October 2011 Archives


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Rating: 4.2/5 (32 votes)
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TrickySymphonic Tower Defense HalloweenFrozenFire and Jon Sandness are back with a spookified expansion pack to their popular Symphonic Tower Defense. Music can get pretty crazy around this holiday, with all the monster-mashing and purple-people eating that occurs. That means once again it is time for the master conductor to dust the cobwebs from his baton and defend tower-style against the awesome power of awesome music in Symphonic Tower Defense: Halloween Edition.

While the techno/trance soundtrack is a tad more scary and the aesthetics a bit more orangey, gameplay works pretty much the same as the previous installment. That's not a bad thing: those who liked the original will love to have more of it, and those new to the series will find this a perfect place to jump in. Overall, Symphonic Tower Defense Halloween will be the closest most of us will get to jamming with the Crypt-Kicker 5. It's a graveyard smash!

Play Symphonic Tower Defense: Halloween Edition


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Rating: 3.3/5 (76 votes)
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TrickyHalloween ShooterAfter a long night of haunting and spooking, there's nothing that your average vampire/mummy/witch likes more than going home to the comfort of their own coffin/sarcophagus/cauldron. Wouldn't ya know it though? It seems that some sort of anti-monster conspiracy has constructed all manner of girders and obstacles to prevent their homecoming. In Halloween Shooter, a physics puzzler by GameShot, it's up to the player to blast all the creatures to their proper home for a good day's sleep.

Very polished in presentation, Halloween Shooter has a cool retro aesthetic and some well-designed set pieces. The size of the game window does limit some of the shots you'd like to make, which is a flaw. Also, bits of the game do feel a little generic: one might think that the only thing needed to make Thanksgiving Shooter or Chanukah Shooter would be a change in sprites. That said, it's hard to dislike any game that lets you knock over Frankenstein with a well-aimed Dracula. It's a treat as good as a full-sized Snickers.

Play Halloween Shooter


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Rating: 3.8/5 (39 votes)
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joyeDraka Spiders. Why did it have to be a top-hatted, web-slinging, physics puzzling spider? Because it's Halloween, sillies, and a fun way to honor the holiday is by playing this whimsically macabre game where said arachnid swings from point to point in quest of turning victims into... well, "headcrab" is already taken, so I'm out of ideas as to what to call them. But beware! Draka may only have twenty levels, but they get ghoulishly tricky fairly quickly. Even the most casual fan will want to try this one out for the art, but only the most dedicated will persevere through them all.

The game is learn-as-you-play tutorial style, but the basic idea is that you have four lengths of web to toss at any one time, and you can hook on to any anchor point within range, and detach from others to swing yourself around. In addition to stationary lamps, the game includes things ranging from helpful balloons to frying-you-like-a-bug-zapper electrical wire. The game's difficulty is perhaps higher than it should be because of the decision to have your life (you get three hearts) taken away one per hit by any harmful area, and if you're floating over a torch, you can go from three hearts to zero before you can even get your mouse over there. A short invincibility period after being hit, similar to the approach most platform games take, would have been a better option.

Generally there is an approach that will enable you to get by without losing any hearts at all, so if you keep dying, the best thing to do is rethink your path to the victim. Definitely a game to tingle the spines of the physics puzzle pro, but even the less adept should give a few levels a try for some spooky fun.

Play Draka


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Rating: 4.8/5 (70 votes)
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Open Sea

JohnBBest of Casual Gameplay 2011Aah, the salt of the sea. Deadly waves threatening to drown passersby. Armed frigates firing on civilians. Mummies scuttling across the sandy beaches, infecting helpless folks with their embalmed charm. It's just an ordinary day for the citizens in Open Sea!, a satisfying and great-looking mobile arcade game by The Pixelizers. To get everyone to safety, you're going to need a little bit of luck and a whole lot of lightning bolts.

Mo has a sweet job working as a prophetic leader in Egypt. One day, he encourages the people to flee across the sea. The problem is, they have no boats, so all of this fleeing has to be done on foot. Open SeaFortunately for Mo and his buddies, you, your Android device, and your swipe-happy finger are there! Simply tap or slide the rows of waves to create gaps so people can cross safely. Guide them from the top of the screen to the bottom, minding every sort of danger that rears its ancient head.

On the friendly side of things are Mo's followers, groups of mindless people who know how to do one thing: walk from the top of the screen to the bottom. Most keep to a fairly straight line and can tiptoe away from the water, but a few troublesome folk need more pampering from you. Lazy followers, for example, will fall asleep in the middle of the screen. Old folks are agonizingly slow. And drunkards weave and bob like a snake playing dodgeball. On the bad guys side of things, expect to see mummies, antagonistic ships, and more throughout your journey.

Levels are splayed out across a map that meanders across the desert. It's mostly linear in nature, but if you earn enough stars, you can gain access to small branches that offer a prize or two at the end. You'll also encounter some friendly faces that may or may not be recognizable. Like Jess, the prophet who, if you guide him to safety, will grant everyone the temporary ability of walking on water. Nice!

Open SeaAnalysis: Open Sea! is precisely the sort of casual game you want on your mobile device. It's easy to pick up and play, a treat to look at, and features a variety of new elements that slowly unlock as you progress, keeping you consistently interested in playing just one more level. Even better, after you blaze through the game, you can go back to earn more stars and unlock even more levels and game modes, a task you'll happily undertake for rewards you'll eagerly consume!

Public service note: Open Sea! is no walk on the beach. The game gets challenging jten or so levels in, and it never lets up, no matter how much crying you do. If you go back to earn more stars, expect even more challenge (and crying), but only subject yourself to that after obtaining a good level of proficiency. Seriously, you will get better at the game. It just takes some time!

Open Sea! is an epic, sweeping game, but at the same time, it's personable and humble. You can jump in and play with no learning curve, but actually getting good at it takes time. It's exactly what you want from a casual game, especially since its so good looking and carries a quirky sense of humor!


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Mobile Monday

JohnBMobile games are strange, aren't they? On the one hand, they shouldn't be so complicated you can't get into them while, ahem, occupying the lavatory. On the other, they need to have enough complexity to keep you from doing your homework the night before it's due. There's no right or wrong solution, just a collection of gameplay concepts that either works or doesn't quite work. We're proud to report that every game we feature on Mobile Monday works quite well, the end result being lots of late homework assignments but no time wasted in the loo.

minesweeperwizard.gifMinesweeper of Wizard (iPhone/iPod Touch) - Are you ready for this? It's minesweeper. With a fantasy setting! An evil Dark Lord cursed the land, cutting livable spaces down to near nothing. A wizard appeared with the ability to separate land from the sea, and she set out on a journey to restore the world to its former state. You are that wizard, naturally, and you're playing a game of minesweeper to save the world. So, you know, don't screw it up! Simple, yeah, and the gameplay is pretty standard for a logic puzzle of this nature, but the pixel art is fantastic, and the setting really brings things to life. Also, friendly PROTIP: turn the music off!

flapcraft.jpgFlapcraft (universal) - Vikings need hobbies, too, Especially when all of the great wars are currently on hiatus. So, to keep in shape and to have a good time, the bravest vikings use wooden logs to fly through the air, taking off from ramps to see how far they can go. These "flapcrafters" work tirelessly at their hobby, and so will you once you get your hands on this game. Tap to send the viking flying down the ramp, then tilt your device to steer him. Catch some wind, take a dive into the trees, then upgrade your flying doohickey with rockets, wings, and other contraptions to help you gain some air. A great little game of perfection and upgrades you won't be able to put down.

hungrysumoios.jpgHungry Sumo (universal) - Hey, you remember Hungry Sumo, NinjaKiwi's browser game, right? Now the rice-nomming arcade game is ready for you on your iOS device, and it works even better with a touch screen than with a cursor. Tap your sumo wrestler to make him eat rice and grow larger. When he bumps into an enemy sumo, he'll shrink a bit, taking down the other guy with him. Your goal is to have the biggest sumo possible, one that can crash into other enemies without getting too small. The best part of the iOS version is using the multi touch surface to tend to several wrestlers at once. And the mini-games are superb! Exactly the sort of casual diversion you need with a mobile device.

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


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Rating: 4.4/5 (89 votes)
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joyeAbsorptionMan, scientists. Haven't you ever heard of placing an ad in a university newspaper advertising your physics research study? Tell people they get to play with a matter-absorbing gun and they'll probably pay you to participate. Why ya gotta be all evil and kidnap a guy to send through a nefarious set of puzzles? The mad scientist villain of Absorption, by Anton Beluzhenko, isn't very smart, apparently. But the backstory isn't why you'll want to play this game. Absorption is a novel and unique platform puzzler that is a lot of fun to play.

You use the [WASD] keys to control the platforming action of your character, while the cursor aims your matter-absorbing gun, which you click to shoot. You'll need to absorb and rearrange various objects to solve puzzles and reach the exit of each level. You can only shoot within the "halo" surrounding your character (the cursor will be bright green if it's within range), and you can only absorb objects that have little white orbs rotating around them. In addition to testing your spatial intelligence when using the absorption gun to rearrange objects, the game also sometimes requires good timing, particularly in terms of dealing with enemies. Just try to get to the exit with as few shots as you can. At the bottom of the screen you'll see what number of shots will give you a 100% efficiency score.

Anton makes a good choice in giving you unlimited shots while also rating your efficiency at the end of a level based on how many shots you used. This means you're free to experiment your first time through a level, and you can always replay it to try to get 100% efficiency if you shoot too much the first time. The portals, boxes, turrets and other elements of the levels give plenty of variety while still being fairly intuitive and thus not overwhelming. And when we're talking about pluses of the game, we shouldn't leave out the fact that the little guy kind of looks like he's from the movie GhostBusters. Who ya gonna call? Absorption!

Play Absorption


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Rating: 3.2/5 (85 votes)
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GrinnypTheLatestWorkofDaiHyakkaArt is a pretty subjective thing, one person's masterpiece being another person's scribble. Fortunately, being an art lover, gamers are invited to the exclusive studio of a famous artist to view their latest work in The Latest Work of Dai Hyakka, a fun little room escape from no1game.net. Unfortunately once the player has arrived they cannot leave until they view this great masterpiece. Considering all of the puzzles (many color-based) that have to be solved to view this precious piece of art, it had better be worth it.

Exploration in this rustic studio is as easy as clicking the mouse. Click on items to examine them, to manipulate them, to take them (hey, the artist locked us in, his stuff is fair game!), and to move around the room using the handy arrows that appear at the edges of the screen. A changing cursor indicates places of interest and the inventory, while rudimentary, is easy to access. The Latest Work of Dai Hyakka is not a terribly difficult escape; seasoned players will probably be out in five to ten minutes. All that is required is some logical thinking and a modicum of art appreciation. Take a break and enjoy the art, even the picture of the giraffe which looks, quite frankly, seriously ticked off.

Play The Latest Work of Dai Hyakka


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Rating: 4.8/5 (23 votes)
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Costume Quest

DoraCostume Quest, DoubleFine's aggressively adorable Halloween RPG adventure, has finally hit PCs after a long solo affair with the Playstation Network and XBOX Live Arcade. The story follows you as one of a pair of twins (either a boy or a girl, Reynold and Wren respectively) on Halloween night. Whoever you select to be "in charge" becomes the main character and is delighted to have control over their sibling for a night of trick-or-treating... at least until their twin, dressed as a piece of candy corn, gets mistaken for actual candy by a monster who is in the process of looting a house they visit. It seems you've stumbled into an invasion, as it quickly becomes apparent the town is crawling with monsters intent on gathering all the candy they can for nefarious purposes, and as the "chewiest looking" one, your sibling is a real prize for them. The adults don't believe you, so if you want to rescue your brother (or sister!) you'll have to do the job yourself or you'll be in a lot of trouble when you come home alone.

Costume QuestThe game plays like your typical turn-based RPG. You'll explore areas (initially only the neighbourhood, but later you'll travel elsewhere too) getting in fights with monsters, and that's where things get a bit weird. Throughout the game you'll find different components that will ultimately unlock new costumes to wear. Why is this important? Well, anytime you enter battle your apple-cheeked youngster literally transforms into the embodiment of the costume they're wearing, complete with special abilities. Battle is your standard turn-based affair, though with the inclusion of some Super Mario RPG-style quick time events; tap the buttons you're shown in order to block attacks or get an extra boost. You'll gain experience, level up (levels are capped at 10, unfortunately), and gain candy to spend, cards to trade, and even engage in some light puzzle-solving.

Costume QuestAnalysis: Make no mistake, this game is RPG-lite; your three party members all have one-note personalities, the story is resolved almost too simply after a half-hearted stab at some emotional development between the twins, and it's all very linear. Gameplay itself is also fairly straightforward to the point where it can feel somewhat repetitive; there's never any real variation, the battle stamps wind up feeling underdeveloped since they're the only thing you can spend candy on, and it's definitely not going to prove much of a challenge either from a puzzler's perspective or simple battle mechanics. Some of the costumes frankly aren't that useful, and since you can't switch out during battle, you'll probably wind up just sticking with the three you're most comfortable with unless the game forces you into another for plot purposes. (Robot, Unicorn, and French Fries for the win!)

But you know what? Who cares! This game is not intended as a deep, engrossing, complex title; it's fun, light-hearted, silly, and frequently laugh-out-loud funny. Whereas in a lot of modern RPGs I tend to ignore NPCs that aren't directly related to the plot since they rarely have anything useful or interesting to say, in Costume Quest I tracked down every single person I could and chatted with them. (And then hit them with my candy bag.) Almost everyone has something weird and funny to say whether the game forces you to talk to them or not. While a lot of the humour will probably go right over some of the younger kids' heads (such as a boy in a banana costume complaining that last year as a total "banana-fest") it's less of a kids-only/adults-only thing and really seems to be embracing that E for Everyone rating. Kids will laugh at the straight-forward humour, and adults will find that there's a lot of gags for themselves to appreciate as well, a lot like old Bugs Bunny cartoons.

Costume QuestThe visuals here are simple, drawn by Tasha of Tasha's Game, but a joy to behold simply because of how bright, creative, and colourful they are. Character designs, both in and out of battle, are absolutely brilliant; I didn't realise my life was incomplete until I'd seen the Statue of Liberty's Anthem special ability, or turned into a maniacal, sentient, crab-walking box of french fries. This is easily the type of game you can play with a big, goofy grin on your face the whole time. Exploring the different environments is just wonderful, and they're all full of a lot of little details that make them stand out. It doesn't do a lot to innovate, but at entertaining you it succeeds with flying stars. It's extremely easy to pick up and play, at any age (kids will have no trouble mastering battle mechanics), and once you do, you'll want to play it all the way through.

While players 10 or younger will probably love it the most, there's enough to like about Costume Quest that I can honestly recommend it to anyone looking for lighter fare and with a sense of humour. Heck, my husband and I don't have ankle-biters and we played it all together in one sitting start to finish, laughing at everything and cheering at the overly-dramatic transformations and special attacks. Even though the whole thing only runs about six hours, not including the Grubbins on Ice DLC included free with the PC version, this is still an adventure game that's easily worth the cost of admission. Put quite simply, Costume Quest is a fun, rambunctious, and effortlessly enjoyable title that you really shouldn't miss. Taken as it is, it's pure fun for all ages, and comes highly recommended.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 4.7/5 (22 votes)
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Sequence

JohnBCan't decide if you want to play a rhythm game or a good old fashioned dungeon crawling RPG? Now you can have both, with Iridium Studios' hybrid gem, Sequence. Originally released on the Xbox Live Arcade platform, Sequence takes a little bit of music, adds in combat, spells, weapons and items, shuffles them around in a sort of time management kind of manner, and sets it before you with a side of humor and a dose of "what the heck was that I just fought and why did it insult my mother?".

SequenceSequence stars Ky and Naia, the former a typical young hero guy, the latter as an intercom voice giving you directions, guiding you through the game, and insulting you whenever she gets the chance. Ky is battling his way up a strange tower filled with stranger things, trapped in the pseudo-fantasy world unless he can craft keys to escape each level. Gathering the items he needs to create the keys will take some time, and earning experience to beef up his strength will take even longer. Good thing Ky's got nothing better to do!

Most of your time in Sequence will be spent in battle. But unlike most RPGs, these battles are far from static. Fights take place across three screens, each featuring independently falling arrows that appear in time with the music. In order for any of these arrows to "count", you must switch to that screen and hit the appropriate directions at the appropriate time. So, for example, to gain mana, switch to the blue screen, follow the prompts, and you'll fill your magic meter. Your foes attack on the red grid, so if arrows start falling there, switch over to stop the attack. The spell screen is where you'll complete rhythm sequences to cast the spells you activate.

SequenceBetween battles, you get to focus on inventory and items, something many players can't wait to do. In Sequence, you gain materials and items from battle and can craft them into new objects. Crafting takes place on its own screen, and in order to make something, you've got to give up something. You'll need three materials to make one item, for example, and when you go to craft, you must give up experience points to actually make the object. The more XP you give, the greater your chances of a successful craft. Don't overdo it, though, as you sorta need those stat bonuses you just gained!

There are seven floors to explore, working your way up the tower with progressively more entertaining and dangerous foes. Apart from the guardians of each level, you can choose which enemies you do battle with, giving you quite a bit of freedom in how you explore, gain items, and strengthen your character. It's basically a fight-equip-fight-grind formula, but it works so well with the rhythm elements you'll hardly notice you're fighting the same creatures over and over again.

SequenceAnalysis: Juggling screens, multiple rhythm arrows to hit, item management, and a snarky voice as your guide? That's about the gist of it, and it's a good gist, too! Sequence takes a big chance mixing a rhythm game with a role playing game, and the results will certainly feel different for different players. RPG fans won't quite get their fix, but neither will rhythm gamers. Casual players, on the other hand, will feel right at home, as Sequence was designed for short bursts of not-too-serious gameplay. It's easy to save, it's easy to pick up where you left off, and because you choose when and who you fight, there's no risk to setting down the controller while you take a sandwich break.

Sequence looks to hybrid grounds to conjure its "different but not too different" gameplay, but it doesn't run too deeply with either genre, something that both saves the game and prevents it from grabbing hold of a wide audience. The rhythm elements seem tenuous at times, coming across as more visual cues than aural. The music is excellent, but the integration isn't entirely complete. The same goes for the role playing elements. While they add a layer of extra intrigue, don't expect a full RPG's worth of items and character customization. Just enough to add flavoring.

Sequence will overwhelm you the first time you play, and the lengthy tutorial seems to drag on after a few minutes. Eventually you get the hang of things, though, and rapidly switching between screens to fill mana, cast spells, and defend yourself becomes automatic. Difficulty settings in the options menu allow you to customize your experience, so if you're not a rhythm gamer, don't be afraid of Sequence. It wants everybody to get along.

Go give Sequence a shot and see if a hybrid rhythm/RPG has got what it takes to get you excited about a game once again!

WindowsWindows:
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

JohnBThis week's games were presented before a panel of elite judges prior to publication. They were coffee tasting judges, but you gotta figure their impeccable sense of taste transfers from beverages to games, right? After rigorous screening, the scientifically-verified result is as such: three out of four coffee tasters think the games below are definitely very very fun! The fourth judge thinks they're "rather" fun, but that doesn't make for a very interesting pull quote...

thewallofourhearts.gifthe wall of our hearts (Windows, 13.6MB, free) - This game is so hip. You probably haven't played it yet. You're just so, you know, mainstream. But since you're here, might as well tell you about the wall of our hearts, a cool, lowercase-titled 8-bit-style platformer starring two hipster characters who really want to get together. Problem is, there's a wall in the way. Scale the heights of love one ledge at a time, saving your progress at stereos, using bread to lure ducks to ride on, and experiencing the world's most authentic fish riding simulator. Cool game, good times, but you probably don't really understand it anyway. *dons a dirty flannel jacket, thick-rimmed glasses, a black t-shirt, wool scarf, patched jeans, and mis-matched socks and walks away*

yeti.gifYeti (Windows, 61.5MB, free) - Adventure games tend to follow a set formula, right? Not this one. In Yeti, you are part of a documentary crew exploring the life of a yeti, filming him in his natural habitat (a well-stocked bachelor pad to a software company in Toronto, of course) and exploring the scene from a somewhat more distant perspective. You can still interact with the world, but puzzles take a more point-and-click feel to them as opposed to a strict adventure flavoring. Marvelously imaginative, quirky, and a great way to learn about yetis in real life. Ok, not that last bit. But seriously, play this game!

ragmegalleycat.gifRagmeg Alleycat (Windows, 25MB, free) - The life of a bike messenger is a difficult one. There are cars all over the place, some of which travel in the wrong direction. Pedestrians are always in the way. Police cars chase you for no reason. And packages sit inconveniently on rough patches of sidewalk. What's a rider to do, other than keep trying to get a better and better score? Ragmeg Alleycat is sort of a reverse Paperboy where you navigate the low-res streets to pick up packages and rack up tons of points. A hotseat multiplayer mode is included, but the single player adventure is plenty of game for one person. Just don't try this at home. You know, on a real bike and stuff.

abductiondestruction.gifAbduction Destruction (Windows, 3.3MB, free) - A pet project from TIGSource forum member Tipp, Abduction Destruction is an arcade game about an alien with one mean abduction ray. Scoop up animals, apples, people, corn, rocks, and anything else on the ground you can beam your ray onto, then launch stored items as projectiles to keep your enemies at bay. Collect coins to purchase items in the shop, then continue your abducting spree! The game is rather short at this stage, and there are a few level design flaws, but the art style is great, and you can't deny how fun it is to be on the alien end of the abducting business!

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


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Rating: 4.1/5 (59 votes)
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DoraTerrific HalloweenIf you're looking for some Halloween cheer rather than ghouls and gore, check out the kid-friendly spot-the-difference title from Denis Sokolov and Igor Sotsky, Terrific Halloween. Featuring the art of Yulia Zhuravlyova and a bouncy soundtrack from Nikolay Statilko, it's a vibrant, colourful game with three modes of difficulty that you can let any tender young giblets you have running around play without fear. Just find and click on the differences between each scene as they're presented, moving as quickly as you can to score bonus points, and snag a hint if you're stuck. If you're a grown-up type person who loves to be scared, it can be easy to forget there's a littler, squealier group of Halloweeners who just want to dress up like ghosts and pirates and get some candy without worrying about nightmares, and this is definitely one for them.

Play Terrific Halloween


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Rating: 4/5 (68 votes)
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Dora2011 A Father's TravelMinoto, that glorious purveyor of point-and-click puzzle oddities, graces us with 2011 A Father's Travel, which contains most everything you'd expect to find in a Minoto game. That is to say, comb-overs, aliens, abstract puzzle solving, the sun making faces, surreal worlds, and above all... cuteness. This time you actually start out with a bunch of items you can already use to solve puzzles, though you'll gather more as you go, and figuring out to use everything is just as big a challenge as figuring out what's going on. Just remember to try everything, no matter how strange it seems, and examine items up close when you get stuck. Odd? You bet. But if you're a Minoto fan, you probably wouldn't have it any other way.

Play 2011 A Father's Travel


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Rating: 4/5 (231 votes)
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joyeMissilebreak OutvadersSpace Invaders, Breakout and Missile Command are like the venerable elder statesmen of video games. But what if hundreds or thousands of years in the future, scientists are picking through a then-ancient landfill of Atari 2600 cartridges and have to try to piece together what they mean? They might come up with something very much like the arcade mash-up Missilebreak Outvaders, the work of Nathan McCoy and Jonathan S. Fox.

Just move the mouse to control the paddle. The aliens progress back and forth and slowly downwards, shooting missiles at you and attempting to get your six cities, but you can bat their projectiles back at them with the paddle. Projectiles are red as they approach you, and turn blue after they've hit your paddle once. You can explode the blue projectiles at any time by clicking the left mouse button. [Space] or [P] pauses. The game ends when you lose all six cities, but you have until the end of the current wave, because at certain score markers, you can rebuild a city. Go as long as you can.

Missilebreak Outvaders is a throwback to the era in which games were actually hard, designed to suck the quarters from your pockets with every death. The "doomsday theory" mode is particularly punishing, but even the normal game gets intense quickly. There's a surprising amount of strategy to be had, hinging primarily on if and when to manually explode projectiles. But at some point all strategy will probably fly out the window as you frantically whip the cursor back and forth screaming "Make it stop! Make it stop!" And perhaps you will look out said window and realize it is dawn. And it will have been worth it. A classic example where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, with three classic arcade games rolled up into one awesome experience that is exceptionally fun to play.

For those interested in the music, Nathan wrote the music himself and it's available on his Bandcamp page.

Play Missilebreak Outvaders


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Rating: 4.2/5 (48 votes)
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GrinnypPumpkinRemover3It's Halloween again, time for ghosties, ghoulies, goblins, and lots and lots of jack-o-lanterns. Somewhere in those multitudes of pumpkins that are needed for the season some have gone rotten; and like zombies those bad pumpkins can infect the good ones so they must be eliminated, preferably without harming the happy, ripe pumpkins. And no, you can't just build a giant machine to chuck them somewhere, lest they spread their deadly infection further afield. Hey, that's as good an explanation as any for the physics puzzler, Pumpkin Remover 3.

Play all the Pumpkin Remover games:
Pumpkin RemoverPumpkin Remover 2Pumpkin Remover 3

This is the third Halloween in a row that we've seen the deadly pumpkins arrive and once again the objective remains to simply remove them with a click of the mouse. Well, sort of. Pumpkins can fall in different directions, and you still need to clear all of the bad pumpkins without losing the good ones. Just watch out for the black pumpkins, which can't be exploded with a click, and the flaming ones which wreak their own kind of havoc. With only 20 levels of pumpkin removing madness this is a quick and easy seasonal delight, spiced up with some really bad jokes every five levels. So be a mensch and take a few minutes to make the world safe for all the good, ripe pumpkins out there.

Play Pumpkin Remover 3


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Rating: 4.6/5 (409 votes)
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JayMonkey GO Happy MarathonJust when you thought all monkeys had gone happy, Robin Vencel drops another series of point-and-click puzzle challenges on us and calls it Monkey GO Happy Marathon!

Choose your favorite monkey, select a cute little hat for it to wear, and then embark on a marathon of simple puzzles and mini-games all designed to delight the little critter. All you need to do is figure out what must be done in each stage. You will need to make the monkey happy as quickly as possible if you're trying for a high score, since the bonus score for completing each stage begins to count down the second the stage begins. Bonus stages serve to mix things up every few levels and give you an opportunity to maximize your score.

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

All puzzles follow simple, straightforward logic, so you probably won't need the obnoxious, flashing HINT CLICK ME button (please Robin, stop that shenanigans, the in-your-face flashing makes me NOT want to click it). If you do get stuck, a changing mouse cursor alerts you to objects you need to interact with, and the solution isn't far beyond that (I breezed through this one quickly). So go, please make those monkeys happy once and for all, because nobody wants to see sad little monkeys.

Play Monkey GO Happy Marathon


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraWakey wakey, internet! It's Friday, and that means you only have a few more hours of drudgery before the glory that is the weekend rains happiness, fun, and irresponsibility upon us! Of course, because Halloween got all uppity and is suddenly too good to be on a Friday or Saturday this year, we're all going to be shagged out from ghoulish parties come Tuesday, but that's the price you pay for a good time and candy stolen from small children! On this week's Link Dump Friday, not only do we highlight some zombie empathy and a surprising slew of high-quality download titles, but we also take a look at three extremely promising upcoming titles, one of which in particular I am personally very excited for.

Psssst! Confused? This is our new Link Dump Friday format! For an explanation, read this if you missed it!

New and Noteworthy

  • Mage GauntletMage Gauntlet - You've got the touch! You've got the pow-WUUUUURRRR! Or at least, our heroine Lexi does in this iOS action RPG from Rocketcat Games. With a snappy sense of humour, easy to master controls, and a lighthearted approach to fantasy, this is simply a great little retro RPG that can keep you wrapped up and tapping buttons for a long time.
  • Lab of the DeadLab of the Dead - Evil Dog gives us this odd take on zombie games in the form of a simulation/puzzle hybrid where you play a scientist after an undead invasion experimenting on the shambling monsters. Sure you can dissect them in a variety of ways, but the choice to try to help them connect with their past selves using tools, food, animals, and more can make for some surprisingly affecting gameplay.
  • The Blackwell DeceptionThe Blackwell Deception - Wadjet Eye Games adds another chapter in their stellar point-and-click adventure series about a young psychic and her ghostly guide who can't seem to stop stumbling across preternatural murder plots. Fantastic writing, artwork, and voice acting make up for some slightly obtuse puzzles and make this one a title adventure fans should definitely check out.
  • Drawn: Trail of ShadowsDrawn: Trail of Shadows - The always captivating hidden-object adventure series gets another notch on its belt with the release of this latest installment. Our own John Bardinelli called it "an adventure experience unrivaled in the casual gaming world", and fans were only too willing to agree. Have you discovered Drawn yet?
  • A Game About Game LiteracyA Game About Game Literacy - What is it about games that deconstruct genres we love so much? Damian Sommer made this weird yet adorable and interesting little puzzle platformer as an extremely simple take on Metroidvania, and both our own esteemed Jay and equally esteemed-er readers took to it like ducks to water. It was made in just a day and a half, and requires some fiddly jumping, but there's just something about it that makes you want to see it through.

Detective GrimoirePreview Alert! Nearly five years after he first appeared in your browsers, the grizzled mystery solver is making a comeback... on your phones! Super Flash Bros' point-and-click adventure will be hitting the App Store when it arrives, which may be a bit of a disappointment to anyone not in possession of something that runs iOS, but still looks absolutely gorgeous. You'll be sent to a swamp to solve a murder than everyone claims is connected to a mysterious monster people believe has been living there for sixty years. The artwork looks beautiful, and the voice-acting and soundtrack definitely add to that professional polish. Check out more screenshots and the trailer over at the official site, but there's no release date set... yet!

HomePreview Alert! There's no place like home! Unless, of course, it's the scene of a brutal murder... and isn't your home at all! In Benjamin Rivers' upcoming indie horror adventure, you wake up in unfamiliar surroundings and promptly discover a body, which is usually bad news. Home is billed as "a murder mystery with a twist", and in this case that twist is that occasionally the narrative will ask you questions, and your decision dictates what happens next. (Or what already happened.) As the trailer at the official site informs you, however, no matter what, this will not end well. Cheery! The game is still in development, but you can (and should) follow Mr Rivers himself on Twitter for news and updates... and while you're at it, tell him to hurry up, because Dora needs her horror fix! TAKE MY MONEY, BENJAMIN.

To The MoonRelease Approaching! Freebird Games will be releasing their intriguing RPG adventure game about a pair of scientists who can enter the memories of people on their deathbeds this Tuesday, November 1st. The story goes that this experimental new technology developed by the protagonists, Dr. Eva Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts, allows people to live out their dreams and fulfill their wishes, all within their minds, but can only be performed on people who are already dying. This time, they're in the mind of an elderly man who's always wanted just one thing; to go to the moon. Will you get through this one without needing to break out the hankies or blink back manly tears? The game will be released for $12.00 USD, but if you already know you need to have it, you can pre-order it on Desura for the discounted price of $9.95 USD.


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StumpedArtbegottiStraight from the ghastly hallows of Nitrome comes the hobbling horror of a humdinger, Stumped! If you're all right [sic] with tackling this challenging avoidance puzzler, you'll find that you are in fact a foot that can only make right turns (perhaps one of Dr. Frankenstein's high school biology projects?) by clicking or hitting the [spacebar]. Your goal is to reach the target by perpetually hopping on one foot until you reach the checkered finish area, while smashing pumpkins for bonus points. This might sound like a walk in the park, until you realize that you've got to dodge piercing spikes, frightening fire pits, eerie eyeballs, and many more devilish obstacles. Stumped is a quick Halloween treat with plenty of puzzling problems to pounce upon. Now that you've got your marching orders, hop to it!

Play Stumped


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Rating: 4/5 (416 votes)
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elleelle_kidnapped_for_life_image3.jpgWhen you get right down to it, being held captive in a locked room, forced to decipher arcane clues lest you be stuck there forever, is quite akin to kidnapping, ain't it? Here's an escape game that's up front and honest about it: Kidnapped for Life by Abroy. You're not checking into an upscale hotel with jaunty tunes, flowery artwork and a joyful bit of currency at the end. You're in a drab-colored cell and your abductor has hidden jigsaw pieces all over the room, in locked drawers and even in the most unlikely of places.

Kidnapped for Life defies its name with a short, enjoyable sentence of code-breaking, puzzle-solving and even a smattering of kakuro amongst the usual room escape tricks. The jail keeper probably takes delight in tormenting you by surreptitiously concealing essential tools from your view (what items you do find, use by dragging them to the spot where they're needed). Heck, even the navigation arrows are obtuse, barely visible shapes in the bottom corners of the screen. The echoes of the prison resemble a fiend's hollow chortle as you scrutinize just about every pixel to pry these objects from their secret recesses. But besting him at his pernicious game and assembling all the jigsaw pieces to thumb your nose at that evil, grinning visage is an oh-so-sweet ransom.

Play Kidnapped for Life


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

Letters in Boxes #20

ArtbegottiDouble, double toil and trouble,
Fire burn and cauldron bubble
Letters In Boxes challenge the brave
To find the secret words you crave.
Nightmare nouns and vicious verbs,
And also some prepositions and adjectives and other stuff.
Three witches knew how to cook in rhyme,
But when you paint yourself into a corner trying to rhyme with really hard words, it all falls apart pretty quickly. I'm no Shakespeare or Poe, but... Oh, hold on.

</poetry>

I'm no Shakespeare or Poe, but this puzzle challenge contains some wicked words to worm through! Take a look at the starting puzzle below. Click on it to open up the image in a new window. When you think you've found the answer, hover up to the address bar and change the image's filename (in this case, "hallotwenty") to your answer, making sure your answer is all lowercase and without spaces, and that you stay in the same directory and keep the same filename. If you're right, you'll spirit away to the next puzzle. If you're wrong, you'll see the frightening sight of an error screen, but you can always run back to the last puzzle.

Letters in Boxes #20 - 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 31st (OOH, SPOOKY!) at 11:59 PM (GMT-5:00). Be sure to save some candy for later!

Update: Congratulations to the following winners! :D

  • cendare ...First!
  • GlixD
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 (224 votes)
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Hood: Episode 2

elleRevisit a small town in the middle of nowhere teeming with mystery and secrets to uncover in Hood: Episode 2, the second installment in the point-and-click adventure series by Alice is Dead co-creator, Hyptosis.

Hood: Episode 2 is story-driven and atmospheric, continuing where Hood: Episode 1 left off. While searching the woods for a lost girl (auburn hair, 17-ish, red cloak), you come across a peculiar metal ship. Like something the cat dragged in from a murky swamp. And that's not the only strange encounter in store for you. In this chapter of the series, your main focus is unlocking the secrets of the large tin machine—interrogate the local inhabitants and face unfriendly spirits who cast disparaging labels ("murderer!") upon you in your quest for answers.

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

Although answers in the case can be obtuse or riddled with implication, moving around in Episode 2 is straight-forward and easy: just click on the red arrows to navigate your way around the town. You might catch yourself hammering some distraught imp's head repeatedly only to come up with empty hands for the dozenth time, there's no need (unless you think his tortured "Arww!" amusing); requisite items are rather obvious when they're located. If you can't pick it up or it's not presented to you, it's probable that you aren't supposed to have it yet. The inventory menu is also conveniently located at the bottom of the screen making using an object a simple matter of highlighting it.

While the puzzle solving aspect of the game is certainly gratifying, the greatest appeal of Hood: Episode 2 is in discovery and narrative scaffolding. Poking a tree with a pumpkin, for no other reason than to reveal some ironic or irreverent comment, can be addicting. As you continue to explore, the tainted allegory unfolds before you. Then, at the moment of revelation, a new twist. What happens next? Look forward to Episode 3 when that answer might soon be revealed.

Play Hood: Episode 2


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Rating: 3.9/5 (85 votes)
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joyePlumet 2Everyone wants to get into this plummeting into the bowels of the earth business: robots, ninjas, skeletons, pirates, even Santa is jumping over ledges and rolling down slopes. What's down there? Cake and ice cream? Play Plumet 2, a simple but addictive arcade game from Person333 to find out.

The game features 20 different unlockable characters and a number of achievements to keep you playing. In addition to a classic "how far can you go" mode, you can also race the computer or a friend in local multiplayer. However while the classic mode is seemingly bottomless (or at least goes a lot farther than your humble reviewer's skill level), the race mode is rather short, and can be won by the first player to reach the bottom even if the other player is still alive. That flaw aside, this is a simple little time waster that may just suck a few of your coffee breaks into its endlessly descending maw.

Play Plumet 2


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TrickyDiscount MayonnaiseDiscount Mayonnaise, an action platformer by Joelasticot and UltraPitchfork, is one of those games that blurs the line between genre tribute and satire. Of course, part of the confusion stems from how the genre, ultra-macho run-and-gun shooting, was kind of a parody of itself to begin with. So, while you'll see all the hallmarks: tons of enemies to blast into chunks, cool weapons to fire (including Bill and Lance's favorite, the spread-shot), and power-ups of all kinds to grab, you'll do it all while being chased by an all-consuming sandworm and upgrading your trucker hat for better defense. The art style is a strange mix of Jhonen Vasquez and Salad Fingers, and is so exquisitely ghoulish that it almost makes up for the stickiness of the controls. Strange as it is to say, this is exactly what you'd think a game called Discount Mayonnaise would be.

Play Discount Mayonnaise


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Rating: 4.6/5 (68 votes)
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DoraXenosquadWhen your problem is a little too fanged and violent to fall into the Ghostbusters' jurisdiction, and Will and Tommy Lee aren't answering their phones, just give Ed Ryzhov's Xenosquad a call. The power-suited heroes of this turn-based sci-fi strategy game will be happy to attend to all your KILL IT WITH FIRE needs. The game has no real story to speak of apart from "here you are" and "kill that thing", but you can probably fill in the blanks yourself. You take command of a group of three soldiers sent into areas that could be charitably called "grody" and are teeming with hostile alien life.

The game's handy tutorial level will walk you through the finer points of shooting aliens in the face while remaining undevoured, but for the most part, gameplay is about what you'd expect from a turn-based strategy title. You'll order your men around the level individually by clicking on them and issuing orders; green squares are places you can move to, and small icons that pop up over nearby items means you can interact with something. Ammo boxes and other goodies are littered throughout the area to help you, but you don't play a game called "Xenosquad" without expecting to run into a few interstellar terrors, and so you'll find aliens aplenty that need to be dealt with before you can proceed. Since your squad and the enemy take it in turns to move and act, you'll want to carefully consider where you tell your soldiers to move, as well as make use of their various special abilities.

Between stages you'll get the chance to tweak and upgrade your squad by allocating any skill points they earn into various statistics, as well as purchasing new weapons with the go-to universal currency of science-fiction... credits. While the first two stages are relatively easy, as you progress you'll find that enemies get smarter as well as stronger, so don't be shy about putting some thought into your soldiers. It may save them from winding up as gooey chunks one day.

XenosquadAnalysis: If it helps, think of Xenosquad as a gorier, less kupo-po Final Fantasy Tactics in terms of gameplay, stripped of the story. If you're more narrative-driven like myself, the lack of a compelling tale to push you along might be a big negative, but this game's focus is certainly planted firmly on the gameplay itself, so that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Xenosquad is definitely not what you would call fast-paced, but chances are if you're a fan of the genre, you wouldn't like it if it was. The game encourages careful, thoughtful troop direction, and like any good strategy title it allows for just enough options and tactics to provide a bit of depth and challenge without making you feel like you need to keep a forty-pound manual on hand for reference. It's just a shame you can't replay old missions to grind up levels and cash when you're having trouble passing the latest stage.

Despite being really, really tiny, Xenosquad looks great, and if you prefer the slow, patience approach to games, you'll probably think it's pretty great in general too. Those of us who feel there is never enough gun might wish for more equipment to purchase, but the limited availability cuts down on fiddliness rather than options, so you'll always have sufficient firepower for what lies ahead even if that firepower isn't particularly flashy. Xenosquad is a solid little strategy game with a great presentation that can provide a decent challenge for genre fans without being wholly unfriendly to newcomers. Besides, with the invention of the Taco Bell Dorito Shell, it's only a matter of time before the aliens see us as a threat to the rest of the galaxy, so you might as well get them before they can get us.

Play Xenosquad


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Rating: 3.5/5 (184 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypIt's nearly Halloween, so it's time for a creepy room escape! This week's Weekday Escape is a spooky little treat by Selfdefiant called Spooky Night Escape. Just deal with it and hand over the candy before someone gets hurt.

SpookyNightEscapeMore of a point-and-click adventure disguised as an escape, Spooky Night Escape evokes the look and feel of the season with its nighttime setting, pale moon, and eerie trees. You have run out of gas somewhere on a dark, deserted road and must search the area, find some clues, solve some puzzles, and get the heck away before the inhabitants of the ominous nearby shack return. Faint navigation bars at the sides, top, and bottom of the scene lead the way while a changing cursor points out hot-spots to find useful items or puzzles. The puzzles themselves are not very tricky (and some are color based), making Spooky Night Escape a quick five or ten minute escaping pleasure.

Don't go into Spooky Night Escape expecting ghosts, ghouls, or jump-scares, because there's none of those to be found. The game merely evokes the feel of the season with its look and unearthly music clip. Think of it as a quick prelude to Halloween, something to set the mood for creepier fare yet to come, and a perfect mid-week break.

Play Spooky Night Escape


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Rating: 4.3/5 (280 votes)
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DoraDiscoveryNeed a little experimental gameplay mixed with puzzle-solving in your day, perhaps with a big resplendent soundtrack to make you feel like you're running a marathon in slow-motion?

Check out TOGgames' engaging Discovery, a sort of minimalist bit of interactive art that puts you in control of a little white dot lost in a void that it can shape as it desires with the god-like powers it unlocks. The text will tell you what to do in the form of a narrative that follows your actions, identifying what keys you should hit next. If you miss some text, hit [spacebar] to see a log of everything written thus far that you can scroll through, and [Ctrl] will open a menu that will display all the keys and their corresponding abilities once you've unlocked them. The lack of much direction means you'll have to be willing to experiment yourself with your powers and surroundings, but a little patience and pixie dust will get you far and make you realise just how appropriate that title really is.

Play Discovery


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Rating: 4.4/5 (35 votes)
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DoraBunny Flags 2A good bunny's work is never done, especially when nobody else is willing to fend off a tide of disembodied giant thumbs. Bunny Flags 2 is the sequel to last year's Bunny Flags from Game Launch Project, a hybrid of shooting, strategy, tower-defense and malicious digits. Sound nightmarish? Difficult? Or just plain crazy? Could be all three! Just hope that Anya forgives you for this one, because you're going to be soundly in the "bunny camp" for the next while.

Your goal across several campaigns is to protect your flag from enemies, who will try to carry them away (or try to blast you depending on the stage), planting down towers and other defenses while you run around and handle things more personally; move with [WASD] (or [AZERTY] or [QWERTZ] if you change it under the options) and aim and shoot with the mouse. Initially you won't have much else at your disposal, but eventually you'll unlock more to work with, and you can select and place defenses with the mouse, or by hitting the appropriate keyboard shortcut. Take down enemies and you'll get sweet, sweet moolah you can spend on things like barricades to force the bad guys in a certain direction, or offensive towers to make your life a bit easier. Additionally, sweet success will also grant you skill points if you level up, which you can spend on any of the three talent trees to unlock new abilities or boost the ones you've got. If you're feeling particularly rad in the way that only pretending to be a fluffy killing machine can create, you can set the difficulty higher (or lower!) on any given stage before you play to get a bonus to any experience points earned.

If you were a fan of the original, or bunny-on-sticky-thumb violence in general, you'll be pleased to see that the sequel is a return to form. Dramatic music, clean, cartoonish design, and gameplay that provides for a decent amount of strategy without overcomplicating itself makes this one a solid title. It's definitely not going to be for everyone; shooter fans may be put off by the tower-defense elements that are necessary for victory, and defense fans may find the lack of tower upgrades forces them to be more hands-on in their involvement than they might like. If you have the patience to do a little level grinding, however, and don't mind your games not making a whole lot of sense, Bunny Flags 2 has the potential to suck away a good portion of your free time. Besides, come on... these thumbs are going around driving jeeps and throwing hadokens. If we don't stop them now, it's only a matter of time before they come for us.

Play Bunny Flags 2


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Rating: 4.5/5 (173 votes)
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TrinnMonster ArenaWhat's that you say, young trainer? You want a pet monster to battle with? Well, I'm only going to let you have the kind that crochets! Oh, alright, you can have the battling kind, but you better take good care of it! Only the best trained monsters can make it through Little Giant World's Monster Arena, a turn-based RPG, adventure, and sim game all bundled into one neat package.

Gameplay consists of three kinds of activities: taking care of your monster, training it to raise its attributes, and battling other monsters. While at home base, you can spoil or discipline your pet to alter its behavior, shop for items to increase its strength both on and off the battlefield, or spend ability points earned by leveling. Alternatively, you can train a monster by playing a series of mini-games that vary from platforming races to typing challenges. Of course, all of that is just the icing on the cake. The real fun takes place in the monster arena, where you go head-to-head against a trio of increasingly tough enemies in a series of weekly tournaments. Wait for your abilities to charge, click your face-stomping attack of choice, then watch the gold and trophies pile in.

Monster Arena strikes an interesting balance with cherry picked features inspired by similar titles like the Monster Rancher and Digimon World series and then reconfigured into something completely unique. The game is slightly held back from perfection by the unfortunate presence of minor bugs, but the developer has been making diligent adjustments in response. While not particularly challenging (especially the incredibly weak rival trainers) the varying aspects of gameplay are both engaging and totally addictive. The addition of two secret monsters and a long list of achievements also allows for some great replay value. Whether you'd love a fire-breathing companion or a game of rock-paper-scissors, Monster Arena has something for everyone to enjoy.

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The Vault

DoraThat special time of year known as Halloween is just around the corner, and if you have some time in between hiding under blankets after watching that movie you swore wasn't scary and rationalizing eating all the candy you "bought for trick-o-treaters", you may want to cozy up to this week's Vault which features a whole batch of games designed to give you those warm fuzzies. And by "warm fuzzies" I of course mean "paranoia the instant you turn off the lights for bed as you become convinced every sound is a serial killer". If you're feeling really tough, you could also play Amnesia with all the lights off and headphones on, but in the meantime...

  • The Dead CaseThe Dead Case - Waking up in the morning sucks badly enough without adding "being dead" to the list... much less having to solve your own murder and tend to the business of every other restless soul causing havoc in your sleepy little town. This point-and-click adventure is low on any real scares, but earns high marks for managing to tell an engrossing story and pack it full of interesting characters, with the added bonus of placing an emphasis on terrorizing people to help accomplish your goals. Some slightly clunky navigation and a general lack of direction hampers it, but The Dead Case is still one of the best older mystery adventures out there.
  • Hotel 626Hotel 626 - This horrifying escape game is only available after 6PM... or right now if you're super sneaky and change your computer's time to fool the site. This point-and-click puzzle adventure stars you (and your microphone and webcam if you're brave enough) after you awaken one night in a hotel and discover that something is very wrong, and it would be a very good idea if you left immediately. Despite being an advergame for Doritos of all things, Hotel 626 is an amazingly creepy and atmospheric experience that had me shut down my browser and refuse to continue for a while more than once. The game does require a "reservation" by giving it an e-mail address, since it e-mails you when the game is available to play, but if you're super sneaky like the rest of us, you'll use a non-personal, for spam and gaming purposes only address and sleep soundly. Or, uh, maybe not since this game is seriously freaky.
  • Being OneBeing One - Now that it's finished (... for now...), Psionic's creepy-cool sci-fi horror adventure game is a four-title series and chock full of scares and surprises. The story begins as you awake in a giant glass chamber full of green fluid (never a good sign), and are forced to escape the facility without knowing who you are and what's going on... or who the voice on the phone you find is... or what those noises in the shadows are. Each game is itself fairly short, but manages to create an impressively engrossing atmosphere, introducing new story elements along the way as you search for an exit and the truth. It you like a campy horror mystery, don't mind a jump scare or seven, and have a strong stomach for gore, you might just want to check this series out.

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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TrinnTwo PrincesWe've all heard the story before: evil wizard captures beautiful princess, so the stalwart knight comes to rescue and marry her. Unfortunately, things got mixed up in this tale a bit, and someone accidentally sent Two Princes! In this puzzle platform adventure by Arctic Arcade, control both heroes, Sir Valiant and... err... Steve, on their heroic quest to save the princess before they wind up killing each other.

While there may be two of them, there's sadly only one of you. You'll have to use the the [Z] key to alternate control between the princes, the [arrow] keys to move the currently selected prince, and the [spacebar] to attack enemies and interact with objects. Both of the characters need to work together to make it to the green flag in order to progress to the next level. Fortunately, each prince has a certain advantage at their disposal. Sir Valiant can swim underwater, while Steve can travel inside caves and has a cooler looking helmet.

Two PrincesSometimes the best route isn't the most direct, and being a little curious can lead you to one of the many secrets sprinkled throughout the game. Not only are there gold coins to collect in order to buy new weapons, there are also feathers hidden all over that transport you to a bonus level with even more goodies inside. If you manage to capture the red gem at the end of every bonus level, you might find a surprising advantage later on.

Now it wouldn't be any fun if there wasn't some risk involved, so sometimes even the wildest flail of a sword won't save you when one of your princes kicks the bucket. Instead of a trek back to life through the realm of Hades, you take a cue from Eros and shoot through floating hearts with a bow to regain your health. Admittedly, this mini-game can get tiresome quickly if you're stuck on a particular deathtrap or a difficult boss, but it does beat having to go all the way back to the start.

Two PrincesThe 8-bit graphics, spot on music by Rayne Leafe, and the homage paid to classic console games are sure to please retro fans, while the snarky humor and challenging gameplay can make it a fun experience for any gamer. Unfortunately, nothing is without flaw and Two Princes is no exception. The lack of a save or level select feature is a frustrating omission, especially since it takes some time in one sitting to make it through all the way to the very end, and there are some levels where it's possible to get permanently stuck. Even returning to the main menu requires you to restart the game from the very beginning, which isn't the kind of replayability most people have in mind. If you can put aside that one shortcoming however, what you're left with is a charming modern interpretation of beloved classic games. Two Princes is a real gem, and you don't need to collect a secret feather to find this one.

Play Two Princes


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Rating: 3.3/5 (62 votes)
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Kyhkyh_grinningcobossus_screen.jpgSo you burned the rope and now you're the hero we all wish we could be. If you weren't satisfied with your previous victory over the Grinning Colossus, then you should jump into your genre changing machine and play Gama11's shoot-em-up, Grinning Cobossus.

Play with mouse or keyboard as the game takes you through several stages toward defeating the Grinning Cobossus (likeness used with Mazapan's permission), earning upgrade points and achievements along the way. Now what to do once you've finished the game? Maybe watch a video, maybe press refresh and start again...

Play Grinning Cobossus


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (60 votes)
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TrickyClassic Hashi Light Volume 2The name of Hashi, the Japanese logic puzzle, is short for Hashiwokakero, literally "Building Bridges". This is entirely appropriate for the game of lines and connections that it is. It's interesting however, that, phonetically, "Hashi" can also be translated as "chopsticks", which also would be a perfectly applicable title. Of course, the appeal of the game goes far beyond linguistic trivia. That should be clear from the success Conceptis found in its previous collection. Now, with its palpable boost in difficulty, your mind will be tested like never before in Classic Hashi Light Volume 2.

The goal is the same as before: Each puzzle is based on an arrangement of circles with numbers within. Each circle can be viewed as an island, and the number within represents how many line bridges are horizontally and vertically attached to it. As king of the islands, you must connect them according to the numbers, so that there are no more than two bridges branching off an island in any direction, that none cross and that a continuous path attaches all islands together. To place a bridge between two islands, mouse over the island you wish to start from, then move over the shaded direction and click. Clicking again adds a second bridge, and clicking once more clears them. Victory comes when all bridges are in place and all numbers are satisfied.

The label of "hard" on the title screen indicates how Classic Hashi Light Volume 2 is definitely geared towards the more serious hashi-heads. Since Volume 1 was more of an introduction, beginners might want to start there instead. Still, with 30 new puzzles in the streamlined presentation for which Conceptis is renowned, the developer continues its streak of quality releases. This is a stash of hashi that deserves to be shared.

Classic Hashi Light Volume 2


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (23 votes)
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Mage Gauntlet

JohnBMage Gauntlet, from Hook Champ, Super QuickHook, and Hook Worlds creator Rocketcat Games, is the modern 16-bit action role playing game you've been waiting for. Everything about it is retro, from the level design to the pixel art, only instead of having to dust off your SNES, you just fire up your iOS device. In a decidedly awesome twist, this RPG doesn't take hours of playing before you can get into it, opening it up for shorter mobile sessions and casual gamers alike!

magegauntlet.gifMage Gauntlet puts you in control of Lexi, a young woman out to prove herself to the local wizard Whitebeard. Things don't quite go as planned, however, and Lexi finds herself armed with a weapon, gathering spells and equipping armor as she fights her way across forest and mountain. Controls are of the virtual type, with the left side tied to movement and a few dedicated buttons on the right that allow you to attack, dash, and select spells. If virtual controls make you shudder, fear not, as Mage Gauntlet works very well with them and features a number of options to let you customize your experience.

With every RPG, combat, items, spells and equipment are handled in a slightly different way. For Mage Gauntlet, everything is touch screen friendly and surprisingly light on statistics. Weapons, for example, are largely prized for their special ability, not some stat they endow upon the wearer. The same goes for armor and other wearables. Magic is very unusual in that you must collect bits of energy in order to gain a spell, and when you do, which spell you have is random. You can only hold four spells at once, making you appreciate their value.

magegauntlet2.gifWhile simple gameplay was obviously the focus when Mage Gauntlet was in production, that's not to say there's no meat on this RPG's bones. You'll level up just like in any role playing game, assigning points to upgrade stats in a special menu. There are also some in-app purchases you can browse. Completely optional, of course, but quite fun. Flaming hats, hurrah!

Analysis: Mage Gauntlet is one of the most playable and enjoyable retro-styled action RPGs on the iTunes App Store. Those aren't words aren't to be taken lightly, as there are some serious competitors in that category. It's Mage Gauntlet's ability not to take itself so seriously that makes it so good, and stripping out complex statistics and item management in favor of clean, old fashioned fun has made it better than you can imagine.

Like any true retro game (and like most modern games should be doing), Mage Gauntlet focuses on a few basics and tunes them until they make for interesting gameplay. Different enemies, for example, unleash different attacks, and all have to be dealt with in a slightly different way. Learning these strategies is half the fun of the game, and even though you'll die a few more times than you're willing to admit, it's worth it to get back up and try the level again, just to see what secret passageways and loot you can uncover the second time around.

Mage Gauntlet affords several hours of excellent action/RPG gameplay if you simply blaze through from beginning to end. After beating it, though, you'll unlock a new mode that changes the levels around, adds new secrets, different loot, and more enemies to contend with. Beat the game again and you get a new ending along with the ability to replay levels to unlock new pets. If you're a perfectionist, there's plenty to work on in this game, and you'll be rewarded for your efforts!

A labor of love from beginning to end, Mage Gauntlet is a fantastic action role playing game that will tickle nostalgic gamers to the bone while staying open and inviting for everyone else.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an iPad. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.


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Mobile Monday

JohnBCute blue monsters? Evil red ones? Furry ones that leap into the air and can be cut in half? Sounds like Halloween is approaching. And it sounds like you've got some monster-related work to accomplish on your mobile iOS device! Also, did someone say something about COOKIES?!

createandplay.gifArthur & Charles Present Create & Play (universal) - Create & Play (starring Arthur the boy and Charles the Bugapilla) features three rudimentary puzzle/memory games you can play, but the soul of the experience is the face creator. Tap on a square face and choose from a number of features to create just about anything you like. A likeness of your mom wearing a monocle? No problem! A blue pirate with pineapple skin? Easy! Then, head back to the games and use your creations to play match-3 puzzles or memory. It's a very basic concept, but boy is it fun, especially for kids!

aikoisland.gifAiko Island (iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad) - A physics game with cookies? Yes, please! The cute and furry blue aikos have all the cookies they could want. But when the red aikos steal the cookie bag, panic erupts! Your goal is to help the blue aiko by knocking the red ones off the screen. You do so by tapping them or removing objects to upset their delicate balance. A branching story map, loads of levels, and plenty of creative obstacles to deal with make this physics puzzler a clear winner. Also: COOKIES! Also also: Aiko Island HD for iPad!

monsterwarrior.jpgMonster Warrior (iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad) - What does everybody have against fruit these days? Tossing it into the air. Slicing it in half. Better yet, why not cut something that actually deserves cutting? Like... monsters! A witch has sent baddies to the village, and it's your job to "discourage" them from causing trouble. Simply swipe the screen when the bad guys pop up, creating combos and sending lots of little monster halves falling to the ground. Several modes of play give it some staying power, plus, nobody gets tired of being a monster-killing ninja. Monster Warrior HD is available for iPad.

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


(8 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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A Day in the Woods

JohnBA Day in the Woods is a sliding puzzle adventure from Retro Epic that stars none other than Little Red Riding Hood. It's a simple game built around simple, classic puzzle ideas, but it's lengthy and challenging enough to provide an afternoon of brilliant entertainment. Also, one look at the game and you'll absolutely fall in love with the visual style!

A Day in the WoodsLittle Miss Hood is trying to get to grandmother's house, but it seems granny has built her cabin in an area filled with thick movable hexagons. In order to deliver those delicious baked goods, you'll need to move these tiles around, swapping them one at a time and moving Little Red Riding Hood in the same manner. After enough head scratching and a few trials and errors, you'll reach the door of the cabin, only to hear the fairy tale equivalent of "our princess is in another castle". Oh well, on to another level!

A Day in the Woods is more than basic tile swapping. You can collect flowers and berries for grandma along your way, grabbing them by landing in an empty space next to their tiles. Immovable hexagons are also a problem, as are wolves who will threaten to eat you and bears that frighten Miss Hood away. Fortunately, you've got some friends, too, including a lumberjack that can cut down trees and some bunnies who will distract wolves.

A Day in the WoodsAnd here's the real reason you took a second look at this game: graphics. A Day in the Woods looks amazing. The images are like wooden statues lifted from the pages of a storybook. Not only that, but you have free control of the camera while you play, so you can look around the screen to get a better view of, well, all the better views to see! You can even unlock costume changes for the sprite that guides you through the game, though the alterations are purely cosmetic in nature.

Analysis: A Day in the Woods will remind you of a number of classic puzzle games: simple, easy to play, and focused on smart, challenging puzzles. Theseus and the Minotaur or many of the games in Simon Tatham's Puzzle Collection are a few examples. The basic tile sliding mechanic has been done many times, but few games bother to do it with such a visual flair.

In all, A Day in the Woods features 60 levels, which is a good number for a very good price. You'll probably want more by the end, but such is the nature of puzzle games. The experience gets more complex and a bit deeper when the friends/enemies start appearing, but the basic idea stays the same throughout, and A Day in the Woods never attempts to distract you from its core gameplay with mini-games or other diversions.

If you need a game that looks stunning from every angle and provides a well-built, streamlined challenge, look no further than A Day in the Woods. It's distilled puzzle goodness without any filler!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (69 votes)
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grinnyp_4elements2_banner.jpg

GrinnypA long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away... er, well, a long time ago, anyway, there was a Magic Kingdom where the basic elements, earth, air, fire, and water, were in perfect balance and the people in the kingdom lived in peace and harmony. Then, something dreadful happened and the elements went out of control, wreaking havoc across the land and its people. Fortunately, that balance was restored and everything went back to normal. Except, whoops, it's happened again. Playrix Entertainment has come roaring back with a sequel to one of the most engaging match-3 games ever, 4 Elements. Once again the elements are out of whack in the Magic Kingdom and it's up to you to make things right before all life ceases to exist in 4 Elements II. Prepare for tons of elemental delights!

grinnyp_4elements2_screenshot1.jpgThe basic premise of 4 Elements II is that the aging sorcerer who guards and protects the elemental book of magic has weakened, losing control of the elements thus causing tons of natural disasters. Even worse, the fairy of each element has been trapped in the ensuing chaos and nothing can be done about restoring the natural balance until those fairies are freed. Once they are, they can aid you in finding the people and creatures of the element, eventually getting everything back to normal.

4 Elements II is broken up into four main segments, each beginning with the freeing of the elemental fairy. This opening chapter plays like a mini adventure/hidden object hybrid with lots of object pieces to find and puzzles to solve. Once the fairy has been freed she leads the player into the meat of the gameplay, the match-3 action, which is the "chain drag" type of match-3. Within each elemental segment are four people or creatures that need to be found and restored, requiring four screens of match 3 madness per creature. The weakened fairy will "light" the elemental magic at one end of a map, and it is up to the player to create a path for the energy by using the matches to break through the ground to allow it to flow to the elemental altar at the other end of the map. When the altar is restored the game moves on to the next map until the creature has been identified. Once that happens another mini-game pops up (one of a variety including hidden object scenes, spot the differences, swap jigsaws, and other puzzles) to completely restore the creature.

grinnyp_4elements2_screenshot2.jpgWhile the heart of the gameplay is the match-3 boards, even these are not your usual match-3 challenges. To begin with, rather than being forced to break all the "tiles" in the game (which is usual in most match-3s), all the player has to do is break enough for the magic to flow through to the altar. Unfortunately, the way to the altar is never really a straight path, and it includes a lot of twists and turns along the way. Eventually the maps will also contain certain obstacles which are themselves mini-games: pipe puzzles, block sliders, and twisting ring puzzles that need to be solved during the match-3 round before the magic can move along. There are the usual ice and stone obstacles to be found, along with helpful pockets of arrows and landmines which, when activated, clear paths as well. To round out the help are four different power-ups which are filled by making matches of certain colors and which affect the board in different ways.

Analysis: If you've played the original 4 Elements and think you know what to expect in the sequel, think again. While the original was fantastic fun it was also pretty static and predictable: play four rounds of match three, then solve a "spot-the-difference" puzzle. Not so with 4 Elements II, which throws in so many mini-games, hidden objects scenes, and the like that it seems to have created its own unique niche of gameplay, the match-3/adventure/hidden object hybrid.

grinnyp_4elements2_screenshot3.jpgThe graphics and animations are bright, clear, and cartoony from the intros and the cut-scenes to the actual gameplay itself. The game pieces in the match-3 rounds have very distinct colors and, if the player is colorblind, each has its own distinctive pattern which makes them easy to differentiate. The action is lively with the bursting of the tiles, the explosions from the arrows and landmines, and the ever-present fairy flying around (along with cute background animations matching the element that is being restored). Major effort has gone into making 4 Elements II a visual feast at every turn.

The gameplay itself is match-3 madness at its finest. The action is smooth, the challenges become trickier as each level progresses, and the interspersed mini-games keep the match-3 action from becoming too tedious, especially in the upper rounds with the progressively larger maps. The option to play in either timed or untimed mode helps make 4 Elements II fun for both those new to match-3 play and experts looking for a challenge.

For those who played the original 4 Elements be warned: the delicate, lovely, shaded illustrations from the first have been replaced with broader, flatter, more cartoon-like fare. Still beautiful, but the sense of playing through a fantasy illustration has been lost, replaced with the feeling of playing through a Disney movie.

With its "everything but the kitchen sink" approach to gameplay, 4 Elements II is poised to appeal to a wide audience, even those who don't necessarily like or who have never played a match-3 game before. Stunning visuals, absorbing gameplay, and enough variety to keep it interesting make 4 Elements II a must-have game, fun for all ages.

Play 4 Elements II (free browser version)

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (100 votes)
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joyeNuts and BoltsConstructing skyscrapers is a dangerous business. Perhaps having robots do it is the answer? In this path-drawing puzzle game, Nuts and Bolts from Gaming Your Way, your mechanical hero Nuts and his fairly useless robot dog Bolts have been picked to test out the system. It's a real budget crunch and there just aren't enough beams to go around, so you'll have to pick them up and rearrange them to get to the exit.

The trick is that you can hold only one beam at a time, so you'll have to think ahead and plan your moves carefully. Just click on a platform to move there, click on a beam to pick it up. Once you have a beam, click on an adjacent platform to place it, if it's of the correct length.

A clean isometric interface and levels that unlock two at a time keep the challenge of this game from getting pull-out-your-sockets difficult. Just make sure that you try the levels in order, however, because rather than an instructions screen, the game uses in-level tutorials, and if you miss the tutorial on how to use Bolts, for example, you may get lost. Aside from that, this is an enjoyable coffee break game that you can pick up quickly.

Play Nuts and Bolts


(15 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Sphera

elleTess is looking for an escape from her reality, a world where she is overcome by fear and loneliness. She is tormented by her older brother who taunts, "You're stupid and weird!" Her father has gone off to war and her mother works in a factory making weapons. Tess spends most her time alone until the day she picks up a mysterious orb and is transported to Sphera, a new puzzle-heavy hidden object adventure by Sandlot Games.

elle_sphera_image4.jpgWhen frightened Tess first arrives in Sphera, she meets Zuchary, a walrus-like king who assures her of his help while explaining: "This world was created by the dreams of ones like you, the dream world of the forgotten children . . . You cannot go home until you confront your strongest fears." Tess has to promise him she'll continue no matter how difficult things seem. At that moment, you'll know you're in for a formidable and wondrous odyssey.

Navigate through the mesmerizing world of Sphera, gathering objects and clues as you go, by the click of your mouse. Zuchary, true to his word, will provide hints in both casual and expert modes of play. In casual mode, you'll be given the additional assistance of cursor icons that indicate graspable items and interactive areas, no penalty for random clicking in hidden object searches, a sixty-second hint recharge and the ability to skip puzzles. On the other hand, if you're looking for increased challenge, expert mode has a slower hint recharge and none of the additional support given to casual.

elle_sphera_image8.jpgYou'll join Tess as she confronts nightmarish scenes of child-sized skeletons, monsters threatening to devour her, and dungeons of trapped souls along with imaginative daydreams such as a bee with a mechanical unicorn, a room covered in gold leafing, and an Escher-esque hedge maze. Alternating from beautiful childhood fantasies to twisted fears and dystopic visions, every scene in Sphera is a gorgeous piece of art, mostly hand-drawn with intricate details and an atmospheric soundtrack that is perfectly paired to each environment.

Analysis: Sphera contains a generous blend of puzzles and hidden object scenes to keep you actively engaged throughout your adventure. The puzzles do not lean too heavily on any one device and are comprised of: jigsaws, physics, sliders, and matching puzzles plus item-combining and rebuilding tasks. None are overly challenging yet each puzzle is uncommonly interesting and aesthetically pleasing in a style that's reminiscent of the Drawn series (the most recent of which, Drawn: Trail of Shadows, was just released). When you complete a puzzle, you are rewarded with even more intriguing animations, special effects and new scenes which make progressing through Sphera a captivating experience.

elle_sphera_image7.jpgIt's necessary to note that, although the protagonist is a child, the story contains disturbing subject matter and complex concepts making Sphera a mature-themed game. Yet, seeing as Tess learns self-esteem and how to conquer fear on her journey, Sphera manages to have a positive, uplifting message. You can't help but feel good when Tess beams, "I actually did it!" Because of this, disappointment might hit when you reach the finale.

Many of the opening scenes foreshadow what's to come but the twist ending is still a disconcerting jolt: it's curt and dark as well as a bit vague and unexplained. By this point in the game, though, you are thoroughly immersed in Tess' world of Sphera and most likely longing for more. That's not necessarily a bad thing, just a sign of how engrossing this game can be. Sphera is of average-length for hidden-object/puzzle adventures and it goes even further in its impact. Sphera's originality, unique artwork and fantastical scenery far outshine any shortcomings it might have. Playing Sphera is well worth the experience, just be sure to have a cheerful something or other standing by for when you're done. No wonder Tess is hugging that cuddly teddy so tightly.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (80 votes)
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TrickyTown of FearsDetective Marco is having a week full of horror. There's a serial killer on the loose, the professor he wished to consult has run off to the spooky village of Kraig Rock, and there's all these friggin' dire wolves on the prowl. Even as a typically hard-boiled visual novel adventure-RPG protagonist, he'll need all of his skills and the support of a team of Kraig Rock's mysterious inhabitants if he hopes to unravel all the mysteries of the Town of Fears, a release new from MuHa Games.

Generally, Town of Fears is played by reading through the story until an enemy is encountered. You'll choose a member of your party to lead the battle, then enter a quick timed event-based combat screen. After using the mouse to chose an attack or special move, an arrow will travel along a bar at the bottom the screen. Clicking at the right time means more damage. Enough victories grant Ability Points for upgrading stats and attacks. An innovative battle engine wrapped in an somewhat-cliched story, Town of Fears is quite reminiscent of Steve Jackson's Fighting Fantasy book series. Remember those? They were like Choose Your Own Adventures' cooler older sibling where, if you made a bad decision, you'd have to get out the dice and fight a manticore. Yeah, they were great. Anyway, Town of Fears is much more linear, but it definitely retains the sense of unpredictable menace. It also has some really nice portraiture, even if the attack wounds are strangely MS-Painty. Granted, the timing of the combat engine feels slightly off, and the game's prose could've been improved by a spell-check, but Town of Fears length and uniqueness does much to balance its flaws. Fans of Horror RPGs should find its atmosphere effectively eerie.

Update: Some of the problems mentioned are fixed in the latest build that MuHa Games just sent to us, mostly improvements to text and interface responsiveness.

Play Town of Fears


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Weekend Download

JohnBEach year, the Independent Games Festival (IGF) holds a competition to showcase innovation in the indie gaming community. This year, a group of developers got together and submitted the 2012 IGF Pirate Kart, a collection of "cheap", fast-made games packaged together in a single release. The kart features more than 300 titles created by over 100 developers, including some highly-recognizable names such as Terry Cavanagh, Adam Saltsman, Petri Purho, Bento Smile, Andy Moore, and plenty of others. It's a massive 1.4GB download, but this much random craziness is a true wonder to experience. Check out this collection of reviews for opinions on nearly all of the games, and if you want to know the deeper meaning of this kart's submission, DIY Gamer has a good rundown with plenty of developer comments.

No more stalling! Check out just a few of our favorites from the 2012 IGF Pirate Kart below!

Warning: The pirate kart download contains over 300 games, some of which contain adult content. See our ratings guide before proceeding. Mac and Linux users note that although some of the pirate kart games will run on your OS, not all of them will, so download at your own risk.

abovevbelow.gifABOVE v. BELOW - A sort of collection of classic arcade games presented in a frantic, 4 Second Frenzy kind of way, pitting you against the computer AI in a series of simple tests. The problem is, the screen flicks through the games while you're playing, forcing you to stop, change control schemes and strategies, and continue kicking AI butt.

escape-igf.gif/Escape\ - A vertical, one-button escape game that has the ability to frustrate you without even trying! Press the [esc] key to jump from wall to wall, timing your moves to avoid spikes, the giant looming laser barrier, and plenty of other obstacles. It's all about knowing when to jump and when to slide down the wall a touch, and it makes for a challenging and surprisingly satisfying experience!

holdright.gifHold Right to Make a Metaphor Unfold - Well, do it. See what happens. Also, try not holding right and seeing what happens. It's probably metaphor-related. In fact, it definitely is metaphor-related. This is an art game. It's artistic because... well, it just is. Look, there are pictures and metaphors. Think about it. Or just look at the decades-old clip art, it's your choice!

fishsoup.gifFish Soup - It's got all of 60 seconds of gameplay, but, you know, it's cool, text-driven multiple choice gameplay! You play as a fish flopping around on the ground. That sun looks pretty hot, doesn't it? Might want to flop around a bit, just to be on the safe side. Or don't, it's your choice. Maybe if you do the right things, somebody will come along to say hello to you?

Download the 2012 IGF Pirate Kart

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!


(10 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Haunted Halls: Fears from Childhood

DoraThe children! Won't somebody think of the children??... okay, admittedly you already have a lot on your plate, including chasing after your beloved when he's kidnapped by a real life Doctor Octopus and transported away to a nightmare realm that feeds on the fears of children. Haunted Halls: Fears from Childhood from ERS Game Studio is a hidden-object adventure game that picks up right where the original left off, and strives to set new heights in weirdness, surrealism, and tentacle shenanigans.

Haunted Halls: Fears from ChildhoodYes, as you may have guessed from the title, the kids are not all right in this adventure, and the evil Doctor Tentaclepants has stolen away a batch of them and then locked them up in nightmares that feed off their fears. You'll journey into each child's mind and disperse their nightmares... by solving hidden-object scenes and witnessing an emotional break-up between Barbie and Ken, of course. At the beginning you'll be given two difficulty settings to choose from, but gameplay is the same regardless of which you choose. Click around to interact, gather items to solve puzzles and get past obstacles, and make use of the hint and skip buttons whenever you're stuck... which just might happen because you're not exactly exploring a world where things always make sense. You might have to instigate a genie battle, do something shocking to a tentacle, fix a tiki's teeth, or cheer up a despondent toy dolphin... hey, it's all in a day's work for you, right? All we can say is Tim better be worth the trouble... that guy best know how to make mad chocolate chip waffles.

Haunted Halls: Fears from ChildhoodAnalysis: With detailed animations and an uninhibited take on design, Fears from Childhood might be the most visually impressive game from ERS yet. The surreal setting really lets you explore some interesting places, with some gorgeous and bizarre design, though at the same time you might find the abstract logic in the realms you visit can somewhat inhibit figuring out logically where items should go. It's also not particularly scary, though this is admittedly only an issue if you're a foolhardy coward like myself and prefer your games to leave you blubbering incoherently under the covers. If what you want is a creative, weird hidden-object adventure that doesn't veer into particularly dark territory, Fears from Childhood might be for you.

If Fears From Childhood disappoints at all, in fact, it's the fact that the gameplay is both mildly repetitive and predictable. It's not uncommon to have to repeat a hidden-object scene twice in around five minutes, and most puzzle solving is fairly predictable... find the obvious missing piece somewhere nearby, kick puzzle's butt like a bawss, wash, rinse, repeat. Still, at over four hours for your average gamer's play time with plenty of odd surroundings and things to investigate, Haunted Halls: Fears from Childhood is a smashing follow-up to Green Hills Sanitarium and a great way to spend an evening. Still, if your doctor shows up with a roiling mass of slimy tentacles underneath his labcoat, you should probably ask to see a diploma... or at the very least have one or two plucky, wisecracking teenage superheroes on speed dial... just in case.

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


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (135 votes)
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DoraVehicles 2Hey, po-po, don't you know? You're going about this all wrong! All this "procedure" and paperwork... total dullsville, and slow besides! Dmitriy Fyudorov and Dmitriy Zaletov's physics puzzle sequel Vehicles 2 will show you how to get things done with your criminals as efficiently and hilariously as possible... usually with the sort of vehicular violence that adds that "special" spice to life Vin Diesel movies bring.

Click on municipal vehicles like police cars and ambulances to get them started, then click again to stop them; this time, they each have their own special power to be activated that can help you out of sticky situations, or just add a new level of complexity to the puzzles at hand. After playing this game, you'll definitely be a more careful driver... that is, unless you want to look up to see the murderous, googly-eyes of an ambulance bearing down on you. Apparently they do not mess around with traffic violations in Weirdo-Adorable Anthromorphic Cartown.

Play Vehicles 2


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (466 votes)
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JayLemmings ReturnsA re-imagining of the classic and original Lemmings game by DMA Design from 1991, Lemmings Returns makes use of draw and erase tools for controlling the little critters instead of assigning skills to individual lemmings.

Just click and drag to draw or erase, using [D] and [E] for shortcuts in selecting the tools. Note, though, that some levels constrain the use of tools, so you may not be able to draw or erase in every level. Use [Esc] to restart, [N] to nuke and kill all remaining lemmings. If you get stuck, right-click and select 'Main Menu'. There is also a mute function in the right-click menu as well.

This new rework is by Jason Smith, a fan of the original game, and it was created and refined over a period of about 8 months. There is no speed-up function, which may put off some who want to just plow through the game quickly. For everyone else, especially those who have enjoyed the original classic, this reworked version provides just enough differences to make playing Lemmings again a lot of fun.

Play Lemmings Returns


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TrickyZombies Ate My PhoneZombies Ate My Phone, a Phones4U advergame developed by KokoGames, isn't the first top-down zombies shooter we've ever featured on JIG. It's probably not even the first top-down zombie action shooter we've featured that's set in a mall. However, it is, in all probability, the first top-down zombie action shooter we've featured wherein you can chuck vintage LPs at a mummy. And you know what? Sometimes that's enough. Well-programmed, with an appropriately goofy sense of humor, Zombies Ate My Phone won't win any awards for genre innovation, but it's addictive and has the right inspirations. Its cartoonish art and movie-styled soundtrack are definite plusses, and, altogether, it makes for some quick, brainless fun... or should that be braaaaaainless?

Play Zombies Ate My Phone


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JayA Game About Game LiteracyDamian Sommer created this short, no-frills little puzzle platformer, A Game About Game Literacy, to throw the player into a series of one-screen, "extremely distilled metroidvanias." He accomplishes this by first teaching the player some rudimentary game mechanics and then builds upon those rules incrementally while increasing the difficulty and complexity of each level's design. And it works quite nicely for a game made in just a day and a half.

Follow the hints provided in the title text and note the use of the symbols introduced in each level as you make your way to the happy little green and yellow critter that marks the exit. Use the [arrow] or [WASD] keys for control, [M] to mute. There is no save feature or level select screen, you'll have to play through the game in one sitting. Forgivable when you consider the extremely short development period.

It starts out pretty basic, but keep with it: It'll get interesting, don't worry.

Seizure Warning: Strobe effects used in a couple of levels.

Play A Game About Game Literacy

Thanks to Blue and Redmug for suggesting this one!


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraNEWS FLASH! Link Dump Friday is changing! No, this isn't like the time I told you that you can render a honey-badger ready for cuddles if you tickle its belly. This time is for reals! From now on, we're going to be bringing you more games throughout the week, instead of saving a batch for the Link Dump Friday you've come to expect, and this article is going to change. Not only will we highlight the most popular and noteworthy games we've covered each week, but we'll bring you news and previews from the online gaming community about game updates, upcoming releases, and more. Don't worry, everything I know about being a professional newscaster I learned from Sam the Eagle. I got dis.

New and Noteworthy

  • The Asylum: Introducing Dr WoodThe Asylum: Introducing Dr Wood - Everyone's favourite home for unbalanced and abandoned toys gets an update with an entirely new patient to take care of! If you've never helped a stuffed animal work through his or her psychological issues, you're missing out, and fans of the original will be thrilled to pieces to help the newest resident, a fuzzy black bird, get a new lease on life.
  • One and One StoryOne and One Story - Puzzle platformers were gettin' all emotional and whatnot in Mattia Traverso's lovely and atmospheric little story that follows the ups and downs of a boy and girl in love. Did the sweet and optimistic message about love make your heart sing?
  • The Binding of IsaacThe Binding of Isaac - Part top-down rogue-like/Legend of Zelda hybrid, part arcade , this indie download from Edmund McMillen is all squelchy strangeness. It's surreal and creepy to the extreme, but a lot of you were woo'ed by its gooey, gory gameplay. Now with added free flash demo goodness!
  • Cactus McCoy 2Cactus McCoy 2 - Flipline Studios proves they can make a hero out of even the prickliest characters in their follow up to the wildly popular original platform adventure. Tricky called it "the best kind of sequel", and judging from audience praise you guys are inclined to agree!
  • Rebuild 2Rebuild 2 - Our hero! Even in the face of a zombie apocalypse, Sarah Northway continues to deliver! This turn-based strategy simulation asks you to lead an initially small group of survivors to take back their city after an undead menace has overwhelmed it and left humanity struggling to stay afloat. Packed with more features, artwork, and even extra endings, Rebuild 2 shambled straight out of the cemetary and into our hearts.

BotaniculaPreview Alert! Can't get enough Amanita Design? Can't blame you! That's why we're excited about Botanicula, their next big point-and-click exploration adventure. Planned for an early 2012 release, it stars a group of itty-bitty forest heroes who have banded together to keep the last seed safe from the parasites bent on destroying their home tree. You can head on over to the official website for some gorgeous screenshots and a short teaser trailer that should make you squeal with delight. If you love Samorost and Machinarium, you should definitely be excited about this... and not just because it sounds like Bunnicula!

CindersPreview Alert! You know what I love? Visual novels! If you do too, then you'll definitely want to keep an eye out for Cinders by indie developers MoaCube. A dark and atmospheric re-telling of the classic fairy-tale packed with luscious artwork and music, not to mention the chance to role-play the heroine however we want? Awwwwww yeah, it's getting all anticipatory up in here! Cinders should be out for Mac and Windows later this year, but in the meantime you can bippity-boppity-boo on over to the official site to learn more, check out some preview art and video, and even pre-order if you should so desire.

Hungry SumoUpdate! Hope you didn't put your chopsticks away just yet, because Ninja Kiwi just updated their adorable arcade game Hungry Sumo with ten new levels. If you can't get enough adorable, chubby physics action, then you might also be interested to know that the game is also available on iPad currently for just 0.99 USD! That's less than the cost of a piece of that shady sushi everyone was always pigging out on in college. (Seriously, do you really believe that sixteen year old barista knows the first thing about sushi?)

TransformiceUpdate! Tender lumplings everywhere, even rodents covered with hair, be an action king or queen, because it's a Transformice Halloween! That's right; it's been over a year since we first covered the adorable popular puzzle platforming multiplayer mouse sensation, and like any good game it's only getting better with age. If you haven't played it for a while, there's no time like the present to get started, especially since a very seasonal update just went live! I vant to steal your cheese! Squeak!


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Drawn: Trail of Shadows

JohnBBest of Casual Gameplay 2011Drawn has returned. The third game in the series, Drawn: Trail of Shadows, dares to outdo its predecessors, Drawn: The Painted Tower and Drawn: Dark Flight, in what simply must be the most enchanting hidden object adventure hybrid game to date. The visuals have improved (if you can believe it!), the storytelling is even more intriguing, and the puzzles are as rich as before. Good hidden object games are hard to come by, so when you find a game this great, you'd best dive right in.

Drawn: Trail of ShadowsThere was once a young boy who loved to paint. His drawings were so vivid, they transformed themselves into magical portals that led to other worlds. But one day, he created a door he never should have painted, and out came an evil wizard. The wizard took the boy with the intention of forcing him to paint evil into every corner of existence, removing the sun and stars from the sky itself. Just as he was being pulled into the painting, however, the boy realized he wasn't alone. This is where you, young Iris, enter the story.

Just like Drawn: Dark Flight, Trail of Shadows manages to fill out the story introduced in the previous games without alienating new players. So, if you've never played a Drawn game, you won't feel left out starting with number three. If you're already a Drawn fanatic (which, you really should be), Drawn 3 adds some nice pre-Iris backstory and keeps things moving forward nicely.

Drawn: Trail of ShadowsGameplay falls firmly on the casual adventure side of things, keeping jarring lists of objects out of the picture in favor of organic inventory items and scattered clues. Each small section is composed of several screens, many of which have sparkling areas you can zoom in and interact with. To solve the puzzles and move on to the next area, you'll need to climb around and search everywhere for items. Sometimes they're well-hidden, sometimes they're in pieces, and other times, you'll have to jump through a few hoops in order to make them appear.

Drawn: Trail of Shadows features a number of great mini-games, all of which fit perfectly in the fairytale storybook setting, They aren't revolutionary in terms of content, but they're good diversions and always simple to complete. Besides, you can skip them after a few moments if you aren't in the mini-game sort of mood. And yes, before you get too curious, the wonderful pop-up book sections from before have returned!

Drawn: Trail of ShadowsAnalysis: Drawn: Trail of Shadows is phenomenal. Adjectives don't do the game justice, as it's a marvelous thing to see in action. The visuals, as pretty and lush as before, have been upgraded to produce a shifting effect when you move your cursor. It looks as if you're actually standing in a forest meadow, as the foreground and background move independently. It sounds trivial, but when you see it in motion, you'll wonder how you'll ever play a standard hidden object game again.

The Drawn series has always aimed to do things a little differently than the rest. Adding itself to a crowded genre can be a frightening thing to do, but the series stands out thanks to some excellent artwork, storytelling, and puzzle design. Drawn also skips right over most pitfalls hidden object/adventure games fall victim to, showing remarkable polish that leads to a near perfect gaming experience. Trail of Shadows continues this tradition without feeling too much like its predecessors, removing any fear of copy/paste game design before you even start playing.

Don't be afraid of Drawn: Trail of Shadows because it's the third in a series. Newcomers can play it just as easily as veterans. And don't shrug your shoulders because of the genre label shared with all those other games. Drawn: Trail of Shadows is expertly-crafted to provide an adventure experience unrivaled in the casual gaming world, and it's got something every player can enjoy.

A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains a soundtrack, achievements, concept art, wallpapers, behind the scenes information, 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. A standard edition will likely be available in a few weeks.

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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SonicLoverThe Honeymoon Is OverThe honeymoon suite is deserted. There's still a little wine left over, and you can see a few balloons are scattered, but clearly celebration time has come and gone, and it's time to leave. The Honeymoon Is Over is an escape game by Timefall. You navigate around the honeymoon suite by clicking the sides of the screen when you see the bars. Examine, interact with, and pick up stuff by clicking. Once you've got something in your inventory, examine it by clicking the triangle in the corner of its box, or use it by clicking the item proper. Oh, and if that music loop gets on your nerves, click the "MUSIC" button to pull the plug on it.

This game could easily pass as one of TomaTea's games, which means photorealistic graphics, mostly logical puzzles, code-locked drawers you can't even fuss with until you've found the corresponding clues, and collecting of many of the same item for use in a puzzle somewhere. There are a few old standby puzzles, such as the jammed drawer and the wobbly picture, but that's as stale as they get. Overall it's a good game, even if it doesn't have a save feature. Now then, it's time to leave the honeymoon behind and get back to married life... er, when I put it that way it sounds pretty uninviting, so forget I just said that.

Play The Honeymoon Is Over


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Rating: 4.5/5 (93 votes)
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DoraBingaThe clock is ticking in Ninjadoodle's latest set of mini-game puzzles, but the only thing at stake is your score... and your reputation as a puzzle master, of course! Binga, which officially takes the prize for game name most fun to shout out in a silent office space, is a series of levels each with their own objective for you to complete. Some are timed, others require a steady but swift hand, and still others require an attention to detail, but all are rendered in adorable cartoon style and come with a catchy soundtrack. Just click around and experiment, but don't think too hard; the answer is usually staring you right in the face.

Play all the Binga games:
BingaBinga 2Binga 3

As is usually the case with games of this type, the levels that are puzzles are generally more fun than the ones that require reflexes and timing, but Binga is still a great bit of casual gaming to get you through the day, hopefully with all your fingas intact!

Play Binga


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You Are Games

Letters in Boxes #19

ArtbegottiThink fast! How quickly can you say the alphabet... backwards? It's harder than you might think! That sort of backwards intuition is what will help you succeed in this week's Letters In Boxes challenge. You've got to throw your brain in reverse to walk away from this puzzle series a winner. (It was either that, or making you guess European football crests or catching paper butterflies in nets.)

Take a look at the puzzle posted below. Click on it to open it up in a new window, and see what you can make of the muddled matrix. When you think you've spotted an answer, move up to the address bar and change the image name (in this case, "neetenin") to your answer, making sure you stay in the same directory and keep the same file extension. If you're right, you'll move backward— I mean, forward to the next puzzle! If you're wrong, you'll hit a dead end, but like every good maze solved, you can just back up and try again.

Letters in Boxes #19 - 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 24th at 11:59 PM (GMT-5:00). Kcul doog!

Update: Congratulations to the following winners! :D

  • Dataman ...First!
  • Zzedar
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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DoraLab of the DeadIt's the end of the world, and you and a group of embittered soldiers are holed up in an abandoned research facility with a few hundred zombies under lock and key. Time to release your frustrations in the bloodiest way possible? Well... maybe not. Lab of the Dead by Evil Dog and SickDeathFiend is a unique spin on the zombie game. Part simulation, part puzzle, all shambling monster, it puts you in the shoes of a scientist scrambling to amass all the data he can on the horde at his mercy, and whether he does so with patience and compassion or cold violence is entirely up to you.

Pick a zombie, any zombie; it doesn't matter which you choose, but the way you deal with it does. The game consists of working with your new rotting pal in a run-down lab, offering it different things and observing both how it reacts, and how those reactions change depending on its mood, hunger, humanity, and so forth. Just click on the icons at the bottom of the screen to get started and experiment; the three categories are weapons, food, and objects, and while each one is fairly self explanatory, the zombie's reaction to them depends not only on their mental wellbeing, but on their own personal tastes, since each one prefers different things. The game's currency is RP, Research Points, which you earn simply by interacting with your zombie, and you can spend on everything from new items and weapons to research upgrades that can influence things like point gain and overall influence on your zombie. In order to progress the story and get new items, however, you'll have to satisfy specific requirements for each stage, such as achieving unique reactions or using enough items. You'll also be able to find notes and tapes left behind by the mysterious "Alpha Team" who occupied the facility before you... who, by the way, have a disappointing lack of "Masters of Unlocking" on staff.

Lab of the DeadAnalysis: Lab of the Dead is a bit of an odd duck, but a welcome one. The game is actually really well presented across the board, with some surprisingly strong voice acting performances, appropriately chosen musical tracks, solid writing, and of course, expressive zombies. It's clear that a ton of thought and work went into this one, and the result is zombie game that stands apart from the pack. In most cases, however, how you feel about the game is going to be tied to how you feel about your test subjects. It's slow moving, and sorely needs to let you press a button to skip reaction animations you've seen before, and combined with the amount of grinding for points you might need to do, it isn't a game for everyone.

However, it's actually surprising at how engrossing it can get when you least expect it. You may go into it expecting your typical slice-and-dice zombie game, but depending on your attitude it can be anything but. On the other hand, having to research items fully and tweak your undead pal's mood and status before you can achieve certain reactions can also be sort of frustrating. Darnit, zombie, you are going to have a touching moment of humanity with that dead rat and you are going to like it! What was interesting about the game for me personally was that it showed me what a weak stomach I actually have for violence; take a creature I've blown up remorselessly multiple times in other games, chain it to a wall, and have it stroke a dead rat with an expression of perplexed, vague sadness and I can't bring myself to hurt it. I wonder if Buffy ever has this problem?

Lab of the Dead is a lot of things; sometimes creepy, sometimes funny, sometimes even oddly touching. Fans of more action-packed, splatter-iffic zombie games might want to check out Evil Dog's earlier work, Road of the Dead, which incidentally takes place right around the same time this game does. If, however, you've always secretly suspected you and Bub would have totally rocked the scientific community and made movie-goers everywhere tear up like they're watching the end of Old Yeller, you just might find something to love about Lab of the Dead. At the very least you should give it a try. And, hey, turns out, zombies and lollipops? Comedy gold.

Play Lab of the Dead


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Kyhthe_bards_journey.gifAh the bard, the most forgotten role playing class. Sure everyone's played a fighter, mage or thief, but few have had experience with the bard, who can conjure magical effects through song. Sapient Games has created a whole world revolving around this character in their text-based RPG, The Bard's Journey. You play as an unnamed bard who is the only one who can defend the land against an evil wizard intent on controlling the people through music. But it's not all nostalgia and retro goodness here, there's a unique feature: you can create your own songs to play in battle! From the main screen of the game, use your mouse to choose the options below the text to either take an action in that area or to move on to the next area (which can also be done with the compass).

The Compose option from the menu in the lower right is where you can create musical stylings to your advantage. There are three types of instruments at your service: guitar, bass and percussion. Each type gives you different benefits based on the number of notes it plays. Balance is the key, as described by the in-game tutorial. It is impossible to create a song that gives a large bonus to all four stats; you must pick and choose. You will have to enter combat before you can reap the fruits of your compositions. Combat runs automatically with occasional interventions from you in choosing one of your four saved songs or casting a spell. Timing is everything as your song will not change until the previous one is done playing. The gameplay is open, so be careful where you wander lest you come to a swift death... followed by a revival by the sage, an inconvenience nonetheless.

As you would hope from a text-based game, the writing is well done. Navigating through a forest does not simply give you the same "You are in a forest" descriptor, but instead, Sapient Games took the effort to make each square unique. Composing your own songs is where this game truly stands out, and you could easily spend your first hour doing only that. Even with help from the tutorial, it takes a lot of trial and error to not only give yourself the bonuses you want, but also to create something you'll enjoy hearing, if you're so inclined. Music writing aside, this RPG is fun and the story is interesting, so feel free to pack up your lute and use the default songs for a quick dive into a melodic, mystical world.

Play The Bard's Journey


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Rating: 3.1/5 (27 votes)
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DoraPee Wee's NightmarePee Wee's got a big test tomorrow morning, and he's managed to get himself so worked up over it that when he does finally fall asleep he has bad dreams. But instead of normal nightmares like being naked in class or having to eat lutefisk, he dreams up spikes, ghosts, animated suits of armor, fireballs, and much more. Sheesh... show-off! Pee Wee's Nightmare is the latest action arcade platformer created by robot afficianado Hamumu for Boy's Life magazine, and it's your job to get Pee Wee out of his bad dreams before he has to get up for school at 6:00 AM. The game comes with three sets of levels, each with its own degree of difficulty, but no matter what you choose you'll have to put your fingers to the test. Use the [arrow] keys to move and jump (or double-jump!), tap [X] on the floor to perform a ninja-roll past certain obstacles, and hit [X] in mid-air to streak forward a short distance. Get to the open door in each level to proceed safely, and if you're lonely, don't worry; the ghosts of your repeated demise will keep you company, and depending on your chosen level batch you could end up with an entire graveyard's worth of a spectral entourage. This seems like an awful lot of trouble to go through since your reward is essentially to go to school, but at least when Hamumu's at the helm you know it'll be a good time.

Play Pee Wee's Nightmare


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Rating: 4/5 (88 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypOne thing you can count on with Strawberry Cafe designed room escape games is the color palette, a luscious mix of reds, pinks, and whites that together evoke images of strawberry desserts. This week, with Enchanted Room Escape, Strawberry Cafe moves the design from the subconscious idea of food to the conscious, because this time you're escaping a room filled with amazing looking desserts in every nook and cranny. For this week's Weekday Escape, be prepared for some drooling.

EnchantedRoomEscapeEnchanted Room Escape is a pretty standard visual design for Strawberry Cafe, a simple one-room escape with basic navigation arrows and a simple inventory. However, Strawberry Cafe has jacked up both the difficulty level of the puzzles and the reliance on a single sense: sight. Aside from the visuals which are guaranteed to whet the appetite, the puzzles involved are heavily color-based and trickier than usual. Unfortunately the lack of a changing cursor does invite some pixel-hunting along the way. On the plus side the controls are pretty easy to master and include a save feature and a handy mute button.

Despite the minor flaws this is one of the better escapes from this designer, simple enough for a snack but complex enough to satisfy the appetite. As the player stumbles around this pretty plain room, bouncing from cakes to macaroons to...more cakes, along with the puzzles to feed the mind the gamer might feel the need for more substantial nourishment in the form of real food. Perhaps you'd better grab some munchies before you dive in, just in case, and prepare to be enchanted!

Play Enchanted Room Escape


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Rating: 4/5 (122 votes)
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TrickyKernTypeIt's always intriguing when a game developer takes a technical, even mundane, activity and makes it into a competition. Take kerning, for example: the process of adjusting the spacing between characters in a proportional font, usually to achieve a visually pleasing result... or at least that's Wikipedia's take. Anyways, KernType, a unique puzzle game developed by Mark MacKay for education site Method of Action, charges you with just that: click and drag the middle letters of a given word for a given font to make it aesthetically perfect. Your result will be compared against a professional typographer's, and you will be given a score based on how close you get to their solution. It's not a concept that survives multiple plays-through, but it's quirky fun and a compelling showcase for the beauty of text. Oh, and your friendly neighborhood game reviewer managed himself an 81/100. Beat that, you wingdings.

Play KernType


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Rating: 3.8/5 (23 votes)
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DoraPhage Wars LiveCalling all Umbrella Corporation drop-outs, amateur mad scientists, and deadly organism enthusiasts, Phage Wars Live by bio-engineer Joey Betz is here to satisfy all your real-time strategy needs. Create and engineer the virus of your dreams (and everyone else's nightmares), then pit it against other players... because everyone knows an AI is just training wheels for ultimate ownage. If you've played Phage Wars or its sequel, you should be familiar with the mechanics; just click on a cell pulsing with nasty viral life, and drag over a nearby unoccupied or enemy cell to send a swarm your own "troops" over to it. If you can overwhelm their numbers with yours, you'll gain the cell and be one step closer to taking over the board... but naturally your enemy isn't going to be waiting around idly to be invaded. You can create your own custom match, or join another player's (against up to four opponents), and should sweet victory be yours, you'll be able to edit and improve your virus with more powerful attributes. If you've been craving multiplayer in your viral warfare, this might just be for you. (Check out the originals for single-player action!) After all, who doesn't love a good ol' fashioned bioengineering hoe-down?

Play Phage Wars Live


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The Vault

TrickyHello out there to all those grim, grinning ghosts and cackling witches on the prowl! With the end of October rapidly approaching, so too comes the season the greatest ween of all, Halloween! With costumes, jack o'lanterns, apple bobbing, and a million cavities worth of candy soon on the way, it seems only right that we dedicate this week's installment of The Vault to featuring some spooktacular games from the JIG archives. Though these works were chosen for their kid-friendliness, they should appeal to trick-or-treaters of all ages. And for those gore-hounds out there: don't worry, we'll have a Vault for you soon enough... MWAHAHAHAHA!

  • TranslymaniaTranslymania 1 & 2 - Listen to them... Children of the night... what music they make. So keep it down! People are trying to sleep here! Jeez. All Lil' Draccky wants is 40 winks. With an entire village full of rowdy rampaging peasants, though, that's easier said than done. That is, until you turn them into your undead minions. Minions know how to stay quiet, after all. This charming platform game by Zeeks stars an vampire that somehow straddles the line between "adorable" and "ferocious". It's probably his fanged Teddy Were-Bear. Frenetic and fun, Translymania and its sequel features an intriguing central mechanic based on switching between walking and flying. It wouldn't work if controls weren't up to the job, but they are and it does. It is, in a vord, vonderful!
  • K-Mart Haunted HouseK-Mart Haunted House - A nicely-executed escape advergame, K-Mart Haunted House is short, cute, and perfect for getting you in the spirit of the season. While the isometric controls take some getting used to, it succeeds in combining the measured pace and feel of old-school role-playing with cartoonish visuals and eerie sounds. Even the advertising is well-integrated. Sure, there may be (probably dead) links to purchase each of the 18(!) costumes your avatar can wear, but any game that gives you the chance to play as Superman, Yoda, or Robin and fight werewolves can't be all bad... even if that skeleton-harlequin is kinda freaky.
  • Garfield's Scary Scavenger HuntGarfield's Scary Scavenger Hunt - While nowhere near as spooky as that time the titular fat-cat found himself locked in that abandoned house, Garfield's Scary Scavenger Hunt is a polished adventure game that invokes a surprising amount of atmosphere without ever resorting to cheap scares or screamers. Help Garfield find seven different kinds of donuts in a spooky mansion that's filled to the brim with puzzles, chills, and shout-outs that every fan of the comic will enjoy. For gosh sake, even Lyman gets a cameo... Lyman! Both Garfield's Scary Scavenger Hunt and its sequel will keep you playing and laughing for quite a bit. Not even a bottomless pan of lasagna would be quite as satisfying!

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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steamlands.gifJohnBDid Nitrome's original release of Steamlands not give you enough levels, weapons, and bosses to turn into piles of rubble? Then may the Steamlands Player Pack fill any real-time strategy-shaped void you have in your entertainment schedule! Nitrome has just released an expansion to Steamlands, featuring four brand new weapons and several dozen new levels to complete, all crafted by fans of the original game.

This Steamlands expansion plays exactly like the original, putting you in command of a makeshift steampunk vehicle built from the very blocks of your destroyed enemies. Move the craft forwards and backwards and take aim with any guns you've managed to collect, working as efficiently as you can to break down your opponent's defenses and destroy the engineer's room within. When victory is finally yours, you get to salvage the pieces and weld them directly to your tank in any way you see fit.

Steamlands Player Pack also features Dev Mode, allowing anyone to tweak and create campaigns that could be featured in a future update. It's a little complex at first, but like the rest of the game, once you go through the tutorials and play around with it for a bit, it quickly becomes second nature.

The Steamlands Player Pack provides almost as much content as the original game, with the added bonus of some very creative player-made campaigns. It's surprisingly challenging, even for veterans, but it's just gentle enough to capture a newbie or two as well.

Play Steamlands Player Pack


  • Currently 3.6/5
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Rating: 3.6/5 (77 votes)
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JayYou Are a BoxInstead of directly controlling a character across spike-filled pits, over obstacles and onto higher platforms, you control a box that assists and facilitates safe passage to the exit door of each level in You Are a Box, a Lemmings-inspired action oriented puzzle platformer from Games Northwest.

You see, as the title suggests, you are a box, but not just any ordinary box. You possess the power to move yourself into position to help the little box buddies (called "Nabbles") to the exit of each level to progress. Push crates, create paths over spikes and use yourself as a means to reach higher areas. Collect power-ups and use them wisely because you'll need to be perfect as you reach the more difficult later levels.

Control the box with [left] and [right] arrows to move, and [up] to jump when you have the jump power-up. Press [down] to fast-forward to speed things along, and press [Esc] to restart a level if you get yourself into a no-win situation. There is no level select screen, but the game does save your progress so you can [C]ontinue where you left off if you leave and come back again (even in a different browser).

You Are a Box is a cute and fun little game, though the precise timing requirements of later levels will introduce frustration for those without nimble fingers. More action game than puzzle, but unique enough to hold your interest for a little casual gameplay distraction.

Play You Are a Box


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (42 votes)
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Scribblenauts Remix

JohnBNintendo DS owners most likely recognize the name, but for everyone else, the Scribblenauts series is a relatively unknown treasure. That all changes with the release of Scribblenauts Remix, an iOS version of the phenomenal creativity puzzle game from 5th Cell. The tagline "Write anything. Solve Everything." couldn't be more appropriate, as Scribblenauts challenges you to solve puzzles by typing in words and phrases. If you can imagine it, you can probably do it, so feel free to summon a huge invincible flying pregnant angry rainbow giraffe to fight with Zeus, if you like.

scribblenautsremix.jpgScribblenauts Remix puts you in control of Maxwell, a happy little chap wearing a chicken with headphones hat, who works his way through a few dozen levels collecting starites. In each stage you must create objects by tapping on the pencil and paper icon at the top of the screen. Open the keyboard, type in a noun, modified with adjectives if necessary, then hit enter to create the item. You can then tap to use the item in any logical way, such as riding in vehicles, equipping objects, wearing items of clothing, attaching ropes and chains to things, and so on. Once the freedom of creation sets in, you'll suddenly become wide-eyed at the possibilities that lay before you!

The stages in Scribblenauts Remix vary in difficulty and are split between puzzle and adventure types. In puzzle levels, you are presented with a simple problem that can be solved by summoning the correct objects. Giving the right items to different people, for example, or creating something that will help a character accomplish a task. Adventure levels are usually more difficult and challenge you to obtain a starite by any means necessary. If that happens to involve summoning a helicopter, attaching a rope to it, and dragging a bulldozer across a lake infested with sharks, well, then that's just what will have to happen!

scribblenautsremix2.jpgAnalysis: Scribblenauts is a remarkable creation that aims to fulfill what everyone has always dreamed of in a video game: complete freedom. Most games offer up a few puzzles along with a few items to solve those puzzles with, the most logical solutions usually presenting themselves by deduction. In Scribblenauts, however, you are (almost) literally limited only by your imagination, so when the game says "get the starite down from the tree", you can accomplish this however you see fit. Maybe bacon, ceiling cat, and a pink cthulhu can help?

If you're familiar with the Scribblenauts games for DS, you'll recognize most of the content in Scribblenauts Remix. The iOS version contains levels culled from both DS games as well as a few new additions exclusive to the platform. The basic mechanics are the same, and the objects list doesn't seem to have been messed with, though a few seem to have been changed in function (the teleporter, for example). Also, some of the bonus sandbox levels seem to be missing, which is a bit of a shame but not a huge loss.

One oversight in Scribblenauts Remix is failing to feature a left versus right handed layout. The DS releases allowed players to swap preferences from the option menu, but the iOS version features the typing icon only on the right side of the screen, something left handed players (especially those who are using the iPad version) will have to adapt to.

Scribblenauts Remix is an excellent fit for iOS devices, and it's great seeing the visuals looking so crisp on the iPad's large screen. And because Remix doesn't steal everything from both DS releases, you can look forward to much more item-creating fun by seeking out those games as well!


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Mobile Monday

JohnBYou want big, important games? Boy have we got some stuff for you! Three heavy-hitters on this week's Mobile Monday, games you could play on their own for days and weeks on end. Afterwards, when you emerge with ragged hair and skin that reeks of aged onions, you can thank us for sharing!

spacechemios.jpgSpaceChem Mobile (iPad) - You know SpaceChem, yes? The incredibly challenging (and rewarding) logic/alchemy puzzle game from Zachtronics Industries? Now that you've stopped cheering, you can go grab it for iPad! This heady game challenges you to turn elements into compounds and split compounds down to their basic components, all using a series of commands you place on the grid yourself. Create a series of repeatable, perfectly-timed contraptions to produce the chemicals you need from the elements you're given, then pat yourself on the back after an hour of strenuous work finally produces a workable compound. SpaceChem was brilliant on PC/Mac, and it's just as brilliant on iOS.

squids.jpgSquids (iPhone, iPod Touch) - A completely charming strategy/arcade/RPG game that has the power to hook you from the very first level. At first, all you have to do is pull on each squid's tentacles to send him or her flying in the opposite direction. Crash into things to find treasure, hunt for power-ups, explore ancient temples, battle evil crustaceans and fish, and complete objectives that change depending on the world. Then, take all of your earnings and buy upgrades and items in the shop. Position all of this on top of an interesting story and fantastic underwater artwork and you've got the makings of your next iPhone addiction.

steambirdsios.jpgSteamBirds: Survival (universal) - We gushed over the original SteamBirds browser release back in 2010, and we loved SteamBirds: Survival when it hit later that year. The original SteamBirds has been on the iTunes App Store for some time, but now, SteamBirds: Survival is out the door, and it boasts a number of improvements over all previous versions of the game. At its core, Survival is still the same alternate history turn-based strategy game involving planes, Axis and Ally powers, and sweet power-ups. Eight new aircraft have been introduced along with 64 brand new missions to play, with almost that number again in the pipeline to be unveiled soon. Plenty of content, lots in store for the future, and the same fantastic gameplay we've come to expect from the series. Also worth noting: SteamBirds: Survival for iOS was ported in part by Halfbrick Studios, those crazy chaps who brought us Jetpack Joyride.

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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GrinnypNot too long ago a relative newcomer to adventure/hidden object hybrids, ChaYoWo games, took us on a journey through the heart of Southern India in The Dark Hills of Cherai. Now they're back and once again the player will be transported to a place few will ever be able to visit in The Dark Hills of Cherai: The Regal Scepter.

grinnyp_darkhillsregalscepter_screenshot4.jpgThe Dark Hills of Cherai: The Regal Scepter features three of the four cousins from the original game, Tara, Maya, and Rahul (of the fourth cousin, Arjun, there is mysteriously no mention). Poor Tara has been suffering night after night from the same nightmare. As she awakens from another occurrence the children are visited by the ghost of the King of Cherai, who aided them on their original journey. According to the King a great evil has awakened in the form of an evil magician named Vishwarood. Many years ago the treacherous Vishwarood, the court magician, betrayed and murdered the king in order to obtain a powerful magical object, The Regal Scepter. Fortunately the scheme was thwarted by a few of the King's loyal guards who fled with the scepter, breaking it up and scattering the power gems across Cherai in a bid to keep Vishwarood from ever finding it. While attempting to seize power Vishwarood was turned to stone and peace settled across the kingdom once more.

Now, in modern times, another attempt is being made to find the Scepter by Vishwarood, aided by his son and a Yakshi (think Indian version of a succubus). It is up to the children, descendants of the old King, to discover the map fragments left behind by the loyal guards as well as the scepter itself and the scattered gems. They also, incidentally, must fight and defeat Vishwarood, his son, the Yakshi, and a pretty nasty fire cobra in order to keep Vishwarood's dreams of freedom and world conquest at bay. As you do.

grinnyp_darkhillsregalscepter_screenshot3.jpgThe Dark Hills of Cherai: The Regal Scepter is a classic adventure/hidden object hybrid with a twist: playing from multiple viewpoints. As in the first game each child sets out on their own in a different direction, starting with Tara. Eventually all three children will have set out on their quest and the gameplay switches from one point of view to another. The children cannot see each other, but can swap objects of interest on a charmed merry-go-round at a mysterious meeting place which is handy as many of the items they find are only useful to the other children. It is this multi-layered gameplay that made the original Dark Hills of Cherai so popular and which is such a nice change to the usual more linear style of play common in most hybrids.

Present in the game are the usual controls found in most hybrids. There's a changing cursor to indicate navigable areas and places of interest, a notebook to keep track of clues and important information, an inventory of interesting items for each child, and a refilling hint timer to help the player along. What is not usual but pretty nifty are the other features, such as a magic mirror to speak to the King's ghost which doles out hints about the quest, a map feature that not only shows the layout of the quest but also indicates areas where things still need to be accomplished (and where hidden objects scenes have reactivated) that can also be used to transport the player from one location to another immediately, as well as a feature that allows each character to "leap" directly to the meeting place to exchange items between the three main characters. The King also pops up unannounced to aid with guidance, advice, and to occasionally scare off the Yakshi who frequently shows up to block the players' progress. Small sparks of light indicate areas of interest (these do not show up in the advanced mode of play) and cascades of sparkles indicate hidden object scenes.

grinnyp_darkhillsregalscepter_screenshot2.jpgAnalysis: The Dark Hills of Cherai: The Regal Scepter is an amazing and unique hybrid with lush, tropical scenery and layered gameplay which makes it stand head and shoulders above the adventure/hidden object crowd. The challenge of keeping track of three characters, their inventories, and their separate quests adds a dimension rarely seen in today's casual gameplay. Once again it's gratifying to see an exotic location done so realistically the player could almost be there. Although the game takes place at night it doesn't detract from the gorgeous backgrounds and design which incorporate the tropical location, the stunning iconography of the region, and of course the wildlife. The amazing accuracy of the design is, of course, due to the fact that ChaYoWo games is actually a company based in India and thus knows the territory.

What makes the gameplay so fun, aside from the switching points of view and the amazing backgrounds is the fact that The Regal Scepter is, like its predecessor, absolutely packed with puzzles. Although the puzzles are not so original, there is a plethora of them to be found within the game, each beautifully done up with Hindu iconography and its lovely, dense designs and fabulous colors. The hidden object scenes are not interactive, but executed with more of a "hide the item in plain sight" vibe rather than the usual "junk pile" mode most games use. Due to the complexity of the play and the mass of puzzles The Dark Hills of Cherai: The Regal Scepter offers some pretty meaty gameplay of a length not often seen these days.

The unique point of view gameplay has one downside, however, and that is that it can be confusing to some players, especially in the last stages of the game where the inventories of each child becomes almost unwieldy and the gamer may have a bit of trouble remembering who needs what for which scene. There is also the usual problem of many clickable areas being too near navigation areas as well as too near the bottom inventory which can cause minor problems in some scenes. And once again the King can be a little too helpful, even when not called upon to give a hint or a clue.

The two modes of play, casual and advanced, along with making the King's advice (for the most part) voluntary makes The Dark Hills of Cherai a delight for a wide range of gamers, from the newbie to the advanced. For those who enjoy traveling to exotic locales, exciting gameplay, and loads and loads of puzzles, this is the game for you!

WindowsWindows:
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  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (21 votes)
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The Blackwell Deception

DoraIf you're dead and you have a problem (aside from the whole "dead" thing, that is), you might run into Rosangela Blackwell and her otherworldly partner, Joey, if you're lucky. Not that Rosa's had much luck herself these days; despite being extremely psychic, as well as extremely awkward, she's been struggling to catch a break with her writing. A phone call from an old friend might help get her foot in the door at a respected local paper, but it turns out that where Rosa goes, the dead never lie quietly... and in The Blackwell Deception, a point-and-click adventure from Wadjet Eye Games, quite a few people are turning up dead these days. Coincidence? Not when Rosangela's around. Poor kid. She really needs a better hobby, something less stressful. Bomb squad, maybe?

The Blackwell DeceptionTo play, just click around. If an object can be used, its name will pop up when you mouse over it; right click to look at something or someone, and left click to interact. Moving the mouse to the top of the screen will cause your inventory to drop down, as well as let you access the options menu to save your game and such. Both Rosa and Joey are playable characters, and you'll want to swap between them often by hitting [tab] since there are things one can do that the other can't. Joey, for instance, in addition to messing with electronic frequencies, can pass by obstacles Rosa can't, though the only physical way he can interact with objects is by a puff of cold breath. While Rosa can do all the boring usual flesh-bag stuff like physically touch things and talk to people, she's also got her MyPhone, which lets you check her e-mail, call people, or even search for clues online. Make sure you have Our Heroes talk to everyone (including each other); exhausting every conversation object and consulting your notebook frequently is the key to advancement. (You can click on one topic and then another to combine subjects in your notebook and potentially open up new avenues of discussion.) Well... that and having Joey blow on things. He's such a special guy.

The Blackwell DeceptionAnalysis: Classic point-and-click adventure games are something of a dying breed these days, but the Blackwell series has continued to prove that the genre isn't dead and buried yet, and could very well end up being considered a classic one day. The game looks great in a way we've come to expect from Wadjet Eye titles, full of expressive character art, detailed environments, and wonderfully animated sprites courtesy of Ben Chandler. It should also come as no surprise that the game sounds wonderful too, with all the actors delivering solid performances and a light touch with sound that serves to enhance the atmosphere.

Most of the puzzles in the game typically revolve around figuring out how to use your characters to get past an obstacle, and while occasionally this leads to some really creative moments, it can also be intensely frustrating. When you're stuck, the old adventure game failsafe of "try everything on everything else" is annoying without having to do it again with a different character, and some of the solutions can be more than a little overcomplicated for relatively mundane tasks. Fortunately, the story is more than strong enough to keep you going, and almost from the beginning Deception sets out to make it feel more personal. Moments of genuine tenderness or sadness make the storyline this time feel altogether more mature, with Jamie's arc being perhaps the best in all the games, and you start to get the sense that the story throughout the series as a whole is really shaping up to be something big.

The Blackwell Deception isn't an end to the series; you'll get more hints about Joey's past, and a big, satisfying showdown with a villain, but ultimately the game raises more questions than it answers. It lays the groundwork for a very big confrontation in the next installment, and if you've followed the series this far, you'll be eagerly awaiting it when it arrives with the rest of us. Packed full of mystery, character, charm and suspense, it's a delight from start to finish. The Blackwell Deception is around four hours for your average player, and fans of the series will love every minute of it.

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


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GrinnypWhat would you be willing to do to recapture your first true love? You'll get to explore the answers to that question in Media Art's Love Story: The Beach Cottage, the second adventure/hidden object hybrid game in the Love Story series that grabs the hopeless romantic in all of us and takes us on a journey that may (or may not) give us the "happily ever after" we're looking for.

grinnyp_lovestorybeachcottage_screenshot1.jpgSandra Walsh receives a letter from her father (who recently passed away), asking her to visit their family's beach cottage one last time before she sells it. She reluctantly does so, and we go along for the ride. Through flashbacks, we learn of Sandra's history with the cottage and explore her reluctance to return caused by bittersweet memories of a childhood love both found and lost on the rocky shore.

Love Story: The Beach Cottage has casual and expert modes, changing cursors to indicate navigable areas and places of interest, and sparklies to indicate hidden object scenes, collectible items, and mini-games. The inventory does more than just show an empty set of boxes where you can stuff items. Instead, you're treated to a view of tasks you need to complete in order to progress. And rather than the usual notebook/journal to track important plot points, Love Story: Beach Cottage includes a charming "memory chest" in which certain objects that relate to the central love story are placed. There's also a nice variety of puzzles and mini-games scattered throughout, all of which are skippable without penalty.

grinnyp_lovestorybeachcottage_screenshot2.jpgAnalysis: Love Story: Beach Cottage is a romantic whirlwind which captures haunting memories of childhood, love, and loss, all within the realm of a highly engrossing hidden object game. It's not exactly the pinnacle of action and adventure, but it does spin a timeless love story that will appeal to the hidden romantic buried deep within the most cynical of souls.

As pretty as the most scenic postcard ever produced, the backgrounds and objects of Love Story: Beach Cottage astound with their breathtaking clarity and color. Appropriately, the music is soft and haunting, and the incidental sounds recreate the experience of being next to the deep blue sea. Combined, it transports the gamer into Sandie's world, both past and present. The hidden object scenes are a nice combination of classic, interactive, pairing, and multiple items. The puzzles and mini-games familiar but with a nice twist and cover a wide range of difficulty.

What makes Love Story: Beach Cottage stand out is the balance between adventure, story, hidden object finding, and puzzles. The difficulty levels even in advanced mode are still not as difficult as they could be, making this more of an adventure for the beginning-to-intermediate crowd. A few minor problems with clickable areas being too close together can be slightly irritating as well.

Love Story: Beach Cottage is a perfect game for a rainy (or snowy) Saturday afternoon that will appeal to anyone who appreciates a good love story. Will Sandie get that happy ending? Journey to the beach cottage and find out!

WindowsWindows:
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Weekend Download

JohnBIt's adventure and excitement! Dragons and bears! Enchanters and rolling boulders! Everything you could possibly dream of from a collection of free games presented to enliven your weekend!

ardensvale.gifArden's Vale (Windows, 11MB, free) - A comedy/fantasy adventure game chosen as game of the month for October on the Adventure Game Studio website. Arden's Vale is the story of a girl who must journey across a magical barrier to seek the assistance of a sorcerer in the hopes he can cure her sister of a strange illness. Along the way, you'll be treated to a smart dose of puzzles and humorous commentary that often breaks the fourth wall. It's a short but extraordinarily enjoyable game with just the right amount of challenge and intrigue!

startfightrun.gifStart Fight Run (Mac/Win/Linux, 5-9MB, free) - A short, miniature visual novel game by bentosmile that's bite-sized enough even for people who don't normally like visual novels to enjoy! You're on a quest to find the princess, and in each town you visit, a number of people are willing to help. Should you talk to the little girl, take her balloon, and head into the Creepy Woods? Should you speak with the village bear to see if he can help you in battle? Make a few simple (and funny) choices and see how the story unfolds!

laosquest.gifLao's Quest (Windows, 6.4MB, free) - One of those platformers you hate to play, but you really love to play so you do it anyway. Work your way through the ancient temple, avoiding traps at seemingly every turn. Statues shoot at you when you least expect it, rocks chase you down corridors, and those spikes? Who knows what they'll do given half a chance. Collect keys and use buttons to move things around, but play carefully, as the combination of high difficulty and limited lives makes for an especially challenging experience.


(6 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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The Tribloos

JohnBThe Tribloos is a new time management game from Bumpkin Brothers, creator of the 3D assembly line puzzle game The Machine. Similar to the Roads of Rome series and My Kingdom for the Princess series in basic structure, Tribloos will surprise you with its knack for turning simple tasks into more complex levels. Do not let the game's simple visual presentation fool you, this game is filled with serious amounts of smart challenge!

The TribloosTrey is the leader of the Tribloos, a tribe of furry blue creatures with tiny little hands, big eyes, and staunchly persistent smiles. A storm recently crashed through the forest of Tribloo Island, destroying everything in its path. The Tribloos are hard workers, but their organization skills are somewhat... lacking. Who are we kidding, they couldn't plan their way out of a paper bag made out of a blueprint. Who can help them get their village back together? Who is awesome at organization? You are! You are!

Working with the Tribloos in this 2D side view game is as simple as clicking the mouse. Your main concern will be dividing available workers between tasks in an attempt to fulfill goals listed at the bottom of the screen. Click an icon to assign a worker to that job. Keep clicking to add more workers (if available) and the job will get done faster. You have to clear piles of wood in order to open paths to the rest of the level, a task that also earns resources used to repair buildings. With wood, you can build things like houses and sawmills, the former providing more workers, the latter more wood.

The TribloosA series of themed levels progress The Tribloos' story along as well as introduce new gameplay elements you can work with. Nothing too complex, of course, but just enough to make you think "oh hey, that's fun!" Rescuing trapped Tribloos and gathering tools so you can clear piles of rock are just a few examples. There's also a mini-game or two to play in-between worlds, but you can skip them if you're not interested in the diversion.

Analysis: The Tribloos is quite a surprising game. From looking at it, you wouldn't expect much out of a game with dated visuals and flat characters. Once you play it, though, you'll quickly become engrossed in the game's cheery spirit and challenging gameplay. The Tribloos is one of those time management games you can blaze through in several hours, but earning all of the achievements and getting the best time score in each level is a difficult feat to accomplish.

Most modern time management and road building games (Royal Envoy, for example) dilute the central theme by adding layers of complexity to the gameplay. Not only are you managing workers, you're also thinking about half a dozen resources, looking at the clock, keeping an eye out for random events, and so on. The Tribloos is refreshingly streamlined and goes without those "features" in favor of simple, pure time management gameplay. You really have to manage your workers smartly if you want to walk away with a good score.

Don't let the game's lack of visual flair deter you from trying it out. The Tribloos is a lengthy and challenging time management game that dares to do something different from the glut of building-related titles out there. Give it a go and see if you get hooked!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 4.2/5 (173 votes)
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TrickyFisher DiverRecently, we've seen a bit of a mini-renaissance of quality casual releases set underwater, defying the conventional wisdom that games get terrible when they go down the drain. Fisher Diver, an action game by Eli Piilonen, keeps the quality but darkens the tone. On its surface, it's a retro-styled fishing game about a little ball that hopes to follow in its father's profession. However, like the ocean, there are some unsettling things to be found below the surface.

Fisher Diver is played with a combination of the mouse and keyboard. Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to swim, dive and surface and the mouse to jut a spear. Wound a fish enough, and you can collect it for cash: the larger and more complete it is, the more will be awarded, but the bigger they are the more they'll fight back. Also to collect are Guffins/Messages: when pulsing, a hit of the [spacebar] will direct you to one if it's in range. Cash and Guffins are traded in the store for upgrades. Watch the meter on the right to make sure that you have enough oxygen. It can be refilled by returning to the surface. Good luck with your new career and the thrill of the hunt.

It's kind of flummoxing. This is a fishing game: a game in which someone catches fish and sells them in order to purchase equipment to catch more fish. Why then will it likely be more disturbing than 90% of the horror games that will be released come Halloween time? Is it the visual and music design that's reminiscent of a twisted version of flOw? Is it the mechanical wire-framey fish contrasted with their all-too-organic-looking blood? Is it the oxygen black-out and that one bone-cracking sound effect? (You'll know it when you hear it.) Who knows, but Fisher Diver does a better job of turning one off sea food than a thousand PETA ads. There's something grimly ethereal and compelling here. While it takes a while to get going, and has the same problems of repetition that the real-life hobby does, Fisher Diver is a stylistic splash of cold water to the face.

Play Fisher Diver


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraHow are you going to spend your weekend? Building something? Horsing around? Making new friends? Or, uh... Whatever this is? Whatever your plans, Link Dump Friday will start you off right!

  • Guild DungeonsGuild Dungeons - Hyptosis' latest simulation adventure game is an experiment to better learn how to program, but an entertaining one. Create and manage a fantasy city full of fantasy creatures, then recruit and train them to send them into fantasy dungeons and earn you fantasy treasure. There's no save, unfortunately, and the lack of a tutorial may be a bit daunting, but a true leader doesn't need a rule book and counts every painful death of their loyal minions as a learning experience! (Lesson learned: Buy more minions, fewer health insurance policies.)
  • Story HeroStory Hero - Cute and simple, this little text puzzle asks you to walk across lines of text, selecting the proper word from each to deal with the threats placed in front of you. More a concept than a fully fleshed out game, it's still a good idea and adorable as all get-out. Think there's a market for this as a future iPad app to tell nerds and nerdlettes in training bedtime stories? The first adaptations should clearly be Goodnight Moon, Madeline, and The Cask of Amontillado.
  • Bone SnifferBone Sniffer - Set out for adventure, cold noses, and big floppy ears in this point-and-click puzzle. Click the correct items in the correct order in each scene to help a dog with curious talents recover his enormous bone, carried off by an equally enormous condor. At least this dog is being proactive about his problems; all a cat would do is take it out on your sofa and clean laundry.
  • VerminatorVerminator - Finally, a use for all that stinky "fancy" cheese everyone has to pretend they like at expensive restaurants! Drop the smelly stuff around the levels of this puzzle game to lure rodents to their demise, All We Need is Brain style. It may seem cruel, but honestly if you woke up one morning and one of these fat, goggle-eyed, puppy-sized rodents was squatting on your chest, cheese would be the last thing you'd reach for.
  • FlagmanFlagman - You think your job stinks? The star of this little platformer is in charge of picking up and planting flags on pads to open doors. And there are spikes everywhere. And teleporters. And his feet appear to be coated in Vaseline. Look, even Mike Rowe would hesitate on this one, and he's been inside unspeakably small places filled with unspeakably foul things.

  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (101 votes)
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KateGeorganism.pngThey say that no jelly is an island, but jellies that cooperate can explore many mysterious islands. That might not be an accurate quote, but it's certainly applicable in Georganism, a puzzle platformer from Karma Team. The jelly arsenal has been scattered over 22 little islands, and these brave and determined jellies need your help to get it back.

Each level has you assume command of one or more colorful little characters, each with a special ability. Blue can jump, Red can dive, and Green can eat wooden blocks. The talented trio needs to work together to navigate the island chain and recover the missing arsenal. The [arrow] keys control your new jelly friend, [spacebar] switches between characters, and if you get two jellies in close proximity, [Enter] combines them into a super striped jelly that possesses both special talents. [Enter] also splits the jellies apart again, allowing you to fit through tight spaces or combine with a different character.

Push blocks, break ice, and activate switches to find and ring the gong that completes the stage. The best jelly wranglers will pick up the hidden weapon on every island and earn a shiny gold star for their reward. Take a break from all that jumping, diving, and wooden block eating by playing the mini-games that unlock as you progress through the stages. You'll find jelly-infused variations on projectiles, stacking, and pachinko games.

Georganism never gets too terribly challenging in terms of puzzle solving, but the character switching and ability combinations make for a well-made and entertaining diversion of a game, suitable for casual gamers and jelly fans of all ages.

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

Letters in Boxes #18

ArtbegottiEach week we feature a series of puzzles called Letters In Boxes, but sometimes the letters in the boxes get a bit too much attention. Every once in a while, it's nice to think outside the box, get a bit of fresh air, and find a new perspective on the problems you're facing. This week, we celebrate the box-troverts with a challenge where everything you need to know to solve each puzzle is out of the grid.

Take a look at your starter puzzle below. Some of the puzzles in this series might look a bit familiar! Click on the puzzle to open it up in a new window. When you've discovered an answer (and a little hint, all of the answers this week are five-letter words), check out your browser's address bar. Change the image's filename (in this case, "outsideeighteen") to your answer, making sure you stay in the same directory and keeping the same file extension. If you're right, the next answer is just a short walk away! If you're wrong, you'll have to backtrack a bit, but you can always try another path.

Letters in Boxes #18 - 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 17th at 11:59 PM (GMT-5:00). And don't forget to get out and enjoy the day! Good luck!

Update: Congratulations to the following winners! :D

  • kdausman ...First!
  • Nigma
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 (179 votes)
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GrinnypDismantlementLunchDuring a long and tedious day at work there is nothing better than a lunch break, especially if you've skipped breakfast and are starving. You're so hungry, in fact, that you're ready to take that lovely Bento Box Lunch and dismantle right it down to the bottom where the bomb is...wait, the bomb? Yes, gam.ebb.jp is back (in collaboration with a website called Flips) and has brought us the latest in deadly comestibles, Dismantlement: Box Lunch.

As with all of the wildly popular Dismantlement point-and-click puzzle games all you have is a screwdriver and all you need is a screwdriver (and your wits) to take this delectable Bento Box apart like a lion ripping into a gazelle. Or, you know, like a hungry office worker in the middle of the day. The puzzles this time around are pretty easy and of course there's the usual nasty surprise of a bomb on a timer lurking beneath what looks like a pretty tasty meal, you know, minus the screws and other hardware. Dismantlement: Lunch is one of the simplest of the Dismantlement games with basically one point of view and no navigation around the outside of a three dimensional object. The game is in Japanese but the "return" button (which takes the player out of close up mode) is labeled in both Japanese and English, and if you've played any of the other games in this series the rest is fairly simple.

Not one of the strongest Dismantlement games, Dismantlement: Box Lunch is still a lovely way to start the day, an amuse bouche to whet the palate even if the title suggests heartier fare. Not the usual household appliance or object, Dismantlement: Lunch is a tasty edible snack packed with puzzles (and a bomb). Grab your screwdriver and get dismantling!

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Rating: 4/5 (72 votes)
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TrickyKit and the OctopodNo matter how cynical and jaded you are, it's hard not to be heart-warmed by the simple companionship of a boy and his octopus... especially when the boy is willing to help rescue the octopodess of his pet's dreams from the evil kidnapping clutches of knights, archers and the dreaded Bad Mood Bear. With a wrench at Kit's side and a ready-to-be flung mollusc on his head, though, it'll be easy as octo-pie, right?... Right? Jay Armstrong's Kit and the Octopod may sound like a silver age crime-fighting team, but it has a ton of charm to go along with its action-platforming.

You move Kit with the [arrow] keys and jump with [S]. When you come upon a wall, hold [up] to run up it, and [left] or [right] to jump off in that direction. Tap [A] to show off your karate skills and hold it a bit longer to whip out your trusty wrench for a more serious beatdown, just the perfect thing for bashing open treasure chests and flinging chickens into their nest. [D] throws the octopod, which can hit switches and troll enemies by clinging to their faces. Don't worry, he'll make his way back to you in due time.

Kit and the Octopod is an action-packed romp that has the charm of Mario, the bloody edge of Castle Crashers, and cephalopods aplenty. Its biggest flaw comes in the finickiness of the wall-running mechanic. The author, Jay Armstrong, promises an update soon that should make wall running and jumping easier. At the moment, it's more likely that miss-timed controls will do more damage to your Kit than any of the enemies will. The strange thing is that this game would be perfect if it had a double-jump mechanic. That may be a matter of personal opinion, though. In any case, Kit and the Octopus is some good stuff that'll make you nostalgic for the golden age of the NES.

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Rating: 4.7/5 (399 votes)
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DoraOne and One StoryIt's the classic story of boy meets girl meets puzzle platforming in Mattia Traverso's One and One Story, where your goal is to reunite two shadows separated by distance and hazardous terrain. Come into contact with spikes, or fall too far, and you'll die and have to restart the level. (Alternately, if you get stuck, just press [R] to reload a level.) Initially you'll use the [arrow] keys to move, and [Z] or [C] to swap between characters, but as stages progress and the intermittent level text narrates, this will change. The game is divided up into chapters, and each has its own set of rules as to how your shadows move and play off each other.

While One and One Story comes with a selection of bonus levels, the actual story campaign is fairly short, though not necessarily in a bad way. The game may look and feel all moody-broody like something Bruce Wayne would secretly code, but it's actually a fairly sweet and sentimental look at its core themes of love and relationships. If it were any longer than it is, it might feel like it was dragging its feet, especially since some stages towards the end can feel a little repetitive or finicky, combined with trying to judge distance between deadly and safe falls, and how close is too close to spikes. The puzzles, especially the ones in the bonus levels, are mostly well designed and challenging, but how well you respond to the game is probably tied in part to how much you identify with the narration. Gabriele Bonis brings a soft, beautiful art style to the experience, while the soundtrack by David Carney of DVGmusic is just top-notch. If what you want is a short, warm and fuzzy little puzzle game to make you go d'awwwww, One and One Story is worth a peek.

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Rating: 4.2/5 (50 votes)
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joyePrizma Puzzle ChallengesSilen Games of Icy Gifts fame has released a new expansion in the popular Prizma Puzzle series of tile-based connection puzzle games. Breaking out of the tyranny of number-based sequel names, this one is called Prizma Puzzle Challenges. A funky 3D style and some sci-fi touches like teleportation and light cannons add some extra interest to the "draw a single path with limited moves and no backtracking" classic puzzle, which is classic for a reason.

Use your mouse to click on a start tile (or one of them, if there are more than one) and then click on adjacent tiles to start drawing a path. Your goal is the tile helpfully marked "finish". Along the way, keep an eye on how many moves you have left, since if you run out you fail the level. Try to pick up stars in the normal level zones, since that's what unlocks more zones and challenge sets. The game also keeps track of your score, and you can check whether you've reached the max score on a completed level by hovering your cursor over the level in the level select screen.

Prizma Puzzle Challenges heard you like achievements, so it put achievements in your achievements so you can score while you score. Or at least that's how it feels early in the game, when achievements are flying at you for even the mildest accomplishments. There are really only 37 awards, so the last ones take actual effort, as opposed to the early ones, which just barely avoid giving you a reward for not choking on your own saliva.

The game is very similar to Prizma Puzzle 3, coming across more as a 40 level expansion pack, which is perhaps why this isn't Prizma Puzzle 4. What it lacks in originality, it makes up for in steady competence, and the developer has been keen to add small improvements in response to feedback. There are no rough edges here, just pure, smooth, 3D goodness.

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Rating: 4.5/5 (184 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypAlthough long, complex, tricky room escapes are lots of fun, there is something to be said for short and sweet as well. It may be that the player is looking to play something simple and straightforward, it may be that the player is new to the genre and needs an introduction, or it could be that it's late at night in the middle of the week and the unfortunate room escaper just wants something light and easy before they head to bed for the night. In that case, isn't it great that Robamimi has come out with a charming little mini room escape just in time for a mid-week break? Enter One Scene and welcome to Weekday Escape!

One SceneAs it says on the tin, One Scene is a room escape that features...well, just one scene, a single point-of-view of a room, which makes navigation in this amusing little escape pretty easy. There's no wandering around, just investigating everything from one perspective. Despite the constraints, Robamimi has managed to pack in some delightfully designed puzzles and their usual elegant solutions along with their top-notch control designs that include the usual hint feature, changing cursor, easy to manage inventory, and save feature. Accompanying you on your brief journey is a haunting and beautiful little tune that can be muted at your discretion. The game comes in two languages, English and Japanese, so be sure to change the options at the beginning unless you are bilingual.

Robamimi is one of our favorite room escape designers and One Scene is a perfect example of why. They can certainly bring the long and complex (Ancient Scripts, Hermit Rabi), but can also scale down to the small without losing the elegance that makes their room escapes so popular. One Scene is a midnight snack, meaty but not too heavy, a wonderful bite rather than a main course. Tonight, the munchies are on us!

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Rating: 4.3/5 (219 votes)
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TrickyPirates of the Undead SeaWhile zombies are perhaps too common in games nowadays, and pirates are certainly getting there, we haven't seen nearly enough zombie-pirates. At least that's the argument given by Pirates of the Undead Sea: Rise of the Ribcage, the new point-and-click adventure game from Pahu Pahu. Given its quality, its a strong argument indeed. Captain Black Sam has spent years sailing the seven seas plundering and pillaging. After a night of too much rum, Sam wakes up to find he and his ship are at the bottom of the ocean, both not looking too much better for the experience. Fifteen years of decay later, a chance mermaid-sighting convinces him the time is nigh to set out on another grand adventure. And so, you're off to seek glory, gold and grog! Mostly grog!

Pirates of the Undead Sea is controlled entirely with the mouse. Click anywhere on the ground to walk. Click characters to converse with them by selecting dialogue options. Click items to look at, use, or collect by selecting the appropriate icon. Open the inventory by clicking the treasure chest in the lower-left corner. Click items to use them with others on the screen. Click the exits to move around the undersea landscape. Oh... and try to find some clothes for Blackbeard's sake.

Analysis: Pirates of the Dead Sea probably wouldn't exist if the Monkey Island games didn't, and its protagonist is an undead ringer for Jack Sparrow. Not judging, just stating. A game about piracy that happens to borrow from other sources? Who would have thought? Well, if you're going to pillage, pillage from the best and pillage well. Pirates of the Undead Sea does both. It acts as a fitting tribute to its inspirations while effectively showcasing the developers' own creativity and appreciable talents. Oh... and try to find some clothes while you're at it.

Pirates of the Undead SeaPirates of the Undead Sea does nearly everything right. It has a wonderful cartoonish aquatic aesthetic, that utilizes some neat parallax effects. It's plot is of the loose "walk around doing piratey things" variety, but that allows the characters to take center stage. And what characters they are! The cast's designs and dialogue sparkle with personality and there's not a single one who doesn't get a laugh-out-loud bit of conversation. Fluffy the Salt-Water Pirahna! Finny, the sarcastic mermaid with the prerequisite convenient hair placement! McGonnagal, the ship's poet who didn't really think through the whole "hanging oneself while one is already dead" thing! So few browser games take the time to develop an ensemble cast, but this is definitely one that does.

Not that the puzzles are too shabby either. They have a logical progression, and incorrect attempts will at least cause you to crack a smile. Of particular note is an early sequence when you must find a replacement hat: there are about a half-dozen red-herrings that you can try on, and each of them garners a snarky comment from the protagonist. When developers enjoy making a game, it shows in the details, and one might suspect this team enjoyed it a lot.

The negatives of Pirates of the Undead Sea are standard for the genre: a few obtuse solutions (especially the last puzzle of the game), navigation that's a little confusing, and a protagonist that deserves a faster walking speed, even if he is a zombie. The background music is high quality, but a mixed bag tone-wise: some of it would be suited better in an elevator than for a terror of the seas. However, these minor drawbacks mean little when compared with the positives. Any fan of classic Lucas Arts adventures will love Pirates of the Undead Sea, and it's sure to be a strong performer in our annual Best of 2011 awards. In conclusion... ARRRRRR.

Play Pirates of the Undead Sea: Rise of the Ribcage


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Rating: 4.2/5 (82 votes)
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KyhDemonrift TDIt was the best of times, it was the worst of times... No, actually it's just the worst of times. How else could you describe the situation in Menara Games' turn-based strategy/tower defense mix Demonrift TD? As the Baroness Milena, you command the last of the troops of the kingdom of Emaeron, which has fallen to the forces of a demon horde. Using your mouse to control the various aspects of the game, it is your duty to restore the empire and send the enemy back to whatever depths from which they came.

The turn-based portion of the game is played from the map screen. This is the lighter of the hybrid halves as there's not much strategy involved in it. Once you've recaptured a town (in the tower defense part) you earn one of three different types of resources from that town, the type indicated in the corner of the town's icon. The resources (coin, anvil and crystal) can be spent in the Training Camp to improve and purchase unit types for the tower defense levels. They can also be used to construct a building in your towns, each of which give different benefits to your game in both strategy and tower defense.

Most of your efforts toward glory for Emaeron will be spent in the tower defense levels, which are entered by clicking a town on the map screen with a red flag by it. While there are four total 'towers' to build, the game starts you out with just two: the cheap swordsmen and the archers, which are your only defense against flying creatures. Towers can only be built on the hexagons indicated on the level screen. The thing to figure out is whether it's better to build more towers to attack a greater number of enemies or to upgrade your existing towers to create up to three units (all the defenders from a particular tower attack the same enemy). 'And what are we defending exactly?' you may be asking. Well, you're protecting ancient shrines which provide vital information toward permanently defeating these vile demons. The shrines have a specific defense counter which runs down for each enemy that reaches it. The number of counters left at the end of the level determines your rank for the level, and thus the amount of resources you're rewarded for your win. It's not clear how defending these shrines regains the town for you, but a win's a win, right?

kyh_demonrifttd_map.jpgAnalysis: The tower defense portion of Demonrift TD lives up to expectations. It's nice to see a tweak to the usual formula. The graphics are nice with a mélange of paint-like backgrounds and cute character sprites. Even the enemies are cute in a demonic, 'I'm going to eat your face' kind of way. Where this game struggles is the imbalance between the two aspects of the game. It posits itself as a mix, but the strategy portion is so light as to be unnecessary to even mention. There are times when your towns can be attacked by the enemy, but you don't see the enemy movements or any other indicator of what they're doing, so it's more of a random event.

It's great to see a developer make the effort to update a game after its release based on player feedback, which Menara Games kindly did on this title. It shows humility and a true desire to create a game people will enjoy. Despite a few issues with the turn-based strategy side of this game, and the fact that the combat is on the easy side for a tower defense, it's definitely a solid play with an interesting story and cast of characters. Will you be able to fight back the demons, and what will become of Emaeron if you do?

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The Vault

DoraForget world peace, nothing brings a community together like a good puzzle! Time and time again you guys (yes, you out there on the other end of that interwebs pipeline) have proven you're willing to combine your Wonder Twins powers to solve even the most confounding conundrums developers have devised. Here are three of our favourite puzzle games of all varieties designed to get your grey matter churning and wanting to help out a fellow reader in need with a hint. Or, you know, post about your glorious puzzle supremacy and bathe in their tears. Whichever.

  • ShiftShift - Not everything is black and white, you know! At least, not unless you're playing Antony Lavalle's sneaky platform puzzle series, the Shift games. On the surface, your objective is simple; find the keys you need and get to the door. It sounds easy, at least until you realise that it involves flipping back and forth between black and white planes to get around. Shift has had its share of sequels, but if you've never dipped your toe into its fiendishly clever pool, there's no time like the present to start.
  • Hanna in a ChoppaHanna in a Choppa - We've all wanted to get to da choppa at some point in our lives, and Chris Underwood's gloriously silly physics puzzler finally gives you the chance. There are 21 levels you have to win, using a helicopter to accomplish whatever task the game sees fit to give you... usually parodying a well-known game in the process. Hanna in a Choppa is one of those rare funny games where the satire feels like it runs confidently alongside the gameplay, rather than becoming the whole point of the experience, and its silly atmosphere combined with the creative level design makes this an easy choice for just about anyone to enjoy.
  • The Codex of Alchemical EngineeringThe Codex of Alchemical Engineering - If you like logic and programming puzzles, few are finer and smarter than Zachtronics' exercise in science, patience, and brainpower. The goal of building a machine to complete a specific task may be simple, but achieving it is not... or at least, achieving it efficiently is hard, and if you approach the Codex wanting to prove your worth you can expect to lock horns with it for quite some time. It's more than a little challenging, but it's also one of those games that best displays the talent and goodwill of the community here (that's you guys!) because players are always willing to pool their knowledge. If you like easy, simple puzzle games then this one might be a bit much, but if you want a puzzling experience you can sit down to gnaw at for a long time, you'll definitely want to check this (and indeed all of the Zachtronics games) out.

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


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Rating: 4.1/5 (70 votes)
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joyeConcerned JoeJoe is concerned, and that might just be an underreaction. He's been programmed with a disease called I.H.T.M.O.I.D. ("I have to move or I'll die") by a sadistic game dev narrator who has trapped him in a set of nineteen fiendish puzzle and trap-filled stages, and who won't stop taunting him to boot. It'll take all your platforming talents as well as your brains to get Concerned Joe out of this mess. Featuring fantastic pixel art and design by Xelu and adroit programming by 4ur Entertainment, Concerned Joe is a high difficulty game that provides aesthetic and narrative rewards that are more than worth the effort.

Running and jumping and all that fun stuff are accomplished with the [arrow] keys, and as far as the first play through goes, that's about all you need to know. [M] mutes, [P] pauses, [R] resets (ie kills you), and hitting [Esc] or [backspace] twice takes you to the main menu.

As the disease's name makes clear, you have to move... or you'll die. And unfortunately for Joe, moving very specifically means moving horizontally on tiles. Jumping and moving through the air apparently doesn't qualify as movement. A green tile with a plus sign on it will fully restore your health, whereas white tiles will stop health regen, and red X tiles will kill you outright. There are also tiles you help you jump and many other surprises in store, if you make it that far.

Concerned JoeAnalysis: Some levels require clever thinking, others require hair trigger platforming skills, and still others require a blend of both. Players with slower computers may have difficulty with some of the levels due to their need for both speed and perfection. If you have an older machine, or even if you don't, you might find that keeping tabs and other programs to a minimum makes the game much less frustrating. Concerned Joe absolutely delights in tricking the player, and the game abounds with traps and gotchas that are designed to be found through trial and error, until the game has you so paranoid that you start looking for what would be the stupidest move to make—and then try that first.

The game includes three bonus mini-games that test your stamina at three aspects of the main game: climbing the sticky blocks, maneuvering around moving walkway blocks, and avoiding red death blocks. You can submit your high scores to a table. The main game also has replay value thanks to certain things unlocked by its ending, although unfortunately getting more specific would ruin it.

Portal codified a new genre of game: the narrator who wants to kill you. Concerned Joe's enemy narrator is its strongest asset. Players who mute the game won't know what they're missing. The combination of the superb voice acting and the alternately hilarious and infuriating taunts combine to spur the player on no matter how many times Joe dies. While hearing "Hey grandma, I need you to beat this level for me" when you die just pixels away from safety might set your blood to boiling, the narrator is also the source of some delightful or just plain absurd quips. This can defuse the tension of repeated failures, because cracking a smile helps remind you that it's just a game after all. While the game flirts a little with the offensive ("Only real men can play this stage. If you're a woman you'll never make it."), those lines actually serve to highlight that the narrator himself is a bit of a loser, something that becomes more evident as you approach the ending. Without spoiling it, it's a twist ending that would only be a twist to someone well-versed in the Portalesque tradition of enemy narrator games. How's that for meta?

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Rating: 4.8/5 (144 votes)
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The Asylum

JayBest of Casual Gameplay 2011One of our favorite Flash games of all time here at JIG has just received an update! The Asylum, for abused cuddly toys, has just received a new patient and your care and treatment is needed to cure it from its psychological ills. Dr. Wood joins the other adorable messed-up toys: Kroko, Lilo, Dolly, Dub and Sly, and each one is desperately in need of your help!

The Asylum: Dr. WoodEnter the patient's lounge and select any of the available toys to begin treatment. Then, once in the treatment room, begin by choosing from available methods of therapy by clicking on the clipboard. The patient will react, sometimes well and sometimes not so well, so you will have to try various methods to ultimately cure the little cuddly toy. Cut scenes of animation will, from time to time, reveal insight into each patient's traumatic past experiences that ultimately caused them to wind up in the asylum.

An indicator of your progress appears in the top right of the clipboard so you can see how you're doing. Once the meter is completely filled with green, the patient is cured and allowed to leave the asylum!

Dr. Wood is perhaps the most unusual patient yet to be admitted to the Asylum, and its behavior is beyond anything ever seen thus far in this delightful game. But be careful, or you just might wind up as the patient yourself(!)

Play The Asylum


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Rating: 3.8/5 (55 votes)
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TrickyLegends of KongThe city is under attack! Regular citizens have gone red-eyed with uncontrollable rage, security robots are running amok, mutants are smashing up storefronts, and sales of crowbars and health syringes are through the roof. Could it possibly have something to do with all those high-frequency broadcasting towers that the mysteriously menacing GlobalTek Industries have constructed all over town? Well, there's only one way to find out. Put together a party, load up on weapons, fight or sneak your way past the psychos and start causing massive property damage! Legends of Kong, new from Nerdook, is a randomly generated action-RPG that never plays the same twice.

Use the [arrow] keys to run and jump across the city's landscape, attacking with the [spacebar]. You must make it to the transmitter at the end of each level and neutralize it, before returning to your car. In your way are the red-eyed psychos, who will chase and attack if you walk into their field of village and will prevent you from leaving the screen until they are killed or enough time passes with you out of sight. It is up to the player to decide whether to be aggressive or stealthy. There are chests of cash to loot, new party member to rescue, and teleporters to activate, all activated with the [down] key. New upgrades and weapons are available for purchase after each successfully completed level. These can be equipped before starting a new level, and weapons can be switched while playing with the [Q] key. Bonuses are given for pacifist and kill-all-enemy level-runs. It's up to you to stop GlobalTek Industries from completing their vaguely defined scheme!

Legends of Kong is fun, can't help but suffer most by comparison. The whole feel of the game is quite reminiscent of Nerdook's earlier Zombies Took My Daughter. After all, it has the randomly generated content, doomed urban setting, and ongoing fight for survival. The problem is that there are areas in which the previous work is clearly superior, particularly in combat which here is much more repetitive. Still, Legend of Kong distinguishes itself by offering much more character customization and a tighter plot. Even with the elements of luck inherent in the design's premise, there's a lot of cool ideas here. Whether or not they all pay off satisfactorily will be up to the individual player, but most will conclude that Legends of Kong builds upon Nerdook's already impressive legend as a gaming experimenter.

Play Legends of Kong


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Rating: 4.7/5 (27 votes)
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Dark Meadow

DoraThe iOS platform has needed a really good original adventure game for a while now rather than just subsisting on a meager diet of ports of preexisting titles. Has Phosphor Games swung to our rescue? After all, dropping you in a hospital crawling with unspeakable horrors and an unstable narrator is how game developers say "I like you", right? The Dark Meadow is an action adventure point-and-click-ish type game with horror elements. As mentioned, you find yourself in a decaying hospital where only one person doesn't seem to be trying to kill you, and he isn't much help. Finn, as he's called, babbles about a witch trapping you both there... and you are well and truly trapped since not even dying will set you free. Find out the truth about the walls you're trapped within, the bleak meadow you can glimpse outside, and the horrible things men do for power.

Dark MeadowThe Dark Meadow isn't a free-roaming adventure game; you can only move to places the game will let you, a sort of "on rails with options" experience. Navigation is easy; just click on the glowing green circles to move, and on any containers to open them or items, mainly sacks of gold, to pick them up. Gold is important since you'll need it to buy new equipment to increase your health and stats, but don't forget to grab first aid kits, which you can only use outside of battle, and gems; find ten of them and get ten attribute points to disperse as you see fit. Almost more important than gems and equipment, however, are books and bits of paper lying around that will gradually fill you in on the story; there are almost sixty to find, and since Finn's reliability seems... questionable... you might want to hunt them down whenever possible for your own answers.

When a monster appears, usually randomly, you'll shift into combat mode whereupon you can drag your weapon of choice (and by this I mean your finger) around the screen to slash and shoot as you see fit. When enemies are at a distance you can peg them with crossbow bolts, but once they get close enough you'll shift to melee. It's actually a pared down Infinity Blade; you use the arrows on either side of the screen to dodge enemy attacks, and swipe at the screen to slash them when you have an opening. Just remember; dodge towards the arm the big baddie is using to take a swipe at you, and wait to strike until you get the "Attack Now!" message. There are even special combos to use if you find the clues for them. Gain enough experience to level up and you'll get points you can spend in several attributes. If you do die (or take a break from playing), however, it's not the end of the world; you'll just reawaken allllllll the way back in the starting room with all your equipment and levels, and at least you'll find more gold and items randomly dispersed throughout the whole building again when you do. You can also buy large amounts of gold via an in-app purchase if you so desire, but that's entirely optional.

Dark MeadowAnalysis: The Dark Meadow is powered by the Unreal Engine, and it's clear that the game takes advantage of this. It both looks and sounds great, apart from some slightly muddy textures on iPad Uno, and by and large is very responsive during gameplay. While it really is more of an an action game than anything else, there's a fairly strong emphasis on story as well, and having the notes and papers randomly dispersed throughout the game provides great incentive to explore. Finn's increasingly inane ramblings, threats, insults, and praise can sometimes be goofy enough that they almost feel like they don't fit the setting, but the voice acting and writing is actually very well done and he never repeats himself.

The downside, however, is that Dark Meadow just isn't very scary. It's dark at times throughout the course of its narrative, sure, but that's not the same thing. Nothing jumps out at you, nothing goes bump in the night. The biggest culprit is actually the combat which, while easy, is also more than a little repetitive and honestly just feels like its dragging out the gameplay by making you grind for levels and cash to get past certain encounters. It also really hamstrings the whole atmosphere the game seems to be trying so hard to achieve, making it less creepy adventure and more hacky-slashy-ready-notey. Maybe if death carried a harsher penalty... although making you drag your sorry butt all the way back through each area whenever you get knocked out is admittedly a pretty gross punishment as it stands. Can't you just, like... slap us around a little?

Despite this, The Dark Meadow has a lot going for it. The simplified Infinity Blade combat is easy to get the hang of, the monster designs are varied enough that it helps to take the sting out of how often you'll get in slap fights with them, and the story is actually very well told. Fans of the oppressive horror in, say, Amnesia may be disappointed in the frequent combat and the grinding, and it really feels as if the game might have benefited more from more varied gameplay, but if you go into this knowing what to expect and even anticipating it, then The Dark Meadow has a lot to offer you. It's well written, beautifully visualized, and Phosphor Games clearly has a lot of talent and a lot of potential hits in their future.


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Mobile Monday

JohnBMinecraft? On your Android phone? It's here, folks, and it's an official release from Mojang! It may not be the full-fledged game you were hoping for, but given some time, we might just get our favorite building game fully ported. If building things isn't your style, we've also got Flick Golf and Pocket League Story to keep you entertained!

minecraftpocket.gifMinecraft - Pocket Edition - You know the game, now you can take it with you wherever you go! Er... sorta. This early release of the mobile version of the ever-amazing Minecraft features just the most essential elements you need to build your own block worlds. Move around your world, creating and removing blocks with a tap of your touch screen. There's no crafting, no mobs, and most of the other features found in the full desktop version of the game aren't present, but if you absolutely need your Minecraft fix on-the-go, this'll get the job done. With any luck, the game will get more features in the near future. A free Minecraft - Pocket Edition Demo is also available.

flickgolf.gifFlick Golf - From the makers of Coin Drop, Flick Golf is a touch screen-friendly version of the real-world game so many people secretly love to play. Choose your shot's direction, then swipe the screen to give the golf ball a good hit. Influence its direction in mid-air by swiping the screen, and try to land your shot near the hole (obviously). Simple design, but the game is perfect for quick mobile sessions.

pocketleaguestory.gifPocket League Story - Another simulation game from the mobile experts at Kairosoft, creator of Game Dev Story and several other games in the "story" series. You are the manager of a young soccer team hoping to make it big. Train players, attract sponsors, manage research possibilities and keep track of players' stats before and after each game. During the action, you're practically a spectator, leaving you in a tense nail-biting position. If you manage your team right, though, you'll start racking up some victories, giving you more options to improve your team bit by bit. The free Pocket League Story Lite is also available.

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


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Rating: 4.7/5 (61 votes)
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King Arthur's Gold

JohnBBest of Casual Gameplay 2011Mining. Building. Fighting. Constructing. In the real world, all of these things are rough, painful sorts of jobs that most people aren't very interested in doing. In the gaming world, they're the Holy Grail of entertainment. Enter King Arthur's Gold, a multiplayer (with some single player, too) construction and combat game similar to Terraria and hempuli's miniature masterpiece Masjin. Teamwork is the central focus of the game, and while some players will be busy mining and building, others will head out for direct combat with the enemy. How much more exciting could it get?!

King Arthur's GoldThere are three classes to choose from in King Arthur's Gold: builders, knights, and archers, all of which are necessary to steal and hide gold from the other team. Builders can tunnel through the dirt and create a number of structures ranging from traps to ladders to catapults. Knights excel at hand to hand combat and will be your basic go-to unit for staving off enemy attacks. Archers are a bit more strategic in nature and ambush foes as well as fire arrows at a distance. Each team will naturally have several of each class type, and while the warriors battle things out on the surface, builders are below hiding the gold and setting traps to keep foes at bay.

Gathering gold is the central focus of the game. It's a constant struggle between teams to win, and battles will rage for what feels like an eternity. The little fights are what often matter most, however, as you'll tend to focus on small tasks and small areas of the map that contribute to the overall goal. You have a broad range of movement that uses a combination of the mouse and keyboard, freeing you to build/mine in any direction while moving around to stay safe. And you can accomplish some really creative things in the game, such as constructing high platforms that can be bombed to rain rubble down on your foes. Really, your only limit is your imagination. That, and having to wait to respawn after you die!

King Arthur's GoldAnalysis: Seasoned retro gamers will likely recognize the visual style of King Arthur's Gold from a fantastic sidescrolling strategy game released in 1994 for the SNES called King Arthur's World. KAG bears a number of passing resemblances to the older game, but it borrows very little from that decades-old (but still fun!) title. Instead, King Arthur's Gold is more like contemporary sandbox games, though greatly simplified and more focused on action and teamwork than building pretty things.

The best part of King Arthur's Gold: the development team is constantly improving the game, adding new features and balancing out old ones. The not-so-best part is the game isn't too friendly to newbies, and even though the single player tutorials introduce you to the basics, when you join a server you'll be overwhelmed with the frantic action that's going on. The learning curve is shallow, though, so just stick with it and you'll see why the game has such a large base of loyal fans!

King Arthur's Gold is free to play for the basic game, but if you really get into it, you can upgrade to premium and gain access to loads of new features (new modes, single player maps, a level editor, zombies, haircuts, etc.), any one of which is worth the price of admission alone. It's a brilliant and strategy-filled war game with just the right amount of creative construction. You won't regret the time you spend digging tunnels, bomb rushing enemies, or using arrows to climb tall walls!

WindowsWindows:
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LinuxLinux:
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Rating: 4.1/5 (75 votes)
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grinnyp_virtualcity2_banner.jpg

GrinnypIn the world of time management/casual simulation games there are plenty of Build-a-Lot clones, so it was exciting a few years back when a new player entered the field with Virtual City. Rather than concentrate on building or development, Virtual City took the genre in a whole new direction by focusing the gameplay on the movement of goods, services, and people. Now, G5 Entertainment is back with Virtual City 2: Paradise Resort, which takes the transportation madness to new and interesting heights.

grinnyp_virtualcity2_screenshot1.jpgTransportation is the not-so-hidden secret of how cities work. You can build skyscrapers, office buildings, and factories, but without some way of moving raw materials, goods, and people, the whole thing falls apart. Water, Rail, even Flight can be good ways of moving goods and materials over long distances, but within the confines of a single city transportation like that is dependent upon trucks. Good thing you own a trucking company, isn't it? The game consists of over 50 levels, each a small town or city that is in need of some good infrastructure building.

An annoying woman will pop up at the beginning of each level and give you the lowdown on what needs to be done. Does the local populace need something to eat? Perhaps you need a pie factory, the simplest of the merchandise "chains". To get pies to the general populace all you need is a wheat farm, a mill to grind the wheat, a dairy farm for butter, eggs, and milk, a bakery to bring it all together, and four trucks to move all of the materials and finished product. As the game progresses you will be faced with longer and more complex chains to create more complex goods, as well as other challenges to bring the current city or town up to snuff.

grinnyp_virtualcity2_screenshot5.jpgActions are completed with a simple click of a mouse. A tabbed menu at the bottom shows each level's goals, keeps tracks of vehicles, and has the handy construction menu for building necessary houses, roads, tourist destinations, and the like. Each level will have its own unique requirements you need to meet before you can move on. The game begins with a basic stock of certain buildings which are added to in the "R&D" lab after each round, using the investment points earned by finishing a level. Complete a level in a certain amount of time and you earn gold, giving you more investment points to upgrade or to buy new types of buildings.

G5 Entertainment has added some new twists that shake up the gameplay pretty quickly when compared to the original game. In Virtual City 2 you not only have to worry about the movement of goods and services, but the movement of your town's inhabitants (and tourists) goes front and center this time around with the addition of office buildings, motels, resorts, and the like. What good are office buildings if people can't get there to work? And what good are resorts without tourists? With a limited amount of vehicles that can be run out of headquarters the challenge becomes how to balance materials transport, people moving, and garbage disposal without your city coming to a virtual standstill.

grinnyp_virtualcity2_screenshot3.jpgAnalysis: So many time management and simulation games tend to rest on their laurels, creating game after game with the exact same gameplay updated only with new visuals (cough, Farm Frenzy, cough) so it's nice that Virtual City 2 avoids that trap. The visuals have certainly been upgraded with the new buildings and the like, and the backgrounds are filled with lovely details that catch the eye. What makes Virtual City 2 exciting, though, is the new twist on the gameplay that certainly causes any veteran to rethink their strategies as the levels progress.

The graphics are bright and colorful, the animations amusing, and the lively music is a perfect fit for Virtual City 2. As you travel from the Beehive state to the Sunshine state to the Silver state and The Last Frontier (that's Utah, Florida, Nevada, and Alaska to non-US natives) the background scenery changes accordingly, as does the weather. Those who have played the original Virtual City will recognize the animations of the little vehicles as they go about their duties, as well as the animations of the factories which have also been joined by trains, boats, and even planes leaving and coming back taking goods and returning tourists on certain levels. All of these factors combine to make Virtual City 2 a treat for the eyes, ears, and brain.

If there are any complaints they are minimal, mostly involving the amount of instruction available for what makes a truck, dumpster truck, or bus more efficient and profitable, leaving you to flounder a bit and figure it out for yourself. Other than that there is very little to complain about, making Virtual City 2 a fun and frantic way to spend a lot of time trying on various civic improvements. Take Virtual City 2 for a spin and become the trucking magnate you've always wanted to be! Just, you know, try to avoid the teamsters if possible.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 4.7/5 (1009 votes)
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Hoshi Saga Dokuringo

JayIt seems like only a few days ago we were given a new installment in Yoshio Ishii's gorgeous Hoshi Saga series, and today another one, number 8, lands in our virtual laps: Hoshi Saga Dokuringo. But before you go off playing this one, please note the rating. This latest set of levels contains some risqué imagery, as well as some way more difficult stages.

Hoshi Saga DokuringoInside you'll find 25 new stages to clear, made up of images from the previous "ringo" games with all new puzzles (and mini-games) designed for them, and all you need to do is find the star. How you go about it will take some creative problem solving along with the usual pointing and clicking, dragging and waggling. The first level is mandatory, and it contains a lot of Japanese text, which I suspect explains this set of levels. I'd really appreciate it if someone were to translate what is says for us in the comments. I hope it gives a good reason and warning for the titillating imagery of scantily clad young females that appear in this batch.

Another immediate and obvious oddity of the Dokuringo set is the stage numbering, which starts off at Stage 9976 for the first. I wonder if perhaps this was a set that the author never intended to publish. And maybe he decided to publish them after receiving complaints that the previous games were becoming too easy. What do you think about the numbering, and what do you think about the level of difficulty in this one?

Play Hoshi Saga Dokuringo

Walkthroughs for the Hoshi Saga series...

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Oddly Enough: Pied Piper

JohnBThe Pied Piper. Stories tell of the strange man who offered to rid the town of Hamelin of its rat problem using nothing more than a musical pipe. The citizens agreed, but when they refused to pay for his service, the piper grew angry. Using his magical/musical talents, he led the town's children away into the night, apparently because it's difficult to break kneecaps with a flute. In GO! Games and Alawar's latest hidden object adventure hybrid, Oddly Enough: Pied Piper, you take on the role of hero (well, debt collector), investigating the piper's doings and trying to track down the kidnapped children.

Oddly Enough: Pied PiperAs you try to put thoughts of debt collectors out of your mind, Oddly Enough: Pied Piper lures you into its nighttime world of late medieval Hamelin. You must investigate the citizens' homes in order to start collecting the promised ten coin fee, but no one is really willing to help. Seriously? Townsfolk are so "frugal" they won't pay a few gold coins to save their children and get rid of hundreds of rats? That's a bargain! Nonetheless, it's your job to pry cash out of the folks you meet, and you do so by wandering through the village, assembling items and using them to solve puzzles.

Oddly Enough is a "fractured" hidden object game, meaning you won't have written lists of items to find in crowded pieces of scenery. Instead, objects are broken into barely-recognizable pieces shown as a series of silhouettes at the bottom of the screen. Match the shape to an object above, click it, and you're good to go. Each hidden object scene has a few items to find, all of which are assembled into a very useful piece of equipment you'll use in the main game.

Apart from the hidden object scenes, most of your time in Oddly Enough will be spent wandering the streets in a casual adventure sort of way. You have a bit of freedom to explore, though solving puzzles occurs in a very linear manner. Tasks are spelled out clearly before your eyes and kept tucked away in a journal for later reference. You'll often have half a dozen or so quests running at the same time, which makes you feel very cool and important. The game's hint system is there to help if you get stuck, but a curious mouse cursor often gets you out of trouble just as easily.

Oddly Enough: Pied PiperAnalysis: Oddly Enough: Pied Piper is an intentionally quirky game, from its fairy tale story to the casting of the main hero as a debt collector. The problems you solve for townspeople range from the unusual to the downright odd. One gentleman has a rather upset cat you must pacify. And how do you pacify it? A valerian concoction, of course, the very herb the piper was rumored to have used. Kitties do love the valerian!

Challenge is Oddly Enough's weak suit, and the game does so much hand holding you'll often wonder if the designers wanted you to solve the puzzles on your own in the first place. The only thing resembling difficulty are some of the often too-vague item silhouettes in the hidden object scenes. What's that skinny bar thing with a lump on the side? A section of someone's colon? Bull horns? Where's that hint button?!

Expect about three hours of play time with this game, about standard for most modern hidden object titles. When you reach the end, though, you'll almost certainly be left with a feeling of disappointment. The ending is, well, incomplete. Did the studio need to rush things to meet a deadline? It feels that way. Despite the endgame letdown, the rest of the experience is a good one.

If you can forgive a few money-saving visual shortcuts here and there, low challenge and a truncated ending, Oddly Enough: Pied Piper can take you on a smartly-crafted hidden object adventure ride filled with quirky fairy tale-inspired scenery.

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

JohnBSomehow, due to some strange coincidences no doubt brought upon by NASA's Dawn spacecraft discovering a massive mountain on the asteroid Vesta, this edition of Weekend Download features three games that pretty much cover the spectrum of gaming preferences. Want action? Got it. Puzzles? Got it! An engrossing RPG? Got it. No dress-up games, though, for which you have our sincerest apologies...

hanano.gifHanano Puzzle (Windows, 1.17MB, free) - This game is not kidding around. A block sliding puzzle that isn't like most puzzle games you've played, Hanano challenges you to move different colored pieces around each level in order to land them next to like-colored flowers to sprout more blossoms. Odd-sounding, yes, but insanely challenging, and one of those games you'll start playing and never be able to stop. (Note: By default, Hanano Puzzle is in Japanese. Click on the download link just below the screenshots, and when you first run the game, choose the English option at the top.)

asciisector.gifAscii Sector (Mac/Win/Linux, 3-6MB, free) - A complete space-trading simulation/role playing game presented with ASCII visuals. You start with a lowly spaceship, accepting missions and trading a few goods so you can earn enough money to upgrade it. Eventually, you can head out and fight other ships, trade fisticuffs with creatures on the ground, and explore a wide world of complex, old school gaming in all its glory. Even better, use the quest maker to script your own adventures!

unepic.gifUnepic (Windows, 59MB, demo) - Just a few months ago, we were teased with a beta demo of Unepic, a Castlevania-like sidescrolling action game. You play the role of Danial, a real-life dude who gets transported to a medieval castle during a friendly RPG session. Working his way deeper into the dungeons, he'll encounter over 100 weapons and 70 different spells used to deal with the denizens of the dark underworld. It's good-looking and intense game, featuring around 20 hours of gameplay from start to finish. The demo is nice and long and gives you plenty of time to evaluate before you take the plunge for the full version.

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!


(14 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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grinnyp_darktalestheprematureburial_banner.jpg

GrinnypAh, the Victorians. There are many tropes from their literature that still haunt us today, including eerie women dressed in white appearing at lonely intersections, pale, blood-sucking gentlemen in evening attire, and dark-skinned men wearing turbans. Perhaps the greatest of the era's paranoias was the thought of being buried alive, which permeated the culture to the point of having little bells and pulls installed on coffins. That fear was encapsulated in one of Edgar Allan Poe's great stories which has now been turned into a stunning adventure/hidden object hybrid, Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe's The Premature Burial. Yes, ERS Game Studio is back with their third adaption of a Poe story, and this one is a killer! (sorry, bad pun)

grinnyp_darktalestheprematureburial_screenshot1.jpgIn the third game in the Dark Tales series, Detective Dupin has been hired by a desperate man, Julien, who has lost the love of his life, Victorine. Unfortunately Victorine was married to a very wealthy older man and the family buried her in secret, not allowing poor Julien to know where her final resting place is. Haunted by a vengeful dark-haired specter the Detective and his sidekick the player must talk Julien back from the edge of suicide, track down Victorine's resting place, and solve the mystery of the spectral woman who haunts the town. All of this can be accomplished by finding hidden objects, solving puzzles, playing a wide array of mini-games, and speaking to the inhabitants of the gorgeous, run-down French town where the action takes place.

Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe's The Premature Burial is a basic point-and-click adventure where everything is accomplished with the click of a mouse. Exploration is facilitated with a changing cursor to indicate areas to explore as well as showers of sparks to indicate places of interest. The game also includes the obligatory detective's notebook to keep track of clues, a scrolling inventory of items that have been collected, and a refilling hint timer that also allows for the skipping of mini-games after a certain amount of time.

grinnyp_darktalestheprematureburial_screenshot2.jpgAnalysis: Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe's The Premature Burial is ERS Game Studios' third adaption of a Poe story, following Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe's The Murders in the Rue Morgue and Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe's Black Cat. The Premature Burial may be the creepiest of them yet, with the gruesome theme and the haunting specter that cannot rest in peace. Each of the Dark Tales series of games has been an eerie joy to play, and The Premature Burial continues the trend.

The artwork is gorgeous, a mixture of quaint and run-down locations that create their own spooky vibe even without the animated creepy-crawlies and ghosts wandering around. The soundtrack is hauntingly lovely and matches the mood of the game perfectly, which makes The Premature Burial a feast for both the eyes and ears. The wide array of hidden object scenes, puzzles, and mini-games is also a treat for the brain, being a nicely mixed lot of the familiar and the new. Hidden object scenes are made more interesting with the addition of interactions to complete them, and the mini-games are a nice balance ranging from easy to difficult.

grinnyp_darktalestheprematureburial_screenshot3.jpgWhat makes Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe's The Premature Burial though is the central story and mystery, which is revealed as the player reads convenient newspaper articles and chats with the reprobates who populate the town. While the story is gripping, the voice-acting and dialogue of the conversations can be occasionally clunky, which is a minor thing in the overall big picture of the game. Other minor faults are the navigation areas being too close to the inventory and the occasional strange description in the hidden object scenes.

What the casual gamer is looking at with The Premature Burial is a creepy story, hefty gameplay, and a lot of spooky fun. Dark Tales: Edgar Allan Poe's The Premature Burial is great fun for fans of the adventure/hidden object horror genre with two modes of play and an engaging story to discover. Can you locate Victorine's final resting place and solve the mystery of the dark-haired woman before poor Julien succumbs to his suicidal depression? It's definitely worth playing to find out.

A Collector's Edition is also available. It includes wallpapers, an extra adventure, the soundtrack, screensavers, 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 (408 votes)
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TrickyCactus McCoy2The cactus is back-tus! Cactus McCoy, spikey green distributor of western vengeance is back, and this time he has competition. He's met up with technicolor bird lady Ella Windstorm who spins him a tale of the Volados: a fallen civilization laid waste to by a mysterious cult known as the Reptaras. It seems that there's a secret vault that contains the lost treasure of the Volados, including the magical Serpent Blade. With Ella kidnapped, it's up to McCoy to find the vault before either the Volados or his old friends the Enemigos do, recover the Serpent Blade, save the love interest, and make out like a cactus-y bandit with all the loot he can carry. A worthy sequel to the original Cactus McCoy released in March, Flipline Studios' Cactus McCoy 2: The Ruins of Calavera will steal as many hours of action-platforming as the first one did, pardner.

Controls are nearly the same as the original: The [arrow] keys move you left and right. [A] makes you jump onto platforms and ladders and [S] makes you attack, either with your fists or any of the dozens of weapons you'll come across. [Down] + [A] drops you down a platform. To pick up a weapon, you crouch over it with the [down] key, and can aim it around by holding the [up] key along with [left] and [right] for a diagonal shot. Likewise, you can pick up boxes and other large objects with [down] and either place them by hitting [down] again, or chucking it with the [A] key. There are various types of weapons: punching ones, throwing ones, swinging ones, whipping ones, thrusting ones, and shooting ones. A new element is the barrel rockets, which take you on a speedy rock blasting ride and are controlled (barely) by either the [right and left] or [up and down] arrow keys depending on which way it faces. Defeating Enemigos gives you coins to collect, and with them, you can purchase upgrades between each level.

Cactus McCoy 2 is the best kind of sequel: one that expands and refines the original without sacrificing what made it great. In this case the expansion comes mainly in gameplay mechanics. There are a host of new weapons to find, each with it's own particular style of use, there are a ton of new baddies to fight, all highly punchable, and the new levels to explore are large, detailed and fit in perfectly with the series' demented presentation of the old west. Nice new touches include the arsenal, which allows you to purchase and equip whatever weapon you prefer at the start of the level, rather than waiting for an enemy to drop it, and the health-refilling checkpoints now sprinkled throughout. Best of all, the hidden treasures and achievements that were the highlight of the original are back and more varied than ever. To give you a taste, they include such things as "Take out Alpaca Jack with his own Revolver", "Kill 20 enemigos with a moving mine cart" and "Eat 10 piranhas with your chainsaw alligator". Classic. Whether you were addicted to the first, or this is your introduction to the series, Cactus McCoy 2 will prove an ol' west showdown that's bursting with the new.

Play Cactus McCoy 2


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraWelcome back to another Link Dump Friday! Time may march on, but we'll always be here to entertain you. This week we've brought together a hodge-podge of genres to have something for almost everyone. Especially if you've got a thing for ghosts, gnomes, mushrooms, swords, and robots! Which, according to Rule 34, someone most certainly does. You're weird, internet. Never change.

  • Rich Mine 2Rich Mine 2 - There's gold in them thar hills! Or to be more precise, suspended by elaborate ropes and pulleys. Dust off your Cut the Rope skills in this physics puzzle game and help the hapless gnome miner fill up his cart by slicing through the ropes holding the treasure aloft so they drop into his lap. Have to tell you, if Minecraft took this route, hunting for diamonds would be a lot less hazardous and involve a lot fewer surprise lava baths.
  • Mushroom Cannon 3Mushroom Cannon 3 - When they're not being delicious filling in your raviolis and swanking up your pizzas, mushrooms like to be shot into buckets. This is a fact; ask David Suzuki. The goal in this little projectile puzzle is to plunk a mushroom in the bucket as quickly as possible by aiming your cannon and adjusting its power. Do it fast enough and you'll earn some stars (a wise man once said it is always stars) and presumably the respect and admiration of your peers.
  • Bosses!!!Bosses!!! - Shooters are great, especially when they combine arcade action and platforming, but any real fan knows it's all about the boss battles. This game does just that, serving up a succession of increasingly tricky boss fights with none of that boring level junk to clutter them up. Plus, you get a perky robot with a voluminous vocabulary for the tutorial! What could be better?
  • Georg the GhostGeorg the Ghost - Start the Halloween season off gently with Abroy's point-and-click puzzle game about a ghost trapped in a castle. Because you're all spectral and whatnot, you're a bit more worried about things like mirrors and cameras that can capture your ghostly self, so try to pick your course through each scene carefully. After all, if you go down in history as the ghost who was defeated by a unmanned vacuum cleaner, you might as well give up your hopes for legendary status and resign yourself to appearing in mediocre horror films alongside Michael J Fox.
  • Quick QuestsQuick Quests - Undefined knows you're a busy, talented, strikingly photogenic person, and so this turnbased quasi-RPG full of itty-bitty quest objectives should be just the ticket for you to get your hero on. Move around the board gathering items and battling enemies until you feel up to taking on whatever your current quest is, but don't drag your feet; you've got a limited number of turns to accomplish your goal, and the faster you move the better. Essentially, it's just like Final Fantasy minus eleventy hours of cutscenes. (What do you think... was Terra the last good one in the series, or Cecil and Rosa? I'm old, consarnit!)

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Rating: 4.5/5 (586 votes)
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Rebuil 2

DoraSarah Northway's zombie survival strategy simulation is back with Rebuild 2, where the undead epidemic is in full swing and you have no choice but to band together with a small group of survivors and do your best to take back your city, piece by piece. It won't be easy (or maybe it will be, depending on what you select from the clever intro text), but if you're savvy with your resources and can convince your fellow humans to take a risk or two as they follow your lead, you just might avoid becoming a tortured metaphor in a terrible George Romero knockoff yet.

Rebuild 2If you played the original Rebuild, then a lot about Rebuild 2 is going to be familiar to you. You start off with just a handful of buildings inside the safety of your perimeter, and a small group of people to boss around and help achieve your goals. Ultimately, your objective is to eventually reclaim every building outside your safe zone, but to do that you'll have to improve what you've got; other buildings may contain valuable supplies or survivors to recruit, and each day you'll have to figure out how best to manage what you've got at your disposal. (Hint: While fun, "My Little Pony Marathon" and "Pillow Fight" probably aren't very productive.) Click on nearby buildings to see what they contain and what missions are available at each one. The game will automatically select the best person for a job, but depending on the task at hand, you may want to assign even more people to lower the risk of someone turning into zombie chow. Additionally, you'll also need places for your people to sleep, to say nothing of the food you require each day. Of course, there's always the threat of a zombie attack during the night, so don't get too cocky sending people out willy-nilly or you might not have enough gunpower around to defend your walls when things start getting bitey.

Rebuild 2Aside from some new aesthetics and a soundtrack that sounds like someone keeps throwing Akira Yamaoka down a flight of stairs, the main differences between Rebuild 2 and its predecessor come down to a lot of tweaks and additions to the gameplay, such as an improved UI and new skills. Being able to tell at a glance how great your chance of getting your brains eating during the night is incredibly helpful, while the new equipment system that lets you give each person an item to boost their skill goes a long way towards keeping everyone alive. Similarly, letting you make little decisions that affect the overall well-being of your colony in the form of small plots with your survivors or NPC characters help add to the immersion. It's still the challenging game it always was, but now it feels a lot more fleshed out, and the new hidden endings will give even old fans of the series reason to play again.

If you've always suspected that when the putrid zombie brains hit the fan you'd be the one others would cling to so you could lead them to a glorious new utopia in the post-apocalyptic age, now's your chance to prove it. While it may feel a bit too familiar to people who played the original to (un)death, Rebuild 2 is still a fantastic "just one more turn" strategic simulation that has a lot of potential to snag even more fans. Just remember that when night falls, hide yo' kids and hide yo' civilians, 'cause they're bitin' everybody!

Play Rebuild 2


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

Letters in Boxes #17

ArtbegottiLetters In Boxes, Letters In Boxes! Time to get your Letters In Boxes! Time to get your crayons and your pencils! Or your printer and your markers. Or open up your preferred image editing software, if you choose. However you go about doing it, this week's Letters In Boxes challenge is waiting to be solved.

Below you'll find the first puzzle in this series. Click on it to open the image in a new window. Once you think you've figured out an answer, move your attention to your browser's address bar. Change the filename (in this case, "seventeenagain") to your answer, making sure to keep the same file extension and staying in the same directory. If you're right, hey hey hey, you're onto the next puzzle! If you're wrong, you can always try to spy another solution.

Letters in Boxes #17 - 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 10th at 11:59 PM (GMT-5:00). Good luck!

Update: Congratulations to the following winners! :D

  • thomstel ...First!
  • Outside Lime
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: 4.5/5 (92 votes)
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Kyhkyh_acceleration_screen.pngNot all games need to have monsters to fight or an end to achieve. Sometimes it's all about going fast and getting far. This is the premise behind Tenebrous' arcade game Accelerator. A deceivingly simple game, you only need a mouse for the controls. The game is in first person perspective where you careen around and through obstacles following the circle in the center, which represents your heading, towards a non-existent finish line. But dodging 3D shapes isn't enough; the longer you play, the faster you go. At first it may be disorienting as you would expect having to account for the bulk of whatever it is you are, but the first time you crash, you'll find that you're just a small, silver sphere, so you can skim the sides of the course all you like, just not too closely.

The menu offers many options in the controls to assist in your avoidance through these randomly generated corridors. For example, for those of you who enjoy flight simulations, you may want inverted vertical controls. Or instead of adjusting your heading to fly through a rotating slit, maybe you'd rather roll to the left/right. That's fine, just use [Q] and [E], respectively. This game's a trip, so roll your computer chair real close, flex that mouse hand and dive into a world of soft sound effects in Accelerator. Zoom, zoom!

If you want to play with high-scores enabled, you can play over at Kongregate so you can see how you did in comparison to your old pal QWERTZUI153.

Play Accelerator


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Rating: 3.6/5 (97 votes)
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Kyhkyh_dayori_screenshot.jpgTake another trip into the bizarre world of Detarou's escape games. Whether it's from the strangeness or not, it's your mission in Dayori to find a way out of this curious house. All of the usual elements are there (usual not meaning 'normal'): various costumes, people relaxing in all areas of the house and enough endings (four of them total) to have you play through the game several times. That's where the save button comes in handy, assuming you remember to use it along this short and crazy ride. Use your mouse to interact with objects, looking for a changing cursor to indicate a hotspot. Clicking the arrows along the edges help you maneuver about the environment.

Fans of Detarou's work may find this offering somewhat mild compared to the others. There are no human-headed robots, knife-licking maniacs or other such creepy creatures seen in their previous escape games. That's not to say you won't see their regular cast of characters that we've all grown to love in their signature style of graphics. Dayori's playtime is relatively short and the puzzles are on the simple side, but it's still a solid play. If you haven't had your hand at a wacky Detarou escape game, this is a great introduction. You may find yourself giving all their games a try!

Play Dayori


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Rating: 4.2/5 (148 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypOne of the best ways to escape a humdrum day is to play an exotic room escape, especially one by Tomatea. For five to ten minutes, Tomatea (Summer Night Escape, Pearl Room Escape) can transport a player to another place and time, the perfect mini-vacation, and this week is no exception with Figurines Room Escape. Tomatea's room escapes are not the most difficult, and the puzzles in Figurines Room Escape are on the easy side even for this particular designer, but if you're looking to escape to another state of mind then this is the game for you.

Figurines Room EscapeBask in the soothing color scheme of this colonial-style room and the plaintive guitar music as you explore the space using the standard navigation bars on the sides of the screen. Wallow in the intuitive Inventory control and a lovely cursor that, rather than change shape to indicate clickable areas glows with a warm light, a pretty innovation that matches the mood of the game. Soak up the puzzles which, while on the simple side and including one color-based, are still fun and logical. Most of the fun of Figurines Room Escape is simply enjoying the ambiance as you work your way towards getting out of a place that pretty much anyone would probably love to visit once in their lifetime. Figurines Room Escape provides both time and a location to relax and enjoy a mini-vacation, the perfect mid-week break!

Figurines Room Escape


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Rating: 3.9/5 (119 votes)
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DoraA Closed WorldIn A Closed World, a turn-based RPG adventure from Team Fabulous, you play a young person who has gone into a vast and dangerous forest alone despite the warnings of your family, and now find yourself a target for the demons lurking within. Everyone has warned you its a place of no return, but your beloved chose to enter it some time ago rather than suffer at home, and now it's your turn to follow. Use the [arrow] keys to walk around, the [spacebar] to interact, and press [ESC] to see the instructions at any time. Demons here aren't found with sword or magic, but instead with Passion, Logics, and Ethics, which are played against one another in combat in a sort of rock-paper-scissors fashion; Passion defies Logic, Logic challenges Ethics, and Ethics sway Passion. Figure out what your opponent is using against you in order to defeat them, and take a breath when you need to so you don't lose your Composure or you'll be defeated. Be warned; there's no save feature, so you have to complete the whole thing in one sitting.

A Closed World was created as one of Gambit's Summer 2011 prototypes, with the intent of creating a game with LGBTQ-friendly content in a manner that felt genuine rather than "tacked on". The main issues a lot of games with messages trip themselves up with is either being too heavy handed or too vague, but for the most part A Closed World manages to walk the line between these two problems. It earns high marks for approaching its chosen themes both confidently and in a compelling fashion, allowing you to both take from and project onto it what's most personal and important to you. Even if you don't feel that any of the LGBTQ "labels" apply to you, it's hard not to feel sympathy for the protagonist and get caught up in the narrative, revealed through short cutscenes between each demon you battle.

On the other hand, the repetitive nature of combat means that the relatively short length, around fifteen minutes or so, probably works in the game's favour. If it were any longer, it's unlikely that the wash-rinse-repeat gameplay would have sustained it without some new elements; combat is extremely easy since you can just spam "breathe" until your Composure is full while enemies themselves can't heal, and it's sort of like being stuck in an extremely symbolic Pokemon battle without the flashy attacks. It does say something, however, that despite these problems its easy to find yourself compelled to finish, and the ending is a message a lot of people will find touching and relevant regardless of their orientation or identity. It's a lovely little game that's more than a little poignant, and is definitely a welcome addition to an often neglected piece of narrative.

Play A Closed World

Thanks to Elijah for sending this one in!


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Rating: 4.7/5 (215 votes)
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Kyhkyh_creeperworlduserspace_corners.jpgOdin City... the last refuge of human kind against the resilient Creeper. It does what it can to collect energy and build defenses to keep the Creeper back, but it's always just a matter of time before the city needs to create a wormhole and travel away. Hopefully far enough away for a bit of respite, though that never lasts. You control Odin City in Knuckle Cracker's Creeper World: User Space, a real-time strategy game consisting of user-created levels from the level editor in the original Creeper World. Use your mouse to select a unit and click the area of the map where you'd like to build it, being conscious of keeping it connected to the energy grid (indicated by a green line).

The game is a delicate balance of energy flow. How many collectors do you need to counter your building/attacking needs? While collectors and reactors create energy for Odin City, you only see the flow of packets coming out. There's black for construction, red for ammunition and green for totem. The totems are green flower units spread across the map which you must connect to your grid and power up. Once all of them are energized, they will create a wormhole which Odin City will travel to, completing the level. While reaching out to connect these points, you must stay aware of the Creeper, which is represented by a blue area emitting from certain points on the map. The Creeper acts like water, spreading out until it has filled it's elevation (or below), then building up to a higher area. Being aware of the level of the creeper and what elevation it's at (indicated by gray and blue bars on the elevation meter) will be required in a good strategy to keep back it's touch. That's where your basic attack units come in: blasters for thin layers of Creeper and mortars for deeper pockets. And once you've cleared out an area, you can move the excess units to a better location... assuming your grid reaches that place.

Creeper World: User Space is a great introduction to the series. The interface is easy to pick up and the progression of levels allows you to figure out the finer points before it increases in difficulty. While the game has the potential to get boring since the goal is the same every time, at 12 levels, User Space is the right dose. And if you find yourself intrigued, you can always shell out the dough for the full game, or its sequel, at thousands of levels of destroying and evading the Creeper.

Play Creeper World: User Space


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Rating: 4.6/5 (838 votes)
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joyeBamba Snack Quest 3It's been over three years since an adorable baby with an insatiable desire for delicious crunchy peanut butter treats charmed us all in Bamba Snack Quests 1 and 2. Gal Mamalya, the brilliant mind behind the similarly gorgeous point-and-click game Mitoza, has teamed up with the company once again to release a third advergame. And is this game as good as its predecessors? Well, haven't you always wanted to say "Not now, I'm trying to rescue a squirrel from a UFO"? Bamba Snack Quest 3 can make that dream come true, and that secret wish you have about stealing the cane from a geriatric robot too. Don't worry, we'll keep that one strictly between us.

After enjoying the surreal combination of photorealism and cartoonishness in the cutscenes, mouse around the scene. Your cursor changes over hotspots. Click around to manipulate the environment. You're controlling a baby, albeit an ingenious one, so frequently you're limited in your reach, so a big part of progressing will involve getting objects closer to you.

Bamba Snack Quest 3Analysis: Don't be fooled by the literally baby-faced protagonist: while thematically this one is kid-friendly, it's definitely not kid-oriented, at least not for the younger ages. The game relies a lot on your observational skills, since some of the clues are pretty subtle, and putting the clues together often takes some lateral thinking. Many of the puzzles are the rotation variety, which veteran point-and-clickers either love or loathe. This could be a fun game for parents and kids to play together, however.

For those of you who point and click so much that your index finger has calluses, you'll love the game's challenge. It can be frustrating to watch the tot just shrug his shoulders as you try to figure out what to do, but the satisfaction when the light bulb goes off more than makes up for it. And it isn't just point-and-click groupies who will dig this game. Bamba Snack Quest 3 features dreamy, zany art and top-notch animation, right up there with such hits as Samorost and The Blue Beanie. The only thing that could make it better is to play it while munching on a new package of the delicious treat of your choice.

Play Bamba Snack Quest 3


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The Vault

DoraWith Flash being the big, dreamy muscular beefcake of choice for most developers these days, it's easy to forget that there was a time when it was just another whippersnapper trying to get by. The internet once belonged to Shockwave, and this week's installment of the Vault looks back at some of our favourite Shockwave games of the past.

  • Gel Gel PanicGel Gel Panic - Sometimes it doesn't take a lot of flashy gimmicks and innovation to make a game fabulously addictive, and this Japanese arcade action game proves that a panda with a laser gun is all you really need. (Take that, The Beatles!) Click and fire to help repel a goopy alien invasion and try to hold off the swarm as long as you can so that your score climbs higher and higher. Combining cute visuals and perfectly matched, snappy sounds and music, despite its relative simplicity Gel Gel Panic manages to effortlessly recreate the "just one more quarter" experience you'd expect to find in an arcade somewhere, right in your browser where it's expertly poised to toy deviously with your productivity.
  • The MachineThe Machine - Part puzzle, part interactive art, Tilman's game from 2005 is all unique. In a nutshell, there's something wrong with a computer of sorts, and you're the one who has to fix it... even if figuring out how to do so involves a bit of trial and error. Each stage of this surprisingly eerie little game offers no instructions, so it's up to you to experiment and figure out both the rules and requirements. It's short, and the actual workings are probably about as far from actually repairing a computer as you can get, but it's stylish, weird, and oh-so-satisfying... especially for those of us who have always shunned instruction manuals (even when we shouldn't) anyway.
  • Og Og AliveOg Og Alive - Pressures of modern life got you down? Then take a stroll back in time to the stoneage with this point-and-click puzzle adventure starring the boy or girl Og Og of your choice. On each of the three stages, you're given an objective, and then simply left to guide your goggle-eyed neanderthal to victory by... well, probably a lot of experimentation. The cartoonish style and sound-effects are great, and players who don't mind a lack of direction will find a lot to enjoy as they rise to the occasion to become cavemen MacGuyvers and try to cobble together solutions out of what they find laying around. That's right; real caveheroes don't need no changing cursors!

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: 4.5/5 (242 votes)
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DoraArcuz 2Fresh from your last adventure of hacky-slashy, save-the-day-y goodness, you discover that a hero's work is never done... at least not when it comes to villagers who think living on top of a dungeon barely containing a very ancient and very vengeful demon lord is super keen! Funnaut takes you on another action RPG fantasy adventure with Arcuz 2: Dungeons, in which you'll descend beneath the earth to put a stop to the aforementioned demon lord and the greedy man who promised to release him in exchange for immortality. Because pacts with demons always work out so well for all involved.

Arcuz 2 is played by moving around with the [arrow] or [WASD] keys, interaction with the [spacebar], and attacking and jumping with [J] and [K]. You can sort of think of it as a tinier, more adorable Diablo-esque clone; you'll perform tasks for the villagers that mainly consist of killing X number of Y, engage in real-time combat, and level up to get stronger and obtain skill points to spend on new attacks and abilities in the skill tree. A handy in-game tutorial guides you through the basics at the beginning, but chances are you can handle "talk to everyone, stab everything". Just remember to allocate skill and attribute points as you level up, save from the menu from time to time, keep an eye out for treasure to enchant, and you'll be fine. Y'know, except for that whole "ancient demon hellbent on destruction and Armageddon" deal.

If you played the original Arcuz, chances are Arcuz 2 is going to look and feel extremely similar. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, since if the game's signature old-school console style and sprightly combat appealed to you the chance to do even more of it is probably a welcome way to spend an afternoon or two. The game still looks great despite its somewhat clunky UI, with its detailed sprites and environments, and the heavily combat-based gameplay provides enough new skills and weapons for attack-fiends to really get sucked into, while still remaining accessible to newcomers. The story isn't particularly compelling, so players who demand a more plot-heavy, non-grindy, heartstring-tugging narrative RPG might be turned off, while the sense of deja-vu might make it hard for even fans of the original to get into the sequel at first. But while Arcuz 2: Dungeons doesn't break the mold, it does show that a lack of innovation doesn't keep a game from being fun if it also provides quality in spades. If you're the sort of player who just wants an entertaining action-focused game and don't mind some repetition and level grinding, then you'll definitely want to check this one out.

Play Arcuz 2: Dungeons


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Rating: 3.8/5 (71 votes)
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TrickyOut of this WorldOut of this World, developed by Seething Swarm, is a short but unique action game centered around shifting play mechanics. Surprisingly, the game doesn't start with a roto-scoped teleporter accident, but rather with two lovers leaving a fancy restaurant. They aren't named in-game, but since they look British, let's call them Ron and Hermione. Anyways, Ron and Hermione decide to go for a ride on their rocket ship, but, son of a gun, wouldn't you know it, aliens decide to kidnap the fair maiden. So its up to you Ron, with your shock of red hair, your badass longcoat, your awesome umbrella, and your shooty-blasty space gun to rescue her from the extra-terrestrial's clutches.

Though the controls of Out of this World modify to keep up with its changing gameplay, generally you move with the [arrow] keys, whether on foot, on a rocket ship, or in a hulking stomping mecha. Likewise, you'll use [A] and [S] to attack, be it with umbrella, blaster, or alien space bomb. Power-ups like double-damage and invincibility are there to be collected, and the glowing hearts will refill your health. Out of this World has gorgeous visuals and some interesting gameplay ideas, if not particularly challenging ones. The pace is measured, almost meandering, which does get tedious at times. Still, those interested in an artistic game with a bit of variety and just a touch of experimentation will find themselves quite chuffed.

Play Out of this World


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Rating: 4.4/5 (124 votes)
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Where's My Water

JohnBBest of Casual Gameplay 2011Alligators aren't usually known for being picky about their personal hygiene. Swampy, the smiling 'gator who lives deep in the sewers, is quite a bit different. While the rest of the alligators are tearing up everything in the sewers, Swampy is getting ready to take a bath. It seems his shower isn't quite working, though, so you'll have to suss out the source of the problem. In Where's My Water?, a smartly-built physics-based puzzle game from Disney Mobile, its your job to cut holes in the soil to direct the water down to Swampy's tub. And with things like movable walls, puddles of acid, and lively bits of mold, that's much easier said than done.

wheresmywater.jpgWhere's My Water? keeps the mechanics pretty simple and allows you one real move to perform: digging in the dirt. By swiping your finger across the screen, you can remove trails of soil to make a pathway for the water to flow down. Every movement counts, as the gloopy water moves with quite a bit of realism, and any snag in the tunnel can cause unforseen difficulties down the road. Swampy's tub has an open end to receive the water you guide his way, so if you can get at least some of it on the move, his tub will be full and he'll be one happy alligator.

Beyond guiding water through soil, you'll also work with broken pipes throughout the levels, using them to swing water up and around tough areas. Pools of acid also exist, creating a sense of urgency when they start to burn through everything they come in contact with. Mold will block passageways if water comes in contact with it, and the dangerous purple liquid will eliminate water while burning away mold, making it a powerful but dangerous ally. You'll also want to collect the rubber ducks scattered around each stage. Touch them with enough water to grab them, raising your score with each one. In addition, some levels have hidden bonus items you can find and store in your collection available from the main menu.

Analysis: It's easy to overlook Where's My Water?. On the surface, the game looks too simple, too cute, and maybe even a bit too child-oriented. When you play it, though, you'll quickly realize it has a lot to offer even the sophisticated adult! The game is going for the same audience that enjoys Cut the Rope, and while Where's My Water? doesn't quite hit the same level of challenge or entertainment as that game, it comes very close in a number of ways.

The 80 or so levels in Where's My Water? are well-designed and quite varied, pushing a few action-oriented experiences in from time to time that force you to act immediately when the stage loads. The variety of contraptions you'll deal with also increases, and those movable gates become a bit of a puzzle later on. The difficulty never gets too high, making it a good casual diversion or even a great game for the kids to play.

Where's My Water? is a well-made, good-looking mobile game with a strong sense of personality. Its design is smart at every turn, creating an experience that flawlessly hooks you from the beginning and keeps you entertained for the whole ride through.


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Mobile Monday

JohnBIt's Mobile Monday, packed with more games than you can shake a giant monster at! Alternately, more games than you can fly a paper airplane through! Even more alternately, more games than you can feed a porcupine!

gliderclassic.gifGlider Classic (universal) - The decades-old classic Mac game is back. Yes, Glider Classic for iOS is that Glider game (we even featured the Mac/Windows freeware version), updated for modern mobile devices and given a new coat of paint. For those uninitiated in this early computer gaming staple, Glider puts you in control of a paper airplane floating through a house. To a folded-up sheet of paper, houses are filled with dangers, the most terrifying of which is touching the ubiquitous floor. Use vents, fans, and things like stereo equipment to stay aloft while you fly around the home, collecting stars and having a grand old time. The game really is just as good as you remembered it, and if you don't have fuzzy nostalgic feelings for Glider, now is a great time to spawn some!

pygmieshoglet.gifPygmies-Hoglet (universal) - This unusual, captivating, and acceptably-flawed game is quirky beyond all belief, but somehow it pulls everything together and manages to be loads and loads of fun. You control a baby porcupine who is sad because he has no friends, so he sets out to find spiny things to be pals with. Move around the map in short increments, heading towards the dots that appear at random. When you find one, you'll encounter an enemy, a friend, Santa Claus, or maybe just an item waiting to be found. You even earn experience points you can assign to certain statistics, all of which help during the game's unique combat sequences. Hoglet is not a perfect game, but its charm is so strong, you won't be able to resist playing it over and over again.

monstersatemycondo.jpgMonsters Ate My Condo (universal) - From PikPok and Adult Swim games, Monsters Ate My Condo is a matching game with giant monsters. That's really all you need to know. For fun, though, you should know that you'll be sliding layers of a high rise condo building out to make matches of three or more floors. When monsters appear to the side, slide them their own color for points and other crazy bonuses. Simple idea, over-the-top design, and strangely captivating gameplay make this a casual mobile winner. Also: you feed giant monsters!!!

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


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Rating: 4.7/5 (3168 votes)
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The Binding of Isaac

JohnBRoguelike, The Legend of Zelda, a dual stick shooter, and the twisted mind of Edmund McMillen, part of the team behind Super Meat Boy. Put them all together and you've got The Binding of Isaac, a game that is as unhinged as it is entertaining, as good-looking as it is, well, disgusting. Even still, it's the kind of game you'll play through again and again, just to collect every item and explore every corner of the game's randomly-generated world.

The Binding of IsaacIsaac lives alone with his mom, and they have a very happy life together. One day she hears the voice of god, telling her that Isaac is living in sin and she needs to fix that right away. So, she takes away all of his toys and locks him in his room. That's not enough, however, and to prove her devotion, she had to perform one final task: kill Isaac. But Isaac is a clever little boy and he escapes into the basement before she can catch him. Take that, mom!

As it turns out, the basement isn't a very friendly place, and Isaac now has to deal with all sorts of nauseating abominations. He has a few weapons and power-ups to help him through it all, though. Move around with the [WASD] keys and fire tears (Isaac's weapon of choice) in any direction with the [arrow] keys. You can drop bombs with [E] and use a secondary item (when you obtain one) with the [spacebar]. There are plenty of things to pick up and lots of secrets to find in this deeply-layered basement, and you'll need every trick you've got to survive.

The Binding of Isaac is built around randomly-generated basement levels, items, enemies—everything, really, is created anew each time you play. It's designed this way to make multiple playthroughs not only possible, but entertaining, as you'll be doing quite a few of them. The main goal is to climb deeper into the basement, fighting dozens of enemies and 20 or so boss characters, but the real goal is to collect every item in the game. And there are over 100 of them to find. The catch is each time you die, you lose your power-ups and start over from the beginning. Frustrating? It can be. But it's all a part of the experience!

The Binding of IsaacAnalysis: The Binding of Isaac may look similar to the original The Legend of Zelda, but it certainly doesn't look or play that way. It's more of a collect-a-thon arcade game than anything, even though it shares elements with role playing and adventure games. Fast reflexes and a thick skin resistant to failure are the tools you'll need to scratch the surface of this world. Oh, and a high tolerance for all things disgusting.

The high number of unlockable/findable items in The Binding of Isaac makes it kind of irresistible. You could just call it a day after you die, but then again, there are so many neato things to find, why not just one more round? After all, you found chocolate milk and mom's high heels last time, who knows what you could locate in this adventure? The threat of death and losing your power-ups is great, but it's so worth the risk!

There are no real design flaws or trip-ups in The Binding of Isaac. The game plays incredibly smooth with the familiar Super Meat Boy-style artwork covering every object in the game. Barriers to entry include the emphasis on death and replaying levels to find loot and the game's high amount of adult content.

If you can stomach the occasional frustrating death and are ok with the disgusting, The Binding of Isaac is absolutely guaranteed to please. Edmund McMillan, Florian Himsl, and Danny B (the game's composer) have really outdone themselves!

Play The Binding of Isaac DEMO (Flash)

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Mac OS XMac OS X:
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Rating: 4.4/5 (20 votes)
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Roads of Rome III

JohnBYou've probably heard that "all roads lead to Rome". What you didn't count on is that you'd have to build them all! In Roads of Rome III, a building-centric time management simulation from Whiterra, you take orders from the Caesar himself and set out to repair damage to the empire caused by barbarians. It's no easy task, and you're not really in the mood to do it, but it's your duty, and one never questions the Caesar!

roadsofrome3a.jpgFollowing in the footsteps of previous Roads of Rome games and sticking firmly to the road building genre (which includes titles like My Kingdom for the Princess), Roads of Rome III puts you in charge of a small band of workers who must collect resources and complete tasks in order to reach the goal of each level. Harvesting wood and gathering food are the two most basic jobs you'll undertake, and you get the former from trees and the latter from berry bushes. Each choice you make both brings in resources and costs resources, though, so you have to choose your moves wisely or else you'll be stuck sitting waiting for berry bushes to regenerate!

After a few levels, you get to upgrade your resources to more civilized structures. Farms provide food, sawmills timber, quarries stone, and so on. In order to get them up and running, you'll need to spend a hefty amount of resources, but then all you need to do is pick up the product whenever it appears. In Roads of Rome III, pumping stations provide buckets of water that allow you to put out fires, useful for clearing the road as well as dousing buildings you need to repair.

Speaking of roads, opening the way to the next level is always your most basic goal, but there are plenty of other tasks you must undertake along the way. Levels last between five and ten minutes on average, with a timer slowly ticking down, just waiting to take away that expert bonus score for a quick completion. Keep your calm, work logically, and before you know it, the road will be clear, your workers fed, and your pockets stuffed with resources.

roadsofrome3b.jpgAnalysis: The formula in Roads of Rome III is basically the same as the other time management/building games, keeping the balance of resource needs and resource gains carefully tuned to make sure you're never twiddling your thumbs. As mentioned, there are plenty of things to do in each level of the game, some of which you won't need to accomplish in order to complete the level. You'll want to, of course, as this is the sort of game that compels you to be a completionist!

The same frustration you'll have with most building games is still present in Roads of Rome III: no queueing system. You can't assign workers jobs until they've completed their current task, which is a minor annoyance when you're trying to, you know, put out fires, frighten away barbarians, and harvest the stone you need to fix potholes. It doesn't seem to be as much of an issue in this game as others, however, so for the most part, you're safe! Also, Roads of Rome III doesn't reinvent the building genre, so don't expect too many surprises in your journey to rebuild the empire.

No real surprises for the series or for the genre, but then again, when you've got something right, you probably shouldn't mess with it too much. Roads of Rome III provides a smart, addictive, challenging experience with multiple levels of difficulty and plenty of stages to keep you busy for days on end, more if you're hooked enough to try for expert scores!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (173 votes)
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megamash.gifJohnBFrom Nitrome, creator of Final Ninja, Test Subject Arena, and a few dozen other grand browser games, comes Mega Mash, a game that is sort of seven games but is really just one game (does that make it eight games?). The gist of it is all of these games are interwoven due to the buggy nature of the cartridge they're on. Instead of playing one or the other, you hop between them, using abilities from one to clear a path to progress in the other. Unusual? Yeah. But it works better than you might think!

Mega Mash starts off simply enough with Carrot Story, a very Mario-esque platform game where you hop around, eat carrots, and stomp enemies. When you reach the end, you cross a fuzzy barrier and glitch into Xolstar 3, a space shmup. Shoot some asteroids for a bit and you're back to Carrot Story. Then, you could end up in the Bomberman clone Blast-man Joe, grapple around some buildings in Ninja, or get thrown into a game of Nitrometris. It's usually fairly obvious which genre you'll play when you see the foamy barrier, and you can hop in or out as easily as you can press a button on the keyboard.

Mixing so many different genres into one game is dangerous, but Nitrome did a good job integrating puzzles from one into another. Push buttons with the ninja's grappling hook so you can switch to Joe and open a passageway, for example. You're always working towards a single goal, no matter the control scheme or visual differences, so the transition is never jarring. And if you're not particularly skilled at one of the game types, you can usually fudge your way through without much of a hassle.

Creative, good-looking, and retro enough to make even the most nostalgic of gamers shed a tear. Mega Mash is one glitchy game cartridge you won't mind firing up.

Play Mega Mash


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Weekend Download

JohnBWaaaait, wait a second. A retro-inspired remake of Team Fortress 2? How'd that happen? What twisted mind thought that up? Oh, that's who. Well, it's a jolly good job, that's for sure. And when you're done playing the game that's all about hats, sans hats, get your serious game face on for the other two releases below!

ruins.gifRuins (Mac/Win, 25-30MB, free) - Now here's an intriguing game description for you: "Ruins is a game about a dog chasing rabbits through a shadowy, dreamlike landscape." And you know what? That's pretty much the gist of it! This slow, surreal dream world is filled with blurry images and a few recognizable objects, but otherwise it's just you and the bunny. Walk around and explore the land, see what sort of dreams/memories you can discover. Sniff with your nose, and if you're tired, take a nap.

teamfortressarcade.gifTeam Fortress Arcade (Windows, 10.9MB, free) - It's Team Fortress 2, old school beat-em-up style! Built by Eric Ruth using the characters, attacks, and some sound effects from the multiplayer first person shooter Team Fortress 2, this arcade demake plays like an arcade game of yore. Choose your character and fight through a series of stages with up to three friends. Each class has its own strengths and weaknesses, just like in the "big" game, only now, attacks have been re-worked to fit the constraints of a sidescrolling world. If you're familiar with TF2, you'll be surprised how accurate each character's moves are and how much of the game ended up in the demake, even the strong emphasis on teamwork!

keysofagamespace.gifKeys of a Gamespace (Windows, 75MB, free) - An adventure game with a deeper meaning? Sure, why not?! Keys of a Gamespace follows a man stuck in quite a rut. By visiting doors that represent pieces of his past, you can help him clear things out and, hopefully, patch things up with his gal. Some stunning artwork in this game, really conveying a sense of melancholy as you dig deeper into his psyche. It's short, but a very meaningful experience that might hit a little too close to home for some players. Note: Intended for mature audiences (an "O" rating) due to graphic language.

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

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