November 2011 Archives


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Rating: 4/5 (86 votes)
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DoraZipzip: Secret DimensionEver have one of those days when you feel... not so special? Just another face in the crowd, disenchanted by the superficiality of everyone around you? Then why not... complain about it on Facebook like everyone else! HA! Just kidding! Instead, you might have something in common with the hero of Ttrkaya's physics puzzle platformer, Zipzip: Secret Dimension. When our roly-poly protagonist discovers he has the unique ability to manipulate floating green shapes, he's initially thrilled, but he might stand out a bit too much in the eyes of others. Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move around, and click and drag on green shapes to rotate them to be used as platforms or to otherwise influence your surroundings. Try to make your way to the door at the end of each level, and press [R] if you get stuck.

At its heart, Zipzip is a solemn nod and a bro-fist to anyone who has ever felt out of place in the world and secretly wished they were destined for something greater. Of course... things do get derailed a bit when the whole cult shows up and then the thing with the cannon and the castle and the I don't even know what. It's weird, but also kind of weirdly charming if you can handle the short, strange ending. The puzzles are typically fairly simple to figure out, though getting your new green shape powers to behave the way you want them to might require a lot of experimentation and a bit of luck. (Is this how the Green Lantern feels?) It's the sort of thing that makes you go "... huh?" but is still a clever little concept worth checking out, and perhaps being built upon in the future.

Play Zipzip: Secret Dimension


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Rating: 4.3/5 (154 votes)
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DoraDismantlement: Mini Keyboard 2Game.bb, your own personal point-and-click puzzle-themed explosive nemesis strikes again with the latest installment in the popular Dismantlement series, Dismantlement: Mini Keyboard 2. There's a bomb in that thar keyboard, and it's up to you and your trusty screwdriver (still not sonic, darn it) to uncover it by clicking your way around, deciphering clues and solving puzzles. This one might give you a serious sense of deja vu; although the puzzles and solutions are somewhat different, the style and structure is very nearly identical to Mini Keyboard from earlier this year. Is this a bad thing? Or do you welcome another chance to foil Game.bb's dastardly plot to stuff explosives all around the office space?

Play Dismantlement: Mini Keyboard 2


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Rating: 3.5/5 (36 votes)
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DoraDummy Never Fails 2The title of Tanoku's latest physics puzzler almost sounds like a challenge. Dummy Never Fails 2, the expanded follow up to the 2010 original, is all about using a cannon to blast hapless crash test dummies at targets, while trying to ensure the dummy sustains the least damage possible. It sounds like a simple task, until you start messing with the gravity and throwing in blockades, moving targets, bumpers, and more. It's like if the Mythbusters had all the budget they could ever want, and were also insane supervillains. Sweet!

Just point and click to shoot, and either use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to change the gravity in the level, indicated by the little white dot in the box at the top of the screen. (You can also simply click and drag this dot around.) The path to the target is rarely straightforward, so you'll have to experiment to figure out the best way to get around any obstacles in your path. You can't run out of dummies, so feel free to bombard the screen with them to try to meet your goal, but if you do, you can expect your score to suffer since damage is cumulative across all dummies. Of course, if you don't care about your letter grade, feel free to swarm the area with all the dummies you can while frantically waving the gravity in random directions. You'll get there eventually!

Play all the Dummy Never Fails games:
Dummy Never FailsDummy Never Fails CommunityDummy Never Fails 2

There's no denying that this is a significant improvement over the original, with more challenges to overcome, more elements to experiment with, and a lot more finesse to the design. At the same time, however, it still doesn't feel quite as silky-smooth as you might hope. The gravity is sluggish to react to key manipulation, so a split-second for the game to register that you want the orientation changed can turn that title into a lie. The game also doesn't explain much past the first level, sitting back with an indolent shrug to pick its teeth while you try to figure out what the blue thingies are, whether they're affected by the math thingies, and whether your gravity thingy works on those thingies too. Still, if you're down for a little experimentation and have always wanted your very own Buster, Dummy Never Fails 2 is a silly, great way to spend a coffee break or three, especially if you make use of the level editor. Dummy never fails, you say? We'll see about that, pal. I haven't yet BEGUN to fail!

Play Dummy Never Fails 2


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Rating: 4.2/5 (157 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypAlthough we strive to bring you the most recent, hot-off-the-presses room escape efforts available on the Web, we also like to feature games that may have been overlooked the first time around. This week for Weekday Escape we're once again reaching into the back-catalogue of a popular designer, Kotorinosu, for one of their earlier room escape efforts, Color.

ColorThe wonderful thing about Kotorinosu escapes is that each one is built around a theme. Device centered around devices, Shape around shapes, etc. Color is about, well, colors. Lots of colors. Practically every clue and puzzle is color-based, meaning that this may not be the game for anyone with any kind of color perception difficulties. Color is, however, wicked fun escaping in the sheer variety of ways colors are used within the game. The graphics are pretty basic as this is a very early effort, and the controls are basic as well, just a simple inventory and no save feature or even a changing cursor, so be braced for some pixel hunting. As with any good room escape, though, a simple point and click does everything: exploration, navigation, and theft of everything that isn't nailed down.

While Color is a pretty basic, bare-bones escape it is definitely worth the effort, especially to see the genesis of what would come later. Even in this early design there are hints of the clever puzzles and solutions which would eventually make Kotorinosu one of the most popular room escape designers we've ever featured. Time to learn some color theory!

Play Color


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Rating: 4.5/5 (1410 votes)
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DoraThe Little SailorThe say war is hell, but presumably that's only if The Podge isn't around, raining its own brand of action-packed platform shooter-yness all over the internets like some sort of glorious gaming Santa Clause. In City Siege 3: Jungle Siege, the follow up to Resort Siege, your little roly-poly headed commandos get in touch with their Rambo sides as they take out the notorious Baddies in jungle environments.

Move your troops safely through each mission, clicking to select one and using the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move, and the mouse to aim and shoot. Perform well to net stars to upgrade your units, as well as some cha-ching cha-ching to recruit more soldiers. Blast the enemies before they blast you, and try to avoid perforating any civilians. It turns out the army doesn't really think it's funny when you fill out your casualty report with "Looks like they... had a blast." and attach a picture of David Caruso. Yes, even if you include an MP3 with the appropriate sound byte. No, I don't know what their problem is either!

City Siege 3 features all of the action of its predecessors, so fans of the series will feel right at home and will probably welcome the new terrains and work that has been put into balancing your troops. Aiming your weapon still takes some getting used to, as your crosshairs don't always feel like they're much more than a rough guide as to where your bullets might land, and if you take out all the Baddies on a stage before you've rescued everyone, the level will still end abruptly and award you with a puny silver medal instead of the gleaming gold you so rightly deserve. (Who's bitter?) Blowing up your surroundings and watching your combos stack up is still entertaining, however, and if you want a spot of bloodless shooter action City Siege is hard to beat. So get your supplies ready and get to da choppa, because you're off to the jungle. Go on, get all Bear Grylls on their heineys!

Play City Siege 3: Jungle Siege


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Rating: 4.3/5 (189 votes)
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joyeGoblinThe hero or villain of Goblin by Cobcris may look like a garden gnome but he's packing outsized malevolence in that tiny frame, because he's swallowed the colors of the sun and the moon. Point and click your way around his cottage to complete this slightly twisted fairytale and get the colors back.

Goblin is the first Flash game from its developer, but you wouldn't know it from the music and visuals. Minimalistic yet lush, they have a retro-modern look with a bit of a creepy bent in the recurrent large eye image. The translation of the text is a bit rough in spots but the basic plot comes through fine and it's got a delightful touch of macabre whimsy, especially in the ending. Rather short, and with perhaps too much of a dependence on repeat-after-me Simon Says puzzles, it's not the most difficult puzzler out there, but if you like games as art, you won't want to miss this one.

Play Goblin


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The Vault

DoraUsually whenever someone calls something "unique", it's accompanied by those little air quotes and maybe a meaningful lift of the eyebrows. But since when did "unique" have to be synonymous with "crazy" or even "crazy in a bad way"? Some of the most popular games we've featured over the years have borne that label, and these are just three of the ones that make us remember it's those standout oddballs that really make gaming the diverse, wacky, baffling, and even meaningful form of entertainment that it is.

  • Rose & CamelliaRose & Camellia - A comedian once said the world might be a better place if we were all allowed to pick just one person a month who really deserved it to give them a brisk swat across the jowls, but even he might have found the concept of this fighting game a little extreme. You play a young widow named Reiko, who must earn the respect of the women in her dearly departed husband's household by besting them in a series of fantastically dramatic slap-fights, which you control by clicking and sweeping with your mouse to attack and evade. The crisp artwork combined with the ludicrous premise that's played oddly straight makes this one of the more memorable games you'll ever come across, despite being fairly short and simple.
  • Grow IslandGrow Island - eyezmaze has become known for his surreal little puzzles starring little blobby people in a world whose creation is entirely dependent on you. Here, in this installment of the Grow series of games, you're tasked with trying to figure out the correct order in which to click on the icons you have on your screen, each of which represents a different phase in the island's development and depends on the others for growth. The aim is to get all components maxed, and while it's unlikely that you'll be able to figure it out on the first go, it's also unlikely that you'll be bothered by it as you take in the detailed animations of the little people scurrying around to do your bidding. Imaginative, cute, quirky, and absolutely lovely, it's a perfect example of why people eagerly await each new eyezmaze game, and just the thing to get kids, friends, and family members clustered around your monitor to show off.
  • The Majesty of ColorsThe Majesty of Colors - If you had ever told me I'd be having warm fuzzy feelings for a hideous, massive tentacled underwater monstrosity, I would have called you a lying lie-filled lieasaurus and then burst into tears. And yet, here we are, thanks to Gregory Weir, whose name should already call to mind for you the sublime, the strange, and the introspective. In this beautiful little narrative, you control a single tentacle that belongs to a sea monster, who uses it to explore the world above the ways after it becomes entranced by a passing balloon. How you interact with the world determines how it reacts to you, and how the story ends. Even if you're chasing another ending, the whole experience is short, but more than worth jumping into. It's unexpectedly touching and artfully executed, and remains one of the only games I still bring up regularly in discussion years after I've played it.

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


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Rating: 4.4/5 (61 votes)
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TrickyBullet AudysseyIn Bullet Audyssey by Cellar Door Games, the Milky Way has been has been invaded by celestial soundsters, ones who send out their bullets to the structure of a thumping galactic rhythm. It's up to your tiny ship to weave your way through their forces, absorbing energy for your interstellar counterattack. Will world rave about your shooter skills, or will the alien force just leave you in a trance?

Each level consists of one large enemy at the top of the screen to destroy. Move your ship using the [arrow keys] to dodge enemy fire. However, try to make it close: bullets that graze your "aura" give your ship energy. You use this energy to fire back with the [z],. Also, holding [X], [.] or [shift] enters bullet-time mode, though this uses up energy as well. Beating each level upgrades part of your ship. Beating them all though... well, you might need to be Moby to do that.

Bullet hells and techno go together like chocolate and peanut butter. And while the world would hail the release of the first country-music-based shoot-em-up, you can't blame developers for sticking with a sound design that works. Bullet Audyssey is a considerably polished visual and audial treat, even if the difficulty gets insane (...even "Touhou-level") pretty fast. You'll need to start using every trick you've got round about level 6. Just remember that your hitbox is basically the pixel at the center of your ship, enemies follow the beat, and bullet time is very helpful. While definitely directed to the more hardcore demographic of the shooter audience, players of all skill levels should appreciate Bullet Audyssey's attempts at genre fusion, and techno lovers will definitely appreciate the introduction to some new artists.

Play Bullet Audyssey


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Rating: 4.4/5 (93 votes)
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TrickyPlexus Puzzle: FlutterByAs the first smatterings of freezing rain pour down upon us in the northern hemisphere, the mind wistfully recalls the elements of spring: The green grass of the meadow. The smell of blooming flowers on the wind. The beauty of butterflies floating through the breeze. In any case, the masters of the jigsaw at Plexus certainly weren't bundled up for winter when programming their latest mouse-driven mind-bending picture puzzle: FlutterBy. This time the subject is bugs and blossoms, drawn in a softer, more childlike style than usually seen from the developer. But don't let the big noses and sproingy antennae fool you: This is a puzzle that will take all your visual acuity to resolve into the final big picture. The edges fit together more distinctively, making it nearer to conventional jigsaws than Plexus puzzles past. Also, the play area is still a bit too small to organize so many similar pieces. Having said that, undoubtedly FlutterBy has the challenging simplicity that will keep a brain teased over the span of a coffee break. Climb out of your cocoon and give it a try!

Play Plexus Puzzle: FlutterBy


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Rating: 4.7/5 (189 votes)
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SonicLoverMonster BarkMonster Bark: The Ultimate Monster-Maze Puzzle Adventure. Any game with a tagline that boastful had better be a good game... and it looks like Joey Betz has done it again. The game stars Bark, a lovable floppy dog whose toys and friends have all been stolen into a dimensional portal to a world of monsters. He, being a brave dog, jumps in to retrieve them. He roams the world using the [arrow] or [WASD] keys, avoiding monsters and collecting toys. As he rescues his companions, he gets their aid as well in solving the fiendish puzzles this world has to offer. Switch control among them by pressing [1-5] or by clicking their portraits.

Bark's friends all have special abilities that can be used with [spacebar]. Charlie, the Tough Kid, can jump over holes and push small boxes; Darcy, the Screamer, can tiptoe past sleeping monsters without alerting them and scream her lungs out to stun monsters and activate certain switches; Ed, the Heavy Kid, can smash large blocks with a sort of rolling dash and hold down pressure switches by standing on them; Floyd, the Nerd, can slip through narrow passages and fix broken wires. (In case you're wondering about Bark himself, he can duck under low arches and has the fastest movement speed of the five.)

Analysis: If I were to describe my dream puzzle game, it would be something like Monster Bark. Just about everything in it is done right. The characters are so full of personality, thanks to the artwork of Adam Vian, from Darcy's nervous swaying idle stance to Ed's pompous walk to the cute but useless bark Bark does when you press space, and the groovy but appropriate music just makes me want to get up and do a little monster dance.

The "switch between multiple playable characters with different abilities to help each other through the stage" gimmick is one that's been around since a certain trio of vikings got abducted by aliens back in the SNES days, if not longer, and if done right, such as it is here, it makes for some very clever puzzles. Personally it's one of my favorite gimmicks, and you can really see how the puzzles are designed around it as you play. The game is also relatively light on Sokoban-style block puzzles, which is lucky if you find those games tedious.

The only serious fallacy the game has is with the controls. Controlling Bark and co. is like driving a car on an icy road; sometimes they won't respond immediately when you press, switch, or release the keys. This makes quick, controlled movements nearly impossible, which can really drive you up a wall if you don't slow down and take your time when making moves you can't undo. There's also a few glitches elsewhere; for example, don't press the [spacebar] while the characters are teleporting out at the end of a level.

Still, that's easy to overlook in an otherwise great game. Go play it and decide for yourself whether this game deserves the tagline "The Ultimate Monster-Maze Puzzle Adventure". My opinion? It probably does.

Play Monster Bark


(16 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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SpellTower

JohnBFrom the creator of Unify, Bit Pilot, and Halcyon, Zach Gage, comes an iPad release that blends a Boggle-like word game with a traditional falling blocks puzzle. SpellTower is a linguaphile's dream come true, featuring four unique modes of play that let you take your time and think or force you to build words in a rush. No matter your playing style, there's plenty of challenge in this sleek little release, and it's worth picking up if you have even the slightest interest in word games!

SpellTowerSpellTower works like a game of Boggle with gravity. The general idea is that your screen is filled with letter tiles you can tap and drag to connect, spelling words in the process. Make a word and those tiles vanish, allowing everything above to slide down to fill the gaps. Create longer words to get rid of bigger swaths of letters, including tiles on the periphery. There are some special tiles that twist up the basic strategies you'll employ, including blue tiles that clear whole rows, numbered tiles that must be used in matches containing at least that number of letters, and black tiles that get in your way until you make a match in an adjacent square.

Three game modes are available from the start, with one unlockable mode waiting in the wings. Tower mode might be the best place for calm, completionist spellers to reside. The board is packed with letter tiles, and you've got as much time as you like to spell words and clear the screen. Rush mode is all about speed, and in Puzzle mode, only a small chunk of the screen is filled with tiles, but each time you make a word, a new row appears. Scoring 2,000 points here will unlock Extreme Puzzle mode, which functions in the same manner only with a minimum word length enabled. Yikes!

SpellTowerAnalysis: Even though it's immediately playable, building a solid strategy in SpellTower can take some time. When you start, you'll tentatively poke a few letters, spell words like "bat", "tops" and maybe "spring" , but you won't get very far. Soon, you'll realize the deep lines of strategy in a falling blocks word game, and you'll start creating words with future words in mind, carving out spaces on the board that are ripe for big, screen-clearing matches.

SpellTower is just about infinitely replayable, especially if you love challenging yourself to pull vocabulary words out of the most folded recesses of your mind. If competition in the high score department is more your style, Game Center integration allows just that, popping your numbers on the leaderboard so you can see how well you're doing compared to other SpellTower players.

The story behind SpellTower's development is an intriguing one, and if you're into the nuts and bolts of game design, this GameSutra article offers some nice insights on creating games for the iTunes App Store as well as making games from genres you're not as familiar with.

SpellTower is a superb word game, and its minimalist stylings make it an attractive game for anyone in your household who loves a good word teaser, even the most technologically-challenged. Grab it and start spelling!


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Mobile Monday

JohnBNeed a pick-me-up to start the week? Why not try saving a goldfish from an impish little brat? Going on a quest for biscuits? Or, heck, bag some groceries!

paulandpercy-ios.gifPaul & Percy (iPad) - The same Flash game that tickled the crumpets out of us over the summer now has an official iOS port! On the hunt for their missing biscuits, Paul and Percy step into a portal and enter a world split in twain. They must learn to cooperate using various blocks to clear paths so each can reach the exit portal unharmed. Charming, extremely challenging, lengthy, and with plenty of nods to classic 16-bit era video games, Paul & Percy is just as good (if not better, thanks to the hands-on touch controls) as its browser cousin!

bagit.jpgBag It! (iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad) - Ever thought bagging groceries was tough? It totally is, what with all those breakable, squishable, temperamental items you've got to squeeze in there. Bag It! capitalizes on that weekly struggle with a creative (and great-looking) physics puzzle game that challenges you to fit items into a grocery bag in the most efficient way possible. Move things like orange juice, eggs, melons and milk from the belt at the top, then delicately place them in the bag below. Rotate items to squeeze everything in you can, and look for combos like putting breakfast foods together, but be careful not to flatten any delicate objects. Unlockable levels and game modes give you plenty of incentive to keep playing, but when a mobile game looks this good and plays this well, you don't need many excuses to keep at it! Bag It! HD for iPad is also available.

savingyello.gifSaving Yello (universal) - When a mischievous kid decides to torture his goldfish by dropping him outside of his tank, Yello Does his best to make it back, destroying as many toys as he can along the way! Pull and snap Yello's tail to send him flying, and grab things like dynamite, flames, and bags of bombs to cause some destruction along the way. You only have a few throws to get back to the bowl, so be strategic and don't get too carried away with all the destruction! Massively entertaining and plenty of levels to keep you busy, with more on the way!

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


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Rating: 4.8/5 (117 votes)
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Cave Story

JohnBBest of Casual Gameplay 2011The original freeware platform adventure game Cave Story was released by Daisuke Amaya (Pixel) back in 2004. An English translation from Aeon Genesis followed just two months later, opening the game up to a much wider audience and allowing to vault to the top of the indie gaming world. Featuring amazing music, a well-written story, power-ups, upgrades, and a big world to explore, saying Cave Story was a hit is a gross understatement. Several years later, the game has been ported to half a dozen other systems and re-released with remastered music and updated HD graphics. Now, Cave Story+ is here, upgrading the freeware experience to something your eyes and ears can more fully appreciate!

cavestoryplus.gifIt all begins with a scientist locked in a room, desperately trying to reach someone called "Sue" through his computer. You find yourself in a cave somewhere, compelled to explore simply because there are open passageways before you. Soon, you wind up in a village where a group of creatures called Mimigas are debating over what to do with someone they're sheltering, a villager called Sue. Eventually you learn of a larger plot involving a mysterious Doctor, and his henchmen come looking for you as your adventure begins.

Cave Story+ is divided into 15 levels that branch out from various hubs in the game. Throughout these levels you'll find more than enough obstacles and dangers to challenge your platforming skills. You'll find various upgrades to your health meter as well as new weapons and items to equip. Every gun has a strength and a weakness and changes the way you'll fight and travel. You'll also collect little bounding triangles that temporarily level up the weapon you have equipped, giving it more firepower and, possibly, an entirely new ability!

cavestoryplus2.gifAs the game progresses, Cave Story+ gets much more intense. The bosses range from tiny creatures to massive foes that will absorb a lot of damage. Some of the quests you'll undertake include helping an injured woman, hunting down stranded puppies, venturing into gigantic dragon eggs, and so much more. The story and setting are wonderfully imaginative, and even if you don't press on and follow the prescribed path to the letter, you'll find some great discoveries in this marvelous game.

Analysis: Our original Cave Story review still speaks volumes about the game, and Cave Story+ is an updated release of that well-tuned title. The differences include cosmetic upgrades and bonus modes you can unlock, including a handful of challenges that aren't for the faint at heart. There's the added bonus of not having to fuss with downloading and installing the translation patch as well (though one could argue this translation is inferior to the Aeon Genesis release). Regardless, if you're new to the game, this is a convenient way to get started, and if you're not, you've probably already installed and played it!

cavestoryplus2.gifEvery aspect of Cave Story was created by one person over the course of five years. The artwork, music, level design and programming is all the work of Pixel, and it's so perfectly constructed you would swear he did nothing but tweak the game over that half decade. Cave Story is a slice of perfection and has become a template other indie game developers love to emulate. Cave Story+ is careful not to mess with that success, and the only differences are surface and peripheral in nature. If the new music and visuals aren't as nice on your senses as the originals, you can mix and match as you please, playing with updated music and classic pixel graphics, new artwork and old music, or turn all the new things off and just play it like it was in 2004.

The Cave Story tribute site has everything you could ever want from the Cave Story releases, including editing and music tools, the English patch, translations into half a dozen non-English languages, and downloads for Mac and Linux (or the TI-83 port you know you want to play). The Steam version of Cave Story+ linked below contains the updates and additions discussed in this review, and it works with both Mac and PC systems.

Cave Story remains one of the best freeware games ever released. If you haven't played it, Cave Story+ makes it a bit more accessible and perhaps more friendly to the eyes and ears. Don't let a game as good as this one fall off your radar!

WindowsWindows:
Download the original free game (English patch)
Get the full "plus" version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the original free game (English patch)
Get the full "plus" version


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Rating: 4.8/5 (286 votes)
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Treasure Adventure Game

JohnBBest of Casual Gameplay 2011Think open world platform adventure games (metroidvanias) like Knytt Stories and Celestial Mechanica are falling out of favor? Treasure Adventure Game is happy to prove you wrong. With its massive open world stocked from end to end with treasures, secrets, characters, quests, puzzles, and more, this old school throwback manages to combine adventure, RPG, and platforming genres into the kind of game you'll only have the honor of experiencing a few times in your life. Also: it's free!

treasureadventuregame.gifAn ancient legend tells of a world where all land was joined as a single continent and the people lived peaceful lives. An angry demon invaded the realm and threatened to destroy everything, but a wizard rose to the challenge and fought off the fiend. Before the demon was banished, he struck the core of the planet and sent a tidal wave surging across the surface, drowning most of the land and leaving isolated islands in its wake. The wizard knew the demon would return, so he hid the twelve enchanted items he used to defeat him in the hopes that a future hero could save the world when it was in peril.

Treasure Adventure Game begins many years after those events, casting you in the role of a boy who washed ashore on one of these islands. Now, it's time to go on an adventure! Armed with a hat (as all adventurers are required to have), a helpful parrot, a boat that appears whenever you touch water, basic platforming abilities like jumping and crawling, and treasure maps, you get to explore the secret-filled 2D world one island at a time, getting quests from characters that help provide you with the items you'll need to further explore the game's rich environments.

Treasure Adventure Game is largely quest-based in nature, and at any given moment you'll be working on at least one main task with a few others in the back of your mind. You'll encounter non-player characters in need of assistance, ranging from friendly forest mice to squiggly little worms trembling beneath the soil. Your trusty parrot pal allows you to communicate with these creatures, and he can also help you out of tight situations by allowing you to control him briefly.

treasureadventuregame.gifAnalysis: There is absolutely no reason for you not to fall in love with this title. It's huge, it's open, it's got a delightful retro look and feel, and it's packed with secrets and quests. And it's going to be one of the most wildly entertaining games you've played this year, no matter how many cool things you've encountered. Treasure Adventure Game has that magic "something" we all long for in our games but so rarely manage to find, the same sort of magic found in Cave Story when it was first released.

Treasure Adventure Game hides things all over the place. You should make it a habit to push against every wall, jump to every platform, and search for nooks and crannies to stick your adventurer's hat into every opportunity you get. There are hidden chests everywhere, including under the dirt and deep under the waters, and it's about as fun to find those as it is to work on the main quest!

If you like your games to start with a bang and keep the action going from the beginning, you'll probably find Treasure Adventure Game a bit slow at first. Sit tight, enjoy the story, talk to characters, and remember the details they provide. It all ties together nicely and helps fill out the world you'll spend so much time exploring.

The Treasure Adventure Game soundtrack has just been released, featuring music from the game, bonus tracks, concept sketches, and interactive maps of the entire game!

Simply put, Treasure Adventure Game is the captivating and satisfying game you need to play now. You've been waiting for a classic in the making, and here it is!

WindowsWindows:
Download the full, free game

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


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Rating: 3.5/5 (81 votes)
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joyeBouncy Fire FightersYou've probably never heard of the obscure Famicom title "Flying Hero". It's a 1989 release that never went outside of Japan, and in it the player fights fires by bouncing one fire fighter up into the air on a blanket, where he grabs people out of windows and tries to put the fire out at the same time. It borrows the basic mechanic of Breakout and mixes it up just a little bit. Bouncy Fire Fighters is a cute little remake of Flying Hero, and it's a lot of fun. Of course, the original featured tiny 8-bit pixel art, whereas in this one the female fire victims put the bouncy in the title, if you know what I mean. Time marches on.

Use either the mouse or the [arrow] keys to move your blanket-carrying firefighters back and forth, and launch the brave hero into the air with [space] or a mouse click. As he flies by windows, he'll rescue any victims screaming for help inside, or make progress at putting the fire out. But what goes up must come down, and you'd better have the blanket ready to catch him when he does, or else you'll lose a life. Twelve helpful and harmful bonus tokens can float down, from blanket-igniting fire to a victim-rescuing Superman summoning token. If you're too slow and the fire gets too hot, some of the victims may start leaping from windows. You can catch them with the blanket, but if you fail to catch three of them, it's game over as well. You win each of the twenty levels by either rescuing all the victims or putting out the fire completely.

Some of the tokens are a little cheap in both directions: the rare totem is basically an instant win, and the not quite so rare gas tank, which while not an instant game over, puts the player in an extremely difficult position. However the game's quarter-eating arcade-style addictiveness and awesomely ridiculous softest of soft cheesecake art make this a title that's hard to put down. Try muting the game and playing while listening to a modern cover of an 80s song to get the full retro remade effect.

Play Bouncy Fire Fighters


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Guardians of Beyond: Witchville

elleYou are a paranormal investigator called to a town at your colleague's behest. While driving there, a strange woman appears in the middle of the road. You swerve, only to lose control and plummet over the edge of the railing. Sounds like the classic midnight movie set-up, right? So begins Vogat Interactive's latest adventure/hidden object hybrid, Guardians of Beyond: Witchville.

elle_guardiansofbeyond_witchville_image3.jpgAfter miraculously surviving the flame-shrouded crash, you manage to make it into the quaint hamlet of Witchville, only to discover your partner has been turned into a ghost. In fact, the whole town's population are ghosts! The bigger problem? They don't even know what happened and they're just about the unspookiest bunch of ghosts you've ever met because, well, they're not actually dead. Of course, there must be a way to save everyone and you are exactly the person to do it.

Investigate Witchville—so called because of its annual harvest festival tradition—from top to bottom; search through hidden object scenes, gather clues, pick-up useful items and master a wide-variety of puzzles all while you peel back the layers on the townfolks' enigmatic pasts. Your initial impression is someone's angry that the town dropped a house on . . . er, that is, burned her ancestors at the stake, and so has exacted revenge. Ah, ghosts and revenge, like it's straight out of Shakespeare. Yet things are not as they seem and this is not the usual "witch curses town" story. First impressions, after all, are often wrong and the layers of story continue build in both detail and tension as the game progresses.

elle_guardiansofbeyond_witchville_image2.jpgThe mini-games in Guardians of Beyond: Witchville blend seamlessly with the storyline so that, the more you play, the more involved in the story you become. There are original takes on the standard puzzles as well as a few you may have not seen before. The hidden object scenes are very neatly-composed, never messy, and somewhat challenging because each object seems to belong in its setting, never standing out as an incongruity.

To keep it all sorted, important information, evidence and plot details are recorded in your journal. A convenient drop-down inventory bar stores collected objects and clues while a handy task list keeps you on the right track. Decide how hardcore you'd like to sleuth by selecting one of three modes of play: casual (for the laid-back, let's just be entertained types), advanced (avid fan of television mysteries, you're considered quite the detective), or expert (you're channeling Fox Mulder!) Whichever method you choose, if you can point and click, you're guaranteed to uncover some well-buried secrets and juicy juicy gossip. That's not fog you see—the air is thick with backstory!

Analysis: At first glance, you might roll your eyes at Guardians of Beyond: Witchville, considering it formulaic fluff typical of the genre. Its initial resemblance to many other titles on the market could be its downfall. Yet, in terms of gameplay as well as story, Guardians of Beyond: Witchville is laden with entertaining twists and turns and dynamic characters who evolve throughout the course of the game. Rich, immersive stories are what Vogat Interactive does very well (take a look at Elixir of Immortality and Reincarnations: Awakening as examples) and Guardians of Beyond: Witchville is no exception, proving that Vogat's team continues to listen to player feedback and fine tune their games to please our senses with gorgeous graphics, unintrusive atmosphere-enhancing music and a plenty of puzzles. Guardians of Beyond: Witchville never feels like a series of random minigames loosely tied-together by a few lines of narrative; the puzzles not only fit thematically, they make sense with the story.

elle_guardiansofbeyond_witchville_image7.jpgVogat is great at drawing the player into the story yet it can be naggy with reminders that "time is running out!" each time a new discovery sends you along another path. The quest-starting message, "Hurry, you have only 6 hours left to save the town!" suggests that this will indeed be a six-hour game for those who treasure exploration and are loathe to use hints or skips. Experts out there will finish much faster while the average player will spend about 4½ to 5 hours on it. Often having a flexible agenda, Guardians of Beyond: Witchville allows players freedom in exploration which is a joy considering the scenery's abundance of aesthetic details. Needed clues are usually within a few rooms' distance, so you're never trekking too far for a required tool. Granted a few instances of accidentally popping up the inventory bar instead of backing out of an area, navigation is intuitively smooth, enhancing the exploratory experience.

If you've watched any number of late night movies on broadcast TV, you'll make a few summations long before our savvy blonde protagonist catches a clue. Yet that doesn't detract from Guardians of Beyond: Witchville's depth of story, superb character development and plentiful personality—all pulled together in a cheesy, soap-operaesque wrapper. Yes, it starts with a car crash. Yeah, the town is cursed and only you can save the day. But, given the chance to win you over, Guardians of Beyond: Witchville manages to stand out from the pack of hybrid adventures. Just as you think, "I've seen this kind of thing before," the action grabs hold and leads you in another direction. Someone once said, there are only seven original plot lines. If that's true, Guardians of Beyond: Witchville does a fine job scripting them all.

A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains a bonus chapter, strategy guide, wallpapers, 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

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


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Weekend Download

JohnBAs much as designers and players would love it to be true, games don't appear out of magical elf dust. They take hours, weeks, months and years to create, stitching together every line of code and every piece of artwork. To that end, many programmers and studios have taken to releasing alpha and beta games to drum up support, snagging players early to help with feedback and bug reports while the developer gets to continue drinking coffee and coding. Everybody wins, and we get more games, better games, and games at a more rapid pace!

tinyplumbers.gifTiny Plumbers (Mac/Win, 37MB, pre-order alpha) - Tiny Plumbers is an in-progress game about plumbers jumping on things to unclog pipes and rescue princesses. Instead of doing that until the end of time, you can use those things to buy new modes and other cool things in the Princess Exchange Store! In addition to that, this low-res platformer includes plenty of power-ups to equip, partially destructible environments, and procedurally-generated levels. The controls feel a bit marshmallowey at the moment and take some getting used to, but the core of a very addictive game is there, ready for the taking! Tiny Plumbers is currently available to pre-order at a reduced price. Grab it now for cheap and you get access to the current builds as well as future builds (including the final release), and you can be sure we'll mention it again when the game hits!

spacechunks.gifSpace Chunks II (Windows, 28MB, free beta) - A wild, rockin' Asteroids-like arcade shooting game filled with enemies who are out to turn you into space debris. Blast around the galaxy as you locate and obliterate targets with your zappy guns. Pick up power-ups by crunching asteroids to keep your health and missiles filled, and unleash some exciting double-tap moves that give you a bit of an offensive edge in exchange for temporarily reduced defenses. The entire experience is a bit wild and surprisingly thrilling, allowing you to live out your space cowboy fantasies by barely lifting a finger. Currently Space Chunks II is in beta.

trail.gifTrail (Windows, 21.8MB, free) - A short experimental platform game that' was built around one simple thought: "When I was a child, I thought you left a trail through the world that you collected when you died". The game puts you in the world of the living as you move through the level like a traditional action game. Your life is constantly depleting, though, as no one is immortal, and with each step you take you leave memories in your wake. Inevitably, you die, traveling to the dark world of the dead. Once there, you must retrace your steps to pick up the first memory you left when you were alive. When you start measuring your success by the age you were when you died instead of markers on the level, you'll see how the game moves its philosophical message into your head with relative ease.

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: 4.2/5 (22 votes)
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Haunted Manor: Queen of Death

DoraAlthough they're twins, Stella and Christie have never gotten along, and Christie can't shake the feeling that her sister was glad to be rid of her when Christie left the family home to go to school in London. Everything changes in the blink of an eye, however, when Christie receives a letter from Stella telling her their parents are dead and begging her to return home. Has the tragedy finally provided the catalyst for the two sisters to put aside their differences? Or is Christie's dewy-eyed hope for sisterly reconciliation blinding her to the obvious signs of danger... you know, like the spirits of the damned that rise out of the grounds surrounding the family homestead to greet her. Given that the title of this hidden-object adventure from Top Evidence Studio is Haunted Manor: Queen of Death and not "Learning to Love Again: The Christie and Stella Story" on the Lifetime movie network, you can probably guess where this is going.

Haunted Manor: Queen of DeathBecause this would be an extremely boring game otherwise, Christie naturally returns home to find her home barricaded, malevolent beings prowling the area, and a sinister breeze that keeps whispering I am evil... or maybe I hate weevils... or even soylent green is people. It's hard to tell. Regardless, Christie's got a lot to worry about, and it doesn't help matters that her family home was apparently designed by the Umbrella Corporation and is packed full of puzzles, secrets, and complicated keys. The game only has one mode of difficulty, so you'll find sparkles drawing your attention to interactive areas and hidden-object scenes you need to solve. In short order, Christie discovers an ancient cursed medallion with a local legend clinging to it may be the source of all the heartache and horror plaguing her family... but with people dropping like flies left and right and her progress impeded by puzzles and apparitions at every turn, she might be running out of time to do anything about it before the medallion turns its gaze on her. Kind of makes all your problems seem trivial, doesn't it? So what if your computer got a virus and you forgot to pick up coffee... at least some grotesque naked gray spider demon isn't trying to kiss your soul out while you try to solve a complex mathematical puzzle to open a lock, you wussy.

Haunted Manor: Queen of DeathAnalysis: Don't let the spider demons and murder-by-soul-suck scare you; despite all the spooky sounds and monsters, Haunted Manor: Queen of Death isn't actually frightening. It doesn't even try to startle you, so you can also cross jump scares off the list of things to worry about. You'll see spectres and monsters pop up as you play, and naturally you can expect to run across some creepy scenery and otherworldly murder, but even the worst of that pales compared to, say, the closet scene from The Ring. The artwork is gorgeous and crisp, with clear detail that adds interest to every environment, and while the repetitive soundtrack may lose its creepy charm after the seventh or eight time you hear it loop around, on the whole the production is top notch. The story is entertaining, but also a bit of a mixed bag because the big twist is not only fairly obvious, but is also actually revealed on a lot of the promo material from Big Fish Games.

The gameplay as a whole is solid, despite a lot of backtracking, with challenging hidden-object scenes and familiar but clever puzzles. It does suffer somewhat from an inability to let you sit back and figure things out yourself. It's like the game interprets any hesitation your part as complete and utter bafflement and starts fluttering sparkles everywhere to point out places you can click. Despite this, however, Queen of Death manages to remain solidly enjoyable because of how hard it works to keep you engaged and interested. You're constantly catching glimpses of Stella, beckoning you at the end of a hallway, finding damning letters left behind, being menaced by flying furniture, and combined with the solid gameplay makes for an easily recommended title. You can expect to spend close to five hours on it if you take your time and don't speed through puzzles, and if you've been looking for a good looking and stylish hidden-object adventure with just a touch of supernatural flair, the demo for this is well worth a look.

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


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Rating: 4.5/5 (155 votes)
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Nitrome Must DieArtbegottiRemember the joy of your first hot air balloon ride, or the fun winters full of ice skating and sled riding? We've spent thousands of hours playing Nitrome's dozens of unique games, which have given us moments of joy, excitement, and hilarity.

And occasionally, rage.

That rage is the premise of Nitrome's 100th game, Nitrome Must Die, a fast-paced multiplayer shooter where two angry players decide to storm Nitrome Towers to get their revenge on the company. On each floor, a wave of enemies appear, which must be defeated before you can move on to the next level. Occasionally, power-ups like extra health and a change of weapon will appear, allowing you to conquer the tower's defense systems on the way to the top.

But don't think you can just tackle the tower on your own! Nitrome Must Die is a two-player game, meaning you can team up with a friend to reach the top... or perhaps fight against your ally. At the end of each level, each player is given the option to bank the points earned from the previous level, or risk those points for the opportunity to increase their bonus multiplier. It's not just war, it's a scorewar (trademark pending)! Grab your guns and get ready to storm the tower!

Play Nitrome Must Die


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

Letters in Boxes #23

ArtbegottiI tell ya what, those pilgrims had it easy. Back when they first celebrated Thanksgiving, they might've put up with some hardships, like, you know, death, but we've got it pretty bad... It's a meal made for one day of the year, but it lasts for two weeks afterward... I blame plastic storage containers. The pilgrims had it easy, they never had to deal with plastic tubs taunting them with old turkey when all they really wanted was to order a pizza.

Which brings us to this week's Letters In Boxes challenge, a celebration of the neverending leftovers. All of the puzzles in this week's series, believe it or not, were actually extra puzzles made in weeks past, but weren't used, usually because they didn't fit that week's theme. Some of the puzzles featured here today were among the first LIB puzzles ever written!

Here's how to play: Below you'll see the first puzzle in the series. Click on it to open it up in a new window. Once you think you've solved it, move up to your browser's address bar, and substitute your answer for the filename (in this case, "novtwentythree"), making sure you stay in the same directory and keep the same filename extension. All answers use only lowercase letters and no spaces. If you've found the correct answer, you can get ready to gobble up another challenge! If you're wrong, it's pumpkin pie in your face, but you can always back up and try again.

Letters in Boxes #23 - 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, November 28th at 11:59 PM (GMT-5:00). These leftovers won't last long, so hurry!

Update: Congratulations to the following winners! :D

  • H2G ...First!
  • ray9na
Both winners were given a choice of prizes. Congratulations and thanks for playing with us! Look for another Letters in Boxes again soon!

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Rating: 3.2/5 (127 votes)
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elleAfter Golden BellsIf exploration and thinky puzzles are the beat you tap your feet to, here's a homespun, folksy game to appeal to ardent escapers. Despite its humble attributes, After Golden Bells by Timefall amuses with a variety of brain teasers to tune up your lateral thinking and sleuthing skills.

Controls are rudimentary and helpful features are sparse, especially when you're used to the bigger stars of the genre—there's no changing cursor and you have to drag inventory items to use them. You'll also need a keen eye for exploration and a high tolerance for pixel hunting. Nonetheless, After Golden Bells is not without its charms. The key to escape is found via eight golden bells hidden amongst the modest surroundings; as you investigate every angle of the room, looking for answers to the puzzles that guard the bells, gustoso guitar music keeps pace with your efforts. After golden bells, then what? Just the simple satisfaction of a puzzle solved.

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraAre you ready for a li'l sumpin' sumpin'? And by "sumpin' sumpin'", we mean "ponies, new and classic RPGs, metroidvania, and zombies", of course. Although... I suppose that could also be something hip-hop plumbers do when they're working on septic tanks or sump pumps. But that's probably not nearly as enticing. Unless you are a plumber, in which case you might just have the idea for your next commercial. You're welcome!

Reader Favourites

  • Pony CreatorPony Creator - General Zoi's little creation of brony love is rapidly turning into "the little webtoy that could", and keeps generating buzz and love despite its simplicity. The My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic phenomenon is obviously at the core, but the fact of the matter is that it's also just plain cute. Create your own Pony and then style it as you please, down to the all-important cutie mark! And hey... that bouncy blue unicorn in the screenshot with the striking cutie mark still needs a name. Any suggestions?
  • Diamond Hollow 2Diamond Hollow 2 - It's always impressive to see a developer revisit old concepts and make them shine, and Arkeus did just that with this gorgeous retro platform shooter about a boy at the bottom of a deep, dark cavern with a sentient weapon as an ally against a mysterious mad scientist. Packed full of upgrades and old school charm makes this one more than worth a play.
  • 3 SlicesPedro and the Pearls of Peril - Donkeys underwater? With rayguns? And Hamumu-crafted metroidvania? Count us in! While it's true we could probably post a picture of a cat with the word "metroidvania" written on a piece of paper taped to its side and it would still wind up being rated highly because, well, metroidvania, Hamumu's signature style and charm makes this game a keeper despite a somewhat impressive level of difficulty. You're searching for missing mail after a boat capsizes, and naturally this entails less boring skimming and more swimming around nabbing pearls to purchase nifty new weapons with.

Necronator 2Embrace Your Dead Side: Toge Productions has just updated their latest real-time strategy fantasy genocide game with a campaign to let you play as pop culture's favourite punching bag. We speak, of course, of the undead, and if you've secretly been rooting for them all this time, then now's your chance to help them rise to the pack of the dogpile. Along with the new campaign comes additional upgrades and fixes, so if you're a fan you'll definitely want to shamble on over there before your rigor mortis sets in and partake. Necronator 2 took some flak from our community for being significantly different in several areas from its predecessor. Does the inclusion of these rotting vegetarians (brains are a vegetable, right?) and the new fixes help for you?

OrtusIs Ortus the Would-Be RPG of Your Dreams? The good folks at Jazza Studios are making some bold claims when they say they want to make the RPG you've always wanted, but they're ready to put their money where their mouth is. Well... some of their money. Also, potentially, some of yours as well. Ortus, a "medieval fantasy RPG where you get to have your cake and eat it too", has its own Kickstarter page where curious parties can read up about the project and then donate as much or as little as they'd like to try to help it get off the ground. As of this writing, they've raised almost $5,500 of a $20,000 goal with just under 30 days to go. If you want to find out more and/or show your support for some talented people, hit the Kickstarter page and read up. Clearly this isn't the RPG of my dreams, because that would involve somehow splicing together Earthbound, Vampire: Bloodlines, Spider-Man, inFamous, and a peanut butter cookie, but I appreciate the thought nonetheless, gents.

GOGSomething Old, Something New? We're big fans of the folks over at Good Old Games, who work hard to take older titles, spruce them up so they run on new machines, and release them DRM free. Change is on the horizon, however, as the team has announced their decision to begin bringing in new releases to their catalogue in 2012. While the site has experimented with this somewhat with the release of the action RPG Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings earlier this year, this will be the first time the site has really begun offering titles as they launch, rather than... y'know... a decade or so after the fact. Titles will still be DRM-free, and they plan to work to bring more "exclusive" games as well. What do you think... will you end up supporting GOG over other digital distribution giants if their prices can compete?

Chrono TriggerPast, Present, and Future: Super Nintendo classic RPG Chrono Trigger will be making its debut on iOS devices next month, so you can take your time-trotting heroes with you wherever you go! The game, which follows a group of heroes who set off to prevent the end of the world by jumping through different time periods, earned critical praise for its lovable characters, imaginative settings and complex plot. It's been available on WiiWare for some time now, and more recently on the Playstation Network, but if you've always wanted to put Chrono in your pocket you'll get your chance this December. No price has been announced yet, although you can probably get an idea by peeping the dollar signs attached to other Square Enix iOS releases. Will you be paying for the privilege to fly with Chrono to the end of time? If so, will it be your first time playing?

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


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Rating: 4.3/5 (71 votes)
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Mystery Case Files: Escape from Ravenhearst

GrinnypIt's been a long time coming, hasn't it? First you explored Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst, that twisted house of horrors. Then you returned to Ravenhearst in, appropriately, Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst and found even more evil lurking within. Now in the newest chapter it's time to escape in Mystery Case Files: Escape from Ravenhearst, the latest adventure/hidden object hybrid from BigFish Studios. Yes, Charles is back as is his crazed son Victor and they are out for revenge!

Mystery Case Files: Escape from RavenhearstIf you are one of the two people on earth who has never played a Ravenhearst game, here's a brief synopsis: There's this evil guy named Charles who, when thwarted by the love of his life, disposed of her and trapped her spirit in the gloomy recesses of Ravenhearst, his maze-like house. Playing the master detective, you first freed poor Emma in the original story, then went back and freed her maid and the maid's twin daughters whose spirits were also trapped, burning down the mansion in the process. However, a taunting package has arrived that lures you back for a third time with the news of mysterious disappearances in the Blackpool area.

Are Charles and his crazy son at it again? You betcha! As you arrive back at the scene of so much evil Emma and her cohorts return as well to help you on your way, although they spend most of their time warning you, you Master Detective you, to turn back. Unfortunately you don't heed their cries and pretty soon you and they are "guests" of Charles, traveling through his nightmarish past. Can you find the missing people and help them and the spirits escape before you go as insane as the Dalimars? Delve deep and find out, although you might need a shower afterwards.

Like Return to Ravenhearst, Mystery Case Files: Escape from Ravenhearst plays as a point-and-click adventure with some hidden object elements incorporated. The great surprise this time around is that the designers have jettisoned the classic "list" type of hidden object scenes and replaced them with something far trickier: morphing objects. The premise of morphing objects has been seen in previous Mystery Case Files games like Mystery Case Files: Madame Fate and Dire Grove, but this time around they are taken to a whole new level. The spirits of Emma and the others cannot help you directly, they can merely cause objects in the background to "morph", or change shape, directing your attention to them. When entering a morphing object scene the only clues you receive are from Emma's locket, which tells you how many morphing objects can be found. Find them all and the spirit will direct you to an area of interest where there is something helpful or handy to be found and placed in the bottom-loading inventory, all the while warning you about getting any closer. Items in the inventory are then used to progress to new areas or launch a varied array of mini-games and puzzles that are clever and unique. A changing cursor helps you navigate the dangerous grounds and a pleasant surprise is the lack of "sparkles" to indicate areas of interest, eliminating a lot of hand-holding which plagues many adventure/hidden object hybrids.

Mystery Case Files: Escape from RavenhearstAnalysis: Mystery Case Files: Escape from Ravenhearst brings the story of Charles and Victor to roaring life with its intense storyline and out-and-out stunning graphics. Just be warned right now, while the first two games were already pretty dark, Escape from Ravenhearst is even more twisted. BigFish has a disclaimer on the game page: "This is an intense psychological thriller that may reveal deep-seated fears. Not for the young or faint of heart. Consider yourself warned." Seriously, they are not kidding. Once you become a guest of Charles you learn the history of the Ravenhearst story from his point of view, and he's one sick puppy.

Lots of hybrids on the market have stunning graphics, but few have all of the bells and whistles that BigFish studios has poured into this amazing game. Along with breathtaking locales you will find dramatic music and incidental sounds to match, together with some of the best puzzles seen in this series in a long, long time. The change from classic hidden object scenes to the morphing object scenes is just whipped cream and nuts with a cherry on top.

The lack of sparkles and other directional hints makes for more challenging gameplay, as do the morphing objects which are not confined to the morphing scenes but are scattered around in other locations as well. Folks who like classic "list" types of hidden object scenes might be disappointed, however, with the new type of gameplay. And granted the morphing scenes do slow the gameplay down a bit, although the refilling hint timer does refill pretty quickly, eliminating some of the drag. The mini-games are fun and challenging, and best of all skippable if they turn out to be not your cup of tea. There is a bit of back-and-forth backtracking, although not nearly as much in Return to Ravenhearst as Escape from Ravenhearst is divided up into more manageable sections.

Mystery Case Files: Escape from Ravenhearst is bound to be controversial. Some will love the leap from classic hidden object scenes to morphing object scenes, some will not. Some will love the live actors and voice overs (especially Charles'), some might object to the drag they sometimes place on the story. Most of all, though, this is a deeply disturbing game which might not be for everyone. If dark and twisted with a side of gorgeous is your cup of tea, though, then this is definitely the game for you!

A Collector's Edition is also available. It includes a bonus collect and match quest, a bonus quest featuring the detective's case book, additional hidden object scenes, and a huge integrated 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: 4.8/5 (1000 votes)
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Kyhcreeperworldevermorescreenshot.jpgKnuckle Cracker is at it again, bringing us another iteration of its popular Creeper World series. In Creeper World: Evermore, a new level of real-time strategy play is offered every day!

Evermore uses the same game functions and controls. Use the mouse to select units to build for gathering energy to use for fire power against the ever-present Creeper. And if you ever get tired of getting Odin City to escape this galactic menace, you can flip the survival mode switch to disable the totems used to warp it to a safer land. Seeing as how the Creeper is indestructible, it becomes a matter of how long you can stave it's reach before it inevitably destroys the last vestiges of humanity. Creeper World: Evermore promises to offer a great daily fix of this fun strategy game, so be sure to jump on it now before there are too many levels to handle in one sitting!

Play Creeper World: Evermore


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Rating: 4.8/5 (42 votes)
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MikeDominionIf you aren't at all into real-world strategy board and card games, you probably haven't heard of Dominion. You're probably looking at the screenshot to the right, perhaps intrigued, maybe a little wary, but wondering nonetheless what in tarnation is going on. If you are a hobby gamer, though, then let me say just this: It's Dominion (yes, that Dominion), online! With multiplayer, and cards from all the official expansions! It's brought to you by developer isotropic, and really, if you just want to go check it out now, I understand. We'll still be here.

For the uninitiated, Dominion is a real-live, award-winning card game with a devoted following. I like to say it's a collectible card game without the card collection: It has all the deck building and combos of a classic CCG, but without the game-breaking, bank-busting, "gotta-catch-em-all" problems of the genre. Instead, everyone builds their deck from the same set of cards, so the game is more about strategically acquiring the cards available in the most effective way. Everyone starts with a few green Victory cards and some yellow Money cards. Money cards let you buy other cards, Victory cards give you crucial Victory Points but are otherwise useless, and Action cards let you do all kinds of things, like gaining additional cards or actions on your turn, or getting rid of useless cards, or penalizing other players. Every time you play through your deck, you reshuffle your discard pile and start over, so you can continue to replay cards as your deck gets bigger. The player with the most Victory Points at the end of the game wins.

There is more to the rules than what I've outlined here, and you will want to be pretty familiar with how the game is played before starting, as isotropic's port of the game doesn't offer much hand-holding. Luckily, once you've grasped the fundamentals, online Dominion is easy to jump into. Finding a game is as simple as picking a username (you can sign in with a Google or Yahoo! account, but you don't have to), selecting the number of players you want (I like the 2 player game), and waiting for a match to accept. Once you are in a game, you just click on a card to use it, or click on the "+$" to spend your coins and select a card on the left to buy. The game keeps track of how many actions and buys you have and when you need to discard, and you can hover the cursor over a card to see what it does. Some more esoteric features of Dominion online can be found in isotropic's FAQ, but a basic understanding of the rules is all you need to play most games. So give Dominion online a try! If you're already a Dominion fan, you know why you should, and if you aren't yet a fan, you just might become one.

Play Dominion online

Thanks to Dubdubdubdub for sending this one in!


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (104 votes)
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TrickyFreeway Fury 2So, you're in the middle of a road trip, and it looks like there's some construction up ahead. The sign clearly says that cars need to merge to the left lane, but it seems like some geniuses are going to speed past the line forming and try to cut in at the last minute. So now traffic is moving at 15 feet a second, the radio has nothing but an endless loop of "Where Are You Christmas?", and the kid in the car in front of you is making faces at you. Doesn't it make you judge want to climb on your roof, commandeer whatever vehicles come along, and carve a swath of explodey destruction across the interstate? Well, no... they'd miss you at NaNa's house. But wouldn't an arcade driving game with that premise sure help blow off steam? Freeway Fury 2, new from Serius Games, lets you fulfill your wildest road rage fantasies in the comfort of your own home.

Move your car around the freeway using the [arrow] keys, trying to reach checkpoints before the timer runs out. Things are pretty crowded, so holding the [Z] key will start a bullet-time mode where you climb on the roof of your car. Jump to a new one by aiming with the [arrow] keys (including diagonally), but watch out: if you miss, you're street pizza. Earn bonus points by jumping on strings of cars, knocking others off the road, and speeding face-first into oncoming traffic. Doing these tricks will also grant you some Nitrous Oxide which, when the up key is held, gives your car's speed a boost. Make it to all seven exits, and the final boss awaits.

The original Freeway Fury was a fun time-waster, but it's here in the sequel that the Grand Theft Frogger concept really lives up to its potential. From the impressive variety of automobiles to hijack, to the varied landscapes, to the arcade-perfect sound effects, Freeway Fury 2 should get your heart-rate climbing as fast as the speedometer. The controls do take some getting used to. You should expect a lot of road rash before getting a sense of exactly how far you can jump. Also, health bars would've been a good addition. Considering the bonus points up for grabs, it definitely should be more obvious to tell if a vehicle won't fall apart if it drives another school bus off the road. However, if players are willing to put in the practice to find the rhythm in the mechanics, they'll find that Freeway Fury 2 burns rubber with the best of them.

Play Freeway Fury 2


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Rating: 4/5 (81 votes)
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Weekday Escape

SonicLoverLift For LifeIt's oldie time again here at Weekday Escape. Lift For Life is a 1977 rock song by Iggy Pop about... no, wait, that's Lust for Life. Let me try that again.

Lift For Life is an escape game by SuzumeDr, whom you may remember for Triangle a while back. The game takes place in a room with a somewhat athletic theme, as well as an adjustable glass table that's a little too low, a nice TV hooked to a game console, two strange pedestals that seem to react to one another, and a few other fixings. Naturally, you've got some puzzle-solving and some inventory management to do.

The controls are pretty standard: click the edges of the screen to turn, and click objects to zoom in, manipulate, or pick up. Click once to select an object in your inventory for use; click twice to inspect it.

Analysis: SuzumeDr is one of those developers with a special style exemplified in all his/her games, and Lift for Life is a definite demonstration. One of his/her hallmarks is the set of charming sound effects heard throughout the game, some of which could have easily come from a drum set (such as the "dah-tik" of a cabinet door opening).

Another such hallmark is the graphics. There are a number of escape game developers, such as Tomatea and Tesshi-e, who take pride in creating games with pretty, photorealistic images. SuzumeDr isn't one of them; (s)he is quite content with neat polygonal graphics, which work just as well and help you focus on the puzzles. After all, who cares about realism in a room filled with goofy tricks and traps?

The gameplay's a bit trickier than Triangle, but nowhere near unbearable. There's no changing cursor, but the one time you have to click somewhere unintuitive there's a hint for it. One puzzle in particular can be a massive headache, but if you quit and come back to it you can try an easier version of it. What would have to be the game's biggest weakness is the very last puzzle, which is both somewhat unintuitive and colorblind-unfriendly.

Overall, we've got ourselves a splendid escaper that's definitely worth a try to break up your weekday blues, even if it is a few months old. Go out there and get your Lift on! For Life!

Play Lift For Life


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (88 votes)
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TrinnArmed with Wings: CulminationThe time has finally come, Lone Warrior. Every other member of the rebel army is dead, but in Armed With Wings: Culmination, the tyrant Vandheer Lorde is finally within your grasp. Grab your katanas, folks, because Sun Studios have outdone themselves again with the last action platformer of the Armed with Wings series.

You start your adventure in the middle of a tense chase between the two bitter rivals. Pursue the elusive Vandheer Lorde by controlling your shadowy protagonist with the [arrow] keys. You can swing your sword with the [A] key, tapping three more times in succession for a chain attack. Continuous strikes build combo points and fill the bars to enable your special attacks, performed with the [S], [D], and [W] keys.

Gameplay is linear and fairly straight forward. Either attack or avoid your way through enemies and obstacles to reach the glowing goal at the end of each of the 15 levels. Unlike the first and third games of the series, there isn't much in the way of environmental puzzles other than some avoidance based platforming. So, if you're the type to look before you leap, you won't encounter much difficulty surviving these challenges.

Armed with Wings: Culmination Analysis: Culmination really is the perfect word to summarize the experience in retrospect. The best elements of the earlier installments have been cherry picked while the tired, clunky, or unsavory aspects are nowhere to be found, resulting in a wholly unique playstyle. These changes create an uninterrupted, albeit more basic, game and shift the focus from puzzle-solving to platforming and seamlessly flowing combat. Abilities are designed to be performed in unison, which can be a bit tricky at first. Once you've mastered the rhythm, however, you'll stack combo after combo with ease. What has remained the same is the beautiful design. The visual style has stayed true to its familiar aesthetic, but with notable improvements. The monochromatic backgrounds are stunning and the characters in silhouette work perfectly with the fluid combat animations.

While Armed with Wings: Culmination could easily excel as a standalone game, it's all the more impressive as the finale to the evolution of a memorable series. There's something to be admired of a title that isn't afraid to constantly reinvent itself rather than re-release a one-note song. While it may not be as complex as its predecessors and there are some minor flaws, this game boasts intuitive, fluid action and beautiful visuals that come with its elegant simplicity. Even if you were previously a stranger to the Lone Warrior, play for just a few minutes and you'll find yourself easily sucked in to his story and compelled to exact his vengeance.

Play Armed with Wings: Culmination


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (286 votes)
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elleGraffiti 2Momma always said, "Life is like a box of crayons." Some people are green like frogs or rock stars. Others, well, they see RED everywhere they look. If you're feeling blue, don't be harshing my mellow yellow. Escape crafter Nanchatte gets it: in this new escape-the-room game, Graffiti 2, free play with a box of four crayon colors doesn't end with a scolding and your nose in the corner for an unjust timeout.

Grab the crayons and click them into use around the room to build shelves and drawers, keys to unlock doors and assorted useful objects. Scrawlings on the wall and floor transform into the beautiful creations you always knew you had in you, but Mom just couldn't see (Sheesh! You'd think she'd appreciate your amazingly affordable home design.) Where to use what is made apparent by clues strewn about along with a number of puzzles to unravel before your exit door is constructed. Happily, the cursor also changes to help you find interactive areas. Employ the save button so you can reset and re-adjust your chromatic experimentation. Even after all that replay, Graffiti 2 ends too soon but is oogles of fun while it lasts.

Play Graffiti 2

Thanks to Nicop for sending this one in!


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (183 votes)
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joyeLegend of the VoidTurn-based combat has lost favor in the world of console gaming, but it seems to be enjoying a resurgence in casual games, and Legend of the Void by Blake Kimball of Obelisk Games is the latest success in the field. Be a rogue, mage, or warrior and get your RPG fix as you struggle to stop an evil villain bent on a demonic ritual. Featuring solid writing, an excellent tutorial, and plenty of side-quests, it's amazing that this was all created by just one person.

You might want to keep the tutorial on if it's your first time playing, but even if you turn it off, you shouldn't have too hard a time figuring things out if you're at all familiar with RPG conventions. Walk (or run by toggling [R]) around a map by clicking to indicate where you want your party to travel. Interact with yellow-outlined treasure and quest-giving NPCs, blue-outlined NPCs, and red-outlined battles simply by walking into them. Once you're in battle, you'll have several hotkeyed attack and defense options to choose from, and everyone takes their turn in neat and orderly fashion, unless they're stunned or dead of course. As you level up, you can upgrade your attributes and buy spells and skills. At any point, you can reset and spend your points again if you're having difficulty.

Legend of the VoidAnalysis: It's fairly unlikely you'll be having difficulty, because the game only has one difficulty level and it's on the easy side. If you prefer a more difficult game, you could always skip sidequests and go for a speedrun. The game is more adaptable in graphics quality, offering three levels of quality, but even the lowest level is surprisingly good. The writing is on the level of many console RPGs and the plot moves along at a good clip, which also avoids repetitive grinding. You generally don't fight the same kinds of normal enemies for more than a couple of fights, and the game includes lots of unique mini-boss type battles, as well as the final showdown of course. And with three classes with completely different (and super fun) abilities, it's got a lot of replay value.

The developer has really been top-notch in responding to ideas since the release of the game, resulting in a title that seems to have gotten better every time you check back. Most of the minor flaws that accompanied the first release have been fixed, and the developer plans to do even more, even perhaps adding difficulty levels, while still other improvements (such as female characters and more customization of appearance) are planned for future installments. This is a superb gem of a game that is just getting brighter and brighter.

Play Legend of the Void


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (43 votes)
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TrickyPixel HatePixel Hate, an arcade shoot-em-up from Arcade Bomb, has the kind of vague retro-ness that's hard to tie to any particular technology level. The title-screen looks like an ZZT game, the enemies are strictly Atari 2600, the soundtrack has the robotic edge of an early 90s arcade, and the flashy explosions remind one of recent bullet hells. Still, despite the mish-mash of elements, Pixel Hate is very enjoyable to play. Just use the mouse to steer your ship, left click to fire, and nab any power-ups that fall for more explosive strength. Shooting pixels off of enemies until flying objects literally fill the screen makes for simple and addictive gameplay, even if the gun overheats too quickly.

There is definitely room for improvement in the design: later levels can be hit with serious slowdown, likely due to the number of objects displayed. Also, the concept behind the level bosses is clever enough that it's a shame only the same sequence of three are given again and again. That said, Pixel Hate is oddly compelling and should be enjoyed by fans of the genre. Turn up the sound and prepare to relive a period of gaming history that never quite happened before!

Play Pixel Hate


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The Vault

DoraRiddle me this, oh digital traveler... what is one of the finest SNES-era action adventure platformers to ever see the light of day? Now slap yourself briskly across the chops with a white dueling glove if you answered anything other than Super Metroid. Who would have ever suspected that Metroid would join forces with the esteemed Castlevania series to inspire a new genre? Metroidvania games, as they're called, are titles generally characterised by gameplay in a big, open world that encourages exploration, is packed with secrets, and has a ton of upgrades for players to discover and unlock. One of the best loved examples of this is 2005 indie darling Cave Story, but here are three more games to scratch that "gotta unlock 'em all" itch!

  • Level Up!Level Up! - You may have heard it said that diamonds are a girl's best friend, but that's only if you can't get your hands on any magical enchanting red gems. This charming and goofy but unexpectedly deep little game from Nifty Hat follows a young girl who wakes up one morning to find a boy who apparently fell from the sky and crash landed outside her house. If she can track down these crimson jewels and bring them back to him, he might regain his memory even as she unlocks new powers herself... but that's easier said than done when she seems to be suffering memory loss every day herself. The game has a fantastic retro aesthetic and a strange world well worth exploring that combine to make this an easy choice for gamers who haven't tried a Metroidvania game before to leap right into the genre.
  • endeavorendeavor - While a lot of players drew a lot of comparisons with Shadow of the Colossus, just as many fell in love with this sweeping, sprawling game about a dwarf, scorned for being a runt, who falls from his home in the mountains and discovers an entire world below the clouds. One full of magic, mystery, and quite possibly the key to making his clansmen respect him. While the world you explore had a tendency to feel a little empty, with NPCs somewhat on the scarce side, it was also huge and packed with different areas, secrets, and power-ups. A surprisingly engrossing atmosphere, and sparse but effective and intriguing storytelling definitely make this one to check out, especially if you've ever been considered the runt of the litter yourself. Although... we recommend not expecting the same results if you hurl yourself off a cliff. (World of magic not guaranteed and all that.)
  • Robot Wants KittyRobot Wants Kitty - The series that made Hamumu a star arguably began with one orange kitten. (See? Told you cats rule and all other pets drool!) You play a robot of limited capabilities who desperately wants the cat that looks like it's juuuuuuust out of reach, and must explore a big, hostile environment to track down all the various weapons and upgrades he needs to finally get a furball to call his own. The game's fantastic style, silly premise, and variety of things to discover made it an instant hit with gamers who loved old-school platforming gameplay. Is it any wonder it went on to inspire three more successful installments, and our own banner game? Now that's one greedy robot!

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


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (85 votes)
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Pixel QuestJohnBPixel Quest: The Lost Idols is a retro-themed platform adventure starring Rex, an adventurer who wears a spiffy little hat. Finding treasure is his favorite activity, and today he's on the hunt for the Golden Frog idols. It's your job to keep Rex alive as you dash through several dozen levels, each well-stocked with falling spikes, lava pits, and traps that come out of nowhere. You know, standard treasure-hunting adventurey stuff!

Our well-dressed hero has plenty of moves he can pull off in this pixellated world. Move with the [arrow] or [WASD] keys, and tap [W] or [up] to jump. You can crouch and move to crawl, as well as double jump, wall slide, wall jump and even dash in mid-air! Which methods you use to work your way across dangerous zones is entirely up to you, but keep in mind that dangerous things can and will happen, and you'll need to be able to react immediately or face an unseasonable death.

Each stage has plenty of treasures for you to collect, and if you want a perfect score, you'll need to do some acrobatics in order to nab them all and make it to the exit. Each level has three skull tokens, several triangular gems, and keys that unlock doors you'll need access to in order to leave. All of this is stashed in a relatively small space, but you can't just grab it in one run. The levels in Pixel Quest allow you to take many different paths, some a little more dangerous than others.

Pixel Quest: The Lost Idols is a lengthy and moderately challenging platform game that's great for a quick fix. It gives you plenty of freedom to do things your way, whether that be dashing in mid-air to grab skulls over a burning pit of lava, or sliding down a wall to pick up a few gems. As long as you stay alive, you'll have a great time!

Play Pixel Quest


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (146 votes)
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joyeOUKANobody knows how to make relaxing yet still brain-teasing mouse-based puzzle games like Yoshio Ishii of NekoGames, and his new game OUKA is no exception. Move your cursor to a symbol of a cherry blossom (the meaning of "ouka" in Japanese) and click on it. Sound easy? Well, the symbol doesn't always play by the rules, and it's your job to figure out what the catch is in each of sixteen levels. It's a more simple affair than even the original Hoshi Saga, but the soothing charcoal grey and delicate chimes make this more soothing than an evening of yozakura in Tokyo. And unlike cherry blossom viewing, you can play this game all year round.

Play OUKA


(2 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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ZONR

JohnBZONR, from the master if bite-sized iOS games Klick Tock (creator of Doodle Find, Little Things, Super Search 60), will engage you for longer than you'll care to admit. The simple reflex game is focused on quick recognition skills, challenging you to act fast, act decisively, and recover from your mistakes without hesitation. Stressful? Never! More fun than it ought to be? You bet!

zonr.gifA round of ZONR lasts 90 seconds, and during that time, you'll stare at dozens of block arrangements, each featuring a number of different sized shapes. All you need to do is touch the largest shape in the bunch, then you move on to the next screen. Simple, but as the challenge ramps up, you'll have to be both precise and fast at the same time. Chaining together correct touches starts a score multiplier and gives you more compact block arrangements that are more difficult to decipher. Touch the wrong block, however, and your multiplier goes down, taking the difficulty down a notch with it.

ZONR is all about getting a good score, comparing that score to other ZONR players, and unlocking new skins by playing rounds over and over again. You can change the look of the game by swiping to the side on the main menu. Each skin gives you a different color scheme and a different background. The changes are only cosmetic, but in a game like this, looks matter!

zonr2.gifAnalysis: ZONR is simple, easy to figure out how to play, and wildly conducive to short bursts of play. If you've got a spare minute and a half, you can play a round of ZONR, making any excuse you could come up with not to play sound pretty lame. Homework to do? It's just a minute or two! Gotta get to work on time? 90 seconds won't matter! Brain surgery patient waiting in operating room four? Maybe a quick round to hone your reflexes!

Forming a strategy is important in ZONR, even though it looks like a game of pure reflexes. Because your score goes up more by correct guesses, it's more of an advantage to touch the right shape slowly than it is to select the wrong one quickly. Wildly hitting things on the screen will get you practically nowhere, whereas deliberate tapping is the key to success.

Simple games are king on the iOS platform, and ZONR never tries to over-complicate itself. Pure, repeatable fun with good incentives to go back and fight for a better score. Go on, you can break 500,000, you know you can!


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Mobile Monday

JohnBStill not sure iOS devices are a serious gaming platform? Game designers sure think they are, and the result is more and more big games making their way to the touch screen. Minecraft is a fine example of this, and this week, it's making its iOS debut with a highly playable portable version of the desktop game!

snoopysstreetfair.gifSnoopy's Street Fair (universal) - It's hard to ignore the power of free-to-play games, especially when they follow the hyper-addictive formula set by the likes of Smurf's Village and Tiny Tower. Snoopy's Street Fair drops you in the Peanuts' neighborhood where you can manage things like Sally's lemonade stand and Lucy's "advice" booth, selling all sorts of things to passers-by as you gather coins, unlock bonus items (including scans of the original comic strips), and send Snoopy out on various quests. It's every bit as engaging as games like We Rule, but with the careful attention to detail, a lighter emphasis on the minutae of management, and the deluge of nostalgic characters, this one could be an even bigger hit.

chickon.gifChickon (universal) - From the creator of the Risk-like strategy game Galcon comes a very similar sort of game involving chickens, eggs, and robots! Send your little warriors to the robots' nests in order to slowly take them over. You gradually build up eggs while roosting, and the more nests you own, the more troops you can command! Fight off the machines as your work your way to the caged roosters, and once you free them, it's on to the factories for some seriously swarm-like levels. Power-ups give things an extra splash, but to get some good use out of them, you'll probably want to dip into the game's microtransaction system.

minecraft-ios.gifMinecraft: Pocket Edition (universal) - Around the same time Minecraft left its beta phase, the first iOS version of the game was released! Just like its Android brother, this mobile version of the sandbox building/exploration game only features the most basic gameplay elements at the moment. Tromp around the block world, creating and removing cubes as you see fit to build a towering... well, anything! There's not much to see beyond that at the moment, but you can save worlds and play with friends on your maps, so that's a great start.

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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Girl with a Heart of

JohnBGirl with a Heart of is a sidescrolling adventure game that plays like an interactive, art-filled story. Making choices during conversations serves as the meat of the game, and what information you bring out and discuss with characters not only shapes the knowledge you take away, but it also affects future conversations. The characters, storyline, and backstory are all richly detailed and create a provocative dystopian science fiction setting, one that you'll happily dive into with each and every scrap of conversation.

Girl with a Heart ofGirl with a Heart of takes place in Underfoot, a subterranean city built the Dark race of people who fled from the uninhabitable surface. As the eleven year old Raven, you were separated from your parents during an attack by the Light army, and now, as sickness spreads and renewed attacks are looming, Raven learns she has a unique ability that can help save her world from destruction.

Most of the gameplay in Girl with a Heart of revolves around text conversations, and the greatest decisions you'll make involve choosing which branches of the discussion to pursue. You can move left and right with the [A] and [D] keys, interact with things using [spacebar], and make choices using the number keys. Even though the world of Underfoot is filled with details, you only have to worry about moving right or left. When you can interact with something or talk to someone, a prompt appears at the top of the screen. How events play out and what options are available at any given moment is mostly linear, but the choices you make during conversations are anything but.

Raven slowly learns more about her world and her unique condition (which we won't discuss in this review, as it's so better to learn about it in the game) by talking with various people in Underfoot. She can ask questions, pursue various topics, and visit different levels of the city to get things done. Pressing the [C] key brings up Raven's status menu that allows you to manage a few stats and take a look at any items she has in her possession. Using skill points, you can increase Raven's ability to ferret out information from people or help her lie more effectively, two attributes that open up new conversation possibilities in the game. And, later, you'll deal with magic and some combat, but again, it's best to save that for the game!

Girl with a Heart ofAnalysis: It's always surprising to uncover a well-written story inhabiting a game like Girl with a Heart of. With so many projects nowadays focusing on technical prowess, it's easy to ignore the fact that one way to engage gamers is to provide a smart, intriguing story with little more than tightly-woven text conversations. While you don't need fancy visuals to accomplish that, Girl with a Heart of enhances its story with exceptional art direction. The world of Underfoot comes alive with detailed illustrations that loom in the background, prompting you to ask questions that have no answers. At least, no answers you've discovered yet...

One aspect that's mildly awkward is the integration of text and the game's visual world. Strolling along the streets and talking with people works just fine, but with the indicator that shows when you can interact with things at the top corner of the screen, you'll spend more time staring at the black bar above than the scenery. Flicking your eyes back and forth becomes a habit, but it seems that moving the text to the bottom of the screen, where Raven's actions take place, would be more conducive to comfortable gameplay.

Girl with a Heart of is a deep, detailed interactive story laced with adventure and RPG elements. The gameplay is minimal, but the intricacies of the world you're involved with will capture you from the very beginning. Raven's growth and development as you play ensures you'll stay enchanted through the very end. Not only that, you'll get to finish the sentence that begins "Girl with a Heart of...".

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the full version


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Rating: 4.8/5 (230 votes)
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Minecraft

JohnBNot too long ago, a relatively unknown indie programmer called Notch posted a work-in-progress version of a sandbox building game on the TIGSource forums. It was called Minecraft, and at the time, people thought it was really very cool. Fast forward to the present and Minecraft has sold over four million copies, been through extended alpha and beta phases, spawned the Mojang indie studio, and gained so much popularity, the launch of its official version took place at a Las Vegas convention dubbed MineCon. That's an impressive feat for any game, let alone one started by a single person. But now, Minecraft 1.0.0 is officially out. No more beta, no more alpha, it's here. And there are plenty of reasons to get hooked all over again!

MInecraftMinecraft has technically been available for quite some time. Anyone could swing in and purchase the game during its development phases, getting a bit of a discount in favor of access to earlier builds. Minecraft has grown from a very simple "run around, destroy blocks, place blocks" game of exploration to a full-blown survival experience, allowing you to gather items, craft dozens of tools and objects, and deal with various enemies that inhabit the world. You can make working circuits, craft movable pillars, minecarts that run on tracks, cook food, create weapons and armor, and even bake a delicious cake. It's your world to sculpt and mine as you wish, and it's the best way to lose days of your life without even realizing that time has passed!

With the release of Minecraft 1.0.0, something very important has been added to the game: a purpose. Before, the only quests you had were the ones you made up yourself. Now, you can actually beat the game, something that might seem entirely pointless for the game that practically invented the modern sandbox genre. Beating the game and seeing the ending requires you to build a portal that leads to another dimension and defeat the final boss, an Enderdragon. Naturally, that's not going to happen right after you fire up the game, so it gives you something to work for, even if it's just another goal in your grand schemes to build a scale model of the galaxy out of wool blocks you dyed yourself.

MInecraftThe official Minecraft release also brings with it loads of other changes and adjustments, including new mobs, new terrain (mushroom biomes, anyone?), new blocks, animal breeding, potions, adjustments to armor and combat, non-player characters inhabiting villages, as well as the ability to enchant objects. The full list is even more impressive and shows that Minecraft 1.0.0 really is a different experience than the alpha or beta versions.

Analysis: Reviewing Minecraft is a lot like writing a review for sliced bread. It's there, it feels like it's always been there, so you never really think about it as a minor miracle. There's really no need to gush on and on about how great Minecraft is. We've reviewed two versions of it before, from the early original Minecraft release to Minecraft Alpha, so you know exactly what to expect.

Minecraft is still available as both a single player and multi-player experience. You can host your own game on your computer or even sign up for a hosted service that runs the game for you. The Minecraft modding community is one of the most active on the web, and they have created some phenomenal alterations to the game that include cosmetic alterations as well as serious gameplay changes. There are hundreds if not thousands of mods available, and it's well worth your time to browse Planet Minecraft and MinecraftForum.net to see what you can see.

Minecraft has official versions for iPhone/iPad, Android phones, and soon, Xbox 360. The mobile versions are far from complete, but you can place and remove blocks, which is the core experience no matter how you cut it.

In the future, Mojang plans to continue updating and adding to Minecraft, refining the experience and giving us players more thing to craft, build, and, well, run from in screaming terror. It's been a phenomenal development period, and things certainly won't slow down now that the real product has been released. Here's to more mining and more crafting!

WindowsWindows:
Play the free Minecraft Classic (also in multiplayer)
Order Minecraft 1.0.0

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Play the free Minecraft Classic (also in multiplayer)
Order Minecraft 1.0.0

LinuxLinux:
Play the free Minecraft Classic (also in multiplayer)
Order Minecraft 1.0.0


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The Keepers: Lost Progeny

DoraIn Blam! Games' unusually gory hidden-object adventure The Keepers: Lost Progeny, a photograph that shows up on your doorstep one night sends you on a trip to an isolated town. You've spent your whole life in orphanages, like any respectable dramatic protagonist, and you believe the people in the photo may be your only link to your family. Too bad it leads you straight to a town heaving with fiery chasms, elaborate murders, and an ancient secret. Turns out this is the sort of place that's less known for its chili cook-offs and more for the signs of the apocalypse that keep cropping up everywhere, as well as an unfortunate epidemic of dead that's been going around. Will you solve the mystery of your heritage before you end up just another corpse?

The Keepers: Lost ProgenyLike many titles these days, Lost Progeny comes with three flavours of difficulty, though the gameplay remains largely the same apart from whether interactive areas are highlighted and how often your hint/skip function recharges. All you need to do to play is explore. You'll discover secrets and useful items as you solve puzzles as you get deeper into the town. It goes without saying that you're in a fair bit of danger; it isn't enough that there are fiery pits and hell hounds about, but there's also a malevolent force at your back that is closer than you realise. If you're ever unsure where to go next, you can click the hint button to be pointed in the right direction.

A few more points of importance before we get to the nitty-gritty. As you've probably sussed out by now, it takes no fewer than three murders and an unholy ritual or two in a hidden object game to get anyone out of bed these days. The Keepers goes well beyond that with the gore being sloshed gleefully around here. It isn't that it's particularly shocking or vile, it's that most hidden object games tend to shy away from anything more violent than a brisk round of fisticuffs, so if you don't like blood and guts, well, caveat emptor. Lost Progeny also requires around 1.5 GB of space to install, so make sure you move all your My Little Pony folders to a USB drive or something before you commit if you're low on space.

The Keepers: Lost ProgenyAnalysis: For a game about unholy rituals and grisly murder, The Keepers: Lost Progeny sure is purdy. The design artfully uses flame and ember to make areas look otherworldly, and there's a lot of great detail that makes every environment worth a closer look. While the voice acting isn't always top-notch and the facial animations when characters are speaking is often just creepy, you'll still appreciate the frequent cutscenes because they help to make you feel like you're engaged in the story. That immersion even extends to the gameplay somewhat; this might be the first in its genre to use the player's name in a small but clever way that helps to actually make you feel like you're taking part to the story. Of course, if you're like myself and possessed of girly bits, that warm fuzziness will fade somewhat when the game starts throwing masculine identifiers at you shortly after, but it's the thought that counts.

The hidden-object scenes do feel as though they've been phoned in a little, with a fair amount of "find x amount of this thing", and many of them are so dim and dingy you may reach for the hint button just to save your eyes. It doesn't help matters that hit detection can be annoyingly exact when it comes to tiny items, are there are at least two instances where the game will ask you to find, say, a bottle, despite there being multiple bottles in the scene. Fortunately, the rest of the gameplay fares much better despite being typical "track down this missing puzzle piece" fare. The puzzles you'll encounter likely won't surprise you, but their presentation is almost always stellar, serving up beautifully redesigned versions of familiar concepts that fit the setting perfectly and are ghoulishly cool. None of them are particularly challenging, and you've always got the option to skip if you just can't be bothered.

As you might expect from a game that prominently features a de-skinning doberman in the opening sequence (no, it's cool, he seems fine with it), things get more than a little weird throughout the course of the story. Ancient evils, holy orders, conspiracies, an unusually epic ending sequence... everything gets very dramatic and convoluted in a way that calls to mind a Dan Brown novel mixed with a 1980's horror flick, minus a dance montage with some teenagers or two. But since when is a little cheesiness a bad thing? At around four hours it's a solid length, and the Collector's Edition comes with two bonus chapters that add another hour or so to length and help frame up the inevitable sequel. The Keepers: Lost Progeny is strange but entertaining and, undeniably, a bit of a looker to boot.

A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains two bonus chapters, 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


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Weekend Download

JohnBWe've got some serious subject matter on the plate for this edition of Weekend Download. Grief, loss, religion, philosophy, government conspiracies, and probably a whole lot more hiding beneath the surface! Only venture forth if you've got a mind ready to do some serious digesting...

thirteenthyear.gifThe Thirteenth Year (Mac/Win/Linux, 40MB, free) - Visual novels aren't everyone's thing, but a good story is enjoyed by all. The Thirteenth Year is a short visual novel with a minimum amount of interactive elements that spins a philosophical tale in a war-torn fantasy/steampunk world. A strange traveler in a brown cloak is the central figure, though his origins and motives remain a mystery while you take on the role of several different characters, each of whom has an unusual experience while conversing with the boy. There are three endings to discover, and the story will take a little over an hour to complete. You'll be riveted to the screen the entire time!

wither.gifWither (Windows, 17MB, free) - It seems like most games created with RPG Maker do a great job at being ignored by most people. Well, Wither is a little bit different and deserves a second (first?) chance. Styled like a classic Game Boy green-on-black game and using a few sound effects and sprites ripped from very recognizable sources, Wither tells the tale of a boy crippled with grief over a recent death. Explore the small area and talk to the characters to get a sense of what happened, then do what any good video game character does when there's nothing left to do: take a nap. Here, nightmares occur, presenting you with new worlds to explore. All in all, Wither is fairly thin on gameplay but very thick on emotion. It's a game about sadness, guilt, and devotion, and its non-linear exploration-based gameplay makes it a delight to sample. The fact that it looks so retro is just a nice bonus!

caldwellincident.gifThe Caldwell Incident (Windows, 17MB, free) - A short adventure game that would feel right at home as the plot of an X-Files episode. In the year 19XX in a small town in Alaska, Toss is woken late in the night by his friend Jenny tossing rocks at his window. Dressing and carefully climbing down, he learns she spotted something unusual nearby. First, you've got to get out of town without raising suspicion. Then, it's on to some serious investigating!

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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azada-3_494x190.jpg

GrinnypRemember Titus? Sure you do, he's that dummy who got himself trapped in a magic book his malevolent uncle left lying around. Then he called on you to help free a library from an evil genie who was ruining the classic stories contained within. It's been a few years, but Titus is back in the latest (and greatest) installment of the Azada series of adventure/hidden object hybrids, Azada: In Libro. That darned evil uncle is trying to take over the magical land of Azada once again, and this time it's personal!

grinnyp_azadainlibro_screenshot1.jpgWhile the original Azada was basically a ton of puzzles strung together with a bare-bones story, and Azada: Ancient Magic played like a series of small self-contained room escapes taking place within classic tales, Azada: In Libro is a fully realized point-and-click adventure within the land of Azada itself. Titus' evil uncle is once again attempting to take over Azada, attacking the three guardians of the land who hold the three keys which are, well, the key to getting in. What said uncle doesn't seem to realize is the fact that if Azada falls, so does the real world. Or, maybe he does know and just doesn't care in his bid for power. Titus has called upon you to enter the realm of Azada and rescue the three guardians before his uncle can get his grubby mitts on them.

grinnyp_azadainlibro_screenshot2.jpgAzada: In Libro plays like a true adventure hybrid with a changing cursor, navigation arrows, a clue notebook, and the works. A bottom-loading inventory keeps track of the multiple items you will pick up along the way, most of them needed to activate the multitude of mini-games and puzzles hidden within the scenery. With few hidden object scenes and no lists, Azada: In Libro plays more like a classic point-and-click adventure than a hybrid. There are three modes of play included: Casual, which includes the usual refilling hint-timer, sparkles to indicate areas of interest, and the occasional text hint when an item is clicked on; Advanced, which keeps the refilling timer (it just refills slower) and the text hints, but loses the sparkles; and Hard, which has neither sparkles nor text hints, and the refilling timer is extremely slow to reactivate.

Analysis: It's been a long, long time (nearly 4 years) since Azada last enchanted us with its beautiful graphics and wicked puzzle-solving, and the time was very well spent indeed. Azada: In Libro has made the leap to full adventure story and wandering around the enchanted worlds of Azada is definitely time well spent. Lots of effort has gone into ramping up the gameplay, especially the adventure portion of the game.

grinnyp_azadainlibro_screenshot3.jpgMost of the focus in Azada: In Libro is still on the puzzle solving, with puzzles and mini-games popping up everywhere you turn. In addition to the usual suspects of jigsaws, sliders, and the like effort has been made to create original and challenging games as well. Everything, games, puzzles, the occasional hidden object elements, are wrapped up in the gorgeous graphics which change in tone as you move further and further into the fantasy world of Azada. The lovely music is the perfect accompaniment as you rush to keep Titus' uncle from destroying everything in his evil quest.

Although not as long as it could be, Azada: In Libro is still a pretty hefty adventure quest incorporating a lot of amusing brain-teasers along the way. The only thing missing is, perhaps, the wonder of wandering through so many different fantasy worlds as in Azada: Ancient Magic. Here you are confined to only three, which is tiny let-down after the vast variety available in Ancient Magic. This is a minor quibble, however, as the locations in Azada: In Libro are stunning in their own right. And despite being marketed as a hybrid, there are very few hidden object elements to be found in the three worlds, which might be disappointing those who really enjoy that sort of thing.

Try the rest of the Azada series:

For anyone who enjoys adventuring, though, Azada: In Libro is definitely a must have game. The three modes of play guarantee a gaming experience which can be enjoyed by a wide variety of skill levels, and the beauty and wonder of Azada itself is definitely worth the visit. Get ready to help Titus and defeat that evil uncle once again!

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

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

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


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Rating: 4.3/5 (205 votes)
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joyeFirebugImagine that you want to get some delicious jelly beans. However, when you attempt to get them, you set the floor beneath you on fire, and if you're not quick enough, you drop into the unfathomable ocean. That would pretty much suck, right? How about if there were also disturbingly cheerful creatures hanging around who seemed to take unseemly joy into bursting into flames and setting ablaze floor you hadn't even gotten to yet? Such is the unfortunate life of Firebug, star of his own puzzle platform game from the Podge.

Firebug makes a lot of the right choices in its design: the whistling soundtrack is infectiously fun, the level design is clever, you don't have to collect every jelly bean (although you get a golden jelly bean if you do, which you can spend on presumably flame-retardant hats and shiny backgrounds), and if you fail a level too much, the game gives you a level skip option, which saves you from rage-quitting due to the occasionally wonky hit-detection or tricky (but unnecessary) double-jumping. With the level skip option you can skip the levels that are too frustrating and enjoy all the fun ones, which are still the majority of the game. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and grab those beans!

Play Firebug


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Rating: 3.5/5 (131 votes)
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joyeFlaming Zombooka 3: CarnivalHow shall I kill thee, zombie? Let me count the ways. I could slice you up on a spinning blade of death, or drop you into a fire, or smash you with a piano, or shoot you in the head with a rail gun, or straight up bazooka you in the chest. But not if you're a clown zombie, because everyone knows bazookas don't work on clowns. What? You didn't know that? Well, then you'd better play the new TurboNuke title Flaming Zombooka 3: Carnival where you can learn critical zombie-infested carnival survival techniques AND get your fill of physics puzzling at the same time.

With forty solid levels and a wicked sense of humor, Flaming Zombooka can give you one long marathon gaming experience or provide you with coffee breaks for weeks. The mouse controls are pretty solid, although a keyboard shortcut for switching between team members in levels with more than one hero would have made things simpler, similar to hitting [R] to restart a level. This developer duo has improved greatly in this genre since their release of Soccer Balls, and we'll definitely be looking forward to their future releases.

Play Flaming Zombooka 3: Carnival


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Rating: 4.2/5 (84 votes)
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DoraThe Little SailorWhen one little caterpillar wakes up from his cocoon to find he hasn't exactly transformed into the magnificent butterfly he expected, the others have no choice but to leave him behind as they head across the water. But with a little ingenuity, some elbow grease (do caterpillars have elbows?) and a lot of courage, he just might find his way yet in Small is Beautiful's spot-the-difference game The Little Sailor. Just find and click on the differences in the two seemingly identical images you're presented with in each scene; find all but two, and you can move on to the next stage, or click the lightbulb icon for a hint. Just keep your eyes peeled, since the hints aren't always that easy to spot.

The game is short at twelve pages, and definitely on the easy side, but the wee tots that are clearly the target audience probably won't mind considering how pudgy and cute the artwork is. You might find yourself turning the plucky but repetitive soundtrack off via the option menu after a few minutes, but if you've got a kid nearby and five minutes to spare, pull them on to your lap and sail away for some simple, cheery fun.

Play The Little Sailor


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Rating: 4/5 (39 votes)
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AlexMad Bombs 2The bad news is, the zombie apocalypse has returned. The good news is, so have the strangely charming, incoherently jabbering, self-sacrificing heroes who saved mankind the first time around. The team at DreamGate Company brings us the sequel to their original entertaining and ruthlessly addictive action puzzle platformer with Mad Bombs 2, and it's chock full of as much zombie-exploding goodness as its predecessor.

The controls are very straight-forward. Light the bomb's fuse using a torch or hanging lantern, then help him scurry and babble his way across the stage using the arrow keys to run and [spacebar] to jump. You have only seconds before everything goes ker-blammo, indicated by the number above the panicking bomb's head, so you'll have to be fast to ensure the little fella's sacrifice isn't in vain. Position the ticking bomb near a zombie to destroy him directly, or use the environment to your advantage by setting off chain reactions of TNT, or even launch cannon balls to do the dirty work for you. You have a limited number of bombs per level, indicated at the top left corner, and, for some of the later levels, you'll need them all.

The controls do sometimes feel a bit unresponsive and as if they're working against you at times, especially when you accidentally miss a jump or push a box just a tad too far to complete a level, making the game slightly less casual and a bit more keyboard smashable. The puzzles are smartly done, however, and become increasingly complex as you play due to the addition of deadly pitfalls, spikes, fiery rain, and physics elements like springboards. This prevents any of the 30 levels from ever feeling repetitive and ensures you'll have to pause and use your braaaaaainnns (I'm sorry) to clear the undead from some of the later trickier stages. The payoff is well worth it, though. Successfully completing a level is incredibly satisfying, especially when you finally get to watch those smug undead jerks shatter into a million pieces. They'll never get the deposit back from whatever pro-zombie costumes shop they rented those outfits from now!

Play Mad Bombs 2


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Rating: 3.9/5 (50 votes)
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DoraMiasma StoryWhat is it about jester suits that instantly turns a person evil... aside from the maddening jingle bells? In Cranktrain's short turn-based strategic RPG Miasma Story, three Town Guardians arrive to find their leader dead at the hands of a mysterious figure who can command the monsters rising from the abandoned Academy ruins.

Fights are handled in a turn-based, strategic style similar to the Final Fantasy Tactics series, though not quite as complex. Click on a character to be presented with a menu that will let you move them around the field, attack, use "Miasma" (the game's version of "magic"), and so forth. Each character has their own unique abilities, and as they level up you can spend points in their attributes and buy them new skills. Martin, for instance, gets to sling elemental spells around, while Jon can inflict negative statuses on enemies and August, as the girl, gets to heal everyone's boo-boos.

At around an hour or so, Miasma Story is a relatively short game without much replay value to speak of, owning largely to the non-interactive narrative and linear gameplay. It sort of feels as though someone ripped a handful of pages out of a book and handed them to you rather than giving you a complete story, especially since the ending doesn't really resolve anything or answer any questions. Still, as the first step in what is hopefully the direction for a bigger tale, Miasma Story is a nice way to spend a break in your day, and shows a lot of promise. Remember kids; Miasma... not even once!

Play Miasma Story


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraGet up, get up you sleepy head, it's time, it's time to get out of bed! Why? Well, not because of any stupid responsibilities if that's what you're thinking! The weekend is almost upon us, and today also marks a very big milestone for one success story! We take a look at some upcoming indie titles, including a pair of fan-made games from two very different sources that have the potential to make a lot of gamers very, very happy.

New and Noteworthy

  • DapsDaps - It's not just fun to say aloud, this little point-and-click adventure is fun to play, too! Centering around a trio of little furry critters who want nothing more than to track down the ingredients to make their favourite dish, it has a few issues with loading times and obscure solutions, but packs more than enough charm and character to keep you hooked. We're eagerly awaiting the next installment!
  • Bloom DefenderBloom Defender - Juicy Beast's simplified take on the tower defense genre proves as addictive as it is adorable! Plant trees with different powers from plucked blooms and unleash magic to help protect the mother tree from the incoming waves of corrupted spirits. With gorgeous style and easy to grasp gameplay, it's a cinch to see why this charming game won so many readers over so quickly.
  • 3 Slices3 Slices - Who would have thought that such a simple physics puzzle concept could prove so challenging? As the title states, you've only got three slices to attempt to hack off the target percentage of the red shape on the screen, but things quickly get tricky as you're forced to work around or within the confines of places that make you have to carefully plan ahead. The presentation is plain, but the execution is plainly elegant and fun!


Mother 4Preview Alert! Earthbound is a series of remarkably quirky but also surprisingly deep JRPGs that gained most of its audience in North America with the release of the sequel in 1995 for SNES. The series' rabid fanbase has spawned a whole lot of unofficial spinoffs, including a patch that translates the third installment to English, but few offerings are regarded with as much apprehension and hope as this upcoming unofficial installment. Making the jump from several popular game making software programs to its current development in C++, the title has been in development since 2008. It'll follow a boy named Travis who gets wrapped up in global danger when people everywhere start getting abducted by masked men and hostility breaks out everywhere. You can check out the official synopsis over at the site, as well as a batch of screenshots and a handy FAQ that may answer some of the questions you probably have. No word yet on release date, but news keeps coming down the pipe, so keep your eyes peeled! Boing!

My Little InvestigationsPreview Alert! If you loved the Ace Attorney games and have a soft-spot for ponies in your heart, then you might want to keep an eye squarely planted on this upcoming adventure game from Gabu, featuring everyone's favourite rebooted cartoon horsies and follows bookish unicorn Twilight Sparkle as she solves various cases around Ponyville, Phoenix-Wright style. You'll get to explore the town, track down clues, talk to all your favourite ponies, and even partner up with some of them to get help in your investigations! There's no official site currently, but there is a very extensive and updated developer blog stuffed full of everything from multiple video demos to the nitty-gritty technical stuff. (It should be noted the music and the pixel graphics are just placeholders.) What's already been revealed looks great and remarkably well done, so if you want to find out more and offer support or cupcakes, head on over!

The Flower Shop: Winter in FairbrookPreview Alert! Remember 2010's visual novel simulation The Flower Shop? Well, if you are of a lady-type persuasion, or just a fan of visual novels in general, you'll be happy to hear that a spin-off featuring a female protagonist called Winter in Fairbrook is drawing very near on the horizon! It follows a girl named Natalie who winds up working at a flower shop in the town of Fairbrook on her winter break, and maybe experiences a little personal growth and romance as a result. The game will be released by the fine folks over at Winter Wolves, so keep your eyes peeled! In the meantime, you can check out the updates from Sake Visual over at their blog including a lot more details, screenshots, and gameplay videos! Who's excited? I'm excited!

MinecraftReleased! After years in development and a growing fanbase that has made it one of the biggest successes in indie gaming history, Minecraft 1.0 will be available today! The sandbox game that became a phenomenon even has its own convention happening right now in Las Vegas, but even if you can't be there to celebrate, fans everywhere are doing their happy dances at the computer. This does mean, of course, that if you haven't already picked it up, you'll have to pay full price now that the game is available in full, but don't let that deter you. Team Mojang has stated that they intend to keep creating and releasing content for the game as long as there's interest. With an enormous community and tons of resources online, it looks like Minecraft's future is bright! Congratulations, Mojang! You did it! (And we can't wait to see Scrolls!)

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


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TrickyBlueprint 3DIf there's one thing all of us could use in life, it's a sense of perspective. At the very least, having one will help you in Blueprint 3D, the new puzzle game from Zedarus. You must use the mouse to rotate an apparently incomprehensible mass of illustrations to find the point of view where the whole plan will come together. The game is clearly a follow-up to the developer's own Starlight series, if with a more technical edge to the presentation and a bit more showiness in the graphics. If it doesn't quite reach the heights of its predecessor, it's not for lack of trying. After all, there's a nice variety of images in the 65 puzzles, including at least one Dalek. The precision required to pass a level is perhaps too strict, and the lack of a save system a definite flaw, but the concept is as uniquely engaging as ever. It's a game that certainly won't leave you blue.

Play Blueprint 3D


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Rating: 3.9/5 (59 votes)
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TrickyMysterious TreasuresIt's always fascinating when a developer, having come up with an engaging idea for a puzzle game, tries to justify the premise after the fact with a storyline. Case in point: Mysterious Treasures by Sky Mill. The ugly-cute comic book opening spins a twisted yarn of a lonely fisherman who pulls in a map to the Island of Treasure. The legendary pirate Green Beard once tried to loot the trove, not realizing the curse of the Red Ghost: that anyone who takes more cursed coins than happy coins would find their ship sunk and their bodies forever possessed by the ghost to serve as guardian of the treasure.

Got that? Okay, what it means is thus: The game is played on a grid littered with coins of both positive and negative value. Using the mouse, the player moves the marker chip along the horizontal axis to a box with one or more coins in it. These are then positively or negatively added to the player's score. The CPU then moves along the vertical axis to do the same. The game ends when all the coins are picked up or the player/CPU has no moves to make. The player must end with both a positive score and a score higher than the CPU. If not, the player loses a ship. Lose all five ships, and ye be cursed, matey.

Mysterious Treasures is quite the compelling game. It has the feel of the best kinds of strategic board games: rules simple enough to let players dive right in, but ones that ensure a skilled player can always triumph over the luck of the draw. The English translation of the text isn't 100%, which means players might have to play a couple rounds to fully understand the mechanics, but it's a small price to pay. Also, though it's a concept that cries out for it, there is sadly no two-player option, leaving the hit and miss CPU as your only opponent. Whatever flaws Mysterious Treasure may have, however, are outweighed by its strengths. It's a simple little game that makes for big fun.

Similar in concept to Riding Shotgun, also from the same developers, this version of the game is actually more simplified and casual. If you find it too easy or plain, give Riding Shotgun a try for more complexity in the gameplay department.

Play Mysterious Treasures


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You Are Games

Letters in Boxes #22

Artbegotti...Yeah, I'll just come right out and say it, salt has nothing to do with these puzzles. You've got four puzzles to tackle in this week's Letters In Boxes challenge. To play, click on the puzzle below to open the image up in a new window. When you think you've found an answer, go to your browser's address bar and change the image's filename (in this case, "start22") to your answer, making sure you stay in the same directory and maintaining the same file extension. If you're right, you'll zoom through to the next puzzle. If you're wrong, you'll get an error message, but you can always back up and try again.

Letters in Boxes #22 - 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, November 21st at 11:59 PM (GMT-5:00). Good luck!

Update: Congratulations to the following winners! :D

  • ThemePark ...First!
  • Sunney444
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 (98 votes)
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DoraChuck the SheepWho knew sheep resented being shorn so much? Or at least... this little guy does. In Chuck the Sheep, a launch game by jmtb02 featuring the adorable artistic stylings of Jimp, you play the titular woolly hero who thinks losing his fleece is the ultimate indignity. Naturally, the only way to avoid the farmer's shears is to craft a plane out of the materials he finds lying around the farm and soar to freedom!... eventually. After crashing into the ground a whole bit. Just hit the [spacebar] to launch Chuck when you're ready and use the [arrow] keys to keep him flying as long as possible. Just try to avoid hitting too many bombs (naturally occurring in the wilds), since that would be baaaaaad, and if you sustain enough damage there'll be mutton you can do about crashing.

Unlike most launch games, you don't get cash from thin air to upgrade your ride, and instead you'll have to do your best to snag resources such as wood or stone to craft improvements. (It sounds slightly more realistic until you see all the dirt clods floating in midair.) Like Jetpack Joyride, you'll also be given "quests" in the form of mini-objectives that will reward you with experience when completed... get enough experience to level up and be showered with a big resource prize for your efforts. If you're having trouble nabbing enough of a particular thing to upgrade, you can also exchange certain amounts of one item for another between launch days. This, and the ability to trade in cards you win for flying through rings, helps take the sting out of getting fleeced at the upgrades screen.

With a unique approach to upgrades, snappy gameplay, and, of course, Jimp's fantastic artwork, Chuck the Sheep is a fun and bouncy new addition to the launch category of games. You'll have to do a fair amount of grinding to get anywhere, but the objectives to accomplish on each launch helps to keep you occupied, and the shear amount of detail in your environments and items to bash means it's hard to find yourself bored. It's silly, it's cheerful, and it's got loads of personality that make it the perfect choice for a little break in your day. It's also got the... that... uh... sheep puns... aw, forget it, I can't think of any more!

Play Chuck the Sheep


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (386 votes)
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elleelle_daps_1.jpgEver wondered what happens when diminutive grey puffs stuffed with only personality and chutzpah have a hankering for a lip-licking, tummy-rubbing breakfast to start the day? Daps, part one of a charming new point-and-click adventure from Michael van Holker, proves that three hungry Graulings will stop at no threat before their craving is satisfied. Your goal is to guide them safely through their first expedition to the fruit and vegetable planet where they will gather the perfect ingredients for their favorite meal, the special "Daps" recipe.

Your ingenuity is called upon for fashioning tools and colluding in the tiny critters' subterfuge. It's a bit of a click fest looking for just the right hotspot or item to send your protagonists forward, but a changing cursor will avoid outright bafflement. Click objects to discover their properties and make events happen; when you pick-up something useful, it will appear in the upper left corner of your game screen. Experimentation in Daps has enticing results; even fatal errors are entertaining to behold so don't hold back out of a misplaced sense of caution. There are some scenes with long loading times, occasionally finicky requirements for progression, and an abrupt ending to boot. But those minor drawbacks are nothing to get hung up on; Daps is too interesting to be tarried by imperfections.

Both in its usage of surreal atmospheres and interactive art, Daps has a Samorost-y, Haluz-ish vibe which is a welcome find for fans of the genre. Although comparisons are inevitable, Daps is unique and original by its own rights, deserving to be recognized for its particular merits including charismatic characters and creative story development—it's sure to whet the appetite and leave you looking forward to the next course.

Play Daps


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (183 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypWelcome to the strange and somewhat twisted world of Tesshi-e, where the news of a friend opening a new restaurant means not only free food but a restaurant that is specifically set up as a room escape game as well. Escape from the Brick Room is a rather unimaginative title for a quite imaginative and tasty escaping experience.

Escape from the Brick RoomQualities you can expect to find in Tesshi-e escape games are also found in this one: easy-to-use controls, lots of puzzles, minor pixel hunting, two escape scenarios, construction of a vehicle from strange spare parts, and the always present wobbly picture puzzle. Tesshi-e has graced us with some new and intriguing puzzles as well as a bit of a twist on the classic wobbly picture puzzle, which makes Escape from the Brick Room one of their better efforts. And as usual they have constructed a space so easy on the eyes that it almost seems a shame to want to escape rather than linger and enjoy the scenery, although that extremely familiar muzak in the background will drive you out sooner or later.

With gorgeous graphics, fun puzzles, and the usual twisted logic Tesshi-e is a mid-week favorite for both escaping and a lovely snack, even if it is virtual. Time to visit your friend's new eatery and enjoy an escape from the everyday.

Play Escape from the Brick Room


  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (73 votes)
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joyeWondermindWho says you have to pick between art and science? The Tate, a British art institution, thinks that art and science enhance each other, and they've enlisted the gaming geniuses at Preloaded to create a game combining the Alice in Wonderland art exhibition currently showing in one of their museums with learning about the fascinating ways our brains work. The result is Wondermind, a set of four mini-games that are fun in themselves and also serve to illustrate the fascinating ways our brains work.

The mini-games are all of classic type: card matching, pipe connecting, path drawing, and light angling. While all feature gorgeous art, none of them break any new ground in gameplay, and there's not much to keep you playing beyond five minutes or so each. But they weren't meant to get you hooked like a typical game is. They're designed to be a short illustrative experience to help prepare you for the interactive video that follows, which explains some aspect of the brain, such as how babies learn language. You also get to see some of the quirky, delightful, or just plain weird art inspired by Alice in Wonderland, so if you can't get to Tate Liverpool, this is the next best thing. The game is aimed at kids, but while adults might find it a bit easy, it's certainly beautiful enough to reel anyone in, and the facts taught about the mind are, well, yes, wondrous.

Play Wondermind


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Rating: 4.3/5 (65 votes)
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corygalliherXenosGiant robots are a friend to all mankind. It's indisputable. Giant robots have helped us with all manner of historic projects, from the construction of the Pyramids to the Allies' victory in World War II to the election of the first African-American President. It only stands to reason, then, that we glorify our titanic metal buddies in games; Xenos, a new sci-fi arcade action game from Oddity Games, is a great example of mech respect.

According to the long and safely-skippable intro, Xenos is a new form of energy discovered in the 22nd century. It's being used for evil, however, and as our giant robot hero Asterus it's your job to make things right by destroying all the Xenos generators in each area. Do that using the [WASD] or [arrow] keys, and run into enemies to attack. As you turn enemies into scrap your weapons gain energy or recover health. This makes them larger and more powerful, and the devastation you can deal with a max-level weapon is a true sight to behold. You can swap your equipped weapon with the number keys, and the [spacebar] unleashes a special attack when your weapon is charged. Each one has a different special attack, from the double saber's boomerang attack to the axe's mighty shockwave, so it's in your best interest to learn the ins and outs of them all.

Xenos is pretty simple to pick up but the process of mastering the game is a blast. Your moveset is fairly limited so you need to learn how best to use what you're given. Properly using your various special attacks, and deciding when not to use them in favor of wielding a more powerful weapon, is key. On top of your efforts to smash Xenos generators and bosses, you can also explore the levels to find pieces of new gear for Asterus, giving the stages a bit of much-needed replay value.

All the action is rendered in beautiful 2D animation reminiscient of the Treasure classic Bangai-O and accompanied by a techno soundtrack. The controls are very responsive and you won't experience any deaths due to input problems; this is a great boon for a game that doesn't feature mouse controls! It's an all-around polished and exciting experience that lasts just long enough to avoid outstaying its welcome. Our giant robot pals would expect nothing less.

Play Xenos


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (125 votes)
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AlexBloom DefendersThe Mother Tree is under attack from corrupted spirits and it's your job to tend the garden and weed out the baddies in Bloom Defender, this light-hearted tower defense game from the Juicy Beast team. Plant trees based on their different specific powers in strategic locations along the enemy's path or call upon your own mastery of the elements to fight off wave after wave of spirits and restore peace to the grove.

As you progress through the levels a variety of different defensive trees will be unlocked, each with their own unique ability. Drag flowers to open spots of land to plant a tree, using the surrounding terrain to provide hints of which enemies are coming and which tree might work best. As the appointed guardian of the Mother Tree, you can also get in on the action yourself when the fighting starts by clicking on intruders to unleash the fury of the elements upon them in the form of powerful spells. Each enemy is vulnerable to a different spell, and you can use the number keys to quickly switch between them in the heat of battle. As each corrupted spirit is cleansed, they rejoin the natural order and become energy that can be used to plant new trees or buff up existing ones to bigger and stronger forms. Between rounds, the Uproot Mode button at the top of the screen allows you to re-evaluate your defenses and retrieve a small amount of energy from any trees you'd like to remove. Keep track of how much energy you have to spend at the top right of the screen.

Get Bloom Defender for your mobile device! Read our review of the mobile version.

Bloom Defender has polished and casual, simple to understand gameplay along with more action than most games of its genre and a difficulty curve that ramps up just enough to keep things enjoyable and never boring. Plus, it offers mind-numbingly cute graphics, too!

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The Vault

SonicLover*tik-tik-tik-tik-tik-tik-tik-tik-tik-tik-tik* *tik-tik-tik-tik-tik-tik* *tik-tik-tik-tik* ...Nuts! I think I overshot it again. Now I'll ha... oh, hey! I didn't see you there. It's not what it looks like, I'm not trying to break into The Vault. I'm... uh... I'm fixing it! Yes, Jay asked me to fix the lock mechanism. It's... er.. it's been making this weird grinding noise, and I'm using this stethoscope to try to localize it. The problem is that the Vault's filled with games with really catchy soundtracks, and every time I try to listen for the noise, one of those earworms gets stuck in my head and I can't focus. I'll never be able to crack... fix the lock at this rate. Here are the three games that've been giving me the most grief:

  • KlikwerkKlikwerk - This rhythm game from Bart Bonte is a gem from about a year and a half ago. Icons will appear in time to the rhythm, and you'll have to point, click, drag and drop, or hit thye [spacebar] to get rid of each one. It's not exactly recommended for someone used to a laptop trackpad, but still quite playable. You may find yourself persevering and playing over and over mainly for the catchy song. Po-po-po-point, click click click po-po-po-point, click click click po-po-po-point, click click click...
  • Dot Action 2Dot Action 2 - A nice retro platformer from Japanese developer OffGao, even more retro than most. It's all about jumping on white dots, avoiding yellow dots or passing through them with the help of red dots, swimming through gray dots, and above all collecting blue dots. Collect all the blue dots to finish each level. It's got tons of levels, and while it takes a while to get hard, it gets really hard when it does. Also, that chiptune soundtrack will be in your head for days to come. I think I keep coming back to play this one purely for the music. Dee-dah-dee-dadalee-dah-dee, dee-dah-dee-dadalee-dah-doo...
  • Mass AttackMass Attack - A brainteasing puzzler by kbaum games about balancing a set of scales. Hold the mouse button down to create a weight; the longer you hold, the heavier the weight is. It takes a lot of skill to make the weight just right to balance the scales exactly, but that gong you hear when you do is just about the best sound in the world. Plus, the music that accompanies the whole thing is just perfect for a brainteaser like this one. It's a good snack-break game, even if I've never been able to clear Level 7. Doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-dah-doo, daddle-a-doo, daddle-a-doo, daddle-a-doo...

As per usual, comments about the weekly feature itself can go here, but comments about the games themselves should go on their respective review pages. Thank you for that, and go rediscover some good games... oh, and can one of you please go ask Jay to give me the Vault's combination? It'll be a lot easier to fix if I can get inside it. Thank you!


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (95 votes)
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DoraBullet Bill 3It'sa me, Bill!... well, honestly, who needs that little chubby guy anyway? After over five years, Psy City brings Bullet Bill 3, the sequel to their original games about everyone's favourite projectile hero. The goal in this incredibly fast-paced arcade avoidance game is to guide Bill, a bullet you're probably familiar with, safely to the end of each stage without hitting anything you can't break through, like bricks or an enemy. Bill follows your cursor, so think fast and steer him around obstacles as they appear on screen... and we mean really fast, as since Bill was just fired by a cannon, he isn't exactly out for a leisurely stroll. Fortunately, each stage has checkpoints, so if you make it far enough the slamming nose-first into the side of a cliff isn't going to set you back all the way. Besides, you've got infinite lives, so the only thing holding you back here is your own patience.

This time around, Bill's also got a new trick up his sleeve in the form of abilities, such as being able to slow down time, he can unlock and use when the meter at the top of the screen is full. Additionally, if you choose to pick up keys you'll find in certain levels, you'll be chased by a malevolent grinning mask for the rest of the stage, but be rewarded with a new character to play as with different abilities to boot. If you're feeling crafty, you can even take advantage of the included level editor to build obstacle courses to torment others in. After all, what better way to tell a friend "I love and appreciate you" than something that makes them want to throw their mouse off a cliff? Create then share your level codes in the comments.

Bullet Bill 3 doesn't really feel drastically different from its predecessors. In fact, if you've played the originals, a lot of what you'll encounter from the style to the level layouts will strike you as very familiar. You'll encounter new enemies, however, and the unlockable abilities and characters add a nice bit of variety. While the controls do feel more responsive, which is a must for a game that interprets holding still as some sort of personal insult, it would have been nice to have the option to set the game to auto-pause if the cursor ever left the gameplay window. Still, if you're particularly dexterous and patient, you'll probably find a lot to like here. Watching enemies set off massive chain reactions is satisfying, the soundtrack is catchy and loud, and hey... who doesn't love a protagonist who fights things with his face?

Play Bullet Bill 3


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (55 votes)
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DoraSinuousHakim El Hattab's avoidance game Sinuous is as simple as it is lovely and easy to play. Use your mouse to guide your serpentine cursor safely through the field of red dots, snagging power ups to get various boosts and increase that all-powerful high-score. The longer you play, the more green dots will appear on your trail, which will let you sustain more direct hits.

While there isn't a whole lot of depth to be had to it, if you're going to play a game that demands twitchy reflexes you might as well spend time with one that also rewards you with some of the most soothing ambient music around and wraps it all up in one minimalistic, aesthetically pleasing package. It isn't something you'll likely play for long stretches of time, but it is an exceptionally nice and mellow example of the genre. After all, couldn't we all use a little more ommmmmmmmm in our day?

Note: You will need an HTML5-compatible browser to play this game.

Play Sinuous


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Rating: 3.7/5 (28 votes)
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TrickyMinute HardcoreSay you have a minute free in your schedule. What would you want to do with it? Cook an egg? Help Nicolas Cage steal a car? Blast the heck out of some multi-colored wireframed alien baddies? Well, if your choice would be the latter, then boy howdy do we have a treat for you. Minute Hardcore by Antony Lavelle is a timed arcade shooter with shades of the classic bullet-hell Ikaruga.

The sparseness of instructions is the game's biggest flaw, but generally, you direct your ship with the mouse, automatically shooting at the spacey invaders. Your bullets come in red, green and blue varieties, and you switch between them by clicking. However, since your bullets do not affect enemies of the same color, it soon becomes a game of constant chromatic changes as you try to keep one step ahead of the clock. When leveling up, you are given a choice between a ship upgrade or adding more time to the clock, which is a neat mechanic. This adds a nice little touch of strategy, even if the interface is a little clunky. There are a lot of cool ideas in Minute Hardcore. While it's true not all of them pay off, it is at least an interesting experiment. If you can spare 60 seconds, it'll be well worth your time.

Play Minute Hardcore


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (232 votes)
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3 SlicesArtbegottiA priest, a rabbi, and I forget who else all walk into a bar and order a pizza. Long story short, they eat three slices. And three slices is all you get in Gaz Thomas's newest physics puzzler, 3 Slices! Not unlike Thomas's Red Remover games, you've got to rid the screen of as much of the red material as you can using three magical swipes of your mouse. Click and drag to make a line, splitting the blocks on the screen, then release to finalize the cut and let gravity take its course. White matter can be cut but don't count toward your total, so you can set up ramps and weights to push red blocks around. You can make only three slices per level, so you've got to plan carefully!

Unlock each of the 20 stages in this puzzle pack by removing a target percentage of red from the screen. You might cut your way through the first levels pretty quickly, but afterwards, you've got a bigger challenge to conquer: split past the gold targets and unlock a a sinister gameplay twist by clearing 1900%. And that's all the International Committee of Spoiler-Free Reviews allows to be said about that! You can't experience the simple pleasure of this challenging phuzzler if you don't cut to the chase and play!

Play 3 Slices


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (38 votes)
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Junk Jack

JohnBWe all know Minecraft by now, the massively cool 3D sandbox creativity game that lets you explore, craft, and build anything you like. Then there's Terraria, a game that took the same formula and flattened it into a 2D sidescrolling game, adding combat and some other nice extras in the process. Both titles have spawned similar games on numerous platforms, but so far the mobile realm hasn't been a fertile ground for the sandbox genre. Until Junk Jack came along. This 2D pixel-gorgeous game takes the all-too-familiar crafting, digging, and exploration formula to your iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad, bringing with it an entire world of possibilities.

Junk JackStarting off with nothing and standing on the green, green grass, Jack has one ability you'll make heavy use of: breaking things apart and collecting them. Tap blocks to slowly break them to pieces, moving over them by swiping the screen to add them to your inventory. You can jump one block high, which Jack will do on his own when you walk up to a ledge, and by swiping the screen upwards you can leap across single-spaced gaps. Just enough to navigate the world.

Naturally, you'll want to start exploring right away. Move left and right to see more of the landscape, collecting wood and checking out the cows and sheep and such. The real treasures are underground, though. Dig yourself a stairway leading into the mysterious underworld, a place where you can discover precious metals, useful materials, enemies, and breakable crates. These crates contain notes that teach you how to play the game, imparting recipes and generalized tips as a reward for your inquisitiveness.

Crafting is as simple as moving items to the crafting boxes and tapping a button. If you get the recipe right, you'll make something new to play around with! Some items require other items to be crafted before you can make them, such as anvils to make stronger metal tools. Everything you make can be used, and with two levels of building (background and the playing field), you have a surprising number of decorating options for your humbe pixel abode.

Junk JackAnalysis: The current tradition of sandbox games started with Dwarf Fortress, Infiniminer, and of course, Minecraft. Dozens of smartly-crafted games in that tradition have followed, each adding its own slant to the genre. Junk Jack's major contribution is its portability, but also its presentation. With nice-looking pixel art and music by chiptune artist Bright Primate, the style is more polished than bare bones retro, even though it manages to keep its old school charms.

If Junk Jack has any real drawbacks (other than mildly sloppy controls, which is sort of a given on a buttonless device) it's that, at least for a while, you'll feel overwhelmed by the possibilities. Just like early Minecraft players noticed, when you can do just about anything, that means you have difficult time picking something. With Junk Jack, crafting recipes have changed just enough so that you have to learn what to make and how to make it all over again. This leaves you wandering around, digging and gathering with little direction. The game takes strides to help keep you focused by introducing crates that contain recipe hints, but finding and using them is still like spinning a roulette wheel. The good side of all of this is that Junk Jack is very much still in development, and the team behind the game is very pro-active when it comes to fixing bugs, tweaking the gameplay, and responding to player feedback.

Worth noting: the game's official forum has a Junk Jack beginner's guide to help you get started with the occasionally-obtuse game. There's even a page a Junk Jack wiki to nudge you in the right direction, so you don't have to feel lost. Unless you really want to!

Junk Jack is a bare bones creativity sandbox game at the moment, but it's rich with exploration and intrigue, two of the most important ingredients for this sort of game. Get in now, have fun poking about the beautiful pixel world, and enjoy the ride as new elements are added to the experience!


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Mobile Monday

JohnBNote to humans: the zombies are coming. They might even be riding flying whales that swoop in from the clouds, wielding neon sticks they use to smite you with. So, you know, wear a hat. Maybe some protective goggles and a suit of spikes for good measure.

zombieville2.jpgZombieville USA 2 (universal) - The original Zombieville USA was one of the first big action hits on the iTunes App Store. Now, over two years later, this sidescrolling shooting/brawling game is back, and it does everything right! Control a lightly-armed character as you walk through the streets fighting zombies who are astonishingly resistant to bullets. Break out the melee weapon when all else fails, and keep an eye open for cash and items, as you'll need them to stay alive in this extra-challenging game. More zombies, more weapons, more characters, more stuff to collect, and more bits of scenery to search for precious ammo. It's a great game that works well on the mobile device!

whaletrail.jpgWhale Trail (universal) - Baron von Barry is chasing Willow the Whale, but she's got a secret weapon: she can fly! Bobbing through the clouds like a bird, collect bubbles to keep Willow aloft while you avoid the Thunder Bros. and deal with an assortment of other obstacles along the way. It's very much like an inverted Tiny Wings, only with more air tricks (mid-air loops, anyone?) and a completely different art direction. Surprisingly well-made, and not frustrating in the slightest!

neonzone.jpgNeon Zone (universal) - Minimalist, glowing visuals. Physics-based puzzle gameplay. Responsive, smart controls. Neon Zone is all of that, plus basic geometric shapes! Tap the screen to place a cube on the glowing platforms. Tilt your device to move around, sliding to grab the white orbs that litter the field. Tap the screen to jump through platforms. Other than that, you're on your own in this delightfully tricky brain teaser of a game. It plays a lot better on smaller devices, as it can be a bit of a hassle to rotate a tablet efficiently. Also available: Neon Zone Free for iOS and on Google Play Android Games as Neon Zone and Neon Zone Free.

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.


(7 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Wizorb

JohnBHow long has it been since you played a game of Breakout or any of its numerous modern-day children? A year? Five years? A billion-dy hundred years? Thought so. Tribute Games wants to fix that egregious error with Wizorb, an 8-bit-styled Breakout clone that adds a little bonus fun on top with the addition of magic spells, a shop, and some minor RPG elements. Sound awesome? You bet your slow-moving paddle it is!

WizorbThe Kingdom of Gorudo used to be peaceful. That is, until a really evil presence came along and was all "BADNESS AND SMITE!". As Cyrus, a well-versed wizard who is master of both white and black magic, it's your job to help the townspeople rebuild while fighting off dangerous foes. And breaking bricks, of course. But it won't be fireball spells or ice storm incantations that saves the world. It'll be the secret magic called Wizorb!

Even though it has a colorful coating of storylines and pixel art, Wizorb plays pretty much like every Breakout game before it. Move the paddle left and right along the bottom of the screen, intercepting the bouncing ball to keep it in motion so it can clear the blocks it hits. Potions, coins, and other power-ups sometimes fall from broken bricks, and all you have to do to collect them is slide the paddle underneath.

In a non-traditional Breakout manner, Wizorb features townspeople in distress who need your help to rebuild their shops and houses. There's also a store that features a few useful items you can purchase, along with enemies wandering the game's 48 stages. Spells are a great addition to the mix, and you can use things like a fireball to clear out blocks or a blast of wind to influence where the ball lands. Nothing too dramatic, but just enough to make the game more interesting.

WizorbAnalysis: Wizorb looks fantastic, and it fills a very uncrowded genre niche at the moment, making it a sound choice for some good old fashioned arcade action. It looks just like a classic NES game, which is enough to make most nostalgic gamers scream with delight. And the budget price makes it extremely tempting to pick up on an impulse buy. (Hint: that's not a bad thing to do, just skip your next double soy mocha latte and you're even!)

Despite the nice coat of paint and gameplay tweaks, Wizorb seems like it missed a massive opportunity to reinvent Breakout. Going a little heavier on the RPG elements could have made this the sort of game everybody on Earth (and possibly even Vogsphere) would be required to play. Instead, you get a classic arcade game with some mildly hybrid-like elements. It isn't a failure by any means, just not as big of a revolution as it could have been.

Wizorb is a challenging game that will appeal to the retro arcade fan in all of us. 48 levels of brick-breaking action, complete with bosses, enemies, spells, shops, and distressed townspeople! You can't go wrong with this gorgeous budget title!

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

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


(16 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Bluebeard's Castle

JohnBIf you're unfortunate enough to have the deserved nickname "Bluebeard", you'd better have a kickin' castle and a killer reputation to keep yourself from looking like a big lame-o. That's exactly the case with the antagonist in Bluebeard's Castle, a hidden object adventure release from Fanda Games. Focusing more on the adventure side of things, expect a full heaping of puzzles, unnerving settings, strange noises in the background, and ornate decorations that could use a serious tweaking from Dress My Nest.

Bluebeard's CastleYou poor little protagonist, you. Your sister wasn't blessed with an overabundance of caution. It seems Clarice has gone off and married Count Bluebeard, the mysterious figure who lives in a creepy castle and has already had six wives, each of whom vanished under mysterious circumstances. Clarice was given full roam of Bluebeard's castle save one room. And, naturally, she ventured in to that room. Time to go check out this guy's mansion to see if you can rescue your sister before she, too, disappears!

Bluebeard's Castle is one of those precious hidden object hybrids that all but ditches the laundry list of item scenes in favor of exploration, inventory puzzles, and good old fashioned casual adventure gaming. Most of your time will be spent looking around the place, checking areas for bits and bobs you can collect and use to progress to new locales. Areas of interest are noted by a small sparkle, so it's easy to find what you need. Figuring out how to use it is the real puzzler.

Bluebeard's CastleWhile the main game is great and all, what really steals the show are the mini-games. Not only are they more numerous than your average casual adventure game, they're more creative, focusing on riddle-type puzzles as opposed to the standard battery of sliding tiles, jigsaws, and the like. You'll have to do some honest to Zeus thinking to solve a few of them, but if you get stuck, they're all skippable after a few moments. But, you know, try not to hit that button if you can help it!

Analysis: Newcomer Fanda Games didn't pull any tricks with its debut game, but Bluebeard's Castle doesn't suffer from a lack of attention. For the most part, it's a standard adventure/hidden object hybrid, featuring mini-games, puzzles, exploration, and a few hidden object areas here and there. Fortunately, its refusal to shine doesn't denote sloppy design, and from scene to scene you'll discover plenty of smart puzzles and interesting things to check out.

The only stumbling point with Bluebeard's Castle is on the technical side, and they're most likely quirks with the engine the game was built on. For some reason, loading screens appear just about every time you switch scenes. They only last a moment or two, but they're distracting and chop up the adventure, making it much less immersive.

The game doesn't ooze big-budget polish, but it's no poster child for the lackluster, either. Bluebeard's Castle is a solid, dependable hidden object adventure game that provides almost five hours of entertainment from beginning to end. The development team has a remarkable attention to detail, something you won't fail to notice once you enter Bluebeard's Castle on your own!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Weekend Download

JohnBIn addition to having two games starring astronauts, this little piece of Weekend Download deliciousness happens to include some games that, in our humblest of opinions, display extraordinary amounts of creativity. Prepare to be intrigued! *spooky hand gestures*

moonwalk.gifMoonwalk (Windows, 17.7MB, free) - A beautiful, imaginative game that casts you as a space adventurer lost in a field of tiny moons and planets. Circle the spheres to find a missing artifact piece, then bring it back to your ship to install it and proceed to the next level. No artifact in sight? Jump to another orbiting moon, that should help. Can't see one? Hold [tab] to zoom out, then wait for orbits to synchronize and take your leap. You can even pick up and throw certain objects, converse with a rare inhabitant or two, and deal with simple enemies. A very basic sort of game that champions creativity and exploration above all.

youledmehere.gifYou Led Me Here (Windows, 239MB, free) - A short point and click game that will remind you of all the best bits of Myst, only set in a very different sort of environment. You are in a control room filled with buttons, levers, and information screens. One monitor shows security camera feeds you can switch back and forth between. In a room, a woman sits alone, a prisoner in the dark compound. You can help her escape, though, by manipulating the buttons and changing the landscape on each of the rooms shown on the security feed. It's very much a "figure it out as you go" sort of game, but it presents its puzzles in a very intriguing manner and offers up more questions than answers, which is good!

mirrornaut.gifMirrornaut (Mac/Windows, 8.6Mb, free) - If Canabalt were slower, took place in space, and featured puzzle-like elements where you had to reverse your position and play as your mirror image, it would be (an entirely different game called) Mirrornaut. Obstacles slowly scroll your way, and you have two methods of avoiding them: jumping, and switching to the other side of the horizontal white line. Many things you can simply leap over, but others are too tall, forcing you to reverse sides. It's strangely puzzle-like trying to figure out what and how to progress. Just a few mistakes is all it takes to start the level all over again, but the progression from stage to stage is a welcome change from endless running.

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: 4/5 (49 votes)
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JayBlueprint BilliardsNine-ball is a unique form of pool in which players take turns pocketing balls, in order, beginning with the lowest numbered ball on the table and continuing until the last ball has been sunk. Turbonuke uses this premise as the basis of play in its latest game, Blueprint Billiards, a single-player, straightforward billiards game with some very nice features.

The mouse is used for aiming your shots, just aim the cue ball at the lowest numbered ball on the table (a flashing circle will highlight the next ball in play). While aiming, you are given some very helpful guides that show the trajectory, which really serve to make the game a lot more fun. Use the [arrow] keys to change the spin of the ball. This is very important in the strategy of causing the cue ball to rest where you need it for the next ball after taking a shot. If any player fails to sink a ball on their turn, their turn ends. If any player fails to hit the correct ball first before sinking a ball, the opponent player gets to take a free shot by placing the cue ball anywhere. Play continues unil the last ball has been pocketed, and the player who pockets the last ball, wins.

Play against an array of opponents of increasing skill levels as you prove who is master of the cloth. A really nice physics engine along with the guides and the spin capability makes this billiards game a lot of fun!

Play Blueprint Billiards


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Hallowed Legends: Templar

DoraAh, France... Hubert Keller, little animated rats, Les Misérables... oh, and the big angry Templar that just stormed in and sucker-punched you in your hotel room, of course. In Elephant Games' new hidden-object adventure Hallowed Legends: Templar, you fly in to France upon hearing your brother has gone missing, only to be ambushed before your investigation can really begin. You soon discover, however, it's not just one lunatic in a suit of stolen armor, and there might be something a lot bigger, and older, than you ever expected going on in town.

Hallowed Legends: TemplarHallowed Legends: Templar has three difficulty settings for those of you who prefer to tackle things easily or in a Bear Grylls-y fashion, and you can swap between them any time you wish by opening the options menu. You'll explore the town and the area around it searching for clues, gathering items and solving puzzles while trying not to cross paths with the knights you'll see prowling the area. The area has more than a few secrets, and there are quite a few people doing what they can to keep you from unraveling them.

Naturally, in addition to dodging attempts on your life, this also involves solving hidden-object scenes. Occasionally you may run into one of these where you have to use an item from your inventory to be able to get the item onscreen, so if you can't seem to collect something from the list and you're not carrying anything appropriate, you may have missed something you needed to pick up elsewhere in the town. Fortunately, once it's charged you can rely on the hint button to tell you explicitly what you need to do to proceed.

Hallowed Legends: TemplarAnalysis: For hidden-object adventures with real creativity and intrigue, Elephant Games is rapidly becoming the developer to beat. Hallowed Legends: Templar is a big, strange, engrossing game packed with strange characters, excitement, and even a bit of supernatural mysticism that sets it apart from other titles. Mixing recorded cutscenes featuring real people with beautifully drawn visuals and environments, it helps give the impression that you're in a movie. A slightly crazy movie best enjoyed with a big bucket of popcorn on the couch at three in the morning, but a movie nonetheless. The game is great at doling out tidbits of information that fill you in on what's happening, while events keep popping up to move the action along at a quick pace and keep you interested with new developments. The story itself is admittedly a little convoluted, but if you don't demand big, serious narratives and just want to enjoy yourself with something imaginative and different, this might be right up your alley.

Click detection is, unfortunately, rather temperamental; too quick and the game might not register it, and the place to click to pick up or use an item can sometimes be annoyingly small and precise. This can also factor into problems with hidden-object scenes, where the art style occasionally makes it difficult to tell what you're looking at. Are you clicking on the wrong item, or just in the wrong spot? Is that a candle, or a teacup? Then you also have a few instances of what might be called "muddy descriptions", such as "white chess piece" actually referring to something the stunted artist in me would call "orange-y beige-ish". None of this is game breaking, and it is something you become more adept at noticing the more you play, but it does feel like it interrupts the flow somewhat. It's also worth mentioning that some players (though not yours truly) have reported performance issues on different machines, so as always, make sure you try the demo before you buy.

Despite that, however, and a somewhat stiff written translation, Hallowed Legends: Templar is still easily recommended. It's over four hours on average, with another hour or more to play the bonus content, and throughout the game rarely feels like it's dragging its feet by trying to artificially extend the gameplay. It's silly, it's exciting, it's weird and imaginative, and it's just the thing to relax with when you're looking for something fun. Try the demo to dip your toe into it, and keep an eye out for runaway cars, crossbow bolts... and pungent cheese, which is just as dangerous. This is France, after all.

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


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Rating: 4.6/5 (144 votes)
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corygalliherThe EngineerHeavy weapons training must be part of the degree program at MIT. That's really the only way we can explain the plethora of hardcore butt-kicking engineers in video games. Gordon Freeman started this noble tradition in Half-Life, Team Fortress 2's Engineer continued to practice practical science in the name of bloodshed and now we've got Zach Scrap, protagonist of a new top-down shooter by Jazza Studios appropriately titled The Engineer.

In classic top-down shooter style you move with [WASD] and shoot with the mouse. As an engineer, our hero can also construct turrets, structures and bombs using scrap from defeated enemies and scrap piles found throughout each level. Your goal in the main story mode is typically to hack several consoles in each level, a task complicated by the armies of angry robots out for blood. Your best option is often to set up a nest of turrets while you work on your current hack; fortunately a lot of your options are high-powered robot-vaporizing fare like lasers and rockets so you won't have to miss out on any carnage.

While top-down shooters like this are pretty common, there's a lot to be said for the amount of destruction and strategy introduced by The Engineer's turrets and weapon upgrades. Different types of turrets are better in different situations and you'll need to balance hacking with fighting and grabbing scrap. In the end you're going to have to use the brain that got you through grad school; your Ph.D. came with a license to kill and it's time to put them both to work.

Play The Engineer


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Rating: 4.1/5 (119 votes)
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elleelle_autumn_melancholy_1.jpgAnyone who has a soft spot for picturesque oil paintings, soulful piano melodies, and baskets overflowing with pink lily blooms will be immediately won over by Tomatea's newest room escape game, Autumn Melancholy. In this seasonally-themed escape, Tomatea gives as much attention to tone and mood as to well-designed puzzles, excellent graphics and playability. There is nothing gloomy or sad about exploring this beautiful apartment, lavishly appointed in warm autumn colors and textures, no matter what the title might lead you to believe.

Adding cohesiveness and a thematic element to the game play, Autumn Melancholy sends guests riffling through furnishings and around corners on the hunt for picture fragments that need to be reassembled by game's end. You'll find a light up cursor to indicate interactive areas, textual reminders when more clues are needed before attempting a solution, and several diverse puzzles to stimulate the mind. Just click an area to move in for a closer look, or click the sides or bottom of the screen to change direction. Click an item to pick it up from the scene or put it to use from your inventory.

If anything bad can be said about Autumn Melancholy, it's that the furniture needs a bit of rearranging. Because some objects and doors are approachable only from an odd angle, navigation can sometimes be misleading, causing you to overlook an important item or question whether the key in hand fits that particular lock. The reappearance of some overused puzzles (think color-coded drawer lock) might also elicit a yawn, yet it is quickly suppressed by the joy of exploring these gorgeous surroundings. Every surface becomes such a temptation to touch, examine and gaze that you might be diverted from the true task: getting out.

Play Autumn Melancholy Escape


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Rating: 4.5/5 (53 votes)
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TrickyBicicletas HoyBicicletas Hoy isn't the first interactive music video on the web, but it's definitely one of the most charming. Developed by Argentinian design team Videogamo, this actiony piece of pixelated interactive art features the musical stylings of rock band Bicicletas and their infectious song Hoy. Click and drag the lead singer Julio as he flies above the city, under the water, and through all manner of scenery. Collect stars and song lyrics so animations in the background will trigger. Collecting enough items will allow the four other members of the band to join you in flight. Admittedly, Bicicletas Hoy is short and not much for challenge. Still, it succeeds in its integration of song and gameplay in a way few other works have managed, making for a fine two minute romp. Be prepared to turn the sound up and to have a smile on your face.

Play Bicicletas Hoy


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Rating: 3.8/5 (53 votes)
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TrickyDanger DungeonYou'd think that putting that huge warning sign on the locked gate of the local dungeon would keep everyone from showing up to taunt the skeletons. Then again, you know how kids are. So it looks like little Ben and Diane will have to crawl on in, rescue their friends, hack up scores of monsters, grab some sacks of mad loot, and defeat the ominously-named Necromaster. Danger Dungeon is a fun little action RPG from InsaneHero.

There's a huge world to explore, with some cool pre-rendered 3D graphics to look at and a ton of ways to customize your character to your play-style. Some aspects feel a little rushed: particularly noticeable is how your CPU allies have the kind of AI that flits back and forth between "useless" and "suicidal". Overall, though, it makes for a fun love letter to old-school dungeon crawlers and should satisfy anyone looking for a little fantasy action during their coffee break.

Play Danger Dungeon


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraHallooooooooo the internet! Anyone out there? Or are you all busy? We've got some big news for you this week if you can tear yourself away from your horse stealing and dragon slaying. With a popular developer approaching a huge milestone few ever achieve, a new installment in a popular download series, and the impending release of one of the biggest successes in indie gaming history, there's a whole lot to celebrate!

New and Noteworthy

  • Realm of the Mad GodRealm of the Mad God - Multiplayer meets bullet hell shooter meets RPG in this frantic, action-packed game. Team up with other players as you go solo in a huge world teeming with monsters in gameplay that rarely stops to breathe. Best for fast-paced, short sessions, Realm of the Mad God is admittedly rather simplistic, but immensely addictive if you enjoy the concept.
  • To The MoonTo The Moon - Freebird Games hits it out of the park with this tremendously engrossing indie download adventure game about a pair of doctors with the ability to give dying people their last wish by altering memories. While light on actual gameplay, stellar writing and a hugely likable cast combine with humour and intelligent storytelling to make a touching, captivating tale worth experiencing.
  • The Pretender: Part 3The Pretender: Part 3 - Launching Pad Games delivers the next installment in its popular (magical!) puzzle platforming series about a magician struggling to escape another realm, while rescuing the souls of his audience whom he accidentally banished in the process. Master elemental forms to bring everyone safely home across large level packs and soak in the classy style while you're at it.
  • Blosics 3Blosics 3 - Like throwing things really really fast at other things? Then you've got a friend in Igrek Productions, who just yesterday released their third installment in their popular physics shooter series. There's something oddly satisfying about sending a projectile screaming into a number of tiny stacked blocks, and doubly so when everything has been overhauled to feature cute, expressive cartoon eyes.


Steam HackPrivacy Alert! If you're a regular Steam user, then you probably know that the forums were hacked this past Sunday. Well, they're down again and Valve's Gabe Newell has posted a placeholder message that informs users that events have taken an uglier turn. A Steam database that contained a variety of user information including addresses and encrypted credit card information. There's no evidence yet that card information was actually taken or decrypted, but if you had one saved to your account you might want to keep an eye on your records anyway just in case. You also might want to change your password... you know, just for funsies. CONSTANT VIGILANCE. You can Read Mr. Newell's message in full in case the forums are restored.

Kingdom Rush StolenTheft Alert! Remember Kingdom Rush? More than likely, since the defense hybrid was well loved by our readers for quite some time. Unfortunately, developer Ironhide Game Studio recently discovered that their work has been stolen and uploaded (rather sloppily) to the Appstore by someone looking to profit off of the developer's excellent work. Apple so far has yet to respond to e-mails after nearly three weeks, and the creators are now turning to their community to help. Read the full statement and view more damning screenshots, as well as for information as to what you can do to help.

Mystery Case Files: Escape From RavenhearstPreview Alert! If you love hidden-object adventures, then you probably know the Mystery Case Files, and Big Fish Games is about to make fans very, very happy with this official announcement for the next installment. You'll be investigating the town of Blackpool, where residents are going missing and leads seem to point to the ruins of Ravenhearst Manor. Could evil still lurk within? Well... there wouldn't be much of a game otherwise, would there? It's been a year since the last installment hit, so this is great news. Time will tell if the series has kept the somewhat unpopular video sequences introduced in The 13th Skull.

Nitrome Must DiePreview Alert! Nitrome has been around for a long time, but the realisation that they're about to release their 100th game is still a bit of a shock! Right now, the only information comes from the trailer; it seems a pair of players are frustrated with the developers (perhaps because of the difficulty?), and have decided that the only way to take out their anger is to launch a full-on assault against the lofty "Nitrome Towers"... which might be a bad idea if that laser is any indication. There's no gameplay footage yet, but the trailer promises over one hundred levels, tons of enemies and weapons, and even two-player co-op gameplay! Give it a peep, and then give Nitrome a high-five for creating so many awesome games over the years... they deserve it!

MinecraftRelease Approaching! If you haven't jumped on the Minecraft bandwagon, you're running out of time to get in at a discounted price. After over two years in development and an amazing amount of success, Mojang is finally releasing their sandbox creativity game in full at MineCon in Las Vegas on November 18th 2011. Once it comes out "officially", the price will go up, so if you've ever thought it might be something you'd like, now might be the time to snap it up. You can check out our review, and I can personally tell you that while I was a late convert, many an evening has since been spent in pursuit of diamonds and babbling inconsolably in a hole in the ground because I thought I saw an Enderman outside.

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


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Rating: 4.1/5 (75 votes)
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TrickyBlosics 3Click and drag, launch a ball, and knock stuff off a platform. It's a simple premise, but Igrek Productions has used it to steal the time of many a gamer. Now the popular series of physics shooters is back with Blosics 3. The blocks and bullets are anthropomorphized this time around, but whether or not the sprites have eyes on them makes no difference when it comes to the choice gameplay. Blosics 3 keeps the quality for which the series is known, as well as the innovation within the bounds of its formula. The 1-3 star ranking system is a nice inclusion, and the later levels have that touch of cruel-but-not-too-cruel difficulty all designers aspire to. Like its predecessors, Blosics 3 is best in short bursts rather than marathons, but it will prove quite satisfying to both fans and newbies alike.

Play all the Blosics games:
BlosicsBlosics 2Blosics 2 Level PackBlosics 3

Play Blosics 3


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Rating: 3.5/5 (28 votes)
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Kyhkyh_shoresiege2_screen.png It's pistols and cannons for you in your ongoing fight to keep the monsters away from your booty. These pirates are in for blob killing fun! In Shore Siege 2, Antony Lavalle has changed the feel of the previous title and made it more of a tower defense-meets-strategy game. Arm the pirates, set cannons on the ship and position many other weapons on the ground. A life of piracy isn't cheap, so you'll also need to set up oil rigs to fund your defenses. The game starts off easy, but it's only a few levels before you're forced to carefully consider where you place your cannons and what upgrades to give them, or else you'll be forced to unleash the Kraken! Bunker down and fire away to achieve your every desire in riches, which for pirates mostly just consists of drinking lots of grog.

Play Shore Siege 2


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Rating: 4.1/5 (37 votes)
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coryBullet MazeGaming isn't always just about fun. Sometimes it's also about pain. Some games, like the Give Up Robot series or I Wanna Be The Guy, exist to punish you for having the audacity to try to beat them. Bullet Maze, a new twitchy avoidance game by Rhete with some inspirations from the shooter classic Ikaruga, is in this category and it's not going to take your crap. Instead it's going to wreck you with bullets. If you get through this one, you'll have earned it.

Use the mouse to steer your orb around and click to shift polarities. If you're white, white bullets can't hurt you, and vice-versa if you're black. Your basic goal is to get from the start of each level to the end, sometimes collecting all the keys in the level along the way. The problem is that there's never just one flavor of bullet coming your way, there's waves of both, so you need to constantly click and shift until you have a mental breakdown and get committed. Each level becomes a sort of puzzle; there's almost always a way to get through that involves carefully recognizing the pattern of bullets and working with it. That's often much easier in writing than practice, especially when it comes to the ludicrous Expert Mode levels.

There's also a great techno soundtrack by Cycerin that'll serve as accompaniment to your repeated failures. Expect to hear a lot of it as you bite the dust. If you're big on frustration games (it's okay, you can admit it) then Bullet Maze is here to be your next Everest.

Play Bullet Maze


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Rating: 3.6/5 (158 votes)
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JayNinja DeliveryNinjas have all the cool gadgets and powers. They have a seemingly limitless array of grapple hooks, shuriken, and the physical strength to use them. They even have an inner strength that rivals that of their outer strength, with some able to control the Qi that surrounds all things. Such is the life of the little Ninja in the point-and-click puzzle game from Fast Games, Ninja Delivery.

You are tasked with delivering a sacred package to the master in the next village, and you must solve the puzzles that await you at every turn. For each scene, click on objects or the ninja to interact with the surroundings. Click things in the correct sequence to open a path that allows the ninja to proceed.

Although not a difficult game by any measure, there's enough here to fill a distraction break to recharge your own Qi while on the path to enlightenment.

Play Ninja Delivery


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Rating: 3.2/5 (31 votes)
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corygalliherSwift Turn 2If I had control over gravity, I'd probably use it to steal the change out of everyone's pockets like some sort of villain from a Saturday morning cartoon. Just flip gravity near a vending machine, collect my ill-gotten gains and use them to construct a giant death ray. The boxy orange hero of Andriy Vinchkovskiy's physics puzzler Swift Turn 2, however, is out for stars instead of money so his gravity-defying plans might be a little less malicious.

Control the cubetagonist with the [arrow] or [WASD] keys, sometimes driving cars which control the same way. Your goal is to collect all the stars and then hit a goalpost, but naturally this isn't as easy as it might sound. There's a variety of mechanisms around each stage that do wacky things to physics; most common are levers that spin the world around and affect gravity along with it. You'll have to carefully manipulate each level's elements to grab all the stars and make your way to the goal.

Swift Turn 2's graphics are adorable, no getting around it. The protagonist and his expressions really make this game; he looks so frazzled when you fail a stage that how can you help but try again? The music and sound effects are great as well. The game feels very polished in general and looks much better than the original Swift Turn. The gameplay is pretty well-balanced and never becomes too difficult. While sometimes you'll fail levels due to physics wackiness such as a car falling on your character, this tends to be hilarious rather than frustrating.

Fans of physics puzzles could do a lot worse than Swift Turn 2. It dodges a lot of the frustration that puzzle games tend to run into which is a great breath of fresh air. It's enough fun that it might even make me forget to build that death ray... for now!

Play Swift Turn 2


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Rating: 4.6/5 (178 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypThe great challenge in designing room escapes is working within the restrictions of the genre, i.e. how interesting can you make solving your way out of a simple room. Some designers get around this by creating more than one room, some go for bizarre humor (yes, Detarou amongst others), some go for whacky scenarios (Tesshi-e), some create whole point-and-click adventures, some forego the room altogether and strip it down to the basics of puzzle solving (the Dismantlement series, for instance). What Robamimi has done in this latest effort, Tamago, is to create a fantastic escape by working within the constraints of the single room and simply packing it with tons of logical and tricky puzzles.

TamagoMove around with the arrows at the sides of the screen, pick up anything not nailed down, examine everything, and eventually work your way out of the space. Robamimi makes the escaping chore entertaining with elegant puzzles and solutions, along with top-notch controls that include the easy to use inventory and fantastic hint feature. Robamimi has even gone one step beyond and included text overlays on the color-based puzzles, making Tamago easily accessible for everyone.

With this latest game, Robamimi moves to the top of the class with involved, logical, elegant designs, a lofty category populated by designers such as Neutral and Kotorinosu. Resembling the Japanese omelet this game is named for, Tamago is a wonderful, sweet, multi-layered joy to consume. Dive in and take a bite!

Play Tamago


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Rating: 4.7/5 (708 votes)
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DoraThe Pretender: Part 3Someone once said that pride goeth before a fall, but apparently it also goeth before sucking your entire hapless audience into another magical dimension and dooming them to wander as restless souls. Whoopsie! In the The Pretender: Part 3, the next installment in Launching Pad Games' puzzle platforming Pretender series, you, as the desperate Victorian stage magician who stumbled upon a real book of magic while trying to spice up your act, are still trying to put things right and rescue stranded souls. Of course, just because you have the elements at your disposal doesn't mean this is going to be a walk in the interdimensional park, since you've got your assistant, Eliza, to worry about protecting, and an old sorcerer

In order to move through a portal to the next level, you'll need to gather the ghostly people loitering around the environment; they'll follow you one at a time when you get close to them, and then you can lead them to the exit. Of course, like any magician you've got a few tricks up your sleeve, and to get around the obstacles in each area you can walk over elemental fonts spurting up from the ground that will imbue you with new abilities and a special form. Earth, for example, lets you smash stone or stride through fire, while water can quench flame and allow you to swim. Use the [arrow] keys to move around, [R] to restart if you get stuck, and the [spacebar] to skip dialogue or use your elemental power. The game is made up of four sets of levels, each taking place in a different location, and you need to complete four non-story stages in one area to unlock the next. Other people might tell you not to play with fire, but when you're stranded in another world anything goes, so feel free to take advantage of the new elements and abilities you'll find here.

If you've played the previous installments, then a lot about act three is going to feel very familiar to you. The Pretender series has always managed to feel like a particularly classy little game, and this latest is no different, with a mellow ambient soundtrack and sleek visual style that make it look and feel professional. The puzzles become elaborate fairly quickly, so the ability to play the levels in any order you wish is welcome since it lets you bounce around whenever you get stymied. It would be nice to have an "undo" button rather than having to restart an entire stage if you accidentally zig when you should have zagged. Still, a sense of charm, whimsy, and elemental magic will get you far, and The Pretender: Part 3 has all of that in spades. Will you and Eliza ever find your way back to the real world, or will you be doomed to an eternity of performing hat tricks for disgruntled ghosts? Only one way to find out!

Play The Pretender: Part 3


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Rating: 4/5 (29 votes)
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DoraPole RidersProving once again that the less you know what you're doing, the more entertaining sports actually are, Bennett Foddy of QWOP fame brings us PoleRiders. A two-player physics game for a pair of buddies sharing a single keyboard, the goal here is to try to kick an apple on a string into your friend's goal... by pole-vaulting. Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to control your runner as he gallavants around the field, tapping the down key at just the right moment to send yourself vaulting gracefully through the air like some majestic Olympic gazelle... in theory, anyway. In practice, it requires a lot of timing and the proper momentum to do anything over than smack into things or waggle slowly back and forth in air with your pole bent backwards. Just make sure you tackle the challenges in the single-player practice mode 'til you get the hang of things.

Like previous titles QWOP and GIRP, PoleRiders is fiddly and tricky to master, but also curiously rewarding once you manage to do so. Failure here often doesn't feel as frustrating as you might expect simply because the whole thing is so silly; the concept is gloriously goofy, the visuals simple and entertaining, and the dainty sound-effects that accompany movement are hilarious and make you feel like you're in a Bugs Bunny Cartoon. Best enjoyed with a friend and a healthy dose of self-depreciating humour, PoleRiders is well worth a bit of your time.

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Rating: 4.1/5 (120 votes)
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GrinnypMushroom Madness 3Ever since mankind first discovered agriculture, a war has raged. A silent, deadly war between man and... cute furry little creature for possession of that which mankind has worked and slaved over in the hot sun to bring home to his family. If only there was some way to keep those pesky pests away... The eternal battle between man and creature for mushrooms has just heated up with Mushroom Madness 3, an action defense charmer from Vitaly "Silen" Sidorov of Silen Games.

If you've played the original or the sequel you know the drill: you have a nice patch of mushrooms, just ready to be picked and sautéed in butter and added to a nice cream sauce or risotto. Unfortunately, every woodland creature in the tri-state area knows those tasty, tasty fungi are there and are intent on stealing them for themselves. The player must then...dispatch said creatures with whatever comes to hand, beginning with a bedroom slipper and moving up, eventually, to total nuclear Armageddon. Points are earned in each round for various things, from how many mushrooms are saved to how much widespread destruction has been caused. For each animal that has been sent to that great mushroom patch in the sky money is earned that can buy various upgrades that make it easier to rid the world of these venomous pests.

Mushroom Madness 3 has added new levels, new scenarios, and best of all many new weapons and upgrades to the mix, including a fantastic "auto-click" feature that saves the gamers' mouse finger from the muscle cramps that ensue when rapidly clicking to annihilate all of the cute and cuddly yet annoying fauna of the forest. Fun, frantic, and addictive, Mushroom Madness 3 is a great way to vent all of your inner pent up rage and frustration on a wide variety of animals, insects, and birds. Just try to take a break once in a while and don't try any of it in real life, especially the nukes.

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The Vault

DoraWhat's red and blue and green and covered with bugs? This week's installment of the Vault! But don't do the "Squicky Bugs Ew" dance just yet. We're looking back at some of our favourite colourful (and in one case musical!) games that have kept us addicted for years. They all take simple concepts and find creative ways to make them seem fresh and brilliant. Also, in my case, it helps detract from the little twinge my heart gives whenever your American spelling software makes red wavy lines appear under "favourite" and "colourful". Are you there, Canada? It's me, Dora.

  • Magic PenMagic Pen - Remember Harold and the Purple Crayon? No? Well, you don't need to be to enjoy Alejandro Guillen's creative physics puzzler that introduced a slew of gamers to the magic properties of doodling a la Crayon Physics. It's a colourful little game that has you draw shapes that help you find solutions to the problem at hand, and once you get over the immature novelty of drawing obscene things and giggling like a three year old, you'll find it's actually a very competent little puzzle indeed, with a whimsical charm that still captivates today.
  • GemCraftGemCraft - Who would have thought Game in a Bottle would catch lightning in a bottle with their addictive, clever spin on the tower defense genre? Place towers and then create and combine colourful gems to unlock a variety of effects against the incoming swarm of nasty bugs. Combine that with the ability to level up and earn different skills to aid in your GemCraftery, and you have a recipe for addictive success that has been ensnaring defense fans for years, all the way up to 2011. It's a winning formula that can turn "just one more stage" into "just one more hour" if you aren't careful.
  • Music BounceMusic Bounce - Rowland Rose's surprisingly creative musical puzzle is a personal favourite, combining a simple concept with an absolutely delightful reward. Your goal is to destroy all the bricks in each level by setting a certain amount of projectiles to fire in different places, at different times, each of which comes with a tone that is part of the stage's melody. The simple presentation and concept may not seem like much, but make for a remarkably entrancing experience, and it's hard not to feel like you deserve a pat on the back when you get everything firing off properly and are rewarded with a little snippet of sound.

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


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Rating: 4.3/5 (71 votes)
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corygalliherNecronator 2War. War never changes. Well, until the orcs get involved... and the undead... and the elves... and, well, I guess war changes a little bit more than you might expect in Necronator 2, a real-time strategy game with tower defense elements from Toge Productions. In this sequel to the original Necronator, the titular dark lord you controlled in the original is back! It's your job to show him what happens to dark lords (hint: it's not tea and cookies.)

The majority of the action is controlled with the mouse, though it's much easier to scroll around and keep track of what's going on with the [arrow] keys. Make sure you grab the money your defeated foes drop with the mouse as well! Your goal is to claim the enemy's castle at the opposite side of each stage from your own. You battle your opponents by building units which are then largely automated and will march towards the opposing castle, dealing with any baddies or enemy structures they find along the way. While you can give basic orders to charge, halt and retreat, your units generally do a pretty good job of taking care of themselves so you're largely there to deal with the bigger picture of the battle. There's a variety of ranged and melee combat units available, plus you're also able to cast spells to help out more directly and upgrade your units and magic between fights. After each battle, you can spend "shields" you've earned from victories on things like unlocking new units, applying upgrades, purchasing spells, and more. If you're struggling, you can always choose another difficulty setting for each stage.

The graphics are well-defined and clear, the sound certainly works and the gameplay is plenty of fun, but perhaps the most interesting aspect of this game is the creators' promise that it will be updated on a regular basis. While right now you're only able to play as the human faction, more factions are promised along with new spells, hero units and levels. Even with only the Human faction available at the time of this writing, however, Necronator 2 is still a solid, straightforward RTS packed with a ton of different stages, units to unlock, spells to try, and bad guys to fry that's worth your time.

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Rating: 4.3/5 (104 votes)
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AlexSticky Ninja AcademyCling, swing, bounce, and jump kick your way to the head of the class in Sticky Ninja Academy, an addictively unique take on the classic puzzle platformer genre from LongAnimals. As a lowly ninja-in-training, you'll have to complete 30 grueling training exercises before you can graduate to full shinobi status and be considered worthy by your mysterious floating sensei. Careless speed and reckless abandon won't get you far here; true mastery of the art of the sticky ninja depends primarily on patience, timing, precision, and, apparently, lots and lots of Velcro. Deftly maneuver though each stage in as few jumps as possible to achieve a perfect score, avoiding environmental hazards, collecting treasure, and defeating rival students along the way.

Launch your tiny ninja by clicking on him and aiming with the mouse. Your predicted trajectory will appear to help you gauge the accuracy of your jump and will turn red to warn you if there's something in the path your ninja will collide with. Some surfaces are sticky, some are smashable, bouncy, or slippery, and several are just plain deadly. Examine the level around you to more carefully plan your jumps by clicking away from the ninja and dragging to move the camera. Be certain to look before you leap, as an ill-timed or misfired jump can easily result in demise in the later stages, forcing you to repeat some of the level from an earlier checkpoint. Color-coordinated rival students also stand in your path to ninja-hood and every one of them must be dispatched before the door to the next training exercise will open. Many can and should be attacked head-on with an impressive flying kick, but some can only be defeated by being knocked into environmental hazards or by using one of the limited ranged elemental attacks you'll collect along the way (press [X] to drop a water bomb or hurl a fiery shuriken).

Mastering the mechanics of Sticky Ninja Academy isn't easy and the difficulty ramps up pretty quickly. Jumps get longer and require more precision as the game progresses and hazards become more and more common. The game would definitely benefit from a few tweaks, such as an undo button to go back a jump or the ability to zoom the camera out in order to fully see what lies ahead, but none of those minor frustrations are enough to take away from what's most important: the sheer fun of the game. The graphics are eye-catching and attractive, the gameplay is smooth, the music is lovely, and the concept stays fresh throughout all 30 levels. Slip into your finest Velcro-lined garb, gather your concentration, and do your best to graduate with honors from the Sticky Ninja Academy.

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Rating: 3.5/5 (60 votes)
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Kyhkyh_puzzlethief_screen.pngDigital Seed's newest title, Puzzle Thief, is, well, a puzzle game about a (you guessed it) thief who steals his loot by solving block pushing puzzles. Why these colored blocks are so enticing isn't explained, but your only concern here is to get all the blocks to disappear so you can proceed to the next heist. Click and drag a block to get the thief to push it in the direction you indicate. Your thief isn't an acrobat; if he can't walk around to the opposite side in order to push the block where you want it, you can't move it. A block disappears when one of the same color is placed adjacent to it, but as you progress, you will also be given the power to zap a block with lightning by double-clicking it, which makes it disappear on the spot. This is a great way to get rid of a loner or cornered block, though using it can also prevent you from earning three stars on a level... which would be a crime for any puzzle perfectionist!

The difficulty progression in Puzzle Thief is well done, never carelessly throwing you into an ultimately hard level. Challenge is given to you in little bite-sized chunks before you're handed a full king size bar of deviousness. It can at times become tedious to have to tell the thief to move a block one square at a time, waiting for him to do so, but at least the graphics give you some eye candy while you wait. On the surface they may seem simplistic, but once you take a closer look, you'll see great little details like the mirrored floor or the idle breathing movements of the thief. This game offers a fulfilling experience at 25 levels, with more available if you purchase the iOS or Android mobile version, but as it stands, Puzzle Thief is a simple but fun way to start your morning off with a bit of challenging thievery.

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Shantae: Risky's Revenge

JohnBShantae: Risky's Revenge is the sort of game retro-minded players will immediately snatch up. Modern players may look at it and think "another platform game?", but as soon as any human being plays it, it's easy tell that Shantae is anything but ordinary. Risky's Revenge is an action/platform game that's smartly focused on exploration in the style of a good old-fashioned metroidvania. It's a labor of love that's funny, challenging, creative, and absolutely gorgeous down to the last pretty pixel!

Shantae: Risky's RevengeIf you were a mobile gamer in the 90s and early 00s, it meant you owned one or more Game Boy systems. And if you were any sort of platformer connoisseur, your eyes melted at the sight of the original Shantae, a gorgeous action game released for Game Boy Color by a little studio called WayForward. Not too long afterwards, teaser images for a Game Boy Advance sequel were released, showing off some even better pixel art and game mechanics that looked too fun to be true. The sequel was a pet project, though, and over the years the studio worked new ideas into the game and tried crafting it for different platforms. Cut to the present day where Shantae: Risky's Revenge gets a release on digital download outlets like Nintendo's DSi Ware and Apple's iTunes App Store. Now, everyone gets to experience the awe and splendor that is platform gaming at its most refined best!

Ever since the half-genie Shantae ran the pirate Risky Boots out of town, every monster in Sequin Land wants to fight her. Too bad for them her coif of purple hair is as deadly as ever! Use the virtual controls to run and hop your way through the game's colorful levels, entering shops and buildings and talking to every character you come across. There are powers to upgrade, items to find, and some massive bosses to fight your way through. Plenty to keep you and Shantae's hair busy for many hours.

Shantae: Risky's RevengeThe world of Risky's Revenge is large and staggeringly open, allowing you to travel and explore with a great amount of freedom. Naturally, many of these paths won't be open until you find the right ability, and Shantae's belly dancing won't get you as far as you'd like. That's where her genie-like transformative powers come into play. Need to climb a wall? Turn into a monkey! Swim under water? Mermaid time! Risky's Revenge also employs some fun 2.5D gimmicks that allow you to travel into the fore- and backgrounds to access new areas, adding layers of exploration to the traditional four axis world.

Analysis: 2D platform games are a staple video game genre that will never die, mainly because stunning titles like Shantae: Risky's Revenge come along every once in a while to keep interest stirred. You really can't ask for a more varied, finely-tuned experience on any platform, let alone the "decent platform game"-starved iTunes App Store.

Shantae: Risky's RevengeCasting the pretty nostalgic glasses aside (yes, the invisible human that wrote this article was one of the early Shantae devotees), Shantae: Risky's Revenge does manage to do some new things with the old genre. It starts off as a fairly ordinary action game, but after you've fought a few enemies, beaten/been beaten by a few bosses, and traveled through town and forest, you'll have experience all you need to know the game has a ton of unique content. It's not just about jumping on platforms and whipping hair at enemies.

The only real drawback to Shantae: Risky's Revenge is the control setup, something the game can't work around given the touch screen limitations of iOS devices. Virtual buttons are never as precise as real d-pads and triggers, so there's that little bump you have to cross to enter Shantae's world. There's also the issue of that thick blue border surrounding the screen. Shantae is a beautiful game, just like most of WayForward's other projects, and having that border there detracts from the "ooh" factor. There's probably a technical reason it exists, so just start playing the game and you'll forget it's even there.

You will absolutely love Shantae: Risky's Revenge. It looks stunning, it plays like the best of both modern and retro worlds, and it's filled with as much charm and wonder as you can handle. Go take a dive into Shantae's lush world and see how perfect the experience is!


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Mobile Monday

JohnBScientists in Madeupcountry are currently at work on nanomachines that will create time. This time can be smeared on the body as a creme or taken orally to produce pockets of usable time at any moment of the day, allowing doctors to perform vital life-saving surgeries, business-types to seal world-altering deals, and, most importantly, gamers to play more releases in this swarm of good games.

ohedotowns.gifOh! Edo Towns (iPhone/iPod Touch) - More pixel-based Kairosoft simulation gaming, anyone? The creators of Game Dev Story, Pocket Academy, and several other titles in the "story" series have released what is essentially a 17th century Japan version of SimCity, crossed with the usual battery of Kairosoft's management mechanics. Your goal is to raise income so the citizens of your town prosper. You do this by building structures next to each other to create combos, boosting the economy and allowing you to access more bits of scenery and new buildings to play with. It's simpler than previous Kairosoft releases, features a few iPhone-specific interface upgrades (pinch to zoom!), and is every bit as engaging!

burgerjoint.jpgBurger Joint (universal) - From the makers of Galaxy Express comes a falling blocks puzzle featuring monkeys, plates, and delicious foodstuffs! Make burgers by tapping the plate-holding primates at the bottom of the screen, maneuvering dishes to catch falling ingredients in the most awesomest order possible. You can match like ingredients with each other, sure, but assembling a proper burger, from bun to meat to bun, earns you serious bonus points. It's sort of like the Yoshi puzzle game from the early 90s, only more simian in style, and more complex. A good 50+ achievements await you, and the game gets rough once you start climbing the levels, so don't let its straightforward design lull you into a lazy, serene gaming trance.

wizardry-ios.jpgWizardry: Labyrinth of Lost Souls (iPhone/iPod Touch) - Dangerous dungeon crawling mixed with detailed character stat management, Wizardry: Labryinth of Lost Souls is an updated release to the practically-ancient Wizardry RPG series. The game was originally a PS3 exclusive, but now it fits in the palm of your hand, no doubt to free your other hand up for taking notes and drawing maps on a real life piece of paper. Yeah, Wizardry is that hardcore, and you'll put in more than your fair share's worth of time just learning how to play. But if you crave a solid role playing game, you really can't go wrong with this one. The only real down side is that it doesn't feature native iPad support, leaving you to stare at a cramped screen that washes out all the beautiful artwork. It's a shame, but sometimes a little inconvenience is worth it to experience some mobile nostalgia.

aquaria-ios.jpgAquaria (iPad) - Bit Blot's fantastic indie metroidvania game from 2007 (which, naturally, we reviewed!) has been ported to iPad, bringing everything that was great about the game to the semi-portable world. Playing as Naija, an underwater dweller who sets out to discover her world, you get to explore an environment filled with caverns, creatures, and ancient secrets. Your abilities are restricted to songs that can do everything from attack to defend, and as you play, you unlock more (and cooler) songs and recipes to use. It's all just as magical and enchanting as it was on the PC/Mac platforms, and the touch controls work remarkably well without much need for virtual buttons (whew!).

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


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Rating: 4.8/5 (43 votes)
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grinnyp_deathundertuscanskies_banner.jpg

GrinnypYou'd think that the life of a best-selling novelist would be pretty boring, just sitting at home and writing all day, plus occasional jaunts here and there for book signings for fans. Not so for Dana Kingstone. Death Under Tuscan Skies: A Dana Knightstone Novel, the latest hidden object adventure hybrid in the Dana Knightstone series from BoomZap, finds our author as a visiting lecturer in Tuscany. Once again she becomes embroiled in solving a murder mystery, so the life of a professional writer might not be too boring after all.

grinnyp_deathundertuscanskies_screenshot3.jpgDana has decided to take a break from writing and accepts a gig as a guest lecturer at a University in Tuscany. Yes, a free, all expenses paid trip to Tuscany. If you've played the previous game in the series, Death at Fairing Point: A Dana Knightstone Novel, then you can guess what happens the minute our heroine sets foot on the university campus: A handsome professor and a melancholy ghost make their appearances, and pretty soon Dana is blowing off research for the lecture to solve a mystery about Eva, a girl that died young of a mysterious disease and her missing love, Giovanni. First in and around the university, then later along the dreadfully picturesque Tuscan countryside the mystery takes the intrepid Dana as she rushes to discover why Eva died and what became of poor Giovanni whom her family disapproved of. If Dana can solve the mystery it looks like she might have another best-seller on her hands.

Although Death Under Tuscan Skies is classified as a hybrid, it's really a point-and-click adventure stuffed to the gills with tons of puzzles and mini-games, and a few hidden object elements occasionally thrown in. A changing cursor (and sparkles in easy mode) indicate places of interest or items that can be examined or picked up. There's also the usual notebook to keep track of clues (and notes for that later novel) and a bottom loading inventory to hold the various items picked up along the way. The refilling hint timer will give clues in the main adventure scenes as well as hints within the mini-games, puzzles, and hidden object scenes. Each of the six chapters of the story is pretty self-contained and wanders around the lavishly beautiful university, local town, and countryside of Tuscany, populated with interesting locals and ghosts alike.

grinnyp_deathundertuscanskies_screenshot2.jpgAnalysis: Despite the spooky subject matter, Death Under Tuscan Skies: A Dana Knightstone Novel is not a jump-scare type of thriller. Rather, it is a gentle, somewhat romantic mystery that takes place in the ridiculously beautiful Tuscan locations. What makes it stand out is the fact that it is packed front to back with a wide variety of games and puzzles ranging from easy to head-bangingly difficult, with the hidden object scenes almost an afterthought.

Haunting, lyrical tunes accompany the player through unbelievably gorgeous scenery, from the dark and somewhat spooky university library to a sun-drenched Tuscan village and a remote and mysterious monastery. Each chapter is one location which cuts down on a lot of wandering back and forth, while presenting yet another picture-postcard locale to be enjoyed. The puzzles are a nice mix although they do tend to rely heavily on variations of slider puzzles, and they are skippable after a certain amount of time. The hidden object scenes are sharp and clear, and are also a nice mix of the standard list-type as well as "find 20 of a particular item" and others where you must find objects based on pictures or silhouettes. The mystery is...well, not very mysterious, although interesting enough to hold the gamers' attention while they puzzle their way through the scenic Italian countryside. Rather similar to the plots of novels these days by authors who got their start writing Harlequin and Silhouette romances (cough, cough, Nora Roberts, cough, cough).

grinnyp_deathundertuscanskies_screenshot1.jpgDeath Under Tuscan Skies: A Dana Knightstone Novel has two modes of play, easy and advanced, and the length of gameplay depends on which mode is chosen, as well as how many puzzles and mini-games are skipped, but players can look forward to pretty hefty gameplay of several hours which is especially pleasing these days. Those looking for a relaxed, non-scary adventure that still features ghosts should give this amusing and entertaining hybrid a try.

A Collector's Edition is also available. It includes wallpapers, the soundtrack, cut-scenes, concept art, a built-in strategy guide, and an "epilogue" extra adventure. 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 (59 votes)
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To The Moon

DoraDo you have any regrets? Any what-ifs, missed chances, or maybes? If you do, Dr. Eva Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts of Freebird Games' indie adventure game To The Moon might be able to help. They work for a company that developed a technology which will allow them to enter the memories of someone on their deathbed and modify those memories so that the person believes whatever they wish and are able to die happy and peacefully. Tonight, they've been called to the home of an elderly man named John, whose wish, to go to the moon, may sound odd, but should be easily fulfilled... at least until they begin digging deeper into his memories and find out the truth. Emotional, funny, creative and well-written, To The Moon at times feels like it's light on gameplay, but stellar writing and an effortlessly likable cast make this one to check out.

To The MoonDr. Watts and Dr. Rosalene may have bitten off more than they can chew since not even Johnny himself is entirely clear on why he wants to go there. You'll need to travel back through Johnny's memories across decades, exploring important moments in his life, and unravel the reason behind his wish, and why it never came true sooner. To move through his past, you'll need to find memory links by exploring that can unlock mementos in each scenario, which will allow you to travel back further once you've "prepared" the object... by playing a little flip puzzle, naturally. The game can be played with the mouse, clicking to interact and move around, or with the keyboard, with [WASD] or [arrow] keys for movement, and [spacebar] to interact. Right-clicking opens the menu, which lets you review notes and save the game at any time when you're not speaking with someone.

To The MoonAnalysis: Like a lot of people who read the description on the main site, you might feel that in playing To The Moon you're in for some touching, fluffy, Disney Channel or Lifetime Movie stuff. Make no mistake, despite the somewhat overly goofy first hour or so, the story here deals with some heavy material. Selfishness, loss, love that isn't always perfect... it's really the sort of thing you have to be in the mood to play, and if you're looking for something light and exciting, maybe with some dinosaur laser battles or light bike races, you might find To The Moon both too slow and too heavy to get into. Fortunately, the frequently funny dialogue and involving mystery serve to draw you in and keep you there, with moments of levity, tenderness, and honesty helping to carry you through the more serious bits.

The characters are expressive and animated, the environments are beautiful and well detailed without becoming cluttered, and the soundtrack is absolutely gorgeous, bringing the whole thing together in a way that makes it seem leagues more professional than its peers. If you've ever tried to create something with any RPG Maker software, then you can probably appreciate the skill, talent, and dedication that went into turning out something like this.

To The MoonIn fact, if the game has any real flaw, it's that the actual gameplay often doesn't feel as strong as the story. Rather than driving the narrative yourself, you start to feel as if all you're doing is triggering cutscenes. The flipping puzzle to unlock mementos quickly gets boring, and with little thought or action on your part required to find and gather memory links other than simply walking around, the feeling of steering our protagonists around on dolleys intensifies. It makes you wish more had been asked of you, that you'd been able to make some of the pivotal decisions our two doctors do.

By turns eerie, touching, sad, and hilarious, To The Moon is an impressively mature adventure game that deals with loss, love, regret and fulfillment in an engaging manner. A playtime of around five hours may sound short to some people, but the story here is so carefully paced that any more and it would have seemed drawn out and lost a lot of its impact. As it stands, I can personally tell you that To The Moon is one of the best indie titles I've played all year (if not ever), and came seriously close to making me tear up a few times. Sit all the way through the credits and you'll be treated to a short scene that implies we'll be seeing a lot more of Eva and Neil at some point in the future, and we may just have uncovered the tip of the iceberg in their story. In the meantime, however, we'll just have to content ourselves with this... and the knowledge that there are FREE PONY RIDES IN SPAAAAAAAAAACE!

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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Baldur's Gate Saga

DoraNow available on Good Old Games, Bioware's classic RPG Dungeons and Dragons adventure still holds up to scrutiny today, almost thirteen years after its release. Baldur's Gate: The Original Saga and Baldur's Gate 2 Complete may be old, but they still pack one of the most engrossing, challenging, and deep gaming experiences out there. Will you save the world and yourself in the process, or seize power and leave a trail of murder and pain in your wake? You choices determine the course of the story and the fate of your many companions as you travel across the Forgotten Realms... or even below or beyond them.

The story begins in isolated Candlekeep, a place more suited to dusty scribes, where you live with your mentor, the elderly mage Gorion, and your best friend since childhood, energetic Imoen. What starts off as any other day running errands and trying to keep from getting bored in the library quickly turns deadly when you discover someone is trying to kill you, and it soon becomes apparent that Gorion has been keeping more than a few things about yourself from you... things you'll discover could change the course of the world for better or worse. In Shadows of Amn, the adventure picks up shortly where the original game left off. You awaken to find yourself and your companions the prisoners of a powerful wizard named Irenicus, who has also been experimenting on all of you. Your escape is inevitable, but your victory is short lived, when a friend is abducted and you realise you're even farther from home than you've ever been... and it isn't as easy as you might think figuring out who to trust when everyone seems to want a piece of you for their own reasons.

Baldur's Gate SagaAt the beginning, you'll be asked to create a character, which consists of choosing a gender, race, class (wizard, thief, melon baller, etc), and distributing your points into various attributes and weapon proficiencies... spend a bit of time on this since your character's makeup can greatly affect your experience. Gameplay is handled through a point-and-click style interface. Click on the ground to move, and on people or objects to interact. You can eventually have up to five additional party members with you, which is something you'll want to do since the various characters you'll meet are a wide variety that you can choose from to compliment your own skills. Don't want to worry about healing spells? Stuff a sock in Anomen's mouth and drag him along for his clerical abilities. Not so much in the muscle department? Join forces with well-meaning but addle-brained Minsc and unleash his butt-kicking for goodness (and his miniature giant space hamster) on your foes. Characters you can recruit can be found throughout the world, but many of them have their own agendas (and egos) so think carefully about who you take with you.

Combat is real-time, although you can pause and issue commands to party members whenever you like, and since you can move freely around the battlefield you'll probably want to take advantage of that a lot. Depending on the difficulty setting, friendly-fire from ally spells and attacks is possible, so think twice before you drop that fireball. Naturally, a big part of any RPG is gaining loot and levelling up, but since Baldur's Gate is based on the Dungeons and Dragons system, the process is a bit more complex. Beyond simply slapping a "better" sword on a character, you'll need to carefully consider how you allocate points in everything from attributes to weapon specialisations as it has influence beyond battle; a character with a high strength might be able to bend the bars of a cage, for example, while someone with a high charisma score could talk their way out of a fight... even if they walk right into a trap due to low intelligence.

Baldur's Gate SagaAnalysis: Despite featuring a lot of combat, the series as a whole is extremely focused on the story and making you feel like your actions are changing the world and the people around you. The various NPCs you can recruit are all memorable and well-written, bickering amidst themselves, chatting, or even flirting with you. Both the original Baldur's Gate and the sequel, Shadows of Amn, are all about you and your sense of identity and rise to power, and as a result feel a bit more personal than your typical "Evil Empire X Wants To Rule The World" storylines. Throne of Bhaal, on the other hand, does feel like it eschews the deeper storytelling at work in Shadows of Amn for increasingly dramatic battles and ridiculous magic items. It's still enjoyable, it's just a bit less about complex character development and relations, and a bit more about stabbing multiple dragons in the face while your party members rain meteors down on an army of demons.

It is, of course, difficult. Not just in regards to combat, which can require a lot of strategy and will teach you the wisdom of frequent saves in different slots, but also in its story. Not only can party members clash violently between themselves (or against you) over alignment issues and plot choices, but the narrative isn't always black and white. Choices have consequences and impact, and the bad guys don't always wear top hats while the "good" option doesn't necessarily mean everyone gets a "happily ever after". This isn't a bad thing; there's a surprising amount of replay value to be found simply in exploring all your options in various plot points, and some can be very different from others. While challenging, the combat is also satisfying because it rarely feels unfair; even brutal battles can be turned through careful strategy and use of your surroundings... and of course the pause button. It makes emerging from those tooth-and-nail boss fights feel that much more epic.

Baldur's Gate SagaIn fact, even if you have played Baldur's Gate before, you might want to pick it up again since the series has a remarkably talented and robust modding community that has for years now created everything from gameplay convenience tweaks, to aesthetic changes, to new party members with complex friendships or romantic paths. Check out Pocket Plane Group, Spellhold Studios, and The Gibberlings 3 for some of the creme de la creme to get you started. If you did own the original game, then you should also be able to appreciate the fact that buying it from GOG means you don't have to keep and juggle twelve discs whenever you want to play the whole series. Is there an award we can give them for that? It feels like there should be. I'm so disorganised.

We won't say Baldur's Gate as a series is the best RPG around, since that feels like throwing down a gauntlet and is entirely a matter of personal preference, but it is without question one of the finest RPG and story-telling experiences around. It may be a bit steep of an experience for players who like comparatively simpler RPGs based around Final Fantasy-ish mechanics, but if you don't mind diving in and getting knocked around by a few beholders from time to time, Baldur's Gate provides an incredibly deep game full of replayability that will wrap you up for days on end. Highly recommended, even if you've already taken a trip or three through the Realms before.

WindowsWindows:
Order Baldur's Gate: The Original Saga
Order Baldur's Gate 2 Complete

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


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elleelle_epicrail_image2.jpgIn Epic Rail, an addictive albeit circuitous new action-puzzle, simulation game from Edit Undo, your long-postponed childhood dream of being an engineer are, well, still on hold. Instead, you sit at the railway control desk, routing trains through color-coded stations, carefully changing directions on the appropriate junctions. Send locomotives along the correct tracks toward their destinations, all the while avoiding an epic fail: screams, explosions and carnage!

Epic Rail might seem a bit prosaic at first glance but as you start to play, its charms emerge: clean design, atmospheric and entertaining special effects, ease of controls, and multitask-masterful puzzles... all engaging the fun factor. Perfectly time your reactions and employ strategic planning if you want to earn brag-worthy railroad medals. Should your color sense be unreliable or simply biased, choose symbolic "color hints" under options. As you advance through Epic Rail's 34 levels, the job grows distinctly more demanding with longer tracks and more—far more—junctions to control. The challenge is definitely enjoyable although there's a smidgeon of repetitiveness in redoing levels unless you possess skills in quick and precise clicking. Besides, living out your very own Unstoppable moment of eminent heroism is too tempting to resist. You can now forgive a certain jolly, white-bearded someone for not delivering the model train set he promised that day at the mall.

Play Epic Rail


(17 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Weird Park: Broken Tune

JohnBIt's not Halloween, but there's always an open space for abandoned theme parks, midget jesters, and overweight clown ghosts in your gaming schedule! Weird Park: Broken Tune fits you in the fedora of a detective set on the case of John Flatter, a journalist who went missing in the town of Fairy Gate. You end up in an old theme park, complete with derelict equipment and dusty attractions that look like they're about to eat you. A journalist's work in a hidden object adventure is never done, however, and the more you poke your nose around, the stranger things get. Yipe!

Weird Park: Broken TuneIn addition to hunting for John Flatter, you'll also stumble across the mystery of Louis Gauche, an apparently talented (but undeniably creepy) clown who was killed during a death-defying juggling/unicycle/tightrope performance. It's unfortunate enough knowing that he's dead, but to have his ghost turning up around every corner, scaring the hat off of you and lighting fires in ferris wheel carts, that's another story entirely. Also: who is this little jester fellow who is always one step ahead of you?!

Following a casual adventure layout with an inventory system and environmental puzzles, Weird Park: Broken Tune uses hidden object scenes sparingly, and when it does, they're short, simple, and switch between "find the list" to "find the fractured items". Most of your time will be spent hunting for key objects that sit comfortably in your inventory, waiting to be used. Each small area features a handful of puzzles you'll need particular items to solve. Wander back and forth, picking up new things as you open new areas, returning to previous places to make use of your shiny new toys.

Weird Park: Broken TuneAnalysis: Weird Park dares to enter the crowded hidden object scene with yet another spooky adventure-type release. This one stands out a bit with its excellent visual presentation and gameplay that never stumbles over itself trying to give you everything you could ever want from a hidden object game. It's simple, and that's what makes it so good. Also: scary clowns make it good.

For the most part, puzzles are logical in nature, so you won't need to use a rusty nail to dig a hole or toothpaste to seal a crack in a dam or anything like that. Sometimes, though, you'll wonder why one item can't be used in a particular location. Why can't a crowbar pry a battery out of a car? And how many types of hammers are in the world and why do you need every single one of them to progress?

Weird Park: Broken Tune's main drawback is that it recycles quite a bit of content, forcing you to walk back and forth frequently and making use of hidden object scenes multiple times. More than once you'll revisit an area to find new items only a few minutes after you initially searched it from top to bottom. It's not nearly as exciting to see the same stuff over and over again, even if the list of items is different.

Weird Park: Broken Tune may have a nondescript name, but the game underneath knows exactly what it's going for. It's a great-looking and wholly satisfying hidden object adventure that will last longer than most games in the genre.

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


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Rating: 3.3/5 (66 votes)
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DoraThree Bears 2Get ready to point-and-click your way through puzzles with a raised eyebrow or three, because Minoto's latest has arrived. Three Bears 2 revolves around a football helmet in a locked fridge, a vapidly smiling little girl, and three bears with the most convoluted ways to perform simple tasks you've ever seen. Click around to gather objects, and then try whatever you can think to proceed. This one only has one ending and is fairly short, but if you're looking for something cute and weird, that's really all you need. If you haven't already, you can also play Three Bears, but it's not like it'll give you some context or anything. After all, the very best Minoto games are the ones where you feel like you fell down a rabbit hole and hit your head several times in the process.

Play Three Bears 2


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Rating: 4/5 (61 votes)
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TrickyWaterfalls 3You know what needs to make a comeback? Black-light posters. Have those ever not been fascinating to look at? Anyways, Waterfalls 3, a physics puzzler by MoonMana, might not be as easy to hang on the wall, but it definitely has the ethereal prettiness. The goal of each level is to direct streams into their proper receptacles by using the mouse to place items that direct the flow. These include gravity directors, multiple arrow gravity directors, and the obligatory portals. Finish all 25 levels, and you'll be calm enough for your daily round of meditation... or at least to stare at a lava lamp for a couple of hours.

Aesthetically and thematically similar to games like Speck Oppression and Auditorium, Waterfalls 3 is simple, soothing and very pretty. Discovering the rules of flow takes a little experimentation, but, once you determine them, the rest doesn't prove to be all that difficult, especially considering that there's no real way to lose. The choice of soundtrack is questionable. The song that plays in the background is well-sung and well-produced, but when put in concert with the game, the vocals are strangely intrusive. It's likely a number of players will hit mute and crank up some Zeppelin instead. Overall though, Waterfalls 3 has stunning visuals and a palpable atmosphere of serenity. Light some incense and get clicking!

Play Waterfalls 3


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Weekend Download

JohnBWhat? An entire Weekend Download dedicated to shooters? Has someone gone mad? Apparently, yes! The shmup genre has a loyal fanbase of dedicated players, eating up crazy-difficult releases like they were candy and picking on the finer points of swarm-based action gaming. Casual players can enjoy a good shooter or two as well, and the games below will provide some challenge without alienating the less, shall we say, reflexually impared amongst us!

gravitybox.gifGravity Box (Windows, 12.3MB, free) - Rotating boxes. Swarms of enemies. Gravity that doesn't really care about you. Gravity Box is an arena shooter that sticks you in a small room that periodically shifts gravity, dropping out portions of the floor while enemies creep in from all sides. You're limited to platform-style controls, meaning you can walk, jump, and shoot, but not fly, but fortunately your gun can penetrate blocks, so you aren't quite as limited as it seems. The blurry visuals will either make or break the experience for most players, but if they work for you, Gravity Box will provide a good arcade experience that gradually becomes more and more frantic.

rhythmical.gifRhythmical (Windows, 4.6MB, free) - Why shoot tons of enemies when you can shoot them to the beat of a song? This visually intense shooter becomes virtually impossible to play if you do nothing but spam the fire button. Instead, shooting in time with the music produces visual and aural bliss, plus it gets rids of the enemies! Try to keep your head when the colors shift and the angle rotates. It's all about the music, remember?

nord.gifNORD (Windows, 3.9MB, free) - A vertically scrolling shmup that places just as much emphasis on defense as it does offense. As a NORD, you're flying along when suddenly ANTI-NORDS start attacking you. Move with the [mouse] and attack with the [left] mouse button. If you survive long enough, your weapon automatically upgrades itself, switching from powerful single beams to multi-shot cannons. It's an interesting concept having your weapons upgraded but changed on the fly, and you'll spend almost as much time avoiding things as you will shooting them. A good one to kill a few minutes when you need a good, shooter-based distraction!

mushroomsaw.gifThe Mushroom and the Saw (Windows, 9.6MB, free) - Remember how this article was supposed to be about shooters? Well, this game sort of makes that a lie. You see, there's plenty of shooting going on. But it's the stick figures who carry guns that shoot, not you. You get to control a spinning sawblade that destroys those who would attack your giant mushroom. Which sounds more awesome? (Hint: the saw thing.) Buzz around keeping the mushroom alive for four minutes and you're a big winner. Fail, and you're the opposite of that. A tiny loser?

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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timemysteriesspectres-b.jpg

GrinnypStorylines in the adventure/hidden object hybrid genre of casual games contain a massive range of scenarios. Some are set in the past, some feature magic and curses, some feature an orphan on a quest to find their family, some feature time travel, etc. But what do you think about a game having all of the above? And more? Check out Time Mysteries: The Ancient Spectres by Artifex Mundi to see how that's possible!

grinnyp_timemysteries_screenshot1.jpgA sort of prequel to Time Mysteries: Inheritance, Time Mysteries: The Ancient Spectres begins in 1830 where you, a young orphan, receive a visit from a mysterious stranger carrying an even more mysterious package. Inside is a letter from an unknown aunt and news of an inheritance: a mansion. Our heroine travels to said mansion to discover it run down and abandoned. Once inside things become even stranger, such as the broken seal that was containing an evil sorceress, and a time machine that allows you to travel back and forth between the mansion and Venice, Italy during different eras. The story eventually incorporates a cursed mansion, the cursed family who lives there, Merlin himself, his evil apprentice Viviana, and a lot of time hoofing it out to make things right.

If you've ever played an adventure/hidden object hybrid you know the drill: changing cursors indicate navigable areas, places of interest, and things to pick up; sparkles indicate things that need a closer inspection (absent in the expert mode). There's also a bottom-loading inventory, a refillable hint feature, and an ever-present notebook to keep track of the story and various clues. To this mix are added a few new features. Once you've found the time machine it goes into your inventory and can function as a map to show locations from the various eras as well as allowing the player to instantly travel from one place to the next. The notebook tracks not only the story and the clues but has an objectives area as well that organizes the main goals of each chapter of the story.

grinnyp_timemysteries_screenshot3.jpgTime Mysteries: The Ancient Spectres has a nice mix of puzzles, mini-games, and hidden object scenes scattered throughout the locations. The puzzles are of the logic variety and vary from easy to difficult, and the mini-games, though familiar, are beautifully done up in the style of the period (1830). The standouts in this game, though, are the hidden object scenes. The scenes themselves are cluttered and a little dark. The lists of items include things that must be manipulated or otherwise interacted with to find. There is both a refilling hint timer and a "sonar" device that shows the outlines of various items that need to be found. What makes the hidden object scenes so unique, though, is the mini-game toggle that each contains. To the left of the hint button is the mini-game button, allowing the player to fight their way through a "cluster" version of a match-3 game in order to find the list items rather than straining the eyes to spot objects in the "junk-pile". For those who don't have the patience for object finding the match-3 alternate is a nice way to keep the game rolling.

Analysis: With its gorgeous graphics and haunting music Time Mysteries: The Ancient Spectres is a visual and aural feast, but that's not what makes it stand head and shoulders above the crowd. There are a lot of pretty looking hybrids out there, but very few that feature as much attention all of the elements of the game, be it the story or the mini-games and puzzles as well as the hidden object aspects.

grinnyp_timemysteries_screenshot2.jpgThe visuals are lush and inviting and with two modes of play (regular and expert) a wide range of adventure players can enjoy Time Mysteries: The Ancient Spectres. Artifex Mundi has created a fun balance of exploration and gameplay that will appeal to a wide audience. What makes the game really unique, however, is that ability to completely play through the hidden object scenes with a match-3 game, giving a nice choice to those who don't perhaps have the patience to deal with finding over a dozen objects in the crowded backgrounds.

There are a few minor flaws, such as the clickable areas to pick up objects being either too small or too large in some of the scenes. Unfortunately, the game has also succumbed to the practice of putting a chapter that completes the story as the "extra" adventure in the collector's edition. Fine if you spring for the bigger release, but not so fine if you're not interested in the other extras.

Time Mysteries: The Ancient Spectres is a pretty hefty adventure in these days of incredibly shrinking gameplay. A meaty story, stunning visuals, amusing and entertaining gameplay all add up to a fun ride through time and space.

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

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

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


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Rating: 4.7/5 (1335 votes)
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DoraRealm of the Mad GodWild Shadow's Realm of the Mad God (hosted here with kind permission of the developers), a multiplayer, co-op, fantasy RPG shooter, has been around for a while, but if you're like me, you may have been hesitant to try it. After all, free MMORPGs are a dime a dozen, and the quality can greatly vary. However... if you're less interested in doing quests for random NPCs, working on skills, and generally behaving yourself in orderly combat than you are blowing things the heck up, you really need to give Realm of the Mad God a try. Join hundreds of other players online in a hectic, dangerous world as you work together to topple endless swarms of enemies, ancient titans, and even, eventually, the Mad God himself. It'll take fast fingers, a lot of luck, a lot of bullets, and even some teamwork if you hope to topple a God... but maybe you should work on staying alive for more than five minutes before you start tackling deities.

While you only have access to the wizard class in the beginning, other classes will unlock as you play and gain levels and fame. Use the [WASD] keys to move around (or configure those to your liking via the options menu when you're at the Nexus) and the mouse to aim and shoot. Any items you pick up, if they aren't equipment, can be used by [shift]-clicking on them in your inventory, or hitting the appropriate number hotkey. Kill enemies to gain levels and equipment, and stay alive for as long as you can, which is kind of important since death is permanent. If the character you were playing bites the dust, you'll be forced to start all over again with a brand new, level one hero and a big box of tissues to cry into.

The game is pure combat, and you'll spend your time running around the world, chasing "quests" (bigger, meaner special monsters) and helping out other players; whenever an enemy is slain, everyone onscreen gains the same amount of experience points, but treasure drops to the ground in the form of a bag that anyone can loot from, so you'll need to be quick to get your share if anyone else is around. If things get hairy, you can press [F5] or the little temple icon to teleport immediately to the Nexus at any time... yes, even if a beholder is in the process of trying your face on for a hat.

Realm of the Mad GodFor most players, the most important place in the game will be the Nexus, a safe spot where you can take a break, meet and team up with other players, trade without fear of monster mash, and make use of the Vault. The Vault (no, not that one!) is where you can store items for use by any future character you play; you get once chest to store items in for free, but the rest need to be bought with Gold... something you can only obtain by spending real world cash. Fortunately, the game is fully playable without spending a dime. If you're having difficulty going it alone, remember that you can click on any green dot (representing a player) on the minimap and instantly teleport to them to take part in whatever monster blasting they may be undertaking. Just remember that while elves may be the snotrags of the forest, but Ghost Kings are another story entirely...

Analysis: If you go into Realm of the Mad God wanting or expecting a traditional MMORPG experience a la, say, Ultima Online or World of Warcraft, you're going to be disappointed... namely because this game has less in common with them than it does an arcade blast-em-up. The fact of the matter is that it's a fairly simple hack-and-slash online fantasy shooter, but it does what it does extremely well. The worlds are fairly massive, packed full with a wide variety of continually spawning monsters, champions, and secret lairs, and lots and lots of treasure. The realtime gameplay is so hectic that it can be more than a little intimidating at first, but fans of fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants action shooters will feel right at home.

Perhaps more importantly, however, is that the game is just more fun with a group of people. After adventuring solo for a while, I started using the minimap to teleport to wherever there were large groups of people and just helped out; it really let me see the tougher battles the game had to offer, and made me feel like I was part of the group. You should also join a train (a group of players headed in one direction blasting everything in their path) at least once; it's a great way to gain levels, and, while chaotic, is at times more entertaining than it has any right to be.

Realm of the Mad GodAt the same time, however, there's no denying in that it can get fairly repetitive, and it might not be the sort of game you can or want to play for hours at a time. Realm of the Mad God feels like its best enjoyed in short bursts, teaming up with a group of players for a few climactic battles before you get too cocky and wind up reduced to a fine cloud of particles. While there's no shortage of monsters to tackle, large and small, and a whole lot of areas to explore and treasure to find, the gameplay will probably only hold lasting appeal if you're a real fan of the mechanics.

Realm of the Mad God is unique, chaotic, fast-paced fun best enjoyed with a group of buddies and a Dr Zoidberg whooop-whoopwhoopwhoopwhoop! mentality. While the hectic gameplay won't be for everyone, and players hoping for a more "thou art" approach to a fantasy game may be disappointed, if you embrace it for the action-packed jump-on-in experience that it is you'll have a fantastic time.

Play Realm of the Mad God

Thanks to John, KMB, Agustin, Spacemarine9, Yemdx, Darren, and Ironimp for sending this one in!


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Rating: 4.2/5 (96 votes)
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TrinnStolen ArtHave you ever dreamt of being the expert curator of an art museum, studying the works of Miró, Kandinsky, or Picasso? You may want to rethink that dream after playing Stolen Art, a spot-the-difference game by Small is Beautiful where blubbering art collectors and obtrusive detectives are constantly knocking on your door to help them uncover some clever forgeries. Study two near-identical paintings to find and then click any slight differences as speedily as you can. While there is no visible timer, you can receive bonus points for working quickly or lose points for mis-clicking. You also have a recharging hint button at your disposal, which is sure to become your best friend when you hit the surrealism levels. The quirky, if somewhat repetitive, dialogue adds an entertaining story and the scaling difficulty curve will present a surprising challenge. Speaking of surprises, be on the look out for two curiously familiar characters you won't expect to see in the Louvre any time soon!

Play Stolen Art


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Rating: 4.7/5 (150 votes)
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JohnBfocus1.jpgTrapped in a cave. Laser things shooting at you. Buttons everywhere. Spikes even more everywhere. It's a normal day for our featureless friend in Focus, a puzzle platform game originally released in 2009 by Karoshi author Jesse Venbrux. Ported to the browser world by Joseph Ivie, Focus features over 50 levels of extra difficult action, sticking you in enclosed rooms with all manner of dangers and challenging you to use your platforming skills to make it out alive.

Focus is built around a standard platform base where you walk and jump around a series of single-screen levels. Each room has a door, and each door can only be opened if you trigger the yellow switches planted in the walls, floor and ceiling. Sometimes you can just step on a button, but other times you'll need to trick a robot to fire at you in order to toggle it. Standard fare, and challenging of its own accord, but then you introduce the game's main gimmick: the focus ability.

Tap the [A] key to start the focus. A ring appears around you along with a fancy pointer you can move with the [arrow] keys. Choose your destination, minding both distance and direction, then release to fling yourself around. Not only can you travel great distances almost instantaneously, you can also jump through solid walls, making focus both extraordinarily useful and an awesome trick to show off at parties.

Learning to use focus will take some time, but once you do, you'll be hopping around the game like a boss. There are plenty of challenges ahead of you, almost none of which can be completed without concentration and some trial-and-error. Focus is very friendly to failure, though, and when you start scratching the surface of the game, you'll realize just how intricate and entertaining one simple ability can be.

Play Focus


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Rating: 4.2/5 (140 votes)
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SonicLoverNani QuestNani-Quest, the newest of the many not-so-typical escape games that Detarou is so famous for, dumps you into the middle of what looks like a Dungeons & Dragons dungeon raid gone awry, with an adventuring party consisting of a mage and swordsman who just can't sort out their differences, a martial artist who seems to have really bad luck with mimics and traps, an archer who's always kneeling alone in the corner... and you, apparently the party's only useful member... rogue, maybe? As is the custom, use the mouse to navigate and interact; a changing cursor will alert you to what you can tinker with. Click the edges of the screen when the bars appear to turn left and right, or to back away from a close-up view. When something's in your inventory, click once to use it or double-click to examine it. Expect several clues and gadgets to be used more than once, and don't forget about the SAVE button.

Detarou has a knack for combining surreal elements with surprisingly logical puzzles, and such is the case in Nani-Quest as well... albeit this one's a little easier on the surreal than, say, Dayori or Office. It's an excellent piece of escape work, so go in there and salvage this dungeon raid so the party can recuperate at the nearest tavern. Hope you've got your +5 Mouse Cursor of Puzzle-Solving equipped.

Play Nani-Quest


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Rating: 4.2/5 (150 votes)
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corygalliherKatwalkIt's a popular misconception that cats have nine lives. In reality they've actually got infinite lives and are forced to restart at checkpoints every time they lose one. For proof, just take a look at Katwalk, a metroidvania-style platformer by Krankdud. Our feline hero may bite the dust time and time again but it doesn't keep him down... he just hops right back up and returns to the action! The cat in question has been stranded after falling in a sinkhole outside his home. To help him find his way back, where presumably there's some delicious cans of tuna and black clothing to shed on, use the [arrow] keys to walk left and right and the [X] key to jump. You'll need to find and pick up several different upgrades to complete the game, each of which enhances the cat in some way, such as increasing his jump height or allowing him to swim.

Katwalk is presented in standard retro graphical style. The protagonist cat and all of the enemies are simple but well-defined and everything animates and controls smoothly. There's none of the floaty control issues that you might expect to see in other flash-based platformers. The real highlight of the presentation, though, is the catchy chiptune music that's guaranteed to get stuck in your head for the next decade or so. Katwalk is a short, fairly easy game, so aside from one tricky section involving swimming you won't need catlike reflexes to succeed. This makes it a fantastic coffee break game, and it's so solidly made that it's worth the tiny time investment. So hop on in... there's cattery afoot!

Play Katwalk


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraBut soft! What light through yonder window breaks? 'Tis the work week, and we are so over that noise you have no idea, which I guess makes the weekend the sun! We had a week chock full of awesome games, but there are even more new ones on the horizon. Isn't it exciting? It's like being an explorer, only without having to get off your butt and deal with mutiny or jungle parasites or getting your face melted off by ancient artifacts! Hooray!

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

New and Noteworthy

  • Pursuit of HatPursuit of Hat - You'll give an arm and a leg to beat this puzzle platformer... and then another arm and another leg, and maybe a torso too, since our protagonist is willing to pull off his own limbs to get his jaunty chapeau back! Who ever thought they'd find a way to make dismemberment cute?There's definitely a certain whimsical charm to the whole thing, but you'll come for the adorable beasties and stay for the clever puzzles!
  • Asleep WalkingAsleep Walking - Do your dreams involve expert timing to avoid certain impalement? No? Well, they might after you spend some time with this tricky yet stylish game of reflexes where you guide an extremely nonchalant fellow past hazards by hitting a button to make him pause at the right time. It sounds frustrating, but some seriously nifty atmosphere helps this one stand out from the pack.
  • Escape from the Woody RoomEscape from the Woody Room - Tesshi-e rarely disappoints, and despite a snark-worthy name, this newest escape game is another fine example of how to do the genre right. Take some clean visuals, challenging puzzles, and sprinkle it all with a bit of seasonal atmosphere and you've got a recipe for success!
  • Hood:Episode 2Hood: Episode 2 - Hyptosis, one of the creative minds behind the wildly popular Alice is Dead series, continues to improve on his solo work, and this latest installment of his new series about a different Little Red Riding Hood takes a lot of player feedback on board. The game is not only cleaner and easier to navigate, it's also a bit longer. Have you unraveled the mystery behind this twisted fairytale yet?
  • AbsorptionAbsoption - Science! Who amoungst us has not wanted to pew pew pew stuff with a really awesome experimental gun in its name? This clever new physics puzzle swaps things up a bit by giving you a laser that can absorb and then discharge all sorts of matter, all while your performance is graded on its efficiency by a dispassionate scientist with frizzy hair. Adorable? You betcha. But like the very best science, it's also tricky and full of "a-ha!" moments as well.


HomeRelease Approaching! Reedle-dee-dee-dee, reedle-dee-dee-dee, reedle-deeeeeeee! Well, that's how I've always sung it anyway, and with the upcoming release of Tell Tale Games' new dinosaurrific episodic adventure game, aspiring Velociwranglers everywhere are gearing up! The game goes live November 15th (on PC, Mac, iPad, XBOX, and PS3!), and promises to answer questions and pick up plot threads the original movie left off, so players looking for a canonical continuation of their favourite dino-movie will find a lot to like here. Currently, you can only pre-order the Deluxe Edition as standard pricing isn't yet available. Anyone else also waiting for their chance to eventually hang out with Grimes... ?

My Little Pony: Fighting is MagicPreview Alert! If you aren't already on the Pony bandwagon, well, I can't help you. The rest of you bronies will be glad to know that everyone's favourite over-organised unicorn, Twilight Sparkle, has finally made her gameplay video debut for the upcoming fighting game based on the incredibly popular cartoon. While it's still a long ways from being ready, the game has made enormous strides since its first tentative footage, and clearly Mane6, the team behind it, is hard at work to deliver an experience fans will love. Currently announced are the six main ponies, a local vs mode, and a story mode for when the game is released, and even more planned for the future. If you're a pony fan, it's like a dream come true... especially since it's going to be absolutely free! Check out more videos and information over at the official site!

AscensionPreview Alert! Not enough scares in your life? Download and check out the demo for Magnesium Ninja Studios' upcoming survival horror 2-D sidescroller about a very unlucky fellow who wakes up inside a building teeming with all sorts of nastiness. The release date is a nebulous 2012, but giving the demo a try should give you a good idea of what to expect, and of course, everyone knows feedback is love, so make sure you take the time to send the developers your impressions and help make this game awesome. For my part, aside from the fact that the main character's hyperventilating got annoying, I did squeal a little at least once, and the game manages to create a surprisingly tense atmosphere for its chosen style and familiar concept.


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Rating: 4.2/5 (84 votes)
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joyeCursed DungeonYou may know a saying about laying down with dogs and getting up with fleas. Well, adventurers have their own saying: "Get into a fight with a demon, die or become horribly cursed." The hero of a new dungeon crawler from Awoker Games clearly didn't get that memo, and thus he's forced to journey into the Cursed Dungeon in search of a cure. With the entire game easily beatable in an hour or so depending on difficulty level and a streamlined and linear upgrading system, it will scratch your RPG itch without demanding you commit to an entire saga.

Create your character as either a damage soaking knight, fast moving rogue, or strong axeman. Use the mouse to enter battles or go to town, where you can upgrade your equipment using a combination of upgrade stones and gold. Your equipment is upgraded in a simple linear progression, so those of you who feel like you spend half your time in RPGs fiddling in the equipment menu and trying to decide whether the adamantine buckler is better than the angelic shield might enjoy this opportunity to ignore the question completely. In the dungeon itself, you can fight progress battles to move forward in the story (and in the difficulty) or training battles to level up or gain gold and stones. In the battles themselves, similar to Infinite Tower, your character auto-attacks with his regular attack, and you can use the mouse or numeric hotkeys to select special abilities. At the end of each of the four sections, a boss battle will ensue.

The art here is basically static and somewhat retro 3D graphics, and the plot is rather thin, but rather than aesthetics, Cursed Dungeon focuses purely on its battle system, stripping away extraneous distractions like equipment management, and thus succeeds in serving up simple battling fun that RPG fans will find addictive. Others will never understand the relaxation that we who are fans find in the hypnotic trance of battle. Monotonous grinding will definitely get us down, but a certain amount of soothing repetition, spiced up with continually varying enemies, new abilities, and boss fights, is actually fun for us, and Cursed Dungeon delivers that for sure.

Play Cursed Dungeon


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Rating: 3.9/5 (41 votes)
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TrickyMelee ManThe title of Melee Man, a pixelated action platformer by The Village Blacksmith (formally of Epic Shadow) and David Vs. Goliath probably was decided on before the game was developed. First of all, the guy has a gun and sucks at melee. Secondly, he looks a lot more like that dude from Dig Dug than Dr. Light's creation. Thirdly, it was put together in a week, so it's probable that redoing the title screen wasn't high on the priority list. Onomastic incongruity aside though, it's a really nice game. It's designed to the 160x144 resolution of the Gameboy Color, and, along with the kicking chiptune soundtrack, truly feels like an unreleased prototype for what would have been a really cool cartridge. It's not perfect: the backgrounds are often cluttery, making it hard to tell what is a land-on-able platform and what isn't. Combined with the finickiness of some of the jumps expected, this feels a little unfair. That said, Melee has a nice difficulty curve and that overall old-school feel that all retro games aspire to. In conclusion: Pew! Pew!

Play Melee Man


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Rating: 3.9/5 (254 votes)
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elleelle_metropolisamnesia_3.jpgFans of classic dystopian sci-fi films and avid escapers both know there is never enough of a good thing to go around: all movies fade to black, all escape games have an exit. If they're built right, with inventiveness and sentiment, you're always left wanting another. Metropolis Amnesia, a new escape game from Timefall, is not much more than a trailer: a teasing portion of puzzles and a few cleanly-designed rooms to investigate. Yet the convivial winks at cinematic cult favs give Metropolis Amnesia its heart, making it worth breaking for. The design is well-planned and easy to navigate, quickly completed near the 15-minute mark. In that span of time, as you explore this modern-decor flat, you need only be observant, jot a couple notes, employ a bit of deductive reasoning and make sense of a jumbled picture—not so easy as to insult your intelligence, just affable enough to enjoy while reminding you of that old favorite best watched with lights down and a bucket full of popcorn.

"Between the mind that plans and the hands that build there must be a Mediator, and this must be the heart." - Metropolis(1927)

Play Metropolis Amnesia


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

Letters in Boxes #21

ArtbegottiNot too much unlike a previous puzzle pack, this week's Letters In Boxes challenge might require a bit of handiwork to solve. While it's possible to solve every puzzle this week without wasting paper, you might find this week's puzzles to be a bit easier if you keep the scissors close at hand. Don't worry, there's no crazy three-dimensional folding this time around. Just a lot of overlapping. See how well you stack up with this week's puzzles!

To play, click on your first puzzle below to open it up in a new window. Once you think you've got an answer, focus your attention on your browser's address bar. Change the image's filename (starting off this time with "twentyonederful") to your answer, making sure you stay in the same directory and keep the same file extension. If you're right, you'll see the next puzzle on the double! If you're wrong, you'll see an error message, but don't let that smother your spirits; you can always back up and try again.

Letters in Boxes #21 - Puzzle 1This batch of puzzles contains four puzzles to solve. On the fourth puzzle, you'll find the email address for sending your final answer (note the special instructions this week). 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, November 7th at 11:59 PM (GMT-5:00). Location pending, that means you might have an extra hour to get your answer in this weekend. Good luck!

Update: Congratulations to the following winners! :D

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

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Fairway

JohnBFew things are as exciting as a well-made casual solitaire game. Well, few things that aren't cake, hugs from puppies, or driving up to a traffic light just as it turns green and starts dispensing candy. In the absence of that miracle, though, the latest game from Big Fish Games Studios will certainly fill that fun-shaped void in your life. Fairway is an enormously well-polished game of golf-themed tri-peaks solitaire. Take cards from the pile, pair them with the face-up card below, uncover a few neat power-ups, and try to clear the screen without breaking par!

FairwayIf you've been around the casual gaming scene for some time, you'll remember Fairway Solitaire, one of the genre's first big breakout hits that still stands tall to the scrutinous eyes of gamers. Since then, a number of themed solitaire games have hit, including Soccer Cup Solitaire, Heartwild Solitaire, and Faerie Solitaire, each taking the decades-old card game and spicing things up with new layouts and power-ups that really change the flavor.

An arrangement of cards sits face-down on the screen with the bottom row facing up. Below is a deck of cards with one shuffled out for you to see. The goal is to eliminate cards from the top half of the screen by removing face-up cards that are either one above or one below the shuffled-out card in value. For example, if the key card is a five of hearts, you can slide a four or a six of any color or suit on top of it. Move as many cards as you can before clicking the deck for a new key card. When the deck is depleted, the round ends.

Fairway makes things interesting by using golf-themed elements to add challenge to the. For example, you'll often have to eliminate sand or water trap cards in order to gain access to locked stacks of cards elsewhere on the screen. The undo button is called "mulligan", which is a nice touch! Between levels you'll also have access to a store, allowing you to spend your hard-earned golf bucks on some really cool pieces of equipment. X-ray glasses or a heads-down trainer, anyone?

FairwayAnalysis: Fairway may look simple, but it does a great job adding a new dimension of play to a simple card game. Between the shop, the power-ups, the in-game obstacles, and the hilarious story involving gophers, you won't have a hard time deciding whether you should pick up this game or go sit down with a deck of real-life cards. That's not even taking into account how smooth the game looks or how utterly playable it is!

Not a golf fan? That's totally fine, you don't need to know a thing about the game to play Fairway. In fact, it might even be better that you aren't a golf master, as the gameplay elements that take inspiration from the real life game have almost nothing to do with each other. Completing a level under par, for example, just means running through your deck and leaving a maximum number of cards on the screen. If par is three and you end the level with four cards, your score suffers.

Fairway is a superb solitaire experience that hits all the right points for a casual card game. It looks great, plays without a hitch, and features enough extras (including mini-games) to make it feel like much more than your basic "lay a card here until you win" release. Give it a "shot", see if it doesn't "trap" you from the beginning!

Play Fairway (free browser version)

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: 4.1/5 (66 votes)
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JayHanger 2It must be rough to be so fragile that even a bump against a ceiling will remove precious body parts. And yet that's the situation before you in Hanger 2, a small yet fun and addictive physics game by A Small Game.

Although similar in concept to the mouse-controlled Double Wires, this game is entirely keyboard controlled. Use the the [arrow] keys to swing left and right and to climb up and down the rope. Use [space] to release the rope and [space] again to cast a new one. The [Enter] key is used to begin a new level and advance to the next. Don't hit the ceiling or other scenery or you might wind up losing a body part or two or three. Get past the exit line to move on to the next level. Points are scored for finishing the level and collecting stars, while points are deducted for losing body parts and using ropes.

If you have played the original Hanger, featured here at JIG in a previous Link Dump Friday, you'll be glad to know much of the fun has been retained while much of the frustration has been removed. Whereas before the rope would sometimes stick in the unlikliest of places or not stick at all, the rope in Hanger 2 is much more dependable and thus creates a much more enjoyable experience. Lots of color schemes, textures and level design changes create just enough novelty to push this game into addictive territory throughout all 23 levels. So hang in there, and try not to bump your head.

Play Hanger 2


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Rating: 4.3/5 (153 votes)
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TrickyGood Night Mr. SnoozlebergExpert diplomat Mr. Snoozleberg has a busy schedule: bullet-train inaugurations, movie awards, alien invasions, theme park visits. He can handle everything, though, as long as he's gets a good night rest... and his sleepwalking makes that difficult. It'll be up to you to prevent international incidents by point and clicking objects at the right time to form a safe platforming path! Developed by the company now known as Sarbakan, Good Night Mr. Snoozleberg's first chapter of four was released back in 1999; practically ancient in internet gaming terms. It belies its age in several ways, particularly in slow pace and lack of checkpoints. However, the unique premise and polished animation are timeless. With its emphasis on well-timed physical comedy, Good Night Mr. Snoozleberg has all the charm of an interactive Looney Toon. It may be an oldie, but it's definitely a goodie.

Play Good Night Mr. Snoozleberg


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Rating: 4.6/5 (183 votes)
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TrickyPursuit of HatWe hold these truths to be self-evident that all squishy bouncy blob thingies are born with certain inalienable rights, including those of life, liberty and the pursuit of hat-iness. The hero of Pursuit of Hat, a puzzle platformer from Anton Rogov, is willing to risk all manner of life and limb for his head-covering... mainly limb though, since his are detachable. Literally tearing ones self apart over a head-covering may seem a little extreme. In all fairness though, it's a very nice hat.

Use the [arrow] keys to move and jump yourself around the cliffs, making your way to your lost chapeau. Hitting the [spacebar] will pull one of your limbs off and chuck in front of you, and fortunately, they happen to be just the weight to activate those switches scattered about. Gnawing enough will reduce you to a bouncing ball, just the perfect things for ducking into low-ceiling caverns. [Down] will reattach limbs to your body, and [R] will reset the board. There are 20 levels to beat, and thus 20 hats to find. It's haberdasheriffic!

Half the joy of Pursuit of Hat is just watching how the protagonist moves. Whether he's scraping his way onto a ledge or rolling around as a limbless ball of goo, it's simply a joy to see him schlepp his way from point A to point B. The limb-chucking mechanic is also quite unique. While it seemed a little morbid at first, the hero follows the rule of cartoon logic and easily "pulls himself together" when he needs to. This definitely keeps things light-hearted Some of the levels are quite similar, which does lead to a little monotony. It would have been nice to see the gimmick explored a bit further in more complicated puzzles, though that may have detracted from the work's gorgeous simplicity. In any case, whatever flaws Pursuit of Hat may have are more than outweighed by its prodigious charm. It's something that deserves the ol' tip of the hat.

Play Pursuit of Hat


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Rating: 4.7/5 (135 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypDon't mind the pumpkins and the shambling artwork, this latest room escape from Tesshi-e can be played and enjoyed year round! In Escape from the Woody Room (no inappropriate jokes, please, this is a family friendly site) we are faced with the classic Tesshi-e scenario, to wit: We have been invited by "him" to a cabin somewhere... so let's go to an isolated cabin somewhere in an unspecified place with a guy we only know as "him"! Unfortunately, "he's" already gone and once again we are locked into a gorgeous space, looking for a way out.

Escape from the Woody RoomEverything you expect is there, as are a few things you might not expect at all. Navigation bars at the sides of the screen let you move around, there are lots of interesting items to examine or pick up, clues and puzzles at every turn, Tesshi-e's classic "happy coin"... and the horror of the zombie wobbly picture puzzle that just... won't... die! Tesshi-e is fast becoming one of the best room escape designers out there, with the stunning visuals, tricky puzzles, and smooth English translation, so don't forget to set your language accordingly at the start of the game for the full experience. There are, as always, some familiar touches like the bird figurines and, of course, the wobbly picture puzzle. But despite the familiarity or, perhaps, because of it, Escape from the Woody Room is a fabulous way to escape your own midday blahs.

Play Escape from the Woody Room


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Rating: 4.5/5 (54 votes)
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joyeBlockage 2A year ago, the puzzle game Blockage featured twenty levels of block-moving puzzle joy, but the game had a few rough edges. Now Guillhermo v.S. Heldt has come out with Blockage 2, and it's smoothed these over completely while preserving the essential brain-teasing fun. Plus, the game features a level editor where you can create your own puzzle and share it with the world. This also means a potential of infinite user-created puzzles in addition to the game's thirty levels. Let's get this blockage cleared!

You have a number of colored or grey blocks and a number of similarly color-coded targets. Naturally, all the targets must be filled. Also naturally, there's usually not an obvious way to do that. Colored blocks pass through each other, while grey blocks don't. Single use teleporters and painting spaces can help or hinder your progress.

Blockage 2 fixes the biggest user interface problem of the previous game by allowing pure keyboard controls. Cycle through blocks with [Q/E], and once a block is selected (it will be highlighted), move it with [A/D] (or the arrow keys). Hit [space] to solidify a block. [Z] will undo your last action, and you can keep hitting it all the way back to the beginning of the level if you want, although you should probably hit [R] to reset if that's your goal. Once you beat a level, [space] will quickly take you to the next. You can also use the mouse to select blocks or click on the controls in the lower right, but the keyboard is definitely an easier interface.

Blockage 2Analysis: In addition to this big improvement to the user interface, Blockage 2 gives more levels over all and a slightly higher level of challenge, especially in the latter half of the game. It's still not as nail-bitingly hard, nor does it have any many kinds of challenges, as the similar Blocks With Letters On series, but that series could actually take a few notes from this one. Particularly the undo button, which saves you from the agony of being close to solving an intricate puzzle and then accidentally hitting a button once too often and messing it all up. This doesn't take away from the legitimate challenge of the game, but it does make the challenge seem more fair, and ultimately that makes the game more fun. The soothing, ambient soundtrack and simple geometric art also help tone down the frustration potential.

The level editor enables you to make puzzles as easy or as fiendish as your mind can dream up, with all the tiles from the regular game available. Just remember you have to paint free space down first in order to put things into it. The ability to sort user-created levels by rating or date allows you to find the best out there or what's new since your last visit. All in all, Blockage 2 is a big improvement on an already fun concept.

Play Blockage 2


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Rating: 4.4/5 (187 votes)
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Kyhkyh_asleepwalking_screen2.jpgMost people have a daily routine: wake up, eat breakfast, take a shower, get ready for work/school/whatever, and so forth. Doing the same actions everyday can imprint them on our bodies and unconscious minds. Ever try to put the milk away in the dish cupboard when you were thinking about something else? So it's no wonder sleepwalking exists. And this is just what the protagonist is doing in the one-button, simple idea, action game of skill, Asleep Walking, produced by Revive Games and programmed by FarGD. Only instead of rummaging the fridge or taking a stroll outside, he finds himself in a land of moving spikes and platforms.

The protagonist does his own thing walking from left to right. You are equipped with just a single button for control (either [space] or left clicking on the mouse) to stop him in his tracks. Your decisions involve when to stop him and for how long, so it's key to observe the level and plan accordingly. Some levels may require several plays through to get the timing right, and remember, patience is a virtue! Of course there's nothing like holding your breath waiting to see if that circular spike ball will crush you or let you pass.

The music and graphics create a fitting atmosphere, setting you in this dreamland that could be a nightmare. The look may remind you of Shift, but the gameplay will tell you it's not, though both games have those frustrating deaths that result in having to start the level all over again. Take some time and create a zen moment from this. Hide your twitchy fingers and grab a cup of tea to help you through this sleepwalking experience.

Play Asleep Walking


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Rating: 4.2/5 (80 votes)
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AlexPiggy WiggyPigs will fly when you're tasked with helping some loveable porkers grab a quick and not-so-easy lunch in this entertaining physics puzzler from Anton Koshechkin. The piggies of Piggy Wiggy are daredevils, willing to soar through the air, bounce off walls, and tumble over deadly spike pits just to get their hooves on some delicious free-floating acorns.

Controlled almost entirely by simply clicking or dragging with the mouse (though the [Ctrl] key can also be used in some later puzzles). Create links between these nimble oinkers and their surroundings, cause explosions and chain reactions to launch them across the screen, and master some precise timing across 25 increasingly complex levels to ensure our adorable little piggy friends aren't forced to cry "wee wee wee" all the way home.

Piggy Wiggy is easy to learn with fluid and intuitive gameplay mechanics. Puzzles are never too difficult, allowing for minimum frustration and maximum enjoyment, though many do require a couple of looks before a solution becomes clear and the timing required can be tricky. The charming and appealing graphics also add to the fun, with a round of enthusiastic applause from the satisfied swine rewarding you for every successful stage.

Play Piggy Wiggy


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The Vault

JayIt's Tuesday, which means another trip down to the JIG archive vault to dig up a few games from years ago that our newer visitors should not miss out on. This week I've picked out a few quirky little puzzle games that will thrill and delight you. No, really. Just give them a try and you'll see...

  • Tower BlasterTower Blaster - If you've ever played and enjoyed Rack-O, the simple card game of racking 10 cards in numerical sequence before your opponent(s), then you'll also love this little gem. Tower Blaster is more card and board game than puzzle, but it's quirky in that the little townsfolk that help you win against the evil empire enemies are so adorable and hilarious in the little quips they say throughout the game. Play it once and you'll be hooked. I'm warning you.
  • Poco ParcoPoco Parco - Without a doubt having been inspired by the Grow games from Eyezmaze, Poco Parco is another delightful recipe game of discovery and, of course, mixing the ingredients in the correct order. This one goes a little bit further by allowing you to play and interact with the objects on screen. And you can even earn bonus points for doing so. It's all in Japanese, but it's easy enough to figure out without having to understand the language. If you get stuck, we have a walkthrough and explanations in the comments to help you along.
  • Jelly BlocksJelly Blocks - A Flash version of the classic Denki Blocks originally released for the Game Boy Advance in 2001, this version by Michael Le contains 100 levels of increasing difficulty that will surely keep you busy for a while. The concept is brilliant and the game is a wonderful Flash adaptation of the classic. Beware, though, it's a very addictive little puzzler.

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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