzle is below. Click on it to open it in a new window, and once you've solved it, change the filename (in this case, "fourtotheteen") to your answer. If you're right, you'll transmute through the temporal marginalizations to the next puzzle. If you're wrong, you'll receive a quantum demerit, but you can always back up and try again.

Letters in Boxes #14 - 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 one additional randomly-selected correct entry. 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, September 12th at 11:59 PM (GMT-5:00). Can you overcome the metaphysical obstacles and unnecessary pseudoscience gibberish to solve this week's puzzles?

Update: Congratulations to the following winners! :D

  • Tweetheart ...First!
  • zoz
Both winners were given a choice of prizes. Congratulations and thanks for playing with us! Look for another Letters in Boxes again soon!

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Rating: 4.4/5 (229 votes)
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hollow.gifJohnBTrapped in a cave! Gotta get out of there fast. There are flying jellyfish monsters, falling rocks, spikes, and other lovely bits of danger, but if you're fast enough, you can escape without harm. Connor Ullmann's Hollow is a platform game that's high on the challenge with a healthy injection of creative design on almost every level. You'll meet an untimely end dozens of times in this game, but you'll keep plugging away at it all the same. Practice leads to perfection!

Initially created as a Ludum Dare entry, and then fleshed out a bit more for a commercial release, Hollow keeps everything very simple, which is part of the game's strong appeal. Use the [arrow] keys to move, [X] to jump and [C] to do an insane forward head dive. Those are your only moves, but you'll learn to use them creatively to navigate the cave's terrain. Your dive can carry you across small gaps and give you an extra boost in height. It can also defeat enemies, though not all of these creepy cave alien things are vulnerable to your pearly white noggin bumps.

You can't play Hollow by running around hitting keys at random. The levels are carefully designed to make you take your time, measure your movements, and act only when it's time. That being said, don't think you'll be doing a lot of standing around admiring the scenery. Hollow also encourages you to keep the gas pedal down, charging through areas because taking a break is just the wrong thing to do (and rocks will probably fall on your head). In the end, you'll play each level a dozen or so times, dying at different points and slowly learning how to make it to the exit in one piece.

Analysis: Hollow is the kind of game you'll play until you complete no matter how many times you groan in exasperation over another pointless demise. The short levels keep you motivated to work through each one regardless of how frequently you restart. After all, the exit is just up ahead, so why give up now? The creativity of the enemies is another motivating factor. The world of Hollow feels like an alien planet, and dealing with the squishy baddies is both rewarding and fun.

Achievements are a semi-invisible part of Hollow, and nabbing all ten of them is something you'll have to work towards. Most can be earned with one good play-through, but a few you'll have to go back to get after you've obtained a certain level of mastery. Press [A] to bring up a list of the achievements to see what you've got left to do.

Although Hollow is mostly an action-oriented game, there are a few secrets to be found. The biggest is a hidden exit that shortens the game, allowing you to finish early. Where is it? How do you reach it? Is there a leprechaun there? You'll have to find out!

A short, challenging game with great level design and an art style that's sure to please, Hollow is exactly the sort of game you want to occupy a lazy afternoon.

Play Hollow

Letters in Boxes Contest Winner!

If you've been playing with us and our Letters in Boxes puzzle series from our puzzle master, Steve Lewis, then you may know that we've been giving out entries to the winners each week into a grand prize drawing for a free game console of your choice (a $300 value).

The deadline for the drawing was August 31st, and I'm happy to report that the drawing was held this week and the grand prize winner is...

SirNiko!!

Congratulations, SirNiko, and thanks to everyone for playing with us! Look for more Letters in Boxes and chances to win prizes each week (or as often as Steve can come up with a new set of puzzles).

If you want more Letters in Boxes, then tell us about it. Also, tell all your friends to join us, and help us spread the word about this fun, original puzzle series, exclusive to us here at JIG.


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Rating: 3.9/5 (51 votes)
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Kyhkyh_parasitestrike_boss.jpgIt's been three long years since an alien asteroid landed on Earth, taking over a military base, and while the unfriendly ETs have since been contained within, all efforts to eradicate them have been fruitless. That's where you come in; as Dr. Wesley MacGregor, you've developed a poison that will kill the alien menace, and thanks to some fighter piloting in your past, you are chosen to deliver the weapon in Dustin Auxier's side-scrolling shooter, Parasite Strike. Control your aircraft with the [arrow] keys while attacking with [C] for bullets and [X] for bombs, though there are two other control arrangements from which to choose. Your defeated enemies will burst into different colored orbs which you collect toward the purchase of a staggering amount of options in the choice of your plane, weapons and gadgets. Not only are there choices in weaponry, but you can also choose the angle and spread of each weapon.

Auxier has made a game with a retro feel that may remind you of the days when playing video games required tuning to channel 3. At a length of just six missions, Parasite Strike may feel short, but with six additional secret missions, four ranks to achieve in each mission and four difficulty settings keep this game interesting enough to kill all the aliens again and again. Sure you blazed through the main missions on easy difficulty your first run through, but how far can you get on INSANE? If having a highly customized ship doesn't get you, and you couldn't care less about pixelated whatever, then you have to play just to kill the aliens. Nasty, parasitic aliens.

Play Parasite Strike


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Rating: 3.7/5 (78 votes)
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DoraPike Club PlatinumIt takes a lot of work to make a game, but sometimes all it takes is a little ingenuity to make a familiar concept new and fun again. Pike Club Platinum by ShadeMemory is a puzzle board game with a lemon fresh twist. You've been invited to join a prestigious club, the Pike Club, where the eccentric patrons indulge in games of matching and memory for cash, prizes... and survival. Identify and make matches on the scoreboard as quickly as you can to earn cash and talent points to spend on upgrades, but don't let the time run out or spend your life in the pursuit of easy money...

It takes a lot to make the jaded collective that is the internet casual gaming community raise an eyebrow, but Pike Club Platinum's strange style and interesting approach makes what is one of the oldest games around (memory matching) feel new and interesting. Unfortunately, with repetition setting in after a few stages it still feels like Pike Club Platinum needed a bit more variety to really seal the deal, but ShadeMemory still deserve a lot of credit for tackling gameplay you might not ordinarily look at twice and doing so with a unique style and flair.

Play Pike Club Platinum


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Rating: 4.2/5 (95 votes)
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Weekday Escape

DoraPorch Escape 3When it comes to cats and dogs, people tend to be split on which one rules and which one drools, but Cogito Ergo Sum's Nyan and Wan rise above such conflicts to star in a series of adorable room escape games together. In this latest, Porch Escape 3, Nyan forgets that porches are malicious and not to be trusted and wanders out on one again with the dynamic duo's new smartphone, only to be locked out with no reception to contact Wan for rescue. While it might be tempting to leave a bunch of giggling, snorting comments about Droid vs iOS, that really isn't going to help Nyan, and your skills might be better suited for clicking around to find a way out. Be part of the solution, man, not part of the problem!

With no changing cursor to denote hotspots, you'd expect to find a lot of pixel-hunting here, but like all Nyan and Wan titles, Porch Escape 3 is remarkably cleanly designed. Places to interact with are usually fairly obvious, and clues are never obscure or unreasonable. While there are more difficult or complex escape games out there, Cogito Ergo Sum is always dependable for accessible, enjoyable titles with a lot of charm. It's hard not to smile at the cutscenes, and dividing the escape up into two short chapters for the series' two heroes is a nice touch... especially given that most escape titles are more than happy to make you stare at four walls until you go insane and a new supervillain with a perplexing tendency for overly elaborate, tiny traps is born. (Do you think Batman would even get out of bed for that?) There are three endings to find with varying degrees of difficulty to them, so stretch out your genius muscle and help Nyan and Wan reunite!

Play Porch Escape 3


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Rating: 3.9/5 (95 votes)
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TrickyTitan Lunch RetaliationAfter a tough morning of crushing your enemies, seeing them driven before you and hearing the lamentations of their women, it seems only fair that an Aztec-Warrior-Viking should be able to sit down and enjoy a comically large meat-leg. Sadly, it seems the fates have conspired to rob you of your spoils. Such a theft cannot go unpunished! It is your right, nay your duty as the strongest of your Viking-Aztec-Warrior clan to launch yourself into battle (horizontally) and en-sword all comers for the sake of vengeance. Titan Lunch Retaliation by Berzerk Studio is an action game that's clearly on the list of what is best in life.

A one button game, with the only input being the click of the mouse, your goal is to launch your Warrior-Viking-Aztec as far as you can, in hopes of regaining your stolen lunch. Once you click the meter for your initial jump, you launch yourself into the air. While in flight, click the mouse to shoot out your grappling hook into one of the many creatures about the landscape. If you connect, you pull yourself onto them and, after a gory finishing move, launch yourself off and up with a burst of speed. Every so often, a mini-boss will appear that is dispatched with a quick time event. Each launch earns you cash, used in the store to purchase upgrades.

Titan Lunch Retaliation doesn't break much ground in the genre, but it's simple, bloody, and MANLY. It's more likely to cause a testosterone overdose than pose a significant challenge, but it does have its charms. Particularly, it keeps the action at a constant pace. Unlike some other launch games, there's never a lull where you feel at the mercy of the physics engine. The animation is smooth and, while a little repetitive, it's still quite satisfying to slice open whatever eyeball, jellyfish, pterodactyl or demon the game throws at you. Also, please note that this game noticeably improves with the sound on: it might not be clear what that latin-chorus in the background is chanting, but they seem quite emphatic about it. While a greater variety of enemies at the outset would be nice, in the end, Titan Lunch Retaliation is perfect for relieving a little stress and wasting a little time.

Play Titan Lunch Retaliation


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Rating: 4.1/5 (174 votes)
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joyeLegends of OooAre you ready for a point-and-click adventure that's totally algebraic? If you're wondering what algebra has to do with anything, clearly you're unfamiliar with the hit Cartoon Network series Adventure Time. The show features plucky protagonists Jake (the dog) and Finn (the human), the surreal, magical, post-apocalyptic Land of Ooo in which they live, and (most importantly for this game) recurrent villain the Ice King. The Ice King kind of has an obsession with marrying a princess. Any princess. Any at all. So he freezes Hot Dog Princess, Slime Princess, and Princess Bubblegum, and it's up to Finn and Jake (and your cursor) to rescue them in Legends of Ooo. Mathematical!

Point around with your mouse. If you hover over something you can pick up, the cursor will become a hand. If it's something you can look at, your cursor will become a magnifying glass. If it's someone you can talk to, it'll be a speech bubble. And lastly, exits turn your cursor into a door. You have to actually drag items from your inventory where you want to use them, and there's no item combining. This is a pretty simple game aimed at children, so you have an in-game hint system and you can pick up more hints by getting snails. The in-game hints are implemented very well, actually: they start out subtle and then get more explicit, so if you just want a nudge, they're great for that.

While the game may be geared towards kids, it was adults who made the original short a viral hit and who drive much of the fanbase even now, and they won't be disappointed by this game, which features a lot of sly humor that will go over children's heads, without compromising the appropriateness level. It's surprisingly long, too, so when you consider that the episodes of the real show are only about eleven minutes, this is like a bonus episode. The game doesn't require any knowledge of the show to complete, since the character's dialogue provides all the clues. Adventure Time fans shouldn't miss this one, and non-fans might become fans by the end of it.

Play Legends of Ooo


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The Vault

DoraPointing and clicking in real life is hardly as rewarding on the computer. Aside from potentially leading to things like restraining orders and being escorted from the premises in museums, you rarely get anything more exciting than dirty fingers. (If you find dirty fingers exciting please feel free not to share that.) This week's edition of the Vault is a compilation of some of our favourite point-and-clickers that succeeds where the real life equivalent fails... by taking us on adventures of all kinds.

  • Anika's OdysseyAnika's Odyssey - Tricky Sheep's lovely little storybook tale starts innocently enough; Anika emerges from her idyllic country home one morning and a giant disembodied hand instructs her to take her bucket and fill it at the water pump. To do so, however, she has to put down her cherished stuffed rabbit, and when a giant bird takes off with it, Anika sets out to bring it home. This game has a lot going for it; apart from its endearing story and protagonist, it's also absolutely gorgeous, with fanastic backgrounds and character designs. From beginning to end it's an absolute joy to experience and should not be missed by fans of fairy-tale-esque adventure, adorable moppets, and bizarre skittish swamp beasts.
  • Pricilla Gone MissingPricilla Gone Missing - When dear old Aunt Prissy goes missing, it's up to Ernie (that is to say, you) to come investigate and track her down. Johan Törnkvist of Sweden brings us this surreal, engrossing little title that marries simple, logical puzzle solving with an apprealing and distinctive visual style. Unfortunately, the game is ultimately unfinished, since the "to be continued" at the end has yet to actually be continued (although Johan himself is clearly still an artistic force to be reckoned with). Still, it's more than worth a play, and who knows? Maybe one day we'll see it continued if we all close our eyes, believe, and clap hard enough. (Game developers are like Disney fairies, right?)
  • SubmachineSubmachine Remix - By now Mateusz Skutnik's wildly popular Submachine series should need no introduction, but if you've somehow missed this challenging and reality-warping series there's no time like the present to catch up. The game is initially a little confusing; you find yourself alone in some sort of building (a lighthouse, maybe?) full of puzzles, strange items, and little direction. In the six years the series has been going on, however, it's taken us to all manner of unnerving environs and proven itself to have a surprisingly robust narrative. With puzzles that require more brainwork and an eye for detail than most, it's easy to see why this mysterious title remains a fan favourite even today. Remix is an extended and improved edition of the first game, but if you like you can also revisit the original.

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


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Rating: 4.4/5 (447 votes)
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joyeNick Toldy and the Legend of Dragon PeninsulaRed Herring Labs, makers of epic point-and-click adventures like Morningstar and Hetherdale, takes its high production values and evident love for the medium toward a more comic, Monkey Island-esque direction with its new game Nick Toldy and the Legend of Dragon Peninsula. Control a young man who dreams of becoming a knight, slaying a dragon, and winning a princess... or at least that's what the brochure promised him. But the reality of Dragon Peninsula is a little more... bureaucratic. His first major puzzle involves filling out a form and getting a permit. Doesn't sound too enthralling, but it ends up being both very funny and a good work-out to the inventory puzzle solving quadrant of your brain. You know. It's right next to the frontal lobe.

Adventure games all handle their controls a little differently, but the general concept of gaining and using inventory is the same. This particular game keeps your inventory handy at all times on top of the game window. Select an item by clicking on it and use it on hotspots in the scene, on other inventory items, or on the small magnifying glass to get more details. All clicking in the game is single left clicks, no need to hold, drag, or right click. You can tell an object can be interacted with by hovering over it. If it gets a small text label, like "man", you can click on it. The menu contains sound and music controls and an option for saving the game.

Nick Toldy and the Legend of Dragon PeninsulaAnalysis: Puzzle solving and item combining in Nick Toldy can be a bit fussy. The game avoids strict linearity by giving you several puzzles to solve at a time, but puzzle solutions are occasionally illogically specific in what must be done first. For example, without spoiling you with an actual solution, you'll have among your items three items that seem like they go together, like a chain, a clasp, and a pendant. But the game will only accept the combination of combining the chain and the pendant first, and then adding the clasp. Combining the chain and clasp gives you a "this is no help" kind of message. This can cause you to erroneously think you're stuck, even though you actually have the right idea about what goes together.

For the most part, however, the game gives good clues about what to do without holding your hand and making it too easy. Items picked up early on are kept and reused later, which is sensible and definitely more realistic than the escape game hero who chucks away his screwdriver. Yet the inventory never gets overwhelmingly large and traps you in that boring slog of trying each one of forty-seven objects on a hotspot. At an hour plus game length, Nick Toldy and the Legend of Dragon Peninsula will give those who yearn for the glory days of Sierra Entertainment a meaty afternoon's entertainment, and probably win some new fans to the genre as well.

Play Nick Toldy and the Legend of Dragon Peninsula


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Rating: 4.5/5 (278 votes)
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elleelle_summernightescape_title.pngTomaTea understands what makes an escape-the-room enticing: it's not what you're escaping from but where you're escaping to because, when you begin a TomaTea escape, you are transported to a place you'd relish being trapped. In the case of Summer Night Escape, this is especially true: a warm, star-filled eventide when time pauses and all seems right with the world. Isn't that what escape games are for? An opportunity to forget everything else and to let go in surreal surroundings, where solving a few puzzles is all it takes to hear, "Congratulations! You've found success!"

Summer Night has smooth, intuitive navigation (click the sides of the screen to change direction) and exploration (a changing cursor indicates hot spots; click them for a closer look) with cohesive puzzles that rely in equal parts on your power of observation, your ability to make logical connections, and your ingenuity. The balmy August evening atmosphere is alluring and, as you search for clues in this three-room scene, cricket songs serenade you. Because Summer Night Escape is rather short in length, it is also not so long or involved that it becomes more work than play; experienced gamers are going to knock this out of the park in one swing, yet Summer Night Escape gives its players a bit of a challenge, a lot of fun, and a moment to gaze at a starry sky.

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  • Currently 3.4/5
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Rating: 3.4/5 (66 votes)
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Joshridingshotgun1.jpgHow's your trigger finger feeling today, partner? Itchy? Excellent. How about your noggin? Is it feeling muddy after a night of too many sasparillas at the saloon? Well, try to wrap your 10-gallon hat around this one: cowboys aren't just about gunfights, fistfights, horses, sunsets, and aliens. They're also about thinking, and that's the setup here in Vadim Diduk and Oleg Pereverzov's new Western-themed puzzler, Riding Shotgun.

Riding Shotgun is a turn-based strategy title where your "player-with-no-name" (who looks oddly like Owen Wilson) tries to defeat numerous bad guys in one-on-one shootouts while traveling to town. You do this by strategically manipulating a wagon in straight lines across an 8 x 8 board. The spaces on the board include various attack icons that do 1-4 damage, while other icons are collectable powerups that increase your overall attacks, defense, and health. The rules allow you to move your wagon horizontally by clicking the mouse on any icon-filled tile to the left or right, while your enemy does the same vertically, up or down. If you have more health points than your opponent when there are no more moves possible, you win and get to advance. If you have less health or it's a tie, you have to play the level again.

ridingshotgun2.jpgWhile the basic premise and level structure is the same, Riding Shotgun has some variety to gameplay. Each level has a different board setup, and some levels have certain goals that award you bonus gold to spend at the Trader's for permanent powerups. There are also "timed" levels where you have to defeat your enemy before dusk, complete with the level getting darker as each turn progresses. Finally, one unique level has a basic form of draw poker, letting you gamble some of your earned gold against a computer opponent.

Analysis: There are many things to like about Riding Shotgun. The strategy-turn-based gameplay has an addicting quality to it, and things move fast enough each turn to keep things moving. Riding Shotgun also has a nicely-stylized interface and graphics that helps to set the Western mood, accompanied by solid sound effects and an oddly compelling (though not quite Western-sounding) music soundtrack. The rules require a bit of explaining, but the in-game tutorial during the first few levels is quite effective. If anything, the game's shortcomings lie in its untapped potential. More random elements (offered on one level with the dice icon) would have been interesting to see, as well as more story/RPG elements and items to collect. It's also worth noting that the game gets somewhat unbalanced in your favor once you spend gold on permanent upgrades, though it does make beating the game easier.

The strategy element to the game comes in deciding which icon to move towards. Do you grab the 4-damage shotgun icon if you see that, on the next move, your enemy might take a star to do more damage? Or do you grab a weaker attack icon that will set you up to steal a shield the next round? On the later levels, when your character starts off with less health than your opponent, such movement decisions are critical to success. Riding Shotgun offers you with a fun casual puzzly experience in a setting that often doesn't get enough attention. Care to exercise your both your brain and six-shooter? Then hop on board and start Riding Shotgun.

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Rating: 4.6/5 (151 votes)
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Jetpack Joyride

JohnBBest of Casual Gameplay 2011From Halfbrick Studios comes a cave flying-style game with the power to keep you playing for many multiple hours. Jetpack Joyride takes the best from jump-and-run-style games and mixes in a host of achievements, missions, store upgrades, vehicles and more, crafting a game that looks phenomenal and will keep you doing "just one more joyride" dozens of times in a row.

Epically enough, things start out with the game's protagonist, Barry Steakfries, busting through the wall of a secret scientific research laboratory. If you watch the backstory video, you'll understand why, but who needs plot when your last name is Steakfries and you've got a jetpack made of machine guns? Tap and hold the screen to move Barry upwards and release to gently fall down. Jetpack JoyrideControlling this up and down shifting is key to mastering the game's movement physics, and only when you get that down will you get anywhere. You fly from left to right down an endless corridor littered with zappy lasers, homing missiles, buzzing electricity fields, and scientists scattering on the ground below. Stay away from anything that looks dangerous and you'll get to see some fast-moving things of beauty down the corridors of the lab.

Here's where the game slaps some meat on the bone: missions. Each time you take a joyride you'll be assigned three missions you can complete, each with a star reward listed at the bottom. They range from the simple "fly this far" to "get this many coins" to the rather crazy, and there are dozens of them to discover. Complete a mission, get some stars, level Barry up, and you'll get coins. Add those coins to your loot and you get to visit the game's store where you can buy upgrades, power-ups, items, and other cool gadgets.

There's more to jetpack joyriding than bad things that kill you, of course. Pick up tokens during your flight and you can use them in the slot machine when you die, offering the chance for bonus distance, coins and more. Vehicles can be grabbed along the way by touching boxes floating in the air. You'll randomly get shoved into one of the game's many contraptions, ranging from a mobile teleporter to a bird that eats coins, a gravity suit, a motorcycle, and more. Vehicles give you a slightly different set of physics to deal with, but they also let you absorb a hit without dying, which is always a good thing!

Jetpack JoyrideAnalysis: For such a simple, retro-ish game, Jetpack Joyride inspires pages upon pages of praise. Halfbrick hit a really sweet spot with this mixture of physics flying, power-ups, items, achievements, and general in-game awesomeness. Most games, especially casual ones, tend to focus on one hook that draws you in and another that keeps you interested in more. With Jetpack Joyride, the former is the game's "one button" simplicity, but the latter is far from a single element and includes things like achievements, a robust "stash" store, upgrades, and loads more.

In-app purchases are a part of Jetpack Joyride's arsenal, but honestly, they're completely optional and really don't add much to the experience. You can spend real money to buy in-game currency so you can get the Rainbow Jetpack and whatnot, but that takes the replay value out of the game, so it sort of defeats the purpose. One purchase you should strongly consider is the counterfeiting machine that doubles each coin you grab. Worth the tiny asking price, and it really enhances the game!.

One minor disappointment: jetpack upgrades (as well as clothing purchases) are only cosmetic and offer no difference in gameplay. Sure, the Rainbow Jetpack looks cool and spits out rainbows and the Laser Jetpack burns scientists who happen to run into its terrible beam, but the price for each 'pack is high, it seems like some non-visual bonuses would be in store as well.

Jetpack Joyride is a phenomenal mobile iOS game that mixes a little bit of the old with a generous helping of the new. It's got attitude, it's got style, and it's got enough content and challenge to keep you running back for more, hour upon hour of joyriding in that sweet little jetpack.


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Mobile Monday

JohnBReady for some more game-related Android loving? We're digging up some of the less-lauded titles for the overlooked marketplace, ensuring you get that hearty, delicious gameplay flavor while preserving your right to feel superior when these games catch on and everybody likes them even though you played them months beforehand!

matchhack.gifMatchHack - Dungeon hacking RPG, meet a casual game of memory. This quietly awesome game plays like a progressive game of memory where you turn over tiles in the dungeon surrounding you and your foe. Flip one over, note the item there, flip another and hope it matches. If it does, you damage the enemy. If it doesn't, they turn back over and you take some damage. See how simple that is? The more you win the deeper in the dungeon you go, and items like potions help you survive while treasures you hang on to gives you impetus to keep playing level after level.

stardunk.jpgStardunk - Talk about "just one more round"! This excellent space-based physics game from Godzilab, creator of iBlast Moki 2, will fool you with its simple premise. But once you sink half an hour into it, then shoot for another half an hour, you'll be all "ok fine it's really really awesome". Tap and drag across the screen to choose the ball's trajectory, then tap again to send it flying. Aim for the basket and you score. Miss and your position is reset for another shot. The coolest part is the game is massively multiplayer in nature, pitting you against all the other players of Stardunk at the same time. How's that for a game of b-ball?! Also available for iOS devices as Stardunk and Stardunk Gold.

agwb.gifA Game with Balls - True to its name, this little survivor-based arcade game sits you in a tiny cannon at the bottom of the screen and sends a whole horde of balls raining from the sky. Big ones, little ones, space-themed ones... you name it, if it's orb-shaped, it's coming at you. Fortunately you've got a gun that can shoot pellets to knock the evil balls away. Keep your cannon safe while you fight off geometric shapes as efficiently as you can. Loads of level themes and surprisingly varied gameplay for a title with such a simple premise. Also available for iOS.

rocketron.gifRocketron - Simple, challenging, and cuter than a kitty eating a lollipop, Rocketron is the prime example of a good mobile game. The easy pick-up-and-play arcade game puts you in control of the smiling little planet as it launches across the galaxy in the distant future year of 1999! Tap the screen to switch sides, moving from top to bottom or vice versa, to avoid obstacles or stay on the track. That's pretty much it! Easy to get into, but frighteningly captivating. A free Rocketron Demo is also available.

NOTE: Games listed may not be available outside of North America. Prices are subject to change and are therefore unlisted. Please see the individual game pages for purchasing info. Games have been confirmed to run on Android 2.2 on an HTC Incredible.


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Alpha Polaris

DoraYesterday, Rune Knudsen's biggest worry was completing his research papers. Or maybe it was the not-quite-so-joking mild hostility from one of his teammates... or coping with his seemingly one-sided attraction to one of the others. Rune certainly wasn't concerned about something dark and malevolent turning its eye on the isolated Greenland oil research station... but he should have been. Alpha Polaris by Turmoil Games is a point-and-click horror adventure that takes a slow burn approach to its setting and storytelling, but if you're willing to sink the time into it you'll be rewarded with a creepy evening's worth of entertainment.

Alpha PolarisAlpha Polaris is, for the most part, a very traditional point-and-click game. As Rune you'll explore the station and surrounding area, solving puzzles and completing various tasks. Items are stored in Rune's satchel, which appears at the bottom left of the screen, and clicking on it will open it up to display your inventory. Clicking on Rune will tell you what you should be doing, but for the most part you're rarely given any real direction to go about how to solve a particular obstacle, and you'll need to experiment with both your environment and inventory, as well as pay close attention to Rune's notebook which usually has clues hidden within the seemingly innocuous text. When speaking with people, you'll not only sometimes have the option to decide both what Rune says and how he says it (the difference between "Yes, I'll do that" and "I'll do it, but I hate your face"), but also to "suggest" things to various characters by actually typing things into a text box. You can save at any time, which is both useful and advisable.

Analysis: For being Turmoil Games' first release, Alpha Polaris looks and feels extremely professional. The whole thing is fully voiced, with solid performances across the board, and the soundtrack is fantastically atmospheric in a way that few games manage to pull off. While the actual character models are fairly expressionless, however, the character art picks up the slack; the portraits used to depict each character change depending on situation and mood, and the art is beautiful and expressive. This, as it turns out, is a good thing since given how much emphasis is placed on character development and dialogue, you'll find yourself staring at those portraits for a long time. In fact, for most of the time you'll do more talking to the other people at Alpha Polaris than almost anything else. At least you'll get some beautiful scenery to admire while you chat.

Alpha PolarisAlpha Polaris, unfortunately, has a rather frustrating case of Adventure Game Logic going on. Puzzle solutions are usually extremely specific and sometimes overly complicated, but if you can't figure them out well, you get to cry about it because apparently guidance is for babies. The other issue is that Alpha Polaris is just slow. When it finally starts roaring along on all cylinders it does deliver a wonderfully creepy and mysterious experience but it takes so long to get there you'd be forgiven for getting a little impatient. It's like someone interrupting your Stephen King novel (you know, when he was good) to make you read a brochure on scholastic opportunities in Antartica every fifteen minutes. "Come to scenic Greenland! Make dessert! Mess around with obtrusive tracking equipment! Enjoy the veiled hostility of your coworkers! Take your sweet time walking everywhere!"

At anywhere from three to four hours, Alpha Polaris is actually fairly short, and honestly feels like it needed to be half again as long to give more focus on the malevolent force influencing the station, and it sort of feels like all the interesting stuff that would have heightened the creepiness and anticipation happens when Rune isn't around. Still, Alpha Polaris is by no means a bad game, and in fact it should be taken as a mark in its favour that I wanted more time with it than I got. The story is creepy, the environments are occasionally breathtaking, and the work and love put into this project is evident in nearly every scene. If you're looking for a unsettling evening of ice, murder, and monsters, you should definitely check out the demo and keep your eyes on Turmoil Games in the future.

WindowsWindows:
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The Secrets of Arcelia Island

elleAs a child, Greta fell asleep every night with her head full of stories her father told about a mythical island replete with a thriving town of peaceful villagers, a lush forest ruled by a fairy queen and king, and a beautiful palace high on a snowy mountain—the fanciful stuff of childhood dreams, but pure nonsense. Or so she thought. After a storm-tossed shipwreck, she awakes three days later to discover not only her father and crew missing but that The Secrets of Arcelia Island were true all along in this gorgeous new adventure hidden object hybrid game from HitPoint Studios. Now, as Greta, you're about to come face-to-face with (among others) an elf, a satyr, and a power-obsessed sorceress who promises you death as you try to save your father and free the island from its curse.

elle_secretsofarceliaisland_image1.jpgWhile gathering up resources to begin your mission, an eery shadowy mist appears before you but when you step closer, it disappears. "What!" You think, "Am I losing my mind?" Very possible: you did take a pretty big thump on the head during the tempest. Everywhere you go, the shadow seems to be there, taunting you or perhaps leading you toward your next destination. There are six distinct zones in and around Arcelia Island, and to gain access to each requires completing tasks, finding key objects, and solving puzzles. Use mouse controls to click your way around, the cursor changes into a hand showing an inventory item or picture story piece to pick up, a larger arrow indicating a scene you can travel, and a magnifying glass for inspecting landmarks and starting a hidden object scene or puzzle.

The Secrets of Arcelia Island's story progression is completely textual. There are no voice overs to jar you out of contemplative reverie or studious detective work; this is a welcome feature because it further enhances your ability to become completely absorbed into the island's mystical surroundings. The story is slowly revealed through cut-scenes and your character's internal thoughts as she encounters new locations, fascinating people, and intriguing artifacts. Glints and sparkles alert you to significant areas plus the hint/skip timer is a generous 30 seconds in normal mode; advanced mode has a longer timer and no helpful alerts. On top of the main quest, after you obtain your father's journal, you'll start an optional side quest to find 42 missing story page pieces; finding every one might be tricky if you're not keen-eyed. When you reach the end of the story, you can't return to certain locations to gather up pieces you might have missed, so take care to seek them out as you go along.

elle_secretsofarceliaisland_image2.jpgAnalysis: The talented team behind Guardians of Magic: Amanda's Awakening manage to do what too few can: draw you into a fantastical and surreal world with convincing realism. The naturalistic artistry is so good at weaving atmospheric traits into authentically believable worlds, you might be reminded of MYST: Masterpiece Edition. Each location is gorgeously rendered, blending graphics and animations to achieve such details as flies flickering about a corpse, clouds floating across the sky and a butterfly fanning its wings in the sunlight. Environmental sounds such as a breeze rustling the trees or seabirds calling in the distance fully absorb you into the magnificent world of Arcelia Island. (Be sure to turn on the high quality video in the game "settings" for the best effects.)

At a little over four hours for the average player, The Secrets of Arcelia Island is a good balance between puzzle solving, story, and hidden object scenes. Each hidden object scene is neatly composed, bright and clear, making the search for most objects on the easy side (although that hint button will be very tempting at times) and very pleasant. Most of the familiar puzzles pop up as well, changed slightly to fit the mystical island theme and—aside from a few puzzles that will test your deductive reasoning—both the puzzles and the hidden object scenes are on the short side. With such beautiful surroundings, though, you wouldn't want to be held up with vexing enigmas every turn you take.

elle_secretsofarceliaisland_image6.jpg Expect to do some backtracking and crisscrossing of locations as you gain more inventory items to put to use. If you tend to click through the story scenes too quickly, you could miss a lot. That said, the story itself is a bit sketched in, which probably comes from the story's protagonist having little information herself and may make you feel in-the-dark as well. The climatic ending leaves more questions and only "To be continued" after the credits as consolation.

What might be considered a boon to some and a drawback to others, clickable areas are very precise. A great source of information, the journal keeps track of important clues and records story details as they're revealed but controls are more difficult on the journal's story pages; placing and turning the picture pieces takes deftness and patience. Even so, the addition of this side quest provides additional gameplay and is a nice treat to go back to at the end of the game. Overall, The Secrets of Arcelia Island is an experience in sumptuous environments, beguiling scenery and affable puzzles. Take time to let yourself be drawn in to a realm that mixes fantasy and mystery, surrealism and substantive locales.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

MacMacintosh:
Download the demo
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  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (150 votes)
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joyeSaving the CompanyIt's a tough economy. What would you do if you found out your company was in serious trouble? Surreptitiously use the office copy machine to get extra copies of your resume? Raid the employee fridge for a stockpile for the lean days to come? How about entering a puzzle filled dungeon where you must use both your smarts and your platforming reflexes to grab a treasure guarded by a devilish boss? One behatted and unusually bouncy worker makes Saving the Company his responsibility in this short-but-sweet platform puzzle adventure from Christopher Gregorio.

Telling you all the controls would be a spoiler, since like I Don't Even Game, figuring out what to do in each stage is sometimes the only challenge. Your basic [arrow] or [WASD] configuration for running and jumping is involved, but other keys and your mouse might be needed. Just read any text on the level carefully and don't be afraid to trial and error, because deaths just reset you to the beginning of the stage.

The game is a pure time challenge and does not allow pausing or saving mid-game. Once you know all the tricks, it'll take you only a few minutes, and even your first play-through probably won't take you longer than 10, unless you get really stuck. This length makes it perfect for coffee breaks. Or for playing covertly when you're supposed to be working. If your boss catches you, just say you're engaging in a financial crisis management simulation. Say something about the good of the shareholders. Bosses like that.

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  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (24 votes)
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My Kingdom for the Princess

GrinnypHave you ever wondered what happens after a fairy tale ending? If you are the hero of the first two My Kingdom for the Princess games, then happily ever after means watching your children degenerate into a three-way battle for the hand of a royal princess. Prince (now King) Arthur and his lovely Queen Helen are back for more time management shenanigans in Nevosoft's My Kingdom for the Princess III, which explores what happens when the kids try their hands at running the kingdom. This is the story of what happens after "they lived happily ever after", although the gist of the tale may just be never have kids. Ever.

My Kingdom for the PrincessThe youngest of Arthur and Helen's three children, Prince Andrew is secretly in love with the Princess Elizabeth, whose father has decided that she will marry one of King Arthur's sons, albeit the most worthy. First, Andrew must compete against his older brothers for the hand of said princess, using only some fetid swampland as a base of operations. My Kingdom for the Princess III follows Andrew's story as he works first to build up his inadequate lands, then as he attempts to escape the treachery of his older brothers, and eventually as he must rescue his own father the king and take down the ungrateful princes before they completely wreck the kingdom. So much for a fairy tale ending.

My Kingdom for the Princess is a simple resource management type of game. You begin with a hut that contains a single worker (and why do these princes never do the work themselves, seriously?). Said worker must gather supplies of wood, food, or gold and use those supplies to accomplish their task, whether it be to build adequate roads, dig mines, find valuable artifacts, what have you. Picking up a resource costs nothing, but some things must be gotten from hard labor, such as chopping wood, which costs food stocks. Farms, Sawmills, mines, and other buildings that can help generate more resources can be built, but you need to have enough wood to do that as well. Eventually buildings can be upgraded to produce more resources or, in the case of the work hut, house more workers with which to accomplish the various tasks. The level ends when all goals are met and the little workers are back safe in the hut. Sounds easy, no?

My Kingdom for the PrincessWell, yes and no. Workers will encounter obstacles that require more resources to deal with, such as steep ravines that need bridges, or heavy boulders that require smashing. The trick is to manage your wood, food, and gold in such a way as to complete all given tasks within a certain amount of time. Adding to the difficulty are lurking creatures such as wolves, ghosts, and hornets that require specialists to deal with, requiring more buildings and thus more materials on hand. Fortunately there's a nifty little gadget called a bonus meter which fills up over time. With it you can unleash special powers, like temporarily adding another worker or making your little guys move a lot faster. Each level has different bonuses on the meter at different times, keeping the gameplay interesting. There is also a "floating" bonus that shows up when you are low on resources. If you can spot the floating bonus when it appears you can click on it for your choice of one unit of wood, food, or gold, which is helpful if you are stuck and can't move any further without certain items.

There are five main locations and terrains in My Kingdom for the Princess III, from swamps to a desert, from ravine-laden forests to an icy wasteland, and each one requires slightly different strategies to accomplish the major tasks before the timer runs out. The player must finish each level before nightfall or a hideous fate awaits. Seriously. It involves a dragon.

My Kingdom for the PrincessAnalysis: While it's nice to see My Kingdom for the Princess back for another round, all that means is that players all over the world will suffer some major time suckage due to the highly addictive gameplay. Nevosoft hasn't messed with what is a winning formula: frantically fun time management with smaller "breather" games in-between involving avoidance mazes and whack-a-mole. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

There are some differences from the first two games, new strategies and such that keep the gameplay fresh. What is very different this time around is the storyline, which strays a bit from the more usual fairy tale style of the first two. Seriously, the battle between Arthur's sons includes elements of King Lear, the biblical story of Joseph, and a little Cinderella as well. One has to wonder how the last 25 years has treated Arthur and Helen if they managed to raise such odious sons, at least the older ones. Looks like everyone involved needs some serious family therapy.

Fans of time management games rejoice, for the true heir to the throne has been found! With its stunning graphics, amusing animations, hilarious incidental sounds, and highly addictive gameplay, My Kingdom for the Princess III is a stunning way to lose a big chunk of time. Just be warned, make sure you don't have any appointments or commitments before downloading because this is one game that is devilishly hard to walk away from.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Weekend Download

JohnBReady to shoot some things while climbing up a slanted wall dotted with embedded sawblades and laser barriers? Of course you are! And after that, why not fight some pandas? Might as well, right?

infernaledge.gifInfernal Edge (Mac/Windows, 15MB, free) - Epically epic arcade shooting game, anyone? This deliciously retro release from Lazy Brain Games is packed with action, including dodging rotating blades, shooting enemies all over the place, using a grappling hook, and climbing through laser barriers like it ain't no thing. The game is all about climbing through the fiery Industrial Space Station LV-427 as you try to take it back from the evil Unicus. A high-adrenaline game that's both challenging and crazy amounts of fun to play, even when you die over and over again.

sakeexpress.gifSake Express Pro Wrestling (Windows, 33MB, free) - Punch a panda, collect a power-up, explode some orbs, keep fighting. This insane game from mooosh plays like a cross between a shooter and some sort of mad arcade wrestling simulation. Press a mouse button to punch, then swipe to actually deal damage to the pandas. Keep your dukes swinging to stay alive, and pick up orbs to unleash quick powers that help you stay alive. Things get hectic after just a few minutes, not to mention wacky, but it's an experience you won't be able to digest without grinning like a maniac!

ichi.gifIchi (Windows, 20MB, free) - One button games are easy, right? There's only one key to press, after all, so how challenging could that be? Try a whole lot of challenging. Ichi is a one button puzzle game from Jay van Hutten that is all about directing a yellow ball around each level collecting empty yellow circles. Tap the [spacebar] to rotate the red triangles to bounce the ball at a right angle. Don't crash into the spikes. There's your instructions, now try to juggle half a dozen rotating triangles you have to spin four or five times in the amount of time it takes you to say "oh my word I'm gonna crash"!

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


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (72 votes)
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Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek

DoraThe best way to deal with haunted towns harbouring unspeakable dark secrets is to simple avoid them altogether, but should you ever come out of a fugue to find yourself running down a dark and deserted street with someone else's blood all over your hands, you might as well use Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek as a guide. In this hidden-object mystery horror adventure from Artifex Mundi, you find yourself stranded in the grim little town of Maple Creek with no recollection of why you're there or why you've got red on you. In short order, however, you recover your notebook and are at least able to remember that you arrived in town looking for a missing girl... though it seems the town's troubles go back a lot further than last week. Uncover the truth and your own troubled memories in this gorgeous and eerie game. Remember, kids; if someone asks you if you want to dabble in ancient, unspeakable lurking evils, just say no!

Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple CreekEnigmatis has two difficulty settings that primarily affect how quickly your various timers recharge and how much hand-holding you get. Whatever your choice, gameplay is your standard pointy-clicky, solve-hidden-object-scenesy affair (the choice of detectives everywhere) with one difference. As you scour the town and the surrounding areas, you'll discover clues and pieces of evidence relevant to your investigation that you'll tack on the wall in your hotel room. Periodically you'll need to arrange these items in certain groups to make deductions in order to proceed with the case. You might, for example, have to group a suspect and a location together to get the scene of the crime. Don't worry; if you get stuck, the hint button is more than willing to take you by the hand and show you exactly what you should be doing, cooing gentle reassurances all the while.

Analysis: Enigmatis: Ghosts of Maple Creek might just be the all-around best looking hidden-object adventure title to come down the pipe in a long time. Lots of titles have pretty art, but few of them manage to marry them so flawlessly with animated, atmospheric environments, and as a result Enigmatis is a real treat to behold. The animated cutscenes, by contrast are... uh... there, and the voice acting can be hit-and-huge-miss, but on the whole the production levels are through the roof across the board. It also contains at least one jump scare of the many there are that made me nearly leap out of my skin even though I saw it coming, so caveat emptor all scaredy-cats and ghost chasers.

Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple CreekThe gameplay itself has a fair amount of backtracking, but is mostly satisfyingly logical. The whole evidence wall concept is an interesting one, though not to the degree that it actually adds (or detracts) anything from the game itself. For the most part, Enigmatis' gameplay is just solid all around, with an appealing variety and number of puzzles so you feel like you're using your brain for more than just "use the thing on the other thing". The difficulty is actually a reliable constant throughout, despite a hint button that can lead you around by the nose if you make use of it (rendering the Collector's Edition strategy guide worthless), and with your average playthrough lasting over five hours, not counting the bonus adventure, Enigmatis is one hefty, satisfying adventure.

Despite ending with a big fat "to be continued" that means you'll have to wait for the next installment for any real closure and answers, Enigmatis: The Ghosts of Maple Creek is a remarkably well made example of the genre with everything you need to settle into a night of adventure. With gorgeous visuals, challenging gameplay, and a recruitment program that would make Lord Saddler proud, it comes highly recommended for fans of campy horror action. Give the demo a try and visit scenic Maple Creek today for all your hiking, bed-and-breakfasting, amnesiac-murder-mystery-ing needs.

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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Link Dump Fridays

DoraThis week's Link Dump Friday theme; fear! Or more specifically, a healthy fear of things that want to do terrible things to the moist, quivering, tender meatbag you call a body. All the games herein contain all manner of beasties and terrible fates just waiting to befall you. It's like I always say; there's nothing better to start your weekend off right than a comforting sense of your own fragile mortality. Hooray!

  • Revert to Growth 2Revert to Growth 2 - This robot is trying to trick you. It wants you to think it has no interest in assimilating you or hunting you for sport. All it wants (it claims) is to use a variety of plant-based powers to solve a series of increasingly elaborate platform puzzles. This robot is lying. The second you turn your back on it, you'll be taking a dirt-nap and find yourself re-purposed into a lovely posy garden bed. Stone cold, man.
  • Hurry Up Bob 2Hurry Up Bob 2 - Chances are if you've seen an Indiana Jones film that didn't involve Shia LeBeouf you were struck by how rad being an explorer might be. But before you strap on your hat and your whip and your dubiously qualified but easy-on-the-eyes personal assistant, you might want to try this fast-paced arcade platformer to clue you in to the very real dangers actual explorers and archaeologists face every day. Like mummies. And robots. And acid. And spike traps. And jet-packs. And magical crumbling blocks. And...
  • Awesome Ghosts vs Stupid ZombiesAwesome Ghosts vs Stupid Zombies - The zombies need more corpses for their upcoming undead apocalypse, but the ghosts aren't having any of it, since those are their bodies, even if they have been dead and buried for years. Okay, to be honest, the undead monsters in this turn-based strategy game are more interested in wiping out each other than they are you. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't still be on your guard! CONSTANT VIGILANCE as my favourite professor used to say.
  • Pixel WizardsPixel Wizards - An entire generation of kids has grown up desperate to be wizards and/or whisked off to a glorious magic academy where they'll have amazing adventures, dreamy, broody teachers and dubious adult supervision. However, with great power comes a great amount of people trying to blast you the heck up as you'll discover in this strange arcade shooter.
  • AlienocalypseAlienocalypse - You should already know by now that ET was a lie and aliens only love you for your big, round head; the perfect size and shape to crack open and lay their glistening eggs inside. You'll be playing for their team in this real-time strategy game, however, as you man an alien invasion of planet Earth and send hordes of horrifying beasties to do your dirty work.

  • Currently 4.7/5
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(6 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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You Are Games

Letters in Boxes #13

ArtbegottiThis week's Letters In Boxes challenge was going to be themed around origami. And it was really cool too, because the last puzzle involved making a crane. Unfortunately, things didn't entirely work out, and that idea had to be scrapped. However, if you still want to have an official Letters In Boxes origami crane, here's what you do: Print out this week's puzzles on a square sheet of paper (we recommend 12"x12" scrapbooking paper so it has a cool background), then find instructions for making an origami crane and fold away!

Origami cranes are the least of your worries for this week though, as all you have to do here is solve four puzzles. Here's how to play: Below, you'll find your first puzzle. Click on it to open it up in a new window. When you think you've solved it, change the filename in your browser's address bar (in this case, "thirteenth") to your answer, using all lowercase letters and keeping the same directory and extension. (Note that there will be one two-word answer in today's puzzles; enter that as a single word without spaces.) If your answer is right, you'll fly through to the next puzzle. If you're wrong, you'll get an error message, but feel free to back up and try again.

Letters in Boxes #13 - 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 one additional randomly-selected correct entry. 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, September 5th at 11:59 PM (GMT-5:00). Good luck, and happy solving!

Update: Congratulations to the following winners! :D

  • fretty ...First!
  • donhuando
Both winners were given a choice of prizes. Congratulations and thanks for playing with us! Look for another Letters in Boxes again soon!

  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (1282 votes)
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DoraMonkey GO Happy 4If there's something we can all agree on, it's that you shouldn't mess with monkeys. Sure they start out all cute and cuddly, but don't let that fool you; every monkey is just a heartbeat away from morphing into a screeching, poo-flinging whirlwind of fangs and bad attitude. So in a way, it's a good idea to keep them as happy as possible when you can't keep your distance, and Pencilkids' latest point-and-click puzzle Monkey GO Happy 4 aims to do just that. In this latest installment of the simian-centric series, your goal is to make all four shivering, sad little beasts as cheerful as possible by clicking around the screen until you trigger something to amuse and delight them... whereupon they will celebrate in the creepiest fashion possible. (Monkeys scare me, okay?!) Just watch for your cursor to change to display an area you can interact with, and try to change your surroundings for maximum monkey excitement.

Play all the Monkey GO Happy games:
Monkey GO Happy!Monkey GO Happy 2Monkey GO Happy 3Monkey GO Happy 4Monkey GO Happy 5Monkey GO Happy 6Monkey GO Happy MarathonMonkey GO Happy Marathon 2Monkey GO Happy Marathon 3Monkey GO Happy Marathon 4Monkey GO Happy: Mini MonkeysMonkey GO Happy: Mini Monkeys 2Monkey GO Happy: Mini Monkeys 3Monkey GO Happy: ChristmasMonkey GO Happy: The CastleMonkey GO Happy ElevatorsMonkey GO Happy Elevators 2Monkey GO Happy MayhemMonkey GO Happy AdventureMonkey GO Happy EasterMonkey GO Happy TalesMonkey GO Happy Tales 2

Inherent monkey distrust aside, Monkey GO Happy 4 is still a pretty cute, silly game with loads of charm. The whole process of actually making the wee beasties happy can seem a little strange (unless you're also the type compelled to do backflips over noisy trains), but the changing cursor tends to cut down on the difficulty and makes this one great to share with any little monkeys of your own you might have running around. If there's any quibbles to be found, it's that some of the stages can drag a bit (such as level 6), especially when it comes to repeated item use... come on, if we have six batteries, can't you just use them all at once rather than making us click each one in individually? But aside from these minor complaints, Monkey GO Happy 4 is just the sort of weird, casual fun to indulge in whenever you need a break. Just make sure you keep an eye on the little guy. He's going to do something. I can feel it.

Play Monkey GO Happy 4


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Rating: 4.2/5 (121 votes)
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TrickyKingStoryThe hermit's son has been kidnapped by demons! Are you a good enough king to rescue him? And, while you're at it, could you do something about that advancing violet wall of doom? And, also, could you tell the peasants to knock it off with all the portentous statements concerning the upcoming apocalypse? It seems that a monarch's work is never done. Though, in fairness, by the end of KingStory, the new adventure platformer from KintoGames, you'll have a pretty sweet crown on your head. That makes it all worthwhile.

Moving with the [arrow] keys and jumping with the [spacebar], you traverse a fantasy world beset by an evil both vague and purple. Interact with other creatures by pressing [up]. Once you have a weapon, you can then attack demons by smashing into them: the faster you go, the more damage you'll do. Items unlock new abilities and let you reach new areas. Some aspects of KingStory require careful timing and observation, while others require nothing more than running like heck. You'll have to have fast reflexes to know which is which.

While KingStory's has gorgeous pixel graphics (especially the ghoulishly creepy enemies), a delightfully eerie soundtrack, and solid gameplay, it has a tone that can only be described as schizophrenic. A fellow reviewer remarked that it was the kind of game that couldn't decide whether it wanted to be a platformer, an action-RPG or Canabalt. That's a pretty accurate assessment. Also, it is deceptively short: once it seems you are finally about to set off on your grand adventure, the game abruptly ends. It's especially odd since so much of the text has that "cryptic foreshadowing that will make probable sense by the end of the game" edge to it, except, since the end comes so early, all you're left with is the cryptic stuff. Hopefully the implied sequel is soon in coming. Despite the above reservations, there's still a lot to like about KingStory. The collision combat system is intuitive and deserves to be developed further as a mechanic. More importantly though, there is a breath of uniqueness to KingStory that inclines one to be forgiving of its faults. Games that experiment aren't always perfect, but they are rarely dull.

Play KingStory

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