January 2012 Archives


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Kingdom Rush is Game of the Year!

JayEach year our "Best of" the year awards eclipse all years to have come before, and 2011 was an excellent year for excellent games. Just take a look at all the creative wonders that have earned the title of "Best of 2011" and see for yourself!

Best of Casual Gameplay 2011You are sure to find many games worthy of your time among the Top 5 presented for each category, including an all-new Game of the Year award we're introducing for the first time this year. These games represent the very best of all the games we covered in 2011, and we thank you kindly for participating with us by voting for your favorites!

Let's see the results!

Here is a handy list to the results pages for each of the categories:


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (71 votes)
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chiktionaryThe Fisherman's WrathIf you've ever considered that walking around dressed like a tree, or fish or bear or stoneman, and talking in a computer-simulated voice is one of your life's aspirations, well here's your chance. Your fancy-dress fantasies can be finally fulfilled in The Fisherman's Wrath, an unusual kind of adventure game by Enalpria Entertainment. It's tricky trying to define what kind of game this is because it involves a little bit of battle, a little bit of avoidance, quite a bit of exploration and a lot of dressing up... in awesome disguises.

You are the protagonist, a fisherman designated with the difficult task of saving your tribe's children from some laser wielding aliens. To do this you need to acquire items for your disguises and use said disguises to capture emeralds for a face-off with the Big Boss alien to save the children. Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move, the [Z] and [X] keys for using your spear and the [C] key for other actions such as interacting with your fellow tribes-people, collecting items and swimming.

The Fisherman's Wrath is not exactly challenging; there's plenty of in-game instruction and help. The most difficult aspects of the game involve fishing and avoiding the local jar salesman. And what can be said about the final Boss Battle? We-ell, it's a little underwhelming. But the prize at the end, if you choose to seek it out, is kinda worth the effort and certainly doesn't detract from the adventuring and good fun that this game provides. So if you're up for something unique and out of the square, try The Fisherman's Wrath on for size.

Play The Fisherman's Wrath


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (110 votes)
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joyePick and Dig 3 The marshmellow-ish hero of Pick and Dig 3 may dress in camo and combat boots and carry a mace on his back, but his athletic abilities are weirdly selective. Without his inability to jump, especially, the puzzles in this platformer would be a lot easier. If the guy actually used that mace he's lugging around, there'd be no need to pick up shovels, picks, and ladders either. Maybe he's setting himself some kind of "snatch the pebble from my hand" mind over matter challenge.

Wander around a level with the [arrow] keys and use [ZXC] to apply a tool you've picked up. Each level features three gold coins and one gigantic gem. The gem is just for bragging rights; the coins are used to buy three upgrades in the shop: the ability to grab ladders from below, the ability to hang onto ledges, and the ability to shimmy up between two walls. The levels in this game are nonlinear, and unlock based on how many you've completed and your own ability to maneuver around the level select screen, so if you get stuck on one level, you can always try some others to get coins to upgrade. Harder levels introduce enemies, who add an element of timing challenge, and environmental hazards like lava. There's often a way to at least grab one or two coins and exit, too, so frustration levels are kept low and fun is maximized. Inexplicable handicaps for the win!

Play Pick and Dig 3


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The Vault

DoraPhysics! Don'tcha just love it? You may think physics is boring and edumacational, but when you get your first taste of physics games you realise just how wonderful physics can really be. It's a surprise, and a delightful one, not unlike how someone who grew up during the '90s feels discovering for the first time that Bill Nye is a real, live scientist. (CNN, seven years ago. I think I might have actually called several people at the time just to tell them. They already knew, of course. Don't you dare ruin this for me, friends and family.) And just like Bill Nye, each of the games in this week's installment of the Vault incorporates physics in different ways for a fun new experience.

  • Totem DestroyerTotem Destroyer - Gabriel Ochsenhofer kicks things off for this theme in simple, addictive fashion with a game about balance and g-g-gold! Golden idols, that is. Your mission here is to simply delete the requisite number of blocks onscreen without letting Tot, the shining, grinning idol, hit the ground. It should be easy, but as the structures get more and more precarious, and new materials are added, you'll quickly realise it's anything but. Combining reliable physics, which helps you plot when Tot teeters, and easy to grasp gameplay on top of a bouncy soundtrack, it's a perfect example of casual gameplay. It may even make you want to break out Jenga from your attic again, for the full five minutes it takes you to remember that Jenga is stupid and real gamers cheat at Scrabble.
  • Fantastic ContraptionFantastic Contraption - Colin Northway and Andy Moore's creative puzzler is what would happen if you forced Willy Wonka to design cars instead of candy. The goal is simple; get from point A to point B. BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE! The charm of Fantastic Contraption lies in the whole "contraption" bit; use a variety of strange tools and objects to build a means of getting to your objective, overcoming any obstacles in your path. Figuring out how different materials like water or wood will help you move when they're placed in different designs makes for a game packed with fantastic "ah-ha!" moments, and after just a little bit of experimentation you're sure to unlock your inner engineer, and even indulge your creative side!
  • Spin the Black CricleSpin the Black Circle - It sounds like something you'd find at a seedy carnival, doesn't it? You know, the weird midway game where you win a prize that later turns out to be cursed, but when you take it back the next day there's just an empty space where the stall was, and a toothless old man that yells at you, "I dun tol' ya to stay away!"... where was I? OH. Alejandro Guillen. The creator of Magic Pen also gave us this funky but brutally hard game of reflexes and skill where the goal is to rotate the screen and safely guide the ball to the black dot. Make no mistake, this is a game that requires patience and a steady hand to complete, but the style, performance, and reliable physics makes it one challenge you'll be glad to sink your teeth into.

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


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (50 votes)
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AlexBlockoomzHaving a rough day? Has life got you stressed? Well, here at JIG, we know that nothing relieves tension quite like a good old fashioned physics puzzler chock full of explosions. Blockoomz, the latest effort from keybol, allows you to take your frustrations out on adorable bursting blocks that look at you as if to say, "It's okay! Go ahead and destroy us, we love you."

The concept is simple and familiar, but it's one that's always enjoyable. Detonate the bomb blocks by clicking on them, clearing them all from the stage while taking care not to blast any stars away. Static black blocks can also be removed to use gravity to your advantage, while wooden ones are solid and there to stay. Any blocks sporting big honking red noses can't be clicked and must be removed through other means, such as catching them and their creepy beady clown eyes in the blast of a nearby bomb. Complete a level when all blocks with faces are gone, while any stars are safe and shining bright. The difficulty does ramp up a bit over the 21 stages and you'll probably find yourself trying a few puzzles over in an attempt to come at or under the par set for each. Most can be completed in just a few clicks, though, so restarting never feels tiresome and gameplay stays fast and fun. Relax, put your feet up, and blowup something cute for a while.

Play Blockoomz


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Rating: 4.2/5 (73 votes)
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MikeColorDo you want to test your color acuity, learn about the fundamentals of color theory, and have fun doing it? Who wouldn't? Color, a neat installment in the series of design-education games from Method of Action, has you test the accuracy of your perception of color as you learn about key concepts in the theory of color and design. Simply move your cursor about the large color wheel and click when you have matched the color of the timer inside, before time runs out. Later levels have you matching multiple colors at once, giving you the opportunity to learn about complementary, analogous, ternary, and quaternary colors, all in the context of the game. It's quick, it's fun, it's educational, and it even boasts an experimental, shape-based colorblind mode for those who would otherwise be unable to play the game. If you've been nagged by doubts that you don't know seafoam from chartreuse, or couldn't match complementary colors if they scratched you on the hue-saturation-lightness dialog, Color gives you the opportunity to improve yourself.

Play Color


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (296 votes)
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JayMonkey GO Happy Marathon 2Robin Vencel has a knack for churning out cute and compelling point-and-click puzzle games frequently and reliably, and that makes us happy. But that means it's up to you, once again, to make the monkeys happy in this latest installment of the Monkey GO Happy series.

In Monkey GO Happy Marathon 2, choose a monkey, give it a cute little hat to wear and then embark on a rapid-fire collection of puzzle vignettes in which you must point-and-click to find a way to make the monkey happy. How you do that is different in each scene. In case you need help, remember that a changing cursor will alert you to objects that can be interacted with.

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

While none of the puzzles will take you very long, how fast you complete the game will ultimately determine your score. So hurry up and turn those monkey frowns upside down already!

Play Monkey GO Happy Marathon 2


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (57 votes)
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Order Up!! To Go

AlexIf you're anything like the rest of us, your idea of "cooking" probably involves dumping whatever leftovers you have from the take-out you ordered last night onto a plate, nuking it in the microwave until it's no longer refrigerator-temperature, and then drowning it all in an entire bottle of hot sauce. Sometimes, you'll even use a plate that isn't made of paper if you're feeling particularly fancy or, you know, your mom is coming to visit. But never fear; even if we are less than classically trained chefs in our everyday lives, it doesn't mean we can't rule the virtual world of cuisine and experience the exciting, fast-paced realm of restaurant management with no risk of burning our eyebrows off or poisoning loved ones! In Order Up!! To Go, the popular Wii time management and cooking sim has been adapted by Chillingo for use on your iOS device, and the result is so addictively good, it must contain MSG.

Order Up!! To GoYou start out as every aspiring chef does; flipping burgers at the local fast food joint. This plate functions as a tutorial of sorts to show off the basic controls of the game and can also be returned to at any point later as a means to pocket some extra cash. Start by pulling down on an order note to see the list of steps required to prepare a particular meal and select which ingredient you'd like to tackle with a tap of a finger. You can slap a frozen burger on a grill, watch it cook to perfection, and once the first side is done, flip to the other with a flick. While that's sizzling, you can also drop some French fries into the fryer, prepare the veggie toppings, or fill up four different drinks at the same time at the soda fountain. Multitasking is key; scroll between work stations by dragging your finger across the bottom of the screen while keeping an eye on the gradients that appear next to each of them. Customers not only pay for how quickly their food arrives and how hot it is when it gets to them, but also for the quality of the food. Don't expect a big tip if, say, their bacon is underdone or their fries are burned. And heaven help you should you slice their tomatoes unevenly! If you feel any portion of a meal isn't up to snuff, you can tap on the trash can in the upper right of the screen to dump it and try again. Aiming for a perfect score on every step may take a bit longer, but the extra coinage and the warm feeling of accomplishment make it all worth it.

Order Up!! To GoOnce you've mastered the basics and feel you're ready to tackle the tough world of restaurant management, you can buy your own greasy diner (complete with a sassy big haired gum-snapping waitress). Click the board outside of your restaurant to plan your menu according to each entrée's popularity, ordering enough of each to make it through the day but not too many that it becomes unprofitable and wasteful. It becomes difficult to predict what will be ordered the most on a given day and if you run out of an item someone really wants, they'll order the cheapest thing they can. If you find yourself with coin to spare, you can also unlock extra entrées, specials and spices from this menu to lure even more customers. Certain customers pay extra for the right spices and have a strong dislike for others; it's up to you to learn who likes what and ensure you have it in stock to achieve maximum profit!

At the end of each day, you'll also be able to view your restaurant's "Yarp" rating, which tracks you on several stats ranging from cleanliness to menu planning to efficiency. Let your establishment go a few days without hiring a cleaning service from the newspaper and you may get a visit from the health inspector (or some equally unwelcome guests of the vermin variety). Generate enough buzz around your restaurant and a food critic may visit to give you a bump in patronage with a rave review (provided you serve them food worth raving about). Upgrading your kitchen from the newspaper is a good, albeit pricey, way to increase your "Yarp" rating as well.

Order Up!! also offers an assortment of achievements to strive for, such as serving four perfect meals to one table or successfully dousing a kitchen fire. Each achievement grants a valuable golden coin, and therefore are not only fun to go after but become almost necessary as you'll need a lot of coins should you hope to unlock every entrée, spice, and restaurant. The more you unlock, the more costly items become.

Order Up!! To GoAnalysis: Order Up!! To Go is a superb example of what casual gaming on the iPhone should be. The controls are nearly flawless, reacting accurately to every touch and featuring a wide variety of motions as you quickly slice onions, grate cheese, flip omelets, or carve deli meats. It's also incredibly addictive; once you know the basics, there's an easy pick-up-and-play style that will compel you to sneak a few days' work in between classes, during lunch breaks, before bed, whenever.

There are quite a few ads to contend with since the app is free, but they can be removed completely by upgrading via a tiny in-app purchase. You also have the option to speed up play by purchasing gold coins in order to quickly unlock meals and new restaurants and avoid grinding your way to the top. When played without this extra boost, the game can feel a little repetitive after extended play and it can take a very long time to be able to purchase another restaurant or complete an entire menu board.

The stylized cartoon graphics are a treat, though, as is the surprisingly enjoyable and well-done voice acting. The game also features a unique brand of humor, from the memorable special customers in exercise clothing requesting gravy on their pancakes because it "looks healthy" to the actual restaurant names. Burger Face, anyone?


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (34 votes)
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Clouds and Sheep

JohnBThe cute and captivating sandbox meets simulation game Clouds & Sheep is going to be the number one reason you can't keep a full charge on your Android device. Combining elements from games like Tiny Tower, Pocket God, Virtual Villagers, and more, you are put in charge of a pasture of lovely little sheep, your only goal being to make them happy and make them multiply. To do that, you'll take control of the weather, utilize dozens of items, and complete challenges that range from zapping things with lightning to rolling sheep into rocks!

cloudsandsheep.jpgSheep are pretty helpless on their own, so it's your job to take care of their needs, from providing food and water to keeping them away from poisonous mushrooms and encouraging them to find mates (aww, you're a matchmaker, too!). You can combine clouds to form rain clouds that can then be moved around to produce puddles. Sheep can drink from puddles to quench their thirst, or new tufts of grass will grow from the pools of water. Perhaps related to this low intelligence, sheep also love to have their tails snapped and to be thrown around the pasture, something you'll delight in doing when they start to crowd your work area!

The currency that measures progress in Clouds & Sheep is happiness, represented by little stars that content sheep will toss in the air. The more stars you have, the more sheep you can buy, the more items you'll have access to, and so on. You also receive challenges to complete that allow you to gain levels and move on to greener pastures. Signposts that show up on the ground offer up tips as well as these challenges, and they range from the simple to the more obtuse in nature.

cloudsandsheep.jpgAnalysis: There's a lot going on in Clouds & Sheep, from managing the sheep's needs to keeping them safe from dangers, herding clouds for your own benefit, and keeping an eye out for challenge signposts. There are over 30 tasks to complete over the course of the game, but if you're not interested in doing them, you can always ignore them and just manage your herd. Besides, you never know when a thundercloud will waft by and give your fuzzy friends a good zap!

Clouds & Sheep has an in-app purchasing system you can use to speed things up if you find the gameplay a little lagging. It's very well-tuned, though, and doesn't force you to do anything unless you want to. The one purchase you might be interested in is the inexpensive ad removal item. It'll free up a bit of your screen real estate and make things look nicer. Also worth noting: the game features a parental lock that can disable in-app purchases, making it a safe game to give to your kids!

The screen can get pretty crowded, and since there's no way to zoom in for precise action, you'll have to resort to tossing sheep around to clear some space. It can also be difficult to nudge sheep into doing what you want them to do, perhaps owing to the imprecise nature of the gameplay, or maybe because these sheep really are daft.

There's plenty to do, plenty to see, plenty to unlock, and plenty to manage in this adorable little game. It can feel a little cramped from time to time, but when you've got a dozen mindless drones to take care of as well as a sky full of clouds to manage, life is bound to get a little "full"!


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Mobile Monday

JohnBHey there Android device owners! Ready for some more excuses to use your phone for things other than making prank calls to the pizza place down the street? Thought so. These games will both entertain you and help you drain your battery. Since, you know, a full battery is just so annoying!

twistncatch.gifTwist n' Catch - When a monkey and a rotund adventurer decide to go diamond hunting, you can bet that everyone involved is going to have a good time. This arcade game shares some basic ideas with Gold Miner, though in practice it's really a very different game. The monkey lowers you down a shaft at the beginning of each level. Tilt your phone to sway back and forth, avoiding obstacles as you make your way to the juicy diamond below. The cool part is the timer at the bottom of the screen that counts down to a spike trap that slowly rises. Once you've nabbed the big diamond, tap and hold the screen to slowly drag yourself back to safety. There are also three smaller diamonds you can collect, adding a lot of challenge to the game, and you'll have to both protect your rope from dangers as well as use it to hit switches and the like. Dozens of levels, simple but smart gameplay, and a faithful monkey companion. Good times! The free Twist n' Catch Lite is also available.

monkeykickoff-android.gifMonkey Kick Off! - A browser game we featured way back in 2006 makes a surprise appearance on Google Play Android Games! Monkey Kick Off is a "see how far you can go" arcade game similar to Nanaca Crash and dozens of other launching games, only this time it's just you, a monkey, and a ball. Wait for the right moment and tap the screen to punt the ball as far as you can. Can you make it to the Monkey Village? It'll take some practice, but it's possible. Now go get addicted all over again!

cosmonauts.gifCosmonauts - An impressively full-featured mobile game that includes a single player campaign as well as online and local multiplayer modes and an in-game shop with new episodes, ships, skins and power-ups. Cosmonauts pits you against aliens in a projectile physics game that spices things up with a number of fun variables. Different missile types? Check. Speed boosts and exploding asteroids and barrels that give your shot more power? Check! There's a lot of strategy in this game, yet it still feels like a casual arcade experience. The only down side is that sometimes the loading screens feel more like advertisements than, you know, loading screens, but otherwise it's a great run no matter how you play! Also available: Cosmonauts for iOS.

wheresmywater-android.gifWhere's My Water? - We gave a full review for the iOS version of Where's My Water? towards the end of 2011, but now the game's gotten bigger, better, and more Android-ey! This physics-based puzzle game puts you in charge of delivering water to an alligator that really wants to take a bath. By digging through the dirt, you can move the liquid through the mostly-vertical stages, avoiding deadly acid and pulling off some neat tricks using environmental obstacles. It's an imaginative and challenging game, one that's a blast to play no matter what your age or personal preferences towards scaly reptiles! Where's My Water? Free is also available, as well as Where's My Water? for Kindle Fire!

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


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (26 votes)
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Hydra Castle Labyrinth

JohnBOriginally released in mid-2011 by indie game creator E. Hashimoto (Buster), Hydra Castle Labyrinth is an old school-styled platform adventure that was previously only available in Japanese. A brave soul recently translated the game to English, and now the cute metroidvania title is available for a much wider audience to enjoy. And enjoy it ye shall!

hydracastlelabyrinth.gifWith no story or set-up to speak of, Hydra Castle Labyrinth drops you right in the middle of a castle with little more than your sword and an enormously over-sized helmet to fit your enormously over-sized head. You have a number of paths to explore, many of which will end in a temporary dead end. To continue, you'll have to back track, find the right item (or key, in some cases), then charge forward again, ready to discover new territory!

Enemies are all over the place, but most of them are dispatched with relative ease (except the bosses). You start with a sword, which is useful enough for close combat, but eventually obtain a few more useful weapons to unleash. Enemies tend to follow simple patterns and take just a few hits to get rid of, but if you're not careful, they can end your game faster than you can say "wait, when was the last time I found a save point?".

Analysis: Hydra Castle Labyrinth is filled with items to find, a surprising number considering the relatively small size of the explorable map. You'll locate almost 30 items in your quest, as well as half a dozen sub-weapons and a fistful of keys. Back tracking is a major part of the game, so hopefully you won't mind seeing the same areas two or three times while you make your item-collecting rounds.

One thing you'll inevitably notice is that you can't jump from ladders. There doesn't seem to be a real reason for it, you just can't. So, instead taking a daring leap from the rungs to cut short your downwards climb, you'll find the avatar knight holding fast to the ladder, as still as a stone. The gameplay doesn't suffer from the exclusion, it just seems so obvious to anyone who has played a platform game, and possibly a bit annoying at first.

It's great to see games like Hydra Castle Labyrinth get a new life with a translation patch, especially when they're as enjoyable and good-looking as this. Expect a solid two or three hours of gameplay, and expect to get lost and feel frightened for your pixellated life several times. Hydra Castle Labyrinth is a great metroidvania game at a price you can't beat!

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version (click the top download link)
Get the English translation patch
Download the pre-patched game

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


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (21 votes)
| Comments (6) | Views (177)

Otherworld: Spring of Shadows

elleIt all started when you moved into an old house in the English countryside, hoping for a chance to be alone and take new stock in your life. But are we ever really alone? As it turns out, there is more to this world than what's apparent on the surface. The fairytales you heard when you were young, the ones you thought stuffed with nonsense and meant only as cautionary allegories to frighten children into behaving properly, are not so far from the truth. So, as curious as Alice in Wonderland, you peek behind the veneer, following clues left by Fiona, a little girl trapped in another dimension, and become caught up in Otherworld: Spring of Shadows, a sumptuously-detailed fantasy adventure-hybrid from Boomzap.

elle_otherworld_springofshadows_image1.jpgArmed with little more than an enchanted knife and a water pitcher, you seem to the be only one who can prevent the Shade's eternal winter, a blight of ice and death the foul creature hatefully threatens to cast upon the earth. Do this by searching high and low, across all terrains, for the magical charms that will activate Fiona's magical locket. The Shade will not make this easy on you and—as evidenced by the victims which lay dead in his path—he's quite capable of doing you harm, a thought that weighs heavy on your mind as you face the Shade in a mortal battle.

All that's for the end, though. First you'll explore six chapters, encountering not only mini-games, puzzles and hidden object scenes, you will also earn new achievements and uncover an optional side-quest. None of which are mightily difficult, so you won't be pulled away from the enjoyment of adventuring and simply taking in the beautifully elaborate scenery. There is never a sparkle in sight to deter from this, but "casual" mode still provides plenty of hints, skipping and guided help at your request. "Expert" is a little less affable but, if you have the guts, choose "Hard Core" to truly go it alone (you'll also earn a badge of honor for that achievement.)

elle_otherworld_springofshadows_image2.jpgAnalysis: This is not your typical hidden object game—far from it! No piles of randomly-strewn anachronisms; hidden object scenes fit the setting perfectly, are well-composed and pleasing to behold. Even better, they make sense! Collect only what's needed, never returning to the same scene because you have foresight to grab important bits the first time around. In fact, handy items do not disappear after first use and they often have multiple purposes. Finally, some logic.

Along with the traditional type of hidden object scenes, searches vary from multiples of a single object, or broken pieces needing reconstruction, or matching pairs or even riddle clues. It's absolutely refreshing to escape the boredom of cluttered compositions and jarringly out-of-place collections. As for minigames? They're rather easy yet they do make you think without requiring elaborate note taking or pulling of hairs to complete. Jigsaws, tile swaps and matching games are strongly emphasized here but there are many adventure-centered quest tasks as well. Making good of the repetition, is the unique style and interesting artwork in the games.

elle_otherworld_springofshadows_image4.jpgOtherworld: Spring of Shadows weaves a fantastic story and absorbs you into surreal environments, exactly as you'd expect from Boomzap, the gamemaker who brought us Awakening 2: Moonfell Wood and Death Under Tuscan Skies: a Dana Knighstone Novel. An appreciation of ambiance and entertaining tale-telling is well met here; every detail is intricately-designed to add mood and atmosphere. The music seems to come from a strange, 1960s British supernatural horror flick: enticing, haunted notes echoed by soft, etheral vocals. Outside of the occasional cut-scene, there is no voice-over to jar you out of the moment, so the focus remains almost entirely on adventuring.

This dedication to drawing the player into the story is Otherworld's strongest asset and, because of that, it also has its weaknesses: a mild lag between changing scenes that is made noticeable because of all the moving back and forth between scenes. Even so, there's a great pleasure that comes from traveling across the richly-appointed settings. After all, sometimes it's nice to believe in fairy tales, even if they're not actually real (or are they?)

A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains bonus content not found in the standard edition: an additional chapter, wallpapers, strategy guide, and more. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions (or 2 club credits), and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.

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

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


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Weekend Download

JohnBHow do you feel about... TACTICAL MISDIRECTION?!!! *flashing lights* That's good. Glad to know it. Now, how do you feel about a game semi-sorta doing that with its title? And what if that title involves felines?

thecatthatgotthemilk.gifThe Cat that Got the Milk (Windows, 30MB, free) - This game... is absolutely mad. It's easy to slap the label "cave avoider" on it, say its basic structure is like a handful of games out there, and then call it a day. But that wouldn't do justice to the artistic madness that is The Cat that Got the Milk. 18 levels that start out pretty simple, with you tapping the [up] or [down] arrow key to guide a moving dot through a maze-like passageway. Then you start encountering moving objects. Then you find circles. Then you find... well, whatever that thing is on that level. Suffice to say, it gets pretty crazy pretty quickly, and when you see the final stage, you'll probably just start crying. But, the madness of the design is half the fun, and if you ever get frustrated, just tap the [spacebar] to skip the level.

thefourthwall.gifThe Fourth Wall (Windows, 88MB, free) - Another fantastic project from a group of students at DigiPen, The Fourth Wall starts out as a fairly typical platform game with screen wrap elements, allowing you to move to the opposite side of the screen by stepping off the edge. But then, oh then things get very interesting. You see, after two or three levels, the screen unfreezes itself, so instead of walking around single-screen rooms, you have entire areas to explore. Problem is, there's not always a path to the exit. That's where the neat ability to freeze the screen, thus activating the screen-wrap gameplay feature, comes into play. You get to create your own wraparound scenario at the press of a button, and its more mind-warping than you might think!

backworlds.gifBackworlds (Mac/Win, 30MB, demo) - If you can't decide between painting or playing a platform game, let Backworlds choose for you. This rather artsy-looking demo blends the two into a seamless experience that features just as much puzzle as it does jumping around. Using the mouse, you can erase the world to reveal the background behind, often revealing new paths and new platforms you can instantly utilize. You can also cover up this back world in case you need to use bits of the regular world. It's a concept that sounds awkward in writing, but when you play it, it's oh-my-stars creative and fun. Plus, the game looks like a playable painting, which never hurts! Note that this is just a demo and the game is currently seeking funding to release a final version.

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


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DoraThe Several Journeys of Reemus: Chapter 4Poor Reemus. He can't catch a break. After being overshadowed by his brother all his life, the paunchy exterminator finally has the chance to save the kingdom and be a real hero... provided he can prove he's got what it takes to the most deadly foe of all... a governmental filing system! The Several Journeys of Reemus: Chapter 4, the latest point-and-click adventure from Jay "Zeebarf" Ziebarth and Steve Castro of ClickShake Games, follows the titular mustachioed do-gooder and his cuddly-wuddly sidekick/problem solver Liam as they struggle to get their application together. That might not sound very exciting, but the Department of Heroic Quests wants more than a neatly formatted cover letter...

To get permission to save the kingdom, Reemus and Liam need to get three heroic quest references, a "danger sample", and then submit their form "online" if they want to avoid the lengthy filing time. Fortunately for them, there's a corkboard nearby full of pleas from people who need all sorts of help. Just click and choose what mini-adventure you want to set out on, in any order you like, though eventually you'll need to complete all of them to proceed. Items you gather are stowed in your inventory at the top left of the screen, right next to the map that lets you navigate around the kingdom to the different quests available. Each quest is self contained; it has everything you need to finish it within its particular set of areas, so all you have to do is figure out how to make it all work together. Click the arrows at the bottom of the screen to navigate around and experiment. After all, this is Reemus and Liam we're talking about here; if their problem solving involved anything less than kidnapping via potato-men, slavering death slugs, and a whole lot of head lice, we wouldn't be nearly as interested. That's right, you monsters; they face peril for your amusement.

The Several Journeys of Reemus: Chapter 4Analysis: The Several Journeys of Reemus is one of the most popular adventure series on the site, and just playing one of them should tell you why. They have a knack for blending surreal environments, oddball humour, and bizarre characters that makes them easily stand out from the pack. It's been almost three years since the release of Chapter 3, during which time the developers were working on certain large Reemus-related projects, but Chapter 4 provides a great return to form with everything we've come to expect. The quests are creative and silly, the designs are quirky and imaginative, and, of course, the game is more than a little funny. While splitting the game up into a bunch of smaller quests seems odd at first, it actually works in the game's favour, since it allows you to explore a wider variety of locations and scenarios.

Those pocket adventures also means the game flows really nicely, allowing you to hop between them at your leisure without forcing you to hunt down solutions or items in different locations. Instead, by keeping everything contained, Chapter 4 never really feels that difficult because it's so good at providing you with exactly what you need, and you always know everything else must be close by. The puzzles are as bizarre as always, and again make use of their environments and characters in clever ways that encourage you to submerge yourself in the series' signature brand of logic. It's weird, but it works, and it's part of what makes Reemus and his adventures so great. The Several Journeys of Reemus: Chapter 4 is a bit longer than previous installments, though it will probably still be over too soon for most fans... but of course there are also other new ways to get your Reemus fix if you're interested. While it doesn't really provide any new or innovative gameplay, Chapter 4 still serves up all the action, humour, and strangeness you've come to expect and love from the series, and you should definitely fire it up.

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The Ballads of Remus

TrickyThe Kingdom of Fredicus is a place that loves its heroes. Unfortunately, Reemus, exterminator extraordinaire and overshadowed brother to the local dragon slayer, is having trouble convincing the populace that he deserves a little undying adulation. Sure, later in life he'll have Several Journeys to prove his bravery against invading death slugs. Right now, though, it's early in his adventure gaming career, and even after his first minimal-property-damaging bug slaying, he's have trouble getting people listen to the glorifying ballads written by his faithful bear companion, Liam. So a-questing he goes, in search of glory, gratitude, and, most importantly, a soft bed. It's The Ballads of Reemus: When the Bed Bites, the first premium downloadable adventure game in the popular Reemus series, produced by Click Shake Games! And while the anticipation may have driven us all a little buggy, it was totally worth it.

The Ballads of RemusControls should be familiar to most point-and-click players. Click the screen to interact with objects, talk to other characters, or move Reemus and Liam around. If you wish to use an object in your inventory, click it, and then where you would like to attempt to use it. Occasionally there will be sections where Reemus and Liam split up. You'll switch between the characters by clicking the icon in the top right corner. The gear icon brings up the display and audio options, including whether you like voice acting, word balloons, or both. Your progress is automatically saved. Purchasing The Ballads of Reemus: When the Bed Bites grants you access to both the browser and download versions of the same game. Also available is a Special Edition featuring a signed CD of the game, a T-Shirt, Stickers, and the game's soundtrack.

Analysis: Developers making the leap from free to paid-for often face a hard-sell to the gamers of the internet. Succeeding requires the game to have ambition: ambition in aesthetics, in programming, in presentation, and in scope. Zeebarf and Steve Castro then, must be some heck-of ambitious designers, since The Ballads of Reemus is everything that the fans of the series could hope for. Like a well-made big budget TV show movie adaptation, The Ballads of Reemus has the familiar flavor and humor of the original series, but scaled-up and unafraid to fix what needs to be fixed.

The Ballads of ReemusFirst of all, the art of Reemus's world is absolutely awesome, typical for Zeebarf's work. It should be no surprise that the creator of The Visitor series knows how to design a score of ghoulishly wacky creatures, but it's his flora, not fauna which is the most interesting. Infusing personality into mere plant life cannot be an easy thing, but from the delicious looking Ice Cream Cactus, to the unappealing Halitosis Bush, to the unsettling Swamp Blisters, the world is populated with a forest of wonderful creations. Almost paradoxically, while the plotting tends more to the slice-of-life comedy genre than the epic-adventuring parody flavor of Journeys (at least at first), it makes the world feel bigger, not smaller. We get to see so many locations and meet so many characters that Fredicus becomes the kind of fantasy world that, like Discworld, feels lived-in, if that makes any sense: a place that, while fantastic and peppered with modern pop-culture jokes, makes you forget that it's a recently created place rather than something from a classic goofy fairy tale.

The Ballads of ReemusOf course, the shiniest graphics in the world would be lacking without the writing to back it up. On this point, The Ballads of Reemus, also shines. The dialogue is well-crafted and the characters all sparkle with personality. There is a funny response for nearly everything you would try to do, always a mark of developers that have taken their time to do a job right. The puzzles do have that shade of adventure game illogic to them (though the solutions often make a perfect skewed sense in retrospect, even when you've clicked them out by brute force). That said, the challenge level is low, and even if players get frustrated, its unlikely they'll be seriously stuck.

Another feature worth mentioning is the new inclusion of voice-acting, most of which is very good. Of course, they probably won't be the voices you have for the characters in your head, but they'll grow on you. This reviewer has already mentioned his desire for Josh Tomar to walk around and narrate stuff in his everyday life, but he delivers a manic performance as Reemus that is surprisingly fitting, and helps to keep the quicken the pace when the game needs it. The rest of the cast is no less impressive, especially Zeebarf himself as Liam, and Dave Dunham as Waldorf the Bard. On the other hand, the musical score, though it has a large number of tracks and the right eerie faux-medieval feel, can get repetitive, especially if you remain at a single screen to work on a puzzle for a long period of time.

The Ballads of Remus is the complete package, perfect for both fans and newcomers alike. It's just the right length for a ten dollar game, and with it's optional quests and easter eggs, will keep adventurers entertained for hours. Whatever the form you play it in, its charm will undoubtedly exterminate your boredom.

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Nightfall Mysteries: Black Heart

DoraAfter her beloved Viggo is captured in spectacular fashion by a caped figure (rad) on horseback (radder) with a lasso (raddest), Christine turns to you for her assistance in tracking him down and rescuing him. Because both these two lovebirds were previously in the opera, it stands to reason everything they do must be done in the most dramatic way possible, so naturally Viggo has found a way to send Christine letters from his prison by trained pigeons. You find yourself led to the mysterious Blackhill Manor only to be swiftly separated from your companion and forced to go it alone. Will you succeed in rescuing Viggo and Christine? Or will you find yourself the next victim of the strange Black Widow of Blackhill Manor? Find out in Vast Games' hidden-object adventure Nightfall Mysteries: Black Heart, the sequel to Curse of the Opera and Asylum Conspiracy. Both of which, incidentally, you should have played before this so you know what's going on... but since they're two of my favourite casual download games of all time you've already done so, right? Right. Onward!

Nightfall Mysteries: Black HeartTo save Viggo, you'll need to uncover the secret of Blackhill Manor (all manors are contractually obligated to have dark secrets) and his twisted family tree. Unlike most games, Black Heart offers three flavours of difficulty, including an unusual "extreme" choice that refuses to offer any help at all while you play. Hint and skip buttons make their usual appearances, but in most cases they're the only help you have as you go deeper into the twisted Blackhill Manor. Like any good villains, the bad guys here have gone to great extent to leave clues and even tape recordings around to aid you in your search for Viggo, but that doesn't mean it's going to be easy. You'll solve puzzles and hidden-object scenes, avoid attempts on your life more than once, and uncover the truth about one of the weirdest family trees you're likely to encounter.

Analysis: With its flair for high drama, soap-opera complex storylines, and ghoulish charms, Nightfall Mysteries has been a personal favourite series of mine for some time now. Black Heart, happily, continues the tradition and provides a solidly entertaining adventure that constantly throws new clues and scenes at you to keep you engaged. The whole design is beautiful and full of small touches both fantastical and macabre, like a wedding dress designed by Vera Wang, Tim Burton... and Dexter Morgan. Exploring and discovering the audio tapes is a lot of fun, especially since the voice acting this time around is actually quite good. Of course, at this point in the series, the narrative is more than a little convoluted. Despite how drastically it has deviated from its origins, this actually works in its favour by providing a campy but exciting and intriguing little thriller mystery. Plane crashes? Bloody bathtubs? Cowled and murderous gymnastic savants? Beats a stick in yer eye any day. (Who came up with that as an endorsement? What a silly thing to say. Moving on... )

Nightfall Mysteries: Black HeartIf Black Heart has any real flaws, they're mostly the same technical quibbles the whole series has possessed, such as somewhat finicky click detection or item usage, and the somewhat disappointing "fuzzy" artwork that's nowhere near as sharp as you'd expect. The actual gameplay itself, for the most part, is solid, if standard. None of the item uses are particularly obtuse, but be prepared to use an item once, have it vanish, and then encounter an identical issue that needs a different item more than once. You know, typical adventure game stuff. The puzzles are all mostly stylized versions of concepts you're most likely going to have seen before, and hidden-object scenes are mostly balanced both in terms of difficulty and how often they crop up. Which, y'know, is probably a good thing if you're getting annoyed with "random garbage pile" item assortments in these scenes like I am.

Nightfall Mysteries: Black Heart doesn't really provide any innovation, but it marries story and gameplay better than most games in the genre out there. At around five hours for a leisurely playthrough, it's also a good length. While the perplexingly grainy visuals might be a turn off for some, those that stick with it will find an engagingly cheesy and dramatic adventure that's well worth your time. Give the demo and try, and then go and brush up on your pigeon taming/training skills. After all, these are skills we should all apparently know in an emergency. Bless you, Viggo.

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:
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MikeSubtle Energy 2Get out your exercise mats and incense sticks, fellow yogis: It's Subtle Energy 2! Like it's predecessor, this sequel is an Auditorium-like puzzle game, where you direct streams of colored particles from lotus flowers to colored chakras, achieving totally zen-eriffic enlightenment on the way. Drag eyepieces and portals to the screen to redirect streams, and change colors by either blending streams in eyepieces, or bouncing them off of colored walls. Press play to energize your setup, and make sure your chakras get just the right amount of their color, lest they either blink out from spiritual starvation, or explode from too many positive vibes. Apart from an updated presentation, Subtle Energy 2 isn't much different from the original, which is just fine if you want more of the same flavor of zen puzzling. It's quick, and perhaps a little easy, but it sure is relaxing to watch colored pixels flow across the screen. Ahhh...colored pixels.

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joyeBack to the Cubeture: Era 2If you played Edible Castle's last Cuboy point-and-click adventure game, back in 2009, you may be wondering why it's taken them so long to release Back to the Cubeture: Era 2. Apparently, someone didn't send the developer the memo that sequels are supposed to be derivative and rushed out as soon as possible to grab the flaky eyeballs of Flash gaming fans before they wander off to some new thing. Instead, not only does Cubeture 2 feature the same excellent voice-acting, cheeky humor, and quirky art as its predecessor, but it's five times as long and offers a much more non-linear experience. If you haven't played the earlier game, the opening cutscene neatly summarizes it, so you won't be lost. In short: Cuboy ultimate friend good. Esquire Padrino nefarious cat bad. Suspiciously cardboard box-like time warper causing temporal chaos. Got it clear? Good. This time you'll be rollicking through Cubathens, a sort of boxy Roman/Greek mish-mash.

You'll use your mouse to play most of the game. If your cursor changes to a volume symbol, you can chat up the daft peasant, Olympian god, nasty little ginger girl or whoever it is. A downward claw icon means you can pick up an object and add it to your inventory. A gear icon is an indication that either the object itself can be used in someway, or you can use something from your inventory on it. Arrows at edges and doors can be clicked on to move between rooms. Your inventory screen (in the top right corner) allows you to change outfits, check on your quests, and combine (by dragging) or use (by double clicking) objects.

Play all the Back to the Cubeture games:
Back to the Cubeture: Era 1Back to the Cubeture: Era 2

While the last game relied a little too heavily on your spacebar for its mini-games, Cubeture 2 features seven unique minigames, all of which can be played on their own from the main menu as well. Most of these are keyboard controlled, and range from a head-stomping gladiator platform battle, to jump-and-duck reflex tests, to... deity armpit hair munching. Look, saving the world isn't pretty, alright?

Back to the Cubeture Era 2 screen 2Analysis: If the idea of deity armpit hair munching makes you purse your lips and shake your head about kids today, and you are not one bit amused, no sir, then Cuboy isn't going to be your thing. At the same time, however, the game is not a dull crass-fest resorting to sex and body function humor to cover up a lack of wit. Rather, the game has an infectiously cheerful enthusiasm for the ridiculous.

The game also gets everything right from a game play perspective. The interface is ridiculously user-friendly, and the in-game tutorial shows you clearly how to use all of it. Skippable cut-scenes (well, except for one hilarious counterexample), easy muting, a quest list that provides gentle hints, no pixel hunting: the game thought of all the pet peeves of point-and-click fans and forestalled them. This is just pure (if occasionally hairy) silly fun, so box yourself into your seat and enjoy it.

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Link Dump Fridays

JohnBWell, we've got some good news and some bad news. The opposite of the non-good news first: so many promising games hiding just below the horizon! Also, so many cool things going on for gamers to enjoy! The not-opposite of the non-good news: mobile companies are still ripping off small indie dev by stealing their ideas. Chocolate and cookies can't made the sadness that news brings us go away. But... it can help!

cubeworld.jpgGet Excited: Cubes are Everywhere A few building games you should keep an eye on in the coming months. First up: Castle Story, a game that looks to combine elements from Dwarf Fortress and Minecraft into a great-looking simulation sort of game. Start with a few Bricktrons and help them stockpile resources and build castles to defend themselves from the bad guys. No release date has been announced, but it's never too early to start salivating. Next up is Cube World, a game that may look like Minecraft but is actually more of an open world RPG with heavy sim elements. The latest bit of news is the addition of pets (yay!) and two new mobs, including frogs and moles! No release info for Cube World either, but, again, happy happy joy joy!

souleyeadventure.jpgNew album from VVVVVV Composer Souleye If you enjoyed the music of VVVVVV as much as we did, you'll be psyched to hear that the composer has just released a new album, Adventure, that includes all-new material alongside remixes from the VVVVVV score. It's 20 tracks of chiptune-sounding goodness, and it'll probably make you want to go on an adventure yourself!

seriousbundle.jpgA Serious Bundle While we're still pretty burned out on indie game bundles, the thriving masses of players who love them are still out there, and bundle bundlers are hard at work bundling more bundles for everyone to enjoy! This time around, the Indie Royale folks have packed together a bunch of Serious Sam games (including a few by indie developers) for the low price of "whatever you wanna pay". The games represent a wide variety of genres, from RPG to shooter to Canabalt-style running game. This also sets off the site's series of lightning bundles that will be on sale for around 100 hours and promote niche titles. So, if you want 'em, get 'em fast!

terraria-ce.jpgTerraria Collector's Edition Box Announced Here's a little something for collectors and everyone who enjoys real, physical objects. Terraria Collector's Edition has been announced for a March 16 release in the UK. For just under £20, you get a physical copy of Terraria, a poster, trading cards, a key ring, and an exclusive in-game item. No word on a North American release, but having a handsome product like that on your shelf certainly seems appealing!

dearzynga.jpgReturn of the Attack of the Clone Wars Familiar with the wonderful NimbleBit game Tiny Tower? Most people are, it was only named as iPhone Game of the Year 2011 by Apple. Well, it looks like the clone-master folks at Zynga have decided to take the Tiny Tower concept, put some new visuals on it, and release it as their own game called Dream Heights. Not only does this game copy the exact layout and structure of Tiny Tower, it also comes months after the company attempted to buy out NimbleBit studios but was turned down. In other words, if you won't let us buy you, we'll use our superior resources to take your game anyway. Not cool, Zynga. Not cool. Check out NimbleBit's response, which is both informative and snarky, then read our previous article Cloned Mobile Games Hurt Indie Developers.


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elleelle_inmremsroom_image1.pngIn the world of escape-the-room games, some names have risen to the top of the charts, are always sure to please the crowd and bask in the rays of fame here at JayIsGames. But the spotlight of celebrity brings both adoration and imitation, the sincerest form of flattery. Give you one guess who Find the Escape-Men #25: In Mr. EM's Room is spoofing.

In this case, you must point-and-click your way around the room, finding clues to puzzles and uncovering No. 1 Game's ten hidden green escape men before ultimately making your way out. Yet if you call yourself a fan of the genre, these surroundings should seem very familiar to you. Yes, it's all here—an enigmatic "he" who issued you the invitation, photo-realistic graphics, the wobbly picture frame puzzle and, of course, a happy coin—all the trademark characteristics which so uniquely, so unmistakably belong to... are you still guessing who? Only the light jazz music is missing; get around that by opening one of the archetypes in the background to listen to while you play this.

The enjoyment of Find the Escape Men #25: In Mr. EM's Room is not only in solving the fun puzzles or encountering the odd logic (um, salty green cheese, anyone?) there is a special insider feeling from participating in a heartfelt parody of one of our most beloved game developers. You'll be left with an increased appreciation for the original's artistry and may even be tempted to replay the classics which inspired the copy.

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ArtbegottiColor Pic-a-Pix LightNeed a dash of rainbow splashed across your logic puzzles? Conceptis delivers a cacophony of colorful curiosities with Color Pic-a-Pix Light, the latest addition in their Conceptis Light series. You might be familiar with Pic-a-Pix puzzles from their previous selection, or perhaps you've tried Picross puzzles elsewhere. This new batch adds the twist of color, meaning the logic gets more twisted, and the solutions more dazzling!

If you're familiar with black-and-white Pic-a-Pix puzzles, you know the goal of each puzzle is to form a picture within the grid, using the numbers along the left and top of the grid as clues. The numbers tell you how many consecutive filled blocks appear along that row/column, with at least one space in between each string. However, unlike strictly black-and-white puzzles, color Pic-a-Pix puzzles add one tweak to this rule. While there still has to be one empty space between consecutive strings of the same color, there doesn't have to be a space between consecutive strings of different colors. Thus, a string of four red blocks can bump up against a string of two blue blocks if need be. By combining the horizontal and vertical clues to deduce where colored blocks must go, you can produce a picture that indicates you've solved the puzzle.

This puzzle pack comes with thirty puzzles, ten each of three different sizes. Perhaps surprisingly, this puzzle pack holds a very broad range of difficulties, ranging from solvable in twenty seconds (like the smaller 5x5 puzzles) to fifteen minutes (the larger 15x15 puzzles... although I must concede it's possible that I'm just a slow solver in some instances). Whatever your level of expertise, Conceptis once again brings a handful of puzzles perfect for familiarizing yourself or re-embracing the world of color Pic-a-Pix.

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TrickyColorazeRed. Orange. Yellow. Green. Blue. Indigo. Violet. Roy G. Biv. Remember that name, folks, since you'll be dealing with with every pigment of your imagination in Colin Brown's puzzle platformer, Coloraze.

Centered on the mechanic of changing your color to interact with different objects, Coloraze is a simple concept done well. It's one of those works where a string of gameplay elements are introduced in the beginning, then paid off in the long run with a string of puzzles where they collide in interesting ways. The symbolic graphics are minimalist, but evocative. Like a TI-83+ hacked to have a color screen, they have retro-future feel to it that's very cool. Each individual level won't take too much time to play, but with a good ninety included, plus a solid number of levels made by the community using Coloraze's solid level editor, you won't be running out of game any time soon. The lack of concessions to the colorblind is unfortunate, as is the odd behavior that causes the game to seize up for a bit upon completion of a level, but overall, Coloraze is a red-letter game that deserves the blue ribbon.

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AlexWood WorkerFlex your carpentry muscles and laugh in the face of physics in Wood Worker, airomagic's new stacking physics puzzler offering. Click and drag a variety of wooden pieces into position, figuring out the best way to pile them into a relatively stable design while also attempting to collect blue stars and avoid pesky red ones. In order to successfully complete a level, your design has to, well, stay level for five suspenseful seconds and utilize every building piece provided. While wooden pieces can be repositioned as many times as you'd like, metal ones can't be moved once in place and are not affected by gravity, allowing them to function like anchors to help keep your wobbly design standing. The occasionally provided nail can be hammered into a wooden piece of your choosing to turn it into an anchor as well.

New version is now up: disables the parallax background scrolling that a few of you complained about in the comments.

Wood Worker may seem simplistic in theory, but the puzzles are really quite clever. The extra element of building to avoid certain objects while being required to reach others really adds a level of difficulty to the game. The physics are graceful and forgiving, too, with each piece behaving as you'd expect it and moving slowly enough that there's time to prevent a disaster before it happens. An uncooperative piece can be dragged back to the top of the screen and will stay there until you decide you need it again, which is a nice feature in that it prevents that helpless feeling of watching everything you've worked so hard to achieve topple over after one misplaced piece, leaving you no choice but to sit there and weep. On top of that, the graphics are charming and even cute at times (the pause screen, for example), plus the music is perfectly suited to this type of game; catchy but never grating and, even after failing the most frustrating puzzle for the tenth time, I never went scrabbling for the mute button. All in all, Wood Worker is the perfect chance to redeem yourself for that failed wood shop class, but with fewer splinters!

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Weekday Escape

GrinnypIt's time for a mid-week relaxation break, and in the world of room escape games there's nothing more relaxing than Tomatea. Well, relaxing if you can figure out their puzzles, that is, and this time Tomatea has come up with a doozy of an escape in After Rain, a game that will simultaneously soothe and frustrate you at the same time, which is quite a feat.

After RainWhat happens after rain? If you're thinking floods or mud you'd be right, but not on the right track, at least with this room escape gem. After it rains, if you're really lucky, a rainbow will appear, and that's the phenomenon that After Rain is about. As you might imagine, this is not a game for the colorblind, as nearly every puzzle involves color to some degree. However, if you're not frightened off by the numerous hues and shades that permeate this charming room, then you're in for a delightful treat that is a feast for the eyes and the brain. Navigate by the usual arrows, find things with the lighted changing cursor, solve a ton of color puzzles, and you too can enjoy the refreshing feeling of going out after the rain and enjoying the wonder of mother nature.

Tomatea has outdone themselves with this amazing and delightful little game, packed full of use of found objects, letter puzzles, number puzzles, and some other treats that we won't spoil. It's time to dive into this amazing new room escape and, well, taste the rainbow (yes, the pun had to be made, shut up!).

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Rating: 3.7/5 (76 votes)
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DoraSnow TaleI know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "What if Mario was a fat penguin who could freeze things with snowballs and then turn them into delicious frozen treats by touching them?" Well, have we got a surprise for you! Neutronized's Snow Tale is an adorable, pudgy little platformer that takes classic Super Mario World-esque gameplay and dresses it up with a little of that old vaguely Hammerfest-ish flair. Now that's what I call da magicks! Just use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move, and the [spacebar] to throw snowballs at enemies; once that freezes them, you can waddle into them to send them flying, Koopa-shell style, and they'll take out any other enemies in their path. You can only take three hits, but don't worry; you'll simply respawn at the last bell you rang and continue on your way to the end. Sign posts along the way will educate your further in the art of being a fat penguin, such as the double-jump, the bashing roll, and the all-important butt-stomp. (Don't leave home without it.)

Snow Tale has a lot going for it, not the least of which is its beautiful sense of style and eeeeee omigosh lookit the widdle baddies! Neutronized always makes gorgeous games and Snow Tale is no different. The looks go perfectly with the classic jump-and-bump gameplay... which unfortunately is only ever particularly challenging when it feels like the double-jump falls asleep on you. The whole movement feels just ever so slightly sluggish in a way that makes you want to go, okay, we get that he's a fat penguin, but even Wario was light on his creepy little feet. Still, Snow Tale does a great job of delivering family-friendly platforming action in one colourful, cartoony package that's just the right size and squishy shape for some coffee-break gaming. Or any time, really. Who am I to tell you how to enjoy your penguins?

Play Snow Tale


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Rating: 4.2/5 (83 votes)
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KyhHands of War Tower DefenseFollowing in the footsteps of other series like Castaway and Bloons, Axis Games brings their Hands of War RPG series into a new genre in Hands of War Tower Defense. Place towers! Defeat the enemies! Defend the lands! Okay, there's nothing earth-shatteringly new here, but what Axis Games has done, they've done right!

As a simple, lowly page, you have been given the Heartstone, a most powerful relic (which seems lifeless in your hands), and tasked to reunite the land of Tempor. Buck up, young man, it's time to prove yourself! After selecting a map to play, place the champion on the screen as the first 'tower' (warriors go on the path while mages and rangers go to the side, just like the actual units). From then on, you are free to spend your money to distribute the rest of the towers available to you, some on the path like the champion, and some along the sidelines, as in a traditional tower defense. Each wave is manually started with a click of the mouse, and once the enemies have appeared, you can sit back and watch the killings or stick your hand in and activate some of your mighty abilities.

Hands of War Tower Defense offers a neat storyline to go along with some great tower defense gameplay. The underlying game is on the easy side, but with all the handicaps available to add to a level, you can adjust the difficulty to your liking. Probably the strongest point of this game is the level of customization. Each unit's priority can be changed to just about any one you would like, and the champion, as the most powerful unit, has even more possibilities (I've got my eye on you, stealthed baddies!). You unlock levels a few at a time, so are free to play them in whatever order you'd like as well as replaying previous levels (for both more stars and the occasional challenge). It's a fun experience and one in which you'll likely drain a couple of evenings away!

Play Hands of War Tower Defense


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Rating: 3.9/5 (163 votes)
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elleelle_adventuresofveronicawright_image1.pngLike a case straight out of the X-Files, Playtinum Games' Adventures of Veronica Wright: Escape from the Present begins with green-eyed alien creatures in pursuit of a spunky, white-smiled heroine. A mysteriously post-dated letter from her great great grandfather sends Veronica running for her life, searching for pieces to a time machine so she can fix what he could not.

Using your mouse, navigate through this part adventure, part escape-the-room game to uncover clues, useful items, and solve puzzles which will help Veronica repair the device and escape back in time. Our brave and witty protagonist channels Nancy Drew as the brightly-colored cartoon graphics yield a science fiction comic book appeal, well suited to the cornball plot. I mean, alien invaders and notes from the future! For real? (Where's Doc Brown and Agent Mulder when you need them?)

The controls are a bit clunky, it should be confessed, as each time you need to use an item, you'll have to scroll through your inventory list. There's no changing cursor to make interactive areas obvious, either. These gameplay aspects are probably because Adventures of Veronica Wright: Escape from the Present is also available for iOS devices; such controls are just perfect for the smaller touch screen. For a free, Flash game, that's a forgivable issue, though—the entertainment value and opportunity to sleuth is well worth the trade off. Of course, with all this sci-fi melodrama, you have to factor in a cliffhanger ending. What's a girl to do? Play Escape from the Present with tongue in cheek and simply relish in the fun!

Play Adventures of Veronica Wright: Escape from the Present


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The Vault

DoraWe like you. A lot. You're pleasingly shaped, your hair smells nice (is that lemongrass?), and you always laugh politely at all our stupid jokes. All the same, haven't you ever wanted to be someone else, just for a little while? But not just anyone. Someone very... different? This week's Vault features three games with three very different protagonists who all have an unusual set of skills. (Most of which would probably wind up getting you hospitalised, arrested, or both.)

  • Alan Probe: Amateur SurgeonAlan Probe: Amateur Surgeon - Generally, you have to have certain qualifications to take certain jobs. The police, for example, are unlikely to allow me to ride around with them if the only thing I can claim to be is a "taser enthusiast" or "armchair interrogator". Well, little things like education, skills, or a basic sense or moral decency aren't about to stand in the way of former pizza boy Alan Probe in this action-packed simulation. Using various improvised tools on a wide cast of unsavory characters, you'll help Alan carve his way to the top of surgical glory. It's ridiculous, it's gory, it's over the top, and employs a very dark sense of humour. The mouse-based gameplay incorporates clever puzzle elements, while the strange diseases and afflictions combined with the unorthodox tools Alan uses make this one weird but memorable ride... and is definitely not for the kiddies.
  • The Several Journeys of ReemusThe Several Journeys of Reemus - Reemus is a lot like Heath Ledger in "A Knight's Tale", only instead of being a plucky and handsome commoner he's a paunchy and oblivious exterminator. And instead of Alan Tudyk he's got Liam who is... uh... well, Liam. Zeebarf's episodic point-and-click adventure series has been following Reemus and his adorable companion for a few years now as he seeks to crawl out from under his brother's shadow. Don't think being an exterminator means you can't be heroic... though it helps if your kingdom is populated by all manner of massive, bizarre vermin. With a distinct visual style, fantastic imagination that lends a spark of creativity to puzzles, and surreal humour, it's easy to see why Reemus and his mullet have won hearts all over the place.
  • Dolphin Olympics 2Dolphin Olympics 2 - Keee! Kee-kee-kee-kee! Wrrrrrrk... That's dolphin for "Hey bro, 'sup?" Don't feel bad. Not everyone can learn the words of the dolphin. But if you play Alan Rawkins' action stunt game, you might just learn how to swim like one. Improving on the 2006 original by packing in even more flair and style while still keeping the free-flipping/flying gameplay you loved, this sequel does just about everything right. Your goal is to perform various stunts and tricks by swimming through the water and flipping up into the air, scoring big for more complex moves (or more fish!) and unlocking even more secrets. It's the sort of game you can play for five minutes or an hour... but the first time you pick it up it'll probably be closer to an hour because it's just so darn cool. One of the best examples of super, giddy fun on the internets.

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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secretofmana.gifSecret of Mana (iPhone/iPod Touch) - The SNES/Square classic makes the leap from 1993 into your hands with this port of the huge RPG action adventure. You play a boy from a small village who, unwittingly, draws the legendary Mana Sword from a stone and is banished for what the villagers perceive as an ill omen... and when you get wrapped up in a conflict to save or destroy the world, it looks like they might be right. The real-time combat may feel a little odd to pick up on a touchscreen initially, but quickly becomes second nature, and the huge world combined with the action and colourful environments make this one effortlessly engaging despite an admittedly tried and true storyline.

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


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Rating: 3.9/5 (46 votes)
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joyeHordes of HordesHordes of Hordes. It's a title that ought to strike fear into any unsuspecting tower defense fan's heart, because there's nothing quite so annoying as killing a creature and having it spawn lots of little creatures. And what if the hordes' hordes contain more hordes? Is it hordes all the way down? Fortunately, this new chibi-cute game from Undefined isn't quite that evil.

A build-your-own-path style game, the user experience could have been improved a lot with the addition of an undo button, since messing up barricades in particular can send you down a spiral of shame and degradation that you can't claw out of, short of restarting the level. An in-level mute button also would have been nice. Still, the game gives an interesting variety of traps, spells, and towers to unleash upon your foes, and is fairly well-balanced to boot, so you can try a lot of different approaches to any given map: you could fill up your ten slots with mana boosters and damage spells, for example, or try a combination of slowing and splash damage in traps and towers. Just make sure you think very carefully about your plan before you place things, and you'll find this a pleasant game play experience.

Play Hordes of Hordes


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Rating: 4.4/5 (316 votes)
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chiktionaryLarva DreamThe best means of transport for a fattened caterpillar to find a place to pupate is of course by helicopter. Understandably, helicopters are hard to come by in the insect world, so it's up to one intrepid little caterpillar to create its own and your help is required. BeGamer have created yet another delightful diversion in Larva Dream, a point-and-click puzzler that tells an unusual story.

In usual BeGamer style, it's up to you to point-and-click your way through each screen to help the caterpillar find parts for its helicopter, avoid predatory foes and achieve its ultimate goal of becoming a beautiful butterfly. Not overly challenging, Larva Dream is more about sitting back, enjoying the art, music and story, and just generally relaxing. What sets this one apart are surprising moments of animation that really make you feel a part of the action, as if you've been physically reduced to the size of an ant, or gnat...or whatever insect form you prefer. So grab your mouse or hover over your trackpad, kick back with a nice hot beverage and enjoy a truly casual game.

Play Larva Dream


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Puzzlejuice

JohnBWhat a world we live in, where mankind can walk on the moon, salad can be purchased in cups, and falling block puzzles can be fused with word games. If you're ready for your brain to have a little run through the multitasking wringer, Puzzlejuice is without a doubt the best way to hurt your synapses. With a little Tetris-like block arranging and a little Spelltower-style word building, you, too, can drive yourself mad with delight!

PuzzlejuiceFor the most part, Puzzlejuice operates like a game of Tetris, where blocks fall from the sky and you can rotate/slide them to place them where you want on the ground. Colors come into play, though, so in addition to filling horizontal rows, you'll also want to make an attempt to keep like colors together. When three or more blocks are touching, tap them to make a match. But wait! Matched blocks and complete horizontal rows don't disappear. Instead, they turn into letter tiles. And then things get crazy.

After dealing with falling blocks, your job is only half over. Letter tiles can be used to spell words, the larger the more deadly. Tap and drag to create a word, moving in any direction as long as the tiles are touching. When you spell a word, the tiles vanish (or, explode in a "wordsplosion"), and depending on which mode you're playing, surrounding tiles of any type could be eliminated as well. Not only do you have to watch the constantly-falling blocks from above and arrange them where you like, you also have to switch your brain to spelling mode so you can actually make those tiles disappear. Eep.

Puzzlejuice comes with two main modes of play: core mode, as described above (which features a few sub-modes), and zen mode, which follows the same basic rules but is limited to 90 second rounds where blocks do not descend on their own. Throw into the already thick soup mix a series of objectives similar to those found in Jetpack Joyride, add in achievements, drop in a few power-ups, then stir in a cup or two of "gotta beat my own score because I'm totally better than that lame-o score that's there right now", and you've got the makings of an incredibly attractive puzzle game.

PuzzlejuiceAnalysis: Puzzlejuice is crazy in a box. The game has an in-your-face style of humor that only adds to the nigh-arcade feeling. There's attitude and wit, speed and intense rounds, all coupled with incredibly cerebral moments where you walk a fine line between wordsmith and speed puzzle master. This is one of those games that pulls you in right away with its presentation, and as soon as you get the hang of it, you'll keep going because it's such an awesome feeling to succeed at.

Because of the strong puzzle/arcade hybrid, you don't have to be a falling block aficionado to enjoy Puzzlejuice. In fact, it's quite suitable for all sorts of players, from speed-loving action gamers to that aunt of yours who always smells like burnt onions. It's perfectly enjoyable in short bursts but also great for longer sessions, depending on how high your tolerance for being driven mad happens to be.

There's just one area where Puzzlejuice can trip over its own multitasking: the controls. Everything is touch/slide based, and you use pretty much the same moves to spell words, rotate blocks, and drop pieces to the ground. Because of this, you'll sometimes find yourself spelling words when you wanted to move a block, or rotating when you meant to drop. It's a function of dividing your attention, since you can't possibly keep your eyes everywhere at the same time. The controls never really get in your way, thankfully, but keep this in mind when you first start playing.

Puzzlejuice has that magic formula that will drag you in and never let go. It's the sort of game that's almost psychotic in nature, but bringing order to that fast chaos is supremely satisfying once you can wrangle falling blocks and spelling words at the same time!


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Mobile Monday

JohnBScene opens in the forest. A mysterious castle looms in the background. Hobbling in from the side, a group of three seals carrying machinery on their backs. They know what the secret of mana is, but they're not telling. They're not telling... indeed!

mysteriouscastle.gifMysterious Castle (iPhone/iPod Touch) - A game that's technically still in development, but it's already packed with plenty of retro-inspired fun. Mysterious Castle is an isometric game that combines elements of turn-based strategy titles like Final Fantasy Tactics with a traditional roguelike RPG. The world is procedurally generated, and you'll spend most of your time hunting through the forest, gathering items and defeating enemies by being all tactical and such. A good interface that makes use of the touch screen tucks most of the clutter out of the way, but none of the intricacy that makes a roguelike or a tactics game so appealing is sacrificed. You can also try the PC/Mac versions of the game, though they aren't quite as complete as the iOS release.

secretofmana.gifSecret of Mana (iPhone/iPod Touch) - The SNES/Square classic makes the leap from 1993 into your hands with this port of the huge RPG action adventure. You play a boy from a small village who, unwittingly, draws the legendary Mana Sword from a stone and is banished for what the villagers perceive as an ill omen... and when you get wrapped up in a conflict to save or destroy the world, it looks like they might be right. The real-time combat may feel a little odd to pick up on a touchscreen initially, but quickly becomes second nature, and the huge world combined with the action and colourful environments make this one effortlessly engaging despite an admittedly tried and true storyline.

sealforce.gifSeal Force (universal) - A curious little game from Tactile Entertainment that feels like a cross between Jetpack Joyride and a drawing game such as Flight Control. You are in charge of three seals, each with its own color. By tapping and drawing a quick pattern, you can send seals out to collect power-ups and get rid of colored krill that advance towards your position. You can only move one seal at a time, and you've got to be quick about everything you do, lest the krill advance and end your game prematurely. Each time you have at it, your goal is to see how long you can survive as well as see how many objectives you can complete. Also worth noting: Seal Force looks phenomenal, with a visual style that mimics the look of an animated television series.

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


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Rating: 4.7/5 (145 votes)
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Defender's Quest

DoraMost of us wake up feeling a little under the weather like it's no big deal; you take some gross medicine, wheedle some pity out of someone to bring you chocolate and comics, and call it a win. Of course, in this kingdom, you go into the Pit, and nobody has ever come out of the Pit... until now. Defender's Quest is an effortlessly addictive, funny, and engrossing strategic tower defense RPG from indie studio, Level Up Labs (Lars Doucet, James Cavin, Kevin Penkin, and Anthony Pecorella) that has come to devour your free time like few other games before it. You've been warned.

As the star of the story, you discover shortly after coming down with the Plague afflicting the kingdom and being chucked unceremoniously into the Pit to die that you've got powers far beyond your ordinary librarian. Able to pull other people into a strange ethereal realm where you can combat the monstrous Revenants and kill them permanently, you set out on a journey to discover the true source of the Plague. It goes without saying, however, that powers like yours soon attract unwanted attention, and along with the companions you draw to your cause, you find yourself on the run for your very life, and perhaps the very future of the kingdom as well. Also, there are Slak, and Wrenna, who are the best. You'll see. You'll see.

Defender's QuestGameplay in Defender's Quest is more or less described as a tower defense game with RPG elements; the meat of it lies within its challenging and strategic levels, but between battles you'll get to recruit party members, learn more about the story, manage equipment, and so forth. In each stage you start off alone; except for a few magic spells, you can't really attack the enemies directly, so you'll need to summon in friends and recruits at the cost of PSI points to defend you. Each different class has their own unique attacks and abilities, and if they've leveled up sufficiently and you've bought them skills, you can "boost" them during battle for more PSI to get even stronger. As tempting as it might be to pour all your PSI into Slak and Wrenna (the best) and call it a day, you'll soon discover that there are a lot of different enemies with varied skills and weaknesses of their own, so carefully planning where you're going to plunk each hero and what they can do is a must. Don't worry; the in-game tutorial will walk you through everything, and if you mess up, you can simply restart the battle at any time, or quit and try an easier difficulty.

If enemies do reach your main character and manage to kill her, it isn't the end of the world. While you'll fail the level, you'll still keep a portion of the experience and "scrap" (used as currency) you earned and you can simply try again. Each stage has multiple levels of difficulty to choose from, letting you grind levels or test your mettle against more dangerous enemies for a bigger reward, or just enjoy the basic gameplay and story with a "casual" mode. Striding the line between being just strategic enough to offer up a satisfying challenge while not too complex so as to deter the more casual player, it really is the sort of game that can effortlessly suck you in for a long time.

Defender's QuestAnalysis: One of the best compliments I can give Defender's Quest is that I sat down to check it out for a few minutes and before I realised it, several hours have passed. Tower defense games are sort of a "love 'em or hate 'em" scenario, and even fans of the genre tend to be relentlessly picky. It's rare for one to stumble on that magic formula where it can keep you engaged for hours on end, striving for that perfect rating on each stage, and with its blend of unique classes, upgrades, and battles that are as fast, slow, easy, or hard as you want 'em, Defender's Quest has done just that.

There are a few minor annoyances, such as being unable to swap a hero's position in battle without de-summoning them and losing all their boosties. You can say this forces you to think more strategically, and that's true, but at the same time realising three-quarters of the way through a long level that you're boned and you don't have the PSI to reverse the damage in time will probably make you grind your teeth a little. There's also rather a lot of clicking, though the multiple speed settings are handy for letting you slow down and take stock of a situation so you can figure out how badly you've screwed it up. Not that, um. That ever happened to me.

Defender's QuestWhile the lack of interaction in the story scenes is a little disappointing, Defender's Quest makes up for it by packing its cast full of memorable characters and snappy dialogue. The artwork is colourful, the characters expressive, and even the in-battle graphics have a pleasing sort of "all these colourful lights and explosions all at once" thing going for them. The actual storyline is interesting, though probably a little predictable for most players, and tends to get outshone by the party quips, one-liners, and banter. It's just a shame there isn't more of it; the game can be so unexpectedly funny I found myself wishing in-battle chatter wasn't so scarce.

Defender's Quest is, hands down, one of the best tower defense titles you'll find, but it's also simply just a clever, funny, engaging game period. While it's more RPG-lite in a way that might disappoint purists of the term, those elements serve to elevate Defender's Quest head and shoulders above other games in the genre. As for gameplay length, since that's undoubtedly something you're curious about, that comes more down to play style and your chosen difficulty than anything else. Personally, I sunk another two hours on top of the seven I had into this game while I was supposed to be writing this review. You can only expect that number to go up, since the game has multiple updates coming that add more story scenes, more battle modes, bonus missions, end game content, and more. Colourful, entertaining, addictive, and challenging, Defender's Quest is simply a fantastic game that is well worth a look. Me? I loved it. (Slak + Wrenna 4 EVA.) Highly recommended.

Play Defender's Quest (Flash demo)

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the full version

LinuxLinux:
Get the full version


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Rating: 4.5/5 (21 votes)
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Dustforce

JohnBDustforce is a speed-centric acrobatic platform game from Hitbox Team. A demo first appeared back in 2010, showing off the concept and basic design. Since then, the game has undergone some silent but effective changes, improving upon the controls and adding loads of content to sweep through. It's a fast, combo-centric arcade experience that emphasizes speed and perfection, and thanks to the online highscore boards and per-level badges, you'll be strangely compelled to keep playing until everything is just right.

dustforce.jpgYour goal is, on the surface, to sweep up all of the mess (leaves, dust, chemicals, etc.) and work your way to the end of each short level. Really, though, your goal is to move swift and smooth through the stages, building up combos as you hop around like a janitorial ninja. You can run along the ground, run up walls to a certain extent, and even dart along ceilings. You also have two attacks to unleash (useful for taking care of solid debris blocks and dealing with the game's few enemies) and can double jump and dash at your leisure. Plenty of ways to traverse the intricate, dust-filled levels. Perfection is the name of the game, and Dustforce is structured to make it easy (and tempting) to go back and play levels over and over again until you get it just right.

Dustforce features four playable characters, a few of whom have some ability tweaks that makes playing the game a much different experience. The main boy and girl are the default characters, and, armed with a broom, they make fine choices to sweep through the game. The little girl in the purple, though, carries a duster and has a more shallow jump, a shortcoming that's made tolerable by the fact that she can triple jump instead of the usual double. How's that for a different gameplay strategy? The old man in the green has a vacuum, moves at a slower pace, and has a jump with a different arc, making him a fine choice when you want a little more challenge. You can even engage in a little local multiplayer if you've got a few friends up for some cleaning!

dustforce2.jpgAnalysis: Dustforce shares a basic design similarity with games like Sonic the Hedgehog and Fancy Pants Adventure. You're always on the move, and the first time you play a level you'll probably hobble through to the end just fine, albeit without an ounce of finesse. Then, though, you notice your score is quite low and you don't have the best badges for that stage, so you'll want to go back and try it again. And again. And again, until you're happy with your mastery over the stage. Dustforce really inspires you to aim for perfection in a way few arcade games manage to do in the modern age.

There's just something about cleaning in video games that makes us players jump around with glee, isn't there? Matching blocks in Tetris so they disappear, leaving a tidy, empty screen behind. Stacking up cake ingredients in Cake Mania so everything heads out the door without a drop of icing out of place. A large chunk of making a satisfying video game is praying upon those base parts of our brain that loves to organize. Dustforce does just this, and it does it with fantastic style.

If your intention is simply to run forward to get to the end of the game, you'll be disappointed at Dustforce's relatively short length. It's not a game about getting an ending, it's a game out perfection, and to that end, it's got plenty of content to keep you busy for quite a while!

Dustforce shows good visual sense and a smooth, flowing style of gameplay we love to see. It can take half an hour or so before you get the controls down, but as soon as it clicks, you'll be dusting and sweeping across the dirty lands as you work your way to perfection!

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

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


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catface.gifˆ_ˆ (Windows, 3.5MB, free) - The master of short-form adventure games, Ben Chandler, creator of Annie Android, Eternally Us, brings us another bite-sized retro game that has, perhaps, the most unusual name we've seen for a release we've seen in months. ˆ_ˆ is the story of Julian who is, apparently, the father of the were-bunny race, but he's not so happy about that role. Your job, then, is to help transform him back into a human being, using a combination of biting and headbutting! Not as smart or meaningful as Ben's other releases, perhaps, but it more than makes up for it with wackiness.


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The AGS Bake Sale Bundle

JohnBWhat better way to spend the weekend than gorging on more than a dozen creative, original games? The AGS Bake Sale Bundle does something new and neat with the "sticking indie games together into bundles" fad, releasing 14 unique games made with Adventure Game Studio by members of its community. The price, as you might have guessed, is pay-what-you-want, and proceeds are donated to Child's Play charity!

For anyone in love with the adventure genre, the Bake Sale will provide you with plenty of food to keep you playing for weeks. There's also a fair share of non-adventure games to be had, including a shooter, a platform game, and a few simulations! For example, Escape the Barn is a classic room escape game, just like the ones you're used to seeing in your browser, while Indiana Rodent and the Raiders of the Lost Cheese is an impressively large platformer. Then there's the simulation RAM Ghost that puts you in charge of a little ghost's happiness, sort of like The Sims, but with a haunted house!

Go check out The AGS Bake Sale, support some truly independent developers, and send a few bits of currency to charity while you're at it!


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Weekend Download

JohnBA rousing mix of games this week, featuring pleasantly strange free releases alongside some sturdy demos. A bunny who likes to yell? A demon that can live in a candle? That'll get you to sit up straight and start downloading some games!

deity.gifDeity (Windows, 180MB, free) - When was the last time you thought "Man, I could go for a good isometric stealth action game right about now!"? It was probably quite recently, and since you wished it, a team of students at DigiPen made it come true! Deity is a short mouse-controlled game where you play as a demon who is damaged by strong light. You can move around by leaping into light sources or possessing guards via a similar mechanic. As you snuff out light and travel through shadow, you'll also learn to string together chain movements to really take foes by surprise. It's a great little game that shows a lot of promise, but at the moment it's rather thin on content. The team does have plans to release more levels and a level editor in the future, though, so this unique experience is far from complete!

catface.gifˆ_ˆ (Windows, 3.5MB, free) - The master of short-form adventure games, Ben Chandler, creator of Annie Android, Eternally Us, brings us another bite-sized retro game that has, perhaps, the most unusual name we've seen for a release we've seen in months. ˆ_ˆ is the story of Julian who is, apparently, the father of the were-bunny race, but he's not so happy about that role. Your job, then, is to help transform him back into a human being, using a combination of biting and headbutting! Not as smart or meaningful as Ben's other releases, perhaps, but it more than makes up for it with wackiness.

pitiri.jpgPitiri 1977 (Windows, 56MB, demo) - Your brother was kidnapped by aliens, but with your special skills, it's a good bet you can get him back. This 70s-styled platform adventure sends you across all kinds of crazy landscapes, challenging you with physics puzzles and harrowing jumps while providing you with a series of psychic abilities. The artwork is phenomenal, and the storyline is charming enough to keep you playing on its own. Pitiri is slow to start, but once things pick up, you'll be good and thoroughly hooked on this budget-priced title.

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: 4.5/5 (158 votes)
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elleelle_letitglow2_image1.pngThe physics puzzle game has been around long before pigs and birds started battling it out. At its heart, though, is a very fundamental concept—manipulate the physics of the provided objects to solve a puzzle. From an outsider's perspective, that simple-sounding task can appear rather banal. Sit down with it and start toying with potential outcomes, however, and suddenly you're hooked.

Nothing illuminates this truth more brightly than Let It Glow 2, the well-awaited sequel created by Vyacheslav Stepanov who gave us the original Let It Glow. See, it's not enough to plainly move an object from point A to point B or to propel ornithic projectiles toward helpless oinkers; that can be done artlessly enough without much positive results. In Let It Glow 2, you must arrange electropositive activity through conductors, transmitters and batteries to power light bulbs. Click on objects to remove them causing things to fall perfectly into place. When done correctly, the stream of electricity flows accordingly and there is light!

Analysis: It's very gratifying to make that bulb light up: just a click here and there, experimenting with design until all the parts work, fulfills that inner penchant to build and create. The ease of play, cheerful music and pleasing graphics increase Let It Glow 2's appeal. Adding to its affability, most of the twenty levels are not too hard to figure out. Yet enough strategy and tactical planning are involved to present a satisfying challenge. Those "Aha!" moments when a light pops on above your head fuel the compulsion to keep playing. When you get down to gameplay, there isn't much here in the way of innovation nor will you find great stretches in mental stimulation. Regardless, as far as physics puzzles go, Let It Glow 2 competes well amongst the best and, with only twenty levels, it ends long before you'll tire of playing, which is a mark of a goodness really.

elle_letitglow2_image2.pngThere are those moments when timing becomes everything. Such minute subtleties of physics law can turn into a lip-biting excursion in precisely timed mouse clicks; if that scenario is frustrating to you, then there are a couple levels you may want to skip. Which brings up a small, nitpicking point: there's no level skipping. Ergo, if you don't want to stop at, say... level 13, you'll just have to hunker down and work through the dilemma. That issue applies to almost everything in life—writing, relationships, living—thus a small possible hiccup in play isn't reason to shrug off a game so gratifyingly enjoyable.

When you do manage to charge up that marvelous Edisonesque apparatus, the warm glow of achievement radiates on screen as well as in your dear puzzle solver's heart. While it might be too short lived to inspire tee shirts, plushies and viral videos, Let It Glow 2 does make for a mighty fine coffee break diversion. You might even land on the leaderboard for posterity!

Play Let It Glow 2


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Witches' Legacy: The Charleston Curse

DoraYou got 99 problems and a witch ain't one!... or, at least, that was true before Witches' Legacy: The Charleston Curse, a hidden-object adventure from EleFun Games. After a letter claiming that you're the sole living relative to an orphaned little girl arrives on your doorstep from her caretaker, you decide to set out and get to the bottom of things... one to be brained over the head and locked in an attic for your trouble. Escaping seems like a good idea, but you've already gotten yourself tangled up in a family with one very dangerous past, and if you want to get out alive, you'll have to solve the mysteries of the house and your heritage, and tangle with one seriously nasty old crone to boot. Witches, man.

Witches' Legacy: The Charleston CurseWhile ultimately your goal is to get out of the house de-witched (which is kind of like being de-loused, but with more cackling), you'd be a pretty bad person if you didn't at least try to find and rescue Lynn, the little girl, as well. Of course, this isn't your typical house; it's packed full of all manner of strange and unearthly obstacles, from petulant doorknobs with colds to the hungry living darkness that resides under the stairs. As you explore, gathering items and solving hidden-object scenes, you'll also discover that Lynn has a rather unique talent; the drawings she leaves behind are magical, and will begin to animate and reveal to you a little more of the story once you have a few pieces.

Analysis: Witches' Legacy: The Charleston Curse is that rare sort of game that can have you simultaneously chuckling and intrigued from the get-go. Through a combination of multiple different visual animation styles and an appealing sense of dramatic flair, which mostly works although the full motion video actors can look somewhat out of place, it manages to pull you into its cheesy twisted fairy-tale-esque story and keep you engaged. The story and gameplay move along at a brisk pace, rarely leaving you to feel like you're shuffling around aimlessly, and continually tosses you little cutscenes and Lynn's magical drawings to keep you interested. Since most hidden-object games take a lazier approach to engaging the player, leaving you feeling like you're taking a household tour with Ben Stein who stops periodically to make you sort through his boxes of "Garage Sale Treasures", Witches' Legacy winds up feeling a lot more interesting.

Witches' Legacy: The Charleston CurseThe gameplay is a bit of a mixed bag, in that while none of it is bad, the lion's share of the puzzles are going to be exceedingly familiar to anyone who's ever played a few games in the genre. You'll encounter the usual adventure game frustrations of being able to use only one specific item in any given situation when you have eight that could do the job just as well, but Witches' Legacy at least tries to keep you entertained while you hunt around. The environments are gorgeous, and packed full of witchy details that makes it worth spending a little time admiring each one. The hidden-object scenes are by and large clear and well done, and the little mini-puzzles in each one required to find specific "hidden" items help keep them interesting. Well, as interesting as they can be once you know you've already found the specific item you were rooting through all this junk for but they force you to complete it anyway. The game does lean somewhat more towards traditional adventure gameplay, however, so those of you who prefer your games to not bury you under an avalanche of hidden-object scenes will probably be pleased.

While Witches' Legacy: The Charleston Curse is far from what you'd call serious or earth-shattering, it is a beautiful, colourful, and creative campy good time. It's exactly the sort of well-made and just plain fun game you can use to relax in the evening. It's popcorn gaming at its finest, shameless B movie indulgence, and if that sounds good to you, then you'll definitely want to check out the demo. At around four hours or longer to complete, it might not be the lengthiest title around, but for me, speaking as someone who tends to burn out on sheer volume of hidden-object adventures we see, this was definitely one of the most enjoyable titles to cross my plate in a long time. Give the demo a try and see if you don't enjoy all the quality and creativity this one has to offer.

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: 3.6/5 (22 votes)
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Kyhkyh_mrgunface_screen.pngRemember the days of school yard name-calling? There were favorites like 'doodoo head' and 'cootie breath', but what about 'gunface'? No? Never heard of that one? Well, the character of Rinse Games' arena shooter, Mr Gunface, probably heard that lots (assuming drones have recess... or even go to elementary school).

You control the gunface drone to save the planet against the Zenoba invasion by shooting the many guns on its face (surprise) with your mouse and moving with either [arrow] keys or [WASD]. The controls feel somewhat loose, but the killer graphics help make up for it. With endless upgrades to your arsenal and 30 levels to battle through, it's up to you whether this ends in glorious victory or waking up in the infirmary with a concussion. Either way, prepare yourself for a trip to the principal's office cause drones fight dirty!

Play Mr Gunface


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Rating: 4.6/5 (244 votes)
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elleelle_musaicbox_browser_image1.pngFirst introduced as a download in 2008, Musaic Box is now available free in your browser. This lovely musical game by Alexander Porechnov mingles elements of tetris, sudoku and hidden object scenes into a point-and-click puzzle that's both unique and very entertaining.

At his behest, you go to your grandfather's house only to discover he's nowhere to be found. Explore the room, gathering fragments of sheet music and notes about famous composers. Completing a musical outline opens the "musaic box" for the next aspect of gameplay: click the music player's cylinder to hear the song then use audio, geometric and symbolic clues to put the puzzle pieces together and reconstruct the song. Enjoy mellifluous music when you succeed and also reap the rewards—a useful item, an unlocked chest, or a new room to discover.

Although it's only a scaled-down sample of the download—which you can read more about and order here in JohnB's review—there is still much to behold in this Flash version of the game. It's gorgeously designed, full of melodious instrumentals and challenging puzzles to be as pleasing to the eyes and ears as it is fun to play!

Play Musaic Box


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Rating: 3.7/5 (48 votes)
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DoraDragon New YearHappy New Year!... kinda! What better way to celebrate than with Minoto, a dragon, a traumatised cloud, a sun that can't do anything for itself, and more? Dragon New Year is another of Minoto's surreal and silly point-and-click puzzle games packed full of all the bizarre situations and colourful characters you've come to expect. Just click around to help the dragon progress through each scene and try to think outside the box a little. Dragon New Year does continue the unfortunate new tendency of Minoto's games to just hand you items without explanation between scenes, but as a ray of invigorating silliness and charm to start your day or jump-start your coffee break, it definitely gets the job done.

Play Dragon New Year


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraWe're not even through January and already 2012 is looking amazing! There are a ton of games on the horizon from new and familiar favourite developers that have me all twitterpated. (Additionally, if you want to join me in my "NO HATERS ALLOWED" tent, I'll be watching the trailer for Resident Evil 6 over and over all evening. There will follow a period of heartbreakingly cautious optimism for Silent Hill: Downpour.) We have a couple of very exciting indie releases on the horizon by some very talented people, as well as an announcement for a sequel to a popular game from last year! So practice your girlish squealing, regardless of your gender, because we're about to begin!

(Pssst! Did you know we went dark on January 18th as part of a protest against SOPA and PIPA? Do you want to know more about it, and what you can do to make a difference? Hit up Gizmodo for the nitty-gritty, and then find out who YOU should be e-mailing!)

The Last Stand: Dead ZoneI Love You For Your Braaaaaains Sharpen your machetes, stock up on crossbow ammo, and get ready to perfect your self-indulgent "end of the world hero/heroine" fantasy because Con Artist Games is going to take you back to their post-apocalyptic zombie wonderland later this year! Titled The Last Stand: Dead Zone, it looks to deliver on all the action we're come to expect from the series, but if you've played Union City prepare to drop your jaw over how vastly different this new game looks. All that's currently available is a teaser trailer to check out, but my gosh is that pretty! Like their Facebook page for updates, and start picking out your buddies to survive the incoming zombie horde with! I call dibs on Jack Black, Gary Busey, Catherine Tate, and Gordon Ramsay!

Analogue: A Hate StoryFour Letter Word Do you love love? We love love. Christine Love, that is! Best known for her brilliantly written, emotional, and thought-provoking games like Digital: A Love Story and Don't Take it Personally, Babe, she has just announced her very first paid game! Analogue: A Hate Story is a visual novel set to release later this month that follows you in a dark mystery as you set out to discover what happened to the crew of a dead spaceship... along with the help of a chatty AI, of course! Analogue will cost 15.00USD, be available for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux, and promises two pursuable characters with five different endings. Hit up the official site for more info and some great screenshots!

My Little Pony: Fighting is MagicConfound These Ponies! They Drive Me To Brawl! SO I HEARD YOU LIEK MUDKIPS. Also ponies. That's cool. And so is the progress being made on the upcoming fighting game My Little Pony: Fighting is Magic. If you hit up the developer blog right now you'll get an inside peek at the very hard work these talented folks are putting into making your favourite ponies come to fisticuffs on your computer screen. It's also especially exciting because you can clearly see how dedicated they are to this project, and also how much more talented they are than yours truly! (... yay... ) They're also currently looking for a voice actress for the one and only Element of Generosity, Rarity, so if you think you've got what it takes, why not audition?

Ballads of ReemusWhat Legends Are Made Of IT'S ALMOST HERE. ClickShake Games is all set to release The Ballads of Reemus: When the Bed Bites on January 27th, 2012, and holy beans and gravy you guys that is like next Friday! For just $9.97USD you can support an amazingly talented indie group, and also play the very first paid installment featuring Reemus and Liam in an entirely new adventure! To be clear, this is not The Several Journeys of Reemus... but that will also be released the very same day! Hit up the official site for more info and the option to pre-order a swanky collector's edition with t-shirt you can totally use to make me jealous. (Bully.)

LockehornRabbit Deer Mouse Things... ON ICE Nitrome loves you! To prove it, they've just released version 2.0 of their wintry arcade game Lockehorn, which, as you must know, is all about crushing things, melting things, and sliding on things... as a bunny!... or maybe a deer?... whatever, it was adorable, and it's been updated! Version 2.0 not only includes an easy mode for those of you who found the game a bit too frustrating, but also introduces a brand new two player mode where you and a friend can compete to become the very best whatevers in your tribe of whatever! So grab a buddy, hurl 'em onto the ice, and check it out!


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Rating: 4.6/5 (109 votes)
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Escape into the Open-Air Hot SpringSonicLoverNo matter what time of year it is, unless you're baking in the sun you'll probably appreciate a little exotic getaway and a rush of soothing warmth... especially if you happen to be playing this in the winter. (Those of you south of the equator, shush for now; we'll acknowledge you some other time.) That's why Tesshi-e has given us a rather thankful escape known as Escape into the Open-Air Hot Spring.

Tesshi-e's latest stars a protagonist taking a much-needed vacation to the titular open-air hot spring, only getting into it isn't so easy; a number of puzzles to solve and inventory items to pick up and use lie in wait before the customer can warm their body properly. You know what to do if you've played Tesshi-e's games before: navigate by pointing and clicking, and pick up items that seem useful. Highlight an item then use it on the environment, or on the "About Item" button for a close-up.

This game doesn't break Tesshi-e's streak of good escape games; the puzzles are fairly logical and make sense without being too easy, the controls are just fine, pixel-hunting is nonexistent (as is a changing cursor, but who needs it?) and there's a save feature for when you want to take a break from your break. (I will not make a "yo dawg" joke. I will not.) It's pretty clear that an "Escape" into the Open-Air Hot Spring is a good way to escape the winter blues, if only imaginarily. So I won't get in your way any longer...

Play Escape into the Open-Air Hot Spring


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Rating: 4.4/5 (90 votes)
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DoraCardinal QuestIdo Yeheili's Cardinal Quest is a roguelike RPG that hearkens back to a time when games were simpler, more addictive, and all-around more pixelly. Choose from three different classes, each with their own abilities, and descend into a deep dungeon to hunt for the wicked Minotaur, find treasure, and get stabbed, poisoned, fireball'ed, and otherwise maimed a whole lot. Just use the [WASD], [arrow] keys, or the mouse to move around and interact with things. Combat is handled simply by bumping into an enemy to attack them physically, turn-based style, and certain skills can be used when they're available with the click of the mouse or a number hotkey. Vanquish enemies to get stronger and level up, and plunder treasure chests for potions and more powerful equipment. Just don't go all whacking things willy nilly, since once you bite the dust, it's game over unless you have an extra life. This ain't the Mushroom Kingdom, son. We do things differently 'round here.

Cardinal Quest is a great looking little game whose lovely retro look and simplified controls will win it supporters from both the nostalgic and casual camps, and as a simple roguelike it's remarkably addictive. As a roguelike, however, it definitely feels like the word "lite" should be tacked onto the end of that descriptor, since there isn't really much of the heavy customisation and wide amount of variety fans of the genre tend to look forward to. Despite not holding many surprises, however, Cardinal Quest excells remarkably well at being the sort of game that will effortlessly fill whatever time you want it to, and then leave you blinking at the clock in astonishment when you realise you had those pesky social and physical obligations to tend to hours ago.

While hardcore fans of the genre might not get the deep complexity they were hoping for, most everyone else will find an easily accessible and engaging little title that's just the right size for a heroic adventure or three. If you really like the game, you might consider buying the "standalone" version from the official site, which has no ads and is both playable in full screen and destined for further updates, or at least check out the developer blog to learn more about the upcoming sequel. In the meantime, however, if you're looking for something that will scratch that "I want a game that will mercilessly kill me over and over, but at least look pretty doing it" itch, you should probably give Cardinal Quest a try.

Play Cardinal Quest

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the full version

LinuxLinux:
Get the full version


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (61 votes)
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DoraScarlet StrangerI am the terror that stabs in the night! I am the hero that puts the action in your RPGs! I... am Scarlet Stranger!... well, okay, not me, really. But that's the hero of this stylish little title from Armor Games and Antony Lavalle, and I figure if you ever miss out on a chance to make even a passing reference to Darkwing Duck, you're doing society a disservice. Take up your sword and shield and dashing ensemble to strut boldly into Castle Chameleon, a sinister place own by the sinister-er (IS TOO A WORD) Count Thrashwoode, and dare to combat not just the monsters within but the ever-changing walls of the castle itself.

Use the [arrow] keys to move and the [X] and [Z] buttons to use your sword and shield respectively. Your goal, ultimately, is to rescue the mandatory princess and not die, but when the castle changes shape around you periodically, that's easier said than done. Your health is kept track of in the upper-right corner, Zelda-style, with a series of hearts. As you adventure, you'll discover treasure that you can sell for new equipment, or even crafting supplies to make your own. Just keep your eye on the timer at the bottom.

While the movement might take some getting used to, Scarlet Stranger really is an absolutely gorgeous little storybook adventure of a game, with the design by Super Flash Bros shining particularly bright here. Character and monster artwork is top-notch, lending to the surreal fairytale set-up, and is just plain adorable besides. Additionally, if you're old and decrepit like me and were weaned on the very first few Zelda games, you'll appreciate the way the gameplay is simplified in that traditional top-down action manner, complete with hidden items, magic switches, and... lumber gathering. The downside is that it does feel perhaps a little too simplistic, especially considering the grinding that comes into play later on. Still, with its flamboyant style and classic gameplay, Scarlet Stranger is definitely work picking up and paying a visit to Castle Chameleon with. After all, when's the last time you can say you saved a princess while battling octo-giraffes? (Thanks a lot, nightmare fuel.)

Play Scarlet Stranger


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Rating: 3/5 (75 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypEscape games are often little more than point-and-click puzzles that take place in a single room with no narrative and no back story other than the simple premise of being stuck in the room and needing to find a way out. Occasionally you'll get some sort of explanation, like a friend locked you in (thanks, Tesshi-e). This week we feature a game that is heavy on story and light on escaping, since the goal is not to leave the room but to find a time capsule left by your now deceased wife to celebrate what would have been your 10th wedding anniversary. Welcome to The Time Capsule, a wonderful, sentimental "escape" from Gotmail.

The Time CapsuleNormally we would see this sort of sentiment from Robamimi (Smile for Me, Dad, First Love), who often likes to do escapes that are not, in fact, escapes. The Time Capsule follows this pattern of design, while packing in a lot of logic, math, and use of found objects. Search the room in your former house and find clues that will take you down memory lane to the bittersweet days of yore. Navigation bars at the sides of the screen and inventory controls are all fairly basic. The lack of a changing cursor does mean some pixel hunting, but the visuals are pretty sharp, clear, and uncluttered so it shouldn't be an big issue for you. There's also a save feature in case you wish to walk away for a while or if the schmaltz gets to be a bit too much.

The Time Capsule is a newly translated English version of a game that was originally released in 2009, but don't let that put you off of the escaping fun to be had. Even if you don't have a sentimental bone in your body The Time Capsule is still a lot of puzzle packed into a small space and definitely fun for any escape fanatic. Let the soothing music clip relax you as you solve puzzles that range from pretty simple to head-bangingly hard and enjoy the mid-week escaping challenge.

Play The Time Capsule


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Rating: 4.3/5 (71 votes)
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elleelle_togetheralone_image1.pngTogether Alone is not an oxymoron. It is an innovative puzzle game created for Ludum Dare #22 by Jan Niestadt and Gijs Rosengarten of Qwok Games. The theme of the competition was "alone", and rather than retell this sweet little love story—which would be a moot endeavor, anyway, as individual perspectives do color its meaning—let's just say it's about Peter and Alice, two strangers passing through time, pondering loneliness and seeking togetherness.

Game wise, the objective is to eliminate all the tiles from the board by navigating the two principle characters along their paths: blue for Alice, tan for Peter. Navigate using arrows and/or clicking on the space you want to move to. As you pass over a color-coordinated square, it disappears, barring further passage, in most instances at least. If this was the sole gameplay, you'd question how Together Alone won an award for innovation, but it's not. The lovelorn duo continually gain new abilities, inspired by their circumstances and feelings, adding new dimensions and means to move on. This diversity on gameplay not only keeps it fresh and fun, it makes the narrative truly interesting and enjoyable rather than just words bridging across levels. Yes, people do like a little story with their game.

A more critical analysis could point out Together Alone's deficiencies. To be sure, most casual gamers have a wish list of features that would add complexity to the gameplay. Yet, as uncomplicated as it is, as bereft of bells and whistles the game may be, any additional elements would only diminish the story's prominence. It's the story, along with beautiful graphics and solid controls, that elevates Together Alone from a rudimentary, simple diversion to a thoughtful, insight-filled creation. Besides, the most important parts are already included: it's mechanically sound, aesthetically pleasing and, overall, it's entertaining. The difficulty progression is on a very gentle slope, with no huge bumps in challenge, making it perfect for those who love to relax while unraveling a spatial riddle. At times you'll be stumped yet, with a little time thinking it through, you can find your way forward.

So, do Peter and Alice end up together? Or are they forever alone, love passing by just out of reach? There's only one way to find out . . .

Play Together Alone


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Rating: 3.8/5 (126 votes)
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TrickyMy Dear BossScott Adams comic strips, Jason Bateman movies, and Ricky Gervais TV shows would have us believe that all managers are clueless, sadistic, petty tyrants. Fortunately, that isn't a problem here at JIG: Dora only occasionally breaks out the burning coals, and its just on alternate-Tuesdays that Jay chains us to the hull of his massive galleon so we can row him around to the beat of a pounding drum. But if your superior is one that might be well-served by a solid kick in the rear, then Origaming has a action launch game for you!

My "Dear" Boss stars a set-upon office peon, whose workplace stress reaches such a fever pitch, that his only recourse is to kick his boss through a third story window. For distance. And upgrades. As you might guess, this is a goofy, little game, that makes for some good mindless fun. It's not particularly innovative, but the mix of things the boss can fly into is interesting, and the cartooney art is a perfect fit: It's just hilarious to see him flop around in the air. It takes a little while to get going, some of the later launches can take longer than they should, and the developers definitely missed an opportunity for including a "Design-A-Boss" option, but overall, My "Dear" Boss's infectious silliness should win you over.

Play My Dear Boss


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The Vault

DoraFeeling a little down? People trampling on your serenity? Don't really think you're cool, much less 20% more? Well, that won't do at all, and that's why this week's edition of the Vault is all about games to make you feel awesome! What better way to get your mojo working than to master arcane forces, ride sea mammals in an irresponsible fashion, or completely decimate all your enemies? So check out these titles, get all pumped up, and then go out there and... uh... I dunno... conquer a small country or wrestle a bear or learn to walk in high heels or something!

  • Final NinjaFinal Ninja - Nitrome's action platformer took home top prize for 2008 four years ago and it's easy to see why. After all, when you take the developer's signature stunning pixel style and mix it with a suitably epic story and fast-paced action, how can you possibly be anything less than rad? While mastering the controls to be super effective takes a little practice, once you get into it Final Ninja's zippy, snappy gameplay through a rich neon Neo-Tokyo-esque environment is a wonder to behold and is guaranteed to make you come out of it feeling like you could flip-kick Chuck Norris in the face. (Oh God, please don't tell him I said that. Only Kenny Loggins can save me now.)
  • Cat on a DolphinCat on a Dolphin - If you live near Sea World, as I do, you quickly get bored of dolphins. They're old news. So they can somersault out of the water backwards with a person on their nose. Big deal. But then D_of_I swoops down from the rafters in a dashing ensemble to show you just how amazing dolphins can be when you add cats and physics, and suddenly they're magical all over again. Your goal in this tricky but endlessly entertaining little game is to, as a dolphin, take the cat riding you to where he wants to go without drowning him or dropping him into the endless blue sea which is... harder than it sounds. It's a very simple little game, and yet the goofy premise combined with the breezy, physics gameplay makes it something that's more than a little special.
  • The Alchemist's ApprenticeThe Alchemist's Apprentice - If you enjoyed Doodle God or its sequel, then Lars Andreas Doucet's 2006 puzzle game is definitely something you'll want to spend a little time with. You've got a cauldron, a whole bunch of ingredients, and a big tome jam-packed with all sorts of elements, items, animals, and more you can create... if you can figure out how to do so. The Alchemist's Apprentice draws a lot of its appeal from its charming style and sense of humour, while the mystical tome you need to consult with makes the game feel much more like a straight-up puzzle and less like a ton of random guesswork. It was created for the very first Casual Gameplay Design Competition and is still a lot of fun to this day.

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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baroasis.gifBar Oasis (iPhone/iPod Touch) - This quirky visual novel blends a "realistic" bartending simulation with a surprisingly complex story and a big cast of characters. Looking to pick up a bit of extra cash, you manage to land a bartending gig despite a complete lack of experience, and soon become wrapped up in the complicated lives of the people who come in the door. You'll make use of the iPhone's motion controls to pour and mix real drinks for each customer, trying to juggle good service with speedy bartending. It's a bit of an odd duck, with an occasionally stiff translation, and the motion controls can feel oversensitive at time, but the clever premise combined with the eclectic characters, lovely artwork, and massive list of drinks to make turn this one into a title you should definitely at least try out. The free Bar Oasis Lite is also available.

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


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Rating: 4.3/5 (479 votes)
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Dora/followWe all have those days where we just need a little alone time, but most of us are simply able to duck off somewhere by ourselves for a while before we start feeling particularly murderous towards other people. The Girl has no such luxury... at least, not with The Bodyguard always two steps behind her. Fortunately, she's got a few rather unusual tricks up her sleeve, and is more than willing to fight dirty if it means getting a little peace and quiet. /follow, by Procedural Activity (01101101, along with the musical talents of Mathieu Hallouin and the artistic pixel stylings of Carduus) for a Ludum Dare competition with the theme of "alone" in just 72 hours, is a short point-and-click puzzle game. Just click on various objects in on the screen at the right time; ultimately, your goal is to find a way to escape your tenacious Bodyguard in each area by distracting or otherwise incapacitating him long enough for The Girl to escape.

While not particularly difficult since there's only ever one or two things to click on in any given area, /follow is still interesting because it feels like it's just one part of a bigger story, and definitely one we'd like to find out more about. The detail packed into the little screen is great, and well worth examining, though the few scenes of violence that push this game's rating up are odd and abrupt enough to feel out of place. This is actually the "enhanced" version released after the competition ended, and we can only cross our fingers and hope for an "expanded" version somewhere down the line, because it definitely feels like there's a lot of potential for a bigger adventure. While it lasts, however, /follow is a neat little concept with a lot of personality that's worth checking out for the five minutes or so it'll take you to beat. At the very least, it's going to make you appreciate not having someone breathing down your neck while you try to get all your really awesome brooding mysterious girl important stuff done.

Play /follow


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WELDER

JohnBW.E.L.D.E.R. is what happens when a word game meets a tile-swapping puzzle game. The slow paced but challenging iOS title from Highline Games has a sharp focus that sticks firmly to word crafting. No weirdo bonus mini-games, clowns, Best of Casual Gameplay 2012hidden objects or other gimmicks, just long levels of wrapping your brain around a grid of letters. Oh, and just so you know, W.E.L.D.E.R. stands for Word Examination Laboratory for Dynamic Extraction and Reassessment. Aren't you glad you were curious?!

The main mode in W.E.L.D.E.R. fills your iOS device's screen with letter tiles of various types and materials. By tapping one letter, then tapping another adjacent letter, you can swap tiles to build words. When you make a word, those tiles vanish, dropping the above letters down and filling the top with more. You have a limited number of swaps per game, and running out is what spells "theend" to your round, but you can always earn more swaps by scoring more points!

WELDERTiles have different point values in W.E.L.D.E.R., from the lowly common consonant all the way to the shiny and elusive Z. Special tiles also appear and grant you bonus points if used in a match, but most of the time it's just you and a grid full of letters. Wooden tiles give you no points but serve as blanks, allowing you to stamp any letter on the face you need. Great for getting out of tough situations, but not so useful for building up a good score.

Combos are also possible in W.E.L.D.E.R., but you can only pull them off if you plan several moves ahead (or are just really lucky). Words can be made horizontally or vertically, but they must always read from left to right or top to bottom. If you're clever, though, you can create palindromes, a feat that earns you one of the game's many achievements!

WELDERAnalysis: W.E.L.D.E.R. is such a simple game, you'll kind of wonder why you didn't think of doing this with a Scrabble board years ago (hint: it's because stacking the tiles on end is a really tough thing to do). One grid, one mess of letters, one way to get rid of them. Swapping tiles to make words is more challenging than you might realize, but if you think it's an impossible task, you'll probably be surprised at how workable the concept is!

The W.E.L.D.E.R. sandbox is the main mode of play, and it goes on as long as you have swaps left to use. You can unlock an additional mode after playing for a while, and new modes are in the works. Probably the best feature of the game, though, is the detailed set of statistics W.E.L.D.E.R. keeps on the words you make. Longest combo, number of tiles welded, total points, best word, palindromes welded... it's all there under the Stats button, and it's great to look back on, especially after you've had the game for some time.

W.E.L.D.E.R. is simple, but highly addicting. It's the kind of word game you'll love to have on hand for vacations, long car or bus trips, and quiet nights when everybody else is off watching some lame movie.


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Mobile Monday

JohnBSports and ladders! Snakes and beer! Can you imagine a combination of things more exciting than that? More exciting combinations that do not involve sharks, bears, dinosaurs, or anything capable of fusion, that is.

ladderstoheaven.gifLadders to Heaven (universal) - A gorgeous digital interpretation of an ancient Indian board game, this single "button" action game challenges you to work through different levels by doing little more than tapping the screen a few times. Time your jumps to grab ladders, leap off of walls, change directions, and climb higher and higher. Avoid the snakes, though, as they'll pull you down and force you to repeat parts of the level. A great game that looks and sounds phenomenal, especially if you love Indian art and music!

baroasis.gifBar Oasis (iPhone/iPod Touch) - This quirky visual novel blends a "realistic" bartending simulation with a surprisingly complex story and a big cast of characters. Looking to pick up a bit of extra cash, you manage to land a bartending gig despite a complete lack of experience, and soon become wrapped up in the complicated lives of the people who come in the door. You'll make use of the iPhone's motion controls to pour and mix real drinks for each customer, trying to juggle good service with speedy bartending. It's a bit of an odd duck, with an occasionally stiff translation, and the motion controls can feel oversensitive at time, but the clever premise combined with the eclectic characters, lovely artwork, and massive list of drinks to make turn this one into a title you should definitely at least try out. The free Bar Oasis Lite is also available.

realisticsummersports.gifRealistic Summer Sports Simulator (universal) - With all the tense moments and accuracy of QWOP, only with over a dozen Olympic events to compete in! Hammer toss, javelin, diving, equestrian events, pole vaulting, and much more, this old-styled game puts you in charge of blocky pixel characters from almost-familiar countries and allows you to compete against friends or against your own score for complete athletic mastery. And sometimes, it even looks like the real sport!

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: 4.5/5 (25 votes)
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Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony

JohnBRarely are there arcade shooters as epic, gorgeous, playable, and steeped in story as Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony. A release from Final Form Games, Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony combines stunning pixel art with a vertically-scrolling top-down shooter (shmup), all set in a 17th century colony on Mars where Spanish Conquistadors have teamed up with native Martians to keep the new settlers away. What you end up with is a superb arcade game that's easy for beginners to get into but still a challenge to master.

Jamestown: Legend of the Lost ColonyTo an outsider, "bullet hell" shmups such as these look like games filled with swarms of bees you have to somehow maneuver around. Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony preserves that same intense look, but in practice, it's oh-so easy to play. The mechanics focus on three main moves: regular attacks, special attacks, and "vaunt". Vaunt is an ability that can be activated after collecting enough gold from defeated enemies. Hit the trigger and a shield pops up, clearing nearby bullets but also giving you a damage multiplier. While vaunt is running, your score is also doubled, so the key to getting a spot on the leaderboards (which is kind of what Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony is all about) is to keep vaunt active as long as possible. See? Much easier than marching through a rainstorm without getting wet!

Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony supports up to four players on the same computer, so if you've got enough gamepads, keyboards, and mice available, you'll have an awesome time with your pals. You are given a choice of four ships that can be unlocked from the "shoppe" after picking up enough coins. Each ship plays differently and allows you to customize the experience according to your own style. Want to barrel straight ahead and shoot big guns? There's a ship for that. Prefer to play it tactical and strike from any angle? There's a ship for that, too!

Jamestown: Legend of the Lost ColonyAnalysis: Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony was designed to be accessible. Instead of catering to the small but strong legions of shmup fans, Final Form Games created a game that would bring new players to the genre and show that shooters are more than pixel-perfect dodging, swarms of enemies, and nigh-impossible bosses who will destroy you in a single shot. That's where you, casual player, have the lovely invitation to come in, sit down, and enjoy!

Even though Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony is open to all players, that doesn't mean it's a walk in ye olde parke. Almost half a dozen difficulty levels allow you to choose just how devilish the game can be, starting with "normal" and going all the way up to "judgement". Normal is great for most casual players and anyone who isn't confident with their shmupping skills. Everything else is there for experts and people who want to master the game inside and out and keep challenging themselves after weeks of play. Replaying levels and getting a better score is also a key factor in the game, as the campaign ends after a handful of levels but encourages you to go back and aim for perfection.

Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony is never boring. It's also never insanely over-the-top difficult (unless you want it to be!). The story progresses after each level and is wildly interesting thanks to its mix of history, science fiction, and, well, aliens. The soundtrack is even phenomenal, featuring an orchestral score by the classically-trained Francisco Cerda. Jamestown: Legend of the Lost Colony is one indie game that's got something for everyone.

P.S. There's also a nice little piece of DLC available titled Jamestown: Gunpowder, Treason, & Plot, featuring three new ships!

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the full version

LinuxLinux:
Get the full version (Desura)


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Weekend Download

JohnBBringing in the end of 2011 with a happy little ring, the 22nd Ludum Dare competition challenged participants to make a game based on a given theme within a 48 hour time frame. Over 700 entries were submitted, and after some rounds of user voting, everything has been ranked and categorized according to awesomeness. We've featured a few of our favorites below, each one representing the compo's "alone" theme quite nicely!

splitparty.gifSplit Party! (Windows, 1.3MB, free) - A great twist on the traditional puzzle set-up, your job in Split Party! is to separate the colored blocks so they're all by themselves. Colors can't touch like colors, but different colors are allowed to be adjacent. Your cursor is a small box that rotates a set of four blocks, sort of like in Bejeweled Twist, making the whole effort a lot trickier than you might have thought.

straywhisker.gifStray Whisker (Windows, 1.5MB, free) - Stray Whisker is the story of a kitty. A kitty left alone. While her human companion steps away, this little cat decides to hop up and find her all on her own. She encounters many things in the city and country along the way, including potted plants to break and other kitties to interact with. Simple, supremely charming, and enjoyable right down to the end. Oh, and there's a secret ending to find as well!

onefinaltrek.gifOne Final Trek (Windows, 2MB, free) - An old hermit lady has one last big adventure in her, so she grabs a lantern and heads out into the caves. A slow, sticky-controlled platform adventure game, you must navigate platforms and enemies using severely limited moves and little more than a lantern for defense. Keep it lit so you can see, and remember you can blast fire from the front to burn things in your way. Other than that, anything can happen on this final trek...

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


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Rating: 4.7/5 (229 votes)
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TrinnSymphony Symphony is a simplified adaptation of the popular music puzzle game Auditorium (which the creator, kpaekn, gives due credit to). Control the colorful streams of light into the target rings by positioning the arrows to fill them with music. There are three stages or "movements" composed of nine levels each. Many levels are simple and intuitive, while others will have you wracking your brain. Fortunately, there are often multiple solutions to a puzzle, so don't be afraid to get creative with how you play.

Although lacking somewhat in originality, it is an undeniably well executed homage to its predecessor. The soothing flow of color and music as well as the stimulating puzzles combine the perfect melody and harmony into an entertaining symphony.

Play Symphony


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Rating: 3.7/5 (53 votes)
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DoraStellar HunterMoonMana, the developer who boasts "really stunning games" as their tagline, continues to live up to that standard with this lovely but simple pair of arcade games, Stellar Hunter and Stellar Hunter 2. Sweep your mouse around the screen to catch all the stars you can as they zip around in different patterns to avoid you, which nets you experience points that levels up your circle's radius and magnetism. And that's... pretty much it, actually.

Both Stellar Hunter games are more or less identical, although you might say the sequel has somewhat more visually dynamic stages, but they also both belong to that particular category of games that function almost more like a virtual lava lamp than anything else; lovely, relaxing, and, like, whoa, man. The visuals are soft and hypnotic, the music lets you pretend you're trapped inside a Mass Effect mini-game on the Normandy, and while they don't give you any real objectives, if all you want is something with no real purpose other than to bombard your eyeballs and the pleasure center of your brain with loveliness and a vague sense of accomplishment, Stellar Hunter will do just fine.

Play Stellar Hunter

Play Stellar Hunter 2


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Rating: 4.4/5 (264 votes)
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TrickyMidasLegend tells us the story of King Midas, granted a gift by Pan so that all he touched would turn to gold. Sadly, like with many gifts from the Gods, irony soon reared it's ugly head. Bread in his mouth would turn to glittering stone. Water would become a molten poison. And worst of all, he would find that his loved ones were not immune to its effects... The tale is the inspiration for Midas, a puzzle platform game by Wanderlands, and overall winner of the Ludum Dare 22 72-hour Game Jam. In it, you must guide the king to his love, but not before you reach the river that will wash him of his "gift". Every block you touch while "gifted" will turn to gold, making them heavier. Most importantly, this means floating blocks will start to fall, just the thing for making paths to an objective... or for crushing an unwary king.

The theme for the competition was "Alone", a word that's perfectly captured by this short, challenging, and even poignant, game. Even with (or perhaps because of) its minimalist aesthetic, Midas has an affecting sense of melancholy that's difficult to express in words. It may take only a little while to play, but it's worth its weight in... well, let's say "silver".

Play Midas


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraHowdy, sportsfans! If you're here and looking this beleaguered, then it must be time for Link Dump Friday to rescue you from your week, sweeping you up in its sturdy, muscular arms and crooning gently to you as it delivers you to the weekend. (... what? How do you imagine these articles?) We've got a whole pack of previews this week, including an interview with the one and only master of mayhem EvilDog, so let's get right to it!

PoacherGuns and Metroidvania and Yahtzee, Oh My! If you were to say to me you only know Yahtzee Croshaw from his scathing and witty video series Zero Punctuation over at the Escapist, I would say to you, sir/and/or/madam, that you are missing out since he's also the creator of several fine free download games indeed, such as the scary and disturbing Chzo Mythos and (my personal favourite) The Art of Theft. Well, surprise! He's finally announced his newest game, and while it's still on the horizon, it's worth perking your ears up about. The game is called Poacher, and is described as "a Metroidvania-style platformer that's somewhat influenced by Cave Story amongst other games. You play Derek Badger, unflappable Yorkshireman, who stumbles upon a strange underground kingdom and gets caught up in a conflict between two mysterious magical races." Sound interesting? Then hit up Yahtzee's personal blog to watch the trailer!

Minecraft 1.1Blocks Into Eternity Were you thinking of getting anything done this weekend? Sucks to be you, 'cause the 1.1 update for Minecraft was just released! Time to update your worlds and your servers. While this update comes with a host of bug fixes people will appreciate, it's also got a few welcome additions like adding enchantments to bows (finally) and removing the trample effect from farmland. So get out there and get adventuring! Oh, and just as a reminder since Minecraft keeps showing up in the submission box; we have done three different reviews of Minecraft, including the last one that covered the "official" release. So, you know, you can stop telling us it's been released. We know. Look at the hollowness around our eyes, the haunted expression that comes with losing all your diamonds into a lava pit your were just blown into by a Creeper, the twitching fingers and lack of productivity. We know.

Dead Hungry DinerThe Monster Mash...ed Potatoes Monsters? In a diner? Madness! Well, unless you're checking out Black Market Games' upcoming time management game Dead Hungry Diner. The game plays like Diner Dash, as you might suspect, with you running a restaurant where all the creepy crawlies and things that go bump in the night come to frequent. You'll be in charge of making sure everyone is fed and happy, as well as instructing the beefy Frankie to step in whenever a monster brawl breaks out. Check out the official site for lots more info, a video, and a demo! Currently, only a demo for Windows is available, but the game promises to come to Mac as well for all you Apple Heads. The game looks packed full of quirky characters, great artwork, and lots of charm, so this is absolutely one to keep your eye on. I mean, like, literally. Turning your back on a vampire is a bad idea. Even if he sparkles. ... no, especially if he sparkles.

Pony RPGMy Little JRPG They say you can't keep a good pony down, so that must explain why these intriguing My Little Pony games keep popping up on my desk! This one, simply named Pony RPG (for now), is a classic turn-based RPG that follows everyone's favourite fillies as they go searching for Princess Luna, who mysteriously vanishes after she begins acting strangely. It's currently in production and being developed using RPG Maker 2003, and, needless to say, if you enjoy ponies and RPGs you'll definitely want to keep an eye on this project. Hit up the site for all sorts of interesting information about the characters, world, and gameplay, as well as an official trailer!

NythrosNothing a Fireball Won't Fix Like action RPGs? Then you're a reader after my own heart, and you'll probably be interested in this upcoming indie game from BeerDeer. (Best developer name ever? Maybe!) It's going to be a multiplatform game that promises all the adventure, action, and sweet, sweet loot you love, plus "a deep connection between players and developers", which probably means more about taking feedback and less about showing up to help you move your couch. The game looks beautiful, and is definitely something to keep your eye on if you like this sort of thing. No pricing information yet, but we'll be sure to keep you posted whenever major news updates arrive.

Pony Vs Pony: Battle is MagicLook, Don't You Dare Judge Me Alright, so maybe this isn't a preview, but if I'm going to sink into a deep abyss of (brightly coloured and adorable) unproductivity, I'm darn sure taking you all with me. The perplexingly addictive Pony vs Pony: Battle is Magic is a free online game that blends brightly coloured equines with snappy, hypnotic match-3 "battling" for one horrendously addictive trap from which you can never escape. You design your pony, give it a sickeningly sweet name (Sweetie Clover Bee), and then spend "Sparkle Gems" in the shop to put more fake items on your fake pony. It's exceedingly simple, and also, I suspect, infused with some sort of eldritch dark power that makes you keep playing.

Interview!
Continue reading for an interview with EvilDog!


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TrickyAbobo's Big AdventureIn 1993, a new star appeared on the NES horizon. A big man with big dreams, big muscles, a big mustache and no shirt, Abobo was one of the first to attempt to delay the Double Dragon-brothers Billy and Jimmy Lee in their quest. While Abobo ultimately failed in his objective, he gained notoriety for his signature "chuck a guy over his head" move. It was certain that fate had much in store for the bald wonder: Over the next few years, he would beat up a couple of Battletoads, grow and lose a Mohawk, Best of Casual Gameplay 2012be portrayed in a major motion-picture by both Nils Allen Stewart and Henry Kingi, and dye himself blue to appear in a truly terrible cartoon. At the height of his fame, Abobo took his fortune and happily retired to a palatial Hollywood estate to raise his family. Recently however, he was lured back to spotlight by a team of developers, including ThePoxBox, Pesto Force, JackSmack, and the guys at I-Mockery, who wished him to star in an ultimate tribute to the Nintendo Entertainment System. The result is Abobo's Big Adventure, a retro arcade action-adventure game, just released after a literal decade in the making. It's a bold, brassy, over-the-top labor of love that pushes 8-bit nostalgia to its very limit.

The plot has the appropriate minimalism the third generation of video games had: Young Aboboy, has been kidnapped, and if Abobo hopes to get him back, he must rage his way through some of the most famous and infamous of NES games, featuring hundreds of cameos from all sorts of sprites. While the gameplay changes to suit the setting of the level, generally you will move Abobo with the [arrow keys] (double-tapping to run), and attack with [A] and [S]. Defeating enemies will build your "Rage-O-Meter", and when it is full, hit [A + S] together to execute a special Rage move. In a cool feature, the game includes a full tutorial for how you can set up an original NES controller to play.

Never let it be said that I-Mockery doesn't know what its audience likes. Clearly, Abobo's Big Adventure is a nostalgia-fest, and playing "spot the reference" is undoubtedly what will draw most to playing game. However, nostalgia can be done right, and, for a parody, this game definitely has its heart in the right place... even as Abobo desecrates every sacred cow of the NES. With its bursts of pixilated blood and not-safe-for-work sense of humor, Abobo's Big Adventure isn't exactly a mature game, but then again, it's not trying to be. It has all the details video-gaming children of the 80s will appreciate, from the proper invocation of the Konami Code, to the Easter Egg placed in Double Dragon's familiar glitch locale, to the warped Tarantino-esque finale. No reference is too obscure.

Abobo's Big AdventureOf course, the forty-thousand bonus point question is "How does it play?" Well, fear not, because Abobo's Big Adventure accomplishes what it sets out to do, with a note-perfect recreation of every NES game it sets its mind to... for better or worse. Yes, Abobo's Big Adventure is exactly as good as its inspirations. The MegaMan and Contra levels are brutally challenging masterpieces, The Legend Of Zelda section might be the greatest pastiche ever done of the game, and the climactic final battle in the Punch-Out ring gleefully lets you wipe the smirk off of Little Mac's face. Less inspiring is the Pro-Wrestling level, which harkens to a mediocre game only notable for the kitsch value of the characters, and the Urban Champion level, which faithfully recreates a work that was weak for 1985, let alone 2012. But then, once the music from River City Ransom shows up, all is forgiven.

With its mass of secrets, cutscenes, unlockables and achievements, there is a whole heck of a lot of stuff to explore here. Overall, Abobo's Big Adventure is the kind of game that knows it has a target audience and does everything in its power to pander to it. If you're not on board with why someone might enjoy punching their way through the entire NES catalog, you'll wonder what all the hoopla is about. If you are, though, then man, A WINNER IS YOU!

Play Abobo's Big Adventure


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Rating: 3.8/5 (96 votes)
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DoraKing William's Chocolate ChallengeWhen I make hot chocolate, it comes from a can and is a suspicious grey-brown powder that never really dissolves, leaving me with a mediocre beverage full of little chunks. Tasty! But it turns out if you're royalty, you not only get gourmet hot-chocolate, but is also comes frothed... every day! King William's Chocolate Challenge is a point-and-click puzzle game by Kanoti aimed at young kids that stars you as a young boy or girl assisting Mr Nice, the man in charge of bringing the King his daily cup of (frothed!) hot chocolate. Unfortunately, on this particular day Mr. Nice has forgotten the royal frothing spoon, and when you return with it, you discover all manner of noble snobbery standing in your way to the King. You'll need to click through four different rooms, figuring out how to appease/sneak past/otherwise deal with the people in each one, in order to finally deliver the frothing tool to Mr. Nice so he can keep his job. If you think that's a silly thing to fire someone over, then clearly you've never had a really good froth before.

Since the game is aimed purposefully at kids, King William's Chocolate Challenge is definitely on the easy side. Even without the helpful characters in each room, the stages are so small that it's a snap to find what to click on next. Despite the ease and length, however, the game succeeds with its charm and style, packing itself with enough silliness and smiles that kids will enjoy it as much as adults will too... albeit with less surreptitious glances over their shoulders to make sure their boss isn't watching. So if you've got some ankle-biters nearby, pull them onto your lap and let them play, or just enjoy it yourself for the five minutes it'll take you... just remember to make sure your cravat is properly tied first.

Play King William's Chocolate Challenge


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

Letters in Boxes #27

ArtbegottiIt's time for another edition of Letters In Boxes Has Too Much Fun With Numbers! This is the 27th edition of our homegrown word puzzle series, and what is 27? A cube number! If you take 3 and raise it to the third power (3x3x3), you get 27. Since we won't be able to properly celebrate the awesomeness of cubes again until 64 (4x4x4), this puzzle series is dedicated to those classy cubes, too hip to be a square. Keep an eye out for cubes of all sorts: not just numerical cubes, but also three-dimensional cubes, because everything is trickier when you're inside the cube.

Letters in Boxes #27 - Puzzle 1This week, we've got four more puzzles for you to tackle. If you're familiar with Letters In Boxes, you can jump right to the challenge by clicking on the image to the right to open up your first puzzle. If you're new to our game, we have a prepared a full tutorial on how to play to help get you solving our puzzles in no time. This 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, January 16th at 11:59 PM (GMT-5:00). If you're ready to go, grab the dice and get rolling!


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DoraAnd the sun didst set upon another year. But whilst we travel bravely into 2012, blinking uncertainly but hopefully into that great blinding light that is the future, let us not forget... 2011 frickin' rocked, dude! Best of Casual Gameplay 2011That's right, dearly beloved, it's that time again... for you fine folks to vote for your favourite games that we covered during ye olde 2011.

We've toiled for days (literally. literal toilage) to compile lists of all the games on the site that were not only the highest rated by you, our cherished readers, but also those we personally felt deserved mention. And let me tell you, there were a lot of games that were deserving; we saw a lot of new talent create amazing and memorable titles, as well as favourite familiar creators grace us with more of their high-quality work.

Voting is now CLOSED. Results soon!

And the categories are... >>


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Rating: 3/5 (59 votes)
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TrickyTrip Around The GlobeLike many others, I spent a lot of time in my formative years chasing a red fedora-and-trenchcoat clad woman around the world, answering geography questions to recover stolen monuments. Nowadays, while I still like doing the occasional globe-trotting, I'm not sure I could handle the pressure of possibly losing the Sydney Opera House to a vast criminal organization. Still, should you have a yen for social studies trivia, Trip Around The Globe, an arcade game by SymbioDigital, will more than satisfy that worldy desire. It's a simple game of collecting trivia questions, then driving a (somewhat difficult to maneuver) car to the proper location to score points. The graphics are pretty (if a little CPU-intensive will full effects on), the questions are goofy, but clever, and while the game take only a couple of minutes to play, they'll be good minutes. All that's missing is Rockapella on the soundtrack.

Play Trip Around The Globe


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Rating: 3.6/5 (104 votes)
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DoraMechanipigMechanipig, star of IrregularGames' new launch game, hates the city life, and longs for a "Pig Paradise" said to exist just past the city skyline. Naturally, the best solution for this is not public transportation or a jaunty stroll, but to cram himself into a cannon and try to blast himself to porker heaven, causing massive property damage and an untold number of civilian casualties along the way. Who says games don't teach you responsibility? Just click to set the cannon's angle, and click again to fire when the power meter is where you want it. Flying particularly far and causing destruction earns you cash which you can then spend on upgrades to help your progress. That sound you just heard? Somewhere Tommy Vercetti and Nico Bellic are groaning with jealousy. Double-standards for pigs and gangsters are so unfair!

While Mechanipig is an adorable and appealingly silly concept, when compared to other games in the launch style it does feel like it needs an infusion of variety to ease the sting of repetition. If the backgrounds and environments in general had been more interesting to look at (and bash through) it really would have helped Mechanipig stand out from the pack a bit more. As it is, it's still a cute game, as well as a sobering reminder of what can happen if you leave your random cartoon cannons within easy reach of your dejected mechanical barnyard behemoths. So, you know. Stop doing that.

Play Mechanipig


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Rating: 4/5 (133 votes)
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AlexThe WokWhen some despicable and toothy crooks burst into your village and make off with your people's most prized possession, a mysterious and powerful wok which fell from the heavens one day in a cloud of smoke and fire, it's up to you to get it back in The Wok, a point-and-click puzzler from Begamer. Click around on each scene to interact with various objects and figure out how to successfully navigate past hungry monsters, deadly traps, and lava-filled caverns in your quest to recover your stolen mystical cookware.

The Wok offers up a bizarre world full of whimsy and wonder, where nothing is as it seems and lethal dangers await just one wrong step. Weird creatures shriek at you from every corner, plants and trees that seemed to be part of the scenery magically come to life, and almost every rock could be hiding a secret underneath it. The artwork is surreal in an almost Monty Python-esque way, and this is definitely one game where "this is crazy" is a compliment. Though this is not the most difficult nor the longest of titles, many of the stages require multiple looks in order to determine exactly what needs to be done and the time-sensitive puzzles can occasionally border on frustrating. Just remember, if and when you do manage to reclaim the sacred Wok, be sure to honor it, protect it, and maybe invite me over to eat some delicious celebratory stir fry from it once in a while.

Play The Wok


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Rating: 4.7/5 (222 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypIt is a real (and rare) pleasure here at Weekday Escape to be able to introduce a new room escape designer to our line-up of favorites, to be able to say "check this one out, with some practice and a few tweaks this designer is going places!" Sometimes Cloudy Challenge is a wonderful and tricky new escape game by Haretoki, a Japanese designer that has created something fresh, fun, and fabulous.

Sometimes Cloudy ChallengeThe space in Sometimes Cloudy Challenge is small and cramped, less a room and more of a large closet. Crammed within the confines are a plethora of strange and wonderful devices, each one more mysterious than the last. This amazing little escape is packed with a fantastic mix of use of found objects, visual cues, and logic, all of which combine to make one exciting little point-and-click puzzle game. The graphics are pretty minimal, basic 3D rendering, and there's no music. The inventory controls are pretty intuitive and even though there is no save feature one is not really needed as there is only one way to escape, albeit in a rather surprising way. Haretoki has taken a lot of room escape conventions and literally turned them on their head in this amazing little escaping gem.

So take the plunge and enjoy a small yet meaty escape that is sure to tickle your logic circuits and prompt at least one "wow, cool!" out of you before you're done. Let's give a warm Weekday Escape welcome to Haretoki!

Play Sometimes Cloudy Challenge

REW


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Rating: 4.3/5 (152 votes)
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DoraRewWe have to go back! Back to the beginning of the game! Or rather, to the end of it, if you want to find out the reason why the sleepy little creature in REW, Begamer's point-and-click puzzle game, appears to be a murderer. Click around to find the correct order of items that solves each screen, and whenever you do, you'll be transported a few minutes into the past and find another clue as to how things got so very grim. REW is a familiar concept in gameplay, but the backwards narrative works surprisingly well to drive you to keep playing, and while the gameplay is fairly simple, the moody presentation and clever twist on the genre makes this one to check out. Are you a villain? Or a victim? Or just the creepiest looking beaver-mouse-thinger around who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? Guess you'll have to find out.

Play REW


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Rating: 4.6/5 (10768 votes)
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DoraCut the RopeOm Nom, ZeptoLab's cuddly little green monster, makes the leap from your iPhone to your browser via sleek HTML5 in the physics puzzle game Cut the Rope. A knock at your door delivers the tiny green dude in a box, along with the instructions to feed him with candy, so that's exactly what you're going to do! Click and drag across the screen to cut through ropes and drop the tasty treats down Om Nom's gullet. As it falls, the candy can grab you the three bonus stars scattered around the level... provided you weren't just slicing willy-nilly and can master the various obstacles and elements that are introduced as you play.

Cut the Rope makes the transition to your browser more or less gracefully, and is a beautiful showcase of just what HTML5 can really do. While there are only a few sets of levels available to play unless you want to boot up Internet Explorer and install the game (for free) to your toolbar, it's still a great way to get a taste of what the game has to offer. It's a simple concept with a lovely presentation that's the perfect treat to indulge in for a few minutes.

Play Cut the Rope

IE 9 users should use this link to play.


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The Vault

DoraDo you think when the very first caveperson put a thing on top of another flat thing, he or she had any inkling of the great waves they were making throughout gaming history? We speak, of course, of platforms, and thus the platformer, but it ain't all fat plumbers and princesses. These days platformers are more than a little creative, mixing in arcade action or even physics and puzzles for a unique blend your grandmammy wouldn't recognise. Here are three games who defy the norm to make your platforms look fresh and new!

  • AmberialAmberial - What would Mario be without his jump? Well... up the proverbial brown smelly creek without a paddle, clearly, since jumping is integral to platformers. Or is it?! OddGoo took the leaps out of your hands and put them at the whims of physics in this lovely but challenging little game where you play a ball trying to get to portals via springs, momentum, plunges, and more. It's odd how just removing a simple function you take for granted in almost every other game can make simple levels difficult.
  • FoldFold - These days gravity is a common mechanic in games, but Joel Esler's stark little title puts it in your hands with a clever mechanic. Click to create "anomalies" on the ground, and drag to direct the force of gravity they produce, allowing you to fashion ways to fling yourself up cliffs or over dangerous divides. It definitely takes some getting used to, but this is one game in which the experimentation is half the fun. It's impressive how much challenge you can find when the levels are often so small and simple looking, and the solutions are usually the sort that make you smack yourself in the head once you figure them out... especially if you're like me and your first instinct is to drastically overcomplicate everything. I think I missed my calling as the new MacGuyver.
  • Snow DriftSnow Drift - Come on. It's a Nitrome game. You already knew you were going to love it even before you laid eyes on that grinning, fluffy, ice-skating menace. The premise is simple; guide your yeti to his icy home by knocking over penguins, hoping across various icy platforms, and sliding down big icy hills to catch, like, wicked air brah and take out enemies as you fly. Not only is it gorgeous, it's also gorgeous silly, and there's something about the fast-paced gameplay that's more than a little addictive... though this is definitely one you'll need to be quick on your feet (and with your fingers) in a few places.

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


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Rating: 4.1/5 (67 votes)
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TrickyAwesome TanksYou know what are always enjoyable? RC Tanks, especially ones that can fire things at your least-favorite sibling. It took Emitter Critter to realize how this universal source of fun might translate to flash form, and the result is the new top-down shooter, Awesome Tanks. Gameplay is nothing too complicated: Shoot stuff. Get coins. Buy upgrades. But at a time when so many arena games are drenched with gore or zombie blood (not that there's anything wrong with that!), it's always cool to see polished work of the genre that is "kid-friendly" without feeling too "kiddy".

Awesome Tanks' fifteen levels have the combination of frenetic action and colorful explosions that all ages should enjoy, and the level editor is immensely fun to tool around with, though there seems little reason for it not to be unlocked from the start. The upgrade system could have better priced and better explained. As it is, your tank metaphorically hits a wall every couple of levels as you struggle to earn enough cash to become competitive again. Still, Awesome Tanks should keep your fingers happily clicking and turrets happily firing for quite a while.

Play Awesome Tanks


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Rating: 3.3/5 (74 votes)
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TrickySquare HeroDateline: Quadrilopolis. To the world at large, mild-mannered office worker Cube Kent seems to do nothing more than work at the office of Office Work Incorporated. However, due to a mysterious accident as a young lad involving a radioactive chemistry set, whenever there is a call for help, he need only to duck into a convenient telephone booth to become... Square Hero! NDGames' champion of justice, and puzzle platforming protagonist extraordinaire! He's here in his poly-bagged, holographic, foil-embossed varient-covered, action-packed first issue, and while it's not it's not going to win the Eisner in the innovation category, it's definitely a fun romp, true believers.

When in your mild-mannered form, you can only walk and jump with the [arrow keys]. However, make it to a phone booth and you gain access to your cache of superpowers. First of all, there is flight: a double-tap of the [up] key will have you take to the sky, and with a burst of speed given with a double-tap in the direction you wish to go. Since fire is a weakness, you'll need your super-breath, activated with [A]. Obstacles may block your path, but they can be dealt with with your [S]-activated heat vision, or else frozen with breath and punched through with [D]. Watch out for the green radiation of krippling rocks, though. Get hit with them, they'll force you back into your secret identity. Each level you'll be given tasks to complete by the hero league, usually involving the rescuing of civilians, extinguishing of fires, and catching of criminals. Complete all objectives to finish the level. Up, up and away!

Superhero games are notoriously hit-and-miss, particularly Superman-inspired ones. Still, Square Hero delivers with a game that emphasizes exploration and puzzle-solving. The pace may be too slow for those who prefer their heroes brawly and quippy, but the mechanics of super-powers are used in engaging and interesting ways. Also, the aesthetic is absolutely beautiful. It has the crisp shiny lines of silver age art deco, reminiscent of the style Pixar uses when displaying their CGI creations in 2D. Unfortunately, the game's use of the Comic Sans font clashes pretty horribly (and, lets face it, a font designed to mimic a comic-book, looking horrible in a game designed to do the same, is a special kind of fail). There are also quite a few minor, but annoying, visual glitches. Particularly there is the secret-identity "jumping" animation which disconcertingly. changes character models for a couple of frames. With this in mind, while Square Hero isn't particularly innovative, it has the creative bells and whistles that will keep you entertained till the climactic finale. Excelsior!

Play Square Hero


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Rating: 4.6/5 (20 votes)
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Super Crate Box iOS

JohnBHey, Super Crate Box, the awesome arcade and shooting game released by Vlambeer way back in 2010. What are you doing on the iTunes App Store? What's that? Being as awesome as the PC/Mac downloadable version? Sounds great! With handfuls of unlockables, perfectly-tweaked touch controls, and a constant worldwide tally of crates collected, you'll be short on excuses not to play this lovely, crazy little game.

Super Crate Box iOSPick up crates. Get a new weapon each time you get a crate. Shoot some enemies. Keep going until you die, or until your iPhone battery disintegrates from your sweaty palms that refuse to stop playing. That's Super Crate Box in 36 words. By gathering crates you increase your score, unlock new player skins, gain access to new modes of play and new maps, and unlock brand new weapons to blast those pesky enemies away with.

The tense balance between increasing your score, hanging on to useful weapons, and fending off those evil little jerk enemies is constantly in flux in Super Crate Box. Your score only increases by collecting crates, but if you grab one, your weapon changes. You could be left with the slow shotgun, or maybe you'll luck out and get the bazooka? You won't know until you go for it, and since blasting enemies and simply staying alive earns you nothing, you'll be running for boxes every time you see one appear!

Super Crate Box iOSAnalysis: What more can we say about Super Crate Box? Our original review for the downloadable version remarked on the game's easy replayability as well as its short levels that manage to pull you in for surprisingly long playing sessions. It's a game where you'll only survive for 30 seconds at a time, but you'll somehow play it for an hour without even realizing it. All for the sake of increasing your high score by one more crate!

The universal iOS port of this game is as good as a touch screen port can be. It's always a worry when a game of reflexes loses physical buttons in favor of a smooth screen, but in this case, after a slight period of adjustment, you'll be running around like a pro in no time. Super Crate Box runs smoothly and looks great, and if you own an iPad, you can even play it in portrait mode (which includes iCade support, if you own one)!

Super Crate Box for iOS is a perfect port of the original. It's a game that works in short bursts but opens itself up for repeated (and extended) sessions, making it one of the easiest ways to entertain yourself with an iPhone or iPad. Get it and love it!


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Mobile Monday

JohnBIt's an iPhone/iPod Touch special on this edition of Mobile Monday! Who needs those big iPad screens when a cozy, portable device can hold the same amount of fun? Of course, if you do happen to own an iPad, you can still play everything below, but it's sort of cheating, wouldn't you agree? Nah, who cares!

azarashi.gifAzarashi (iPhone/iPod Touch) - From Daisuke Amaya, better known as Pixel, developer of Cave Story, comes a one-trick arcade/skill game that's all about having ultra fast reflexes. Cute baby seal keychains hang from the wall. Without notice, they'll fall to the floor one by one. Your job is to tap the screen to stick a dart in the loop, holding each one up. The faster you react, the more points you get. Unlock bonuses for getting good scores, and whatever you do, don't stab those poor little things with darts, ok?

cheeseman.gifCheeseMan (iPhone/iPod Touch) - If mega-difficult platform games like Super Meat Boy are your sort of thing, CheeseMan is a fine dairy-based iPhone alternative to the little hunk of meat. Run, jump, wall jump and pounce your way across a few dozen levels, each more devilishly crafted than the last. Carefully-placed obstacles ensure you stay alert while you play, timing your moves with almost perfect precision to avoid getting cut, stabbed, or chopped into mush. Extraordinarily challenging, surprisingly fast and intense, and very playable for a game that utilizes touch screen controls. Cheeseman free is also available.

piyomori.gifPIYOMORI (iPhone/iPod Touch) - From Gam.eBB the same folks who make the Dismantlement games, comes something entirely different than a point-and-click puzzle. PIYOMORI is a game about putting all of your chickens into one bowl. Literally. Tap the screen to lob a chick into the bowl and swipe the table to rotate your view. There are two colors of chicks that will appear, and it's random which one pops out when you tap the screen. Orange chickens adhere to yellow ones, yellow sticks to yellow, but orange will just roll off of other orange chicks, so try to keep the colors equally distributed. See how many you can get piled in the bowl without losing more than ten to the floor below!

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: 3.9/5 (30 votes)
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The Island Castaway 2

KyhIn The Island: Castaway 2, a prequel/sequel to the original The Island: Castaway by Sahmon Games, you play as the young tribesman Yati as he travels around the island during a time when everything was whole and right, just before any 'strangers' came. Using the same interface as before, Awem offers another great simulation game that weaves a tale of wonder and mysticism!

kyh_theislandcastaway2_screen1.jpgYati is ready to become a full member of the tribe and must complete the test of manhood to choose his life's trade. Help him run around the island by clicking on the screen to move in a direction. You can alternately click a hotspot on the map, but people only work at a location if they are part of a current task. It's Yati's job to fulfill everyone's requests as they, in return, help him out. After all, 'It takes a tribe to raise a child'... or something like that.

Tasks are offered up one or two (or three) at a time, each one propelling the story forward. Some are as mundane as finding someone who wants to speak to you, while others involve finding the correct ingredients for a recipe, which you must then make and use. While you are never left without something to do, you are also never rushed to do them, allowing you to complete your own desires, whether that's to stock up on multipede stew or collect enough pearls to upgrade your weapon.

As with the previous game, your health slowly decreases while running around, never mind the damage caused by boars or teeth-a-lots. This forces you to multitask, even if your goal is simply to get through the game as quickly as possible. While you can just eat the fruit you pick up as you're running along, taking the time to complete recipes can prove vital as they offer a greater increase to your health when you eat those items. But should you let your health run down to zero, you'll be revived in your bed, no worse for wear (minus a few items from your bag).

kyh_theislandcastaway2_screen1.jpgAnalysis: The Island: Castaway 2 has the same gameplay as the first in the series, with a few improvements here and there. Without giving too much away, let's just say there are more diverse tasks for you to work with. The Island: Castaway 2 doesn't feature puzzles, per se, but the openness of gameplay and the large variety of characters is just as entertaining.

The folks at Sahmon Games knew what they were doing when they developed this game. They kept the easy-to-use interface, which makes The Island: Castaway 2 simple to pick up and play. Where the biggest change is seen from the first title is in the story and character development. Yati's struggles in discovering the truth about his father are compelling and will keep you vested in advancing the story. The voice acting could use some work, and catching grammatical mistakes always injures confidence in a game, but neither ruins the experience and can be easily ignored.

Castaway 2, with its crisp graphics and smooth animations, is a must-play for those who enjoyed the first Castaway, although no knowledge of it is needed. With 20 achievements to gather as well as over 30 rarities to hunt throughout the island, this game is sure to get you coming back for more, even after your first play through. Yati and his tribe are waiting. And so are hours of fun. So what are you waiting for?

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 4.8/5 (26 votes)
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Trine 2

JohnBA crazy, multiplayer romp through a visually lush game featuring three moderately-mad fantasy characters with their own unique abilities? Show us where to sign! Actually, now that you mention it, Trine 2 happens to be all of the things described above, plus a whole lot more. It's got action, it's got physics puzzles, it's got both single- and online multiplayer modes, and it's got a sense of humor that will probably remind you of Magicka. It's a modern-day version of The Lost Vikings, and any gamer will be proud to experience the world Trine 2 has to offer!

Trine 2Trine 2 is built around three unique characters, each of whom can be controlled by a human player or switched back and forth via the keyboard. Pontius the knight is strong and resilient, packing a few weapons to deal with enemies and a shield to keep everyone safe. Zoya the thief is fast and agile, able to grapple and swing from distant platforms as well as fire arrows from afar. Amadeus the wizard may be weak in stature, but his spells allow him to conjure platforms, crates, and other devices, as well as manipulate enemies and certain pieces of the environment using his telekinetic powers. It's a rag-tag bunch, for sure, but somehow they all work together to get the job done.

Working through levels in Trine 2 requires each character's abilities, and more often than not there are multiple ways to solve each puzzle. For example, if you're after a piece of shiny high atop a ledge, you can use the wizard to create a platform, have the rogue grapple up top, or maybe levitate something (or someone) to the desired location. There are also fire and water elemental puzzles to work with. With multiplayer games, your options are even more diverse since characters are active simultaneously. By collecting orbs you also gain levels and can unlock new abilities, some of which will completely change the way you play the game.

Trine 2Analysis: If you skipped the first Trine game, you missed a fine introduction to this growing series of puzzle platform games. No knowledge of the original is required to enjoy the sequel, though, so feel free to dive right in, especially since Trine 2 is the only one of the pair with online multiplayer. The story sticks with a basic fantasy-driven loot-driven fairy tale plot in both games, so you won't feel lost or anything!

Apart from its well-tuned gameplay and gracious inclusion of multiplayer modes, Trine 2 comes with something not everyone expected from a smaller indie studio: stunning, high definition graphics. The screenshots you see pale in comparison to seeing the game in motion, and it's worth grabbing the demo just to see some of the environments move in real-time. Lively foregrounds, looming backgrounds, large character animations, and lighting effects that belong in an art gallery. It's distracting it looks so good.

If there's anything negative to say about Trine 2, it's pretty much just nitpicking the details. The physics, on occasion, are spongy and imprecise, but since the game rarely requires exact movements, this doesn't really get in the way of things. It does, however, open up the trusted can of "jigger your way out of every situation", especially using the wizard's physics-defying levitation abilities. But, this ends up adding to the game's charm, turning multiplayer matches into wild "let's see what we can do" romps through each level.

Trine 2 is beautiful, features loads of good physics puzzles, and is filled with personality despite its reliance upon stock character types and story elements. It's a good game to play on your own, but if you round up a friend or two, suddenly it becomes mind-blowing crazytime fun.

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

JohnBA bountiful harvest of platform games? Sure, why not?! They're sort of the trail mix of the gaming realm. They're everywhere, and there are so many different flavors you can barely choose one to munch on at a time. Some of them have unsavory elements (like coconut flakes, who puts that in trail mix?!), but others are irresistibly delicious with all those banana chips and almonds and tiny bits of chocolate...

bombdetective.gifBomb Detective (Windows, 4MB, free) - A very retro-looking platform game that emphasizes exploration. Your few abilities include walking, jumping, and throwing bombs. You use said bombs to open new passageways as well as defeat some seriously sinister-looking enemies. Work your way through the tight corridors as you hunt for switches that open doors so you can keep digging deeper into the planet, investigating the heck out of its blocky pixel interior.

folly.gifFOLLY (Windows, 2MB, free) - Short, easy, and interesting to look at, FOLLY is the sort of game you play when you aren't sure what kind of game you want to play. It's a platformer at heart, but the puzzles require a bit of random chance instead of actual brainwork, so as long as you keep pushing forwards and aren't opposed to continuing the game, you'll make it to the end. Sometimes a cute little action game that's low on challenge is exactly what you need!

seraphimflame.gifSeraphim Flame (Windows, 4MB, free) - One of those deep platform adventure games with layered gameplay that only gets better as you keep playing. Even the storyline is dense, featuring a tale about the Grand Duke of Hell waging war against the Seraphim and you, a single Serafin, breaking into the underworld to save his race from destruction. Serious stuff, and the gameplay is serious enough to match. Fly, dash, and attack your way through layered puzzles and dangerous corridors in this exploration- and puzzle-rich game.

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: 4.4/5 (160 votes)
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elleelle_allthatmatters_image2.pngDad is a word that evokes many feelings, isn't it? Family is another word that divides a room in opinion. Have you seen any recent Mel Gibson movies? Then you know that some fathers will resort to anything, even talking through a beaver hand puppet, to reconnect with spouse and progeny. It's not inconceivable, then, that a dad would also jump over flaming pits, bravely face blasting cannons and risk impalement on jagged spikes to bring everyone back together. All That Matters is the family's reunion.

Thus begins this unique puzzle platform game when a dad, Walter Greer, wakes up to realize his loved ones have drifted apart. What's your part in this? Using the arrows or [WASD] keys to move, you must guide the five family members through deviously-designed obstacle courses while, along the way, collecting as much love (a.k.a. hearts) as possible to reunite the Greer clan. The challenge becomes more arduous because each character has a distinguishing locomotive style that both enhances and limits his or her ability to navigate toward the goal. As a result, cooperation is more than just a nicety, it's requisite.

There are twenty-five standard levels incorporating a liberal variety of obstacles to maneuver through; in some you'll go it solo and, in others, you will need several Greers to finish. To switch between the cast, use the number keys or the old fashioned point-and-click method. As you play, you'll earn dozens of achievements for feats such as surviving adolescence or collecting hearts in bonus levels. Bonus levels? Correct! If that doesn't impress you, then go flaunt your very special game design talents by creating your own version of All That Matters with the level editor then share it with us.

elle_allthatmatters_image3.pngAnalysis: Whew! There is a lot going on here and yet, instead of just being a jumbled mess of too much stuffing in one bird, it all joins together in perfect unity.

All That Matters' creator, Ali Bati, credits the inspiration for his game to The Company of Myself, Braid, and Limbo which isn't to say you'll find a clone of those games here. Instead, you can see the roots which sprouted the fresh ideas as well as the heart and soul behind his creation. Initially it might seem contrived as the framing of the narrative doesn't naturally jive with the action. But, family doesn't always make sense, does it? Besides, successfully overcoming the challenges really is soooo satisfying. Aspects of this same gameplay can be found in Ali Bati's Jack in the Box as well; nevertheless, All That Matters reaches loftier heights in every respect.

Beyond the greatness of customized and bonus levels, much fun comes from the diverse idiosyncrasies of the game's cast. Old Mr. Greer, as an example, is unlimited by gravity or the normal constraints of movement; that's great when you need to reach a hovering object, right? Yet old men are not particularly responsive to motor controls, either. You might decide to stop while Gramps just keeps on rolling. In any other game, unresponsiveness is a fatal flaw but here it makes perfect sense. Yes, it does become somewhat overwhelming at times. If you have a stubborn stick-to-it-ness, finishing all twenty-five levels is quite doable. Doing so while accumulating every heart on each level, however, will require skill, patience, and serenity (repeat after me: "I will not rage quit!") And you never know what unseen trickery awaits in the user-made levels.

At first you might question my enthusiasm and pass this off as another puzzle platform with an odd premise attached; just give it time and let yourself be drawn in. Consider the unlimited game play then, in a quiet moment of reflection, ponder the poetry of Walter's story as it resonates so deeply with anyone who has loved ones. All That Matters is not only creative and heartfelt, it's endlessly fun. When was the last time you had so much fun with family?

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Grim Tales: The Legacy

JohnBA ghost, a wolf, a dark and isolated castle, and possibly even a werewolf? Looks like you've got your hands full in the latest hidden object adventure hybrid from Elephant Games, Grim Tales: The Legacy. A sequel to Grim Tales: The Bride, the story and setting are connected between the two games, only this time around, you're stalking through a castle while a peculiar wolf hunts you from the shadows.

Grim Tales: The LegacyYou're off to your long-lost sister's son's christening, which naturally takes place in a remote castle in the middle of a dark and stormy night. You get into a little accident just outside of the residence, but you manage to pick your way indoors all the same. Only... something's not quite right. Namely, a giant wolf that destroys the bridge leading to the manor's entrance! To top it off, a ghost haunts the premises, the Gray family was apparently trying to hide a great secret, and you swear there's a werewolf stomping around, too. Time to do some investigating as you worm your way into the castle.

A mouse-driven game to the core, Grim Tales: The Legacy is structured in a similar manner to the previous Grim Tales game and shares quite a bit with other hidden object adventures on the market. One notable difference is the manner in which puzzles are spread out across a number of screens. Instead of giving you a small array of zones to explore, each containing a few items you'll need to solve puzzles blocking your progress, you have many more scenes to check out with twice as many puzzles to work through. Often, you'll need to leave interesting things behind until you get the item you need much further down the road, adding a bit of difficulty not present in other casual adventure games since you have to pay more attention and actually recall details down the road.

Mini-games are strewn about and stick to the main core of tile-swapping, broken picture arranging fare, and the hidden object scenes appear from time to time to give you a few extra items to horde in your inventory. You can also choose between three modes of play, allowing you to customize the amount of help you'll get in the form of fast-recharging hint/skip timers and "sparklies" that show you areas of interest.

Grim Tales: The LegacyAnalysis: Grim Tales: The Legacy sticks a little closer to the market-established hidden object adventure hybrid formula than its predecessor, though the gameplay doesn't really suffer for the step back in originality. The plot takes its time revealing any details of substance, and when it does, you might struggle to piece facts together. The holes in the story are small enough that you can fill them in with your imagination, just as long as you keep it to creepy, wolf-and-ghost-related things (or clowns).

What Grim Tales: The Legacy gets right are the visuals, the quick-travel map, a longer than average length, and the hint system, which is surprisingly smart and always directs you to where you need to go. It favors puzzles and mood over story, which could be a pro or a con depending on your preferences, but apart from a few slight pauses when initiating an animated scene, everything plays out smooth and snappy, just the way it should be.

Even though the hidden object scenes are scarce, they're the weakest part of the game. The spooky-meets-hauntey atmosphere demands equally spooky items, not USB flash drives, hot dogs, toy police cars, and batteries. It's jarring to see oddities such as this littering a dark mansion where wolves stalk you from the shadows.

Another strong entry from Elephant Games, a studio with the knowhow and experience to pull off a satisfying hidden object adventure game. Despite a few storypoint omissions and a reliance upon well-used tropes, Grim Tales: The Legacy is a great ride from beginning to end!

A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains bonus content not found in the standard edition: additional gameplay, integrated 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.

Play Grim Tales: The Legacy
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Link Dump Fridays

DoraLink Dump Friday loves you soooooo much! How much, you ask? Well, since you can't see how wide my arms are flung, take a gander at the content below for just part of a measure of that affection instead! This week we've got not one but two interviews with the indomnitable Mike Morin of Alice is Dead notoriety, and Benjamin Rivers joins us to talk about his intriguing and eerie upcoming indie horror adventure, Home. (Maybe it'll save me from the upcoming crushing disappointment of Silent Hill: Downpour!) In addition, we've also got the usual roundup of previews and interesting news from around the internet! Sound good? Okey dokey lokey! Let's get started!

Treasure Adventure Game OSTThat Metroidvania Melody Do you know Treasure Adventure Game? You should, because Robit Studios' indie metroidvania RPG adventure is not only really, really good, it's also really, really free! If you are familiar with the game and love it as much as we (and our community!) do, then you might want to check out the game's soundtrack, now available for purchase from Bandcamp for $6.00USD or more. Why? Well, aside from including eight bonus tracks, a PDF of art, and an interactive map, you also get that warm glow that comes with supporting a really deserving indie developer... and perhaps even providing a little funding towards any future projects Robit Studios might have in mind!

Rocketcat GamesKitty Can Code If you own an iOS and enjoy fun at all but haven't yet become acquainted with ambassadors of funk Rocketcat Games, well, I just don't know what to do with you! In addition to creating games like the wildly addictive Hook Worlds and the simply superb Mage Gauntlet, their logo is a kitten in a top hat with rockets! How rad is that? If you're a fan, you might want to spend some time lurking around their Facebook page, where they've been posting teaser images and info for their next project, an upcoming RPG! If it's by Rocketcat Games, you know it's going to be good, so keep your eyes peeled for more info and start practicing your money-handing-over-techniques!

Spotlight on Home With Benjamin Rivers

From the very beginning, Home, the upcoming indie horror adventure by Benjamin Rivers, looked interesting. Touted as "an intimate, story-based adventure with a tale that you determine", it looked like the perfect creepy, unsettling antidote to games that aim to startle more than scare. We were lucky enough to be able to get some more information from Benjamin for this interview to whet your appetite. Be sure to check out the official website for more information, a trailer, and ways to contact the man himself

Tell us a little about Home, and what sets it apart from all the other horror adventure games. How long can we expect a typical playthrough to last, roughly, and are you planning on charging money for it?
I'm billing Home as a "subjective horror mystery"--the idea is that this isn't an action game, or a survival game, or an inventory management game. It was conceived as an interactive story that you affect through your actions. There is no combat and no fail state--but there is oozing atmosphere, an unsettling theme, and--hopefully--a story that, through your manipulation, means a lot to you as a player. Most players will get through the game in about an hour.

Ideally I'd like to have it as a small, paid download--two bucks or less. It's a risky concept, and one that's pretty niche, so I'm gauging interest. In the end, I really just want people to give it a shot and enjoy it. Right now it's planned as a PC release, but I really want to bring it to the Mac and to mobile platforms as well, if I can (psst; interested programmers should drop me a line).

HomeIt looks like a lot of what happens within the game and the story depends on the choices we make within it. Can you give us an example of how this works beyond the usual kick puppy/don't kick puppy moral choices we typically see in games? How will this impact the replay value of the game?
Home is, at its core, an experiment in ambient, invisible storytelling. Depending on choices you make--not necessarily big, obvious choices--the game realigns itself a bit to keep the plot running so it makes sense to you. For example, did you pick up that dirty knife you found? If you did, the game knows it, and may present you with a different opinion of later events because of it. It doesn't mean you'll have a knife to fight a boss with; it means that now when your character narrates what's happening, he's going to be thinking about that knife. Did you notice that photo, and maybe that other piece of paper over there? Whether you did or not will mean that you, and the character himself, will make certain assumptions and come to certain conclusions as you progress. Rather than reward or punish players with gameplay tropes for binary actions, the game is like telling a story around a campfire; if certain aspects of the story or environment seem to interest the player more, than the game is going to play along. Ultimately, what really happens is a conversation the player has with the game.

HomeTalk to us about the actual gameplay, how we explore and progress. Will we be solving any puzzles in typical find item --> use item adventure game fashion, or does Home handle differently?
Mechanically speaking, the game is as simple as possible (and was designed as such); the player explores a 2D, side-scrolling environment and interacts with objects via a single key press; it's all done through the keyboard, so it's really accessible. Home uses a first-person narration, so interacting with an item brings up a silent-movie style title card where players get to read dialogue, and sometimes make choices. There are things to find and take (or not), light puzzles to solve, though there's no inventory. The game pays attention, so if you have an item and approach a situation, it will know and give you a different option than if you didn't. There are locked doors, sure, and some moments of that nature, but the game is less about stopping you from progressing, and more about paying attention to what caught your eye along the way.

Home isn't your first foray into game design, with other indie download titles under your belt, but it looks decidedly different than your previous work not only in theme, but style as well. What made you decide you wanted to make a horror game? Is there any media (movie, game, book) you felt influenced it?
Home began as a short story I wrote many years ago about a man who's locked in a small room. It was meant to be a survival kind of story, but I only wrote the opening. In 2010 I found that bit of text, and challenged myself to write a game around the concept. My wife was trying to convince me to do a murder mystery, or something really spooky, so I decided to give it a shot.

HomeThere are a lot of horror games out there already, ranging from action titles like Resident Evil to slower, more thoughtful games like the Chzo Mythos. What does "horror" mean to you, and how are you planning to get under our skin with Home? What sort of content can we expect to encounter if we play... heavy on the gore, or more subtle, disturbing encounters?
I have always loved deeply disturbing, psychological horror stories, but most of what is labeled "horror" in games these days is more action-oriented, or really just spooky fantasy, or a haunted-house kind of experience, and doesn't try to engage the player on that unique mental level. Horror is about showing you a mirror and reflecting something truly terrifying; the key is that if you can't relate--if you can't see some version of yourself in that mirror--then you never get that deep experience. With Home, there isn't much gore, and no monsters will pop out of closets--instead, the major delivery for the experience is the narration itself, and (I can't stress this enough) player investment. if you want to soak up that atmosphere, and if you're willing to go along for the ride, then I'm going to give you lots of opportunities to think, to stew--to wonder what's in that mirror. And in the end, what you get out will be what you take in with you.

Interview!
Continue reading for an interview with Mike Morin!

You Are Games

ArtbegottiHappy First You Are Games of the year! Last week, we asked you to reflect on your favorite gaming memories of 2011, ranging all the way from the interwebz to the real world. While you're still encouraged to share your favorite bits there, we've got another question for you to ponder. As we spin around with our handy time binoculars from staring at the past to gazing into the future (spin slowly, time sickness is never fun), we want to know, what do you think is in store for the year 2012 in gaming?

Share your predictions for gaming in the year 2012. Will we see the advent of some fantastic new gaming device, like foot-controlled texting keyboards so you can taunt noobs on the battlefield? Will Valve finally release Half-Life 2 Episode 4 to further anguish those still waiting for Episode 3? Will we see a game that forces us to team up with zombies to take down a horde of rampant undead-hating plants, or one with dragons made of popcorn? Or perhaps you have some gaming plans in your life, such as memorizing a dictionary so you can finally beat your grandmother at the word-based game of your preference? Be serious or be ridiculous, we want to know what you think this next year will be like for gaming and gamers alike. Post a comment below with your thoughts!


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DoraGunball 2: Emperor's RevengeHalfbit's got that boom boom pow in their arena shooter Gunball 2: Emperor's Revenge, which focuses on a relateable protagonist with realistic goals. Namely, a little goggle-eyed sentient ball that spits bullets out to topple the leaders of his kingdom and become the next ruler of all the other ambitious goggle-eyed sentient balls. I think we've all been there, amirite? Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to zip around the field, aiming and shooting with the mouse, and unleashing whatever special ability you have with the [spacebar]. Take down your foes to earn experience points so you can gain levels and new skills, but also money to spend in the extensive shop to outfit your little hero into a rolling orb of death. Truly, a poster child for freedom, independence, and irresponsible body modification.

While there are a lot of arena shooters, they tend to be a little heavy on the whole "blood, guts and genocide" thing, which makes Gunball all the more welcome for its comparatively family-friendly gameplay. You're still blowing enemies up, but the twee presentation and lack of traumatising body parts means this one is about as horrifying as Zuma. More importantly, however, for those of us without ankle-biters, the game is just plain, frantic fun. While some levels do tend to drag and become engorged with so many fast-moving objects it can feel like skill is only somewhat important for victory, the sheer amount of levels, upgrades, enemies, and power-ups makes this game a definite win in the wheeeeeee category. You wouldn't ever call it particularly complex or inventive, but Gunball 2: Emperor's Revenge is the perfect fast-paced treat for when you want to blow something up. Remember, googly eyes make everything better.

Play Gunball 2: Emperor's Revenge


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DoraOutpost:HavenStop me if you've heard this one before; you, a strapping and well armored space military type fellow, are sent to a remote outpost in space on what you think will be a routine mission but instead winds up containing your worst fear. Bugs... in... spaaaaaaaaace! Yes, in the action-packed shooter from Squize, GamingYourWay and Luxregina, Outpost:Haven, you discover that the titular location has been overrun with angry bug monsters, flickering lights, sudden noises, cryptic messages scrawled in blood, and lots of guns for you to fire into the air while going "Arrrrr!" But while Outpost:Haven may feel more than a little familiar, it's still an exceptionally well presented and fun game for fans of corridor-crawling monster blast-fests.

Use the [WASD] keys to move (there's an option to switch this when you start a new game) and the mouse to aim and shoot, swapping available weapons with the [shift] key and tapping the [spacebar] to reload when necessary. Hitting [P] will bring up your menu and super futuristic PDA, which lets you browse through messages and statistics, and view the map in full when you find one. Shooting attacking monsters has the added benefit of keeping you alive, but it also gains you experience points that will rank you up, which in turn allows you to purchase better equipment at the special terminals scattered throughout the area. Throughout each level, you'll find cash, ammo, health, messages, and keycards lying around. Keycards open certain doors, but in a pinch you can always take the knucklehead approach and blast them open. Just stay on your toes; you have three lives on each level, and after those run out, you'll have to start the stage all over again.

Despite being rendered in Itty-Bitty-Vision that may not be kind to your eyes for long periods, Outpost:Haven is mostly a very good looking horror shooter packed with attention to detail and lovingly crafted carnage. While attempts to craft a story fall somewhat flat due to how scant the otherwise interesting narrative is, the game offers up some surprises with creative use of lighting, sound, and even the environment. Of course, the game isn't particularly scary. It's hard to be intimidated by beasties no matter what sounds they make when you're staring down at them from a God-like perspective that reduces them to tiny little skittering specks of colour on a small playing area. Still, as a shooter Outpost:Haven is more than adeptly made, even if it doesn't offer a whole lot of innovation, and if you enjoy monsters and the blasting thereof, especially while wearing super space power armor, then this might just be the cowbell you're looking for.

Play Outpost:Haven


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DoraLost CatacombsJason Hobbs and his crew would like you to don your fedora (or steal one) for the isometric puzzle game Lost Catacombs. Don't feel like you're qualified or ruggedly handsome enough to take on the role of adventurer archaeologist? Don't be silly! As long as you're willing to risk life and limb for little to no pay and perform well under threat of petrification, the professors at the site are always looking for schmucks uh I mean heroes like yourself! Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move around, snapping up gems and pushing statues to depress switches and open doors, and you'll be on your way to picking up a minuscule paycheck in no time. You're living the dream now, baby! Right after you sign all these waivers, of course.

While Lost Catacombs doesn't really offer much in the way of innovation, if you're looking for a big batch of thoughtful puzzles you'll definitely want to check this one out. It's a great example of how charm and a slightly snarky sense of humour can do a lot to elevate a familiar premise into something that you're happy to explore. The places you'll be exploring offer up more and more challenges as you progress, with spike traps and special statues being only the beginning. On the other hand, it does sometimes feel like the game would have been made much more friendly with the simple inclusion of an "undo move" button rather than forcing you to restart an entire level if you push something the wrong way. The ability to rotate the playing field so you can see things from every direction would also have helped eliminate any accidental missteps on smaller levels to boot.

With planning and perseverance, however, Lost Catacombs offers up a substantial chunk of puzzling along with the ability to design sinister tombs for others to delve into with the included level editor, making this a great choice for your coffee break... or whenever you feel like you haven't narrowly avoided being crushed or skewered enough lately.

Play Lost Catacombs


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Rating: 4.6/5 (232 votes)
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chiktionaryConcrete Stairs 3Japanese game developer Dghgbakufu is one designer who combines simple yet beautiful visuals with challenging puzzles for escape games, and here's just one more great example in Concrete Stairs 3. There's no narration, no story, no music. Just a room. With puzzles... logical puzzles! Sometimes that's all we need out of a decent escape game. You extraordinary escapers know the drill; click to move around this room full of concrete stairs, examine and solve puzzles and collect just a few items to aid in your eventual freedom. Oh, and if you have a photographic memory this game will certainly exercise it. If not, a pen and paper might come in handy...

You only need to check the "Best Of" results of years past to view the amazing talents of escape game developers who favor sumptuous visuals and presentations. However, point-and-click aficionados can also appreciate the minimalist stylings of some game developers as long as the puzzles are strong and the escapee is left feeling that warm glow of satisfaction upon opening the final door, and Concrete Stairs 3 definitely succeeds there.

Play Concrete Stairs 3


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Weekday Escape

GrinnypSoothing is the best descriptor of a Tomatea game, and Snowflake Night fits right into that oeuvre with its serene backgrounds, lilting music, and gentle puzzles. Start up the game and let the overall experience wash away any mid-week frustrations as you navigate around the beautiful space and let the calming music flow as you skip lightly from one puzzle to the next in this captivating room escape.

Snowflake NightA glowing cursor indicates hot-spots and frustration is kept to a minimum with Tomatea's unusual habit of not letting you even attempt to solve a puzzle until you've seen or found a hint for it. This habit of blocking puzzles keeps the game-playing flow linear making Snowflake Night a wonderful, relaxing treat.

Had a rough week at work or school? Stressed out waiting for the weekend? Take a deep breath, let it out, and experience the joy of Snowflake Night, a calming experience no matter what the reason.

Play Snowflake Night


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Rating: 4.1/5 (205 votes)
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TrickyGoime 500When encountering a game that appears to borrow from another's premise, it never hurts to give it the benefit of the doubt. Sure, Goime 500, a puzzle platformer by Cary Huang, might look a heck of a lot like Achievement Unlocked. And, with its 500 achievements to earn for every tiny little action, it plays a lot like it too. But, ah, here's the thing: in this game you play not as a little blue elephant, but as a little yellow smiley face. And that has made all the difference. All snarkiness aside though, this is a fun little game. Comparisons are, of course, inevitable, but Goime 500 has a nice webtoy feel to its unstructured gameplay. Its whimsical sense of humor allows Goime 500 to make up in enjoyment what it lacks in premise-innovation. There's just so much to explore and interact with. And, at the very least, it bests its predecessor by having the comprehensive hint system in-game. On the whole, Goime 500 might not have the newest material ("Boy, some games sure have a lot of achievements!"), but it at least it gives it a solid delivery.

Play Goime 500


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Kyhkyh_thewordalone_screen.pngAlone. A word that has both good and bad connotations. For Matt Rix (Trainyard) and his Ludum Dare entry, it's a goal. In The Word Alone, you are given a Boggle-esque board where you are tasked to eliminate all the other letters to leave just 'A', 'L', 'O', 'N' and 'E'.

Letters are moved off the board by first typing a word using the letters available to you on the 5 x 5 grid (unlike Boggle, the letters do not have to be adjacent). With the [arrow] keys, your chosen letters then move in unison, and any unlucky letters on the edges are nudged off and out of the game, sumo wrestling style, just without all the action. All letters are subject to these actions, so it's up to you to keep an eye on your five golden letters and make sure they're the last ones standing. See if you have the word and spatial genius to accomplish this.

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The Vault

DoraBefore you may read this article, you must answer me these riddles three!... or, uh, since I don't actually know any riddles, maybe you should try solving these puzzle games instead? Alright, so I would have made a rotten Dungeon Master (nobody ever wants to go through the Forest of Perpetual Personal Itchiness, darnit.) but I can still recognise a good puzzle when I see one, and this week's Vault serves up three of them, gradually shifting from serious to surreal.

  • ReflectionsReflections - Here's a simple concept, and one that's been lovingly implemented in the lion's share of JRPGs since the beginning of time (Tales, I'm looking at you). All you need to do is arrange a series of mirrors to bounce your beam of light around obstacles, eventually illuminating all the bulbs onscreen. Input Entertainment classes this familiar puzzle up a bit with different mirrors and bombs, and serves it all up with a nice clean implementation that makes this one both easy to get into and wonderfully engaging to keep you hooked as the challenge mounts. Reflections is a great example of how you don't necessarily need a whole lot of innovation to serve up something solid and entertaining.
  • Magnet 2Magnet 2 - Who says you've gotta be serious to be taken seriously? This quirky puzzle turns you into a bunny with a magnet for a head and forces you to use your head (and in this case, your literal animal magnetism) to shuffle objects to where they're supposed to go. The oddball presentation and the continual introduction of new elements to keep you interested combine to set this one apart from the others in the crowded genre. It's a level of silliness and creativity that I wish we saw more of, especially when the actual puzzling is as engaging and clever as this.
  • Fields of LogicFields of Logic - Bart Bonte proves he's not just about escapery with this series of logic puzzles. You aren't given any instructions as to what to do with the field of organic grown computers you find yourself presented with, and are left to click around to figure things out on your own as you click around. What's great about this one, aside from the touch of pleasantly silly atmosphere, is that each level feels like a step in a series, and the difficulty curve is solid... if not necessarily the most challenging one around. It's the perfect example of how putting everything in the hands of the player works brilliantly if you design your puzzles with care and cleverness.

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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joyeOrpheusThe tragic myth of Orpheus's quest to bring his wife Eurydice back from the underworld has inspired art from the classical era all the way through to Flash games (such as JIG favorite Don't Look Back). Now Mitchell Brien and Finnian Millour have made a game that takes the musical core of the Orpheus character and translates it naturally into puzzles, in the simply titled Orpheus.

The controls for the game are a bit unusual. While using [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move is pretty standard, your only "weapon" is your lyre, which you can play via the number keys [1] through [7], representing the notes A through G. All your lyre can do is play music, but luckily for you, you are playing Orpheus, the most amazing musician who ever lived. Ever heard of the music that charmed a savage breast (yes, breast not beast, William Congreve, look it up)? Anyway, Orpheus was the undisputed king of that. Three headed hell dog? Take a nap. Flowers? Bursting into bloom at a pluck of the strings! Yep, you're pretty much all-powerful. But that won't help you much if you can't follow directions...

Orpheus was made in a mere 8 weeks as a final project for a class, so it's to be expected that it's a little on the short side, with a few typos and other similar minor errors. The developers sacrified length for the quality of the art, which is simple yet lush, abstract yet accessible. The game asks a lot of you: colorblind players are sadly excluded, and even color-sighted people may have difficulty distinguishing two hues of blue. You must also have your sound on and have enough musical talent to copy back a played melody. As if that weren't enough, in order for the sudden ending to make any sense, you must already be familiar with the Orpheus and Eurydice myth. If you're willing to exert that extra effort and meet the game a little more than halfway, however, you'll be amply rewarded for your trouble.

Play Orpheus


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Rating: 4.5/5 (71 votes)
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TrickyRokko ChanRaise your hand if you've heard this one before: The evil Dr. Mad has corrupted the programming of six thematic robots and has sent them out to do his bidding, each utilizing a weapon that would be suspiciously effectively against exactly of their evil kin. The only thing possibly standing in Mad's way is the new creation of the good Dr. Thane: the high-jumping, fast-dashing, laser-blasting, ability-stealing Rokko Chan!

Okay, Japanese developer King Soukutu admittedly isn't exactly trying to hide the inspirations for his retro platformer. But if Rokko Chan looks and plays like a ROM hack, then it is a very lovingly crafted one of high quality. The enemies have just the right kind of 8-bit menace, the chiptune soundtrack is eminently hummable, and the different worlds to explore are expansive with clever gimmicks to the gameplay. Certainly the difficulty is right up there with the NES brethren it seeks to emulate, which can make the thankfully-remappable controls kind of a pain, but make no mistake: Rokko Chan is mega-awesome... Oh... and starting with Hockey Man went pretty well.

If you're interested in the development of Rokko Chan, be sure to check out the Rokko Chan art book!

Play Rokko Chan


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (162 votes)
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joyeMaking MonkeysIf you've played Greg Sergeant's charmingly quirky Use Boxmen, then you'll find his new game Making Monkeys quirkily charming, although it scratches a slightly different puzzle platforming itch. Guide a monkey towards a sweet cup of star-marked caffeine goodness, with a little help from your cloning gun. After all, where one monkey can't succeed against deadly pits, towering cliffs, and other obstacles, he can get by with the help of his friends... or at least their bodies!

After a few introductory levels that test your ability to use the [WASD] keys to move and jump, the game provides the cloning gun, which you can pick up or throw with [spacebar] like a good little monkey. With a simple click of the mouse, you can aim and fire a clone of your toast-shaped simian self. You only have so many clones in a level, as indicated by the number in the upper left, so think carefully before you shoot. All your cloned pals move at the same time in the same direction you do, so you'll need to think before you start spamming the screen with monkeys if you want to get that sweet cuppa joe. If you get stuck, just hit [R] to reload.

If you like out-of-the-box lateral thinking for your puzzle solutions and still want your platforming skills challenged, Making Monkeys will check off both those boxes and then wrap it up in one cute little package. Some of the levels seem impossible at first glance until you reexamine your assumptions, so don't be afraid to experiment. (You know what they say about 1000 monkeys blasting away with 1000 clone guns, right?) The game's biggest drawback is its short length: only 11 true levels, plus the initial 3 tutorial levels and a bonus "level" at the end which is essentially an invitation to crash your Flash player and/or browser. In a game that has so much wit and charm in its design and presentation, it's a shame to see it end so quickly. Still, it works well as a coffee break game. Maybe served alongside some monkey-shaped toast and a banana.

Play Making Monkeys


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Rating: 4.5/5 (30 votes)
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Lost Winds

JohnBOriginally released as a WiiWare download back in 2008, LostWinds has finally wafted its way to the iOS device world, bringing with it the same shining visuals, imaginative gameplay, and creative use of physics, all told through the wide eyes of a young boy. LostWinds combines traditional platforming elements with a touch of wind manipulation, giving you control over more than just the main character as you explore the lush world before you!

lostwinds.jpgToku is napping happily in the green grass, but a gust of wind brought about by your swiping finger promptly wakes him up. Once you're about, tap anywhere on the screen to send Toku hobbling in that direction, automatically climbing up small ledges in the process. Tap and hold to turn on auto-walk, a useful feature for covering large distances while keeping your hands relatively unencumbered.

Having your touchy fingers free is important in LostWinds, as you'll have your hands full managing things with your wind powers. Swiping the screen pushes a bit of air in that direction and speed, and you can use it to affect the world in both useful and cosmetic ways. Brush trees and bushes to discover animals and other surprises, use the wind to surprise people just for fun, and send a gust of air to shove Toku in the direction you need him to travel. You even use tornadoes to travel and the wind to fight battles! The world of LostWinds is rich with areas to explore, and you'll need to pull a fair number of tricks to get to where you need to go.

lostwinds2.jpgAnalysis: It's always great to see a game as honestly entertaining and creative as LostWinds seek new life on a different gaming platform. The original Wii release was lauded by everyone who played it, and making a debut on the iTunes App Store should garner just as much affection for the title. The transition is a bit rocky at times, but otherwise the game survived the port fully intact!

One of the key aspects that makes LostWinds so fun is the variety of ways the game encourages you to explore. Wandering around to find nooks and crannies to stick your head in is one thing, but using the wind to push different things around almost always yields a surprise or two. The clever ideas never really stop, and for that alone, you'll keep playing the game to the end.

The biggest challenge in LostWinds is acclimating to the controls. Playing the Wii version was phenomenal, as the physical controller allowed for precise movement while the motion controls let you swipe away as the wind. On iPhone and iPad, though, your inputs are extremely limited, and the result is a movement scheme that is quite frustrating at times. Making jumps while using the wind can be extremely challenging, and only with practice can you actually pull it off.

With any luck, future updates will alleviate the control scheme woes, as it would be a pity if a game this imaginative fell to obscurity because of an awkward interface. Even with the current set-up, LostWinds is entirely worth your time, especially if you didn't play the game on its original platform. A beautiful fantasy world to explore and loads of creative uses for the wind powers, this little game is a winner no matter what system it's on.


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Mobile Monday

JohnBAs you can probably tell, we had a bit of an elemental kick for this week's edition of Mobile Monday. Hey, sometimes you get an idea in your head, and you just run with it! Fortunately, Google Play Android Games is filled with creative (if unpolished) games that try to bend the rules a bit. And we've got a few of those below!

elemental.gifElemental - A mix of sudoku and Doodle God, and it works even better than you might imagine! Each grid is filled with basic ingredient squares that combine to form more complex elements. By dragging the four elements from the bottom of the screen, you can slowly fill the grid to create the materials you need to complete the stage. The trick is each row and column can only contain one of each basic element, forcing you to do some logical thinking before you can start dragging things around. There are tips you can use, of course, but if you're hard core determined to get a good score, you'd better leave those behind and start thinking a little harder. A free version of Elemental is also available.

bumbledore.jpgBumbledore - From the same team behind the multiplayer arcade combat game Altitude, Bumbledore is a nice and casual defense game filled with action, magic, and bees. Beezlebug is sending hordes of evil insects after your hive, and it's your job to keep it safe. Touch and drag to aim your magical powers, timing your moves so they eliminate as many enemies as possible with each attack. As you progress, you get more spells and encounter crazier enemies, but your pal Zappy is always there to help you out! Loads of fun, and the bright visuals keep this one high on your most played list.

causeandeffect.gifCause and Effect - If you'll excuse this game's rather dated visual appearance, a surprisingly mind-bending puzzle game awaits you! Using elements represented by small squares, your job is to drop them on the weighted grid with the intention of settling a target element on the marked square. So, for example, you might need to set a fire element in the bottom corner of the grid. To make that happen, you'll need to use elemental effects to your advantage, melting things, burning things, creating things, and stacking things as you see fit. A very logical game in nature, but challenging, and it's quite different than most puzzle games on the market today.

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


(13 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Brink of Consciousness: Dorian Gray Syndrome

DoraSam is just your ordinary guy with a bad English accent who might never have made it big as a reporter if not for his coverage of the disappearances plaguing his town. His editor is thrilled with his work, and Sam thinks he's got it made... right up until his girlfriend and plot device Anna is kidnapped by the very maniac he's been covering, who warns him not to go to the police and demands Sam come alone to a mansion on the edge of town. It turns out that Sam's articles might be prying a bit too close to the truth, but if the kidnapper has his way, Sam will get closer to the maniac's work than he ever really wanted. Brink of Consciousness: Dorian Gray Syndrome by MagicIndie Softworks is a wonderfully creepy hidden-object adventure that doesn't rock the boat with its gameplay, but provides an engaging and entertaining tale full of grim surprises.

Brink of Consciousness: Dorian Gray SyndromeSam's job is to track down Anna, but naturally just showing up at the manor the maniac directs him to isn't enough. In short order, Sam discovers he's just willingly stepped into the villain's personal lair, which is outfitted with enough artfully arranged corpses and overly-elaborate yet easily dismantled death devices to make a James Bond villain jealous. With your maniac taunting you over a sound system as you go, you'll explore the house and its grounds, learning the morbid secrets within. As it turns out, a guy who kidnaps only beautiful people and wears a mask probably has quirks a bit more severe than an unhealthy addiction to The Real Housewives of Youareallterriblepeople. Click around to solve puzzles, gather items, and search for Anna. If you get lost, you can refer to your map at any time, which not only tracks where you are, but where objects of interest have popped up and places you can take action in.

Analysis: If you watch the Discovery or History channels, you might think that logger or crab fisher or Mythbuster assistant would be one of the most dangerous jobs to have. You'd be wrong, of course, since the most hazardous position you can hold is "significant other of hidden-object adventure game protagonist", which virtually guarantees you'll be kidnapped in short order in the sort of overly dramatic fashion that would make even Bowser raise an eyebrow. Brink of Consciousness: Dorian Gray Syndrome doesn't exactly play itself straight, but that's not a bad thing in this case; the lengthy diabtribes from the killer, the surreal murders, the frequent use of scares and chatter to keep you on your toes... all of it combines to make one of the more engaging and interesting casual titles out there. If you're hoping the story here has anything to do with the Oscar Wilde classic beyond a few vague references you'll be disappointed, but if you give it a chance and have an appreciation for camp, you'll find a lot to enjoy here. Especially if you're terrible like me and find unintentional innuendo hi-larious.

Brink of Consciousness: Dorian Gray SyndromeAs for the actual, you know, gameplay, it's mostly solid apart from a few missteps. The game does involve rather a lot of backtracking, though the handy-dandy map that highlights puzzles, locked doors, and more does a lot to take the guesswork out of your wandering. The puzzles are standard, though presented in interesting, atmospheric ways, and the lion's share of adventure item usage is actually quite logical. There are only a few hidden-object scenes sprinkled at wide intervals, which is good news for fans who hate to be buried under them, but at the same time they're both somewhat bland and repeated several times. You'd think a card-carrying homicidal maniac would have a lot more interesting things in his toolshed than some old boxing gloves and a rusting car door, but you'd be wrong. Are a few mutated experiments and discarded freeze rays really that much to ask?

You could do a lot worse than Brink of Consciousness: Dorian Gray Syndrome, and the game's presentation and appealingly twisted reveals combined with the somewhat over-the-top cheesiness makes this one stand out from the pack. The visuals are beautiful, the voice acting is entertaining, and at around five hours for a relaxed playthrough (not including the bonus material), it's a solid adventure to dive into for an evening or two. Fans of puzzles will definitely enjoy the emphasis placed on them, and fans of exploration will love the big environment packed with secrets and weird details. As always, try the demo before you buy, but if you like creepy, strange, and more than a little morbid, you'll want to check this one out.

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


(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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A New Beginning

JohnBA New Beginning is a classically-styled adventure game from the well-respected Hamburg-based publisher and developer Daedalic Entertainment. With A New Beginning, the team has created a great-looking game that's billed as an "eco thriller", two words you wouldn't necessarily want associated with each other. But halfway through the prologue, you'll realize Daedalic pulled it off, as A New Beginning successfully combines socially aware environmental messages with a smart, puzzle-driven storyline.

anewbeginning.jpgThe game begins innocently enough with Bent Svensson, a mustachioed retiree fiddling about his cottage wondering why his life has lost all purpose. Bent was a researcher in the field of algae-based alternative energy, but his work took over his life and left him lonely and somewhat bitter in the end. While attempting to repair a machine outside of his home, a helicopter lands and out steps a woman, Fay, who claims to be from the future. Naturally, Bent is skeptical, especially when she claims he could be the only person who could save mankind from a terrible future of environmental disasters.

The first portions of the game skip back and forth between Fay telling about her adventures in the future, which you get to control, and checking in with the present day to see how things are progressing. It creates some very nice cinema-style interruptions from time to time, where Bent breaks into Fay's story to cast doubt on the decisions you make. Eventually, your goals shift and the real adventure begins, convincing world leaders that Bent's alternative energy is a viable solution to the fuel crisis.

A New Beginning's story and characters take central stage, but the puzzles are smartly designed and do a fantastic job providing challenge without breaking away from the plot. As is with traditional adventure fare, you'll be given a small handful of scenes to explore at a time along with dozens of things to look at, examine, pick up, use, and investigate. Travel back and forth, solving puzzles to push open new areas that allows the story to progress. It's entirely organic, and you never really feel like you're just moving from point A to point B so you can tick off a list of puzzles to solve before getting to see how the story progresses.

anewbeginning2.jpgAnalysis: A New Beginning continues in the tradition of smartly-built adventure games that focus on story and puzzles instead of mini-games and other gimmicks. The style is decidedly retro, but the controls and interface are well-suited for modern players. Shortcuts, faster screen transitions, and point of interest highlighting are some of the features that make it perfect for anyone who loves adventure games but might be put off by the size and complexity of them.

The controls might be unusual to those unfamiliar with many adventure games, but they work well and manage to stick with a few convenient buttons for every action. The mouse is where it's at, and you'll use it to move, examine things, and interact with the inventory. Click and hold on things to bring up a small menu that offers you a choice of actions, such as looking at an object, using it, or taking it. Press the [right] mouse button to open and close the inventory, and remember you can click and hold on items stashed there as well. Also, if you're stuck or just don't want to flail the cursor all over the place, tap the [spacebar] to highlight all points of interest on the screen.

A New Beginning features over 50 voiced characters, and for the most part, the actors do a great job playing their roles. There are some stilted lines and awkward phrases, but nothing that would pull you out of the game. A few of the plot points feel overly dramatized, bumping up against the feared preachy side of some environmentally-themed games. But again, everything is handled with aplomb, as Daedalic knows how to write a good story!

It's a beautiful adventure game with lots of hand-drawn art, comic-style cutscenes, interesting characters, and a plot you can actually care about. And with at least 20 hours of gameplay, you won't feel sleighted when the credits start to roll. A New Beginning is a superb release that expertly captivates from the prologue to the final chapter!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Order the full version: Adventure Shop / GamersGate

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

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