February 2012 Archives


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Rating: 4.5/5 (265 votes)
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DoraNellyBlack Square Studio's lovely but unsettling little platforming puzzle adventure game Nelly may look sweet and unassuming, but if you've spent any time around indie games at all in the last several years you should know to approach any title featuring an adorable child as a protagonist with the grim knowledge that things are about to get all dark and meaningful and depressing and whatnot. It's a law or something... but maybe this time will be different. Little Nelly can't sleep one night, and when she ends up following a glowing butterfly into the woods outside her house one night, she ends up stumbling into a whole other world. There, she finds that not every fairytale has a happy ending, and the forest has teeth. And spikes. And claws. And crushing blocks. Gretel would probably tell Nelly, "I know that feel, bro".

Use the [arrow] keys to move, the [spacebar] to interact, and the appropriate letter key (such as [A] or [S]) to trigger your special abilities as they become available. A single hit from an environmental hazard or particularly munchy forest beast will take Nelly out, but since the game is so liberal with its checkpoints you likely won't encounter any huge setbacks even if you do bite the dust. Which, like as not, will be more due to mistiming a jump. The environments are gorgeous, with the perfectly chosen soundtrack only adding to the fairy-tale-gone-wrong atmosphere, and it feels like it all lasts just long enough for you to give a satisfied sigh of completion when you're done. It's a little weird with its mildly inconsistent tone of d'awwww to WAUGH, but it's also a little lovely, and well worth the ten minutes or so it'll take you to see Nelly through the thick of it.

Play Nelly


  • Currently 3.6/5
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Rating: 3.6/5 (131 votes)
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TumaruDoraDay a little too logical? Not enough dancing horsemen to see you through the night? Haven't had enough dramatic superhero screwdriver cutscenes? Then allow Detarou's latest escape game Tumaru to swoop to your baffled rescue. Once again, you find yourself trapped in a place filled with the strange and the surreal in addition to a whole bunch of unusual puzzles. As usual, the cursor will change to let you know when you can interact, navigation bars will appear at the sides of the screen if you can change perspective, and you can save the game any time you like in the two provided slots with the click of a button.

Tumaru really seems to be trying to set new standards in strangeness, to say nothing player perception. For the most part, the puzzles you'll encounter make a queer sort of sense and generally rely on you paying really close attention to your environment, since clues can often be staring you right in the face. Solving these challenges is definitely rewarding both for that smug enjoyment of a particularly obscure job well done, but also because the strange scenarios you see unfold are more than worth a little head scratching. On the downside, there are a few item uses that feel almost annoyingly abstract compared with the logical puzzles, and none of the endings, of which there are five, offer a whole lot of satisfaction. (Yes, I am demanding validation from a ten minute escape game featuring an emotionally stricken inept superhero!) But if you've got the time to spare and are looking for another bit of escaping delight wrapped up in Deatrou's signature style, Tumaru is a welcome treat indeed. Just try not to think too hard about anything you see inside because, well, those are the sorts of things that keep a soul up at night.

Play Tumaru


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (47 votes)
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TrickyAtomic Puzzle 2Sigma Studios' chilled-out chain-reaction puzzle game is back with a new installment, Atomic Puzzle 2! Like the first installment, the goal of the game is to clear each level of all molecules. Clicking a molecule with the mouse will cause it, and the surrounding matching molecules, to disappear, as long as you keep several rules in mind. 1. The color of the molecule you click doesn't matter in the slightest. 2. The clicked molecule must connect to at least two molecules of the same color. 3. Only one molecule in each combination is allowed to be unpaired. The unpaired molecules will remain on the board. It's more complicated to explain than to play. That said, once the "special molecules" get introduced (Bombs that will destroy all molecules, Colorless Molecules that can only be destroyed by bombs, Splitters that will divide into two molecules of the color shown, Reactors that will change the color of connecter molecules, Switchers that will swap the color of two connected molecules, Wild Cards that can act as any color, and Redirectors that will change how molecules are connected), don't be surprised if you start to have a little mental meltdown.

Similar to its predecessor, Atomic Puzzle 2 is bright, colorful, soothing, and could use a little more documentation. The challenge level starts off fairly low, meaning that it's not until you're about a quarter of the way into the game that strategy starts being as important as the pretty explosions. Then, once all the various special atoms are introduced, things get sneaky tough. Still, even while tackling the hardest puzzles, there is an overriding sense of calm... a science-y zen that is sure to soothe the most jagged of nerves. Light the incense, pull up a picture of Feynmann for inspiration, and enjoy the molecular meditation at the core of Atomic Puzzle 2.

Play Atomic Puzzle 2


  • Currently 3.5/5
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Rating: 3.5/5 (66 votes)
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DoraAlien InvaderThough packed with lasers, destructive action, and havoc-wreaking upgrades, Alien Invader is actually a tender love story about two alien colossi. You know the old story. Boy and girl fall to Earth. Girl gets abducted by the government. (... or maybe it's boy? I can't tell.) Boy (or girl!) sets out on an enormous rampage to save them. It's enough to make you go d'aaaawwww, if they weren't currently searing the flesh from your bones. Hey, those are the flames of passion, buddy!

Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move around, and the mouse to aim and shoot. The bar at the bottom left is how hot your weapon is getting (so let it cool down periodically or you won't be able to fire), while the one next to it represents your remaining health. The goal is to cause as much destruction as you can on each level by using your lazorz to burninate all the hapless people and the environment, without succumbing to the increasingly more vicious efforts of the military to put you out of commission. Causing damage earns you cash, which you can use to purchase upgrades between levels. While it lacks the depth and variety of upgrades to really make it a classic, Alien Invader's stylish design and aieeeeee, arrrrrgh, blam blam BOOM gameplay makes it the perfect choice for those of us who need a little bit of a rampage in their day.

Play Alien Invader


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Rating: 3.8/5 (123 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypSo what do we do whilst waiting for the next Tesshi-e or Robamimi game to hit? If you thought it involves pizza, cage fighting, whipped cream, small rodents, and locking each other into tight, cramped spaces you'd only be partially right. What we like to do is sift through a seemingly endless amount of room escapes each week, searching for a glimmer of gold amongst the sand and gravel, something to satisfy our loyal followers. Did we strike gold this week? Yes, indeed we did, so once again we are welcoming a new room escape designer into the fold, the wonderful 4an and their latest effort, Winterish Room, a charming and slightly chilly effort packed full of pretty scenery and (more importantly) fun puzzles.

Winterish RoomWinterish room takes place in a large, comfortable room that echoes the season of the title. Navigation is the usual bars at the sides of the screen, and as with most escapes you know the drill: pick up everything that's not nailed down, attempt to use these found objects, and solve a lot of puzzles. Maybe you'll make your way out, although this is a pretty comfortable looking room, and it looks so cozy many folks might prefer to stick around for a while. However, this is Weekday Escape, not Weekday Lounge Around, so eventually you might want to figure your way out the door. The puzzles are an equal mix involving numbers, letters, and colors, and the game is a nice balance of using items from your inventory and pure logic. The inventory control is pretty intuitive, and the backgrounds are gorgeous, the only thing that's missing to create atmosphere is some sort of music clip or other accompaniment. A save feature would have been nice as well as a changing cursor, although the lack of clutter keeps the pixel hunting to a minimum.

4an has included the quirk of not being able to "force" solve a puzzle that is often seen in Tomatea games. You can pull up the various locks present in the room, but unless you've seen the clue to solve them you cannot enter any solutions, a feature that some enjoy and others will dislike. Despite the pixel hunting and the sometimes awkward clickable areas, though, 4an is a nice addition to the array of room escape designers that we enjoy. Winterish Room is not exceedingly long or difficult, but there's enough puzzle solving involved to keep you busy for a few minutes at least, and the game shows great promise, so we're expecting really good things in the future from this developer. Take a chance on a newcomer to this column and enjoy escaping from the Winterish Room.

Play Winterish Room


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (246 votes)
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TrickyThe Love LetterThey call you the most popular boy in school, but frankly, you've never really felt it. Indeed, the letter from the secret admirer you just found in your locker is the first you've ever received. Now, you only have five minutes to read it before class starts, but with the hallways filled with your classmates, privacy is a rare commodity... and kids can be so cruel with their taunts, right? It's The Love Letter, a unique stealth adventure game by Alex Cho Snyder (axcho) and Pat Kemp.

Originally created for Ludum Dare Game Jam 22, with the theme of "alone", The Lover Letter is a sweet little game that has such a lack of irony to it, that it's quite refreshing. It is very short, but it's exactly as long as it should be. It has almost no replay value, but only because it does all that it sets out to do in a single play-through. So, if you're ready for a little mushiness on your coffee break, The Love Letter will have you less-than-three-ing for the rest of the day. <3

Play The Love Letter


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (109 votes)
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TrickyZombies IncAs the sun sets, they stream into the streets of the big city. Their pale skin, gaunt frame, and soulless eyes give them away, as they lurch from place to place, searching for their unholy sustenance. But enough about salarymen, this is a game about zombies! Okay, it's about zombie salarymen, which is frightening enough in itself. Zombies Inc., a time management strategy game by Aethos Games, shows just how difficult in can be balancing the demands of a multi-national corporation while still maintaining satisfying progress in your quest for undead-based world domination.

The goal of Zombies Inc. is to acquire enough money and build a large enough zombie army to take over the world. The game is controlled entirely with the mouse, and is mainly focused on four department. First is "Zombies" which is where you grow and upgrade your legions of the undead. Then there is the "Attack" screen, where you designate your attacks, all the way from Santa's Workshop in the north to Penguin-oplis in the south. The more territories you conquer, the larger the zombie population there'll be in the world. Said population is the main market for your "Sales" department, where you'll earn money by researching and releasing new products. Finally, there is the "Company Upgrades" screen, where you purchase bonuses to help out your entire company. In each department, you may hire more employees to unlock and upgrade different zombies, attacks, and products to sell, but doing so will cost money, so make sure that you stay in the black. If you don't... well, you'll see red in more ways than one.

The combination of business simulation with zombie wackiness is an premise with incredible potential, and Zombies Inc. takes quite a good stab at it. The presentation is solid, it's addictive as all get-out, and there's just something hilarious about seeing a zombie in a suit getting hanging around a water cooler or shaking a computer in anger. However, a number of nitpicks pervade the experience: the mechanics of gaining money and fighting battles seem unnecessarily obfuscated, which can lead to your armies being decimated or your finances drained without exactly knowing why. The cash flow balance feels off, meaning that often there best strategy is just to wait around while the numbers go up, rather than, y'know munching on the populace. The event pop-ups are annoying, and almost always seem to involve humans retaking a city over and over gain. Finally, and this may just be based on expectations unfairly gleaned from other casual games, but Madagascar goes down way too easily. We all know that at the first sign of any kind of virus, those airports are getting shut down.

If the whole of Zombies Inc. doesn't quite measure up to the promise of the sum of its parts, it is still very engaging and fun to play. Lovers of zombies, time management games, and the union thereof should get ready to have a couple hours bitten away.

Play Zombies Inc


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The Vault

TrickyWhen I woke up this morning, I found myself locked in this strange room with a lot of weird stuff. Whoever brought me here really needs to hire a better cleaning staff: there are keys, diaries and puzzle pieces all over the place! Under the cushions, behind the paintings... Jeez! Good thing I was able to get a Wi-Fi password by breaking that creepy clown statue in the corner, and are thus able to bring you another wonderful round of classics from the JayIsGames Vault! This week, we've got a surprisingly deep ultra-retro RPG, a dice game that'll keep your week rolling, and an absolute masterpiece of music play.

  • Ginormo SwordGinormo Sword - Ginormo Sword, by Babarageo, may look like a lost RPG cartridge for the Atari 2600, but make no mistake... that pink ninja warrior is totally hardcore. At first glance, everything about Ginormo Sword appears rudimentary. The enemies are blobs of pixels, your only weapon is a sword, and the soundtrack can only be described as "beep-based". But a minimalist aesthetic doesn't preclude complex of mechanics, or, for that matter, furious fun. By the time you reach the 12th of the games 16 areas, you'll be blasting napalm spells at minotaurs, while upgrading fire resistance, and feeding mercenary kitty NIN-NIN. Whew. The amount of clicking you'll need to win isn't small, but hey, what's the sacrifice of a few finger-tendons when the prize is 4-bit glory? Check out our guide while you're at it!
  • ZilchZilch - It goes by many names: Dice 10000, Foo, Boxcar, Bogus, Dix Mille... but for my money, the canonical name was decided when Gaby Vanhegan decided to port it to flash. It's Zilch, and it's amazing! With just the right blend of luck and skill, Zilch may take a while to fully grasp. Once you do, however, you'll have years of fun waiting for you. The computer opponents only cheat a little, but still enough to be satisfying when you kick their bony CPU's. Still, nothing can beat the awesomeness of human vs. human dice rolling, whether on the same computer or across the world wide web. What are the chances of you not enjoying this game?... Well, you can probably guess.
  • Music CatchMusic Catch - When the scholarly history of music in games is written, it seems obvious what games will get whole chapters dedicated to them: PaRappa The Rapper, DDR, Rez, Guitar Hero... But I hope that this hypothetical work dedicates at least a couple of pages to Music Catch, one of the first games to demonstrate that casual flash releases could keep the beat just as well as any others. Simple but transcendent, Music Catch's perfectly arranged feast for the eyes, ears, and fingers sweeps you away as effectively as a orchestra symphony or your favorite song played on a perfect pair of headphones. Other games have since followed the Music Catch formula, and to great success. Still, there is still something stirring to be felt here, four minutes of sound at a time.

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 (333 votes)
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elleMemohuntressSellar Dore's parents wouldn't stop fighting, even arguing over the correct way to say "happy birthday" to their daughter. So, she runs away from home and, in a poetic irony, the lost girl begins her business hunting down missing items as Memohuntress. Years later, Sellar learns her childhood village of Yona was hit by an earthquake. Worried about her parents, she embarks on her greatest quest yet to earn the train fare home. But searching for hidden-objects only a small part of this breathtaking adventure by Aaron Abel and Matthew Stradwick of Enter Skies.

Using [arrow] keys or [WAD] to move about and jump, navigate through fantastical locations and examine every intricate detail to spot—and click on—the lost articles concealed in the scenery. Each of the four, distinctly-themed levels is animated, creating a dynamic 3D effect that's both beguiling to contemplate and challenging to complete. To succeed with the highest score means oogling each segment of a scene with careful eyes, watching to see if an unbended arm or stooping figure will reveal what you seek. This is made more difficult because of the animations and the entire object might never be fully shown. Zooming the game window as large as it can go will help. The shape of the environment makes twisting and turning, using your peripheral vision in many cases, a necessary part of play. Most items come in multiples and appear as pictured, making it unnecessary to constantly check your list. But, when stuck, "Hint" will point you where you need to go.

MemohuntressAnalysis: Still images can't show and words can't explain the multilayered, surreal Willy Wonkaness of what there is to behold here. It's easy for players to become lost in Sellar's world making gameplay symbiotical. From the opening cinema, the story is captivating thanks to Aaron Abel's and Robert Rubio's talented writing and the excellent voice-acting of Kaily Kaneshiro, Gianni Matragrano, Tri Le, Kim Lehman, Mike Siemon, and Andrea Ashe. The art by both Abel and Vinnie Veritas is ample entertainment in itself as you notice allusions to anime and other games while catching glimpses of the subcharacters' stories.

Being so enchanting, it's hard to give too much notice to the downsides, but they're there. To start with, the task of item hunting can be rather daunting, especially in the immense Emerald Sea of the last level when half the "objects" you're looking for are swimming about you, although the interesting artwork helps mitigate this. Another issue, even with the most up-to-date graphics card, is lag; using the [Q] key will lower the quality and help with this, but I recommend against that unless absolutely necessary. There is far too much to see and enjoy, that if you're moving too fast, you'll miss out.

Magnificent artwork, incredibly moving story, and a sweeping soundtrack make an experience to not be missed. Throw in a little quest to collect lost objects and call it a game, but make no mistake: Memohuntress is art. The love and enthusiasm this team has in their creation oozes out of every corner and makes it shine.

Play Memohuntress



  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (232 votes)
| Comments (15) | Views (263)

DoraThe Old TreetCreepy? Cute?... Both? Why not? RedDwarf Games blends point-and-click adventure with interactive art in The Old Tree. In this moody but lovely little gem, you play a small, crawly... something... that hatches deep underground. It's clear you want to get out and up, but when you're a little squirmy... green... thingy, the world is very big and scary, and you'll have to figure out the strange logic of the world you're in to make your way forward.

Click around to clear the way forward, finding new ways to interact with your environment and remove obstacles. It's an odd little experience where the most frustrating thing you might encounter is simply spending a lot of time watching your new grubby little friend crawl slowly along the ground. The art is beautiful and the environments manage to be both alien and familiar. Don't expect it to make a whole lot of sense, but if you're looking for a bit of otherworldly beauty to brighten your day, The Old Tree is the perfect choice.

Play The Old Tree


(13 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Captain Skyro

JohnBCaptain Skyro is a classic "pull back and fling" game similar to the old browser series Sling, only instead of tossing around squishy gross things, now you get to control a pirate! Grappling up through the clouds, you'll encounter cargo holds full of crazy obstacles, clouds that you'll swear are out to get you, and score-based gameplay that will inspire you to go back and play again, just so you can nab that last coin!

Captain SkyroHovering along in his airborne ship, Captain Skyro turns around to find his crew shouting mutiny. They toss him overboard and leave him to plummet to his doom, but this crafty captain's got a trick up his sleeve. Actually, it's just outside of his sleeve: a hook! With a rope attached to it! Using this piratey device to grab on to wooden pegs sprouting from clouds (yup, that's right), touch, pull, and release to send the captain flying, grabbing successive pegs to gain height.

Nothing is as simple as "climb up to your flying ship using pegs on clouds", and our Captain will encounter plenty of obstacles over the course of this lengthy mobile game. Clouds bursting with lightning, spiny clouds, moving clouds, disappearing clouds, and piranhas are just a small sampling of the dangers waiting to be discovered. On top of that, you can't fall too far before you're caught by a bank of nasty-looking thunderclouds. Fortunately, checkpoints are found throughout the levels, giving you a bit of respite as you work your way to the oasis above!

Captain SkyroBeing a booty-lovin' pirate, Skyro's got more on his mind than getting back to his ship. Scattered throughout the skies are golden coins just waiting to be plucked from their bluey docks. Scoring a respectable score is another lofty goal, and you'll be ranked according to treasure collected, speed, and finishing without dying. In other words, move fast, do everything, and don't mess up!

Analysis: Captain Skyro is one of those mobile games you'll download and keep on your phone for months. It's extraordinarily easy to pick up and play, but getting good at the game takes time. You'll want to get better at it, though, because it's such a well-made game with smart physics, creative obstacles, and bright, cartooney visuals that really highlight the experience.

The only real downside of Captain Skyro isn't the game's fault, it's evolution's. You see, since we haven't developed transparent fingers, you'll find your digits get in the way of the game from time to time, especially when you're trying to fling yourself upwards with a dangerous obstacle moving below. Some creative phone positioning usually does the trick, but c'mon, nature, where's my opaque phalanges already?!

Human physiology aside, it's very difficult to find anything about Captain Skyro that isn't charming, engaging, and utterly perfect. A cheeky story with fun visuals would have been enough to keep us entertained, but Skyro goes on and adds a ton of levels with a crazy variety of things to see, experience, and master. Well done, indeed!

Play Captain Skyro
(free browser version)


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (28 votes)
| Comments (1) | Views (68)

Twisted Fairytales: Pinnochio

JohnBIf you've played a spot the difference game, either in your browser or on a mobile device, chances are you've seen one or more releases from Difference Games, a studio dedicated to visually stunning, easy to play spot the difference games. Twisted Fairytales: Pinnochio is one such release, incorporating graphic novel-style storyboards and three levels of difficulty to make your pixel hunting as challenging or as casual as you please!

twistedfairytalespinnochio.jpgThis tale of Pinnochio plays out a little differently than the classic story, but the basic ideas are the same. You are shown a single page from a comic at a time, one version on the left and the other on the right. Each screen has a total of five differences you need to spot. All you have to do is tap the difference and you'll get a few points. A small circle "cursor" helps with accuracy, as some of these hotspots are miniscule in size. Hints are available and recharge over time, and the faster you work, the higher your final score will be.

The visuals in the Twisted Fairytales series are always a high point, and Pinnochio doesn't let us down. The story is simple and told without words, which is a plus if you know a child who could use a nice cyberpunk-style difference game to play. This installment in the Twisted Fairytales series is, at the time of writing, exclusive to NOOK Apps and the Amazon Appstore, so if you've got a NOOK Color, NOOK Tablet, Kindle Fire or Android device, you should make grabbing this beautiful little game a top priority!

Play Twisted Fairytales: Pinocchio


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Mobile Monday

JohnBGet your acorns in a row, it's time to settle down and partake in some mobile en-ter-tain-ment with the smell of burning tires in the air and a shower of clockwork machines for all to enjoy!

retroracing.gifRetro Racing (universal) - It's a serious trip on Nostalgia Lane when you pick up Retro Racing, an arcade-style racer from the creator of QWAK. True to its roots, you focus on pure skill and coming in first place rather than crazy jumps or tweaking your car. Look for the most efficient path through each course, and pick up power-ups to increase your car's speed, acceleration, or tire stickiness to keep you in the game. Mistakes must be kept at a minimum, as this game doesn't coddle you just so you feel like a winner. Earn your rank and you will be rewarded! A neat local two player mode is also available.

littleacorns.gifLittle Acorns (universal) - Stolen acorns! Eep! The squirrel family is out to get their oak nuts back (how else will they survive the winter?) after a band of bugs absconds with them. Now, you're in control of the main man of the family, jumping and rope swinging your way across several dozen stages. Little Acorns is mostly an arcade-style game, pitting you against the clock and a host of enemies that will slow you down. Play it smart, learn the levels, and collect everything you can get your paws on. Unlockable costumes add to the already too-cute visual style, and the impetus to get everything and go for the high score is almost irresistible.

clockworkbrain.jpgA Clockwork Brain (universal) - Want a good brain game but can't seem to play anything that lacks a steampunk theme? Well, your highly-specific preferences can now be sated with the new puzzle game from the makers of The Clockwork Man hidden object series! Like any good brain training game, you're given a series of exercises that must be completed within a certain time. Word games, guessing games, memory games, shape-based games... all kinds of games are there, some of which are quite creative, and more are unlockable via in-app purchases.

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


  • Currently 3.6/5
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Rating: 3.6/5 (54 votes)
| Comments (6) | Views (203)

DoraRupert's Zombie DiaryThe zombie apocalypse is bloody and terrifying... but also oddly hysterical if you slap a dapper English gentleman in a bowler hat as the lead. Scimitar Games' Rupert's Zombie Diary, an action-packed shooter, is full of all the squishy gore, crazy zombies, and slapstick bloody comedy you could wish for. When a necromancer raises the dead with the intention of taking over London, Rupert will stop at nothing in his quest to clean the city out and make it home safely single-handedly. Each day he visits a different part of the city, trying to clear it completely of zombies and earn enough money to fortify it against new invasion. Easier said than done since the zombies have reinforcements and necromancy and you have... an amusing ability to surf around on bloody corpses. Which is, uh... something you might want to avoid putting on your résumé actually.

Use the [WASD] keys to move around, and the mouse to aim and shoot. [ESC] pauses the game if you need to take a breather from all the red and the chomping and the bullets and the wahey. Each stage has a certain number of zombies to take out and a time limit; kill all the zombies and you'll get a big cash bonus you can either spend on upgrades and skills, or stockpile to eventually keep the area fresh and zombie clean permanently. If you die or the time runs out before your carnage is complete, you'll take a penalty to the cash you would've earned, but you can always just try again. While Rupert and his Zombie Diary are more than a little dependent on grinding, the quirky sense of humour and cartoonish presentation help to make this one stand out from a sea of other games with near identical gameplay. It sort of feels like a goofier, more limited version of the Mercenaries minigame in Resident Evil, and if you're simply looking for a spot of bloody good fun to fill some time, Rupert might just be your man.

Play Rupert's Zombie Diary


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (88 votes)
| Comments (44) | Views (11,984)

Hatoful Boyfriend

DoraHatoful Boyfriend, a visual novel adventure by PigeoNation Inc where you play a human girl attending a school for birds, is one of those games that, in my heart of hearts, is so weird and devious and hilarious I suspect was made just for me. At the start of the game, you've been a student at a prestigious academy for gifted birds for about a year... despite not actually being a bird yourself. (But that's a long story.) Will you succeed at your studies? Reunite two estranged love birds? Find romance of your own in time for Legumentines?... or maybe you'll find out the truth? That's just the tip of one very weird iceberg. With a huge amount of replay value, creativity to burn, and some of the most shocking plot lines you could ever hope to encounter, Hatoful Boyfriend is a fascinating and surprising text adventure well worth checking out.

Hatoful BoyfriendAfter your first day of introductions, you'll be able to finally make some choices about how you spend your time. Different activities influence your statistics in different ways, which in turn has an effect on how the different characters treat you and whether you can advance down certain plot paths. Since the core of the game revolves around the different characters and stories, most of your big decisions will come down to who you spend time with and how you treat them as opposed to boring ol' stat management. Don't worry; the game has five pages of save slots, accessible to save or load at any time, so you can go back to an earlier choice whenever you like at the click of a button. You can also click the little arrow button in the upper right corner to speed through text to any choices if you're replaying. The option menus are, unfortunately, untranslated as of this writing, but if you find the text hard to read, right-click to open the menu, choose the first option (P), and you can select your font of choice from the dropdown menu at the top, and then bold it by ticking the box beside it. Make sure you click "Ok" to save.

Hatoful Boyfriend actually comes in two flavours; free and "complete". The difference between the two comes down to an extra character, five more endings, some minor additions like a gallery. Trust me; you want to see the last plot only available with the full purchase.

Hatoful BoyfriendAnalysis: Whenever you're trying to describe Hatoful Boyfriend to someone, you wind up saying things like, "Yes, really," and "No, really". It sounds like it should be a bizarre joke, and a lot of people who wind up checking it out do so out of curiosity and without much expectations beyond getting a disbelieving laugh or two. While it's true that a lot of the game's appeal initially comes from how odd the premise is, players who give it a chance will find that it's far more than just a kooky premise. The English translation is nearly flawless, with the exception of the rare typo, and the plots intertwine in surprising ways. The cast of characters is enormously varied, mostly very likable in a variety of ways, and pursuing any of them will result in some very elaborate storylines that aren't just all about romance. Some of them are about... uh... well... I can't say.

It's difficult to talk about the game directly without spoiling things, but just be aware going into it that I did rate the game Orange for a reason. The delayed payoff and the abruptness of some of the endings combined with the oddball concept may not appeal to every fan of the visual novel genre. Stick with it, however, and you'll find Hatoful Boyfriend is easily one of the most clever titles you could hope to encounter. Besides, narcoleptic bird teachers, pudding-obsessed bird jocks, biker birds, bird urban legends... what more could you possibly want in a top-notch title? Some people may find the concept too hard to get past, which is a shame since Hatoful Boyfriend is easily one of the most original games to come down the pipe in a long time.

Hatoful BoyfriendVisually the game is... well, it's pictures of birds. If you select the option at the start of the game, you'll be given an Anime-style portrait of each character once as they're introduced, but otherwise, yeah... birds. It should be weird, and maybe it is a little at first, but the more you play, the more you realise how well it works. Each character's particular bird reflects their personality quite well in appearance, and after a time you just... accept it. You're a human in a school for birds. You live in a cave. You can't start your day without red meat, and you have finely-tuned hunter-gatherer instincts. It's just how things are. It's a weird trick how, even with the birdie photos staring back at you, you can actually start to forget you are dealing with birds. Right up until the feathers start flying and the beans show up, anyway. (Legumentines is a great idea. My husband is only getting beans from now on.)

Hatoful Boyfriend has a lot of replay value. There's a tremendous amount of content you just won't see in a single playthrough, especially because some paths and options won't unlock until you've finished the game a few times. You can spend hours going through it all, and if you're at all interested in uncovering the whole mystery, you probably should. Check out the free version if you like visual novels and have a strong suspension of disbelief, and if you like it, give some thought to picking up the full game. At just over five bucks, I will tell you right now that Hatoful Boyfriend is possibly the craziest and most entertaining game purchase I have ever made. Highly recommended, for everybirdie!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo (English patch)
Get the full version (English)

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the demo (English patch)
Get the full version (English)


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Rating: 4/5 (46 votes)
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TrinnLast Robot 2 If history has taught us anything, it's that robots want a lot of goodies. In Last Robot 2, an arcade action platformer by Karma Team, a greedy bouncing machine is willing to soar to astronomical heights to get what it wants: gold coins and a special space treat!

Using the [arrow] keys to navigate the automaton astronaut, you'll have to avoid bombs, collect coins, and purchase upgrades to make it all the way to the top. It's a long way to deep space, but fortunately for you there are plenty of collectable hearts to refill your health bar and lightning bolts to refuel your engine. Reminiscent of the iOS action title Doodle Jump, this simple game is quick and easy to beat, but incredibly hard to put down. The rapid ascent and avoidance based gameplay keep the pace fast enough to prevent the constant climb from becoming dull, despite its repetitive nature. With a sizable bundle of achievements and upgrades, there's plenty of replay value and a whole lot of fun combined in a bite-size package. That's one small hop for robots, one giant leap for machine-kind.

Play Last Robot 2


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cherrysquestforcoffee.gifCherry's Quest for Coffee (Windows, 8MB, free) - Finally, a quest we can all identify with (and a protagonist whose personality traits may or may not hit a little too close to home)! There's a worldwide coffee shortage (say it ain't so!), and Cherry Starma wakes to find she's all out of the good stuff. Time to go to the store! Will The Only Store have any left? Will that be the conclusion of the game?! Could it be that simple??!! A good, old fashioned, retro-styled, humor adventure game with simple point and click controls and some killer MIDI music.


(12 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Film Fatale: Lights, Camera, Madness!

elleWhat are you looking for in your adventure hybrid game? Thrills? Laughs? Being immersed so deeply in entertainment that, when the show is over, you hardly know where the time went? Fugazo's wonderfully campy Film Fatale: Lights, Camera, Madness! dishes out all of that and more from the opening scenes through the last words of the credits. It's just a shame you won't have a ticket stub to pack away in your scrap book.

elle_filmfatale_image4.jpgAs the lights dim and the film begins to roll, the background story is quickly laid out. Your mum, Rita Ray, beloved royalty of the silver screen, has been kidnapped and is being held captive by M.W. Vernon, the legendary director and owner of a once great movie studio. Just what Vernon wants from Rita is not yet fully explained, but a dread feeling of foreboding, agitated by the madman's echoing "Bwahahaha!" has the hairs on the back of your arms standing on end. This cannot be good. Each corner you turn slowly reveals Vernon's plans and, right when you think it's over, another twist delivers a climatic ending worthy of—well, if not Hitchcock, at least better than any B-movie producer could ever hope for.

Gameplay is fairly evenly divided between adventuring and puzzle-solving using the standard point-and-click method of navigation. A changing cursor will indicate areas to investigate, puzzles, hidden object searches and items to pick-up as well as showing when you can move on to another room. As you explore the lurid scenes of a violence and insanity run amok through eclectic compartments of a fully-equipped movie studio, your progress is barely halted for brief moments of mini-games or hidden object searches to collect useful props and tools.

elle_filmfatale_image6.jpgIf you've ever taken a tour of one, you know movie studios are big and full of rooms. Between the back lots, special effects stages, working sets and main buildings, there is a lot to be seen. Usually places like this will put you in touring trams operated by loquacious, knowledgeable actor-hopefuls in order to spare your bunions. Seeing as the crazy director managed to drive off (or, perhaps, murder) all his staff, the next best thing is an accoutrement found early on that makes leaping to the next destination as easy as a mouse click.

Analysis: What's not to love about a game that actually has "Muwahahahahaha!" as a line of dialogue? Fuzago pulls out every trick in the showman's book— such as pitch perfect voice acting (which can be muted if you prefer), detail-orientated scenery, a story replete with plot-twists and amusing dialogue—to guarantee your complete entertainment. Here is a game to lose yourself completely in the moment. If ever there was a time searching through an assortment of wild objects, grappling to repair broken equipment or solving cryptic codes would be appropriate, it's when you're on a large movie-lot-turned-gauntlet pitting your wits against a deranged "architect of the mind." The mini-games manage to put a unique spin on otherwise familiar puzzles; a few are initially confusing to figure out yet the hint function will explain succinctly. Another great feature is a map that shows, and lets you skip to, the next area of interest. This speeds things along, keeping the action flowing, although it also shortens the overall play time.

elle_filmfatale_image2.jpgFilm Fatale has another convenience you'll appreciate: a selective hint function during search scenes that lets you select exactly which item to reveal. Although hidden object scenes are about as typical as it gets in terms of how they're done, they're made enjoyable through crisp photo-realistic graphics and a cinematographer's talent for composing displays. Expect to see any object imaginable if it will serve as a movie prop; yet scenes are still well-organized, sorted by theme to suit each setting. Non-fans of the genre won't be wooed by these searches but at least they're not unpleasant, especially when driven by the compulsion to see what that fruitcake Vernon will do next.

It's not much longer to play Film Fatale: Lights, Camera, Madness! than it is to watch a feature-length blockbuster. Yet for less than the price of a movie ticket, you'll get an experience that is far more immersing, fulfilling and loaded of fun. You'll be toyed with by a maniacal lunatic, but at least you won't have to put up with popcorn down your shirt or the cell phone lights of rude fellow moviegoers.

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: 4/5 (80 votes)
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DoraIcy FishesBeing a fish is terrifying! If you don't believe me, check out Icy Fishes, the latest chain-reaction based arcade game from Silen Games. You float around all helplessly encased in ice until someone drops a bunch of explosives so you enjoy a few moments of dazed freedom before an octopus is summoned to devour you and spit out your bones. Geez nature, you scary!

Click to place explosives anywhere onscreen, but try to make sure enough of the floating frozen fishies are nearby, since the aim is to catch a certain amount of freed fish on each level. After you drop your first bomb, an octopus that you control with your mouse shows up and follows your cursor, nabbing any fish he gets near. Ice that explodes close enough to more ice will set that one off as well. By earning achievements, you also earn pearls which you can spend on upgrades to better terrorize those poor defenseless fish, as well as new bomb types. It's crazy, it's frantic, and it's definitely weird, but you know what else it is? Fun and addicting. With beautiful animations and high-quality cartoon visuals, it's the sort of thing you might dismiss as "mindless", but still find yourself plucking away at fifteen minutes later. Besides, who said you had to be intricate and complex to be entertaining? Spend a coffee break or three with Icy Fishes and get your fill of explosions, bright colours, and the sweet satisfaction of achievements for the day. And next time you're at an aquarium, don't be a jerk and tap on the glass; you shouldn't do it anyway, and these fish have it hard enough as it is.

Play Icy Fishes


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Weekend Download

JohnBI see you there, shadow. Following my every move. Writing a Weekend Download introduction as I do the same. Having cookies for breakfast just like I did. I've got my eye on you. And you've got your eye on me!

meandmyshadow.gifMe and My Shadow (Linux/Windows, 6MB, free) - A great open source platform puzzle game that makes heavy use of the ole "here's my double, watch us work together to solve puzzles" mechanic. Move through the world using standard platformer controls. When you encounter certain blocks or impassable obstacles, it's time to summon the shadow. Press the [spacebar] and start moving, creating a path your shadow will follow when you press [space] again. Over 80 levels to play, including a nice and steady tutorial, 18 block types to get used to, and a map editor for good measure. There's a lot to love in this minimalist game!

cherrysquestforcoffee.gifCherry's Quest for Coffee (Windows, 8MB, free) - Finally, a quest we can all identify with (and a protagonist whose personality traits may or may not hit a little too close to home)! There's a worldwide coffee shortage (say it ain't so!), and Cherry Starma wakes to find she's all out of the good stuff. Time to go to the store! Will The Only Store have any left? Will that be the conclusion of the game?! Could it be that simple??!! A good, old fashioned, retro-styled, humor adventure game with simple point and click controls and some killer MIDI music.

paraparaparanoid.gifPara Para Paranoid (Windows, 9MB, free) - Have you ever felt like someone was following you? Maybe more than one person? Like they were taking every step you made, jumping when you jumped, and pausing when you paused? If you were a bit paranoid, imagine how this poor guy feels! Para Para Paranoid is a puzzle platform game where your goal is to collect the nice little icons that appear on the screen. Grab them all, then touch the final one to move to the next stage. The enemies, however, follow your every move, meaning you've got to do things that ensure they stay out of your way as you go about your business. Frantic, and tons of fun, a great way to nurture the paranoid side of your personality!

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 (564 votes)
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joyeDuck Life 4The ducks at your local park may seem a fairly lazy bunch, waddling around, snarfing up breadcrumbs. But maybe that's just because they spent their adorable chickhood training in mini-games for races that would take them across five different terrains in a quest for eternal glory. I mean, after that, you'd like to retire, right? Relive those exciting days in the Wix Games fourquel Duck Life 4.

The game combines favorite minigames from previous installments of the series with new ones, and each area (running, swimming, flying, climbing, and jumping) features 3 mini-games, to keep repetition down a bit. Just like in earlier games, during the actual races you can't do anything... other than cheer at your computer screen, so get out those pompoms if you have any. Compared to previous Duck Life games, this one may seem to be more grindy, since the game suggests you should build a team of three ducks, each of which needs to be trained separately. Just keep in mind this is really only a suggestion. It is very possible, and indeed faster, to train just one duck. Plus this leaves you with more money to buy your duck ridiculous hats. Duck Life 4 shows just how far the series has come, and though it's still a relatively simple and silly collection of minigames, it's the perfect thing to sink your spare time into when you want something fun and casual. Viking helmeted avians ahoy!

Play Duck Life 4


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The Scruffs: Return of the Duke

DoraMost of us don't get cool birthrights; we get things like old hand-me-downs, untameable curly hair, or a collection of decorative spoons from our families and call it a day. But not Grandpa Scruff; he's destined to be the next Duke of Scrufford! Or, at least, he would be if he hadn't been gone for thirty years, allowing an impostor to take advantage of an ancient contract and step into his shoes. Unless Grandpa Scruff finds the lost Regalia before night, Scrufford will be forever plunged into an era of darkness the likes of which the world will have never seen!... possibly. The Scruffs: Return of the Duke is a silly, gorgeous little hidden-object adventure that packs on the charm for a light-hearted cartoon romp anyone can enjoy.

The Scruffs: Return of the DukeTo restore Grandpa Scruff to his rightful place, you'll need to track down the pieces of the Regalia by seeking out the Knights of Scrufford, a secret order loyal only to the true duke. Naturally, there's a catch; each knight only knows where the next one is, so you'll have to find them all individually and then prove Grandpa really is who he claims to be. (Because really, who wouldn't be clamouring to name themselves leader of a kingdom that sounds like it should be populated solely by wire-haired terriers?) This is done, usually, by tracking down a bunch of items for each person and solving some puzzles in the process. If you need some help, just click on Scruffy, the family's intrepid mutt, and he'll bark in a hot-or-cold fashion to let you know when you're close to the item you're seeking. There's also a fully integrated strategy guide under the menu if you need a little more direct help, but surely the Duke of Scrufford needs no such contrivances, right? Onward, noble disheveled ruler!

Analysis: There are times when a game like The Scruffs: Return of the Duke is exactly what you need. Colourful, vibrant, and energetic story and characters, it's the perfect way to unwind and just let yourself smile. The artwork and animation is fantastic, with an unusually solid and robust set of voice actors only adding to the experience. It definitely doesn't take itself seriously, and that light-heartedness is more than welcome if you want something that feels casual and relaxing. If you haven't played the original game, you're probably not going to understand who anyone is, but it's not really a perquisite. The plot, focused on the hammy Saturday morning cartoon-esque drama and villain, is corny but funny despite its cast of cardboard cutout characters. Just don't take it too seriously, enjoy the twists and turns, and you'll have a great time.

The Scruffs: Return of the DukeDespite its goofball presentation, however, Return of the Duke isn't necessarily easy. It's just a shame the cartoonish character design wasn't married to the environmental artwork, since the mishmash of actual photography not only looks a little weird, but can also make it difficult to tell what you're looking at when some items are small. Puzzles also don't really give any instructions or help, so if you're particularly stymied as to the rules of something or even just don't know what you're looking at, you're out of luck and might be forced to use the skip button. Luckily, the cast and story more than provide enough incentive to keep playing, and as your eyes adjust to the odd style choice you'll have an easier time picking out objects as you go.

When it comes to goofy, feel-good cartoon adventures, The Scruffs: Return of the Duke is right up there with the best of them. While the characters and dialogue will probably enthrall you more than the standard gameplay does, it's a great choice for players who want something casual, charming, and light-hearted to relax for an evening or so with, especially if they've got some kids who are fans of gaming too. Most players will probably spend around four hours on it, more or less depending on how difficult they find it, but if you like humour and silliness you'll love every second. Give the demo a try and see if you don't enjoy getting acquainted with the Scruffs.

(Note: Make sure you properly close this game by selecting "save and exit" under the menu or you may lose progress back to the beginning of the chapter!)

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 4.3/5 (70 votes)
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MeaghanGravity Duck 2Who needs to use wings when you can press a single button to shift your gravitational pull? Certainly not the duck in Gravity Duck 2, the physics puzzle platformer sequel to the original by WoblyWare.

Under orders from your demanding master it is up to you to brave the perilous city and retrieve the precious golden eggs. With the help of your [arrow] keys, [X] button, gravity wells, and tube portals you'll navigate the treacherous city and claim every last golden egg. Though your duck may look like the yellow cousin of Perry the Platypus don't worry about encountering any evil scientists. Instead, be prepared for spiked walls, laser guns, angry dogs, and an assortment of other weapons waiting to foil your brilliant egg snatching plans. Be forewarned that you can't switch gravity in midair so be ready to execute perfect timing and a flawless strategy. With forty levels to power through you'll find your brain getting that mental workout its been craving. To sweeten the pot this game proves to be as gleefully cartoonish and fun as its quacktastic predecessor and is bound to entice you until the very end.

Play Gravity Duck 2


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Rating: 3.7/5 (52 votes)
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elleelle_ninjafrog_image1.pngJust sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful... prince. Prince Edward, who was turned into a frog by an evil sorceress, fled in shame from his homeland only to wind up shipwrecked on the shores of Nippon-Koku. There he met a kind sensei who renamed him Kaeru and taught him the ancient art of being Ninja Frog. One day, Kaeru learns of a special gem that can reverse the curse, so he sets out on a dangerous quest, with your help, in this fun puzzle platformer.

Your goal is to navigate through forty-eight perilous levels and collect every gem in sight before moving on. Almost entirely mouse driven and relying heavily on physics, direct Kaeru around such obstacles as spiders, snakes, axes, and flames by jumping—and sticking—to any non-hazardous surface you can find. A dotted white line shows Kaeru's trajectory; depress your left mouse button, point to where where you want him to land, then release when ready to jump. Complicating matters, his stickiness wears off in seconds, forcing quick decisions about where to go next. It's a bit like Sticky Ninja Academy, just less sticky and more... green.

Ninja Frog starts out easy but quickly becomes a lesson in discipline and diligence. With a difficulty progression as rocky as the fatburner setting on a treadmill, you'll encounter several scenes requiring maddeningly-precise timing and acrobatics then breeze swiftly through a few more before hitting another wall of pain. Trial and error rounds out the learning curve and there will be blood—very red frog's blood—splattering over and over before you've figured out the magic sequence. Yet the challenge remains compelling and, oddly, fun for those who take great satisfaction in accomplishing tricky maneuvers. Aah, Grasshopper, you have learned well.

Play Ninja Frog


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Rating: 3.9/5 (49 votes)
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TrickyDaymare InvadersIt's certain that we at JayIsGames are not the only ones eagerly awaiting the next installment of the Daymare Town series. In fact, it would not be too far to say that it invades our thoughts at every opportunity. If only Mateusz Skutnik would give us a release that would blast away the jags of withdrawal. Wait? He has? Well awesome, then! Daymare Invaders, an arcade shooter, isn't a particularly complicated game. Honestly, the game is little more than Space Invaders with a Daymare skin. But you know what? The hand-drawn art of the Daymare world is as hauntingly beautiful as it was when we first saw it. If you go in expecting anything more than a clone of an arcade classic, you'll be disappointed. If, however, you approach it aware of what it is (a classic minigame and a tantalizing preview of installments to come), you'll find a very tasty piece of eye candy. Now here! Watch as I fire upwards through our own shield!

Play Daymare Invaders


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Rating: 3.4/5 (74 votes)
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elleelle_aliensquest_image1.pngThose wondering what goes on behind the locked gates at Area 51 are about to get their answers. Join in an Alien's Quest as a squishy green extraterrestrial outsmarts a gangly crew of FBI agents, travels through town and blasts off into space in this funny point-and-click story from Denis Mordvintsev and Konstantin Timofeev.

Using one part logic, three parts trial and error, click objects in the right order to help Cockroache's friend, Alien, escape from a secret government compound then collect the materials needed to make it back home. Keep your eyes open at the right time to grab some (optional) souvenirs from the experience. Less a puzzle game and more an interactive cartoon, it's a familiar tale in new wrappings. Still, it's super cute thanks to artwork by Yurly Salinkov, and you'll long be the envy of your friends (if they're the Lone Gunmen) for your hand in this E.T.'s rescue.

Play Alien's Quest


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraWas your pillow not quite as fluffy as it could have been last night? Did you get two shots of cream instead of one in your coffee? Was it the worst. Possible. THING. when you accidentally smudged your nailpolish right after you finished applying it? Well, if you need to drown your sorrows and your First World Problems, then look no further than this week's Link Dump Friday! (Me? I'm good; Grimm is back tonight and I made an amazing catch when I accidentally knocked my coffee mug off the counter this morning, so everything is A-OK.) There are actually some really exciting games coming later this year, so let's get straight to them!

ResonanceCat, Say Goodbye To Bag Love adventure games? Then you'll love this. Resonance, a stunning looking indie game with an intriguing thriller plot, is going to be released later this year by none other than adventure gaming powerhouse Wadjet Eye Games. The news broke on Twitter earlier this week, and was finally confirmed by Wadjet Eye president, Dave Gilbert, who admitted his wife, the enviously talented Jane Gilbert, had been programming Resonance for the last eight months and voice actor recording had officially begun. Needless to say, you know if Wadjet Eye is attached to it, it's going to be good! (Shouldn't a picture of Fry demanding you take his dollars go here?) Hit up the official site for Resonance to learn all about this amazing looking title, an announcement here, and make ready thine wallets for when it hits later this year!

Amnesia: A Machine For PigsSomething Pants-Wetting This Way Comes Well, that was fast! Just a few weeks after murmurs of speculation began to arise, indie horror giants Frictional Games, along with thechineseroom (makers of Dear Esther) announced earlier this week in an exclusive interview with Joystiq that the title of their next game will be Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs. This won't be a direct sequel, although it will take place within the same universe/alterna-history, and follows Oswald Mandus who, awakening after a fever, discovers that months have passed and awakens to the terrifying sounds of a strange machine. You can find out more about it in the follow-up article (the official website is also now live), and hopefully be set to play it later this year. It's going to be interesting to see how this expands the universe Amnesia: The Dark Descent created, but perhaps even more interesting will be how the influence of another developer works within the game. Stay tuned, horror fans!

2QWOPIncompetence Is Best With Friends Bennet Foddy has just taken his hysterical webtoy QWOP to whole new heights of humiliation by now allowing you and a friend to compete head-on to see who fails the least. The game, which focuses on using just four keys to control an Olympic runner's thighs and calves, is one of those things that sounds simple, but winds up being fiendishly difficult... and yet somehow is more entertaining than frustrating. This two-player version is strictly of the "yank a buddy and force them to play beside you" variety, and there's nothing else new about it, but if you've got a friend indeed who has never experienced the wonder and hilarity that is QWOP, there's no time like the present to introduce them to it. Just don't hype up how good you are beforehand; they'll be seeing you for the dirty liar you are shortly.

StarboundTo Infinity... AND SANDBOXES! If you like science fiction and love sandbox-style open world gameplay, then you're definitely going to want to keep an eye on the upcoming Starbound, set to hit later this year from Chucklefish. The game stars you (only a tiny, digital you!) as you flounder about the galaxy after your aimless escape pod, shot from your homeworld, winds up destroyed. You'll gain access to a spaceship you can upgrade in a variety of ways, explore endless procedurally generated planets, claim a world as your own and work to develop it, take part in story missions, and much more. It looks absolutely phenomenal and I, for one, can't wait to get my grubby mitts all over it. The game will be available for PC, Mac, and Linux upon release, as well as include both competitive and cooperative multiplayer. Sweet! Check out the official site to learn more and get ready to get lost in the universe.


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Rating: 4.1/5 (62 votes)
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elleelle_nextplease_image1.pngWhat do you do when you're stuck between a hot spot and a spiky situation? Don't blow your jets, just shout out "Next, Please!" It's the answer to your problems, your creatures turned into stone steps or shields, in this way cool puzzle platform game by Vyacheslav Stepanov.

The trick is no sweat to pick up: play the [arrow] keys to move about, tap that [spacebar] to go solid, then hit [X] when the situation gets too stacked up and you'll blow those cubes (last one first). Be sly, save some orange creatures if you want to make the scene with high scores—their numbers are limited. If you run into bad news, [R] gives you another go. It has the same feel of The Company of Myself yet Next, Please lays on its own style of solid good time. It's real smooth, too, in the difficulty progression; there's the right amount of hand-holding as things slide up from easy peasy to a tad tough. With your hep skills and tuned-in smarts, you'll catch the vibe quickly, earning seventy-two stars and finishing twenty-four levels in a breeze.

Play Next, Please


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Rating: 4.2/5 (59 votes)
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TrickyNeon Race 2If there's been one genre that needs better representation in flash gaming, it's the forward-scrolling racer. And specific kind too: after all, when you walk out of a dark movie theater and want to drop five bucks in quarters before leaving, you're gonna crave something involving pavement, police cars, turbo-boosts, ramps, and a significant chance of flipping over if you so much as tap a lamppost with your grill. It takes a lot of programming skill to program such an arcade recreation in flash, and when someone pulls it off, like longanimals has with Neon Race 2, it's always worth taking notice.

Like the title would imply, the world of the game is drenched with garish lights, high speeds, and cool wire-frame action. Gameplay is simple, but addictive: go fast, attack enemies, avoid obstacles, win races, purchase upgrades, go faster. It's worth mentioning here that the Prize Money for each race is actually the amount of cash-bonuses on the track, not something you automatically get for victory. Until you pick up on the logic there, you may feel a little short-changed. Minor quibbles aside, Neon Race 2 is fun, pretty, and heart-racing. Plus... there's also a motorcycle. How can you not be on board?

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  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (43 votes)
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ArtbegottiCalcuDoku LightConceptis returns once again with another installment of their Conceptis Light series. This time, they've combined a logic puzzle you love with the school subject you've always dreaded. Aside from gym class. Actually, they should really find some way to blend gym class with Slitherlink... How cool would that be? Get on that, Conceptis. Anyway, today we introduce to you CalcuDoku Light, a perfect marriage between sudoku and mathematics, and similar in concept to the previously reviewed KenKen.

As with traditional sudoku puzzles, your goal is to fill the grid with digits so that no number appears more than once in a row or column. However, unlike sudoku, there are no 3x3 cages that require the unique digit rule, but you're given mathematical hints to numbers that go in smaller cages. For example, if the clue in a cage of three boxes reads "12+", you know that the three digits in that cage must add up to 12. You might use a combination of 1-5-6, 3-4-5, or 2-4-6. Similarly, "12x" means that the product of the numbers in the cage will be 12. Cages with division and subtraction clues will always contain two boxes, with the quotient or difference shown as the hint. (If no symbol is attached to the hints in the cages, look above the grid on the right side to see the operation that applies to all of the cages in the puzzle.)

Throwing down the digits is as simple as clicking on a box, then clicking the number you'd like to place there. If you want to pencil in possible numbers before you run with a more definite decision, you can click the smaller square in the lower-left corner of each box. When you mouse over a cage, the possible solutions are displayed below the grid, giving you a sneak peak of all of your options. Fill in the entire grid, and you're golden!

Thirty puzzles await you, ranging in size from 4x4 to 6x6. They might not be terribly hard for someone familiar with these puzzles, but this selection of puzzles is perfect for newcomers to this hybrid puzzle. It only takes a little bit of number sense to play, but you might find CalcuDoku hard to put down.

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  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (104 votes)
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ArtbegottiSwindlerWe interrupt this game review to bring you this special news bulletin. Police are on the lookout for a burglar that's been stealing gold coins all across the city. Police describe the robber as small, green, slimy, and capable of turning your world upside down to get what he wants. He's Swindler, and he's climbin' in your sewers and grabbin' all your coins in this tricky gravity-based navigation game from Nitrome.

You take the role of the notorious Swindler, a green blob that can dangle himself from a fixed point. Your task is to reach the treasure chest at the Best of Casual Gameplay 2012end of each level (possibly grabbing some star swag along the way). You can use the [down] and [up] arrow keys to lengthen and shorten your dangle appendage, but you can generally only dangle straight down. To get around corners, you can use the [left] and [right] keys to rotate everything around you, allowing you to exploit gravity to take you through new passages. In later levels, you might be required to carry an object to aid your heist; use the [space] bar to pick it up and drop it.

As you progress through the many rooms to be plundered, new enemies and traps, such as floating slimes that can bump you against walls and jumping slimes that can absorb you with one touch. These enemies might be a bit too powerful, such as the orange spiky blocks that provide a free sample of insta-death with a single touch, whether by Swindler himself or his dangling rope. However, perhaps these strict requirements are there to emphasize that this is somewhat of a stealth game at heart, where planning and patience are required to perpetrate the perfect payday. Dangle with caution, because danger lurks around every corner for the world's slyest slimeball!

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  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (50 votes)
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coryMagnet KidSince the dawn of modern science one question has continued to elude mankind's search for answers: magnets... how do they work? It's a good thing we've got Magnet Kid, a puzzle platformer by Strange Studios to help us muddle through the magnetic mystery. As the titular polarity-switching robot, it's your job to search for some arms, avoid spikes and maybe learn a little about magnets on the way. Like certain other games about robots, however, Magnet Kid won't reveal its secrets without inflicting a little pain.

Run around with the [arrow] keys, press [A] to jump and press [S] to switch between red and blue polarities. Magnet Kid is attracted to objects of the opposite polarity and repelled by objects of the same polarity. These concepts are used in a variety of ways; for example, deadly lasers aren't so deadly if you're the same polarity as they are, while you can hitch a ride on a moving platform by changing to the opposite polarity and sticking to it. Your goal is typically to reach the exit portal at the end of each level, though sometimes you'll need to drag a key along with you by sticking it to yourself.

Make no mistake: Magnet Kid is tough. Neither polarity will save you from the killer spikes and mines strewn about the levels. Even these hazards can become the least of your worries as the game bombards you with polarity-switching madness. One early puzzle involves coordinating polarity swaps to perform high jumps over obstacles while ensuring you don't jump too high into the spiked ceiling, and that's really one of the easier levels in the big picture. There's infinite lives, thankfully. You'll be using quite a few.

All of this is tied together by a hyperactive presentation reminiscent of an Adult Swim game. Those brave souls who face the toughest gaming's got to offer and smile defiantly will love Magnet Kid; while it's not quite as tough as some other frustration platformers it's still got some bite. Besides, everyone knows that magnets are miracles. We may not understand how magnets work, but a miracle just might keep Magnet Kid alive.

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  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (61 votes)
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TrickyUnmannedThere is a new kind of soldier in the world. One who drops bombs by remote control half a world away, then goes home to their family. Some call it a cowardly, robotic way of fighting war. Others call it technology like any other, and one that keeps soliders out of danger. However, even if the greatest threat of physical injury is from a tired hand guiding a shaving blade, there will still be conflict, even if its pushed deep inside. Unmanned, a piece of interactive art by Molleindustria and Jim Munroe, lets you step into the world of one of these soldiers, a UAV pilot. More than that though, it lets you step into the world of a husband and a father and a human.

Unmanned is played entirely with the mouse. The game is displayed on a split-screen, and, as Unmanned continues, different movements will cause different actions. Dialogue choices are a large part of the game, and will affect in small, but meaningful ways how the story progresses. Clicking and dragging the mouse is required in some sections, so be sure to try everything. There are also badges to be unlocked, but they're odd and seem kinda arbitrary. Really, it's not that kind of game.

Analysis: Whether it was intentional on the part of the developers or not, Unmanned serves as an interesting counterpoint to the earlier, quite-beloved Every Day The Same Dream. The difference is that while Every Day The Same Dream had you empathize with the pains of a faceless man working in a non-descript office, living out a non-specific life, Unmanned does exactly the opposite. Here, the protagonist's bursts with color and personality, and you experience his very specific life and deal with his very specific problems. Even with this specificity, Unmanned taps into emotions so universal that it cannot help but affect on a personal level.

Though it is definitely a work open to interpretation, the overall themes of Unmanned seems to be that of anomie: the feeling that one is so pulled apart by one's conflicting roles in life and society that one becomes fragmented, isolated, alienated (...dare we say, "Un-Manned"?). One man may, in his time, play many parts, but it is only rarely that they do not step upon the others' cues. Can you maintain your individual sense of self while still connecting to the community around you? Is it possible to remain a moral individual, while serving your country in a job where anonymous violence is an everyday occurrence? When your child asks you a question with no easy answers, how do you know when to be a teacher or when to protect them from harsh truths? Certainly it is possible to not think about it through pure force of will. Many don't, and Unmanned certainly offers you the option to be a selfish jerk with absolutely no self-reflection. The bliss of ignorance is, of course, overrated, but it cannot be denied that should the unexamined life be not worth living, the examined life is not much easier. Unmanned doesn't try to answer the questions it raises, but then again, that's something the player will have to do for themselves.

UnmannedIt would be nice if Unmanned's play mechanics equaled its writing and philosophy, but they're a mixed bag. The dual-screen is a neat idea that plays well into the metaphor of inner-conflict, but its implementation is faulty. Too often one screen is only used for dialogue-clicking that will cause the game to stall if ignored, while the other will randomly cause a game over if not given the proper vigilance. Likewise, this is a game that could have used more instruction to its non-standard controls. Silly as it sounds to write out, browser gamers are trained to think something cannot be clicked unless the arrow has become a pointer finger, and, that if a developer's logo is on-screen, clicking it will pop up a website, not start the game. Finally, the loading times between sections are kind of a pain, though the available download version shows that the developers were thinking ahead on the issue.

Unmanned doesn't really challenge the stereotypes of artistic games. It's beautiful, intriguing, confusing, and a little uncomfortable. It gladly sacrifices technical accuracy of its subject matter to serve a philosophical point of view. Some will find it brilliant and amazing and others will find it pretentious and plodding. No matter what category you fall in, though, Unmanned will certainly be provocative. What else can interactive art hope for?

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  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (43 votes)
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DoraBalloonerHey there, blimpy boy, flying through the sky so fancy free... Ah, the life of the balloon! So calm and idyllic! Float around, rub up against something or another balloon making mildly inappropriate sqrrrrrk noises, get used for hilarious YouTube videos involving static and beleaguered cats... and, of course, the physics puzzles! Rocanten's easy but adorable Ballooner is packed with the titular stuff; balloon facts, balloons to be freed, balloons to be popped, and so forth.

Click to remove certain materials and try to let your balloons fly free into the wild blue yonder. While the difficulty scale is decidedly lite, there are different types of balloons with different conditions for victory and obstacles to avoid or use to your advantage to keep it interesting. Seasoned physics puzzlers with formidable skills will probably find this one a bit simple (you great big, strong, brute of a player, you), but the charming presentation, mostly reliable physics, and surprisingly interesting balloon factoids between each level makes this a perfect coffee break sort of game. Or if you're just looking for that easy, quick Seasame Street easy satisfaction of a job well done with bright colours. I won't judge.

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  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (92 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypFor those who are room escape aficionados, the cravings can hit any time of the day or night; the gnawing sensation of wanting just a nibble, something to satisfy the yearning for a tasty and delicious puzzle. Well, hanker no more for Robamimi is back, and that fabulous designer of some of the best room escapes available has brought a nutritious treat in the form of Hungry, an amusing little point-and-click room adventure that will satisfy one craving while substituting another.

HungryYes, food is the theme this time around and it is on display in this sparse yet beautiful little room just waiting for someone to come along and take a bite. Or several bites, because there's more than one consumable present. Everything we've come to expect from Robamimi is here: elegant puzzles and solutions, mellow music, an easy inventory, and even a save function. All you have to do is use the arrows on the sides of the screen to wander around and taste the challenge (and the food) as you try to solve your way out, using both the amazing built-in hint feature, the changing cursor (to indicate hot-spots worth investigating), and your own imagination. This is one of Robamimi's smaller efforts, but welcome nonetheless as a perfect snack.

Feeling a bit peckish? Want to sate the late-night cravings? Hungry is definitely the way to satisfy your hunger for a fun, logical room escape. Just be warned, though, because while Hungry may conquer your escaping hunger, it may also cause a bad case of the munchies for something more substantial than instant cup-o-noodles. Time to take a bite!

Note: The game comes in two languages, Japanese and English. To play the English version, make sure it says "Japanese" on the title screen when you begin, and vice versa. Also, if you have trouble connecting you can also try the alternate site.

Play Hungry


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (254 votes)
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DoraThe Fabulous ScreechIf you know Jonas Kyratzes, then you know his talent for crafting meaningful narratives in strange, surreal, and otherworldly settings. The short point-and-click adventure The Fabulous Screech, which takes you back to Oddness Standing from The Book of Living Magic, features more of his trademark magic, whimsy, and unexpected heart. You return to the tiny village of Oddness Standing, where the Fabulous Screech has arrived with his travelling show, and the secrets and wonders you'll encounter within might not be of the sort you were expecting. (Rated "Y" for some mildly suggestive text, incidentally.)

Best of Casual Gameplay 2012Just click to interact, exhausting conversation topics with people to find out more, and use the green arrows in the bottom-right box to move around or advance text. It's a short game, and will probably take most people less than ten minutes to breeze through, but that's not the point of it. It's almost more interactive-art than anything else, and the point isn't to rush through it to the end but to take your time and explore, clicking everywhere and absorbing the little jokes, references, and oddities. I will say, however, that The Fabulous Screech is probably the first game I have ever played that made me honestly put my face in my hands and cry very hard for some very personal reasons. My reaction may not be shared with yours, but this heartfelt little game is a wonderful piece of perspective and surrealism that definitely should not be missed. Give it a play, and then give someone a hug.

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Rating: 3.2/5 (97 votes)
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DoraViking QuestBeing a little kid is hard. The adults control the television remote, you don't get to pick your bedtimes, your parents think they're being clever when they force you to wear cute shirts proclaiming how kooky they are... and, of course, nobody lets you take part in the really cool pillaging and slaying because they think you're too small. Viking Quest is a point-and-click puzzle adventure created by Denis Mordvintsev and Konstantin Timofeev about a little Viking girl who just wants to prove she's every bit as capable as her father. Easier said than done when he won't let her come along. Geez, did you ever hear of Take Your Daughter Maraudying day buddy? I bet Erik, Baleog and Olaf never had to put up with this.

Just click around the environment and try to find a way to help her get closer to her goal. The cursor will change to a grabbing hand when you can interact, you can drag items from your inventory to a place onscreen to use them, and moving the cursor to the left or right edges of the screen will give you a green arrow if you can move to a new area. (Man, do these ancient Vikings have some sophisticated integrated UI tools or what? I just have to rely on my stupid old eyes.)

The artwork by Tani Zelensova is both adorable and beautiful, with imaginative, friendly character designs. But while it's the sort of game you can happily enjoy for its great presentation and charm, some minor annoyances keep it from being a home run. Having to wait for the little victory/failure animations to play out can get frustrating, especially when you're using items everywhere to find out what to do next... which can be fairly frequently since the lack of item descriptions in your inventory can both make it hard to identify them and lead to some obscure uses. But hey; are you going to let something like that stand in the way of capturing a beast and eternal glory? Viking Quest is cute, family-friendly fun for everyone, even if you don't have a magnificent beard to call your own.

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Rating: 4.2/5 (45 votes)
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elleelle_littleromeoandjuliet_image1.jpgShakespeare forgot a few things when he penned his woeful tale of starcrossed lovers. Things that only tiny people living and frolicking amongst the forest greenery would know, such as: when your parental figure doesn't like your boyfriend, there's nothing like a heroic gesture to turn the tide. Follow along as Little Romeo and Juliet's love is tried and tested in this super sweet spot-the-difference game by Difference Games.

In each of the eight story pages, find and click on the differences between the two nearly identical pictures—the quicker you are, the higher your score. You can play more than once, choosing between three levels of difficulty: easy (5 differences), medium (6 differences) or hard (9 differences). Should you get stuck, a slowly charging hint button will help you out with either a slight shake or an outright reveal. Not lengthy or overly-challenging, Little Romeo and Juliet is a sugary bite of cuteness when you have only a moment to pause for play.

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The Vault

JohnBWhen you want serious casual gaming, you want something with chutzpah. You need to harness the power of anger and boulder tossing and hamburger grilling and car repair and taking out the garbage. You need something manly, and thus have we provided you with three ultra-manly games from our well-stocked archives. What's more manly than fishing? Explodey science? Robots? Nothing, we tell you. Nothing!

  • Andrew the DroidAndrew the Droid - Bam! Robot time! ooPixel's neat-o platform game features finely-tuned puzzles that pass on just the right amount of challenge. It also incorporates lots of danger (manly!), upgrade chips to increase Andrew's abilities (manlier!), and the familiar screen rotation mechanic to move through levels (manliest?).
  • Potion PanicPotion Panic - Potions are boss. They're all liquidey and colorful, and when you mix them together, cool things happen. And those cool things usually involve explosions or awesome chemical reactions! It's no wonder Ninja Kiwi adapted the manly science to a defense game, allowing you to tug on chains to fill a cannon with various mixtures of potions to fire out different types of weaponry. Want explosions? Add more blue. Want acid? Keep blue in moderation. Need the flaming fires of Hades to come to your aid? Mix everything equally and watch the retribution! Fantastic fun, and quite the brainy experience, too, once you start upgrading and tweaking your strategies.
  • Fishing GirlFishing Girl - Oh yeah, fishing! Manly smells, invincible waterproof clothing, and capturing your own food using your wits, a fine smattering of patience, worms, and sharp pointy hooks. In Fishing Girl, you turn your serious powers to the task of rescuing someone trapped on an island. You get there by fishing for bigger and bigger fish, upgrading your lures, and casting farther and farther away, exploring new sea territory each time. It's a game up persistence and upgrades, and rescuing is a very manly pursuit. Just ask any superhero!

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


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Rating: 3.7/5 (55 votes)
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JohnBatalebyalex.gifA Tale by Alex from Digital Dreams is a side-scrolling platform adventure told in three areas at the same time. You control Alex in three worlds simultaneously, jumping, attacking, and collecting coins like synchronized swimmers gone to ground. The bottom level is Alex's real self, but up above is the fantasy realm conjured by his imagination. Evil goldfish, a dark forest, and turtles the size of a Buick? Hey, if he can dream it, it can take form and attack his imaginary avatars!

The bottom world is the only place where Alex is safe. Here, he can walk through enemies and there's nothing to squish or stab him. In the middle, things start to get a bit crazier, as Alex's imagination starts to turn ordinary objects into dangerous objects. At the top of the screen is Sir Alex, knight extraordinaire. The toughest enemies and the biggest obstacles are packed here, so naturally you'll want to put a little more attention on the knight than the other versions of Alex.

Control Alex using the [arrow] keys and tap [Z] for a melee attack. Melee has a very short range, so don't rush into things before you've assessed the situation. When you have a long range weapon, you can fire it using the [X] key. Keep an eye on your ammo, though, because Alex can't carry an infinite supply of rubber bands around!

When one of the upper characters dies, you still have control of real Alex and the surviving avatar. Keep pressing ahead and you can often resurrect the fallen character by passing a certain point in the stage. If both top characters die, your game ends. Fear not, though, for A Tale by Alex includes an in-game shop you can use to purchase items between rounds. Gather coins and points, meet your inevitable doom, then buy better weapons, armor, and keys to unlock treasure chests at the shop. Then, saddle up and do it again!

Analysis: A Tale by Alex employs an increasingly familiar mechanic of controlling multiple characters with the same key strokes. Games like Jack in the Box use the same sort of design, though in Alex's case, the multiple screens/characters plays a much more important and artistic style of role.

Controlling Alex is simple, but minding two or three versions of him is anything but. Most of the obstacles are similar or identical between the worlds, but you can't count on symmetry to get you through the day. Keeping the characters lined up and watching their actions across the screen takes some getting used to. Even when you've got that down, you'll find yourself staring at the game over screen on many occasions. The nature of A Tale by Alex is focused on replays, and the more you play, the more stuff you can buy in the store, making your in-game time much easier.

While a lot of players may find the voice acting endearing, I found it a bit on the excessive side, giving speech to Alex far too frequently for my taste. The sense of wonder and imagination is unique, however, and since this is a tale by a child, you can expect an appropriate sense of fun, even when a goldfish drowns you with water.

A Tale by Alex is charming no matter how you cut it, and the divided screen makes for an interesting gaming experience. It's challenging to get used to splitting your attention, but when you get it, it's a much smoother game than you might imagine!

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Rating: 3.7/5 (36 votes)
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TrickyCaptain CommanderCaptain Commander: Defender of the Galaxy! Crash-landed on an alien planet, it's up to him and the trusty blaster at his side, to run, jump, shoot, drive and fly across the landscape, decimating the population and rescuing his comrades from their probe-happy captors. A fine retro run-and-gun action game from Pixeljam and Adult Swim, there'll be much havoc to wreak, and a score of green things to insult before the mission is over.

Though the game features different variations of action, generally the controls remain the same: [WASD] to run, jump and duck, or to steer your vehicle, and the mouse or [numberpad] to fire your weapon. Power-ups will improve your rate of fire or give a boost to your health, and rescuing captives grant you bonus points. Watch out though: some levels feature surveillance cameras, and getting in their line of sight will call forth some furious reinforcements. You and the Captain make it happen!

The folks at Pixeljam are masters of excellent retro-styled games that feel like they should have been, even if they never were. Captain Commander is no different. Gameplay is as simple as "aim at the alien to make them go boom", true, but, as a game, it does simple well. Its variety of levels draws from a host of early arcade inspirations: a driving level straight out of Moon Patrol, interior sections with a Bonanza Bros. feel to them, and a climax that owes a debt to Defender. The quips that the Captain and his foes trade is often chuckle-worthy, and, since it draws from a fairly large pool of text, new banter constantly pops up. The landscapes and creatures have the colorful pallete and imaginative designs that could be exactly what a Spaceman Spiff game for the Atari would look like. One drawback is the implementation of the shooting system: limiting shooting to eight directions is apropos to the retro aesthetic, but detrimental to gameplay. Also, does anyone really like gun-overheating mechanics? Have the words "Boy, I sure enjoy being minced by enemy lasers until a flashing bar arbitrarily decides to let me shoot again!" ever been spoken aloud? Doubtful. Having said this, Captain Commander is a short but sweet blast from the pixelated past, and well worth the nostalgia trip.

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Mobile Monday

JohnBWord games everywhere! Word games galore! Except, there's just one word game, but it's really fun, so let's pretend! There's also crazy RPG running game and a game with cherries and a guy with really long legs. And if you thought "hey, I know what long legs are!", you're probably wrong, because this guy's legs are really long.

mrlegs.gifMr. Legs - Would you just look at those magnificent legs! They're stunning! So are those cherries floating around the screen! Tap and slide to make Mr. Legs grow taller or shorter, depending on where he needs to be to avoid enemies or nom some fruits. The longer his legs, the faster he walks, but the faster he walks, the more difficult it will be to disarm traps and stay away from the bad guys flying around. A simple but phenomenally fun game that will trap you with its visual style right from the start!

wordtrain.jpgWord Train - Tailor-made for a casual crowd with a great visual package and perfectly tuned difficulty, Word Train combines quiz-like elements with a little word creation, similar to 7 Little Words (iOS/Android). The train stops at a series of stations, each with a particular theme (cars, countries, foods, etc.). While there, you are given a handful of clues and a pocketful of train carts, each with two letters on its side. Using the clues, or your own awesome spelling skills, tap letter pairs to form words and send the train off on its merry way. A smartly-designed game with new puzzles every day. Hard to say no to that!

triggerknight-ios.jpgTrigger Knight - The browser version of this one button running/survival/RPG game from MINTSPHERE was mentioned back in December, but now with a strong mobile port, you can take the same dash-n-slash action everywhere you go! The basic premise is this: you are a knight running across a field. Every so often you encounter an enemy and automatically do battle. You also pass armor, weapon, and healing shops that can upgrade your gear or refill your hit points. You don't participate in the battles, you just decide where to spend the gold, creating a fabulous one-way adventure that only ends when you run out of health. Also available for iPhone and 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 an Android 2.2 device as well as any applicable tablet devices.


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Beat Sneak Bandit

JohnBNo one ever said being a bandit was easy. Especially not a righteous This impressively creative game from Simogo (Bumpy Road, Beat Sneak Bandit! Best of Casual Gameplay 2012Kosmo Spin) combines the most basic musical elements with a visually sparse but stunning art style. The gameplay is different from just about every other iOS game out there, and you'll absolutely fall in love with it from the very first level!

So, how exactly does a stealth rhythm game work? Very much like a one button game, in the case of Beat Sneak Bandit. Each of level has a thumping back beat you can easily capture with your ears. If you can't, an icon at the top of the screen visually nudges you along. To move, simply tap along with the beat. By timing your moves right, you can sneak around the mansion, turn yourself around, climb stairs and avoid traps. It's easy to get the hang of, but mastering it is another story entirely.

beatsneakbandit.jpgNot only do you have to move with the beat, the obstacles and enemies change in time with the music as well. They may follow different patterns, but everything is thumping along to the same track, making it easy to predict the best time to move. This also adds a bit of strategy to the mix, in that your character can only turn around when he bumps into a wall. Some walls retract on certain beats, so if you want to turn around, you'll have to start your run at precisely the right time!

Beat Sneak Bandit adds another layer of challenge by spreading clocks throughout each level. You can gather as many of these as you like (or, as many as you are able to), the more the merrier. Completing the level only requires you find the "exit" clock, and if you fail too many times, you're given the option of skipping the stage for the time being. This opens up the wide world of "going back to replay levels so you can get a perfect score", which is a fantastic bit of fun in this wacky game.

beatsneakbandit2.jpgAnalysis: So this whole "tap along with the beat" business makes this iOS game a bit on the easy side, right? Oh, no no no no! In fact, Beat Sneak Bandit's difficulty is rather unique in the gaming world. Instead of juggling multiple tasks, puzzling out puzzles, or trying to make pixel-perfect moves, you're tasked with keeping a beat in the front of your mind while monitoring a number of obstacles at the same time. Even though everything is dancing to the beat, you can't just tango your way through to the end.

Downsides? Drawbacks? Gameplay omissions or programming snafus? Never! Beat Sneak Bandit is beautifully tuned to meet and exceed your highest gaming expectations. It's simple to play but difficult to master. There's as much or as little challenge as you like, depending on how thorough you want to be. The visuals are crisp, clear, modern and vivid. And the music somehow manages to emulate various styles while retaining its simple, easy to follow background beat. Beat Sneak Bandit never trips on its own design!

A wonderful iOS game no matter your genre preference or l337 ski11z at gaming. Even if you don't consider traditional music games to be your thing, Beat Sneak Bandit is almost worth getting an iOS device just so you can play it!


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Rating: 4.3/5 (122 votes)
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Dungeon King

coryWhat is best in life? Some might say it's to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women. I see it differently; my vote is for leveling up. That moment when your XP bar rolls over and you hear that joyous ding just makes my heart flutter. If you feel the same way, it's time to meet Dungeon King (Demo), an action-RPG from Bulletproof Arcade filled with monsters to smash, gold to loot and experience bars to fill. While the full version costs money, it costs you nothing to check out this free flash demo and rampage a while

Dungeon KingControl your barbarian hero with the [WASD] keys, then move the mouse to aim and click to slash. (Hold down the mouse button to attack continuously.) You'll learn new skill attacks as you level up; press the [spacebar] to use these and [shift] to switch between them. Monster genocide earns you experience points and at each level you get five skill points to boost stats like damage, critical rate and armor. Maxing out each stat earns a unique and powerful perk ability. Enemies, scenery and chests also spew gold all over the place which you can spend on gear to further boost your stats. Press [tab] to open the game menu where you can manage your stats and visit the store, which is automatically updated with new gear every floor or so.

There's no cinematic plot here aside from a short introductory cutscene; it's just you, a dungeon, and an army of bad guys who need a good axing. The closest thing to a puzzle involves putting a key in a door after stomping all the monsters guarding said key into goo. It's a good thing, then, that Dungeon King has a good grasp of the fundamentals, and combat is fun and responsive. Based on your stat choices you'll find the most success by either wading into the hordes head on or dancing around the outside of groups hacking away at stragglers. Later monsters have more varied attacks that you'll need to contend with such as ranged blasts or radial shockwave attacks. Randomly dropped health potions are always used on the spot; if you're already full the health is converted straight to experience. Since the only ways to heal in the game are through these potions, levelling up and death it pays to be cautious. The death penalty of a small percentage of your gold is so minor, however, that it seems like this was a conscious decision made to keep the game simple for casual players.

Analysis: Fans of Diablo and Torchlight will enjoy Dungeon King, but it's worth noting that this game deviates from the norm in a few key ways. For instance, there's no way to heal on command. Likewise, there's also no inventory management beyond purchasing new gear and selling old gear; enemies drop only gold and potions and older gear tends to be useless, not to mention there's only one type of weapon, so generally you'll buy new items when you can afford them and just sell off all of your older items. This also means that generally it's better to focus your stat points on damage-based stats rather than resilience; the faster enemies die, the less likely they are to chip away at your limited health.

Dungeon KingThere's also a bit less character customization than other similar action RPGs. You can customize your character's stats and gear to your heart's content but there's only three attack skills available and you always get them all in the same order. You can upgrade your attack skills if you'd like but it's equally effective to ignore them and focus on stats. It's really a matter of personal preference. It's also not possible to customize your character's appearance. All in all this makes Dungeon King an experience that's perfect for casual players or players who aren't looking for endless depth. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; if you're in the mood for a straight up hacking and slashing rampage, this is your game.

Something also needs to be said for Dungeon King's presentation. Dungeon King's graphics are very impressive and the game would look right at home on the PSP or Xbox Live Arcade. It looks great and it's actually a little surprising that this runs entirely in Flash instead of Unity, an engine more well-known for visually intense games. The game looks absolutely beautiful, even if the character models are tiny, and the detail to the environments is top notch. It's the sort of presentation you always hope to see in a browser game, but rarely do.

Dungeon King is available as a demo that allows you to explore the first three dungeon levels. Since you won't have much time to level up, you'll probably only see the first of the three skills and you won't get a chance to play with any of the perk abilities. The full version costs $9.99 (still playable in your browser) and expands the dungeon to 12 levels, which will allow you to further develop your character and also includes a variety of new monsters, traps and items. Since the game has some dynamic generation in the background as well, it's possible to play through it repeatedly and experience something new each time. The demo is a must-see for RPG fans; given the dynamic content generation and quality of the game overall it's also easy to recommend the full version. While it lacks the depth of mechanics that other similar games may have, Dungeon King is still an extremely polished and addictive hack-and-slash fantasy experience that casual fans looking to have some time filled (or devoured) will welcome with open arms.

Play Dungeon King (Flash Demo)

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the full version

LinuxLinux:
Get the full version


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (36 votes)
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Dear Esther

JohnBDear Esther is an interactive story told through a first person adventure setting. There's very little gameplay to speak of, just a deep mystery about the deserted island you're walking on, along with unanswered questions surrounding a horrific crash and a book written by a long-lost explorer. What happened in this dreary place? And, better yet, can you find a way out?

Dear EstherTalking too much about the plot of Dear Esther ruins half of the experience, so this article is going to remain delightfully spoiler-free. All you need to know is that the game follows a standard first person control layout, using [WASD] to march around and the mouse to look at things. You can't jump, you can't run, you can't pick up things and stash them in an inventory. All you need to do is walk around the island, investigate the sights, and breathe in the story.

Dear Esther began as a mod for Half-Life 2 back in 2008. It received almost universal praise for its design and atmosphere, sparking an overhaul that improved the graphics and tweaked the level layouts. The project continued to grow until early 2012 when the completed version, reviewed here, was released.

Dear EstherAnalysis: Dear Esther is a slow game that doesn't try to satisfy your craving for action, high scores, achievements, or bacon collecting. It's an experimental, minimalist game that focuses on storytelling and light exploration, giving you the chance to settle down for an honestly intriguing tale. Everything from the writing, voice acting, and linear walking paths keep you focused on the story at hand. Dear Esther is an empty world, and because of that emptiness, you'll find it easier to step inside the protagonist's shoes and experience the game first hand.

Citing any faults in Dear Esther is tricky, as most of what players would consider drawbacks are intentional limitations imposed to keep the game (and the player) focused. The walking speed, for example, is barely faster than a crawl. Any faster, though, and you wouldn't notice the little details strewn about the land. The path you follow often feels like a simple walk from point A to point Z, but there's no puzzle to solve or task to complete, so you're not supposed to worry about things like that!

Dear Esther is an unusual experience, but it absolutely succeeds at what it sets out to do. Atmosphere, setting, emotion, and story are the pillars its world is built upon, and as soon as you start the game and see that flashing red light in the distance, you'll want to see it through to the end. There's only about two hours of play time, but if you kick back with the lights low and headphones on, it's better than any movie you could see.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free original mod (requires Half-Life 2)
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the free original mod (requires Half-Life 2)
Get the full version


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Weekend Download

JohnBIf you were given an apple, an orange, a bag full of thumb tacks, and a yearly subscription to I Just Made This Name Up magazine, could you turn it into a game? Maybe by rolling the fruit along the ground to see how many tacks you could collect before hitting the magazine fort? Fortunately, you don't have to be that creative to enjoy the fruits of other folk's creativity, as this weekend's collection of freeware games nicely illustrates!

verminest.gifVerminest (Windows, 20MB, free) - A master of the indie scene for both retro games and creative shmups, the latest game from Locomalito (Viriax, L'Abbaye des Morts, 8-bit Killer, Hydorah) has masterfully mixed an ancient arcade classic with 50s sci-fi movie charm. Fly around while shooting bug aliens that swoop in from above. The more daring you are, the more medals you earn, and with more medals comes more bonuses! The coolest part of the game, though, is switching visual modes, toggling between 3D, normal, and old movie styles while you play. It's stylish and it's loads of shooting-type fun!

coop.gifCo-Op (Mac/Win, 13MB, free) - Perhaps this week's game with the highest cost of entry, Co-Op is a two player cooperative arcade game that requires both you and a friend use the same keyboard. Time to be social! Each player controls one ship, and the ships are bound by an elastic-like string. The only way to kill enemies is to cut them using this rope, so you've got to work together to get anything done. Hilarity ensues quite often, and the game has a smart enough sense of humor to realize that. Also: go ahead and try this one solo. It's a great lobe independence training program!

thelittlequest.gifThe Little Quest (Windows, 4.5MB, free) - A simplistic platform adventure game. We've all seen that, right? Well, The Little Quest aims for something different: thorough exploration. Not only is the main aim of the game to uncover shaded parts of the world, but detailed stats are available to show you exactly what you've been up to. The game is still a work in progress, and the developer is open to feedback and suggestions. So, if you enjoy it, leave a few notes on the game's download page and help make a better 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: 3.4/5 (61 votes)
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coryVanish RainZombies! When will their hunger for flesh end?! Gamers have killed billions of them by now but they just keep coming! In Vanish Rain, a zombie shooter with defense elements by Origaming, it's time to do your part to cull the zombie legions once more. You're helping devoted sister Anna survive for 15 days in zombie-infested Riverhead City as she waits for her brother's return.

Aim with the mouse and click to fire your weapon, using the [spacebar] to reload. You'll need to blast zombies before they make it to your barricade and start chipping away at its health, since if the barricade falls, you'll fall with it. Wholesale slaughter of zombies will earn you money, which you can spend on new guns, upgrades and repairs during the intermission between each day. There's a variety of firearms available, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, so you can pick a piece that suits your style.

Along with the basic zombie-busting action in the main game, there's also a Survival mode available that challenges you to make it through 30 days rather than 15 and several Challenge levels that are unlocked as you play through the story. There's also achievements galore if you enjoy hunting them down. While the core gameplay in Vanish Rain never changes significantly, the plot is interesting and popping zombies left and right has an addictive quality all its own. Besides, it's not like we're going to run out of zombies anytime soon... go nuts!

Play Vanish Rain


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Rating: 4.4/5 (94 votes)
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elleelle_musicboxoflife_image1.pngYou know, they say that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly's wings can turn into gale force winds half-way around the world. That's why time travel agencies rigorously stipulate No Stomping on Butterflies before you're allowed passage. Some little girls haven't learned this lesson yet, so opening the Music Box of Life turns into an enigmatic story unfolding through the pages of a spot-the-difference puzzle series.

Through the magic of suspension-of-disbelief, a blithly thoughtless young lady learns that her behavior toward fluttery insects can result in either an unhappy pairing with the town bully or romantic picnics with a sensitive artist. Oh, but that's not the only difference you'll notice in these three games by FunBunGames—every scene in this pictoral narrative is presented in duplicate, side-by-side. Look closely at the artistically-rendered images for discrepancies between the two panels and you might even be stumped (no crossing your eyes now!) The differences aren't just mere ommissions; sometimes they're the more subtle reworkings of posture or style (better fitting the butterfly effect motif.) The scenes are generated randomly, so you can play again and again to uncover even more variances. The logic here's slightly inscrutable, the story wavers perversely between childishness and bitterly nightmarish drama, and still it entertains your curiosity while challenging your observational forte.

Well sure, some might make jokes about age or gender type-casting but by blending eery sci-fi, nerdy romanticism, charming graphics and immense replayability, the Music Box of Life series is brimming with appeal. As it turns out, chaos theory is actually quite fun!

Play Music Box of Life, Part 1

Play Music Box of Life, Part 2

Play Music Box of Life, Part 3


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Rating: 3.5/5 (73 votes)
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DoraHumbuggerPut on Lonely Island and do The Creep to get in the proper frame of mind to play with Ziggy Fraud one more time in Humbugger, the latest puzzle platformer from PixelContinuous. The follow-up to last year's gloriously weird and creative Humbug once again features shifty-looking Ziggy, the thief who defies the laws of physics and reality, and can't seem to stay out of trouble. This time, he's on the lam with his noble chicken steed who has to do a bit more than carry his creepy self around. Use the [arrow] keys to move, and follow the on-screen instructions for new abilities as they become available.

Humbugger features the same slightly off-kilter design and premise that made the original so great, with a slightly more updated visual style that makes the graphics look a bit smoother overall. Unfortunately, Humbugger features considerably more straight-up platforming and projectile dodging than it does funky reality warping. The one-hit KO and slow movement feel a lot more frustrating this time around, and while the off-beat concepts are still floating about and the game is still enjoyable for it, Humbugger doesn't quite capture the spirit of the original in the same way, but is still worth checking out for its distinctive style, setting, and concepts.

Play Humbugger


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Rating: 3.9/5 (67 votes)
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TrickyHambo 2The city of Chi-hog-o has been under the iron hoof of Pig Capone for far too long. It's up to our old friend Hambo and his new friend Bacon to use their kind words and guns to smoke out the swine lord once and for all. They're no Sean Connery, but maybe they'll do. It's Hambo 2: a Donkin RobotJAM joint.

Fans of the original Hambo should recognize the hallmarks of this puzzle shooter hybrid: the wide selection of weapons, the stringent ammo limits, the cheeky sense of humor, the slippery physics, and the comprehensive level editor. The big new inclusion to the formula are the worm-holes that appear in later levels. They might not quite fit with the prohibition-era gangster motif, but they make for some interesting puzzles. Anyways, Hambo 2 is colorful fun, and the vast number of users created levels will leave you pigging out for quite a while. Here endeth the lesson.

Play Hambo 2


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraDear Readers. How are you? We are fine. Jay told us we had to write these letters so you wouldn't suspect we are kept in little reviewer cages suggested we write to you telling you how happy we are to write for you. Each day we are fed a nutritious algae slurry through a water bottle allowed out to frolic in a sunlit glade with all the other reviewers and are absolutely not kept in line with the threat of being forced to wear itchy, humiliating sweaters whatsoever. After we finish our duties, such as this article, which we attend to willingly and with relish, we are forced to rub Jay's feet given reassuring cuddles while Jay coos to us about how very special we are and serves us hot cocoa before storytime. Send help.

Play PeepDesign Meets Marshmallow Chickens Do you know what's lovely? A nice clean set of aesthetics. Not necessarily just "pretty art", but a game that looks all around smooth, polished, and well thought out no matter what sort of style it's going for. That's what makes Play Peep so great; it's a Tumblr dedicated to showcasing some of the best design and style in all sorts of games, from browser to iOS. Play Peep just presents these images and screencaps (and even icons) without much commentary, but it's still a great way to get you thinking about why these games look and feel so amazing, and should provide some great inspiration too.

Next Frictional GameNo Giggling at THESE Ghosties Amnesia: The Dark Descent was a terrifying game. Frictional Games effortlessly created an environment of absolute tension and terror that stuck with you long after you turned off the game.(As well as leading to one of the most hysterical user created gameplay videos I've ever seen but can't link to for all the genuine shrieking of profanity.) Well, surprise, fear lovers! Next Frictional Game is a website that popped up this week and should get your heart pitty-patting even if it's just a teaser right now. Adventurous or otherwise clever souls will find scant extra information other than the image and the map linked by it, but you can peek at the page source to get a little more clue as to what's going on. Are you excited? You'd better be!

Hasbro and Zynga... Sittin' In A Tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G... If you're a big Facebook gamer, then you probably know Zynga as the people behind various 'Villes and Wars. If you like brightly coloured cartoon equines, then you probably know Hasbro as part of the driving force behind another particular 'Ville, amoung other things. On February 9th, Zynga announced it had gone into partnership with Hasbro, which is of course no guarantee you're going to see My Little PonyVille or Pony Wars, but should still pique your interest. Personally, I'm for whatever goes with less Farmville Bucks stickers showing up on my heads of cauliflower when I'm shopping for curry ingredients.

Skywire ExtendedDirector's Cut, But With Pixels Nitrome has a pretty big fan following, which is sort of like saying tidal waves are sort of damp, but this fan-made extended version of Skywire VIP is still pretty remarkable. The game by Max Schramp and Duncan Smith, playable here and made with Scratch, has a ton of levels packed full of more adorable itty-bitty visual trivia that's a faithful recreation of the original game. Perhaps even more remarkable, however, is that Nitrome has approached these talented fans to combine their talents and work on making it a full release on Nitrome's official site. Now that's teamwork... and some impressive affection on both sides! Keep your eyes peeled for this one.

The Hunger Games for iOSFeast on This Hurray for Adam Atomic! Hurray for Daniel Baranowsky, Kevin Coulton, Mark Johns, Kert Gartner, Paul Veer, and Ozone Sound & Music! Hurray for depressing dystopian futures! Why? Because this indie team of crazy talent has been tagged by Lionsgate Studios to create the official iOS game tie-in for the Hunger Games movie, which opens March 23rd. If you've read and enjoyed the original trilogy by Suzanne Collins, then this is great news, but it's also great news if you just like awesome indie talent getting rightfully noticed. Check out the blog entry to learn more!

DreamrunnerDreeeeeeeam WEAVAH! If you love jump-and-run games like Canabalt but find them a little mindless and light in the story department, developers we.R.play have heard your cries and are about to answer them like some great... avenging... game... company... thing! Dreamrunner, coming soon to your iOS (iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone 3GS and above) blends story with beautiful action as you play a night-spirit named Nitro tasked by the God of Dreams to chase down all the dreams scattered throughout the realms after the god's tower crumbles. The game's surreal, achingly lovely design combined with that gloriously speedy action makes it look like a perfect fit for iOS, so stay tuned for this one, and in the meantime check out the official site for more screenshots, a trailer, and artwork!

Defender's QuestProductivity is Overrated Apart from a few bug-fixes, Level Up Labs' indie tower-defense RPG time-destroying dynamo Defender's Quest hasn't really had any major updates. I just wanted to tell you that you should try the demo and then buy it if you hadn't already. Because I sat down at the computer today meaning to get some writing done and somehow wound up playing this, again, for several hours. And by the Nine Divines, if my free time has to go out the window whenever my eye falls upon this icon on my desktop, so too must yours. (Seriously, check it out.)


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Rating: 3.8/5 (26 votes)
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TrickyGreedy GhoulsHave you ever had a legion of avaricious specters try to mess with you as you hang out around your money tree, forcing you to break out the ectoplasmic shotguns to fend them off? If so, please let us know what it's like, since it's probably a situation most of us won't encounter in our lives. Still, we can get an incredibly simulation of it in Greedy Ghouls, new from Christopher Gregorio. An action game with elements of the arena shooter and defense genres, it's kind of a miss-mash of competing ideas, but overall, a very entertaining one.

Move, jump and double jump your ghostly avatar with the [WASD] keys, and fire upon them by clicking the mouse. Defeating enemies grants you cash, which can be used to purchase upgrades or turrets to help you protect your tree. Also, collecting rings gives you a cash bonus, and getting three in a row without being hurt enters "windfall mode" for a 2x multiplier. If you have enough cash, [spacebar] will upgrade your weapon, and [E] will enter the Turret Shop. The goal is to fill up the "Kill Meter" at the bottom of the screen. However, you probably won't succeed the first time around, but by completing tasks, your money tree will be upgraded for the next time you reincarnate. On the pause screen is a "suicide" option, which is definitely helpful for when you unlock tasks that must be completed on specific days. In conclusion: BOO!

Greedy Ghouls can be a little confusing at first. Visually, it's starkly beautiful, but with all the ghouls and ninja stars and explosions happening on-screen, things definitely get a busy on-screen. However, once you get used to the chaos, the game really starts being a lot of fun. It dedicates itself to switching up the standard tropes of the "run around, blast enemies, get upgrades" genre, and, though the mechanics get unusual at times, overall it succeeds. In short, Greedy Ghouls is something that feels a little different; a solid base with ideas that deserve to be expanded upon. That it's also an enjoyable time-waster too, is, of course, of no little importance. Boredom doesn't stand a ghost of a chance!

Play Greedy Ghouls


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Rating: 4.1/5 (53 votes)
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TrickyRod Hot's Hot Rod RacingAre you a totally maniacal-cyclist, but need an upgrade to your ride? Does your local terrain have too much flatness and nowhere nearly enough ramps? Then come on down and check out Rod Hot's Hot Rod Racing, new from Turbo Nuke, for all your racing action needs. No money down! Bring the kids!

As implied above, the gameplay is very close to that of the team's Cyclomaniac series, though with a greater emphasis on the vehicles themselves. True, the "lean forward and back to land jumps" conceit (with its crazy amount of roll-overs), makes even less sense with hot-rods than with mini-bikes. However, you can't blame someone for sticking with a proven concept, even if the implementation here is a little grindy. What you can blame the developers for, though, is the lack of documentation. The upgrade system is quite comprehensive, and it's really fun customizing your car to fit the different of the impressively varied tracks. But waiting around for pop-up hints to explain what each auto-part does is tiresome, especially since some effects have only tenuous connections to their respective upgrade. For instance, your acceleration gets a boost depending on the type of decal you have, and that seems more appropriate for "Hot Wheels" than "Hot Rods". That said, even if Rod Hot's Hot Rod Racing doesn't quite reach the heights of its spiritual predecessor, and happens to take place in a universe where, to use the Ork parlance, da red wunz go fasta, it still delivers photo-finish racing action with the Turbo Nuke polish we know and love.

Play Rod Hot's Hot Rod Racing


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Rating: 3.7/5 (59 votes)
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Kyhkyh_thesungoestospace_title.pngIn a land where everything is drawn with colored pencils and everyone is a stick figure with some encouraging words... the planets (plus Pluto) have been kidnapped and there's only one thing that can save them... the sun!

That's right, in the new physics puzzler by Jesse T Gonzalez, The Sun Goes to Space, you control the sun in its rescue attempt. Click on a magnet with your mouse to begin the process and collect all the stars on the level. Once you reach the last level of a stage, your goal becomes the planet itself. As you progress through the stages, you will find that this is definitely a game of high difficulty. Unless you become a master at the game physics, many of the levels will take several tries. The cute graphics and words of stick figure inspiration should keep you going at it. After all, don't you want to know if the hero wins the girl/saves humanity/survives to live another day?

Play The Sun Goes to Space

Sqr


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Rating: 3.9/5 (54 votes)
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JohnBsqr.gifSqr is a retro-styled gravity-based puzzle game from Denis Shilo and Constantine Zaytsev. It looks all simple and unassuming on the surface, what with its 8-bit pixel art and plain tile layout, but once you get twisted within its arrows and buttons, boxes and automated turrets, you'll stop thinking "sokoban" and start thinking "crazy logic puzzle that's trying to kill me"!

The set-up is as follows: you're trapped in a facility, you're a lab rat, and you want out. That's motivation enough for us! Use the [arrow] or [WASD] keys to move and the [spacebar] to interact with things. Learning to use the gravity arrows to move around the screen is crucial to understanding the game. When you're in front of one, simply tap the [spacebar] to activate it, instantly rotating you, any boxes on the screen, and any enemies wandering around to the new pull of gravity.

The controls, which take some time to get used to, don't rotate with the character, so to move towards the bottom of the screen, you'll always press [down]. If you're hanging from the ceiling, tapping the same key will cause you to jump. In other words, the controls are relative to the screen, not to the character. It doesn't create too many problems while you're tugging crates around to press buttons or blocking turrets from blasting you, but when you have to jump across gaps and switch gravity in mid-air, expect a mistake or two, even after you've got a dozen levels under your belt.

Short but creative, Sqr keeps the challenge running through to the end with a smart mix of logic and wacky gravity alteration. Leave your sense of mental rotation behind and you'll do just fine!

Play Sqr


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Rating: 4.2/5 (85 votes)
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joyeSuper Samurai SweeperOne of Nerdook's first games was the minesweeper-inspired mystery puzzle ClueSweeper, and obviously he has a soft spot for the genre because he's dipping in that well again to bring you Super Samurai Sweeper. This one ups the strategy quotient by making your tiny samurai's path to revenge against the shogun one-way only: you can't go back and grind earlier levels, so if you plan badly in the beginning you can get stuck in an unwinnable gamestate. Just make sure you think carefully and if you're worried, choose an easier difficulty level.

In each of seven daimyo levels plus the final shogun level, you're presented with a large board with tiles. You only have a limited number of clicks to find and defeat the boss. Click on tiles to flip them over. The territory effects (whether good, like bonus silver, or bad, like a booby trap) will automatically trigger, and if there is a party of mooks there, you can click again to fight them, which will make the final boss fight easier, as all undefeated mooks join the boss. You'll be able to see some things about the adjacent tiles which will help you decide where to click next. Footprints on tiles are especially important, as they indicate the direction of the boss. During levels, you can spend silver at a shop to buy things like extra time and better armor, and in between levels, you can spend experience to upgrade and expand your party.

During the battles themselves, the only way you can affect the tide of battle is by clicking on one of three specials (assuming you have enough kill-fueled chakra in your bar to unleash them), and you can also use this chakra to resurrect fallen party members. For the most part the AI is pretty good, but the archer has a disturbing tendency to either forget he's a glass cannon and charge right up to the boss, or stand stupidly outside of range and fire arrows at the ground. Maybe the ground insulted his grandma. The real fun of the game is in the main minesweeping sections. Since leftover clicks translate into major experience and final score bonuses, you want to hoard them, yet you also need to make sure you're ready for the boss, because dying wipes out anything you've earned in-level and dings your score to boot. Even which daimyo to fight first is a tactical decision, since different daimyos increase the difficulty in different ways (increasing mook numbers vs. buffing a certain class of mook for example). Truly a game for the cerebral ronin.

Play Super Samurai Sweeper


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Rating: 3.7/5 (92 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypAlthough many room escape aficionados prefer long, complicated escapes, sometimes there's enjoyment to be found in brevity, especially if it's done correctly. Dghgbakufu is one designer who knows how to do short and sweet well, and they are here with Chikarou 3, a quick and yet fun little dungeon escape that is perfect for the mid-week break.

Chikarou3The rules are simple, wander around the area and solve a few problems to make it to the outside, none of the usual dungeon escaping methods like digging or tunneling required. It should be noted that Chikarou 3 is definitely not the game for the colorblind, since practically every puzzle in this brief adventure is color-based. And this is indeed a very short game, with basically three main puzzles to solve to escape the rather light and airy concrete structure that you are trapped in. What we're looking at is room escaping stripped to its very essence: small area, no music, very small inventory (room for 3 items), and a single point of escape.

Chikarou 3 (chikarou means dungeon) is a short yet memorable and logical little escape game, a perfect 5 minute and out exercise in escaping. Come and enjoy Monte Cristoing your way out of this amusing little dungeon, hopefully with no need for a long, protracted plan of vengeance once you've made it.

Play Chikarou 3


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Rating: 4.3/5 (32 votes)
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SonicLoverTETRISweeperSo you're bored at work. You think a quick game of Tetris might help wake you up, but at the same time a game of Minesweeper sounds appealing, too. It's tough to decide between two classics, so FonGeBooN has offered a unique solution: play both at the same time! That's what TETRISweeper is in a nutshell: a unique fusion of the tetromino-sorting gameplay of Tetris and the mine-avoiding tension of Minesweeper.

Although the instructions are all in Japanese, they're fairly intuitive. You can pick one of three difficulties in Original Mode, or engineer your own in Free Mode. Your left hand controls the falling tetrominoes via the keyboard: A and D to shift sideways, W and E to rotate, and S to drop. Oh, and hit P to pause. (The keys are customizable via the Configurations screen in case those don't float your boat.) As the pieces land, they become part of the minesweeper grid at the bottom, which is where your right hand takes charge on the mouse. Click cells to uncover them, and shift-click to flag them as mines. Once a row is free of gaps and completely flagged/uncovered, it vanishes. As if the rain of blocks from above wasn't enough, whenever the blue timer bar fills, a new row of tiles will be added at the bottom. Uncover a mine or let the tiles scrape the top, and that's game.

TETRISweeper is an intense game to say the least, but surprisingly fun to fans of both its parent games. The remix of the familiar Russian beat in the background sets the stage, and you're constantly switching back and forth between the two halves of the board to keep from flubbing either one. The mashup even brings about some interesting strategies; for example, you may find yourself carefully watching the "Mines" number as the latest tetromino lands so you can tell how many mines are in it.

In short, if you're looking for a fun and unique twist on one or two old classics, look no further than the green button immediately below this paragraph.

Play TETRISweeper


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Rating: 4.3/5 (213 votes)
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TrickyMr. Bree Returning HomeWhoa... what happened last night? You remember leaving the waller around ten... Did you have one too many swigs of slop? How the heck did you end up in this stump? Where is everyone? Well, I guess it can't be helped. You'll just have to get started on the long, dusty, spike-filled road back to your pen. Mr. Bree Returning Home is an award-winning platform game by TawStudio Entertainment, taking home Best Art Game at the 2011 Brazilian Games Symposium. Only you can make sure this little piggy gets all the way home.

Mr. Bree Returning Home is a game about recollection. You start out barely able to think straight, let alone walk with the [arrow] keys. As the time and levels go on, though, you'll be able to remember such complicated maneuvers as jumping with the [spacebar], and ducking with [down]. The goal of each level is to make your way to the purple puzzle piece of your memory that lead you a little closer to home, as well as the secondary goal of getting the red puzzle piece that might remind you of how you got into this mess in the first place. And what stands in your way? Spikes. Oh, lord the spikes. Cold, unfeeling spikes. And if you're not careful, they'll have you screaming oink-le in second.

Protagonists starting with amnesia is a common game plot, but there's a reason for that: it works. Whether you're The Nameless One, a Tricky Ghost, a Knight of the Old Republic, or a suit-wearing piggy, there's something immensely driving about not knowing who you are, where you are, or, worst of all, what happened to those you love. The first mention of "Mrs. Bree and Little Bree" is an "Oh, it is ON!" moment that lasts for the entire game (especially when you get to the surprisingly spooky butchery levels). It's a good thing that the story is so compelling (and Bree's ongoing commentary so quirky and amusing), though, since the difficulty is definitely out there to rock you. The inspiration is clearly Super Meat Boy, in terms of both tightness of controls and potential for player punishment. It won't be easy to save your bacon, but those slightly-masochistic platformer fans among us should enjoy going whole hog on the challenge.

Play Mr Bree Returning Home


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The Vault

DoraRPG! What comes to your mind when you think of one? It's not as easy to pin down as it once was. After all, are you thinking of Western RPGs? JRPGs? Or to you does that mean any game that lets you level up and tack on perks and attributes? Does just thinking about someone calling a game like that last one an RPG make you want to go and get into a big sweaty nergument )that's a nerd argument) on a gaming message board somewhere? Well, chill out, bro! As this week's Vault proves, there are all kinds of different ways a game can approach or even just slightly cozy up to the genre, and there's a reason why these are just a few of the best.

  • SonnySonny - Krin Juangbhanich has made a lot of successful games over the years, but few of them can hold a candle to the firestorm he created with this tactical RPG about a zombie. In this case... you! Sonny combines an intriguing plot with satisfyingly complex combat. It's the sort of thing you can slip right into and become adept at within a few turns, neither too deep to turn off newcomers or too simplistic to be boring. It's a cinematic experience, one that starts with you waking up, freshly dead, aboard a ship where you and someone who claims to be your friend are forced to fight for your lives. It's easy to see why Sonny was, and still is, heralded as one of the finest Flash RPGs ever made, especially when you consider that the action continues in Sonny 2.
  • Monsters' Den: Book of DreadMonsters' Den: Book of Dread - Like dungeons and the crawling around within thereof? Then you're missing out if you haven't played this strategic RPG from Biclops Games. The emphasis here is decidedly more on the lovely combat mechanics than it is on the story, with the game centering more on character creation, fighting, and thinly veiled excuses to go to places and stomp the ever-loving mud out of monsters. Think Icewind Dale meets the Wizardry series... kind of. Choose from several different campaigns, design your party of heroes down to portraits (including the option to make your own), and head out to rid the world of some nastiness with the swords and de magicks. The slow, thoughtful combat that makes up the meat, potatoes, and dessert of the game might put off some players, but those that stick with it know that Monsters' Den offers up a robust and engaging tactical experience that will keep you coming back for more.
  • CaravaneerCaravaneer - Strategy? Simulation? The apocalypse? Awwwww yeah, now it's a party! Dmitry Zheltobriukhov's turn-based game of economics lets you take on the somewhat unheroic seeming mantle of trader and travel from town to settlement across this strange new land, dealing with all the hazards of the unfriendly wastes as you try to stay alive and make a name (and some money) for yourself in the process. The writing isn't exactly much more than serviceable, prone to dropping clunky bits of exposition woodenly in your lap, but if you give Caravaneer a chance to draw you in chances are you won't look back. It definitely requires a commitment, and players looking for a more simplistic experience could be put off by the inventory and stat management on top of a mildly intimidating difficulty curve. Spend a little time cuddling up with it and learning the tricks of the trade, however, and you'll soon realise why Caravaneer is such an engaging, engrossing experience.

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


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Rating: 3.6/5 (45 votes)
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TrickyHot Tub HeistThere's only one thing Frankie Hottub hates more than when hot tub-abducting aliens try to abduct Frankie Hottub's hot tub: when they steal the rest of the building along with it! Hot Tub Heist is a gloriously silly action arcade game from Beef Jack Studios.

It stars a Speedo-clad body-builder who must abandon his daily GTL routine, in order to battle through a collapsing high rise, to reach the safety of the alien-proof subway below. Hot Tub Heist is goofy, but its constant race to the bottom is a compelling premise. It never stops being cool to watch the building disintegrating around you as you try to stay a half step in front of the extraterrestrials. Gameplay doesn't really get any more complex than what's presented at the start, and, not to mince words, we would have all appreciated if the developers gave Frankie's pixelated Speedo a more distinguishing color than it has. Overall, though, action fans will find Hot Tub Heist soaks up a coffee break quite nicely.

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Rating: 4/5 (53 votes)
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TrickyCyad 2So... Think you're the Sultan of Sokoban? The Titan of Tiles? The Big Cheese of Block Pushing? HA! Let's see how you fare now that James Newcombe has come back with a new release in his popular Amiga-inspired Cyadonia series. There'll be all sorts of things to trip you up: pushblocks, dissolvers, switches, glue patches, bounce-backs, teleporters, one-way walls, and much, much more. It's Cyad 2, and it's ready to bring you all the pleasures of pure puzzling.

As before, the goal is to use the [arrow] keys to guide the Cyad Cross to the green X-it. When you tap a key, the Cross will continue in that direction until it hits a wall or another obstacle. Many levels will not unlock the X-it until all the diamonds therein are collected. Others have a time limit. New wrinkles are introduced as time goes on, like the kill-upon-collision mines and the redirecting-momentum arrows. All the levels are unlocked from the start, however, so if you get stuck, salvation is just a key tap away.

Analysis: Cyadonia was one of the sleeper puzzling hits of 2009, and Cyadonia 2 is just the perfect sequel to remind you why this game is so awesome. Its one hundred levels are nothing to sneeze at, especially when they are this good.

Cyad 2It is probably too simplistic an analysis to say that Cyad 2 captures the quality that the original had in raw quantity, but make no mistake: this is very much a streamlined game, and there are very few duds in the collection of challenges herein. The streamlining shows that Newcombe definitely paid close attention to player suggestions, and the result is the rare kind of sequel that new players will feel just as comfortable playing as old. Elements of the previous game that didn't work (most particularly the ill-fitting action elements and "slowdown" mode) are removed, and new ones more fitting to the central sobokan concept take their place. It's still filled-to-bursting with all sorts of tile-pushing ideas, but here they build upon each other much better into a unified whole.

Stylistically, unlike the original and its thematic level packs, there's more of an emphasis on the gimmicks of individual levels. The abstracted story-telling of the original was one of its high points, so it was a little disappointing at first to see it have an apparently lesser focus. However, it soon becomes clear that nothing has been lost: the levels being self-contained allow for a lot more variety in their "plots", and if a concept can be expressed in one level rather than fifteen, it makes for a tighter game overall. One thing that would have been appreciated is the return of the "Timer Off" option, since some of the limits can get pretty stringent.

Sliding block games tend to be love-em-or-hate-em affairs, but if you do love 'em, obviously you want ones that have thought and a passion for the genre evident throughout. Cyad 2 is that kind of game. All that remains is to choose some music to play in the background, since, there's no sound. The fusion-rocker in me wants the appropriately-titled Muse track, but then again, you can't go wrong with the classics.

Play Cyad 2


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Rating: 4.6/5 (25 votes)
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Rebuild for iOS

JohnBSurviving in a town overrun with zombies is tough. We get that. Scavenging for food, desperately hailing survivors, and attempting to expand your territory while fighting off infected hordes can tax just about anyone's resolve. And let's not even get into drafting a constitution with the undead knocking on your door! In the iOS version of Rebuild, the captivating zombie survival strategy simulation browser game from Sarah Northway, you get to do all of those things, plus repair a broken helicopter, raid a bar, and help scientists work on secret research projects!

reduild-ios.jpgYou begin with a few people and a few plots of land, just enough to stay alive. Expanding your territory is essential to winning (and surviving), so every turn you'll probably invest a few resources into striking out into the black unknown, just to see what's there. You can scout nearby buildings to see what they offer, and if someone happens to be there, you can attempt to recruit them. Food can often be found by scavenging empty buildings, and zombies occupy a fair number of unexplored squares. Finally, once you clear everything out, you can reclaim a piece of land to annex it into your town.

Everyone needs a place to live, so you have to make sure you've got enough homesteads to house survivors. Food is also a concern, as is happiness, so expanding to include farms and churches is also important. The real fun part, though, is uncovering unique buildings and stumbling across crazy events. Do you think a helipad might be useful? How about an infested subway system? Schoolhouse? Laboratory? Convenience store loaded with booze? Rebuild throws handfuls of interesting events your way, both good and bad, and managing them is just as fun as managing the rest of your blossoming survival camp!

reduild-ios2.jpgAnalysis: Rebuild for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch is essentially a reworked version of Rebuild 2, a game that stirred more than a little attention when it was released. The original Rebuild even took the top prize for Best Simulation or Strategy in our Best of 2011 feature! On the mobile devices, gameplay is largely unchanged. There are multiple ways to win, most of which are a secret until you stumble across them, and the point and click interface fits itself well into a poke and tap environment.

The brilliant part of Rebuild is how it manages to give you a complex game that can be played in a simple sort of way. Each character has a set of stats, for example, that determine how efficient they are at fighting, laboratory research, repairs, etc. When you assign someone a task, the game automatically chooses a well-suited candidate for you, but you can always change job assignments if you want to get down and dirty with managing your people. You can even find equipment caches that give stat bonuses, like the dog that adds offensive and leadership skills.

Rebuild is a scalable experience that lets you choose difficulty, city size, and a few other variables before the game even begins. If you've only got a few minutes, you can charge in and rescue a small city in half an hour. If you want the full Rebuild experience, though, you'll crank the difficulty up and work with a massive swath of land. Both work well in the mobile environment, as it's easy to stop in the middle of a game and pick up where you left off at a later time.

Rebuild is an excellent strategy game that performed well in the browser scene. Now that it's on portable devices, you can tote your city with you wherever you go. Be warned, though, that once you start, you won't be able to stop. Rebuild has that "just one more turn" hook that will keep you pushing to explore just one more square, liberate just one more building, and research just one more ability. It's a near-perfect casual strategy game, no matter what device you play it on!

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


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Mobile Monday

JohnBThings can get messy when you're a ball of ink. Or when you're a bug that can only live while riding on a turning gear! Those guys should switch places. An insect could do great things flying through a world of pencils, and why would ink care if it fell from a piece of machinery?

blot.gifBlot (universal) - The artsy star of the show, Blot is a stylish "cave flyer" game of avoidance that borrows liberally from games like Jetpack Joyride and Tiny Wings. It's the visual style that sets it apart from the rest, though, and those sketchy backgrounds and inky menu items will quickly earn a place in your heart. Tap the screen to encourage our little Blot friend to float higher on the screen. Avoid all the floating pencils, as they spell doom for your little adventure, and collect coins as you play. Gather little boost power-ups to grow larger in size, making it easier for you to nab items but more difficult to avoid pointy pencils. Exchange your coins for upgrades in the "Art Supplies" store (cute), where you can grab some seriously cool items that will help you stay alive longer.

papermonsters.jpgPaper Monsters (universal) - Platform games on the all-touch iOS devices don't exactly have the best reputation. After all, how do you accurately control a character when it's just fingers on glass? Paper Monsters isn't about speed or accuracy, though, and it encourages slow and careful exploration, two things that go over well when you lack physical buttons. Adventure your little cardboard self through each level, collecting buttons and golden paperclips (woo hoo!) while bopping monsters on the head to defeat them. It doesn't re-invent the platform genre by any means, but the visual design is gorgeous and the pseudo-3D brand of exploration is quite an interesting feature.

tinybang-ios.gifThe Tiny Bang Story (iPad) - We loved the game when it was released for Mac/PC in the middle of 2011, and during our Best of 2011 feature, The Tiny Bang Story walked away with Best Puzzle or Simulation game! Now, all the lovely splendor that is the downloadable game has been stuffed into your iOS device, and it's as glorious as you would have hoped. Resembling Samorost, Hapland, or Machinarium in basic design, The Tiny Bang Story is a smart point-and-click puzzle game that challenges you to re-assemble a broken world piece by piece. The artwork is hand drawn and the puzzles involve a little thinking and a lot of hidden object finding.

jumpout.jpgJump Out! (iPhone/iPod Touch) - Who can resist a cute, big-eyed insect? No iOS device owner, that's for sure! This gravity- and physics-based game features several dozen themed-levels, each packed with stars to collect, objects to work your way around, and spinning gears to ride on. Each insect you control needs to stay on one of these gears in order to keep the level active. Tap and drag on our bug friend to fling him to another gear, bouncing off of walls and grabbing stars along the way. You've got to get all the insects to the exit, and when things like air-blasting fans get in the way, it's just as much skill as it is luck to make it out successfully!

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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threedeadzed

KyhThe Lost Vikings is a great game; one of the best platformers ever. But haven't you ever wished that it had more... zombies? Well good thing for you Gentleman Squid has come along and developed this game for you. In Three Dead Zed, you play as a zombie who has three forms, each with its own abilities. Your job is to jump, climb and attack your way to the end of the level to rescue some defenseless beings.

kyh_3deadzed_screen1.jpgYou control a nameless zombie (why bothering naming them, right?) who has been trained under Project ZED to do the bidding of your makers. You can walk, jump, attack, climb ladders, and, more importantly, thanks to the DNA Smasher, take the form of two other zombies who in some aspects are more impressive than you. As a single entity, you can do anything! Even break free from your captors and escape this corporate mess... and save cats?

Move your chosen zombie around with the [arrow] keys. Attack with [Z] and interact with [X], though not all the zombies can use both functions. You cycle through the forms by using [Q] and [E], though you must be standing in a space large enough for the form you want to take. Three Dead Zed is also equipped to handle an Xbox 360 controller, so, if you have one, give it a shot. In each level, your goal is to reach a cat that really needs rescuing. Standing in your way are an array of lasers, security officers, buzzsaws and several other hazards. You'll have to utilize each zombie form to your advantage to safely get to the end. But if you happen to die along the way, that's okay. The only penalty for death is being transported back to the most recent checkpoint.

kyh_3deadzed_screen3.jpgAnalysis: There are lots of zombie games around. Many of them take the form of shooters and other such strategy games, so to see one where you not only play as the zombie, but which also comes in a platformer package is refreshing! Plus, despite all the cartoon blood and guts, it still manages to be cute with all the bright colors, old ladies and, of course, cats.

Even though Gentleman Squid was going for three characters that handle differently, the controls can feel a bit off. The agile zombie seems to run too fast as though the floor were slippery and, because the lady zombie's arms drag on the floor, she can stand on an edge when her feet are completely off it, which can throw your sense of hit detection. But these are complaints that are easily overcome after playing around on the first few levels. Really, who can blame the zombies for how they move? What do you expect for a being with only half a brain and necrotized muscles?

The developers used hand drawn graphics for this game, and the quality shows! Each zombie has its own look and personality, and you'll quickly find yourself attached to one, if not all the forms (props to the female zombie for rocking the bikini top). While the storyline leans on the strange side (yes, even for a zombie game), you'll still feel compelled to get to the end of the level just to see what the game will throw at you next. Three Dead Zed is a great platformer, and with all the hidden rooms and computer logs to find out more of the backstory, there's motivation to come back to it more than once to get the complete experience. And with a version of the game for Windows, Mac and Linux, people of all OSes can get themselves some zombie time. Help break the mold for these creatures so inconsiderately portrayed as mindless!

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the full version

LinuxLinux:
Get the full version


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Weekend Download

JohnBWeekend... INITIATE! Now that your non-week is underway, it's time to fill your time with time-eating games. Not only will you learn valuable life lessons, you'll feel good that you aren't just sitting around eating cheesecake again!

hubris.gifHubris (Windows, 6MB, free) - A retelling of the card game Arcomage (recognizable to browser game fans as Castle Wars) in AGS form, this delightfully old school game is all about besting your opponent by, well, playing your cards right! You have a tower, three resource pools, a wall protecting your tower, and a hand of cards. Your opponent has the same. Each of you take turns playing cards that can damage the other player, tear down structures, or tinker with resource pools. There are a number of ways you can win, including razing your opponent's tower or amassing an impressive store of resources. With over 100 cards to play and 12 ways to win, your strategies won't run thin anytime soon!

process.jpgProcess (Windows, 116MB, free) - A short first person point and click experience akin to a room escape game, Process is almost as much an experiment in setting and emotion as it is a proper game. You are on a dark, grungy subway car rolling down the tracks. You discover there will be a crash in 20 minutes, so naturally you set about to stopping it. Move through the cars as you search for items you can use and objects you can interact with. It's simple and short, but the emotional empathy the team aimed to create was a success, so you'll be drawn into the game right from the beginning.

bustnrush.jpgBust-n-Rush (Mac/Win, 107-137MB, demo) - As if you ever needed an excuse to break rocks and smash stalactites with your shoulder! This good-looking jump and run arcade game is built around a series of levels stocked with challenges, each becoming more and more difficult to complete. You spent your time running down hallways in different areas, leaping pits, shifting left and right to collect gems, and charging through breakable objects in your way. The more you bust, the more you score! The full version is budget-priced and features a great deal more content than the demo.

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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agencyofanomaliescinderstone-b.jpg

GrinnypThe word 'orphanage' tends to conjure up images of starving waifs in ragged clothes begging for more gruel, doesn't it? However, the so-named orphanage in today's fantastic adventure hybrid from Orneon is not that type of orphanage, or at least, it doesn't appear so at first. This is a place for "special" children, children who have abilities that are outside of the norm. Unfortunately something has happened to both the orphanage and the children in The Agency of anomalies: Cinderstone Orphanage and it must quickly be put to rights before something terrible happens. Something even more terrible than a musical about cheeky pickpockets.

grinnyp_cinderstoneorphanage_screenshot1.jpgOnce again you are an agent of the Agency of Anomalies and you've volunteered for a doozy of a case: The Cinderstone Orphanage just blown up, but the children that should have been inside and their caretaker are mysteriously missing. Are they alive? Are they dead? And just what caused the fire? You must discover all this and more while exploring the burnt wreck of the institution, helped along by the caretaker and the children themselves (or, at least, ghostly apparitions that claim to be the caretaker and the children). They say they are not dead but trapped, and something is sapping their strength and powers. Oh yes, that's right, everyone there, even the caretaker, have psychic powers of some sort, but they are being drained and cannot help unless you can find that which mattered most to each person and restore it. By accomplishing that each person will then lend you their powers to help solve the mystery and save them before time runs out.

The Agency of Anomalies: Cinderstone Orphanage is basically a point-and-click adventure wedded with a hidden object game, so the gameplay consists of problem solving, object finding, and some beautiful and fun mini-games and puzzles. The mouse cursor of course changes to aid in the gameplay, and along with narrative hints and a refilling hint feature you will also find an additional gadget that allows you to utilize the various abilities that you pick up from the children along the way. Each person has a different ability, and each will become helpful in their own way as you work your way towards some answers. A bottom loading inventory contains the many objects you pick up along the way, either a result of the hidden object scenes or items that were just scattered about, victims of the explosion that rocked the facility before you arrived. Helpful sparks (in the regular mode of play) highlight areas of interest and showers of sparks indicate hidden object scenes, either the classic "list" type or a cool version of "reverse" scenes, where you are placing items back into the scenery rather than pulling them out.

grinnyp_cinderstoneorphanage_screenshot2.jpgAnalysis Although marketed as a supernatural story, The Agency of Anomalies: Cinderstone Orphanage is not a scary, creepy thriller. Instead it plays more like a mystery procedural, and quickly draws the player into its engrossing story. The caretaker and the children share their back-stories with you as you rush to rescue them from...well, whatever happened (don't want to spoil the ending or anything). As with its predecessor, The Agency of Anomalies: Mystic Hospital what you are presented with is a very interesting story-line that unfolds in a nicely paced manner with informative cut-scenes and tidbits of information garnered from the surroundings.

And what surroundings you will find in this beautiful game. The backgrounds are beautiful and richly detailed, despite the fact that they are a little worse for the wear, what with the explosion and fire and all. The music is choral and can be a little grating at times, but still matches the stunning scenery pretty well. The hidden object scenes are sharp and detailed, making them easy on the eyes. The mini-games and puzzles are pretty familiar variations on ones we've seen before, but are gorgeous and fun and are evenly scattered throughout the game making for some very nice pacing.

grinnyp_cinderstoneorphanage_screenshot3.jpgFor those who want flat out creepy, scary, and a lot of jump scares then this might not be the game for you. If you want a thoughtful, involving, engrossing mystery with scattered supernatural elements, then definitely give The Agency of anomalies: Cinderstone Orphanage a try. There's a surprising amount of gameplay to be had in the basic adventure, and for those who wish to spring for the Collector's Edition you will get yet another chapter of gameplay as well as the ability to play some of the more fun mini-games. Two modes of play ensure that a wide variety of players will enjoy this mysterious ride.

A Collector's Edition is also available. It includes bonus achievements, collectibles, a built-in strategy guide, and extra gameplay. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions (or 2 club credits), and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.

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

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


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Rating: 3.6/5 (459 votes)
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coryArzeaWhen I'm not writing reviews for JayIsGames, I work full-time as a wizard. It's not easy work, believe me, nor is it nearly as glamorous as the movies make it out to be. One wrong incantation and you've blown yourself up or summoned an uncontrollable horde of demons. Arzea, a Metroidvania-style adventure game created by Arkeus originally for a Ludum Dare 24-hour game development competition and then expanded upon, demonstrates the kind of danger that magic can lead to. You're a wizard stranded in a strange world with only your wits and a variety of spells and upgrades to help you get home.

Move and jump with the [WASD] keys while aiming and firing your spells with the mouse. As you collect more spells you can switch between them with the [number] keys or with [shift]. Your arcane weapons come in a variety of forms but tend to be point-and-shoot affairs with varying effective ranges. The starter fireball tends to be a pretty good choice for most situations while the earth spikes are better at long range and the water and electric spells are ideal for close range combat. Slaughtering hordes of enemies will allow you to gain levels, increasing your damage potential, and you can also find several types of upgrades that affect various abilities like jump height, speed and maximum health.

Your main goal is to find your way home from the strange land of Arzea. To do this you'll have to collect a vast spectrum of keys which will open doors and continue allowing you to explore the land. Several of the keys are guarded by vicious bosses, and these battles are tense and exciting, making them the highlight of the game. There's also a secondary goal in the form of a number of mysterious shards to collect. Finally, if you're an achievement hunter then they're present and ready to be hunted!

This is a solid example of the Metroidvania style of game; it's especially impressive given that it was made in just two days! There is at least a good half-hour of gameplay here, probably closer to an hour if you're out to find all the upgrades and collectible shards. Perhaps the most important thing that can be said about Arzea, however, is that it gives you a view of what a wizard's life is really like: full of barnacle monsters that spew deadly bullets at you. Doesn't seem so glamorous now, does it?

Play Arzea


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Rating: 4.4/5 (48 votes)
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MikeRainbogeddonRemember putting on your Adidas gear, grabbing a roll of quarters, and heading down to the cineplex pizzeria video arcade to play those classic arcade games of yore? Perhaps some of you are too young to remember such an era ("When Estevezes roamed the Earth,..."), but now everyone can relive those golden days with Nitrome's Rainbogeddon, a retro-riffic, Pacman-esque quarter-grabber updated for the twenty-first century.

Gameplay is simple: Use the [arrow] keys to move your white, blobby protagonist and collect all the dots in each labyrinthian level, just like a certain yellow gaming hero you might be familiar with. Collect and upgrade various power-ups littered about the maze, then deploy them with the [spacebar]. Powerups range from bombs and bullets to shoot enemies and walls, to teleporters and drills to navigate through the more twisty levels. Yes, it's Pacman + power-ups, and it changes the basic gameplay in dynamic and inventive ways. Because the levels are destructible, the mazes more difficult to traverse, and the enemies smarter and more varied, Rainbogeddon is a surprisingly strategic twist on a familiar classic. Arguably there are too many power-ups, and it can take a while to figure out how levels, enemies, and power-ups interact, but once it all clicks, beating a level can be very satisfying. Mix in a beat-heavy synth score and Lite-Brite-colored graphics, and you've got a fine modern take on vintage arcade gaming. And you don't even need to feed the machine a quarter to continue.

Play Rainbogeddon


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Rating: 4.1/5 (54 votes)
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TrickySplitmanSometimes, we could all use an extra pair of hands. There's just so much to do around the house: taking out the garbage, washing the dishes, pushing around the giant crate collection, flinging yourself across that inconvenient electrified spike-filled pit in the backyard, defeating the neighborhood evil overlord. Wouldn't a clone be just great? Keybol apparently thought so, and the result is SplitMan!

SplitMan is good ol' puzzle platforming fun, though it could stand to make its explanation of game mechanics a bit more explicit. It's fine for the central gimmick to be that running your character into a saw-blade will split him into two living copies, but, let's face it, that's probably not a particularly intuitive concept. That said, the game succeeds on the strength of its puzzle design and the hilarious taunts of the antagonist. So get to it! There's a SplitMan waiting to be played, he like to come and meet you, and he just might blow your mind!

Play SplitMan


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraWell hi-diddly-ho reader-inos! It's time for another Link Dump Friday, and I don't mind telling you I'm glad to see the weekend roll around! But first, there's something you should know...

Super Mario Bros Crossover 2.0Super Time Devouring Bros You! What are you doing right now? Haha, you're so wrong, because version 2.0 of the smash hit Super Mario Bros Crossover was just released over at Exploding Rabbit, and that's all you're going to be doing for the foreseeable future. The game, which classes up ye olde Super Mario Bros from the NES era with several classic gaming icons as new playable characters complete with their own unique abilities and play styles, received a considerable amount of love from players everywhere. So what's in the new update? Well, to name a few things, two new playable characters, a power-up system, and skinnable graphics. Check out the version history for the specifics, and then get your retro on.

Indie Music Bundle 2Play it Again, Indie Sam Music is, to me, a make-or-break part of the gaming experience, and a really amazing soundtrack that's distinctive and memorable can be hard to come by. Unless, of course, you hit up the Indie Game Music Bundle 2 and pick up five beautiful soundtracks to your favourite indie games on a pay-what-you-want honor system. Anything over ten bucks nets you eight additional soundtracks (with more potentially on the way if sales continue), but I'm sure you're a fine connoisseur of tunes who wasn't thinking of paying anything less for this hard work and creative genius, right? Right. So hit them up within the next week to pick up some beautiful music and support some great artists in the process.

Double Fine AdventureHa Ha! The Fine Has Been Doubled! Holy frijoles Batman! Tim Schafer, founder of venerable game studio Double Fine Productions, probably didn't expect to see his Kickstarter project funded in eight hours after it was posted. Especially since he wanted four hundred grand. Never underestimate the power of a fan base who knows just how talented you are, however; Schafer promised to develop a classic point-and-click adventure game to be released in October of 2012 if he received enough funding. Well, surprise! Double Fine has not only met but shattered their goal in a third of a day, and as of this writing the total stands at $801,629. Seriously? Seriously! If you still want to donate or just want to learn more, hit up the official page

Torchlight 2Extreme Home Makeover: Torchlight Edition The site for Torchlight 2 got a redesign this week. Yes, some of us are that desperate for news about the sequel to 2009's incredibly addictive action-RPG original that even this makes us prick up our ears in hopeful anticipation, like a dog watching their owner carry a platter of freshly carved turkey to the dinner table. Yeah, we're probably not going to get any yet, but MAYBE. There are actually some new screenshots to check out, some additional artwork, and more general greatness to keep you salivating. Fans of the original should definitely be excited since Torchlight 2 promises to keep everything you loved while adding in character creation/customisation, online multiplayer, and more. Who's excited? We're excited.

Extra CreditsGames as Smart Clever and funny gaming icons Extra Credits haven't technically done anything immediately newsworthy this week apart from releasing a new episode in their online series as they always do, but I want to talk about them so I am going to. If you're not watching Extra Credits, you really should be; this free series of videos released weekly by the immensely talented trio of James, Allison, and Daniel examines games of all kinds from every angle you could imagine. Discussing design, specific titles, industry, the audience, reviewers, and even concepts like sex, art, microtransactions, and much, much, more, the series is as informative as it is funny. You can easily lose an entire afternoon catching up on episodes (as I have) and come away feeling thoughtful and informed. They're just very talented people, so you should absolutely check them out and get thinking about your games a little more deeply. Whether you're a designer, a producer, or even just a player, they prove that any topic can be fascinating if you approach it the right way.

Interview!
Continue reading for an interview with Lucas Paakh!


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Rating: 3.8/5 (94 votes)
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elleelle_errorsofreflection_image1.pngThe eyes can be fooled and the mirror is deceiving, which is why finding the Errors of Reflection can be both challenging and gratifying. Scan each scene in this short but thoroughly interesting spot-the-difference game by FlashRomance, seeking the sometimes obvious and other times minute incongruities between the mirrored images, then set them right with a quick click.

The gameplay here is similar to 4 Differences and other games of the genre. Errors of Reflection presents an aesthetically diverse array of inner city settings with atmospheric sound effects, music and animations to add deeper dimensions to your exploratory fun. There's a varied number of differences to find in each round which are counted off in the center button. Press the button to reveal control icons; if you get stuck, clicking "?" will provide the solution. It's too bad it ends too soon, because the Keke's quote at the start promises a lot of possibility that is only tapped lightly. Still, poking around both sides of the looking glass might inspire you to reflect playfully on the world around you—the beauty is in the details.

Play Errors of Reflection


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Rating: 3.9/5 (96 votes)
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coryDragon QuestFair warning: this isn't the other Dragon Quest. You know, the one with the slimes. They're totally different things. This Dragon Quest is a physics puzzle platformer by Meetreen Games that stars a crimson-haired knight out to rescue his friend from a nasty kidnapping dragon. It's probably planning on doing terrible dragon things to her, like forcing her to clean bits of previous crimson-haired knights out from between its fangs, so you need to get over to the dragon's lair and rescue her!

Use the [arrow] keys to move and the [spacebar] to jump. Swing your sword with the [control] key. Your sword is used more for solving puzzles than actual combat; the most common enemy, skeletons, are only stunned by sword slashes. Instead you'll need to use physics to destroy them. Dropping a huge weight on them usually works, as does shoving them into one of the castle's ubiquitous fire pits. In every floor you'll need to solve a puzzle to make a door key appear, grab it, then exit through the door. Most of the puzzles involve finding creative ways to dispatch enemies; a favorite has you dumping a skeleton into a fire pit by way of a wall of barrels, Donkey Kong-style! You also get to mess with a variety of physics-based props like ballistae and drawbridges. Finally, every few floors you'll reach a boss floor which will give you a chance to battle the dragon man-to-lizard.

Dragon Quest is one of the easier physics games we've featured on the site and it won't take you long to make your way through it. There's enough charm in the puzzles to make it worth a look, though. Just be careful... they say dragons have pretty terrible breath. Must be all those knights they eat...

Play Dragon Quest


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Rating: 4.6/5 (88 votes)
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elleelle_youcompleteme_image2.pngTake a jumbled assortment of brightly colored drawings and fit them together in the only way they can go, using arrows to rotate pieces then, with a click, drag each individual image to its perfect position to create one unified picture. What does it all add up to? A jigsaw puzzle of gorgeous proportions, sized just right for a morning coffee break, afternoon rest, or late night manifesto on the meaning of games. You Complete Me has a solid interface with pieces adhering together when placed correctly, is both complex yet simple to play, and exudes charm from every angle. It's really fun and.... Stop. You had me at "Plexus."

Play You Complete Me


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Rating: 4.1/5 (88 votes)
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joyeNinja BearRob and John Donkin have teamed up again! Ninja Bear and Purple Teddy thought they had those monsters under the bed safely locked away this time, but as is the way of all villains, they have escaped. Fortunately, rather than making a break to Acapulco via plane or boat, they have taken the "strange floating platforms in space" route of escape, and they docilely stand in place while you figure out the puzzle and use the power of physics to bring them to justice.

Switch between controlling Ninja Bear or Purple Teddy by hitting [S], and use whatever guns (hotkeys [1] through [6]) the level offers to aim with your mouse and shuriken, blast, bounce, disintegrate, or simply float away all the monsters, while avoiding hurting either hero. In addition to the game's main monster blasting puzzles, the game contains a fun hidden object bonus in the form of 24 yin-yang symbols hidden throughout the game. Simply click on a symbol to collect it. Once you've completed all 44 levels, consider trying out some user levels or create your own in the level editor.

Our bear heroes may be cute, but they're essentially whiny teenagers in cuddly form, more interested in getting to play Skyrim than saving the world, and possessing somewhat disturbingly deep voices which seem to speak only in memes. If that's to your taste, then great, but even if it's not, just mute the sounds (although don't miss the great original music) and play it anyway, because it's one of the best physics puzzles to come out in a while. The levels contain an excellent variety of challenges, from ones which call for timing, to tests of your aiming skills, to ones that require a little out of the box thinking. There are even a few levels with some wicked red herrings. And since three levels are open at once, if you get stuck on a level, you can always move ahead and come back to it later. It's really a game that has what players enjoy in mind, so take a break from Skyrim yourself and try it.

Play Ninja Bear and Purple Teddy


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Rating: 3.9/5 (92 votes)
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TrickyCrumpledEver since the NES days, gamers have known that there is no greater friendship than that of a boy and his blob. It's as true for Fancy Pants Styled stickmen living in a world of notebook paper, as it was in Blobolonia. And considering how crazy that notebook paper world can get, they'll need to push their teamwork skills to the limit. Otherwise... they'll just end up Crumpled.

An artistic platformer by Oslo Albet, Crumpled purports to have a little of everything, including, quote, "parkour, cooperative puzzles, bullet time, combos..." That's a pretty accurate description, and it's always fun when a minimalistic game packs itself to the brim with movement mechanics. Movement is fluid, and the levels are cleverly designed. The big negative though is the controls. Albet has done the "control two characters at the same time" thing quite well in the Fireboy and Watergirl series. Here though, the mouse/keyboard integration is wonky, and, since the stick figure is moved with the [WASD] keys, having jump be the [spacebar] instead of the [W] feels weird and often breaks the flow. Combine that with some shoddy hit detection when you make platforms with the blob, and you have a recipe for frustration. If you can acclimate yourself to wonkiness, though, you'll find Crumpled to be a neat little gem that you'll want to stick with.

Update: Oslo has responded to the frustration players were having with the controls and has improved them significantly so they are now much more intuitive, making Crumpled a lot more enjoyable and accessible to a wider audience. Press [A] and [D] to move the character left and right, [W] for jump. Press [S] to hang down when on a ledge, and to slide down when on a wall. Wall jumping is as easy as pressing [W] to jump, then alternating [A] and [D].

Play Crumpled


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Rating: 4.7/5 (100 votes)
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Weekday Escape

Grinnyp"One night, taking a stroll through town, I came across a mysterious door. Without thinking, I knocked on the door, and entered the room..." With those fateful words Tesshi-e began its very first game. The very early escape games were modest efforts done up with crude 2D cartoony graphics and the genesis of puzzles seen in later, more polished escapes. In a fit of nostalgia Tesshi-e has gone back to that very first game and re-imagined it using its trademark dazzling 3D style and jazzed up the puzzles. The result is Mild Escape 1 (remix), a trip down memory lane and this week's escape from the everyday.

Mild Escape 1Wander around the beautiful and sparse room, pick up everything that isn't nailed down, solve your way through lots of puzzles, unlock a few drawers, and eventually you will be back to your evening stroll, with or without a happy coin in your possession. The tidiness of the room makes for very little pixel hunting which is nice considering that Tesshi-e still hasn't even today discovered the joys of a changing cursor. The game is in English or Japanese, so remember to make your choice at the beginning, before that oh-so-familiar piano tune drifts out of the speakers.

Amazingly, Mild Escape 1 is Tesshi-e's 70th room escape effort, a massive achievement in room escape designing. For years they have been entertaining us with unique and challenging puzzles and life-like graphics, and once again they have brought the challenge and the charm to their latest effort. For this mid-week break Tesshi-e goes down memory lane and drags us along for the ride with this wonderful, nostalgic look back that brings those old, simple designs into the stunning present. Just remember, in real life, don't be wandering down any alleys and opening mysterious doors. Really, it's not safe.

Play Mild Escape 1 (remix)


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retroracing.gifRetro Racing (universal) - It's a serious trip on Nostalgia Lane when you pick up Retro Racing, an arcade-style racer from the creator of QWAK. True to its roots, you focus on pure skill and coming in first place rather than crazy jumps or tweaking your car. Look for the most efficient path through each course, and pick up power-ups to increase your car's speed, acceleration, or tire stickiness to keep you in the game. Mistakes must be kept at a minimum, as this game doesn't coddle you just so you feel like a winner. Earn your rank and you will be rewarded! A neat local two player mode 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: 4.5/5 (135 votes)
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SonicLoverTo NothingAt first, To Nothing sounds like a misnomer for SuzumeDr's newest escape game. You start out in a somewhat sparsely furnished room with nothing in your hands except a black-and-white sports bag. You dump out the bag's contents and instantly all the slots in your inventory are full.

You navigate around the room by clicking the edges of the screen when the arrows appear, and clicking on anything worth investigating. You manage things in your inventory by clicking them to select them for use, or double-clicking to examine them more closely. The catch? As you go around and solve puzzles, every object in the room and in your inventory will... disappear, one by one. That nightstand by the bed? First thing to go. The TV on top of the minibar? Try not to grow attached to it. That pair of pliers? Its minutes are numbered, too. The cabinet by the door? Poof. The pack of chocolate candy? Hope your sweet tooth wasn't aching.

It's hard to be original in a well-established genre like the room escape, but SuzumeDr is definitely good at his trade. As with his previous works (Triangle, Lift for Life), the puzzles are well-designed (albeit a little obscure in one or two places), the graphics are clear but not distracting, the sound effects are fitting, and the theme's execution is simply perfect. The game's a little on the easy side, but there's nothing wrong with that. To Nothing is a game worth playing through for your weekday buzz. Just be careful, there's no telling what will vanish from the room next. Possibly even you!

Play To Nothing


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Rating: 3.3/5 (87 votes)
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DoraMuu: Just Another DayAnother day, another handful of hours spent puttering around in his little cave home. Muu doesn't know it, but his ordinary life is about to undergo a big change when an explosion rocks the land, and he sets out to investigate it... maybe even becoming a hero in the process. Muu: Just Another Day is a short retro platformer by Miktar that serves up a delightful old school vibe with some simple yet challenging gameplay.

Use the [arrow] keys to move, [Z] to jump, and [K] to activate easy mode if you're having difficulties and feel like having a game be condescending to you. It triggers some extra helper boxes (with flattering chickens on them) to make some of the platforming easier, but can't be disabled once you turn it on. Despite some issues with certain surfaces being difficult to jump on or off of easily later in the game, Muu's beautiful design and adventurous vibe make this a little gem worth checking out. After all, couldn't we all use a little more motivation to stick our heads out of our caves now and again?

Play Muu: Just Another Day


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Rating: 4.3/5 (41 votes)
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elleelle_arcadiaapastoraltale_image3.pngIn the idyllic moments before sundown, the slant of the sun's rays often sketch a sentimental hue over the landscape. Those moments of gloaming have been scribed in time by many a poet and artist, and Jonas Kyratzes takes it a step further in Arcadia: a Pastoral Tale, an interactive fiction game of exploration set in a dateless pastoral state.

Kyratzes, who also created one of 2011's best, The Book of Living Magic, says Arcadia "is not a race... It is a stroll, an afternoon walk." Keep that in mind as you play. Play, in this case, means reading the text, pondering the circumstances, and choosing your next action by selecting a highlighted word. The path you travel depends on your choices, with multiple options bringing several new discoveries. Because of this, you'll want to play through more than once. As for what the game is "about," since discovery is an integral part of playing Arcadia, let's leave that unsaid for now and talk instead about its merits as a game overall.

Casual gamers realize the general public doesn't give our esteemed game developers enough notice or credit for their creations, that there is sometimes a prejudice against this artistic domain as if its moniker denotes insignificance and immaturity. Without knowing the depth of lyricism and creativity that can compose a game, they'd even mistake the entirely textual Arcadia as not a game. What defines a game is as varied as what defines a sport. Games are distinct from work; they're entertainment, an amusing pastime, and involve the player at some level. Good games are more than that—they resonant with their players at an innate level, tapping our logic or reflex or dexterity in pursuit of a goal or a win. Arcadia does all of this by providing choices then rewarding our decisions lavishly with rich prose.

Absent is the possibility of losing, but winning or losing are only a means of providing resolution at the end of a game. It is here that Arcadia excels the most because Arcadia's denouement is naturally beautiful, surreal and meaningful; it is as if Thomas Cole is the player's muse, that this isn't a narrative simply told to you, it is an archetypal romanticism in which you're enveloped; you play for the experience, for the discovery, and for the escape. Arcadia: a Pastoral Tale elevates the oft undervalued browser game onto the loftier plane of artistic poignancy.

Play Arcadia: a Pastoral Tale


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The Vault

DoraSure, Earth is nice and all, but you gotta admit... it's strictly squaresville, daddy-o. (Am I hip? I want so badly to be hip.) Since most of us will never get swept off our feet to intergalactic adventure by a two-headed alien president, we'll have to settle for the next best thing. This week's Vault looks at some of those games that have best whisked us away to other places we'd ordinarily never get to visit. That's right; each and every one of these developers are going to act as your personal Willy Wonka or Ms Frizzle. They love you that much.

  • AetherAether - Edmund McMillen and Tyler Glaeil combined their dark powers to create this unique physics puzzle adventure back in 2008, and wound up taking home top prize in that year's Best of Adventure category. The game follows a lonely boy who befriends a monster that comes out of the sea and takes him on a journey into the stars and the world beyond. Combining a striking dreamlike design with surreal, unique gameplay, Aether delivers an experience like no other... sort of like a children's book combined with an MTV cartoon. Each of the worlds you'll visit is distinct and has a puzzle to solve, but getting there is half the fun, and after just a few moments swinging around like an interstellar Spider-Man you'll be hooked.
  • Mr. Coo: El Laberinto EsféricoMr. Coo: El Laberinto Esférico - I'm a sucker for unusual design and comic book flair, and this bizarre adventure puzzle from Nacho Rodriguez definitely succeeds at both, and then some! Gorgeous animation leads the way through this unusual journey about Mr. Coo, who has fallen to his death but somehow still manages to have a dream about a labyrinth full of strange obstacles. It's part choose-your-own-adventure and part puzzle, and although having to restart on death can become annoying, it's still well worth experiencing for the high quality of design and distinctive oddball characters.
  • The Fog FallThe Fog Fall - While technically Mateusz Skutnik's atmospheric point-and-click adventure series is more alterna-future than "another world", as anyone who has played Fallout will tell you; there's just something fascinating about the end of the world and the idea of society continuing on in some fashion after it. Speaking of Fallout, there are definitely some similar themes and concepts, but this eerie series is well worth experiencing for its own merits. You survive day to day in a grim existence with your family in a bomb shelter. Until the day you look outside and see the fog rolling in. It's creepy, it's fascinating, and with all the trademark style and design of Mateusz, it's easy to see why The Fog Fall has been one of the community's favourite series for years.

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: 4.2/5 (228 votes)
| Comments (152) | Views (6,953)

The Lost City

DoraYour grandma was pretty rad. Not only was she giving Indiana Jones a run for his money, she claims she stumbled across an ancient place decades ago in her travels where the people were able to control the seasons at will. She's too old to continue on now, but she's entrusted you with a relic from that place, an old stone heart, that she believes is the key to solving the mysteries there and restoring the balance of nature. The Lost City for your iOS device is a gorgeous puzzle adventure from Fire Maple Games (creators of The Secret of Grisly Manor) that might be somewhat light in the challenge department, but delivers a beautiful and engrossing expedition sure to speak to the Indiana Jones (or River Song) in you. Ancient artifacts? Mystical energies? I am so there.

The Lost CityAll you have to do is tap around to investigate. Interactive areas aren't always highlighted, but you'll usually get a fairly obvious visual indicator of someplace that has something to tap on. Items are stored in your backpack, and when you tap on that to open it, you not only gain access to a handy map that tracks where you are, but your journal which jots down various clues and also lets you view a walkthrough right there in the game if you so desire. (If Grandma's journal can do that, I kind of think she was just being lazy when she didn't solve all this the first time through, don't you? For shame, Granny.)

Also available: The Secret of Grisly Manor for browsers, iPhone (iOS), Android, Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire!

Even without the handy-dandy hint/walkthrough function, however, it's unlikely The Lost City would provide much of a challenge for fans of the genre. There aren't really any surprises, and the straight-forward design means it's usually very clear what items you'll need for any situation as soon as you find them. This shouldn't be taken as a mark against it, however; with its beautiful design and accessible gameplay it's the perfect casual treat to sneak some time in with whenever you get a chance. It's the gaming equivalent of one of those relaxation CDs, something with whales or panpipes, or whales playing panpipes or whatever (panpipe whales?). Its friendly user interface and beginner-ready gameplay coupled with its beautiful style also makes it perfect for roping in non-gaming friends and family members. Looking to get away from it all but don't want the journey to be too challenging? Then chart a course for The Lost City.


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Rating: 4.2/5 (46 votes)
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MeaghanYamada Box LegendWho knew that everything through the looking glass was actually made of cardboard? Yamada Box Legend is a quirky fantasy game that sends you spiraling into the Cardboard World after being the stooge for a magician's vanishing act. A team of students calling themselves Arcane Kids, including Tom Astle (creator of Spikes Tend to Kill You), produced this graphically pleasing puzzle RPG adventure that will draw you in with its bizarre characters and engaging gameplay. In this Lewis Carroll-esque 3D world, you take on the task of exploring different cardboard realms, led by the helpful (and perhaps sinister) nudging of various rabbits. Filled with mischievous characters and challenging environmental puzzles, the only thing that may prevent you from hopping right into this surreal delight is a severe case of leporiphobia.

To explore the critter-filled world you've found yourself in, you'll need to use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move yourself to and fro and the [spacebar] to jump. Move the cursor to rotate the camera and to direct your character's movement. Left click in order to pick up objects, hold down the right mouse button to target, and then left click once more to toss the held item. Scattered about the game, you'll find different boxes with portals to new worlds, and it's up to you to jump in [E], solve the problem inside, and jump back out [Q].

As you wander about, be prepared for instructions or requests from a carnival of creatures. An angry bear needs your help, a mob of rabbits wants you to obey, and a gerbil desperately wants to save a princess. Each box in the game transports you to a different place, though some are for moving from one level to the next and others have the problems you need to reason through that will help you succeed. The puzzles presented may seem straight forward in the beginning but as you delve deeper you may find yourself scanning the screen frantically for some type of clue, whether real or imagined. The cluttered landscape of jumbled magician's tools will seem less like a behind the scene's tour and more like a descent into a rabbit takeover.

Exploring this imaginative little cardboard universe is made all the more entertaining by the well paired music that accompanies you through the various challenges. The camera angling can sometimes be awkward, and if you're using a Mac with a single button mouse or touch pad you may find yourself having mild difficulty with the controls. However, in the face of the humorous dialogue and nicely crafted brain teasers, it's possible to endure the added challenge with a Cheshire Cat-like grin. Unlike some other Unity games, Yamada is crisp instead of clunky and shows a promising example of the great direction NoxiousHamster can take this tantalizing hybrid.

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offtheleash.gifOff the Leash (iPhone/iPod Touch) - The life of a dog is wrought is stress. Take, for example, running from the police, avoiding obstacles, staying away from stationary human folk, and gathering coins and power-ups, all while recruiting as many dogs as you can without stopping even for a moment. Off the Leash is just such a crazy game, utilizing motion controls for a mission-based arcade experience that's, well, completely off the leash. Control a pack of dogs running from the police while you work to go as far as you possibly can, increasing your pack size to gather more power-ups and switching your running formation to creep through difficult obstacles. It's an absolute riot of a game, and once you start completing and seeing new, crazier missions, you'll be absolutely hooked on this gorgeous game. From the same team that brought us the equally-awesome Land-a-Panda!

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 (116 votes)
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elleelle_soundcolorr_image2.pngDoes the world seem a bit dull, lackluster and noisy? Robamimi never fails to delight escape-the-room aficionados with beautiful yet minimalistic interior design, light puzzles that require thought without enervating the brain, and buoyant endings that leave us smiling in accomplishment. Sound Color R (or "Otoiro" in Japanese) is true to Robamimi form in all these respects and this time the puzzles all focus on, as you would guess, color and sound.

As ocarina, violin and xylophone melodies mark the easy pace, move about the room following the arrow keys, clicking on anything that begs closer examination and keeping an eye out for clues, no matter how surreptitiously found. The cursor changes to indicate hotspots and a hint button will guide you in the right direction if you get stuck. All hues are labeled where necessary so chromatic subtleties are never a stumbling block.

In length and difficulty, Sound Color R is closer to the Snow Dance end of the Robamimi escape game spectrum than to the Hermit Rabi and the Wonder Fountain or Ancient Scripts end. Only a few tasks hinder your way through the two rooms and out the final door. With its seamless, intuitive quality to gameplay, a neatly organized inventory, and lack of misdirection, Sound Color R turns a graceful and serene diversion into a spark of vibrancy and music to light up your day.

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Rating: 3.9/5 (68 votes)
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ArtbegottiNetbotsWe've all had that problem. You know, the one where the Netbots start to plug up the kitchen sink so the water doesn't drain. Or the one where the Netbots keep your bowling ball from coming back down the ball return at the local bowling alley. Managing the Netbots can be quite a tricky task, as a group of scientists find out in Maik Haider's Netbots, a puzzle where you have to learn to divide to conquer.

In each level, you'll find a field of Netbots that need to be cleared away. However, they can only be cleared away in specific formations found on the left side of the screen. To clear a cluster, click and drag with your mouse to trace the shape of the cluster. When you release the mouse button, the Netbots will turn the color of the shape you've chosen to indicate that they've been cleared. If you can find a way to split up the field to clear all of the Netbots using all of the shapes provided, you're on your way to the next challenge!

While some of the game's puzzles range from simple to moderately tricky, all can be solved with a bit of trial and error, and a number of puzzles have multiple possible solutions. If you get stuck on any level, a short countdown timer will activate a clue for you, suggesting the starting places for a few pieces. Can you split the Netbot population to clear away a disaster? If so, can you come by the local bowling alley and unstick the ball return? I really want my lucky bowling ball back.

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Rating: 4.8/5 (74 votes)
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Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective

DoraSorry. You're too late. You're already dead. Game over! You snooze you lose... right? Well, maybe not quite. In Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective, an iOS port of the original puzzle adventure game by Capcom, you play a freshly dead spirit who wakes up in the middle of a junkyard to find a helpless young woman and a mysterious gunman having a standoff over your corpse. Things aren't looking good for her, but with a little otherworldly help she might just make it out alive, and you might find out who you are and what happened to you in the process... or you might just vanish when the sun comes up if you can't figure out how to use all your ghostly abilities in time. No pressure.

Ghost Trick: Phantom DetectiveSince you're dead and incorporeal and whatnot, you can't do the usual adventure game stuff like using items or even moving around under your own power. By switching to the Ghost Realm, you'll freeze time and be able to jump your soul to nearby objects, which is not only handy as a means of transportation, but also allows you to directly influence the world. Certain items can be used to perform Tricks; anything from opening a door to moving an object or just causing some sort of malfunction. Just hit the button to hop into the Ghost Realm, and then drag your soul from object to object to get around. You can only move to certain items nearby, so you'll need to plan your route carefully to get around. The bar at the side of the screen will tell you what, if any, Tricks you can perform in the item you're inhabiting.

It's through your Tricks that you can get around and learn things, but also change what happens in the Living Realm... maybe even change someone's fate. See, you also possess the ability to go back in time four minutes before someone dies. That might not sound like a lot to you, but if you pay attention to your surroundings and experiment, you might figure out just the right moment to intervene or set up a chain of events that will save the day... for now. As it happens, there are a lot bigger things going down in town than one or two extra corpses. Strange figures are on the prowl, the spirits are restless, and it seems like everyone but you knows something big is going down tonight... and I don't just mean that hairstyle.

Ghost Trick: Phantom DetectiveAnalysis: Ghost Trick is, in a word, gorgeous. Also colourful, swanky, hip, and funny. It looks like the best jazz music sounds. It animates beautifully on the iPad, and comes with a style and flair all its own that makes it a joy to behold. It's easy to get smitten with its cast of vibrant, quirky characters, and their expressive body language packs a ton of personality and detail. (Is Detective Cabanela the best? Trick question. Of course he is.) As you might expect, coming from the team who brought you Ace Attourney, the tone walks a tightrope above the twin pits of absurdity and seriousness, sometimes dipping a toe into either one. It's weird, surreal, and supernatural in all the best ways with plenty of off-beat humour and memorable moments that are worth experiencing.

More annoying is the game's habit of endlessly reiterating information you already know in little scenes and dialogue exchanges. What? No. Stop playing that cutscene again. I paid attention when it happened five minutes ago. Stop narrating what's happening, I have eyes! Fortunately, it's refreshing to play an adventure game where the puzzles are so very different, less "use item x on item y" and more "Rube Goldberg waiting to happen". While the timed scenes add pressure, paying attention to the surroundings and animations will give you plenty of clues, and experimenting is just plain fun besides. Timed scenes definitely get harder as the game goes along, however, and having to re-watch certain scenes of dialogue over and over if you mess up and need to restart can get frustrating. Oh well, you know what they say. You have to crush a few hitmen to make an omelette. Or... something.

The first two chapters of this game are free on the App Store, with additional chapters available for purchase in chunks, or as a whole game for $9.99 USD. And do you want to know something? That's a steal. That is highway robbery on the developers, because with all its charm, cleverness, and high production values Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective is more than worth the price of admission. I can't remember the last time a game had me laugh aloud or just grin at it in delight like a dope. If you're looking for something packed with distinctive style, weirdness, and some seriously unique puzzle-based adventuring, you owe it to yourself to at least try the demo. You'll be glad you did.

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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Mobile Monday

JohnBHere's a puzzle for you to piece together: how can you help a pack of dogs evade the cops while getting the attention of a girl who won't pay you any mind even though you've got the moon on a string? PROTIP: You'll need two iOS devices to pull that simultaneous feat off!

jigsawmansion2.jpgJigsaw Mansion 2 (iPhone/iPod Touch, iPad) - Even if you're categorically opposed to jigsaw games, you should take the time to try out Jigsaw Mansion 2. It's a luscious, engaging, and utterly addicting puzzle game that's loaded with extras, and the controls are so buttery smooth you'll wonder why anyone bothers with real-life jigsaw puzzles. Explore a mansion while you complete jigsaw puzzles from portraits scattered about the halls. Simple touch and drag controls allow you to easily move pieces around, and auto-rotate takes some of the hassle out of matching pieces together. An in-game store opens up new puzzles and other possibilities, and you can even make puzzles using your own pictures, which can either be cool or supremely creepy. Also worth noting: the team behind Jigsaw Mansion 2 also created A.R.E.S.: Extinction Agenda, a superb sidescrolling action platform game for PC! Jigsaw Mansion 2 HD for iPad is also available.

offtheleash.gifOff the Leash (iPhone/iPod Touch) - The life of a dog is wrought is stress. Take, for example, running from the police, avoiding obstacles, staying away from stationary human folk, and gathering coins and power-ups, all while recruiting as many dogs as you can without stopping even for a moment. Off the Leash is just such a crazy game, utilizing motion controls for a mission-based arcade experience that's, well, completely off the leash. Control a pack of dogs running from the police while you work to go as far as you possibly can, increasing your pack size to gather more power-ups and switching your running formation to creep through difficult obstacles. It's an absolute riot of a game, and once you start completing and seeing new, crazier missions, you'll be absolutely hooked on this gorgeous game. From the same team that brought us the equally-awesome Land-a-Panda!

boylovesgirl.gifBoy Loves Girl (universal) - Valentine's Day isn't too far away, so it's time to turn your attention to amorous pursuits. Or, at the very least, play a game that involves an amorous pursuit. In Boy Loves Girl, you're chasing after a lovely lass while quite literally tugging the moon on a string. Swipe the screen to avoid sleeping clouds and other obstacles, all while completing missions that appear over the course of your run. Eventually, you'll catch the girl, but then a new twist is introduced, and you'll head off on another chase entirely. Cute, entertaining, and surprisingly challenging!

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 (30 votes)
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Fortune Summoners: Secret of the Elemental Stone

DoraBrash and energetic Arche Plumfield, being young, isn't concerned with much beyond making the most of her family's new life and business in the town of Tonkiness. Her first day at her new school, however, she finds her dreams of learning magic are crushed when she discovers that she can't do so without an expensive elemental stone that her family can't afford. But because this would be a very boring and depressing game if it just featured a little girl and her poverty-stricken family struggling to make ends meet, Arche and the friends she makes in town naturally stumble upon an ancient treasure that could wind up changing much more than whether Arche fits in at school. Fortune Summoners: Secret of the Elemental Stone from LizSoft by way of Carpe Fulgur (the same team that localized Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale and Chantelise: A Tale of Two Sisters) is a big action platforming RPG adventure packed with charm, humour, battles, and more. Also, lots and lots of grinding and brutally hard battles. Yaaaaay!

Fortune Summoners: Secret of the Elemental StoneBy default, the game controls with the keyboard; [arrow] keys for movement, and [Z], [X], and [C] for various actions. The options menu will let you set the bindings to anything you want, however, and also allows for a gamepad if you have one. (Which you might want to for this if you prefer controllers for action games like I do.) The set-up is a bit like a side-scroller in that the playing field is presented on a simple 2D plane. There's a fair amount of platforming to be had here, ranging from simple to difficult, and dungeons are full of puzzles and obstacles you'll wind up needing teamwork to solve as well. Initially, all you've got is Arche, who does battle with a sword. Combat is in real-time, so enemies will constantly be moving, attacking, blocking, casting spells, and wiping the floor with you in general. As you defeat enemies, you'll gain coins to buy things with and experience to help you level up and get stronger, just like any other RPG. As the game progresses, you'll eventually gain more party members who can lend a hand in battle, each with their own spells and abilities. Don't worry too much if you get wiped out; you can simply take a cash penalty and return to the last safe place. Just remember to save whenever you get the chance, and make sure you're stocked up on adventuring essentials like weapons, armor, bonnets, and underpants looted from your neighbours' homes.

Analysis: Plucky, sweet, and more than a little magical, Fortune Summoners is a game about a bunch of little girls going on adventures and being super excited about all of it. So you know it's got to be more than a little cute. Even if I did utter a small groan of loathing every time Chiffon opened his mouth. (No, he's not adowwable.) The game is a gorgeous throwback to classic action RPGs, with bright colours and a story that remains comparatively lighthearted throughout its substantial length. The writing is generally very good, even if the story holds few surprises, and players who prefer more cheerful RPGs will find a lot to like here. It's well worth exploring everywhere you can and talking to people more than once. The little touches you'll encounter, such as a teacher yelling at you not to run in the hallway, or a little girl urging you to go ahead and take things from people's houses because "you look heroic, and that's what heroes do", are wonderful. Though... there are a lot of underpants to be found.

Fortune Summoners: Secret of the Elemental StoneOne thing a lot of players may find hard to get past is that Fortune Summoners is most definitely not a button-masher, and any attempts to play it like one will result in sound defeat. Arche can't exactly turn on a dime, and the game doesn't really respond well if you just quickly stab the attack key over and over. There's a lot more timing involved that forces you to pause a beat between each attack to make sure things are registering properly, and as such it doesn't capture the same fast-paced reflexive combat of, say, Namco's "Tales" action RPG series. It's something some players will embrace outright and take to like ducks in a pond, while others will struggle to master it, and others still will find somewhat too stiff or restrictive. Or, like me, you might rage-quit from time to time and then come sulking back to it shortly thereafter. You can adjust the difficulty from the options menu at any time, but when you combine it with the Smash Bros-esque "slippery feet" style of combat, this is going to be one you'll definitely want to try before you buy to make sure it's your bag. Luckily, the demo is remarkably lengthy and should give you ample time to decide how much you like getting beaten like an old mattress.

Fortune Summoners: Secret of the Elemental Stone isn't for everyone, which is a shame because there's a lot to love about it. The writing, the presentation, the cheerfulness, the classic adventuring, even the combat, if you can handle it, makes for a vibrant and exciting game. The combat is going to make or break it for most players, but those with patience and a steady hand will find the flashy spells, combos, and fighting a lot of fun too. Try the demo and decide for yourself. There's a big beautiful world out there full of colour, wonder, and even a little cheekiness from time to time, and if you can handle Fortune Summoners, you're probably going to love it at least a little too.

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Analogue: A Hate Story

DoraThere's a ship floating in deep space that's been lost for thousands of years; the Mugunghwa was a generation ship that was supposed to establish the first interstellar colony, but contact was lost and it had disappeared. Until now. You've been sent to board it and find out what happened to it by combing through the logs of its crew, dead these long centuries but still simmering with familial and political drama. Analogue: A Hate Story is a visual novel from indie developer Christine Love that is by turns touching, funny, dark, and introspective. Are some crimes unforgivable? What makes people believe the horrible things they do are done for the right reasons? What does it really mean to be human... and to love someone?

Analogue: A Hate StorySince you're stuck on your own spaceship, the entire game is presented through a computer interface similar that allows you to talk to either Mute or Hyun-ae, the two AIs still active on the Mugunghwa, read the logs left behind by the crew, or access a terminal to execute more complex commands. The core of the gameplay, however, revolves around the text of the dead crew and discussing it with your two companions. Ultimately, your goal is to find out what happened to everyone on board, but Mute and Hyun-ae won't be satisfied until they feel you've really learned the truth, and that's a lot harder than it sounds since they both seem to have conflicting ideas as to what that is.

You can only have one AI active at a time, but once you've reached a certain point early on you can swap between them freely in the terminal. Show the logs you read to each of them to get insight, more messages, and find out more about them, which is more important than you might think. From time to time, they'll ask you a question, and your response will influence their opinion of you which can direct the game towards any one of five different endings. Just remember that you can right-click the screen to open the options menu and save or load your game at any time.

Analogue: A Hate StoryAnalysis: Christine Love is a fantastic writer. The world revealed bit by bit is both fascinating and troubling, and is practically begging for some sort of sequel if only to expand a little more on the universe. There's so much left unexplained that people more interested in science fiction than character development might wind up frustrated, but I would call the story more tantalising than annoying in that regard. It's something you really want to know more about, but it isn't the star of the show; that would be the characters, and not just our two leading ladies. Mute and Hyun-ae are drastically different personalities with more layers to them than you might think based on first impressions. Talking to them and seeing them open up bit by bit in ways that even seem to surprise themselves is extremely rewarding.

Make no mistake, however; this is most definitely plot-focused rather than gameplay-focused. Most of the gameplay focuses simply on reading, showing every bit of text to Hyun-ae and Mute, and occasionally answering a question... with the exception of one clever puzzle-like timed sequence towards the end of the game. Whether this is a bad thing depends entirely on you. Your responses to Mute and Hyun-ae are extremely limited in a way that may frustrate those of us who are less "black and white" and more "shades of gray". Is it understandable given the way the game is structured and Hyun-ae's explanation for the choices at the beginning? Sure, but as the game wore on, the less I felt I could easily answer the questions poised as a simple "yes" or "no", and there were a few times when I felt I had to compromise my true feelings just to proceed.

Analogue: A Hate StoryBut perhaps more importantly, I did feel. Analogue's complex narrative and varied cast of nuanced characters, even those you don't get to meet, is almost scarily good at pulling your emotions in unexpected directions. That the story makes you feel that strongly about the things you read about, from the people to the things they did, is more than a little impressive. The careful pacing won't appeal to everyone, but those who appreciate cleverly structured character dramas will get a lot out of it. The gorgeous artwork by Raide breathes life into Mute and Hyun-ae, while Isaac Schankler's soundtrack is unobtrusively beautiful and expressive.

My first playthrough took me somewhere around five hours or so, and while the endings feel a little abrupt, I don't regret a second of it. At times it was uncomfortable, grim, and more than a little saddening, but Analogue: A Hate Story was always, always heartfelt and smart with a light at the end of the tunnel. (Depending on your choices of course.) While it might be light on action, those looking for a deeper and at times darker narrative with a big focus on character development will want to give this one a chance to get inside their brain.

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Midnight Mysteries: Haunted Houdini

GrinnypOnce again, an unquiet ghost needs help! Who they gonna call? Why, you, of course! Especially since this is a rather famous ghost, the legendary magician Harry Houdini. It's time for another hauntingly good mystery to solve in Mumbo Jumbo's Midnight Mysteries: Haunted Houdini, a fantastic adventure/hidden object hybrid where you, ghost detective that you are, must figure out why poor Harry and his wife Bess have not been able to meet in the afterlife. You know, there's some weird irony going on here, playing a game talking to the ghost of Harry Houdini who was a notorious skeptic on the subject and who became famous for debunking mediums, spiritualists, and others who claimed to talk to ghosts.

Midnight Mysteries: Haunted HoudiniOur story begins with the ghost of poor Bess, still looking for her husband after all these years. Why is his spirit still trapped? Is it punishment for his disbelief? Or is there a darker story to be found, one in which Houdini did not die a natural death, caused by his enemies from the world of spiritualism? The journey takes you from the Houdini house in Harlem on an incredible journey through time as you visit England, France during the battle of the Somme, and a theater in Detroit where Harry performed his last magic act. Along the way you will speak to many spirits, some friends, some enemies of the controversial magician as you uncover the clues that will solve the mystery and eventually unite poor Ehrich (that was his real name, you know) with his beloved Bess.

Midnight Mysteries: Haunted Houdini, like the others in the Midnight Mysteries series, plays like a standard point-and-click adventure with a changing cursor guiding you through the various items that can be examined or picked up and places to explore. The bottom-loading inventory of items that you acquire along the way has a lovely "plus" feature where you can place two previously unrelated items together, combining them to make something useful (like putting together a paintbrush with charcoal to create a primitive fingerprinting kit). The game is composed of equal parts problem solving (involving exploration and use of those found objects), classic hidden object scenes (where you can acquire even more items for your inventory), mini-games, and puzzles.

Midnight Mysteries: Haunted HoudiniAlso included in the game are three modes of play (casual, advanced, and expert) along with variable types of hints depending upon the mode of play. Light sparks or curtains of light along with useful descriptions accompany the casual mode. The usual hint feature is both a refilling hint timer and an instant hint giver based on the player finding ravens hidden in every scene. The hint timer also has a third feature, showing a silhouette of an item without costing a hint. There's a notebook that keeps track of the story and clues and even a built-in strategy guide to help you along your way. Alongside the regular gameplay are some side quests, trophies that can be won for certain actions and an "unlimited" hidden object mode that can be unlocked by finding a certain number of four leaf clovers which are hidden everywhere in the game.

Analysis: Mumbo Jumbo has brought the goods again with the fourth in the Midnight Mystery series, creating an interesting mystery surrounding one of the most fascinating and mysterious characters from the last century. As expected the visuals are stunning, the story is intriguing, and the atmosphere creepy as befits the title. Unusually, however, the title character himself is not around much (his spirit is trapped, after all), so you will learn quite a bit about the life and times of Harry Houdini from the folks who surrounded him, both friend and foe.

Midnight Mysteries: Haunted HoudiniIt's nice to see that the quality of the series has not suffered in this fourth installment. The hidden object scenes are a nice mix of list items, items found from clues, and items that require interaction. The puzzles range from easy to difficult and are a nice balance that doesn't overwhelm the basic story. Best of all are the "magic tricks", places in the game where you simply participate in some fun card tricks that don't require anything from you but amazement at how it is done. And although it is pretty well documented how Houdini died (peritonitis caused by a ruptured appendix), the game does an amazing job at raising doubts and including the possibility that he was actually murdered as has been recently proposed.

Midnight Mysteries: Haunted Houdini is being marketed as a "Deluxe" edition, rather than a "Collector's" edition, which means you get a complete story and a very useful built-in strategy guide for the price of a regular game, rather than something double the price stuffed with extras that you might not necessarily want. Even without any "extra" chapters you should find a goodly amount of gameplay within, along with the fun of the "unlimited" hidden objects modes or going back to play in different modes or to earn the various trophies. That's a lot of bang for the buck, and quite worth it.

What's not to love? The three modes of play make the game attractive to a wide variety of hybrid enthusiasts, the story is intriguing, the gameplay amusing, the visuals stunning, and the overall experience is one that freaks out and delights in equal measure. Midnight Mysteries: Haunted Houdini proudly carries the series banner forward and provides great entertainment at a reasonable price. Give it a try and prepare to be both entertained and enlightened.

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Weekend Download

JohnBA little bit of looting, a little bit of inverting, and a whole lot of shooting in this edition of Weekend Download. In fact, if you tried to take Weekend Download through an airport security gate, you'd probably find yourself on the receiving end of some nasty stares and/or unusual search techniques.

dungeonchaos.gifDungeon Chaos (Windows, 16MB, free) - No one will ever fault a game developer for intelligently combining action and RPG elements. Especially not when it's an arcade shooter as awesome Dungeon Chaos. Lots of weapons to equip and cause destruction with, along with upgrades, hit points, levels to gain, and food recipes to keep you demanding more. It's pretty much exactly what you would imagine if you put an RPG and a shooter into a blender. Also, the secret best part? Dungeon Chaos supports local two player co-op!

invert.gifInvert (Windows, 6MB, free/pay what you want) - A classic platform game built around a simple inversion mechanic. Pressing the [c] key inverts the colors, turning solid blocks into background elements and vice versa. Using this and a few simple jumps, you must collect the keys in each level in order to unlock the exit. Basic in a lot of ways, but well-executed and good fun to play thanks to its balanced difficulty level. Note: You can download Invert for free or download with a small donation. It's your choice.

hackslashloot.gifHack, Slash, Loot (Mac/Win/Linux, 6MB, demo) - Time to get your roguelike on! A casual, mouse-driven dungeon crawling RPG is a dream for many players, and Hack, Slash, Loot aims to make that a reality. It's got a sweet visual style that's very retro without jumping into ASCII territory, and it's nice and streamlined in terms of quests and goals. Very accessible for new players and anyone not interested in memorizing keyboard commands.

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


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coryScale of the Universe 2In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox is stuck in a machine called the Total Perspective Vortex, a torture device that grants him the knowledge of how he personally relates in scale to the entire universe. It's meant to make him go insane, you see. The Scale of the Universe 2, by Cary Huang and Michael Huang, is basically that machine in Flash form; it isn't really a game but it'll still blow your mind.

Much like the original Scale of the Universe, you control this toy by using the mouse-wheel or scroll bar to scale in and out. You can also click on various objects to read their amusing text descriptions; these are new to the sequel. You start at human scale and can scroll all the way down to theoretical concepts like strings or all the way up to the potential size of the universe. That's pretty big, and you have to scroll for a long, long, long time time to get back to human scale from there. It's kind of terrifying, honestly. Try not to think about it too much.

It won't last more than about twenty minutes, even if you count reading all of the object descriptions, but The Scale of the Universe 2 is still a quick way to instill some humility in the player. Or, if you're like Beeblebrox, reminding you that even if you're comparatively miniscule you're still the coolest thing in the known universe.

Play The Scale of the Universe 2


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Rating: 3.9/5 (68 votes)
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AlexPorcupine PopHelp feed some peckish porcupines in pursuit of the perfect Philly "sammich" in Porcupine Pop, a charming action physics puzzler from Duck Next Door. Strap a porcupine into the slingshot and aim by clicking and dragging with the mouse. Clear a stage of balloons in as few rodents as possible to pass it; clear everything using only one porcupine to ace it. Different color balloons affect your prickly pal's trajectory in different ways, with some bouncing them upwards or backwards, and you'll have to contend with rogue air currents and pesky clouds to boot.

Though the concept may be familiar, the adorable graphics, catchy music, and impressive 50 level length ensure there's a lot to love here. The game also does a good job of introducing new mechanics just as things begin to border on repetitive and there's a neat little feature of marking where you shot your last porcupine from, allowing you to easily tweak that almost-perfect previous shot. If you ace the Normal difficulty quick, try out Expert for tougher versions of puzzles with one fewer porcupine to work with. Plus, you can brush up on your geography as the little guys bounce their way across changing American backdrops on their quest towards the City of Sammich-y Love.

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Rating: 4.6/5 (2597 votes)
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chatchat.gifJohnBChatChat is an online multiplayer game by Terry Cavanagh, creator of VVVVVV. It's a highly intricate simulation involving deep-level behavioral algorithms and calculus-based — wait, no it isn't! It's about being a kitty! The wildest dream of every internet human has come true in this simple little game, giving you full permission to nap, purr, meow, and catch mice to your furry heart's content.

So what's the life of a cat like? Pretty much like you'd imagine. You have a handful of areas to explore, with territory ranging from an alley to the "mush room" and even a tree top. You'll come across little tip boxes from time to time, as well as plaques that broadcast your position when you step on them. There are even a few commands you can unleash from the chat box, including napping, meowing, screeching, and purring. Cat stuff, basically!

There's sort of a goal in ChatChat, which is to capture mice and bring them back to your doorstep, but it doesn't give you anything beyond points, which are about as useful as mittens for lobsters. You can also get turned into a dog, which functions sort of like a game of tag, adding a bit of craziness to the otherwise laid back social atmosphere. If you're looking for some time to kill and would like to pretend you're a cat, well, now you know where to go!

Play ChatChat


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Rating: 3.5/5 (82 votes)
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Kyhkyh_adynatopia_screen.pngImagine a dimension not only of sight, but of mind; a venture into a confusing land whose boundaries are imagination. You're next stop... Adynatopia. Doo-DOO-Doo-doo-Doo-DOO-Doo-doo. (Cue the Twilight Zone music.) This should help put you in the right state of mind before you journey into Louis (T)'s unique puzzle platformer, where you control a black pawn in 4-dimensional space.

Using [arrow] keys or [WASD] to move and [spacebar] to jump, your goal in each of the 14 M.C. Escher looking levels is to touch the grey checkpoints. It seems like some impossible jumping, but that's the challenge of the game. What looks like a platform above you isn't necessarily 'above' you. You'll have to warp your perceptions and make careful use of the depth jump ([spacebar]+[up]) to complete each level. This game will blow.your.mind! Or possibly just blow it up, to which some JiG reviewers can attest.

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraSurprise! This is our 251st Link Dump Friday!... what? No, we did not just not notice last week was the 250th. Geez. Rude. It so happens that in my homeland the number 251 is sacred because of reasons! So celebrate now, consarnit! We've not only got an interview with the lovely folks over at Ironhide Games, we've also got news coming out of your nose and maybe even something cute and playable!

The Next Game BossAllez Indie! You know One Mr Bean, right? Of course you do. He's the guy who's been creating some of the most personal and evocative games on the site for a while now, including the big winner of the 9th Casual Gameplay Design Competition, ... But That Was [Yesterday]. Well, surprise, now he's all famous! He's taking part in IGN's new web series The Next Game Boss where he'll be honing his talents and competing (as the only one man team, no less) for a big prize. Each week, more teams will be eliminated, so make sure you're rooting him on every Tuesday! Don't forget about us when you're famous, dude. GO TEAM BEAN!

SpelliriumMightier than the Sword Can I talk about Spellirium? I want to talk about Speillrium. I'm going to talk about Spellirium. Untold Entertainment, who you may remember from a certain aggressively adorable thing, is working on a new game that I can't wait to throw my money at. Puzzle games are great. Word games are great. Adventure games are also great. Spellrium is a "dark fantasy trashpunk" game where you spell words to solve problems and battle enemies as you travel around a ruined world. The screenshots are beyond gorgeous, and the story sounds gloriously grim and quirky. Doesn't that sound like something you need? Hit up the developer diary to learn more!

FlipflopgamesDesign Unto Others Don't you just love it when people are nice? (Be quiet, yes you do.) Flipflopgames is a one-kid company comprised of Conner Haines, an eleven-year-old who loves gaming and creating games. Conner runs BElieve, a program where he develops iOS games free for any kid 5-12 who has been diagnosed with cancer. Kids download a template, fill it out with their designs and game concepts, and Conner creates the game for them over the course of a few months. The games can be free or paid, and all paid game proceeds go to the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Yes, that's right. Conner is both more talented, and a better person, than I am. Check out the site and send some good vibes, then maybe go out there and do a random act of kindness for someone.

Da New GuysCAN YOU SMELL WHAT WADJET IS COOKIN' Hey, Wadjet Eye Games! Those guys are awesome, amirite? So then if you know them, you might also be interested to know that they've just announced their next game; Da New Guys! It's an adventure game set around the professional wrestling scene that follows the escapades of Simon and Defender as they set out to rescue their teammate Brain after he wins the title belt... a match he was supposed to lose! It goes without saying that you can expect this one to be weird and quirky, and if it sounds like your sort of thing (or if, like me, you just like making really old wrestling references in place of actual wit), you'll definitely want to check out the official site for screenshots, video, and more.

Pony WingsTiny Game Clone You want games? Oh, I'll give you games, she said, in the most sinister fashion possible. Nutcase Nightmare, the creator of the dividingly ghoulish puzzle game Gap Monsters which I loved serves up Pony Wings, a simple arcade clone of iOS hit Tiny Wings, but better, because it has ponies. Well, pony. Singular, for now. It's crafted in HTML5, and the goal is to simply fly (or roll) as far as you can by helping Scootaloo, the little orange pegasus filly, use her rollerblades and momentum to catch some air. It's simple, but it's adorable and exactly the sort of thing you keep playing over and over when you really should be doing something else. Yes, that's right. I'm going to turn you all into bronies. If it happened to me when I couldn't sleep last year and there was a marathon on, then I'm darn well taking all of you with me.

Interview!
Continue reading for an interview with Ironhide Games!


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Rating: 4.5/5 (115 votes)
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joyeMission in Space: The Lost ColonyThere's a lot of debate over whether governments should invest in space exploration, mostly a lot of blah blah blah about the expense. But there's a much better reason why we should never build space stations in distant areas of the galaxy, and Storm Alligator has provided with the cautionary tale why in Mission in Space: The Lost Colony. Oh sure, at first glance it's an extremely competent turn-based strategy game with a compelling sci-fi storyline. But don't miss the forest for the trees here. If we go out into space, aliens are going to leap out of ventilation ducts and feast on our entrails. Do you want your entrails to be feasted upon? Do you? I thought not. Let's just stay on earth and play games about it instead.

The game's interface is intuitive. You can play the entire thing with just the mouse, or you can use various hotkeys such as [tab] to switch between party members and [X] to end a turn. The game's first few levels serve as a tutorial, and there is also a question mark icon in the upper right hand corner to explain anything you're unsure about. This icon also provides hints for the current level. Guide your party around an alien-infested space colony. Sorry, you can't just brandish your flamethrower and lay waste to everything; what would be the strategy in that? Instead, each level has certain mission objectives, such as restarting drainage systems and rescuing survivors. Last through all three acts, and you can save the colony.

Mission in Space: The Lost ColonyAnalysis: The key to the game is mastering the game's alert mode, whereby you can set a party member to automatically attack approaching enemies, with the drawback that the number of movement points in the next turn is hampered. Since most of the objectives involve getting from one side of the map to the other, or running around to various locations, movement points are absolutely critical, but if you let an alien get too close, it can kill a character in only one or two turns. The enemies in this game are easy to destroy (a single character can easily kill two or three aliens and still be able to do other things in a single turn), yet because the aliens just keep coming, eventually you'll be overwhelmed by sheer numbers. This adds an intense time element to the game and makes every turn feel like it counts.

You can tweak yourself via the upgrade skill tree to suit your preferred playing style, and reset your skill points as often as you want with no penalty, so you can try different approaches. There are 12 levels, but you'll probably want to play some levels more than once so that you can level up and make yourself buffer. On the other hand, the in-game badges reward the bold, with six challenges for gold starring various missions with a bare minimum of skill points, so even if you're a living Zhuge Liang, you'll find sufficient challenge there. The game's commitment to customization even extends to minor details like the ability to change the commander character's name and gender. This is truly a game that wants all players to enjoy it, and it succeeds as well at doing that as it does at warning astronauts to watch their backs.

Play Mission in Space: The Lost Colony


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Rating: 4/5 (69 votes)
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TrickyJanJan EscapeIs it a lucid dream by someone highly feverish? Is it a new escape game from Detarou? Well, why the heck can't it be both? It's JanJan Escape, and, as is standard for the genre, there are puzzles to solve and a room you must get out of. Not standard for the genre, of course, is the bed full of spaghetti, the leering koala man, the salaryman-swatting plant creature, and the duo of literal pot-heads in the wrestling onesies. Of course, they're pretty standard for Detarou.

You have to be in a certain frame of mind to enjoy the certain kind of surreality this Japanese designer brings. If you're in that frame though, there's nothing better. Be warned though: the puzzles, while having their own consistent logic, will require quite a bit of mulling over before the Eureka! moment comes along. Just remember to click everything, examine all the weird set-pieces closely, and prepare for everything. Yes, even that. In short, JanJan Escape is another installment of all the Dentarou-brand strange things we love and are confounded by. It's awesome, weird, and awesomely weird.

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

Letters in Boxes #28

ArtbegottiUsually, you'd be greeted to each Letters in Boxes challenge with a warm smile and an equally warm chocolate cookie. This week, however, we're telling you to get lost! We've got another batch of homegrown puzzles for you to tackle, all themed around mazes. In each grid, you'll find a way in and a way out, but how to get from one to the other is left for you to figure out. Watch out, because looks can be deceiving; some of these mazes are missing walls, but still have only one way out!

Letters in Boxes #28 - 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, February 6th at 11:59 PM (GMT-5:00). Grab a compass and get going!

Update: Congratulations to the following winners! :D

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

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Rating: 4.7/5 (132 votes)
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MikeSuper Crazy Guitar Maniac Deluxe 4The era of the "Guitar Hero" inspired music game is surely waning. But as we look back on the glory days of fake plastic instrument peripherals and the family and friends that played them, let us not regard it as a mere fad. Instead, let us allow Second Impact, the developers of Super Crazy Guitar Maniac Deluxe 4, latest in the series of browser-based music games, to remind us why we all played these games, and how fun it is to rock out at home, even if we don't have the chops to make it on tour.

Like other entrants in the series, Super Crazy Guitar Maniac Deluxe 4 (I may never tire of typing that) is all about re-imagining the Guitar Hero experience for your home PC, so if you are unfamiliar with these sorts of games, you should take a look at the helpful in-game tutorial. Use the [1234] keys (or [ASDF], if you select that preference in the Options menu) to play long notes with your left hand, and the [arrow] keys for shorter attacks in your right. Play the keys indicated by the passing icons to successfully rock out; flub your timing or accuracy and experience the ignominy of lameness.

The controls sometimes seem a bit loose or clumsy, but are generally responsive and suitable for mimicking the Guitar Hero controller on your keyboard. The set list lets you thrash to a broad, if obscure, variety of fine head-banging tracks, from classic-sounding metal to ska to "boss-fight" guitar noodling. Super Crazy Guitar Maniac Deluxe 4 improves over its predecessors with amusing presentation and a host of new options and features. You can play every song in two difficulty levels, garner achievements for epic thrashing or embarrassing failure, and battle egregious enemy bosses like the diabolical Puppet or the innocent Pizza Guy through the shear power of Rock. Or you can just put on your headphones and sneak a quick jam in a break in your day. Either way, let Super Crazy Guitar Maniac Deluxe 4 let you remember how much fun rock music games can be.

Play Super Crazy Guitar Maniac Deluxe 4


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Rating: 4.4/5 (197 votes)
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TrickyBurrito Bison RevengeWill those darn Gummi Bears ever learn? When you steal the wallet of the angry minotaur that's already crushed your comrades once before, there will be a reckoning... a sugary, candy-coated reckoning. It's Burrito Bison Revenge, an action launch game from Juicy Beast.

It's a very fun way to past the time, though it does run into the dilemma most games of the launch genre do when attempting a sequel: Best of Casual Gameplay 2012how do you innovate when constricted by the expectations of the premise? Juicy Beast does all the right things... refines the gameplay, quickens the pace, adds a number of new enemies, mechanics, and achievements, but it still feels more like "Burrito Bison 1.5" rather than "2". Of course, that's not a bad thing. Like its predecessor, the game is never content to let you sit back and get bored while waiting for the minotaur to lose momentum and hit the ground. There are always body slams to time correctly, cars to hijack and rocket-ships to pilot. This definitely mollifies the repetition of grinding for upgrade cash. Launch after launch, Burrito Bison Revenge keeps the wackiness going and the entertainment flowing.

Play Burrito Bison Revenge


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Rating: 4/5 (62 votes)
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elleelle_cavepuzzlesagift_image2.pngWould you go to the ends of the earth, through bat infested caverns, crossing fiery pits of lava and crawl like a spider to give your significant other a present? Of course you would—that's what you call fun! Thus you delve into Cave Puzzles: a Gift, a quirky puzzle platform game by Oleg Vorontsov.

Flex those finger muscles over the [WASD] or arrow keys and give your brain some caffeine because each of the twenty-six levels is a test of dexterity, ingenuity and dogged determination in the courtship gauntlet. During stickier moments when timing is not your pal or a puzzle is meticulously construed, it's a good thing you like a funky baritone sax and The Flintstones epitomizes your idea of quality interior design. There's an visceral "Heh, cool" in the roughly drawn edges and hip musical beat. So heft up your relationship cred and go get that gift.

Play Cave Puzzles: a Gift


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Rating: 3.6/5 (94 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypIf there is any one group of room escape designers that excel at the art more than any other, it would have to be the Japanese. Don't think so? Then check out the top five finishers for Best of 2011 Escape Games. Another thing the Japanese do really well is ghosts. Whether in stories, manga, anime, or live action films, the Japanese seriously know how to create a chilling atmosphere (check out "Ringu" vs. the westernized remake "The Ring" if you don't believe me). Back in December we debuted a new designer, MyGames888 and their interesting effort, 3 Doors, and this week they're back with the spooky Escape from the Haunted Room. It isn't difficult to see that this talented group is fulfilling the promise seen the first time around.

Escape from the Haunted RoomAs the title suggests, the room you're to escape from is haunted, although it is haunted with a Japanese ghost, which means not jump scares, screams, and buckets of blood, but rather quiet glimpses as you explore each area of the tiny apartment searching for a way out. The spirit seems almost benign, merely discretely making an appearance here and there, but don't be fooled. This deceased girl appears lonely and, well, let's just say there are two endings to this macabre little game. Much of the fun involves figuring out both endings.

Navigate using the arrows at the sides and bottom of the screen, click on an object once to use it, double-click to examine it. MyGames888 has once again taken great pleasure in playing with the basic assumptions of a room escape, using found objects in interesting and unique ways. Things aren't always what they seem. The downsides to the game are the lack of a changing cursor, leading to some pixel hunting, and the lack of a save function. Fortunately, there's a "replay" function if you find the bad ending. Some sort of musical accompaniment would have also helped to enhance the already charged atmosphere.

All things considered, Escape from the Haunted Room is an atmospheric little escape game with amusing puzzles. It's not very long, but it contains enough chills to be worth the effort. Enjoy trying to escape the room with the good ending.

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