March 2012 Archives


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vertex.gifVertex (Windows, 39MB, free) - An early-release demo of a game that's been in production for several years and is still a work in progress, Vertex is on track to be the next massive-hit metroidvania. Inspired by the likes of Cave Story, Chrono Trigger, Spelunky and Super Metroid, Vertex drops you in a world that encourages exploration with multiple branching non-linear paths, upgrades, an RPG-like equipment menu, item shop, and much more. The game already looks and sounds fantastic, and the demo is nice and meaty, so you won't feel sleighted when it ends. You will, however, want more, and with any luck, that dream will come true soon enough!


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Weekend Download

JohnBChoose your own introductory paragraph! A) I'd rather have something short and informative, but please make at least one joke about cheese. B) I don't have time to read this, I have too many games to play! C) I can't find the parser input line. Help!

vertex.gifVertex (Windows, 39MB, free) - An early-release demo of a game that's been in production for several years and is still a work in progress, Vertex is on track to be the next massive-hit metroidvania. Inspired by the likes of Cave Story, Chrono Trigger, Spelunky and Super Metroid, Vertex drops you in a world that encourages exploration with multiple branching non-linear paths, upgrades, an RPG-like equipment menu, item shop, and much more. The game already looks and sounds fantastic, and the demo is nice and meaty, so you won't feel sleighted when it ends. You will, however, want more, and with any luck, that dream will come true soon enough!

roguemoon.gifRogue Moon (Windows, 5MB, free) - A short physics arcade game where you must try to slingshot yourself from planet to planet. Using an unwieldy energy beam, tap the [arrow] keys to influence your direction. When you're close enough to a planet, you'll attach a beam to it. Sling yourself away, though, and you'll eventually break free of its gravitational pull. With any luck, you'll latch on to another planet and continue your journey forward. Takes some time to acclimate to the controls, but once you do, you'll love the spacey feel and the awesome visual presentation.

omeletteboris.jpgOmelette Boris (Mac/Win, 8MB, free) - A nice little puzzle platformer made in 48 hours for a game jam earlier this year. In Omelette Boris, you start as a chicken, running and jumping around as chickens do. Your goal is to work your way to a special block that transforms you into a rolling egg, then get that egg to a block that will hatch you. Since eggs are fragile, you'll spend your time as a chicken pushing blocks around and stacking bales of hay to form soft landing spots. Good challenge, great visuals, and an all-around good time, especially for a game made in two days!

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


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Rating: 4.4/5 (24 votes)
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Shiver: Poltergeist

DoraWhen has mysteriously inheriting property, especially an abandoned manor on a private island, ever lead to anything good in a horror movie? Ricardo Chellini sees the event as a stroke of luck and a sign that his mundane life is finally turning around, but those of us with saturated with spooky fiction know this is right up there with buying a vintage car the last several owners died horribly in in terms of red flags. Artogon Games invites you to turn off the lights for another atmospheric and unnerving hidden-object adventure Shiver: Poltergeist.

Shiver: PoltergeistBecause this is a horror story, you can expect that when Ricardo arrives at his newfound island everything is not lovely and normal and cheery. The place appears to be in disrepair, despite a very wall mannered butler, and there's also the issue of the strange lighthouse he can see from his new porch that gives him the creeps for some reason. When fiery apparitions begin making an appearance and Ricardo notices an uncanny resemblance between himself and one of the manor's former owners, he realises his inheritance might have more than a few strings attached. You can change the difficulty setting whenever you like under the options menu, so don't sweat over the choice at the start of the game. Gather items, solve puzzles, and try not to be too put off when statues start weeping blood and leaving notes of obsessive, threatening love. After all, in some cultures, that's the ultimate sign of affection, right?... right?... hm. This finally explains the restraining order I got from Steve Valentine.

Analysis: Vanishing Hitchhiker was a bit of a milestone in the hidden-object adventure genre because it proved those games could be genuinely scary. While Poltergeist doesn't have quite as many shockingly frightening moments, it actually does better with its atmosphere and pacing. The game is about as creepy as you can get, with corner-of-your-eye style frights, and the story is also more constrained this time around so the big scares and startling moments you do get feel like they have something to do with the narrative as opposed to just making you squeal. Poltergeist is also drop-dead gorgeous, with beautiful environments and artwork you always want to see more of. Combined with the occasionally excitable but otherwise beautifully moody soundtrack and the heavy atmosphere, you've got one genuinely immersive game... apart from the distractingly goofy in-game narrative text. Holy cannoli indeed. As a caveat, it's also worth mentioning that there are a few scenes that might be a bit nauseating for people with a fear of heights.

Shiver: PoltergeistThough it takes a while to really get going, the story is actually a really intriguing driving force behind the game. You know almost immediately that you've got a vengeful spirit after you, so the gameplay focuses on finding out why in addition to getting out alive. In appropriate mystery fashion, it's all a bit more complicated than you might think after the first few clues. The gameplay itself, while nothing to really call original, is at least solid and engaging. The camera and flashlight make a reappearance, leading to more wonderfully creepy moments (though not as many as you'd hope), and while you'll need to solve a few puzzles and hidden-object scenes, there's much more straight-up adventure gameplay than you might expect. Naturally, this means you can expect a few obtuse item usage moments, but the hint function can help lead the way if you get stuck or just missed an interactive spot.

At close to four hours for the main game, Shiver: Poltergeist is a decent length, but like its predecessor also unfortunately suffers from having the game end on a cliffhanger that's only resolved if you play the bonus content available in the Collector's Edition. This bonus content also deals with the big fat question mark left over from the main storyline. While you could technically call it a day after finishing the main game and resolving the poltergeist issue, story completionists are going to be left disappointed unless they fork over the extra cash for the Collector's Edition, which is a disappointment. Still, though not quite as scary as Vanishing Hitchhiker, Shiver: Poltergeist is a brilliantly atmospheric, fun, and engaging game that marries a ghost story with a whodunnit murder mystery. Definitely give the demo a try, and don't forget to turn down the lights.

A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains a bonus chapter, art gallery, strategy guide, and more. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions (or 2 club credits), and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.

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

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


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Rating: 4.4/5 (142 votes)
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ArtbegottiSnowballAre you ready to have a ball? Even if it's a bit out of season, it's never too late to have a Snowball, Pixeljam's polar pinball pleasure. You're probably familiar with the standard controls of [left] and [right] arrow keys (or [A] and [D]) to control the flippers, plus [down] (or [S]) to control the main launching spring. However, you're not just dealing with two measly flippers at the bottom of the table, you're dealing with a handful of flippers, several springs, and well over a hundred targets to pick up in this huge pinball experience.

One of the fastest ways to rack up a huge score is to snag as many of the colored jewels scattered around the table as you can. Each one is worth an increasing amount if you clear a quick chain at once. You'll find large clusters of jewels gathered around the two magnet towers (activated with the [spacebar]), so be sure to swing by there for a quick score boost, as well as the chance to re-spawn all of the gems by collecting a certain amount. The large blue gems are worth a whopping ten grand each, but they take a combination of skill and luck to nab.

Snowball is a huge pinball experience, but it's not without a couple of drawbacks. Hitting one of the snowmen scattered across the map gives you instant multi-ball play, but the screen isn't large enough to let you see all three balls at once. The camera tends to follow whichever snowball is largest, meaning you might not see a ball close to falling out of play, or capable of racking up the most points, whichever you might be more concerned with. Also, the [spacebar] can be used with any [arrow] key to nudge the ball (while not near a magnet tower) at the somewhat steep cost of 1000 points. This is a fair tradeoff, but sometimes it's easy to accidentally trigger a nudge while trying to catch a ball in the magnet tower's power.

Despite this, there's a certain addictive charm to Snowball's wintry setting. Be it the original and lovely jazz music soundtrack, or the way the snowland denizens interact with the paddles as you play, Pixeljam has created quite a fun experience with this mammoth pinball game.

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Rating: 4.1/5 (54 votes)
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Kyhkyh_killtheheroes_title.pngYou awaken in a strange room with no memory of who you are. The objects in the room make you think, 'Hey, I must be an evil mastermind with plans to take over the world!", so you have no choice but to continue your ventures. You wouldn't want to put that big ole brain of yours to waste, now would you? Before you know it, heroes start invading your facility. In Nerdook's Kill the Heroes, you do just as the title suggests (demands?) in a tower defense fashion by using your mouse to place units and purchase upgrades. Ah, the old fight between good and evil, there's no way you're letting good win this time!

Heroes cycle around the board of a given level, shooting at you as you come into range. As they follow the path, you can place obstacles and attack units to slow them down and deplete their health all while you keep an eye on your own shield count. While you only have five different units at your sinister fingertips, each unit has several upgrades you can purchase for it after unlocking them. The units themselves and their subsequent upgrades are bought with your hard earned cash whereas the unlocking of upgrades is done with the stars you earn after completing a level, the number depending on how unscathed you came out of it.

As you progress through all 21 levels, the heroes become better armored, sharper shooters and more numerous in the form of multiple waves (referred to as reinforcements). The pace and manner in which you're informed of these additions work well, allowing you to adjust your strategy without feeling overwhelmed. Plus, who could say 'no' to a sweet, old former Kindergarten teacher turned evil assistant?

Much like another of Nerdook's titles, Kill the Heroes gives you much satisfaction in taking out the good guy. Hey, after all, they stepped into your territory. They should have paid more attention to the 'Trespassers Will Be Shot' sign.

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Rating: 3.3/5 (38 votes)
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TrickyRush Hour PlusSometimes in life, you get the feeling that it's time to be moving on. Theo's been working in the Zyborgian Slave Mines for a couple years now, and has finally saved up enough space-dollars to buy himself a cruiser capable of making the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. Now, if he can just get through this orbiting traffic, he'll be ready to start his new life. Originally conceived by Christopher J. Rock, with later additional development by Bryson Whiteman, Rush Hour is a solid retro arcade space shooter.

The mechanics are nothing new: blast enemies, collect space-dollars, purchase upgrades, repeat. However, Rush Hour Plus benefits from a nice dose of humor, especially in the selections of space-billboards you pass (and shoot). The disconnect between the pixelated aesthetic of the cut-scenes, and the sleeker presentation of the main action is, admittedly, a little jarring, perhaps the result of the game's bifurcated development. That said, it doesn't impact gameplay, leaving us with a cool coffee-break length shoot-em-up, perfect for anyone who's ever thought of how a laser would be just the thing for slicing through an afternoon traffic jam.

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Rating: 4.6/5 (117 votes)
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TrickyCraequDevelopers kinda go out on a limb when they throw the player into a game without providing instructions. It presumes that the concept of the work is appealing enough to keep the audience more intrigued than frustrated, whilst providing enough feedback, so that players have a fighting chance in determining the game's mechanics. When it works though, it can be amazing. Craequ, a Ludum Dare 22 entry by Jonathan Whiting, is one such success. Players are dropped into a puzzling pixelated world of corridors, pushable blocks and crystal balls. However it is a world with a logic behind it. Once you figure it out, you'll feel really smart for having done so, and even smarter as you take down every challenge the game throws at you. Craequ has a quite effective interpretation of the competition's theme of "alone": the atmosphere really makes you feel that your little avatar is completely on his own. The ending does seem abrupt, but really, Craequ feels like it couldn't end any other way. Craequ is clever and has no problem assuming the player is too. That's a good combination.

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraRise and shine! It seems the Game Fairy came in the night and left all sorts of news for the good little gamers. The naughty ones just get copies of Desert Bus (no hope included) and Dead Island. For those of you with positive karmic balances, enjoy the good news!

The Sea Will Claim EverythingLands of Awwwww Yeaaaaah Who rocks? Jonas Kyratzes rocks. The popular developer, known for his thought-provoking and imaginative games that totally make you bawl your eyes out when you weren't expecting it has just announced his first commercial release; The Sea Will Claim Everything. Set once again in the Lands of Dream, the upcoming adventure/narrative/awesome-waiting-to-happen will deal with a foreclosure on the home of the Mysterious-Druid family, but since this is a Kyratzes game you can probably suspect that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Hit up the official press release to learn more and check out some screenshots... you can be bet I'm going to be first in line when pre-orders hit!

Indie BuskersHat and Talent in Hand Making games is hard, and making good games is even harder. That's why you should get excited for your chance to get involved in the process, one good idea at a time! The Indie Buskers are a group of developers (Sophie Houlden, Rat King Ent., Sos Sosowski, Pekka Kujansku, and Ido Yeheili) who are about to make your dreams a reality. You can visit their website and give them an idea. Any idea for a game. You want a game about riding ponies through Silent Hill while weilding the Wabbajack? Tell them! There's no guarantee your idea will come to pass, but on the weekend of April 14th-15th of this year they'll pick a handful of ideas, vote on which five they like the best, and then create them live before making them available to play. Sound good? Heck, sounds amazing! So go take part!

ClosureNow Available On A PS3 Near You! By the time this article already goes live, Tyler Glaiel's creepy-cool puzzle platformer Closure will already have been released on the Playstation Network, so you've probably already played it. If so, well done, and a brohoof for you! If not... well, all I can say is I'm not mad, just disappointed! Check out the original browser game to see what all the fuss is about, and then boot up your PS3 to show an indie developer some love. Congratulations, Tyler and team! Closure will see a release on your computer later this year.

GOGAs Long As It's Still Good Last year, DRM-freeing superheroes and champions of the downtrodden everywhere Good Old Games flirted with offering more current content by taking orders for The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings. Well, they're throwing their hat into the ring once more with the announcement that they will be offering more indie games and taking more pre-orders for day-one releases. Provided they stick to their "no DRM" guns, this could potentially be a great new option for those of us who don't like not technically owning a game, and also might mean that more indie titles will reach a broader audience. Don't be scared, GOGers! I know games made after 2000 are new and scary, but there's a ton of great content out there if you're willing to try it! What do you guys think; will you be supporting GOG and consider ordering from them?

Baldur's Gate Enhanced EditionBaldur's Reasonable Pricing Surprise! It turns out all you'll need to play the upcoming Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition on the go is any ol' iPad, not just the fancy new one, and the developers are even considering an iPhone version as a possibility! The news comes courtesy of Touch Arcade's newest Podcast in an interview with the team, and hot on the heels of the news that you can expect to pay under $10.00USD for the mobile version as well. Which, for a game this big, is a crazy good deal.


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Rating: 3.9/5 (38 votes)
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ElleBristliesBristlies are cute and round. Bristlies come in an assortment of colors. Bristlies are, in fact, bristly. As they have no legs, they also depend on someone else to send them to their respective boxes where they can nestle down safely. You are that someone. Cut their ropes, switch on the fans, activate force fields and remove obstacles to help the little bristlies home in this western-themed physics game created by Max Postnikov.

Yep, gameplay will seem downright familiar to anyone who has played Cut the Rope and Rich Mine 2. Although the aesthetics have changed, the basic premise is the same: get something round to land in its box. It takes a bit of skill and timing to make sure they don't get stuck, fly off the screen or land in the wrong box. Unfortunately, it doesn't become very challenging until the last several levels (there are 30 in all), yet it has all the polish and variety of devices needed to rustle up some amusement any time you're in need of a break. So mosey on over for some fun with Bristlies.

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Rating: 3.4/5 (56 votes)
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BryanEpic StandThe number of defense games out there is as massive as the hordes of enemies you fight in them, but Bright Sight Team's side view strategy game stands out in the horde's ranks. Epic Stand puts you at the top of your castle as the battle wizard and magic is your only weapon.

To defend your castle walls, click on the screen to where you want the spell to hit and let it work its magic. The level is over when there are no enemies left standing and none of them reach your wizard's final floor. If you pass certain requirements on any level, you gain skull trophies to be used for purchasing upgrades that are both beneficial and fearsome. The upgrades can include new spells (like summoning a dragon or golem), soldiers to defend upper floors, and tower fortifications. The defense of your tower is rather short lived at ten levels, but you have Hard Mode and Survival Mode to keep you in the fight. Epic Stand is a refreshing take on a standard genre that is just as appealing and addicting as its brothers.

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Rating: 4.5/5 (84 votes)
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DoraTime 4 More CatMegadev's fancy feline is back in a sequel to 2009's cat nomming adventure with even more arcade avoidance action. Time 4 More Cat follows a cat that wanders through a hole in a fence one day and stumbles across a strange force that alters his reality. Suddenly, he finds himself in a strange realm where people only move when he does, food falls from the sky, and collecting mysterious glowing orbs imbues him with very unusual powers. Will he ever find his way home?

Whatever game mode you select, the cat always follows your mouse around screen. The objective of the game is basically unchanged; eat food, avoid people. Touching people results in failure (although the story mode gives you three lives), but since they only move when you do, you can pick your course carefully. Don't go too slowly, however, as food that falls from the sky has a timer on it, and the quicker you eat it the better.

As you progress, obstacles become more frequent, and more dangerous, from whirling plastic bags that follow you to bulky vehicles that are hard to avoid. Collecting the white orbs that appear grants you a single use power, such as Push or Teleport, and the ability changes the more orbs you gather. Using one power burns all the orbs in your possession, so think carefully about what's more useful for you.

Considering how simple yet lovely the original was, it's impressive that Time 4 More Cat manages to improve on it without piling on so much that you lose the addictive ease and simplicity that made it popular to begin with. The art is beautiful, soft, and surreal, while the soundtrack only adds to the dreamlike atmosphere. Forcing a three strikes rule to the story mode feels like it may be too restrictive, since you have to start all over if you lose. But with seven different modes to choose from and a stellar presentation, Time 4 More Cat is exactly the sort of true to form and hard to put down, simple sequel we like to see. Come on, there's always time for more cat!

Play Time 4 More Cat


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Rating: 4/5 (170 votes)
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elleWeirdos on a TrainWasabi, Sara's cat, ever appreciative of being rescued from cat-nabbing goblins, looks her deeply in the eyes and says, "Sara, we have a train to catch." She's quite miffed that her cat waited all this time to reveal his loquaciousness. Still, she gives in to his insistent demands and boards the midnight express, unanswered questions rolling through her thoughts, to travel through the countryside with a bunch of Weirdos on a Train.

You begin this point-and-click adventure from Tucker Bowen, author of the Something Amiss series, in your cabin in train car one. By following clues and using a bit of ingenuity, acquire the five tickets needed to reach—a mysterious someone in—car six. It feels a bit like an escape-the-room game meets Alice is Dead; the teasing discoveries, need to sleuth and narrative elements are here albeit the tone is much different, more unique to Tucker's talent as an artist and storyteller. Navigation seems a bit awkward, especially since one black and grey shaded cabin door looks much like the next. Still, you have a talking cat and enough guideposts (car numbers, quirky occupants, imposing conductor) to help you make the necessary distinctions.

Weirdos on a Train is the fourth in the saga, Sara and the Sarcastic Creatures, and it is by far the best of the bunch. Sara's story started as a coffee shop simulation/hidden object game called Javinians, then continued in a quiz game called I Dream of Weirdos and, after that, another point-and-click adventure, Stupid Cat Snatching Goblins. Truthfully, none of the previous three have much to recommend them in terms of game play. Nonetheless, they're worth taking a look at for the intricate and quirky artwork and characterizations. It's also nice to see how Sara's story unfolds and to notice Bowen's improvement as a game developer.

If the trend continues, we can look forward to more adventuring (or platforming? or metroidvania?) in episode five. Where will these sarcastic creatures lead Sara next? What's the big secret Wasabi's hinting at? And why, if Wasabi could talk all this time, didn't he speak up sooner? One thing I do know: if weirdos jumped out from behind my espresso machine, a talking cat would be the least of my worries.

Play Weirdos on a Train


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Rating: 4.7/5 (3098 votes)
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DoraPokemon Tower DefensePokémon Tower Defense is one of those things you look at both with apprehension and a sort of guilty longing. The game, by Sam and Dan, is exactly what it sounds like; the popular gotta-catch-em-all experience turned into a fan-made tower defense RPG hybrid complete with goofy story, evolution, trading, Mystery Gifts, badges, and more. Originally featured in a Link Dump Friday article in 2011, it's a surprisingly fun, addictive, and even strategic little game that fans of the series will want to sink their teeth into.

Best of Casual Gameplay 2012Each stage in Story Mode has different requirements for victory. Your "towers" in this case are the Pokémon on your team. You set your lineup before each stage, and then drag and place them to squares on the battlefield where they'll attack anything in range. You can also adjust your Pokémon placement on the fly, grabbing and dragging them around to any other open spot on the map if you need to make a change to your strategy. Important, since different types do more or less damage against each other, with psychic prevailing over fighting types, and grass beating the tar out of water, for example. Fighting is automatic, but you do need to keep an eye on things; Pokémon will only use one attack over and over, but you can select which one whenever you like by clicking on their icon at the bottom of the screen. Just like in the handheld version, Pokémon will level up and even evolve when certain conditions are met, learning new moves as they go. (Though they'll only get experience for being close to an enemy when it's defeated.) Leveling up requires money, oddly enough, and if you've got a bunch of it burning a hole in your pocket you can even pay to have your favourite team member learn new, more powerful moves, or relearn old ones you may have had it forget.

Pokemon Tower DefenseFor the first two chapters, your Pokemon's life bar won't come into play at all. Chapter Three, however, turns the tables by having enemy Pokemon act as towers and your team be the invaders. Click on a Pokémon's icon to send them down the line, and hope they make it through alive... especially since they can't fight back. Suddenly, all those defensive powers make a lot more sense, and moves that lower enemy accuracy or boost your own defense are much more valuable. You're definitely going to need a well-rounded group of Pokémon to win the game (or compete in online versus mode), so it's a good thing you really can catch all 151 of the original critters through gameplay. If a Pokémon has a red health bar, just drag a drop a Pokéball on it when it's health is low. Certain Pokémon will only appear on specific levels according to a percentage, while others are only available depending on what colour of game you choose to play at the beginning. And of course, if you've been a good little boy/girl/pony/whatever, you might just stumble across a shiny Pokémon too. Or, if you're up for it, try Challenge Mode to win shiny or special Pokemon by winning levels with a pre-picked Pokémon team.

Analysis: Despite some typos and errors, the dialogue in the game can actually be pretty entertaining, and is chock full of jokes and references to the long-running television series. But if there wasn't much polish on the writing, the crew behind the game has more than made up for it with the staggering amount of work put into fleshing out the concept. The different types and moves lend themselves remarkably well to tower defense and offer up some satisfying strategy. From its relatively humble beginnings, Pokémon TD has continued to grow with regular updates that hammered out bugs and expanded the gameplay. While you're definitely going to have to be a fan of tower defense games to really warm to this one, you can't deny that it's really worked hard to be something that succeeds on its own merits and complex gameplay rather than simply relying on a brand to carry it through.

Pokemon Tower DefenseIf the game fails at all, it's that it doesn't really offer much in the way of explanations that would make it more accessible to a newcomer. While it's definitely not a stretch to assume you're probably a Pokémon fan if you're playing the game, if you're not then you might have appreciated some more explanation of the basic mechanics behind the concept such as types and evolution. Likewise, the arguably less interesting gameplay swap that forces you to send your Pokémon in as invaders crops up without warning partway through the game, and chances are you're going to need to spend some money to relearn all those "useless" defensive moves you had your Pokémon forget if you didn't know before now it was coming. If you're of a patient sort, grinding levels and money in Pokémon Tower Defense can be extremely easy. Just pick a stage with a lot of waves, drop in your team, and then let things play out at 4x speed while you surf Equestria Daily in another tab. Sure it takes some time, but hey, you don't come to the internet to be productive, and with tons of Pokémon to catch and train, as well as challenges to complete, you'll definitely lose a lot of time to this one.

If you're a tower defense fan, you'd be missing out to pass up on this one just because it carries the Pokémon name. Despite the silly story and re-used graphics, Pokémon Tower Defense offers up a remarkably fun and addictive experience that continues to be improved on all the time. Die-hard Pokémon fans expecting or hoping for an experience closer to the original games might be disappointed, but the capacity for strategy and hard-to-put down addictive gameplay makes this a great choice to pass the time. Fun, colourful, and infused with that gotta-catch-em-all formula, Pokémon Tower Defense is an impressive little title with a lot of love behind it that's worth checking out.

Play Pokémon Tower Defense


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Rating: 4.6/5 (108 votes)
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Weekday Escape

elleTesshi-e has quite the gaggle of friends; I bet when they get together at the local pub for some buddy reconnect time, it's pretty raucous. For example, it's been quite a while since you've seen Mr. Y and his first invitation to you isn't a simple, "Hey, let's have lunch and catch up on old times." Instead, he wants to trap you inside this new room, especially remodeled for you with puzzling devices, just to see if you can get out. Oh, okay. Why not? Mr. Y always seemed like a funny guy, so let's Escape from the Study!

Tesshi-e 71: Escape from the StudyThe first thing you'll notice is Escape from the Study has all the trademark qualities that make a Tesshi-e escape game a Tesshi-e escape game, and this is a good thing as Tesshi-e continues to improve. Mr. Y certainly has done more furniture shopping—and contracted a massive case of bibliophilia!—since we last visited his room. Every fixture in this room exudes a functional wackiness sure to elicit smiles and head scratching. As usual, there is no changing cursor but with so many curious objects that you'd want to click on and play with, it's hardly needed. Most clues are visual and point well to where you should go next. There's a fair amount of code-breaking yet escaping from this study relies just as much on manipulation of devices and numbers. Typical to the type of room you're in, you won't find many distractions, the focus being on fewer, yet slightly more riddling, puzzles.

Nonetheless, Mr. Y left nothing out. He knows very well your fondness for wobbly picture puzzles and the happiness you derive from those aptly named coins. Enjoy the piano's serenade while you explore the equally sumptuous and austere surroundings of this studious-looking room. Ah yes, it is good to play a teasing game of "trapped you!" before catching up with old friends.

Play Escape from the Study

Note: scroll down Mild Escape's page a bit to find the game window, select a language (English or Japanese), then click "New Game" to start.


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Rating: 4.1/5 (32 votes)
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ElleMad Men: The GameHe's one of the coolest guys on TV, a beloved famous character despite being an alcoholic, masquerading, chain-smoking philanderer. Don Draper: he always wins. That is, as long as he's stealing ideas from his secretary, overstepping uppity junior execs and placating his beautiful ex-wife. Hence your mission in Mad Men: The Game, a YouTube interactive fiction game from The Fine Bros in which your choices determine Don's fate—continued confidence, good ideas and inner peace, or an untimely and embarrassing death—as well as the success of his Madison Avenue advertising firm.

Written and directed by Denny and Rafi Fine who are clearly fans of AMC's well-acclaimed series, Mad Men: The Game is full of inside jokes and pokes at Don Draper's foibles as well as the show's iconic standing. It certainly invites discussion of our cultural perceptions and of how something once praised for its originality is now, through its ubiquity, so cliché. The artwork and music by DoctorOctoroc adds to the fun and overall pitch-perfect mood. It can be disappointing, though; several scenes look so fun to play, causing fingers to twitch over the controls wishing it was a true platform game. Nonetheless, there's enough to keep your somewhat passive involvement with its three possible "good" endings as well as four dead ends, all of which come about according to your decisions when prompted. Click the option you prefer (before time runs out) and you'll be sent on to the next video via a new link. Considering the plentiful opportunity for do overs, feel free to take some risks. Don Draper would.

Fans of the show will probably get a bigger kick out of playing this than those who have never watched, yet even if you've only heard about Mad Men in passing, the jokes about the sexist 1960s cocktail and cigarette-crazed culture easily glean your smile. Mad Men: the Game is more fan fiction than satire; it does hold back on some punches and isn't quite as sharp and acerbate as the show it pays homage to. Yet it's an entertaining and enjoyable adventure into the advertising milieu that once was (and perhaps still is, albeit more subversively) part of our social norms.

Play Mad Men: The Game


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (48 votes)
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DoraStarmadaSometimes, all you really want is a little of that boom-boom-POW, and when that craving strikes, a arcade shooter like vibe 13 and xoo's Starmada is just what the doctor ordered. Use the mouse or keyboard controls to aim and fire your starship against incoming hordes of enemies, snagging cash to spend on upgrades, and weaving your way through a series of progressively more intense levels that approach bullet hell heights of ridiculousness. Combining classic gameplay and slick visuals for a familiar but addictive experience, Starmada doesn't really provide anything original, but fans of the genre will both be glad to have it, and relieved developers haven't yet found a way to demand quarters from you over your web browser. With frantic, enemy-packed levels and big bosses, Starmada has just what you need to cure those mid-morning "gotta blow something up" blues. MAKE YOUR TIME.

Play Starmada


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The Vault

Tricky Journal Entry 77 - It will soon be over. The monsters are at the door. I've already hidden the other disconcertingly red-stained pages of my apocalyptically-toned journal all about this abandoned cabin, and the only thing left is for me to make the decision that will determine which ending I get... Though, I'm pretty sure all of them will involve turning into a zombie, somehow. So before I recklessly solve that final puzzle, I leave to you another collection of classic games from the JayIsGames Vault. This week we have astonishing arena action, a peculiarly player-propelled pointer puzzler, and adorably addictive arcade awesomeness.

  • Amorphous+Amorphous+ - There are a whole heckuva lot of arena games out there. It's not hard to see why: a single warrior locked in a brutal stand-off against a massive horde of enemies is a powerfully dramatic premise. However, with so much competition in the genre, prospective developers should definitely be studying one of the best: Amorphous+ by Caleb Rhodes. It's an object lesson in how to differentiate yourself from the pack. The aesthetic is simple and clean, without a lot of random textures to confuse the aesthetic. The blobular enemies are engagingly goofy, but maintain a surprising amount of menace. More than that, the player is constantly rewarded for continuing play, whether from the snarkily-described medals earned, or in unlocked pages of one of the best-written bestiaries yet. Throw in an impressive armory selection headlined by a classic Big-Friggin'-Sword, and you have the worthy winner of JIG's Best of 2008 Action/Arcade Award.
  • Cursor*10Cursor*10 - Many multiplayer games emphasize teamwork, but Yoshi Ishii's Cursor*10 is one of the few single player games where cooperation is vital... but with yourself! With the mouse cursor taking center stage, you'll need quick thinking and quick clicking to make it to the top of the tower. You'll have some help along the way, though: the actions of your previous lives replayed in real time as you play! The minimalist visuals hides the impressive design of each of its levels, all of which ooze creativity. Cursor*10 and its sequel are games that totally live up to the promise of their awesome premise, and are must-plays for any puzzle fans.
  • Bubble IslandsBubble Islands - Is it possible for something to be Arcade-Perfect if it never actually appeared in an arcade? Well, if so, Dot-Invasion definitely managed it in his Match-Threevaganza, Bubble Islands. With its colorful cast of octopi, wizards, aliens, ice princesses, and robots, this game was clearly a labor of love for its developer, and the result can only be described as magical. A very worthy finalist in the 2007 IGF awards, all Puzzle Bobblers, Mean Bean Machinists, and Tetris Fanatics, should get ready for fun. Bubble Islands is slick. Bubble Islands is cute. Bubble Islands is addictive as all get out. What more could you want?

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


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (794 votes)
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Kyh kyh_iamflyingtothemoon_title.pngEvery now and then we all need something soothing to eat away a few minutes (or hours, in some cases). Well, what about a game about launching a rocket to the moon? Sure, it sounds like this should be a game full of excitement and balls of fire, but really, Massagames' I Am Flying to the Moon is a delightfully calm launch game. Starting out with a wooden hull (as if that would survive traveling through the atmosphere), shift your direction toward the left and right with [A]/[D] or [left]/[right]. Sure, you're mainly avoiding hot air balloons, helicopters and other such aerial machines, but what you're really watching out for are the bonuses in the form of money (for upgrades), fuel cans and repair kits. While there is enough to be entertaining, this is definitely not a game for someone aching for a fistful of action, so grab a cup of coffee or whatever warm beverage lifts your spirits and reach for the skies.

Play I am Flying to the Moon


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Grooh

JohnBGrooh is happygrr! Grooh is also the star of the lovely puzzle adventure Grooh, a tile-based isometric puzzle game that's all about destroying the very floor you walk on. Not only does it provide an ample number of challenging levels to complete, it looks and sounds like a cheery cartoon show, which will make you even more inclined to play it through to the end!

GroohGrooh is locked in a room, and Grooh wants to get out. Use the movement controls on the left (conveniently tilted to match the isometric layout) to walk, and note the strange markings and colors on certain tiles. In order to open the door to each room, you'll need to destroy all of these symbols. To break the tiles, stand on one and press the "floor" icon on the controls to the right. Grooh somehow absorbs the color of the tile below, and as soon as you move from that spot, all adjacent tiles of the same color are destroyed.

It's more than just breaking the floor of an otherwise nice castle, though. Crates must also be dealt with, as well as electrified tiles, teleporters, pits, and more. There are well over 100 puzzles to work through, and each one is smartly designed so you can't just fudge your way to the exit. You actually have to think to beat this one! To top it off, you earn medals for completing stages, the fewer moves the more impressive your medal. Add to that a series of achievements and you've got a perfectly streamlined but utterly engaging puzzle game that looks as good as it plays.

Bonus secret hidden JIG challenge: play four levels of this game and walk away without humming that catchy background tune!


Rating: 4.4/5 (76 votes)
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Angry Birds Space

BryanIt seems like this particular group of birds has been pretty upset with a particular group of pigs for quite some time. Now that they've taken their shenanigans to outer space, you can bet the madness isn't going to calm down anytime soon. Rovio Mobile has dropped its irate little friends into the role of space super heroes defending their egg-shaped homeland in Angry Birds Space. The physics/action game calls upon your mental fortitude to use gravitational forces to destroy all of evil-pig-kind. The angry birds are back and they need your help!

Angry Birds SpaceAlthough the birds have gained interstellar superpowers, you still need to launch them from a slingshot using your finger and the touchscreen. The birds do not fly true, however, so you have to adjust your shots by taking into account the forces of gravity. Environmental obstacles and the birds' unique powers must also added to the equation, but when you successfully fling a bomb bird into an asteroid field, you'll realize it was worth all the trouble! The right combination of these powerful elements is crucial if you are to get the high score and max stars for each level.

Everyone and their mother has played an Angry Birds game before, and the attractive visuals and easy-to-learn gameplay haven't been lost in Angry Birds Space. The new abilities and addition of mixed gravity/anti-gravity brings a lot of new experiences to the series, even if you've memorized every level of every Angry Birds game thus far. The small monetary investment is an easy decision, and if you don't mind parting with a little more cash, the tablet HD versions are far superior to their small screen counterparts. The birds eagerly await your support, cosmonaut!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the full version

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the iPod Touch (3rd Gen.). 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.


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (28 votes)
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Denki Blocks

JohnBIt's not every day you get to see a nearly-forgotten ten year old puzzle game return from the dusty video game archives! The puzzle game Denki Blocks was originally released on Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance back in 2001. Other ports followed soon after (see Jelly Blocks for a nice, similar browser experience), but it wasn't until the digital download ecosystems of the mobile scene really got going that it resurfaced to stay. Now, with both regular and HD versions on most of the major app stores, Denki Blocks is here to stay, complete with over 100 levels of delightfully difficult puzzles to solve!

denkiblocks2.jpgThe idea behind Denki Blocks! is to slide groups of blocks around the screen and join like colors together. Everything moves in unison, so when you swipe the screen right, all of the blocks move right one space. By using corners and walls, you can prevent certain blocks from moving while the rest float free, allowing you to form shapes and eventually pass the level. Once blocks join, they're together forever, so you really have to think several moves ahead so you don't maneuver yourself into an impossible situation. Each stage also features a master challenge you can strive for, presenting extra-difficult goals like completing the level using a set number of moves, within a certain time limit, or by forming a specific shape with the blocks on the screen.

Denki Blocks is one of those unforgivingly difficult games that refuses to hold your hand or make things easier for you. A few controls at the top of the screen allow you to reset the level or undo a move, but beyond that, it's just you and your brain versus this game's impressive stock of puzzles. Easily one of the simplest but most complete games you can grab for any mobile device!

Note: The Daily Workout version below includes only a few puzzles, while the HD and XHD versions for different platforms include improved visuals for higher resolution devices.

Play Denki Blocks! Daily Workout

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an HTC Incredible. 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.


(6 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Enigmo

JohnBAn early hit in the iTunes App Store, Enigmo and its sequel Enigmo 2 appeared for iOS devices back in 2009, itself based on a downloadable version for both Mac and Windows operating systems. Now, much to the delight of mobile device-owning physics puzzle fans, Enigmo has branched out to include more platforms. Get your tablets ready!

enigmo-mobile.jpgEnigmo is built around a simple idea: get water droplets from one place to another. You do this by placing and manipulating certain tools, similar to games like The Incredible Machine or Armadillo Run. Buckets, conveyors, trampolines... the gadgets at your disposal are a bit wacky, but they certainly get the job done. Place objects on the screen and rotate them using the touch screen. Then, once everything is set, watch the water bounce to the goal. A winner is you!

Enigmo works very well on larger-screened devices, and naturally the touch controls are just as intuitive (if not more fulfilling) than a mouse-based scheme. The visuals are starting to look a little dated, however, and a good HD reboot would be a great idea for the series. Still, standard definition graphics have never ruined a good game, and Enigmo is exactly that. One of the classic physics puzzle games that deserves a spot on any mobile device you own!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an iPod Touch. 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.


(6 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Tradewinds 2

DoraSandlot's swashbuckling strategic sea-faring sales simulation can now go wherever you go on your iOS, NOOK, or Kindle Fire! Tradewinds 2, one of the earlier chapters in the much beloved series, has you unfurl your sails for adventure, fame, and most importantly, coin. You begin as a fresh-faced would-be captain of your choosing with a tiny crew and a tinier ship, with only a handful of currency (and some debt) to your name, but if you play your cards wisely and take a chance on adventure or two, you might just find that one day your name is sung from one end of the ocean to the other. Provided, of course, you don't fall for the ol' candy-gram trick.

Tradewinds 2There are two main things you need to concern yourself with; money, and your ship. Cash is used for everything from repairs to buying cargo and upgrades, including new vessels, but you can't very well get any if you have no ship to carry you around in. While you start out with a lowly sloop, which even sounds depressing, as time passes you'll gain access to bigger and better ships with more power and flash. They're expensive, of course, so if you want to afford them you have a few options. You can either visit the markets in each port, buying various items like fish or spices, and try to sell them somewhere else at a profit, or you can take on tasks for the governors of each city to earn rewards. Typically, these tasks either involve fetching something or shooting something

Tradewinds 2 consists of a series of screens, each representing a different area, with buildings in cities that you can tap on to visit the different establishments. On the world map, you can tap a location's name to sail there, and should you encounter scallywags or scoundrels along the way, you'll automatically enter into combat. During battle, all you have to do is tap an enemy ship (helpfully adorned with Bad Guy(tm) black sails) to direct your fire and then sit back and keep an eye on things. You can buy more cannons to deal more damage (or replace ones that get destroyed), and special one-use weapons like firebombs and chains can be purchased at the shipwright and deployed at the tap of an icon to help take the edge off of a hard fight. Your ship's health is represented by the green bar at the side of the screen, and if it gets too low you may want to hit "flee" to hightail it out of there. You know what they say; he who fights and runs away gets ridiculed mercilessly the next time he visits a tavern, but one day will have enough to buy it and throw everyone else out on their stupid, mocking faces. (Was that Ghandi? It feels like it was Ghandi.)

Tradewinds 2Analysis: As an entry point to the series for newcomers, Tradewinds 2 more than does its job. While it has a lighter touch with humour compared to the nonstop gags of, say, Odyssey, and also isn't quite as hero-centric in terms of its plot, it's a well-written, occasionally funny casual adventure with lots of oddball characters that's perfect to pick up and sail around with whenever you have the time. The visual style is simple but colourful, and navigation on the touch screen is easy and natural. Things do get a little muddy on bigger screens like the iPad, but it looks great on smaller devices and keeps the buttons big enough that those of us with sausage fingers won't have too many mis-taps. Of course, if you're like me and roughly as sharp-eyed as your average Zubat, you might also be willing to deal with a little muddy texturing on the iPad if it means blowing up the resolution makes that tiny font easier to read.

Combat, unfortunately, is still pretty boring. Sitting back and watching tiny ships pew-pew-pew cannon balls at each other, with your only interaction deploying any special bombs or weapons you may have bought, can become a drag quickly. It makes you wish for a fast-forward button you could hold down to speed through encounters so you could get back to the rest of the game. Tradewinds 2 isn't dauntingly deep or difficult, however, and if what you want is something that's easy to pick up and get lost in whenever you have a spare moment to kill, this is definitely a good choice. Weird, funny, casual, and surprisingly engrossing, Tradewinds 2 might not be complex enough for some simulation fans, but it is a great title to cut your teeth on, or even just dive into if you feel like your repertoire of saucy pirate names isn't quite big enough.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on a First Generation 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.


(5 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Waveform

JohnBSlightly abstract, visually mesmerizing, easy to play, challenging to master. Waveform is just the sort of arcade experience you would expect from an indie developer. Eden Industries has created a captivating game using little more than a controllable waveform. As you weave through each level, your goal is to nab the highest score possible by manipulating a wave as it bounds through space, gathering light particles and growing stronger with each leg of the journey.

WaveformFittingly enough, everything begins on Pluto, which is a real, full planet that we all love and adore. By using the mouse, you can adjust the length and amplitude of the wave, smoothing out the bumps or turning it into a fierce impersonation of shark dentures. All along the screen, light particles, bonus portals, obstacles, and plenty of other things are placed, begging you to either collect or avoid them. By adjusting the wave, you can, with practice, do just that. Eventually you'll travel to the sun, completing your epic journey and making you feel pretty darn proud of yourself!

Waveform gets tricky in later levels when it introduces things like mines, refracting clouds, distorted stages, mirrors, and more. It becomes a truly challenging arcade avoidance game, but since the difficulty curves up so elegantly, you're never overwhelmed. In fact, even at its most intense, Waveform is a surprisingly relaxing game.

WaveformAnalysis: You've probably seen a dozen or more games that follow the same basic layout as Waveform. But you've never seen something as polished and utterly entertaining as this. Waveform is built around the idea of mastering the game, challenging you to outdo previous scores and continually striving to gather more stars so you can unlock more stages. It's the sort of game you can blaze through, then feel compelled to go back and fine-tune your skills.

Eden Industries has promised some downloadable content for Waveform that, at the time of writing, has not yet been released. The DLC will include a new planet to waveform yourself through, Deep Space Mode, and, at some point in the future, a level editor. The DLC will be free to anyone who purchases Waveform during its launch window.

If there's any fault in a game as straightforward as Waveform, it's that it doesn't lend itself well to marathon playing sessions. Instead of sitting down and journeying across the solar system in a single sitting, you'll likely want to stop and start again a number of times, simply because the movements get repetitive over the course of a long play. That's not to say the variety or freshness ever wanes, it's just that you pretty much have to adopt a casual attitude when going about mastering Waveform.

With a perfect audio/visual package and gameplay that lends itself well to multiple playthroughs, Waveform ends up being a fantastic arcade game that hits all the required sweet spots. Play it for fun, play it to win, play it for the achievements, or just play it so you can pretend you're a little particle of light zooming around the solar system!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


(16 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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The Cross Formula

Reader reviewUpon awakening in a run-down motel room, you hear a beeping sound. It seems to be coming from a tablet on the table across the room. A creepy message tells you the police are after you, to wash your face and get out. How did you get to the back end of nowhere, and what did you do to set the police on your trail? That's the set-up for a great new point-and-click adventure title, The Cross Formula from KatGames, developers of the popular Dream Chronicles series.

The Cross FormulaAs you retrace your steps from the week before, you begin to get clues as to who you might be and why you are on the run. Some unknown Big Brother controls the tablet that guides you, providing you with information — and warnings — along the way. Certain sights and sounds will trigger blackouts as you travel, and suddenly you are trying to figure out a piece of the formula you're searching for. What the formula might be, and what it has to do with you, are slowly revealed throughout the game.

Everything plays out in a very adventure-oriented kind of way. Items can be examined, taken, or otherwise interacted with by a simple click of the mouse. You can move to new areas by clicking certain parts of the screen, and a hint button at the bottom of the screen nudges you in the right direction if you're stuck. Your inventory also plays an important part in the game, both in terms of the story and with various puzzles you'll encounter as you progress.

The Cross FormulaAnalysis: Adventure games are just about the keenest thing ever, but sometimes the puzzles are too obtuse for a casual player to solve without consulting a walkthrough. Difficult riddles are one thing, but spending your time trying to figure out what the puzzle designer was thinking so you can follow that twisted line of thought is another thing entirely. The Cross Formula elegantly sidesteps that problem with sensible item usages and story outcomes that never leave you in the dark.

The beautiful pastel hand-drawn art is rich in detail, from the torn wallpaper in the motel room to stains on the ceiling tiles in the lobby. Set in the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona, the artwork draws on the color palette of the region, washing everything in bright white sunlight. Little touches add especial beauty to each scene, like the wind blowing outside the window of the motel lobby, or the sunshine streaming through rooftop windows in an underground bunker.

Sometimes, the map jumps you'll make are a bit disorienting, especially if you're familiar with the part of the world the game takes place in. One moment you're near Albuquerque, New Mexico, then you're in Arizona before suddenly hopping back to a mountainous region in southern NM. Fortunately, very little else pulls you out of the game's world, as even the mini-games fit the storyline. The high number of clickable objects is also a plus, even if it just provides you with a little information and isn't directly related to the tasks at hand.

In the end, no matter how gorgeous a game is or how good the gameplay, if it's over too soon, it's easy to feel cheated. The Cross Formula is a lengthy adventure, requiring two, three, or even four sittings to complete, even for the pickiest and most experienced of adventure nuts! It's a refreshing change of pace from the glut of hidden object adventure games that are flooding the market, from the artwork to the sound design and smartly-built puzzles. A great, unassuming game that will take you by surprise!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (120 votes)
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ArtbegottiAxonThink fast, but click faster! In Preloaded's fast-paced arcade action game Axon, you've got to grow your brain from the ground up by making neural connections. As a foetal neural cell, your goal is to stretch your neuron to as many protein targets as possible by clicking any of the available targets above your cell. Your neuron can only reach a certain distance to make a new connection, and that distance diminishes quickly, so you've got to act quickly to stay alive. Along the way, you'll find colored protein targets that boost your neuron's reach or even send you flying along your path, but be wary of competing neurons that can cut off your path. The longer you can grow your neuron, the higher you will score. Axon only takes a few minutes to play, but once you reach out and make some connections, you'll be hooked.

Play Axon


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Weekend Download

JohnBIt would take some sort of psycho alien to come up with some of these games below. And we say that with all the affection we can muster. Which is a lot, mind you, as we placed second in the International Hug and General Non-Offensive Physical Affection Competition held last year in Denmark.

foxaliensfromspace.gifFox Aliens from Space Invade a Planet within Space (Windows, 16.9MB, free) - Filled with action, explosions, and more attitude than a flock of petulant emo teenagers at an oldies concert, this is the game you want to play when you don't want to think, you just want to play. As Mr. Zuper Hero Dude, you have the ability to get rid of aliens, alien ships, and alien walkers by smashing them from above or by bringing them down from below. Rescue your friends while avoiding robot alien fire, then deal some damage in the best way you know how. Short, simple, and filled with pretty colors. Just the way we like it.

psychopowers.gifPsycho Powers (Windows, 4.5MB, free) - Imprisoned. No way out. Mind is blank. Time to escape. Freedom. I'll get out of here. I'll use my PSYCHO POWERS. Levitating through the sky, collecting blood, and shooting enemies with laser eye powers, this bullet hell shmup is absolutely bonkers. Not that we're making fun of the main character. Nope, that would invite certain destruction! Instead, we're heartily recommending this game for anyone who wants lots of moving objects to stream in front of their face. It's a genuinely tough game, but it's so crazy, it works!

tombsandtreasures.gifTombs and Treasures (Windows, 2.14MB, free) - No need to break out the old Atari, this ultra-retro game runs just fine on your PC. Famed archaeologist Charles Laurent has deciphered an old map and discovered a secret tomb guarded by Egyptian gods. He descends into the pharaoh's resting place and discovers more than one kind of danger lurking inside. Your job is to meander through the maze-like levels, collecting keys to unlock doors and nabbing ankhs to destroy enemies. You also have a basic weapon that gets rid of enemies to either side, but you still have to be smart so you don't get backed into a corner. Comes complete with a dozen levels, a secret level, and three boss battles! Yeah!

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


(10 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Living Legends: Ice Rose

DoraPeople, there are just some things you don't let loved ones do. Drink Red Bull, watch The Real Housewives of Terrible People, and run off to snow-covered, desolate magic mountains alone while offering up the vaguest possible explanation for doing so. In 4 Friends Games' hidden-object adventure Living Legends: Ice Rose, your beloved Edward has been missing for some time after traipsing off to Rosemont, a town that was buried in a blizzard that left what townsfolk who didn't flee in a "sleep state", and now that the police have given up looking for him, it's up to you to track him down. Of course, the chances are slim that Edward has either stumbled upon Liam Neeson and is helping him defeat some wolves in hand-to-hand combat, or kicking back in a ski lodge with some hot chocolate. Guess who gets to thwart an ancient evil homewrecker and save the world?

Living Legends: Ice RoseThe game offers three flavours of difficulty that change how much hand-holding (hints, sparklies) you'll encounter. It turns out that the evil force who has spirited away dearest Edward at least want you to have a sporting chance of thwarting their schemes, so rather than, say, surround the entire village of Rosemont in a wall of impenetrable ice they've decided to leave a trail of easily assembled clues and puzzle mechanisms for you to solve. The few townspeople remaining in Rosemont are all frozen solid, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they can't help you if you're willing to give them help in return. But, hey, as long as you have the hint and skip functions for when you get stuck, what's a little "combat a malicious evil ice witchery" between friends?

Analysis: If you get a vague Dire Grove vibe from playing this, you're not the only one, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's sort of like a more Disney-esque interpretation of the concept. Ice Rose is a beautiful game, and does a great job of infusing that magical atmosphere that makes these types of titles such excellent evening kick-back fare. The environments are gorgeous, character design is pretty solid (albeit silent, which makes the mouth movements odd), and the soundtrack knows when to kick in and when to fade away. It's not the most original concept in the world, but it doesn't have to be. If you like your games magical and entertaining over scary and suspenseful, then Living Legends: Ice Rose might be right up your proverbial alley if you're willing to look past the occasionally goofy writing.

Living Legends: Ice RoseGameplay is about what you'd expect, solving puzzles and tracking down items, though thankfully the latter doesn't really stray into the illogical. Some of the obstacles are, however, a little dumb. Do you really need to track down a key to get past a waist-high gate? Do I need to play a little matching game to get said key when it's the only key with a big ornate top on it? You need to hunt down something to tie back those shabby, frayed cloth curtains before you can pass through them? Really? It's not what I would call a deal-breaker, but it did wring a derisive snort out of me a few times. If you don't like an overabundance of hidden-object scenes, the amount in Ice Rose and how often they're repeated might put you off. They are, fortunately, clean and well designed, and the same can be said for most of the puzzles you'll encounter.

While the game starts off fairly easy, it does possess a bit of a difficulty curve the farther you go, although chances are you still won't find it much of a challenge. It's not that the game is deliberately easy, more it doesn't really offer anything you won't have seen before in other games and seems to focus on being lovely and approachable. I spent around four hours on the game, which may mean that players who value a lot of bang for their buck should try the demo first. Living Legends: Ice Rose is a familiar but comely game with enough style and intrigue to make it worth spending some time with. Fans of fairytale adventure will like the premise and stunning presentation, and if you want a genuinely casual and relaxing game, Living Legends: Ice Rose is well worth checking out.

A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains a bonus chapter, art gallery, strategy guide, and more. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions (or 2 club credits), and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.

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

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


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Rating: 4.6/5 (501 votes)
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DoraClickPLAY Rainbow 2I know that face. That's the face of someone who hasn't had their frown turned upside down in a while by another NinjaDoodle smorgasbord of puzzles and mini-games. Well, prepare for your day to get a little more colourful with ClickPLAY Rainbow 2, the sequel to the first game, and another fine showcase of hairballs, monsters, robots, and monkeys! As before, the goal is to figure out how to uncover the black and white play button hidden on each screen, and then click it. Easy, right?

There are twenty-four levels to solve this time around, and if you're expecting logical brainiac puzzles, well... don't. ClickPLAY Rainbow 2 showcases the same whimsical design and delightfully off-kilter problems to contend with. While you can generally figure out what you need to do by just experimenting, and the difficulty level is fairly low, a few of the puzzles feel like they're more finicky than they need to be because of the way they're implemented. This one is, uh, maybe a little grosser than its predecessor, however, with barfing cats, snot, and eye stitches all making an appearance, in addition to some cartoon violence, which is why this installment earned a yellow rating. (The more you know!) If you can handle a bit of squick and don't mind busting a few chops, however, ClickPLAY Rainbow 2 is another wild and weird way to inject a little silliness into your day.

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Rating: 4.6/5 (170 votes)
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Kyhkyh_traitor_screen1.pngJonas Kyratzes has brought us many enjoyable, thoughtful games in bizarre, surreal settings. Well, he's decided to grace us with another one of his creations, only it's not what you might be expecting from his previous work. Stepping outside of the box of strangeness you may have thought you could fit him in, Kyratzes has developed a top-down space shooter, Traitor. Don't get scared, he's still able to cast his powers of storytelling, it's just in a different yummy, gooey, science fiction package.

Traitor puts you in the shoes of a space pilot in the distant future. You've trained hard to earn the honor of fighting for the Augustan Hegemony and all it stands for. Until, one day you find that you don't quite agree with your superiors orders. This eats at you until you decide to become a rebel, a dissenter, a traitor. But it's not enough that you've left the empire behind, you need to earn the trust of The People's Council and those who support them before you can help them strike back.

Most of your time will be spent in the battle screen where you move yourself with the [arrow] keys and shoot with [X]. This is how you carry out the missions given to you by the various habitats in each section. You travel to the sections in the (universe? galaxy?) world map though not all of them are available right away. Within each section lie the habitats where you can accept missions or trade your hard earned credits for improvements on your ship. Not everyone is eager to deal with a brand new turncoat though, some missions require a certain level of reputation, which you can earn through other missions.

kyh_traitor_screen2.pngAnalysis: This game is huge. After playing around for an hour, you'll feel as though you've barely scratched the surface. There are so many missions available and so many upgrades to purchase! Through the open world style of gameplay, Kyratzes is still able to tell a story that compels you to chug along, even if you're not a die-hard fan of shooters.

The genre alone may deter some Jonas Kyratzes followers from hitting that play button. It's understandable to feel uncertainty when trying something completely different from a familiar developer, but considering Traitor on its own merits, it does not disappoint! From graphics to gameplay to some great music by Chris Davis, this is a well made shooter. If the intriguing pixel-meets-vector style graphics don't get you, then let the space opera storyline suck you in. There's no better feeling than causing the fall of a large, heartless empire. Haven't you always wanted to be that rebel gearing up to shoot torpedoes down an exhaust vent?

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Rating: 4/5 (176 votes)
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TrickyPirates of the Stupid SeasCan there be anything finer than sailing the seas, capturing ships, and looting treasure? Well, yeah, probably. Because, y'know. There's that whole scurvy thing. However, this be the tale of Captain James T. Stinkbeard, and the plundering of booty is all that he knows. So join him for some projectile physics sail-shooting action as you set off with the Pirates of the Stupid Seas, new from Backburner Games.

Pirates of the Stupid Seas has simple gameplay (shoot down other ships), but it's presented gorgeously, and has a decidedly surreal sense of humor: despite the subject, the tone is much closer to Sam & Max than Monkey Island. It's rare to find a physics shooter that's really as much about the arc of the projectile as its destination. The challenge doesn't pick up until quite a ways into the 25 levels. However, even if it's not that hard to do so, knocking guys off a boat with a cannonball never gets old. Put some shiver-repellant on yer timbers and check it out!

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Rating: 3.6/5 (45 votes)
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TrickyMission To UranusLet's talk about Uranus. We can tell from the satellite pictures we have of Uranus, that Uranus is large, gassy, and rotates on a funny tilt. Uranus has only been probed by NASA once, in 1986, and found Uranus to be calm and featureless. But now, gamers everywhere will be exploring Uranus in Pastel Games new Lunar Lander styled physics arcade game: Mission To Uranus.

Seriously though, safely rocketing from Point A to Point B is a tried-and-true premise, and Mission to Uranus does nothing to mess it up. Add to that the evocative landscapes, and the one-button mouse controls which combine perfectly with the well-composed levels, and you're in for a nice time. Be warned, however: your rocket is amazingly touchy to maneuver, and the landing platforms aren't at all forgiving. However, while your skill and patience will be tested, a safe landing is always satisfying. Just be sure to stock up on fuel in early levels, so you don't crash down the line. Uranus has enough debris as it is.

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Rating: 4/5 (40 votes)
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BryanCyclop PhysicsWith a hint of Greek mythology in the title, Cyclop Physics gets you rolling and sliding with these little, one eyed creatures to solve fun physics based tumbledrop puzzles. The goal is to get each coloured one-eyed dude to his corresponding platform, without falling off the screen or landing on the wrong colour. Click a cyclops to turn him into a ball, and click him again to turn him back into a square, figuring out how to use these shape-changing abilities to get around the obstacles on each stage.

The cute faces and interesting puzzles brings to mind another game, Red Remover, but Godvil Games makes you change shapes to solve the puzzle. You must balance between the physics of a nice circle and a diabolical square if you ever want to finish the puzzle and please the gods. If you blow through the twenty four puzzles and are still looking for more, try out the Sprint mode to test your puzzle solving skills in a hectic timed mode. With a small number of trials for you to overcome (more Greek mythology ), you can be the creator of your own puzzles with detailed options most people will overlook with the built-in level editor. With some spare time on your computer, Cyclop Physics is something to keep an eye on.

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Rating: 3.9/5 (22 votes)
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joyeThe HatchingsWhile the title may sound more like an avian horror novel, The Hatchings is actually a bright and shiny Orisinal game for your browser and iOS devices, featuring a mama hen who must be the poultry equivalent of the old woman who lived in the shoe, because she's laying so many eggs she doesn't know what to do. But here's what you should do: guide her away from running into any of her eggs until you've got a critical mass, and then set off a chain reaction for sweet combos!

In the Flash version, the hen will chase after your mouse cursor, laying eggs every few seconds, who will immediately start running around the screen crazily (hey, they can't see through their shells, give them a break). Maneuver the chicken around the eggs, and pick up golden apples if you see them, because they'll either slow everything down and make it easier, or they'll give your chicken a cat mask, and haven't you always wanted to be a chicken in a cat mask? As you run, your score multiplier will also slowly increase at the top of the screen. Once there's a ton of eggs on screen and your multiplier is high, run into one of them to set off a chain reaction of hatchings. Depending on how many eggs you hatch, a number of bonus apples may spawn to give you more time. Try to get the highest score you can before time runs out!

The mobile version is essentially the same except that it's controlled by tilting the device instead (be sure to calibrate it to your preferred angle via the game menu). Tilting ends up feeling a bit more immersive and exciting than the Flash version, but the game does have the strange flaw that switching apps causes your game to end rather than pausing it. Naturally, since this is an Orisinal game, both versions feature his trademark cheerful art. The madcap music with a touch of kazoo particularly suits the game's mood. Whether you play it in your browser or on your iOS device, it's certain to brighten your day. So get cracking!

Play the Hatchings

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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Link Dump Fridays

DoraThis week's Link Dump Friday has zombies, because the internet without zombies is like a wedding without a cake or a pony without her cutie mark, but we've also got balloons and Slak. I think that might officially make this the greatest party ever. The strangest, of course, and the sort of party where the police wind up getting called fifteen minutes into it and then backing slowly away because they want no part of whatever is happening, but still the greatest.

Hot Air JrCome Sail Away Love Nitrome's colourful, bouncy balloon action adventures Hot Air and Hot Air 2: All Blown Up? Then get ready to get carried away all over again with the upcoming Hot Air Jr. The game will have a new engine that will address some of the issues players had with the game sometimes feeling unforgiving, as well as introducing a new element every level to help keep things interesting. Who knew balloons lead such interesting lives? Here I thought they spent all their time being humorously stuffed under shirts or statick'ed to a cat's underbelly.

Defender's QuestSoon To Be 100% Shinier So you've been playing the absolutely stellar Defender's Quest tower defense RPG, right? Of course you have. So, like me, you're probably going to be pretty excited to learn all about the upcoming Defender's Quest GOLD, which you'll receive as a free update when it's released if you bought the game previously. What's GOLD? Glad you asked! In addition to new art, it'll feature sidequests, bonus battles, something sneaky with "unique" rewards, and a pretty awesome sounding New Game Plus mode. If you love tower defense, you absolutely need to check this game out, and if you've already been playing it you can join me in pressing my nose plaintively against the developer's windows waiting for the "when it's done" release date to roll around. People like pitiful, right? It's all I got.

Project ZomboidBuilding a Better Zombie Every now and again someone tells me about Project Zomboid. I know about Project Zomboid. We have known about Project Zomboid. It's zombies meets sandbox-style open-world survival RPG. The game has been shambling around for a while, available as both a demo and a Minecraft-style advance purchase module, but as the team buckles down it seems like a big release might be on the horizon. Having purchased the game a long time ago myself, I can tell you that it's definitely unique and shows a lot of promise, especially for fans of morbid narratives. If you're the sort of person who knows never to take their eye off a pot of soup, then check it out.

The Walking DeadSpeaking of Morbid Narratives So you might have heard about this show called The Walking Dead, which has now become loosely based on its striking but depressing comic book source material. Well, fans, start your engines, because Telltale Games has just released the first trailer for their upcoming episodic adventure game based on the comics, right here at the official site. I've gotta say, I'm impressed; I admit I expected Telltale to pull back on some of the gore and violence, but that trailer is pretty intense. Episode one will be released in the spring (which is right about now, thanks to Winter Wrap-Up) and be available on a ton of platforms. Neat! So, what's next guys? I have one or two suggestions.

Baldur's Gate Enhanced EditionComing This Summer I love Baldur's Gate, but I wasn't necessarily thrilled to hear about the upcoming Enhanced Edition, mostly because the game didn't really need a facelift and it initially sounded sort of shallow. Well, I can admit when I'm wrong. Coming this summer, Baldur's Gate Enhanced Edition will still keep the isometric 2D visual style as well as all the original content and voice actors, but not only will it include ALL the games and their expansions, it also SHOULD be compatible with your old save games and most of the community created mods! I don't think I have to tell you how remarkable it is that the developers have made the effort to make that happen, but it speaks volumes about how much they respect the community, who have arguably kept the game going all these years. The game will also feature updated graphics, new characters and quests, and will even be available to play on the newest generation of iPad... although I doubt the mods will work on that version. Still, this is definitely something to celebrate, and keep an eye on.


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Rating: 4.3/5 (76 votes)
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DoraHarry Quantum 2: UnmaskedHarry Quantum; the P.I. name so nice they used it twice. They, of course, being TurboNUKE, the combined talents of robotJAM and longanimals, and in this case, we're glad theymade a repeat performance. Harry Quantum 2: Unmasked is the second part in the point-and-click adventure series starring everyone's favourite be-spectacled and be-fedora'd gumshoe, Harry Quantum himself. When the great masked wrestler Super Burro is fingered as the thief of some priceless Zaztec artifacts, he hires Harry to clear his name and figure out which dirty rat has been masquerading under his identity. Adventure? Mystery? PRO WRESTLING? Awwww, yeah, we're on the case!

As before, click around to investigate and interact. Harry will identify items in the speech box overhead as you mouse over them, and once you've picked up an object, you can plonk it in your inventory at the bottom of the screen for future use. Harry also apparently has magic eyes, because interactive zones in each area will glint periodically, which seems like a rather handy (though unfair) skill for an investigator to have. Just remember to search everything, and try everything, even if it seems weird. Especially if it seems weird. We are talking about a game with poo mints and Luchadores, after all.

Packed with puzzles, puns, and suspicious characters aplenty as you'd expect, Unmasked doesn't take itself too seriously, and the heavy emphasis on goofball humour, both subtle and blatant, makes it the perfect cheesy fare to relax with. Click detection sometimes feels a bit fussy, with item descriptions sometimes lagging to display, and some object use requires a bit of good ol' fashioned experimentation. It's a shame that the interface occasionally feels like it's fighting you or just spacing out, since otherwise Harry Quantum 2: Unmasked is a fun little title. You'll travel to quite a few locations, and excusing the occasional weird item use, you'll probably enjoy your sightseeing tour to track down Super Burro's imposter. It's a little longer than TV Go Home, and paired with robotJAM's bright artwork, it's definitely not noire. Give it a try, and remember; don't eat the guacamole.

Play Harry Quantum 2: Unmasked


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Rating: 4/5 (37 votes)
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joyeConstellationsIf we humans look at the stars in the sky and imagine images and patterns in the connections between them, then maybe jellyfish also look at starfish and see Constellations? It's a whimsical idea, certainly, and it forms the basis of Orisinal's latest charming arcade game, where tag teams of jellyfish shoot up your browser screen at a click, hoping to skim across a number of starfish and avoid hitting regular fish by chasing them away with the cursor. Occasional power-ups float by but aren't necessarily implemented perfectly; the "star burst" power-up, for example, releases a cluster of starfish, but they've often floated away by the time the next pair of jellyfish is ready to launch. However, artistically Ferry Halim remains at the top of his game. It's the little details like the cute expression of effort on the jellyfishes' faces as they launch themselves up towards the water's surface that make this one such a relaxing delight.

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Rating: 4.4/5 (81 votes)
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TrinnPocket CreatureHelp, help! The kingdom is being repressed! And what better way to overthrow the tyrannical King than by building a Pocket Creature army? Well, there might be better ways, but this is the way you're going to do it! Hire, raise, and evolve a team of monsters to fight your way up to the battle royale in this strategy game by NTFusion.

Start by purchasing a squad of adolescent Spirits, Puppets, Dragons, or the Undead in the shop, then switch to the team menu where you can swap up to 4 monsters into the team or feed your baby creatures to reach higher levels. After gaining a new level, you can evolve your creature into an even stronger, and often spookier-looking, form. With four creature types and seven evolutions per type, that's up to 28 possible monsters under your control! When you have a fighting group ready to go, simply click an available mission on the map to wage your first battle.

When it comes time brawl, it's up to little more than good strategy and a bit of luck to ensure a win. Because of the unique leveling tree, bigger monsters aren't necessarily better. Knowing your enemy is key, and arranging a team that can excel at certain battle types can make all the difference between victory or defeat. With a balance of status attributes and creatures that can heal, deal big damage numbers, take hits, support the team with unique abilities, or attack from a safe distance, you won't ever be at a loss of variety when it's time to plan your attack. Achieving a high grade after battles will earn you piles of gold to upgrade to an even stronger team, which will quickly become a necessity when that difficulty curve starts to rise.

The simple but appealing visuals add a touch of flair with haunting sceneries and character models that range from kooky to downright creepy. While there's a lot to enjoy here, there are also a few causes for frustration. Without any option to skip or speed up matches, it can sometimes be tedious waiting for a battle to finish. It's a shame that the monster abilities are all passive, and it's hard not to think of it as a lost opportunity to allow the player some involvement during combat. However, there is some benefit to taking time to observe battles, as it gives you a chance to compare how certain fighting styles perform against different enemies. Whether your army is built on cunning tactics or brute force, you'll soon find a favorite go-to team of creatures that's sure to leave the oppressive King shaking in his boots. So, come! Come and see the violence inherent in the system!

Play Pocket Creature


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Rating: 4.6/5 (165 votes)
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elleRobamimi: One Scene 2Perhaps you wouldn't think it to look at it, considering all the lessons in school regarding the importance of looking at an issue from multiple perspectives, but a lot can be happening in one point of view. This is especially true when that viewpoint comes from Robamimi in this picturesque escape-the-room game, One Scene 2.

The premise here is simple, just as in Robamimi's first One Scene: explore everything possible along this singular wall to gather clues, solve puzzles, and enter codes until you can eventually make your way out that cleverly locked door. There's no turning around or navigating; just click on something you'd like to examine more closely and, if possible, pick it up. Items in your inventory can be used or viewed more closely; if an object is currently unusable, then figure out how to alter or change it into a more useful something. How well and how quickly you can turn subtle-yet-logical hints into solutions will determine how soon you can escape. Yet not every "Why is it so?" is obvious or even obviously reasonable. Some things just have to happen in a certain way—like in Want You: Who Am I?—or, in this case, at a certain time. That's overcome by moving on to another task if things aren't happening when you think they should.

Being stuck in this room is no chore, though; its clean lines, pleasant aesthetics and abstract piano composition add serenity to the scramble for answers. You'll find yourself out before you know it, probably sooner than you wish. It was fun while it lasted, though. If that wasn't enough, you could always hit "replay" or take a look through our escape game archives for something you might have overlooked.

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Rating: 3.3/5 (65 votes)
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joyeFairy ClayThere are no fairies in Newtom's Fairy Clay, but there is quite a bit of clay, as well as beautiful purple elephants, strangely controlled lifts, and salami-coveting tentacles. It's an odd but lovely claymation world, and you can point and click your way through short but sweet levels to reach a rather unexpected ending.

The game has a subtle sense of humor to it and delights in absurd or unexpected solutions, which is great from an artistic standpoint but can be frustrating for you as the player trying to figure out what to do next. There isn't really a plot to speak of, not even a basic one like "escape," so mostly you're just trying to figure out how to make something happen. Things that you might think are important turn out to be red herrings that you can't interact with at all, and many of the solutions are things you couldn't possibly predict. Without spoilers, it's along the lines of seeing a chest that needs to be unlocked, and putting down some birdseed in another part of the room, and the birdseed causing a giant bird to come out of nowhere and kick the chest open. When solutions are that random, it's not so much puzzles you solve as it is trial and error.

In general, green means that your clay hero can walk there, and an open hand means you can manipulate something. One object contains multiple hotspots, but for the most part the changing cursor is the most fair part of the game, and enables the player to actually beat the thing. That's fortunate, because the animation, particularly the closing scene, is really charming. If you're looking for a lovely, simple yet surreal break of claymation in your day, then look no further.

Play Fairy Clay


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Rating: 4.3/5 (71 votes)
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DoraSimple MotionsRoman Konyukhov's laid-back physics puzzle game Simple Motions has, appropriately enough, a simple concept; use a red ball to collect all the stars on each level, and then get to the flag. Of course, you can't control the ball directly; you'll have to place tokens that direct how it moves and reacts. Along the bottom of the screen you'll find a series of icons that, when dragged onto the screen, will cause the ball to behave a certain way when they come into contact with it. Hit "start" to see if your devilishly laid plan works, and "edit" if you need to tweak some things. You've only got a certain number of tokens to place each level, but don't worry about failure; not only does the game show you the path the ball took the last time you hit "start", but if you're particularly stymied you can just click "menu" to get an option to skip whatever level you're on. You can't just skip your way through the whole game, since you need to complete at least one stage in order to skip another.

With a mellow soundtrack and a light, clean presentation, Simple Motions has a friendly style to go with its friendly gameplay. It's not necessarily a challenging game, or even a particularly original one, but it might just be the absolute perfect recipe for a relaxing bite of gaming. Besides, can't we all learn a lesson from Red Ball? It's not healthy to race around all the time. Sometimes, you just gotta go with the flow and let the universe take you where it will. Yeah, man. The Ball abides.

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Rating: 4.3/5 (121 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypIt's not often that we find profundity in a room escape, with some rare exceptions. Puzzles, yes. Lots of random objects, certainly. Strange devices, almost inevitably. But a series of room escapes that use the idea of an exploration of the solar system as a metaphor for searching deep within a strange house (or perhaps deep within the human psyche)? Well, there's one out there, a series of escapes by the fantastic GUMP and they have finally hit (after a nearly 2 year wait) with the next installment in their backwards journey through the solar system, Jupiter.

JupiterThe pink haired boy is back, and having traversed Neptune, Uranus, and Saturn (along with his silver flying tentacle companion) he must now tackle the most difficult room of the journey so far. Jupiter is set in a hexagonal shaped room where our hero and his mysterious (and malleable) sidekick must solve quite a few logic problems to continue their journey. Jupiter is packed with lots of tricky puzzles, as each room is a progression not only further into this amazing house but a progression in difficulty. Along for the ride is some haunting music, the usual stark backgrounds, and some pretty amazing cut-scenes. Will this journey ever end? Will the boy find his way to the heart of...whatever is waiting at the end, whether it be escape or something else? The answer lies with GUMP, and they're still not talking.

The lack of a changing cursor can be a bit of a pain, creating some pixel hunting in the minimalist backgrounds, and the puzzles are fantastic, logical, and tricky. There are very few objects to find, making Jupiter more of an intellectual stretch than just "find key A and insert in slot B". And best of all GUMP is still eschewing color puzzles, so the game can be enjoyed by all. Well, all who have a really good sense of spatial reasoning and the ability to think their way through some of the more esoteric puzzles.

For those who love this particular series of room escapes Jupiter is a welcome addition to the set, much more challenging than the ones that came before, and even more unsettling as the player is drawn even further into this odd, sterile, mechanical house. For those looking for more than a "5 minute and out" challenge, you'll be pleased with GUMP's fantastic escape game design.

Play Jupiter


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Rating: 4.4/5 (221 votes)
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DoraFixation2DArray's Fixation is the prequel to 2009's acclaimed The Company of Myself, but as you might suspect knowing Eli Piilonen, it's got more than a few tricks up its sleeves. This moody and surreal puzzle platformer stars Kathryn, a young woman with a lot of baggage and not much desire to confront it. Instead, she's focusing on other things... her roommate's boneheaded boyfriend, for instance. Or maybe the strange people she meets who don't seem to have control of their habits. But if the root of her stress was just as simple as "he's annoying" and "she's a bimbo", then Kathryn probably wouldn't be about to embark on the journey she is. Lasers? Bottomless pits? Personal conflict? Oh, I think we've all been there.

Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to advance dialogue or move around and jump, or double-jump. The mouse, you'll shortly discover, is used to trigger and direct Kathryn's smoke; she's a habitual smoker, and the stuff she exhales can be used for a variety of things, aside from getting kicked out of restaurants, such as flipping switches and blocking lasers. It's not just belching like a dragon, of course; like any smoker with her salt, Kathryn can also blow rings with the right timing to flip other switches. Despite what Kathryn may think, however, she can't go it alone; you'll find yourself teaming up with other characters who will follow you around and help out. Oh, and if you're not digging the mellow tunes, right-click the game and select "mute" from the pop-up window.

FixationAnalysis: Fixation is a trip. Combining an evocative soundtrack by David Carney, expressive artwork by the talented Ben Jelter, and Eli Piilonen deft touch with crafting a narrative, it's an extremely strange but compelling little package. Strange because, well, we are talking about a world where everyone reacts to magical smoke and smoke-related switches blocking off parts of their scary floating houses, and compelling because its ability to flesh out the people and circumstances around them is really impressive. It's surprising how well everything matches, and the detailed sprites and animations look fantastic. Once you stop focusing on how weird everything is, however, you'll discover that Fixation has some serious puzzle platforming chops to go with its introspection.

The layout of the levels varies from "that was neat" to "how did I get so bad at games"? Getting the hang of Kathryn's smoke is what might be trickiest for some players, especially since the timing for smoke rings can be maddening to wrangle when you're hurrying along on several timed switches at once. If you're not a platformer by trade and just want to experience the narrative, you might find it a bit of an uphill climb in places. Fortunately, like any good puzzle game, once you figure out the trick to any given level and stop trying to do things the wrong way, you'll have a much easier go of it. This is easier said than done, of course, since Fixation is no slouch in the clever department, and there's more than one stage that will manage to make you feel both simultaneously brilliant and dumb when you get the hang of it. It's part of what makes Fixation so very satisfying. Well, that and knowing the pink overalls I wore when I was six are coming back in fashion. The difficulty level feels sort of like it swells and ebbs; certain stages midway through the game I felt were tricky but immediately solvable, while others had me running back and forth in utter bafflement, ready to quit. As the game advises you at the beginning, don't be afraid to take a break; sometimes a set of refreshed eyes is the answer.

While the puzzling is definitely worth checking out, however, you'd be missing out if you just focused solely on it and skipped all the dialogue. It's interesting to see how Kathryn's character is revealed through her interactions with the characters she meets, especially when they cause her to rethink something about herself. Like its predecessor, Fixation excels at weaving a very character driven narrative, and the cast is almost universally likable, and of course more complex than they initially appear. You'll need some steady reflexes and some patience to get through it, but Fixation a creative and clever game isn't just blowing smoke.

Play Fixation


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Rating: 4.2/5 (97 votes)
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DoraSpace is Key 2High difficulty games; hurts so good or just plain painful? If you try Chris Jeffrey's one-button arcade title Space is Key 2, you'll probably make up your mind in a hurry. You control a little square that moves forward automatically, and the only thing you can do is hit the [spacebar] at the right time to make it leap over obstacles or explode in a shower of pixels upon contact with one. Each stage has three floors to get through, and if you fail at one, you only have to restart that particular spot... of course, that's all the mercy the game is willing to give you. You'll have to contend with obstacles that move and expand, switches that raise or lower things, and your own rising twitchiness if you want to succeed at the game's twenty levels and ten challenges.

High difficulty games can create some of the most polarising experiences you'll encounter; you either love them, or you can't understand why anyone would be willing to do this to themselves. With its snappy presentation and straight-forward gameplay, Space is Key 2 is hardly innovative, but it is a well polished little torture device for your reflexes. More than anything, it's a great illustration of how hard you can force players to push themselves at a simple concept just by implying it should be easy. So go ahead and warm up that [spacebar]... you looked too relaxed today anyway.

Play Space is Key 2


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The Vault

DoraChances are if you tell someone a game is "retro", they'll either clap with delight or roll their eyes. It's true that a lot of games will use the whole "retro" tag as a cheap way to pull in an audience, but these three games are proof that the retro style and even the old-school gameplay can be just as addictive and surprisingly effective as anything else you'll encounter online today.

  • MoneySeizeMoneySeize - People may say it's not about the cha-ching cha-ching, but secretly, way deep down, we all want our very own Scrooge McDuck Money Bin to swim around and defy physics in. Matt Thorson's challenging platformer about a spiffy little dude with a spiffier name who wants to collect all the money in the world appeals exactly to this instinct. Of course, he wants to build the world's largest tower, but whatever; details, schmetails! Replete with tricky jumps, dastardly enemies, and cunningly designed levels, MoneySeize wraps difficult but not impossible gameplay in a tasty retro style that makes it the perfect snack for aspiring billionaires with twitchy fingers.
  • Don't Look BackDon't Look Back - Terry Cavanagh has been doing the retro thing for years now, but in some surprisingly different ways. This challenging platformer with a vague arthouse vibe pays homage to a certain Grecian myth as you uncover the narrative through the terrain around you. While the difficulty level makes it one of those games only a certain set of gamers will embrace, Don't Look Back showcases just how striking it can be when you marry story with gameplay... especially when you force your players to work more than a little to get to the payoff.
  • Dino RunDino Run - Pixeljam's highly addictive dino running game is now available in tasty downloadable SE flavour, but the original is still as appetizing as ever. You play an adorable and fleet-footed little raptor trying to outrun a meteor shower and his eventual demise across a series of levels, leaping over obstacles like trees, rocks, and other dinosaurs as you go. Dino Run is a perfect example of the "just one more try" school of gameplay, and the simple but colourful visuals make for some very nice eye candy. Complex? Nope. But if you're looking for some casual extinction, Dino Run packs tons of charm and personality into its pixellated package.

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: 3.2/5 (35 votes)
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TrickyKillbotEven since Alan Shepard shagged a couple of balls on the surface of the moon, mini-golf and space have always been a tantalizing combination. Happily, Krang Games has gone ahead and brought it to browsers everywhere with Eunaborb, an arcade physics game wherein you duff your way through the universe and, by doing so, save it! Somehow!

Familiar to many previous golf games, with its "drag an arrow from the ball to determine its direction and speed" mechanic, Eunaborb has some interesting features, chief among them the ability to hit a ball again once it is in motion. Considering that a misplaced shot can send you hurtling into the infinite void, especially once the turbo-boosts and dropping tiles get involved, the chance for a mulligan is a good thing. Even if Eunaborb isn't quite the revolution that the developers seem to want it to be, it's still a lot of fun, and the large number of custom holes made with the comprehensive level editor will keep you playing as you sip that refreshing Arnold Palmer at your side. Fore!

Play Eunaborb


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Rating: 4.7/5 (34 votes)
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Draw-Something

BryanIf you always liked playing Pictionary as a board game with friends, now you can doodle away mobile style with Draw Something. A game very similar to Charadium or XSketch, OMGPOP brings players a socially addicting Pictionary-style game to both iOS and Android platforms (previously featured here when it was first released as a browser game). The game has even become so popular that it could possibly spawn a TV show!

Draw-SomethingIf you didn't like playing board games before video games came along or have never heard of Pictionary, here's the scoop. After finding a person to play with, one of you chooses a word, draws, and sends a video of the drawing process to the other player. The word chosen ranges in difficulty from easy to hard, but for those who are drawing-impaired, even an easy word can seem insanely difficult for your teammate. The drawings can even contain words if you draw them in, but that can occasionally ruin the mystery of guessing. (Words were especially helpful when Skyrim was the word and my teammate drew FUS RO DAH).

Teams are rewarded coins for correct guesses, and if you choose more difficult words, you'll get more coins. You can spend your virtual cash on things like bombs that blow away red herring letters or new colors to draw with. Who wants to stick with black, blue, red, and yellow when you can paint with an army color palette? Sadly though, the colors can only be bought while you are drawing your pretty picture and not from the main menu. A tad inconvenient, but not a deal breaker.

Draw Something gives off the feel of a social Facebook-style game, and its simple design bars no one from enjoying some wholesome fun. Without a timer to put on the pressure, players can enjoy making their drawings as artsy as possible and guessing the word as leisurely as they want. It can be endless fun, literally. Be warned, though, that because Draw Something utilizes random drawing partners, the possibility of catching inappropriate content exists. Usually, though, it's good, clean, Pictionary-style fun!

Play Draw Something (browser version)

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an iPod Touch 3rd Generation. 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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PixBlock

BryanPuzzle games are good brain food, and this recent addition to the iPhone library is no exception. The first mobile app from EatonLabs Ltd., PixBlock, reincarnates a well-known kind of logic puzzle that puts your pixel painting logic to the test. It's picross, folks, and it's a stylish and simple implementation that makes playing as easy as scribbling on a piece of paper.

PixblockUpon starting the game, you are greeted by the Space Invaders-esque alien with options for puzzles that range from a 5x5 grid to a more challenging 10x10 grid. Pick a size and go through the list of puzzles, the titles of which are hidden until you complete each one. At the top and sides of each puzzle are columns and rows of numbers that give you clues as to which blocks to fill in. So, if you see "2 2" next to a row, that means two sets of two squares need to be filled in that row, with at least one non-filled space between. Place pixels where they belong and 'x' out locations where they do not, all with a few taps of the screen.

PixBlock is as easy to pick up and play, just like your family's favorite bathroom past time, sudoku. The game contains over 150 puzzles (32 in the 5x5 category with the rest sized 10x10) to fill every free waking moment you have in a day. The challenge level isn't too high, and the lack of larger puzzles can be a turnoff for die-hard picross fans, but you can always work your fingers numb re-solving puzzles to perfect your times, showing your mastery of logic for all to envy. You would have never thought that filling in little pixel boxes could be so entertaining and intellectually stimulating!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an iTouch 3rd Generation. 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.


(5 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Brain Cube

JohnBHave block, will tip it over in every direction trying to slide it through the exit pit! Brain Cube is a mobile game that's similar to the browser game Bloxorz, putting you in charge of a little rectangle that can be flopped bottom over top to maneuver it around a grid-shaped board. The goal is to move to the exit chute so the block slides neatly through, but getting yourself in the right position at the right time takes planning, luck, and probably a lot more planning.

Brain CubeWith the touch screen, sliding your little rectangle around couldn't be easier: simply swipe in the direction you want to go. If there's not enough space to tip yourself over, you simply won't budge (a welcomed difference from Bloxorz). Moves are counted at the top of the screen, and the more economical you are in each level, the better your final score will be.

Brain Cube features four different level themes, each filled with game-complicating objects like multiple cubes, block splitters, spikes, wood, teleporters, arrow blocks, switches, and slippery ice blocks. As if the level designs on their own weren't enough to stump you, adding these mind twisters to the mix really kicks the difficulty up a few notches. A lot of challenge, a lovely visual presentation, and loads of levels to keep you good and busy. Brain Cube is a fully-stocked puzzle game!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the HTC Incredible. 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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LINK

JohnBIn the growing world of 19th century North America, supplies such as oil, lumber, and farm animals were in high demand. But with the unexplored frontier standing between civilization and the burgeoning new towns, transporting everything was more than a hassle, it was almost impossible. In the bridge building physics puzzle game LINK, you have limited resources but must somehow cross impassable gaps so heavy trains can make their way to the new world. Up for a challenge?

LINKSimilar to the browser games Bridgecraft and Cargo Bridge, LINK gives you a set amount of materials along with anchor points where you can affix girders, blocks, ropes and beams. Build a path from one side of the chasm to the other, then toss up support grids to ensure it can hold weight. When you've got everything just right, release the train and see what happens. Stress is shown by reddening items, and if something breaks, you'll have to go back to building mode and tweak your design.

Materials are definitely the biggest limiting factor in LINK, and the amount and type of items you're given varies per stage. The physics can occasionally feel too bouncy, but it's easy to compensate with sturdier building methods. The touch screen can also make for inaccurate placement of girders, ropes, and such, so be prepared to zoom in and out frequently or erase mistakenly placed items. If you choose to give LINK a try, be prepared for a challenging and thoughtful game. This is no casual stroll across the park, it's a difficult and sometimes frustrating game that will make you do some serious engineering work!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on a NOOK Tablet. 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.


(15 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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So You Think You Know Words

JohnBWell, do ya? Because if you don't, you might as well just give up now, this game is too much for you. In fact, give up writing and talking altogether. Why bother, right? Kinda hard not to accept a challenge as brazen as the one brought forth in the title of So You Think You Know Words. Fortunately, the mobile word game doesn't skimp in the content department, allowing you to spend hours on end proving that you do, indeed, know words.

So You Think You Know WordsA minimalist game in every sense, So You Think You Know Words features hundreds of levels packaged into a few basic themes (foodie faire, amazing animalia, simply synonyms, etc.). Choose a category, then pick your poison in the form of dozens of word triplets built around an even more specific theme. Once you're in, you'll see three slots at the top of the screen containing a series of blank boxes. At the bottom are letters, just enough to fill every box above, neatly forming three words. Try typing out a word and making a guess to see if you can fill in one of the mystery words!

So You Think You Know Words is a little more trial-and-error than pure skill, so even though it talks big, you can probably force your way through if you're quick enough with a virtual keyboard. From within the game, you can ask your Facebook friends for help, or turn on hints and receive a single letter from each word for free. If you want a real challenge, though, tough it out, use some letters, and fill in those blanks all on your own!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on a NOOK Tablet. 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.


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

JohnBWordsplosion is a hip, stylish word game that's very similar to the classic board game Mastermind as well as the more recent Wordspector. Your goal is to guess a series of five letter words using a single starting clue. You're given the first letter for free, but in order to figure out the rest, you'll need a combination of skill, luck, trial and error, and maybe a nice dictionary!

WordsplosionAt the top of the screen is a cloud where the target word is hiding. Using the letter spread below, type out a word you think matches the target, then tap the green arrow to submit it. Incorrect letters are tossed aside and marked on your keyboard. Correct letters in the correct spaces are left alone, while correct letters in incorrect spaces are stashed aside in floating bubbles, making it easy for you to drag and drop them into place for your next attempt. After a few guesses, you should be able to work out the target word. If you don't, well, your game isn't going to last very long!

Wordsplosion wins a lot of points for its simplicity, helpful control scheme, and reasonable level of difficulty. What really makes it a great experience, however, is its style and attitude. Visually, this is a game you love to look at, and when when it starts zapping lightning across the screen, throwing your letters around, and turning your keyboard red, you'll feel like some sort of word wizard living high atop a stormy tower of letters. Guessing words is rarely this entertaining (or cool!), and Wordsplosion gets everything just right for a nearly-perfect mobile experience!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on a NOOK Tablet. 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.


(1 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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IncrediBlox

JohnBIncrediBlox is a falling blocks-style puzzle game that uses careful color matching to craft a smart little mobile release. The black IncrediBlox are turning everything to shadow, but you can stop them with a little creative maneuvering of the red, blue, and green blocks that fall from the sky. Your goal is to match up groups of four squares, creating combos whenever possible to score massive points and keep the screen clear. It's all very simple at first, but then, the actual incrediblox start to appear and real strategy sets in!

IncrediBloxInstead of sticking to simple matching, IncrediBlox introduces special squares that do special things when matched up. The red blox, for example, burn all blocks to the left and right, while the blue blox grow large and eliminates adjacent squares with ease. The green incrediblox burrow down when matched, getting rid of squares below its current position. Toss these guys into almost three dozen levels and two additional modes of play and you've got the makings of a classic puzzle game!

The visuals looks great when taken on their own, but in motion, the papercraft look ends up a bit choppy. The block falling motion is painfully slow, leaving you staring at the screen while waiting for a tiny little square to reach the bottom. A quick-fall option is almost a necessity in this type of game! And finally, the controls leave something to be desired, as the blocks occasionally have a mind of their own and fall down columns far away from where you're touching. Despite these little hiccups, IncrediBlox comes through as a solid mobile puzzle game with a lot of personality!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on a NOOK Tablet. 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.


(3 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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ChessCards

JohnBSomething of an unusual, one-shot kind of game, ChessCards combines playing cards with chess rules, creating a puzzle experience that takes some time to wrap your brain around. You start with a massive field of playing cards, each laying face up and waiting to be moved. Your goal is arrange it so that each suit is on its own row. The catch is that cards can only be moved according to their assigned chess piece patterns!

ChessCardsThe rules are thankfully quite simple: even numbered cards move like pawns (one space in any direction), odd numbered cards move like knights (in an "L" shape). Jacks move diagonally like a bishop, and the king and queen cards move like their chess counterparts. In practice, you'll move, re-move, arrange and re-arrange every card on the board a number of times, almost like solving a Rubik's cube or a sliding tile puzzle, before you get it right. A full game could take anywhere between a few minutes to half an hour or more!

It takes some time to get used to the unusual movement rules, but once you do, you'll find yourself in the midst of a game that forces you to think several moves ahead. Unfortunately, apart from this one mode, there's very little else to keep you occupied, so it's definitely a one-trick game with few bonuses or other niceties. Still, when you've got a main game this intense, it's probably a good idea to leave out mini-games and crazy storylines so we can focus on the task at hand!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on a NOOK Tablet. 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.


(10 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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The King's League

JohnBIt's been years since the king has sat on the throne of Kurestal Kingdom. His heirs are no longer living, though, so to find the next leader, the king has issued a challenge. Whoever wins The King's League will challenge the king himself and emerge with a shiny new throne to call their own! The mobile version of the 2011 browser game works quite well on touch screen devices, and it still provides serious challenge while looking just as cute as a button!

The King's LeagueThe King's League is a strategy game at heart, challenging you to recruit and train heroes from across the kingdom to capture territory and complete quests. You'll spend most of your time managing your troops and training them to better their skills, from soldiers buffing up at the gym to archers learning to play chess. You have a limited number of days between matches as well as limited funds, so you have to manage your people carefully or wind up broke and weak, ready to lose the fight in an epic sort of way!

Battles play out on their own, allowing you to sit back and watch the fruits of your strategic troop management skills. Bet you're glad you watched that YouTube video about being a good team leader! Soldiers also have to be fed and paid each month, so you have to keep a sharp eye on your cash and not spend it all on training. All in all, it works out to be a fantastic and surprisingly cerebral experience, one that performs exceptionally well on portable devices.

Play The King's League (browser version)

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on a NOOK Tablet. 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.


(11 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Cubemen

JohnBWhen you hear the phrase "the best things come in small packages", you should mentally amend that to "the best things come in small cube packages". Cubemen is a no-bloat tower defense game that tries to do one thing and do that one thing well: strategy. Forget mini-games, artificially inflated campaigns, and storylines that make about as much sense as a koala flight attendant. Cubemen delivers pure, raw tower defense strategy, and it does it so well, you'll lose yourself each time you play.

CubemenCubemen is a smart blend between tower defense and real-time strategy genres, losing stationary buildings in favor of mobile units that must fight their way to their destination. In defense mode, the game's classic tower defense set-up, you choose between half a dozen deployable troops, ranging from basic units to rocket launcher-toting warriors, strategic ice-bearing soldiers, and even a medic. Where you put units and what type you use is the central focus of the game, and as you defend yourself against wave upon wave of enemy creeps, you'll have to adjust and re-deploy as needed.

In defense mode, units can be placed anywhere on the map, even on high terrain squares that make attacking (and being attacked) difficult. In skirmish mode, Cubemen's real-time strategy-style experience, it's a different sort of story. Here, both teams send out waves of creeps that slowly work their way to the other team's base. You deploy the same units but are limited in where you can place them. Money (in the form of cubes, naturally) is also limited, so you have to be very picky about what you deploy, where you deploy it, and when you do so.

CubemenAnalysis: No upgrades, no spells, no special abilities, no power-ups, no garbage. And that's so nice! Cubemen is a much better game because it eschews those frivolities in favor of a basic, strategy-centric set-up. It's such a blissfully simple experience you'll get completely carried away by the tactics of it all, even if you're a casual gamer who only has half a mind for these sorts of games.

The two main modes of play offer some sub-modes as well. Multiplayer is available for skirmish mode, and you can both join and create your own games. Defense mode has half a dozen sub-modes ranging from classic TD to rockets only, limited funds, and endless, all of which take place across almost 50 different maps. It's a lot of variety for a game that sticks so closely to one or two simple gameplay directions!

Cubemen is a great strategy/tower defense game that will be enjoyable for anyone to play. It's a budget title in price only, as you'll easily get dozens of hours of enjoyment out of it simply because there's so much to learn. It looks great, sounds great, is simple to play and fun to master.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (via Steam)
Get the full version (via Desura)

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the full version (via Steam)


(10 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Dark Strokes: Sins of the Fathers

Grinnyp"The sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the children." Of all of the misquotes from the bible (and it is a misquote), this is one of the most hotly debated. Do sons deserve to suffer for what their fathers have done? And if not, would someone please explain that to Emily Thorne on "Revenge"? Leaving aside the most addictive show on television today, Alawar Games (creators of such classics as Sacra Terra: Angelic Night) has come up with a fabulous adventure hybrid based upon this theme, visiting the (supposed) sins of a father upon a hapless son in Dark Strokes: Sins of the Fathers.

Dark Strokes: Sins of the FathersThe game begins with Ethan Blake, about to happily marry his fiancé Clair. Unfortunately, his wedding needs to be postponed as he and his beloved rush to meet with his father in response to an urgent message. Even more unfortunately it becomes immediately apparent that someone or something is after poor Ethan, smashing in his train cabin window, causing a massive (and beautifully animated) wreck, and kidnapping both Clair and his father the Judge, all while terrorizing the town where Ethan's father has lived. Ethan must discover who the faceless ones are pretty quickly or else everyone he loves is doomed (as well as the town, but you know where Ethan's true priorities lie).

Dark Strokes: Sins of the Fathers is basic point-and-click adventuring with hidden object elements scattered throughout the game. Ethan must find his way around using navigation arrows and solve a wide variety of puzzles in order to discover exactly what is going on with this very strange town. Classic hidden object scenes (themselves quite nicely done with necessary interactions to find the listed objects), mini-games (of a nice variety and difficulty), and the usual adventure puzzle solving are balanced with a lot of story-telling, revealed through handy articles, conversations, and tons of gorgeously animated cut-scenes. A refilling hint timer is useful both within the games and puzzles and also within the adventuring portion of the game. Glints and sparks of light point the way to useful areas (a feature disabled in the expert mode) and a mysterious glowing blue eye highlights hidden object scenes.

Dark Strokes: Sins of the FathersAnalysis: The story of Dark Strokes: Sins of the Fathers is a variation that has been seen many, many times in adventure hybrids these days. And although the game is gorgeous, and the animations that move the story along are wonderful, what is it that makes this particular hybrid stand out amongst the pack? The answer is gameplay, and lots of it. Dark Strokes is so packed with story, gaming, and adventure that it approaches a length (even in the "regular" adventure portion) very rarely seen in games these days.

It's not that the story is not interesting, because it is indeed quite gripping, especially the scenes relating to the finding of the figurines and the amazing little steampunk boat display they fit in, each one revealing a tiny bit more of the past. Answers are not completely obvious and there are enough plot twists to keep the gamer interested rather than creating a story so obvious that you can guess the entire plot line within half an hour of play. There are also enough unique elements in the hidden object scenes and the puzzles to keep the game fresh and interesting as the story develops and the player edges ever closer to the "forbidden city", where answers await the most intrepid.

Dark Strokes: Sins of the FathersFor seasoned adventure connoisseurs the game can be a bit easy in casual mode, with too many glints, hints, and clues, but most of that is taken care of in Expert mode, and is enough to satisfy a wide-range of adventurers. There are a few minor problems with the English, most noticeably with Clair's name (in my day it was spelled with an "e" at the end), but overall the text, dialogue, and voice-overs are competently done. The music, while not necessarily anything to write home about, still does the job in setting the mood.

The standout storytelling, animation, and gameplay makes Dark Strokes: Sins of the Fathers a fun and somewhat spooky experience through a long and satisfying adventure hybrid. More mysterious than flat out scary, it is nonetheless quite a ride and definitely worth the time.

A Collector's Edition is also available. It includes concept art, 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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AllMyGods

KyhYou are an up and coming Roman god, but you have to prove yourself to your fellow almighties before they'll fully accept you. Your task: nurture and cultivate a small group of people into a large, prospering society. Realore Studios' time management game, All My Gods will put you to the test to see if you're worthy of the peoples' prayers. But it's not just the mortals you have to keep your eyes on; jealousy reigns in the heavens when you find yourself eyeing another god's bride. Oh my!

kyh_allmygods_screen1.pngAs a son of Saturn, you deserve a spot in the pantheon, but the other gods aren't quite sure if you're worthy. Jupiter, Mercury, Venus and Mars (in his own way) offer you various tasks to help direct you as you help your people build their town, expand their lands and research new technology. There's also a fair bit of resource management as you collect them for your people (when they can't produce it themselves), ensure secondary goods are properly supplied (for instance, the woodworkers need logs to produce planks) and sell any excess at the market.

All My Gods works as you would expect a time management game to work. Click on the buttons in the lower left to access the various menus for building, researching and selling. In the lower right are a wide range of special godly abilities. Once a building is complete, you can click it to upgrade it, which usually includes adding a worker and increasing proficiency. You'll also need to do this to repair it if it becomes damaged or to call all the townsfolk to it if it's on fire. You can also interact with your tiny people by clicking and dragging them so they're closer to their destination (or further away if you're one of those annoying deities).

kyh_allmygods_screen2.pngAnalysis: All My Gods is a good, casual time management game. You can play it at whatever pace you'd like. Despite the existence of a few timed tasks (the penalty is always manageable if you fail) there is no discouragement in taking your time. That's not to say there's no encouragement in staying ahead of the tasks. It's oddly satisfying to have Mercury bug you to research and build a trade post after you've already done it. Plus, doing so a few times earns you an achievement, which not only advances your civilization, but also gets you a cool statue to build and show off to your worshippers.

As much fun as this game is, it's still missing a few elements that would have been appreciated. The first is keyboard shortcuts. With all the build options on the screen as well as the many uses for the Hand of God ability, it would have been nice to access these with a simple and swift keystroke instead of having to maneuver your mouse back and forth. Secondly, there are no randomly generated maps. Every time you play the game, it's on the exact same map. While this is necessitated by many of the tasks you're given, it would have been a nice freeplay option to be able to play on something different.

Despite the shortcomings above, All My Gods is still a quality game that will offer you hours and hours of fun (especially if you're after all those achievements). While Realore Studios by no means reinvented the genre, they've added a few nice touches to keep the it fresh (Praise Jupiter, you can move a building after it's been built and not just destroy it!). Simulation games often make you feel like you're a god, so why not try a game where you actually play one?

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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TrickyDecisionThe city was overrun by them days ago. Thousands are dead, and even more, well... "aren't alive". No one knows the cause of this catastrophe, but we are the ones tasked with finding a solution. It is clear that our technology is the only way that we'll reclaim our lives: our military outposts, our generators, our factories. However, if we're ever going to get even close, we'll need to rely on something far simpler: a weapon and someone crazy enough to use it. Decision is a polished zombie action-shooter-defense hybrid from Fly Anvil, and whether you have a shotgun, a flamethrower, or a rocket launcher by your side, you're sure to have a bloody good time.

Decision offers two control schemes, one the standard [WASD] keys to move and mouse to shoot, the other entirely mouse-based, where your avatar will follow the crosshairs of the aiming cursor. In general, you must complete various missions to take the city back from the zombies, whether in the form of exploring new areas, locating and defending important outposts and machinery, putting down uprisings, or protecting others while they complete upgrades. As new areas are unlocked, there'll be increased opportunities for earning money to purchase upgrades. However, make sure that you maintain a level of security in each area. If the zombie population rises too high in a locale, you'll be facing a tough battle to take it back.

Analysis: It's been interesting to see how zombie-based flash games have followed a similar trajectory to zombie movies, albeit in a much more condensed span of time. First there were the works where zombies were portrayed as a pure horrific menace, the shambling undead horror of our nightmares. It is hard to maintain that horror as a concept becomes ever more familiar, and so zombies became fodder for the action genre; the kind of creature any hero can bloodily mow down without a hint of remorse. Following this comes parody and deconstruction, where the undead are mined for comedy, while more serious attempts at featuring the creatures focus on the realistic logistics of what experiencing an apocalypse would be like, and how humanity might fail to stack up. The culmination is in reconstruction, where developers mine the ideas of the previous eras in order to revitalize the concept through new combinations.

DecisionDecision is one such attempt at a reconstruction: You'll be mincing legions of the undead with shotgun bullets, but still be startled when the terrible noise of a huge boss stalks its way from the darkness. The narration is so over-the-top that one would suspect self-parody, but at the same time, much of the game is focused on the minutiae of how one would try to maintain order in a metropolis facing such a crisis. Some aspects work better than others, but it is an cool mixture none-the-less. Likewise, Decision's gameplay shows a wide range of influences. Zombie flash games tend toward the survival horror, action, arena shooter, and strategic defense genres, and there's each of that to be found here. Whether you're blasting zombies from the safety of your chair-mounted chain-gun, or attempting to protect a generator from a pack of undead dogs with nothing but a shotgun and your wits, Decision borrows from the best.

Some nagging flaws mar the experience. First of all, the game is quite dark. No, not in the "Maybe... we are the real monsters!" sense, but in the "Man, there sure isn't a whole lot of light" one. Be prepared to turn up the contrast. Likewise, it's a good thing that keyboard/mouse controls were put in, since the "recommended" mouse-only set-up, while a valiant effort at making a one-input arena shooter, doesn't quite make the grade. Standard control set-ups are standard for a reason, guys. Finally, there's are missed opportunities for greater depth in both the story and mechanics. The economic portions of the game are serviceable, but shallow, some of the mission types are more repetitive than others, and, in general, when you call your game "Decision", you'd think that there would be more of a branching plotline than the linearity there is.

Zombies are no longer the meme-tastic villain du jour that they once were. Still, the idea that something familiar and alive has turned into something dead, inhuman, and still moving will always hit a nerve in our psyche. Games like Decision show that creative developers will always find interesting ways to approach a subject, and that zombie games, like their inspiration, are really hard to kill.

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joyeLudo Room EscapeTomatea just can't stop locking players into rooms, which is great because those same players just can't seem to stop escaping. It's a mutually beneficial mania. In their latest point-and-clicker, the theme is the international board game favorite Ludo, although I don't remember ever seeing a Ludo set that featured such cute gummy bear-like pieces. You'll need to collect them all of course, but there'll be some puzzles in your way in Ludo Room Escape.

The game eliminates pixel-hunting by having the cursor highlight with a subtle sparkle over hotspots, and you can tell whether or not you have the clue to a given puzzle because the game will outright tell you so. These two factors make this a kinder, gentler denizen of the sometimes brutal world of Japanese escapes. You will still need some method (a screencapture, a notepad, an eidetic memory) to keep track of clues, however.

The game features the same soothing visuals and gentle music as the rest of Tomatea's oeuvre, and the emphasis on color remains just as strong in this one as in the previous After Rain, perhaps understandable given the theme of the four colors of the Ludo pieces. Otherwise the variety of puzzles is enough to make your head turn (maybe literally). And unlike its namesake, no one is going to come along when you're almost done, land on you, and send you back to start. Phew.

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Weekend Download

JohnBRemember the days when you had nothing to do but sit around and play video games? No school, no work, no taxes, no neighbor blowing leaves out of his yard even though autumn was months ago. Just maybe, if you close the windows and call in sick, you can grab the games below and pretend this weekend is one of those times. Just... maybe...

bitofwar.gifBit of War (Windows, 97MB, free) - Familiar with the especially epic (and especially gore-filled) God of War series? Well, how about a sidescrolling 8-bit version of that? This demake (re-imagining, actually) is exactly what you would expect, putting you in the oh-so tortured shoes of Kratos as he hacks his way around ancient Greece. It's a very different sort of game from the source material, but there's enough in it that should please both fans and non-fans alike. Made by the same team that created the too-cute iPhone game Hurdle Turtle. (Alternate download.)

deharmonized.gifDeharmonized (Windows, 4MB, free) - A very curious one button game where your only goal is to move from room to room, bouncing off of walls in a seemingly random way. By pressing the [spacebar] you can change your movement to circular, allowing you to switch directions to actually get around each area. It's not as easy as it sounds, though, and you'll encounter plenty of devious obstacles that are there to make your day a rough one. The environment is very chill, and the music rounds out the atmosphere perfectly.

impulse.gifImpulse (Windows, 97MB, free) - An exercise in arcade physics and sheer brutality, this punishing game will test your patience, your reflexes, and your ability to persist even though you've never been so frustrated in your life. All you need to do is guide your craft to the exit of each level, using the mouse to fire a jet blast that shoves you in the opposite direction. Stages are short and are absolutely packed with obstacles, most of which you can't run into. If you think it's a simple avoidance game, you're wrong, as Impulse gets creative with level layouts and aims to delight you while it, you know, makes you scream from frustration. Still, it's hard to play this game without getting hooked.

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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Natural Threat: Ominous Shores

DoraIf you want a hidden-object adventure that offers all the ghoulish, cheesy thrills of a late-night made-for-TV 1980s horror movie, look no further. Natural Threat: Ominous Shores by Alawar Games stars flesh-eating plants, mad scientists, and a gaggle of spring-break teenagers stranded on an island full of mutated monstrosities! Reeeeeeeee!... that, uh... that was a horror movie sound effect? You know, like... the monster is behind you! Reeeeeeeeee!... yeah, don't worry, I'm keeping my day job. With a gorgeous presentation, delightfully campy surprises, and all the genetically manipulated carnivorous creatures your little heart could desire, it's the perfect choice for an evening of monstrous, goofy fun.

Natural Threat: Ominous ShoresAfter a short tenure as an assistant for a creepy Jimmy Buffet-turned-mad scientist, you find yourself stranded on an island with a bunch of teenage stereotypes after your boat turns over in the storm. When you come to on the shore and find yourself alone, it's up to you to track down your helpless friends and avoid being turned into fertilizer. Eeeeeeevil fertilizer! Gameplay is rote for something of this type; whenever you're not busy being attacked by eyeball snake plant beasts, you'll be tracking down items and using complex things to solve simple tasks. Hidden-object scenes are marked with some lovely voluminous purple swirlies, the cursor changes to let you know when you can interact with something, and of course the hint and skip buttons are around if you're stuck or just don't feel like using your brain today.

Analysis: With so many games married to the concept that horror has to be grey and serious and full of intense operatic musical scoring, it's a relief to have one grab you by the hand and go, "Wheeeee!" Natural Threat: Ominous Shores is gloriously campy and just plain fun. Packed full of goofy cut-scenes, monsters, mayhem, and more dun-dun-dun than you can shake a stick at, it feels like a celebration of everything wonderful and weird about low-budget horror films. The game is lovely to look at, with its rich colours and imaginative locales, but also features a disappointingly coy soundtrack that kicks in whenever it feels like it, and then vanishes shyly in a flutter if you glance at it sideways. It doesn't really interfere too much with the game, which has a robust amount of ambient sound at least, but it is distracting.

Natural Threat: Ominous ShoresThe gameplay unfortunately doesn't share the same wild abandon as the concept and presentation, going for your tried-and-true adventuring and hidden-object seeking. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is sort of like someone giving you a glass of water to go with your peanut cheese bar. Satisfying and sufficient, perhaps, but not nearly as fun and indulgent as the rest. of your dessert. Click detection to pick up or use certain items can be annoyingly fiddly at time, especially when trying to combine things in hidden-object scenes, and it can lead to some confusing moments when you think your solution has failed. In general, however, you'll usually find what you need to get past any given obstacle fairly close by. On the whole, in fact, the game isn't particularly difficult (unless you're bug-phobic), which means it might be less for veterans who're looking for something to stimulate their brains and more for those of us who want a game to unwind with.

Natural Threat: Ominous Shores suffers from a few minor technical flaws and might not be for players who like games with serious drama, but if you're looking for something that doesn't take itself too seriously, this is definitely the game to check out. At around four hours or more, it's a solid length, and is the sort of experience best enjoyed with a big bowl of popcorn on hand. Give the demo a try; while it might not win any awards for gameplay innovation, it's the perfect cure for the "nothing's on TV" blah's, and is just plain fun.

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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DoraAnaksha: Mini Adventures 2Remember Anaksha? It turns out Arif Majothi's sniping, snarking anti-heroine hasn't been slacking off. But it isn't all snappy one-liners, punching, and headshots. It turns out that Anaksha is just as capable in classic adventures too... even if she can never seem to catch a break. In A Sea of Fire, a short and simple assassination job proves to be anything but when Anaksha can't rely on her trusty rifle. Quick Stop shows that even butt-kicking assassins are people too, as Anaksha is forced to delay picking up her new cellphone to take care of a pressing issue. Finally, in A New Threat, Anaksha manages to arrive at her destination only to find that, once again, Murphy's Law is in effect and she can't help getting wrapped up in bigger problems hidden behind a whole lot of little ones.

Anaksha's not going to be letting her bullets do the talking this time around; you'll need to do things Sierra-style, hunting for items on seedy streets and in seedier locations, and doing favours for seedy-est-er people. (It's sorta seedy, is what I'm saying.) Use the [arrow] or [WASD] keys to move Anashka around, and tap the [spacebar] to talk to or examine things. In A Sea of Fire, you can just click on an item in your inventory at the top of the screen to use it, or just hit the appropriate number key. Quick Stop moves the same way, but requires you to hit [I] to view your inventory to use or combine items, and A New Threat works the same way. Examine everything, read every item description, be willing to try strange solutions... and don't be afraid to crack a few skulls if it comes down to it. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do... even if it involves crafting homemade tasers, procuring bubble wrap for shady purposes, or just finding a way into a bathroom.

Anaksha: Mini Adventures 2Analysis: As the first Mini-Adventure, A Sea of Fire is more of an experiment than anything else, with a loose plot and extremely simple fetch quests to drive it along. Quick Stop displays a significant step forward as far as presentation goes and offers three different randomly chosen solutions. Both games are short as far as adventure games go, and share the same off-beat tone that makes them perfect goofy little time wasters. A New Threat, however, ups the ante significantly by not only being significantly longer having different puzzles and events change slightly each time you play, allowing for a lot of replay value. 850 possible solutions' worth, to be exact. More importantly, however, it feels less like an experiment and more like a proper adventure with (slightly) less gross-out humour and more actual plot. Unfortunately, the cute retro style occasionally gets in the way of things, since it can be hard to tell what you're looking at and it isn't always apparent what bit of scenery might be hiding an object, forcing you to examine everything manually. Sometimes more than once, as there's a lot of backtracking and dialogue or even places you've already examined will change as you play.

While it isn't necessary to complete A Sea of Fire and Quick Stop before you play their more robust sibling, A New Threat, it's still recommended both because they're entertaining but really give you an impression of how hard Arif has worked to really develop skill with this new game engine and deliver something worth playing over and over. Fans of Anaksha's more gritty, in-your-face Frank Miller noire gameplay featured in Dark Angel may find this abrupt shift to be strange, but given a chance it's easy to enjoy the stylish retro vibe, humour, and charm. If you can handle a little adventure game logic (look, I have never used that as an eyeliner substitute) then Anaksha: Mini-Adventures is well worth a look, and your time.

[Please Note: These games contain textual references, but no visuals, to sex and drugs. The warning about racism in A New Threat refers to a single character making an assumption about Anaksha's name based on her Indian heritage. You will see a fair amount of violence.]

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coryBomb DiverYou know, sometimes two great tastes taste great together. Peanut butter and jelly, for instance, or honey and bananas. Bomb Diver, an arcade shooter with defense elements by Hybrid Mind Studios, takes this to the next level by offering three great tastes that taste great together, like... mayonnaise, root beer and tuna, maybe? While I try to come up with a better example, you'll need to hit the skies with your jetpack and parachute on the way to save a city from a barrage of bombs!

Each stage consists of three phases. In the first, steer your jetpack with the [mouse] and avoid the bombs; touching them will cost you health! As you near the bottom of the wave of bombs, various colored balloons will start to appear. Grab these for ammo; later, health and power-up balloons usable with [1], [2], [3] and [4] are added to the swarm and you'll want to nab those as well. After you've dodged the bombs you'll deploy your parachute. Steer it with the [mouse] and grab as many balloons as you can. Finally, you'll land in the midst of a city. You'll need to use the ammo you grabbed earlier to blast the bombs you just dodged before they blow up that city. Run around with the [WASD] or [arrow] keys and aim and fire with the mouse.

Much like Missile Command, destroyed bombs produce explosions that can destroy more bombs. This sort of chain reaction is not only ammo-efficient, it also earns you extra money for buying upgrades after each stage, as does grabbing balloons and keeping the city perfectly safe. Available upgrades include handling boosts for your jetpack and parachute, max health increases and wider explosions. You'll need these to help deal with the increasing difficulty of each stage! While you've only got bombs to deal with at first, the enemy quickly ramps up their offensive and starts sending in mines, fighter jets and other menaces. Watch out, though; if either you or the city runs out of health, you're toast and it's time to try again.

Any of this game's three phases wouldn't be all that great individually. Putting them together, though, makes for a fantastic mix. You're not stuck doing one thing for long enough that it becomes stale. Variety is the spice of life, and Bomb Diver just might be your paprika, so all you daredevils out there owe it to yourselves to give it a shot!

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TrickyKillbotWhat kind of life can there be for a Killbot who doesn't want to kill? It appears that when Killbot Industries fails to install a conscience inhibitor properly, you're left with a mild-mannered pink android who'd prefer to use his telekinetic powers for playing dress-up and smelling roses, rather than sowing destruction. And well... how can you not want to help the lil' guy out? Killbot, a puzzle-platforming adventure by PixelWelders, is an off-kilter blend of a thousand different gaming inspirations.

First, you have the Robot Wanting to escape the factory, with the usual gap-jumping and button-pressing that implies. Then there's the Portal-esque snarky narration and Gravity Gun-styled telekinesis. There's the hand-drawn-on-a-notebook aesthetic that's a mix of Fancy Pants Man and Salad Fingers. Finally, there's the techno album by US Killbotics that the game is somewhat aggressive in plugging, and for which free download codes are offered throughout. All these competing influences, combined with glitchy controls, end up making Killbot feel like kind of a mess, though a very engaging one. It's clear that the developers have a lot of cool ideas to bring to flash gaming, and the refinement of the craft is certain to come with further releases. All in all, Killbot is a cool debut, and one worth killing some time on.

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DoraSteam PilgrimWhen monsters are rampaging all over your quaint steampunk countryside and people are dying left and right, what do you do? If you said anything other than "send a lone, woefully underequipped soldier in to deal with things singlehandedly and make him pay for the things he needs to save our sorry lives", then sorry, you fail your test at being a top-down shooter protagonist. Steam Pilgrim, by LMAOtheDoom is a game about you and your armored suit getting dropped into hostile territory via airship and trying to survive the oncoming hordes of baddies until your ride shows up. Keep moving and shooting to stay alive and level-up for skill points you can spend on abilities, and hold out until the timer on the landing pad reaches zero so you can escape. (If you die, you won't earn any cash to spend on upgrades, but you will keep any experience points you earned.) Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move around, the mouse to aim and shoot, and your number keys or mouse scroll wheel to swap between any weapons you've purchased. Crates and sometimes enemies will drop everything from useful power-ups to experience point bonuses, and in the fine tradition of every video game ever, the little gray round barrels can be shot to explode and take out groups of enemies.

The top-down shooter is hardly a new concept; they've been around roughly since China created gunpowder all those centuries ago. (You saw the ancient Chinese scrolls about how the dynasty was all about the achievements and the section on pwning newbs, right? What are they teaching you kids in school these days?) But while Steam Pilgrim doesn't exactly provide revolutionary gameplay, it does provide a solid example of the sort of shooty-poweruppy-blammo-wahey action that makes the genre so entertaining. The sheer number of enemies that can flood the battlefield make things feel appealingly frantic at times, and being able to stay as long as you want in each area allows you to ramp up your carnage. That being said, however, Steam Pilgrim does demand rather a lot of grinding to be able to afford skill upgrades so you can proceed, and it's hard to shake the feeling at times that it's both more than a little mindless and trying to seem longer than it really is. If what you crave is simple, chaotic blasting action, however, and some really neat weapons to splatter things with, Steam Pilgrim is an excellent choice to while away some spare time.

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraSmile, smile, smile! It's almost the weekend, and you know what that means! Who needs responsibilities like paying bills or doing homework/housework or putting on pants when you can spend your time enjoying the digital fruits of someone else's very real labor? March is turning out to be an amazing month for fans of both browser and indie download games, and here's a bunch of things worth watching.

Lone SurvivorA Cat, a Mask, and a Gun Surprise! Jasper Byrne's gorgeous looking pixel-style psychological survival-horror game, Lone Survivor, about one man left standing after a disease decimates the world hits Tuesday, March 27th of this year! That's so soon I can taste it, and it tastes like monster-infested adventuring goodness! Mmm! The game will be available for $10.00 USD, with a demo to play in your browser so you can try before you buy. Check out Jasper's blog entries to learn more (official site coming soon!) and give the debut trailer a gander so you can start getting excited. In the immortal words of Fry, "Shut up and take my money!"

Onimusha SoulAnd Now For Something Completely Different So you know Capcom's Onimusha series, right? It's an action-adventure series that focuses on telling the stories of famous historical figures with supernatural elements sprinkled in! The series has primarily been at home on the Playstation and XBOX, but fans were no doubt surprised to hear that later this year it's going to make the jump to... your smartphone and your browser! Dun-dun-dun! Dubbed Onimusha Soul, details are somewhat vague at this point, but the allusion to online multiplayer as well as in-game paid content is a bit worrisome, since it could imply the series is straying from the action everyone loves into a more commercialised Facebook game style of play. It seems like more and more developers are realising there's money to be made online. What do you guys think... do you prefer the games you love stay on the consoles they were born on, or is it worth getting another installment in any incarnation? (And is it just plain greedy?)

Ms. Particle ManAn Update is Better Than No Date At All Picobots has heard your plea, and the answer is... an update! Ms. Particle Man, the Silverlight-made arcade game has now been tweaked a little to reflect not only the feedback of the original review but the issues most players had with the difficulty. Players now start with an additional life, and they have unlimited continues to start/restart at the beginning of each collider. If you've already tried Ms. Particle Man but found she was too challenging a woman to woo, you might want to give her another shot. It's always great when a developer takes on community feedback, and this is just another great example of how valuable constructive criticism can be from players just like you. Aw!

ClosureThat Was Fast Just a week after we started getting really excited about the upcoming PSN/PC/Mac re-release/remake of Tyler Glaiel's puzzle platformer Closure, a release date for the Playstation Network version has finally been announced! On March 27th of this year, you can play the stunning and atmospheric game right on your PS3, with a PC release to follow later this year. Congratulations, Tyler and Team! It's always exciting when an indie crew starts getting the recognition they deserve. Play the browser version if you haven't already, have a peek at the launch trailer, and keep your eye on the official site for more news!

FixationThe Company of Prequels If you loved Eli Piilonen's thoughtful and surreal puzzle platformer The Company of Myself (which, considering it took home best of 2009, you probably did) get ready to get fired up all over again. The fine folks over at Nocturnal Blog have just gotten an in-depth look at the upcoming prequel, Fixation, to be released on March 20th over at Armor Games, which you can check out here. The game will focus on Kathryn, who uses smoking as a stress release (and to solve puzzles), and promises to feature more characters, 41 levels, and new abilities. (You can check out a tiny demo here.) Eli has always been known for his sneakily thought-provoking and surprisingly emotional games (such as Viricide), so if you're a fan you're definitely going to want to set aside some time on the 20th to play this one!

Pony KartI HEAR YOU LIEK PONIES Well, I guess their hooves are perfectly shaped for working the pedals, but you try explaining that to the officer who pulls you over. In case you didn't know, Mario Kart is just about the best game ever (even though I've only played the SNES version), and a group of talented bronies are about to ponify it professionally! Pony Kart will be a free downloadable (Windows only :( ) racing game that will initially feature all of the mane six, four unique tracks, and of course a whole bunch of items to be used in the traditional Mario Kart fashion! Not only does the game look amazing, rendered in gorgeous, colourful 3D, but it looks just as bouncy and fun as you'd expect. Plus, after a rather staggering outpouring of comments from the community, the developers have also gone ahead and make sure Lyra sits properly. You know what I mean. There's no release date yet, but you can check out a ton of music tracks, screenshots, and even some videos over at the official site. Hooray! (I demand a future installment allow you to race as all three Cutie Mark Crusaders driving one homemade kart.)


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TrickyHanger 2 Endless Level PackFeeling like just hanging around this afternoon? Then A Small Game has got you covered with a fun dose of physics action. Of course, you might lose a couple of limbs in the process, but it'll still be better than just chilling on the couch watching Maury. It's Hanger 2 Endless Level Pack, and it has a ton of good grappling fun. Starting where the originall left off, the Endless Level pack features 23 side-scrolling caverns for you to swing through and smash into at high speeds. With the mechanics mostly the same, its up to the architecture to do much of the heavy lifting, and overall its up to the task. The levels are longer and more challenging than before. Most have a palpable sense of atmosphere, which is quite cool. Whether it's spooky, surreal, humorous, or retro, you get the feeling that the art department was really having fun putting this together. Also included is the titular Endless Mode which, while not quite the sequel to Double Wires that we're still waiting for, at least features you being chased by a the Grinning Colossus's second cousin. That's gotta count for something. In short, Hanger 2 Endless Level Pack is an expansion that's willing to explore new areas of a concept, while still remaining familiar to what made it great in the first place. Go out on a limb and try it!

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Rating: 4.7/5 (228 votes)
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TrickyDys4iaThose who know of Anna Anthropy most likely know three things about her. 1. That she is the designer of some singularly unique games, with a clear fondness for classic arcade tropes. 2. That she is a male-to-female transsexual, and LGBTQ and Gender themes are often present in her work, and 3. That she is a provocateur extraordinaire, and the way she has expressed her thoughts and opinions have been... divisive. To put it kindly. This combination alone would make an autobiographical piece of experimental interactive art of hers of interest. However, when the specific subject, the experience and struggles of the past six months of hormone therapy, is territory unexplored by flash gaming, it becomes impossible to ignore. Dys4ia is a very personal experience, almost uncomfortably so. Still, it is a raw and poignant work.

Gender Dysphoria, as referred to in the title, is discontent with the biological sex and/or the gender one is assigned at birth. Its clinical definition as a mental disorder, as well as the conflicting theories of causes and proper treatments, are the subject of immense controversy, but it is clear that, as with all struggles of identity, it can make for much inner turmoil. As mentioned in the game's intro, Dys4ia is but one individual's story of their struggles. The story takes the form of rapid-fire arcade mini-games, all of which are controlled with the [arrow] keys. The game is separated into four sections, progressing through the months of therapy.

Note: This game features low-rez pixel nudity and frank discussion of personal issues of sexuality. The purpose and effect is in no way titillation, but it is still a game for mature audiences. Also, the gameplay shifts quickly enough, that those with epilepsy should take care when playing.

Dys4iaAnalysis: Like many pieces of interactive art, Dys4ia toes the line between "a game that tells a story" and "a story told through the framework of a game". However, as artistic flashes go, it is game-ier than most. If the retro graphics and gameplay are used only in so far as they advance metaphor, then at least they are done by someone who knows the music as well as the notes. There's a lot of life present in Dys4ia's chunky pixels, and in any case, the power of the story being told makes up for a lot. It may not be possible to lose the game, but then again, if the game is to stay true to personal experience, what sense could an alternate ending make?

Even with all its gaming influences, it's obvious that Dys4ia would not exist if the author did not want a platform to share her thoughts. She wants to give others a peek into her world; a world admittedly not often covered by media of any kind. As laudable and intruiging as that is, there's a lot that can go wrong. Even if the message is as simple as "It Gets Better", works with a message often are in danger of falling into pretentious soap-boxing. Dys4ia is not altogether devoid of that, but it is successfully mollified. First of all, there is the game's humor. This game is surprisingly funny. Part of it is the hilarity of the unexpected: we don't expect garish colors and WarioWare in what is, at its heart, a medical and relationship drama. It's not certain if Dys4ia contains the first gaming depiction of a Rapid Oral HIV test, but it's probably the first time we've see what one would look like on the Atari 2600. However, Dys4ia goes beyond shock value, with some exceedingly clever bits of physical comedy and dialogue as well. It's not quite laugh-out-loud, but sometimes, a constant half-smiles can be just as good.

Another thing that keeps the game grounded is Anthropy's willingness for self-deprication. This rages from from the goofy, like a small mini-game about wriggling into a tight shirt, to the extremely serious. Dys4ia doesn't shy from showing the legally and medically questionable actions Anna took in her personal quest. While clearly she believes her actions to be ultimately justified, it is praiseworthy that the story depicts warts and all, and indeed makes it a stronger work.

How receptive you are to Dys4ia will depend on your thoughts of any of a dozen personal issues. Then again, it is a very personal game, the kind where objective assessment is made extremely difficult by both what the content and who the author are. Overall, Dys4ia is a short, oddly sweet, 4-bit poem of a game that'll take only five minutes to play. Positively or negatively, it's likely something that's going to be thought and talked about.

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  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (38 votes)
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ElleSkywire VIP Extended[Please Note: This game may take a while to load. Please be patient, and brush up on your tiny trivia while you wait!]
When fans love their games, nothing seems impossible. When a game developer appreciates their fans, magic happens. In this case, that abra cadabra turned out Skywire VIP Extended. This quirky, pixelated pop culture trivia game gives incredibly small yet surprisingly detailed characters and hangman-style word blanks as your clues for naming popular figures from the classics—you know, all those fab games, films, music, books, cartoons, commercials and TV shows from the 80s to present. If that isn't enough, click the hint spotlight for an additional description. When you think you know it, use your keyboard to type it in (spelled correctly) and bask in the fanfare while the next VIP is delivered to the stage via cable car.

While you will probably enjoy playing on your own, it's even more fun in teams so you can pool your knowledge. There are obscure-to-some references and if you're not totally hip to all that pop culture has offered, or if your bifocal lenses aren't helping with the visual clues, you might just grudgingly use a lifeline paying Google a visit. The game screen is limited to one size and zooming won't help (it might even mess things up bit, causing buttons to disappear into nether zones). One hundred seconds is often a generous amount of time, though, to mull over possible answers. And of course, being quick and using less hints is the surest way to score more points. Let me add, I commend and metaphorically crown Trivia Master anyone who makes it the full 100 rounds on the first go ahead.

It was not so long ago that we dropped mention of this fan-produced extension of Nitrome's original Skywire VIP. It all started when Max Schramp and Duncan Smith showed their Scratch project to Nitrome, impressing them so much that the duo was asked to make a proper follow-up. Schramp and Smith's talented artwork has been joined with the original artwork of Mat Annal, programming by Heather Stancliffe, and music of Lee Nicklen. Here is the result. Born out of collaboration and enthusiasm, Skywire VIP Extended has that certain unnameable something that makes it easy to pick up and very habit-forming. Is it the wee tiny characterizations of our beloved icons? The equally annoying yet catchy music? Or the deep satisfaction of finally finding an ego bumping output for all that time spent on GameBoy, sitting in movie theaters and watching Saturday morning cartoons? Whatever it is, if you weren't one already, Skywire VIP Extended has fanboy/fangirl maker written all over it.

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  • Currently 3.3/5
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Rating: 3.3/5 (68 votes)
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joyeAutomaton ReinventedBack in 2007, LittleNorwegians made a point-and-click game about a somewhat sad little robot called the Automaton. It was meant to be the beginning of an epic steampunk saga, but in the real world, overreaching ambition and lack of sponsorship caused things to break down for the developer and he was never able to complete the series as he wished. He has now released Automaton: Reinvented, a short but sweet little game demonstrating all the work he put into the idea. While it's weak on plot, on the short side, and lacks a real ending, it does provide a few decent puzzles and the short 3D animation sequences of the diving-helmeted hero are pretty cool in a retro sort of way. The developer doesn't have any plans to continue at this point, but maybe someday he'll return to the game-making world. In the meantime, enjoy one last dip into the Spanish flu and torpedo infested waters.

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Rating: 4.2/5 (31 votes)
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DoraDustFeeling a little stuck these days? In Dust, a visually stunning conceptual game of exploration and puzzle-solving, you play a moth trapped in an attic, in love with the moon it can see through the window. Use the [arrow] keys to move around, and the [E] key to perform certain tasks, like illuminating dark areas, or resurrecting other fallen moths... which is important, since you're not going to be able to escape alone. You can use the moths that you bring back to life to move certain objects (golden numbers will tell you how many friends you need) to clear a path. Use the [arrow] keys to direct the moths you resurrect around and push them against objects lit by a soft blue glow and appropriately mystical sparklies.

Dust might just be one of the most gorgeous Unity games you'll ever play, with the rich colours and dreamlike atmosphere, aided by a soft and lovely soundtrack by Blake Allen, being a real joy to explore. It's the product of a year of work and toil from one extremely talented crew; Alex Burley handled the programming, while Alexis Boyer, Chris Wilson, Brian McClain, Pat Sullivan, and Paul Poff combined their powers Captain Planet style to bring the game to life visually and conceptually. Currently, the game is more of a concept; entirely playable and able to be finished, but by no means the final product as the team continues to bugfix, tweak, and redesign. You can find yourself randomly slipping past obstacles you shouldn't be able to when moving too quickly against the side of the screen, and the dual [WASD] and [arrow] control scheme doesn't exactly feel natural. However, it's the sort of mellow game you can sink back and relax as you play... low on challenge, but high on style and appeal. It's a short game, and though the lack of a save system means you have to finish it all in one go, it's well worth experiencing. Unlike real moths with their fat, bloated, grub-like bodies (ughughughugh), Dust is a stunning example of what Unity can do, and the perfect dreamy bit of escapism no matter what type of day it is or where you find yourself trapped.

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  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (139 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypYes, many of you prefer longer, more complex room escapes, but sometimes something small yet meaty will have to do. This week's Weekday Escape features another from one of the newer designers featured here, Haretoki, and their amusing little effort titled Occasional Sunny Break.

Occasional Sunny BreakDon't worry about the title page being all in Japanese (unless you can read it, of course), just click and dive into this fun little one-room escape effort. The puzzles are all logic and knowledge of the language is not necessary to find your way out of the room, which is decorated with some odd furniture. Search the room using the navigation bars, pick up a few objects, solve some puzzles, prove what a good billiards player you are, and you may eventually see daylight again. The game is pretty basic, but the logic is sound and it's nice to see a designer that plays with the conventions and creates some unique gems along the way.

Not as complex as Sometimes Cloudy Challenge (and what's with the weather metaphors, anyway?), Occasional Sunny Break is a fun and logical way to keep the escaping cells in your brain sharp while awaiting something more challenging to appear on the horizon. Like the title implies, it's a nice break in the weather and a few moments in the sun.

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Rating: 4.6/5 (97 votes)
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TrickySpikes Tend To Kill You 2Already proven how much you wanna be the guy? Do you laugh in the face of Lost Levels? Can you finish the speeder-segment of Battletoads with your eyes closed and a broken controller? Then you just might be the target audience for Noxious Hamster's new high difficulty platformer, Spikes Tend To Kill You 2. As in the original, you must guide a slippery smoking square thingy through a 31 level gauntlet of merciless challenges, with but a single hit standing between you and life-losing. Make no mistake, though. The challenge, while brutal, is largely fair, even if that just means you'll be cursing at yourself as much as the game. Clever level design and humorous dialogue help the player stay engaged, even during the 500th impalement. All in all, Spikes Tend To Kill You 2 should tend to keep the slightly-masochistic players among us battling right up to the game's glorious finale.

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Rating: 3/5 (148 votes)
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joyeGreedy PiratesAvast! Did ye awake all the totems in Forsh Vladislov and Krasnova Alina's previous projectile-tossing physics ? Do you think that getting the timing down in tossing an object is less frustrating if the object is a piece of eight? Are you the fastest cursor clicker on the Spanish Main? Well Greedy Pirates is your chance to prove it. Along the way, there are such piratical mainstays as other pirates, bombs, planks, and teleportation devices. All the best pirate movies have teleportation devices.

The game essentially takes the format of the last game and smooths out some of the wrinkles, making Greedy Pirates a much less frustrating experience. You're still moving your mouse around to aim and clicking to fire an object around a level at a target, and the game still has the two-tier system of a time limit for a gold star with no other limits to amount of ammunition or time to complete a level, but the gold star timing is more realistic now. The end result is that if you like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing you'll like even more. Especially if a bottle of rum is handy.

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The Vault

DoraLeave it to the internet to turn being locked in a room into a genre. The escape game is one of those things that seems like it should be weird, but when you get right down to it, it's plugging into our inner MacGuyver. You know, that secret part of yourself you would never acknowledge has been ready to be a Secret Agent the moment you got the call? Here are three escape games that play with the genre a little to serve up something a bit different than your standard "locked in a room full of unnecessarily complicated locks created by the Umbrella Corporation" theme to get you primed and ready to break out of any fiendish arch-nemesis capture plot you might encounter today. You know... just in case.

  • Casual Gameplay EscapeCasual Gameplay Escape - We love you guys; you keep us in business, you're witty, and you smell very nice. Also, you're quite talented! In 2008 we teamed with puzzle mastermind and community member Sean Hawkes to create this very special escape game. The premise couldn't be simpler; you're trapped in a room and you want to get out. However, a combination of creativity and challenge all dressed up with a bit of intrigue makes this one easily stand out from a sea of otherwise identical escape games. It's always nice when a game in this genre encourages puzzle-solving beyond "use screwdriver on cage of antlions", and Casual Gameplay Escape's sideways approach to each of its obstacles makes it well worth experiencing even today.
  • Crazy Doors of Rainbow ColorsCrazy Doors of Rainbow Colors - Breaking from the usual escape-the-room setup is this lovely, charming, and quirky (a quality that Japanese escape game designers know how to do extremely well) escape featuring a stark white-walled room upon which you will be creating many crazy doors of ...yep ...rainbow colors. Challenging and unique, game designer Shanben Izakamakura has created a game that's a breath of fresh air from all the samey escape games out there. If you're not smiling and happy by the end of this one you really should be.
  • Magneto SyndromeMagneto Syndrome - Juliana Reina's curious and strange escape game may not include a puzzle where you have to strip the adamantium from someone's bones, but you will have to master some magnetism in order to proceed. You wake up to find yourself in a tank in some sort of research facility, apparently having been betrayed by someone you considered a friend, and the only way to get out is to manipulate the metallic objects in your environment without attracting the attention of your observer... and that's just the beginning. The decision to force you to restart upon failure is a frustrating one, but Magneto Syndrome is a clever twist on the genre that drives you forward as you try to figure out just what's going on. It's a little bloody and a little blue, and a little short, but is a great concept and one that would be nice to see explored again. Maybe... with a certain fuzzy blue elf? Hmmm!

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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ziggurat.gifZiGGURAT (universal) - An arcade game of raw survival! Standing on a cloud-piercing mountain, it's you versus evil alien robot things who really want to be kind of this here hill! Armed with a single-shot gun, you must lob shots at the foes to keep them away from the pinnacle. Two control schemes let you customize how you play, but beyond that, it's up to your skill with this simple weapon to see how long you can survive. Bonus 16-bit visuals give it an extra epic feel! Extra bonus: the game was made by the creator of TNNS!

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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pizzavsskeletons.gifPizza vs. Skeletons (universal) - Most of us have been craving a game that pits skeletons against pizza. Obviously, pizza is going to be the winner, which is why this crazy hodgepodge sort of arcade game puts you in control of a giant, customizable pizza. Skeletons rise from the soil every thousand years, but a doughy arch nemesis arises this time around, and it's your job to roll, jump, and crush the boney bad guys with your supreme skills. Not only that, but you'll participate in over 100 neat-o levels with dozens of themes, including skiing down long snowy slopes, finding and rescuing puppies, balancing, swimming, taking out skulls in a very Crush the Castle sort of manner, and even customize your pizza with all sorts of accessories. You're a Renaissance pizza, that's for sure. A very creative game that's worth its weight in laughs and sheer awesomeness. Pizza vs. Skeletons Free 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.


  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (59 votes)
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Kyhkyh_agentturnright_title.pngPencilkids brings us a secret agent with one big flaw: he can't pull a lefty <insert Zoolander joke here>. In Agent Turnright you play this leftwardly challenged protagonist as he fights his way through 16 levels of mini-games to take down a big, bad boss and save the girl. This one-button experience requires just the click of the mouse to control Turnright. What exactly the click will do depends on the mechanics of the level (no, it's not always to turn right). While you have infinite lives to run through this game, there's no way to pause it, so when you have a few uninterrupted minutes, see how many clicks it takes you to complete this pixelized game.

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Rating: 4.6/5 (48 votes)
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Dungeon Village

DoraHeroism is nice, but you know what's even better? A tidy profit! In Kairosoft's latest simulation for mobile devices, Dungeon Village, you find yourself the mayor of a struggling little fantasy village that hasn't seen much business in years. With monsters roaming the countrysides and nearby dungeons simmering with danger, how can you possibly hope to get a coveted five star rating? Why, by enticing in adventurers to do the dirty work for you, of course! Design and build your town to lure in adventurers of all kinds, who will not only keep your coffers full to bursting as they frequent your shops, but also set about ridding the surrounding lands of monster menaces. As they get stronger, so will you, and with their help your town will grow into a bustling medieval metropolis in no time... provided you don't find yourself rampaged into the ground by an angry dragon family, of course.

While not technically part of the "Story" series of games, Dungeon Village shares most of the same gameplay. You're given an assistant who walks you through the basics of running your fledgling adventurer/tourist trap, and as you progress and improve more options are unlocked. In addition to the almighty dollar, which is important for building structures and paying expenses, you'll also earn points you can spend on events to increase the town's popularity or otherwise strengthen its inhabitants, or on new facilities to build. Of course, don't spend too long arranging your daffodils and boosting your bakery's appeal... that's not where your bread is buttered.

Dungeon VillageInstead, most of the game relies on managing the adventurers you manage to entice into your town as your facilities and ratings improve. You want to keep them satisfied with shops and events so they eventually may decide to move in and spend even more money, but you also want their work ethic high so they're more likely to respond to the various quests that pop up when you decide to hire someone. Quests can be anything from dealing with roving bands of monsters outside the town to exploring dungeons filled with enemies and treasures. You don't actually get to do any of this yourself, unfortunately, but as more and more monsters move in and dungeons appear, you'll have your hands full managing everything. If your adventurers seem to be getting trounced too often, or just aren't showing up to quests enough for your liking, you can spend a little cash and give them presents of equipment to make them happy and boost their stats.

Despite the adventurer mechanics, Dungeon Village feels very similar to Kairosoft's other titles, which is hardly a bad thing since their addictive, colourful and easy to grasp gameplay is what makes them such excellent time wasters to begin with. It's a little like watching a tiny MMORPG, with people trundling around and engaging in battles for loot, and you'll definitely get a few giggles out of the goofy puns and riffs the adventurer names take on classic characters when you recognise them. It would have been nice if the fantasy theming was better carried through some of the shops, and if you prefer a more hands-on approach to your adventuring you're out of luck. But Dungeon Village is still an exceptionally vibrant, cute, and surprisingly engrossing little game that you'll find yourself reaching for whenever you have some time to kill... and maybe even when you should be doing other things as well.


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (59 votes)
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Fairway

JohnBGolf and cards rarely seem like a fitting pair, but when you see them combined as elegantly as in Fairway Solitaire, you'll start to wonder if other crazy sorts of combinations might work. Like peanuts and pickles! A new mobile port of the previously reviewed PC and Mac release, Fairway Solitaire builds on the game of solitaire using golf terms and rules in a very casual sort of way. Add to that an epic story about gopher revenge, mini-games, an in-game store, and hundreds of courses to play, and you've got a card game that'll keep you busy until the gophers come home. That's a saying, right?

FairwaySince the dawn of time, golfers have been at war with gophers. Now, one gopher is making a stand. And you're kinda standing against him, since you're a golfer and all. The story isn't really necessary to enjoy the game, but it's hilarious, and you'll have a good time following it all the same. You're here to play cards/golf, and that's what you're going to do! Fairway Solitaire features a simple premise of clearing the screen, moving face-up cards that are one above or one below the target card to reveal hidden cards below. Clear as many as you can in one "shot", then, when you can't remove any more, click your deck to turn over another card. Repeat the process until you clear the screen or run out of cards in the deck!

Fairway Solitaire is filled with neat puzzle-like challenges that force you to think and be creative with your moves. Hazards, for example, often need to be cleared before you can get down to the real work, and getting rid of them can sometimes require special cards. The in-game shop allows you to spend golf bucks to buy power-ups and other items (X-ray goggles! Yay!), and the mini-games and high score boards are more than enough to encourage you to shoot for perfection.

Fairway Solitaire is available for both iPhone and iPad. You can check out our review of the downloadable version for more details. There's a free browser demo that showcases the basic gameplay, but note that it lacks most of the extras the mobile and downloadable versions contain, like movies, the shop, etc. And, if you're worried you need to know a lot of golf terms to play the game, you can relax, as Fairway Solitaire is pure card gaming entertainment with a little golf theme thrown in for fun!

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Pirate Mysteries

JohnBHidden object games are all over the place for the Mac/Windows downloadable scene. Take a look at the mobile market, though, and you'll find the pickings a bit more slim. Narrow that search to just the good hidden object games, and the selection is even smaller. Pirate Mysteries: A Tale of Monkeys, Masks and Hidden Objects is one of the successful hidden object games on mobile devices. It manages to keep its intrigue along with a healthy amount of content while shrinking everything down to fit on smaller hardware.

Pirate MysteriesYou play as Mary Blade, daughter of a pirate whose ship is taken by a storm at sea. Everything is scattered around the beach, and to top it off, her father seems to be possessed by a demon. Not her best day! The game takes you from hidden object scene to hidden object scene, zooming and scrutinizing every pixel to find the list of items on the left. You are given rechargeable hints and can view silhouettes of each item by giving it a tap.

There are 30 locations to visit, each packed with more than a dozen items to find. Some areas even require you to solve riddles before you know what to look for. There are also nearly a dozen mini-games to distract you from the main game, which is never a bad thing! The visuals could use an upgrade, as everything looks blurry when you zoom in for a closer look. There are also frequent loading screens that, while short, break up the game with unnecessary blank space. Despite those few technical shortcomings, Pirate Mysteries manages to deliver a stout hidden object experience filled with challenge and humor!

If you enjoy Pirate Mysteries, check out The Lost City and The Secret of Grisly Manor, two similar games for mobile devices that will definitely tickle your hidden object adventure fancy!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on a NOOK Tablet. 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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TwinSpin

JohnBThe middle of the first decade of the 2000s brought us an extremely well-made one button arcade browser game by the name of Twin Spin. The simple concept spawned two sequels shortly after, and then the series vanished for some time while the developers went on to other projects. Now, thanks to the lovely mobile iOS platform, TwinSpin is back, and it's just as fantastic as it ever was!

twinspin-mobile.jpgThe basic idea is this: you control two happy little smiling orbs that are bound together. The red orb spins clockwise, while the yellow one moves counterclockwise. One is always fixed in place while the other spins freely, and by tapping the screen, you switch which orb is still. Using this swinging motion, you can (with practice) move through levels, sliding around obstacles and working your way towards target circles scattered around each stage.

The impressive variety of the TwinSpin series starts almost immediately. In addition to basic wall obstacles and target circles, you'll also encounter bouncey blocks, orbs that can only be cleared by one of your smiling orbs, spikes, "no-touch ouchie circles", and plenty of others. You're constantly challenged to switch your strategies mid-level, and because you have a limited number of lives as well as a limited number of moves, you can never afford to be careless.

TwinSpin looks great and couldn't be any easier to play. What really makes it shine, though, is the super intelligent level design that's filled with variety. Just about every puzzle mechanic you could imagine related to these two orbs bobbing back and forth has been implemented, and each time you encounter a new one it's a joy figuring out what to do. This mobile version of TwinSpin includes all three of the original browser games with a total of around 75 stages to complete. More levels are promised in the future, and if you're as excited about this as we are, you'll probably check every day just to see when they arrive!


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Rating: 4.6/5 (28 votes)
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Fancy Pants

JohnBThe Fancy Pants Adventures is now available for iPhone and iPad! Usually referred to as simply Fancy Pants, this is the fast-moving blur of an action/platform browser game we've all come to worship over the last few years, including the more recent and feature-filled XBLA and PSN releases. Tons of levels, tons of extras, and tons of creativity. It's so much Pants, you'll barely be able to contain yourself!

fancypants-mobile.jpgMr. Pants' girlfriend, Cutie Pants, has been kidnapped by pirates (brb lol!), so it's your job to race across Squiggleville and beyond to save her. Gameplay is about one thing: speed. Ok, speed, and finding cool secret stuffs. Move with the controls on the left side of your iOS device, and jump, duck, or attack using the controls on the right. Build up speed and run smoothly along hills, loops, and more, hopping back and forth like a hypersonic little money (with nice pants). Beyond the main levels, which are elegantly and intelligently designed, Fancy Pants comes with a whole lot of bonuses. The wardrobe alone allows you to customize Mr. Pants with over 140 accessories, and the Fancy Arcade allows you to play a handful of mini-games.

Ready for the bad news? You probably worked this one out already, but because the mobile version of Fancy Pants uses only a touch screen for control, it lacks the precision of physical buttons, making it a challenge to run around without any tactile feedback. Some folks can manage just fine with virtual buttons, but others (like most people on the JIG crew) crave real buttons when it comes to fast moving games of this nature. To each his own, but it says a lot when the game's only drawback is a hardware restriction and not part of the game itself. Fancy Pants for iOS is a stellar release, no matter your control preference!


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Deck of Words

JohnBCan't decide if you should play a game of solitaire or a word game? How about "both" so you can stop arguing with yourself and just play? Similar to Word Solitaire in basic concept, Deck of Words delivers exactly what it promises in the title: a deck of lettered cards that must be used to make words. Stack everything just right to spell the most valuable words you can conjure, or else you'll find yourself at the end of the pile with very little to show for your work!

Deck of WordsDeck of Words is played like a game of klondike solitaire with letters instead of suits and colors. At the top of the screen is a line of cards, some turned face up, with some others face down. You have a reservoir of cards in your deck at the bottom of the screen, along with a cauldron where you can dispose of a few pesky letters per game. Simply tap and drag letters around the screen, moving them from pile to pile or from the deck to the top of the screen. You can only place cards on cards that could possibly form a word, so if you slide that "A" on top of the "F", you're doing it right, but if you stick "Z" on top of "Q", you should probably think twice about your English language skills.

Deck of Words provides a nice, soothing atmosphere to challenge your spelling skills, with excellent backdrops and a color scheme that will calm your aching eyes at the end of a long day. The variety of the levels isn't so grand, as each round is pretty much a more challenging, randomized repeat of the last, but the core mechanic is solid, and you'll find no shortage of challenge in this unique hybrid.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on a NOOK Tablet. 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.


(4 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Evac

VictoriaIf you're the kind of person who spent many hours playing Pac-Man, then Evac is for you. You play as a square, attempting to escape from a maze-like prison. In order to unlock the door at the end of each level, you must collect all of the multi-colored dots. This isn't an easy task, however, as red squares will attempt to capture you. Luckily, you're not left defenseless. Many different power ups exist, such as the ability to turn invisible or the ability to shock your pursuers.

EvacThe controls for this game are on screen, and simple. However, occasionally they aren't sensitive enough to allow you to make that quick turn you need to escape from your enemies. This problem fades away with time, once you adapt to the limitation and compensate before it even becomes an issue.

Evac is a gorgeous game, with graphics almost reminiscent of Tron. Though the basic gameplay concept is certainly nothing new, it has been updated in a way that makes it both original and even more entertaining. This game is certainly a must-have for anyone looking to stave off their nostalgic Pac-Man cravings.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on a Motorola Atrix Android Phone. 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.


(4 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Picma Squared

JohnBIt's a well-known fact that one can never get enough of Picma Squared. The browser release introduced us a stylish version of Fill-a-Pix (or, as some like to call it, picross meets minesweeper), and with the mobile release of the game, your digital logic puzzles are now portable!

Picma SquaredPicma Squared is played on a grid populated by a seemingly random set of numbers. Each digit tells you how many nearby squares are filled in, including itself. So, if the number is nine, you would fill in every block surrounding that nine, as that's the maximum number of squares that can touch one space. What you don't know, however, is which squares are not filled in, so with anything other than a zero or a nine, you'll have some logical deductions to make! Using the controls on the side and bottom of the screen, zoom in and out, pan around the grid, or switch between colors and marking types, all with a single tap of the screen.

Playing Picma Squared is easy, but solving some of these puzzles will be quite the challenge. There are over 50 levels to complete in the Android version (25 for NOOK and Kindle Fire versions), ranging from tiny to quite massive, and your progress will be saved if you exit a puzzle unexpectedly. No matter how daunting it looks, pick a spot and start applying some logic. Before you know it, you'll be staring at the colorful image of a kangaroo!


NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an HTC Incredible. 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.


(2 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Office Rush

JohnBIt's a platform game. It's a puzzle game. It's also a rather funny game. Office Rush is exactly how you feel when you work in an office, dashing around to run errands while you try not to trip over your own feet. Similar to the browser games Rooms and Continuity, Office Rush blends a little bit of puzzle with a whole lot of style into a mobile game you'll be proud to grab and play for the rest of the afternoon!

Office RushThe basic idea is this: you are one of several different office workers who are given a series of simple tasks. Maybe you need to get water for your boss, or maybe you need to don your security guard outfit and uncover an intruder. Either way, getting from your starting location to the goal requires three things: running, jumping, and moving the rooms around. Just like a sliding puzzle, rooms in Office Rush can be pushed around to line them up in different patterns. You can only go from one room to another if a path lines up, forcing you to do some serious arranging before you can hop over the next bump in the road.

When the first tile sliding/platform hybrid was released, the idea was exciting and new. Office Rush arrives a bit late in the game, but the concept is still engaging, even if you've mastered the art of moving rooms around with your fingers. The controls can be a bit odd (as with any action-based touch screen game), but the visuals are great and the gameplay absolutely solid. Worth trying out even if you've never set foot in an office!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on a NOOK Tablet and HTC Incredible running Android 2.2. 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.


(3 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Dillo Hills

JohnBAww, poor little armadillo. Too heavy to fly because of that thick armor on your back? Don't worry, you're great at rolling, and we're sure that if you get enough speed going, you can jump really really high, which is pretty similar to flying. In a way. The mobile release of the browser game of the same name, Dillo Hills is a charming and rather engrossing game of quick reflexes and gradual mastery!

Dillo HillsJust like the iOS game Tiny Wings (and other similar titles), your only concern in Dillo Hills is dealing with when to tap the screen to gain speed and when to let go and watch the 'dillo fly. Tap and hold to dive, ideally only pulling off this move when you're headed towards a downward slope. Release to gather momentum and shoot yourself farther and higher, making our armadillo friend happier by the second.

After traveling a certain distance, you'll move to new zones, getting more birds to run into and more gems to collect. The hills also get trickier, bumping up the challenge as you play. The best part about Dillo Hills is the wealth of unlockables, ranging from ability upgrades to increasing your drop speed, lowering damage you take, new hats to wear, and unlocking new characters to play, such as a turtle or a penguin! There's a lot to love about this simple arcade game, making it the perfect pick-up-and-play game that will keep you coming back for more and more!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on a NOOK Tablet. 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.


(5 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Everlands

JohnBOur little bear friend was about to take his morning stroll when some bees came along and attacked him! You soon learn of a larger plot involving an evil spreading throughout the land, infecting animals of all sizes with a dark sickness. It's your job to cure all the creatures of the forest in Everlands, a tile-based strategy game that bears some resemblance to position-based card games such as the Final Fantasy mini-game Triple Triad.

everlands1.jpgEverlands takes place on a hexagonal grid of varying shapes and sizes. You take turns placing animal tiles with your opponent, your hand resting at the bottom of the screen. Each card is labeled with offense and defense scores along with action arrows that shows which directions they'll attack in. For example, the spiny porcupine has arrows facing in five directions, meaning when placed, he'll attack anything bordering those sides. A tile that loses its hit points will be taken over by the other player. Animals also have special abilities, such as the leopard attacking first or the bear gaining an attack point when wounded.

Your goal in each level is to overpower your opponent and control a higher percentage of the board when all open slots have been filled. Everlands starts off a bit slow and easy, but that's all well and good, seeing as how it takes some time to learn the finer strategies needed to survive. Once you get the hang of it, you'll realize this cute little game is actually a richly nuanced challenge! Also: the animals are really, really cute.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on a NOOK Tablet. 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

JohnBIt seems like everybody's obsessed with some sort of undead creatures nowadays. Zombies, vampires, skeletons, republicans... They're popping up all over the place, and game makers are taking advantage of this left and right! Cases in point: most of the games below!

pizzavsskeletons.gifPizza vs. Skeletons (universal) - Most of us have been craving a game that pits skeletons against pizza. Obviously, pizza is going to be the winner, which is why this crazy hodgepodge sort of arcade game puts you in control of a giant, customizable pizza. Skeletons rise from the soil every thousand years, but a doughy arch nemesis arises this time around, and it's your job to roll, jump, and crush the boney bad guys with your supreme skills. Not only that, but you'll participate in over 100 neat-o levels with dozens of themes, including skiing down long snowy slopes, finding and rescuing puppies, balancing, swimming, taking out skulls in a very Crush the Castle sort of manner, and even customize your pizza with all sorts of accessories. You're a Renaissance pizza, that's for sure. A very creative game that's worth its weight in laughs and sheer awesomeness. Pizza vs. Skeletons Free is also available.

ziggurat.gifZiGGURAT (universal) - An arcade game of raw survival! Standing on a cloud-piercing mountain, it's you versus evil alien robot things who really want to be kind of this here hill! Armed with a single-shot gun, you must lob shots at the foes to keep them away from the pinnacle. Two control schemes let you customize how you play, but beyond that, it's up to your skill with this simple weapon to see how long you can survive. Bonus 16-bit visuals give it an extra epic feel!

zombiepanicwonderland.gifZombie Panic in Wonderland Plus (universal) - File this one under the "guilty pleasure" category. A mobile version of the Wii game, Zombie Panic lets you choose a character and defend yourself (while dealing massive amounts of destruction to the town around you) against zombie hordes, each more disgusting and crazy than the last. Tilt your iOS device to move and tap the screen to fire. Pick up ammo and new weapons while you fight for survival, and unlock new levels and characters from the store. It's a little light on content without an in-app purchase or two, but it's massive amounts of fun all the same.

cavorite2.gifCavorite 2 (universal) - A sequel to the platform puzzle game released in 2011, Cavorite, and it looks and plays even better than the original! In the late 19th century, an anti-gravity substance known as cavorite was created. A scientist used it to travel to the moon, but the inhabitants didn't take kindly to his arrival and kidnapped him. He managed to escape only to crash moments later. The professor heads out immediately, in search of a new source of fuel. By pushing blocks and manipulating switches, make your way to the exit in each level. You can also spray objects with cavorite to give them anti-gravity properties, grabbing on to them for a little boost when needed.

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


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Rating: 4.4/5 (269 votes)
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ElleEmerald Den EscapeTeraLumina has looked deep into your minds and hearts and knows that you harbor secret cravings for riches, for mountains of gems to make you feel all dazzling and adorned. Knowing you would, if tempted with an open door as you're strolling along a lush tropical beach, step directly into the room without waiting on such formalities as invitations or trespass laws only to find yourself trapped, TeraLumina has bestowed upon you an escape game to indulge your every jewel obsessed whim: Emerald Den Escape.

Navigation in Emerald Den Escape is pretty standard; click on the sides or bottom of the game screen to turn or back up (an arrow in a grey bar indicates which is possible), and scan the scene with your cursor looking for interactive areas, clues, useful objects and twenty emeralds to collect (the cursor changes into a pointing finger in these places) via a simple click. While not all emeralds or objects are essential to escape, if you ever want to see the lovely white sands and deep blue ocean of your palm shrouded beach again, you'll have to crack the codes on the exit lock. Yes, codes, plural.

This isn't a quick, simple task. You won't be let off easy; the quest to find all four exit codes requires time and concentration. Several puzzles take on mini-game dimensions and you would be hard-pressed to complete Emerald Den Escape without paper and pencil handy to jot down notes. One puzzle in particular will have you checking and rechecking your clues. Those with diminished color vision may have particular trouble. Not only will your lateral thinking, deductive reasoning and math skills be challenged, but so will your ability to sort out heaps of information belonging to multiple puzzles. To the uninitiated, this could seem like torture. But, for those of us who treasure our escape games, it's a sublime experience: four walls all lavishly decked out with puzzles and hints and goodies to explore!

After indulging you in sapphires, rubies and diamonds for the mere effort of putting together a few clues in previous games, TeraLumina has pulled out all stops to make this his finest, and most challenging, escaper's endeavor to date—a shining example of what makes this genre so enjoyable. With its gorgeous graphics, thinky puzzles and cohesive gameplay, it's safe to say Emerald Den Escape shines amongst the best of them.

Play Emerald Den Escape


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (67 votes)
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joyeRelicUp until now, Hyptosis has mostly turned his considerable artistic and storytelling talents to point-and-click titles such as his Alice is Dead and Hood series. In his new game Relic, he's trying out the RPG genre to tell the story of a woman seeking to recover an object that might destroy everything in the wrong hands, with the help of two cute comic relief characters and two strong and sexy types.

It's a streamlined and focused journey, with no inexplicable detours into side quests, a la "We must catch the kidnappers before they murder my love! But let's stop here and gather 100 wolf pelts for this old dude!" You travel using the [arrow] or [WASD] keys (switch the controls via the menu) until you hit a random encounter, at which point everything becomes mouse-controlled. The fighting seems inspired by Final Fantasy VII-style Active Time Battle system, where enemies attack as soon as their turn recharges, so you must be equally quick with your own attacks.

It's only fair to say that this is pretty clearly a first effort, with a few rough edges and gaps. Mostly these are minor yet, at this level of online casual gaming, inexcusable annoyances, such as the inability to pause the game during battles. But the developer's sheer enthusiasm for game-making shines through regardless. The art in particular is some of his best yet, with imaginative designs for the various beasties that inhabit the world. A creature compendium to fill up with the engineer's "scanner" skill would have been a great bonus. It'll only take a couple of hours to beat this one, so the flaws don't grate on you the way they would with a longer game, and the game sets up an intriguing new story setting, one which we hope will be expanded upon in later games.

Play Relic


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We would like to encourage everyone to include a moment of silence today for those lost and for those affected by the enormous and horrific tragedy that occurred one year ago today in Japan.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you as you struggle to rebuild your lives and your country.
























(8 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Out There Somewhere

JohnBThe latest in the "absolutely amazing" sub-category of platform adventures, Out There Somewhere from MiniBoss puts you in a world of not-so-intelligent aliens (well, there are a few smart ones), falling blocks, massive pits of lava, mysterious sky-facing beams of light, and seemingly impassable corridors, all standing between you and the pieces you need to fix your ship. Explore a non-linear world filled with puzzles and passageways, using your teleportation gun in some very crafty ways.

outtheresomewhere.gifOut There Somewhere begins with a brief arcade shooting sequence. At the end of that, you're attacked by an enemy vessel that send you crashing to an unknown planet. As Yuri, an astronaut from the Great Mother Planet, your job is to find your way out of this place, collecting abandoned cores to make your ship stronger and hunting down the elusive Lightorb to make it sky-worthy once again.

Your only real tool on this alien planet is a teleport gun, a non-weapon that can move you around the stage one shot at a time. When you fire the gun and the shot hits a wall, you're instantly teleported to that spot, preserving any momentum you had built up. You can shoot through some walls that would otherwise be impassable, and jumping while firing the gun through a narrow gap is a common theme throughout the game. There are also beams of light that teleport shots can't pass through, refracting blocks that bend your shot at a right angle, and other obstacles that turn your simple stroll on an alien world into something very special indeed!

outtheresomewhere.gifAnalysis: Out There Somewhere follows a fine tradition of retro platform adventures, including Celestial Mechanica, Knytt Stories, and countless others. It manages to carve out a space for itself by making smart use of simple gameplay mechanics and twisting them to create complex, time-sensitive puzzles. When you jump, fire your teleporter gun, then turn and fire it in mid-air to teleport through a level five times in a row without touching solid ground, you'll know exactly what we're talking about!

Here's something worth checking out: Out There Somewhere's pixel art. Intricate isn't saying enough, and while the details aren't numerous, a lot of attention went into making this game look and feel just right. There's a vague 50s sci-fi B-movie atmosphere to parts of it, lightening the mood and making you feel a little more adventurous in spirit. Because, hey, you're an alien on an aliener world. How cool is that?

You can expect around two hours of play time from beginning to end, which fits nicely with the game's budget pricing. Naturally, you'll want more, but only because the game is so well-made. The puzzles are top-notch, and learning to use the teleport gun in crazy new ways is so unbelievably entertaining, you'll start to ask yourself "Portal what, now?".

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


(3 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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yetihunter.gifYeti Hunter (Windows, 6.8MB, free) - You, are the hunter. The yeti, is your prey. In this snowy world of trees and, well, more snow and trees, it's just you and your gun versus the ever-elusive hairy beast. Trudge through the land in this 3D game as you scour the distant background for signs of the yeti. When you see him, aim and shoot, and hope you're good with a gun. A surprisingly haunting and chilling game from Vlambeer (with a great musical score from Kozilek), especially when it turns into night.


(3 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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hubris.jpgHubris (Windows, 239MB, free) - Although it's little more than a stunning map to walk around in, Andrew Yoder's Hubris is a surprisingly atmospheric experience that attempts to invoke emotion and set your imagination running around in a world void of conflict or interaction. Simply put, all you do in Hubris is march around and take in the view. There's a staircase, a small tower, plenty of intricate wall work with shadows and small openings, and a door waiting at the top. Despite (or, more likely, because of) the emptiness, you'll quickly become enamored with this small little game.


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Rating: 4.2/5 (88 votes)
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elleRobamimi: Want You - Who Am I?When you're trapped inside a room, scourging through cryptic clues in an effort to escape, the thought that swims around in your head along with all the mental calculations and logical deductions is: "Who did this to me?" Perhaps you will appreciate, then, the added sentiment that whoever it is wants you. No? Well, in Want You: Who Am I? by Robamimi, you must solve the mystery of the very coveted "I" before freedom will be granted.

Unraveling this riddle is a simple matter of exploring a squarish, small, sparsely-furnished room using the arrows on the sides and bottom of the screen. A changing cursor will point to puzzles and objects that you can click on to play or pick up. You also need to collect five hint cards and guess the true identity of "I". Somewhat unfortunately, you'll most likely figure out the riddle soon after your start—the second clue tends to give it all away. As in the other Robamimi "Who Am I?" games, the exit code is the riddle's answer. Knowing the solution isn't enough, though; there's a few light puzzles be solved first. In a couple instances your lateral thinking will be stretched to make jumps in reasoning and other times it's just a matter of pacing the room in impatience. True to form, Robamimi remains expert at weaving theme throughout; even allusion in the Tesshi-eesque music seems to fit.

You'll happily find that Want You: Who Am I? has everything you cherish about Robamimi games: solid controls, well-organized inventory, helpful hint system, and clean graphics to name a few. Yes, you love Robamimi, don't you? And Robamimi loves you, too! Want proof? After you escape, make sure to pick up the special gift Robamimi made for you. Put it on your desktop as a constant reminder and never feel unwanted again.

Play Want You: Who Am I?


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Weekend Download

JohnBConspiracy theory time! The order the following games are listed in along with the general theme of their content will, when viewed as a string of text on a single page from afar, show an outline of an Egyptian hieroglyph hidden in the chamber below the Sphinx. At least, that's what we're telling people... Shh!

hubris.jpgHubris (Windows, 239MB, free) - Although it's little more than a stunning map to walk around in, Andrew Yoder's Hubris is a surprisingly atmospheric experience that attempts to invoke emotion and set your imagination running around in a world void of conflict or interaction. Simply put, all you do in Hubris is march around and take in the view. There's a staircase, a small tower, plenty of intricate wall work with shadows and small openings, and a door waiting at the top. Despite (or, more likely, because of) the emptiness, you'll quickly become enamored with this small little game.

yetihunter.gifYeti Hunter (Windows, 6.8MB, free) - You, are the hunter. The yeti, is your prey. In this snowy world of trees and, well, more snow and trees, it's just you and your gun versus the ever-elusive hairy beast. Trudge through the land in this 3D game as you scour the distant background for signs of the yeti. When you see him, aim and shoot, and hope you're good with a gun. A surprisingly haunting and chilling game from Vlambeer (with a great musical score from Kozilek), especially when it turns into night.

ontheshouldersofancestors.gifOn the Shoulders of Ancestors (Mac/Win/Linux, 10.8MB, demo) - A retro-themed platform puzzle game from Jarnik, On the Shoulders of Ancestors deploys a few familiar ideas in a slightly different sort of way. You re a scientist training Lemonites, small genetically engineered creatures with an unusual life cycle. Each one carries an egg. When that egg is set down, the current Lemonite dies and a brand new one is born. The old one sticks around, allowing you to step up using the carcasses of your ancestors. It's a familiar mechanic that's put to use in some creative ways, and best of all, no matter what any other game says, at the end of each level, you get cake!

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!


(16 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Grave Mania: Undead Fever

JohnBGrave Mania: Undead Fever is a humor-filled, zombie-infested time management game from Team Loca and Anino Games. Kicking stuffy food-related themes to the side, Grave Mania focuses on intelligent time management Best of Casual Gameplay 2012skills interspersed with mini- and micro-games, providing enough action to keep you completely engrossed (and grinning) from beginning to end.

Pastryport, 1948. A pie was created that was so delicious, everyone had to have it, no matter the cost. People flocked to get their pieces of the pie, only to discover one teensy-weensy little side effect: eating the pie turns you into a zombie. With the town now overrun with undead (pudgy undead we would suspect, from all the pie, you see...), Bonnie and Johnny Loca, owners of the local funeral parlor, have to put every last monster into its final resting place, one careful step at a time.

Grave Mania: Undead FeverHere's how to deal with the undead. Zombies come rolling in on the carts at the top of the screen and are subsequently whacked with an anvil on a rope. As long as they're dizzy (represented by the stars circling their heads), you're safe, so work fast. Drag the zombie to the formalin tank to give it a good dose of the Loca's secret formula. Then, it's on to the bone fixing table, the make-up chair, or maybe the dressing room for a new and fabulous outfit. Finally, it's to the coffin the zombie goes, ready to be packaged up and laid to rest. Depending on each zombie's preference and the town you're playing, the options will be different, but the basic pattern is the same.

Grave Mania adds some micro-games to the mix that are randomly initiated during different stages of the zombies' preparation. For example, on the bone fixing table, you have to click bones to line them up with the zombie's silhouette. You might have to pick new outfits or fill fluid vials to the marker, too, all within a short time limit. If you aren't one for working under pressure, relaxed mode shuts off the timers, taking away any sort of pressure you might feel. It's still a challenge, but you don't have to worry about fumbling with your mouse when a few seconds can make a big difference.

Grave Mania: Undead FeverAnalysis: Grave Mania: Undead Fever is an exceptionally creative time management game. Its quality is right up there with the Delicious: Emily series, but with its fun sense of humor perfectly suited for internet-dwelling humans, it manages to stand out on its own.

Upgrades are somewhat lacking in Grave Mania, and while you get to speed up your various stations, use power-ups, and purchase additional zombie-beautifying zones, it doesn't add up to a whole lot of change. Sure, having a zombie butler is cool, and making him more effective is even cooler, but does he really add much to the experience beyond the "hey cool" factor? Whatever, time to whack zombies with a shovel!

The key word with Grave Mania isn't "re-invent", it's "invigorate", pumping new life into a very well-established genre. Even if you've had enough Cake Mania and Kate fixing up vehicles to hold you over for a lifetime, give this wonderful little game a try. You won't regret a single moment you spend with Grave Mania.

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: 4.1/5 (69 votes)
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elleelle_thepaintgunner_image3.pngTo celebrate their great success, the accidental invention of two awesome new paint types, the factory where you work has thrown a big party! All was going well, everyone was eating cake and having a good time when some bozo decided to press the big red "Do NOT Press" button which, well, was a bad thing really. Now the building is in chaos while everybody is trapped in the party room. Everybody except The Paint Gunner, who, for some silly reason, is on the totally opposite side of the factory.

So begins your rescue mission in this challengingly fun puzzle platform game by Petter Vernersson and Johannes Bahngoura. In order to reach the party room, you'll move via [WASD] or arrow keys through twenty-two rooms of toxic hazard and labyrinth obstacles. Use your mouse to strategically fire the green paint to get bouncy and the orange paint to hit slippery speeds or combine them both for special effects. Fill up on paint (press E) at the door to each room then use it as economically as possible; you'll score more points at the end, when you drop off your leftover paint, if you have more to give. To switch colors mid-level, press [1] for orange, [2] for green, or wash it all away with water [3]. Skillfully painting the floors and walls while negotiating your way through each level takes ambidextrous artistry. This is helped along by very responsive controls and a solid game design. Of course there's achievements galore and plenty of cool party hats for instant gratification and a happiness boost.

The closer to the party room, the harder things get—you'll need to experiment and, perhaps, fail a few times before you find that sweet combination of color and moves. But, that's nothing to the twenty-second room, the room just outside the party. Here the toxic waste is rising fast and any hesitation means your doom. The small game window with a limited view of the action can be a bummer throughout, but in the last level it means you have less visual hints to aid your escape plans. Still, the reception you receive when you, the hero, arrive to save them all, is so worth the effort. By the way, what blockhead would push that factory destroy button anyway?

Play The Paint Gunner


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JayI've created this entry to alert you to known issues, and to track progress on their resolution, regarding the brand spanking new server we now have to better serve you here at JIG.

Let me start out by saying that everyone should empty your browser caches and reload the site. There are many files that have changed, especially with regards to commenting, and trying to run an older script on the new server will most definitely fail, or at the very least yield a glitch of some kind.

Here is a list of known issues (I'll update here as I find or fix them):

  • Add to favorites isn't working, it's just replacing what was previously there. Fixed.
  • "Keep me signed in" doesn't keep me signed in very long. Make it longer, please.
  • As I work through some of the server configuration issues still remaining due to all the new software we have, sporadic periods of site inaccessibility may arise. Rest assured that it is in no way related to yesterday's incident and that I will work as quickly as I can to minimize these outages.
  • Comments on our CGDC pages are messed up aesthetically and don't function technically. Fixed.

If you encounter anything strange that seems to be broken or that doesn't work quite like before, please post a comment here and provide as much information as you can so we can try to reproduce the issue (preferably with the same OS/browser combo).

Thank you for your patience and continued support while we iron out the wrinkles.


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Rating: 4.4/5 (164 votes)
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ArtbegottiClockworkTwist to the right, slide it down, shimmy to the left, and launch! It's not the latest dance craze that will make the Macarena obsolete, it's how you play Clockwork by Mr Beud, a unique puzzle with a bit of a physics edge where you must pick apart a series of rotating and sliding puzzles to free the gear at the center of... Wait, whaddya mean the Macarena's already dead?

In each level, you'll find a tiny golden gear in a black container, and a mess of beams, blocks, and curves. Beams can be moved back and forth with the [up] and [down] keys, while curves can be rotated on their tracks with [left] and [right]; blocks can't be moved. Your goal, by jimmying the beams and curves around, is to create a clear path above the golden gear. Once you've shuffled all the debris out of the way, hit the [space] bar to launch the gear to check your solution.

The tricky bit to each puzzle is considering that when you slide or rotate, all of the associated pieces will move at once if they are able. A lot of puzzles need to be solved by moving a beam into the path of a curve, such that when the curve is rotated, its path is blocked, but other curves continue to rotate independently (or vise versa, with curves blocking beams). Factor in that some of the pieces may move at different speeds, and you've got quite a challenge on your hands.

There are thirty levels to tackle (plus five tutorial levels), all ramping up in difficulty at a pleasantly progressive pace. Later levels introduce such devilish devices as pairs of blocks that pinch together when there's nothing between them (and can't be separated again), meaning you might find yourself restarting a level several times to find the right way to pick apart the lock. If you think you're up for the challenge, grab hold of the gears and get going!

Play Clockwork


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JayIf you tried to visit us between Tuesday (03/06) evening (6PM Eastern) and Thursday (03/08) evening (6PM Eastern) then you probably received an alert from Chrome or Firefox indicating that there were suspicious or malware files found on this site. Well, it's true. At first we thought it was coming from an ad off one of the 2 ad networks that serve the site, since several scans of the server for malware came up empty. Unfortunately, someone found a vulnerability in our server and injected some malicious code (on Tuesday evening at 6PM) into one of the files that supports the site, and that had caused the malware warning banners to be displayed.

The good news is that we were able to find the malicious code and eradicate it (on Thursday evening at 6PM), so it is once again safe to visit us here at Jayisgames.com. The bad news is that if you visited us between those two dates and times then you may have been infected with a virus. You should scan your computer for malware to be on the safe side. We apologize for any inconvenience that this issue may cause you.

The warning banners continued until Google reviewed the site to confirm the issue had been resolved. (As of 03/09 at 9:00 AM Eastern time, Google confirmed there is no malware on the site and removed the banners.)

We work very hard to maintain a safe browsing experience for everyone, but there's really no way to ensure something like this will never happen. All we can do is try our very best, and resolve any situation that arises as quickly and efficiently as we can.

To that end, I have just completed a migration to a brand new server that I hope provides us with an increased level of security. We have upgraded most of the underlying software that was the foundation of JIG for the past several years, and we hope that it will provide an even better experience for you than ever before (though there are bound to be a few hiccups here and there until we can get things fine-tuned).

If you were the victim of malicious code getting onto your computer, again I apologize for the terrible inconvenience this has caused you. If there is some way I can make it up to you, please let me know. I will do my best to answer all emails.

Thank you for your continued support and for your visits, your comments, and your enthusiasm for what we love to do here at Jayisgames.

Update: Added specific dates and times of the incident above.


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraThe great thing about the internet is that there's something for everyone on it. You like stuffing helpless little animals in airtight balls and forcing them to battle to exhaustion for your enjoyment? You like cackling madly while you orchestrate the downfall of humanity in the most grisly fashion possible? We got that... and you're going on some sort of government watch list. There's a lot of cool stuff coming on the horizon, and here's just some of it we're going to be keeping an eye on.

Pokemon TDGotta Defend 'Em All If you love Pokemon, then chances are you already know all about Pokemon Tower Defense, which, unlike most fan-made games, surprised everyone by being both really good and not immediately squelched under a corporate bootheel for being so. Well, surprise! The game has now been updated to version 6.2.1, which comes with a number of bug fixes, as well as a new story level and even a new Mystery Gift. The game has come a long way since its first incarnation, and if you love it, you might also want to check out the developer's blog for progress and information about... dun dun dun... Pokemon Tower Defense 2! How many Pokemon are there now anyway? Is Team Rocket still having us prepare for trouble and then doubling it?

Infectonator 2Carnage Was Never So Cute Centuries from now, when alien architects are cataloguing our culture, they're going to wonder why 75% of it is made up of zombie worship. When we are dust, future generations are going to find all these games about brains being eaten and headshots and think we were more than a little cracked. But who cares! Later this March, keep an eye out for the strategic apocalypse simulation Infectonator 2. Judging by those screenshots, it looks like it's going to capture all of the slapstick carnage of the original with a significant visual upgrade and much more content. What do you think... are you looking forward to bringing around the end of the world with as much screaming and flesh-eating as possible?

ClosureA Light in the Dark Do you remember Tyler Glaiel's eerie puzzle platformer Closure? Well, you should, because it was awesome, and it's going to turn its amp up to eleven this year. Tyler and his crew consider the original flash game a prototype, and a "full" game will be hitting the Playstation Network (yay!) later this year, with PC and Mac releases to follow. You'll definitely want to check out the new official site and watch the trailer for this, because it looks like it's going to be absolutely stunning. And judging by the sheer girthiness of the awards Closure has taken home from IndieCade and the Indie Game Challenge this year, a lot of people agree. Keep your eyes peeled for this one, folks. It's gonna be a winner.

The New iPadExtra Shiny Mobile Gaming So you may have heard of this little device called the iPad, and you further might have heard about the new one coming out on March 16th. If not... surprise! There's a new iPad coming March 16th! You can visit the official site to learn more about this sleek little device, or hit up Gizmodo's wonderfully informative article. Why are we telling you about this? Well, mainly because iOS games that take advantage of this super powerful new hardware are going to be even more impressive than what we've got now. It's both impressive and a little depressing to think that something could make the original iPad look clunky by comparison. What do you think? Are you looking forward to upgrading and seeing what developers will be able to do? Or, like me, are you going to sullenly huddle in a corner with your first generation iPad while the radio plays "All By Myself"?

My Little InvestigationsMy Little Update We've already talked about the upcoming mystery adventure My Little Investigations by Equestrian Dreamers, but I promise you that if that caught your interest you'll want to check out this latest update on the project. When last we left our intrepid brony developers, the game was using a lot of stock art, especially in normal gameplay. NO LONGER! This recent blog update really shows you not only how far the game has come from its initial conceptual stages, but also gives you a glimpse of what the final project will look at. Twilight Sparkle's gameplay animations look absolutely beautiful, and that cut scene artwork featuring Applebloom and Sweetie Belle is gorgeous. Still no word on a release date, but this is shaping up to be an absolutely stunning fan project. Whatever your feelings on the source material, you can't deny there's a ton of impressive talent and work being put into this.

Bonus! Tumblr Spotlight Gourmet GamingA Gamer Plays On His Stomach If, like me, you have been known to enjoy a game or three and, also like me, you think cooking is rad and secretly like to imagine Alton Brown is your real dad, you'll want to check out the Tumblr blog Gourmet Gaming, which updates every Wednesday with a new dish taken from your favourite video games. Not only are these recipes imaginative and delicious, they also provide a great way for you to indulge your creative side and your love for gaming at once. (Besides, you can't tell me you've never wanted to try the Aiya Rainy Day Special Mega Beef Bowl.) The recipes you'll find range from everything from salads to deserts, with a cocktail or two thrown in, and come in a variety of difficulty levels for you to cut your culinary teeth on. If you enjoy cooking and games, I highly recommend you check these tasty and talented folks out and then share your results. And then when you get older, we can talk about a certain inebriated SquareEnix mascot too.


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Rating: 4/5 (36 votes)
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Mars CommandoJohnBIn the year 2049, all the water on Earth has been depleted. The nearest source of the good stuff is our friendly neighborhood Mars. So... let's go get it, shall we? Mars Commando is a defense game that emphasizes unit placement and strategy over swarms of soldiers, allowing you to earn the satisfaction of eradicating thousands of aliens with half a dozen of your own troops.

Wave, recruit, wave, recruit. That's the pattern you'll fall into once Mars Commando begins. Each stage features a dozen or so waves of aliens, marching in from the right like there's a sale on gigantic contact lenses. The only thing between your home base and them are a few rocks, your soldiers, and some barricades, the latter two of which you have to pay for and deploy yourself. Click one of the four units, then click "recruit" to pay and add them to your roster. Drag them on the map to set them in the best position, watching where their line of fire sits so you can get maximum coverage. Repeat until your team is full (or until you're out of cash), then head over to purchase barricades, explosives, or add-ons that offer temporary boosts. Afterwards, let the wave begin!

While the aliens are marching, you get to control the little roving droid that can do two things: heal friendly units and shoot enemies. You can switch modes between waves, pumping up the healing or damaging capabilities by sacrificing the other. You can also use one of several special abilities like the beam shot that heavily damages a small group of aliens or the health pack that restores your team's hit points.

Mars CommandoAnalysis: Mars Commando is thick with strategy, but it's the kind of strategy casual players will easily wrap their heads around. Peruse the manual before you begin to get a feel for the menus, it helps to orient you before jumping into the fray. Then, learn how and where to place units to maximize their effectiveness, concentrating weapons fire according to where aliens clump together in each respective wave. There's little room for error, but if you survive, you'll likely thrive.

Aside from its moderately steep learning curve and higher than normal difficulty, there's very little not to like about Mars Commando. There's not a huge variety of units or items to play around with, which is good or bad depending on your preferences (we think it's good). The progression is also a little slow, doling out new items only after you survive groups of a dozen or so waves. It adds a nice sense of accomplishment, but it also makes later waves in some stages a bit dull if you've got a smart set-up going.

Simple but challenging and with a strong focus on building basic strategies. Mars Commando is a smart defense game that will quietly invite your inner general to come out and kick some native alien tail!

Play Mars Commando


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Rating: 3.8/5 (27 votes)
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coryTiny Airships My plan to create literal interpretations of band names was going pretty well. Cream was simple; just needed a churn. Motley Crue proved to be easy as well when I got all my friends together. But everything fell apart when I got to Led Zeppelin. It was a disaster and fell right out of the sky, you see. Tiny Airships, a shooter by Rubicon Paradox is about flying machines that do a much better job of staying airborne. You'll use your airship to defend your home against the vile Tyrian Empire and hopefully you'll manage it without plummeting to the earth.

Pilot your ship with the [arrow] or [WASD] keys, press [Z] or [L] to fire your primary wepaon and press [X] or [K] to fire your secondary weapon. You start with a standard peashooter for your primary weapon and a helpful reflect shield for your secondary weapon, but shooting down Imperial ships earns you money that you can spend on new weapons between levels. Combining weapons is a lot of fun and there's some strategy involved; mixing the charge beam with the drones, for instance, allows you to fire while charging where you'd otherwise be defenseless. If you'd rather just go the brute force route, you could try the massive death ray! Secondary weapons run off of a recharging pool of energy that you'll need to manage. As for defense, you can take three hits with the default ship but you can also upgrade this further with money by purchasing new ships. This might be a good idea, since if you run out of lives you're sent back to the start of the level.

Along with the standard adventure mode which features the between-level upgrade scheme, Tiny Airships also boasts a survival mode. This features collectable pickups that bring the game more in line with standard shooters. Both modes are worth a look; shooter novices will probably have a smoother experience with the adventure mode, however, as the difficulty is ramped up significantly in survival. There's also achievements to hunt; the most powerful ship upgrade is actually locked until you obtain a survival-only achievement, so it might be a good idea to hone your skills a bit!

With retro graphics straight off the Game Boy, Tiny Airships is bound to appeal to old-school shooter fans. The various combinations of upgrades add a nice level of depth as well, since you can customize your craft to suit your play style. It's a flight that's well worth taking... unlike Jefferson Airplane, which was constructed out of $2 bills and unable to actually carry any passengers. Back to the drawing board!

Play Tiny Airships


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Rating: 4.5/5 (106 votes)
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TrickyProkeProke, a word game by Peter Hastings, is all about vocabulary building... literally! The goal of it is to build a mighty tower to the heavens, and your only tools are quick thinking and linguistic fortitude. While racing the clock, type a word with the designated prefix, suffix, or, for extra height, both. The more words you type, the higher your little yellow stick-guy will build. Extra points can be scored for typing the letters that appear in Bonus Bubbles, or doing combos of words with same prefix/suffix.

Proke is a light kind of game, but it's very addictive. The only real goal is a high score, but sometimes that's enough. There are also different ranks to unlock by completing certain tasks, and some of them are killer. 15 words with "w" and "k" in them in a single round?! Yikes. Still, even if means cracking open volumes of the ol' OED, Proke will have great appeal to everyone's inner word-nerd.

Play Proke


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Rating: 4.2/5 (57 votes)
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monsterstd.jpgJohnBMonsters never seem to have altruistic agendas. Whether it's scarfing down brains, scaring children, or mucking about with your spreadsheets so you think you did your taxes wrong (the horror!), if a monster comes near, you should probably ready your defenses. Such is the case with Monster TD, a well-illustrated side view tower defense game from Booblyc, the same team behind the physics puzzle game Steampunk.

More than half a dozen different types of monsters are out to take over your portal, probably because that's where you store your open containers of Monster Chow. They crawl in from one side of the stage and walk through the level to one of the exits. Place towers to dispatch these creeps by clicking the icons in the background. You can only build where there's an available slot, so think about what you're spending your gold on before you click!

You have three basic tower types to place, each with its own relative strengths and weaknesses. Steam towers are good bases for blasting anything that walks by, while fire towers shoot a less powerful continuous shot at creeps. The eye tower exposes invisible enemies as well as slows everything down, a critical ability in some levels. Each tower can be upgraded by clicking on them and spending some coins. Upgrades increase range, damage, and often introduce new abilities. Later, these tower types can be transformed into even more powerful towers, such as the chain lightning tower or the rocket tower!

monsterstd2.jpgIn addition to monsters, towers, bosses, upgrades and achievements, Monsters TD also includes three spells you can use. Magic beam fires a vertical wave of ouchies that harms every enemy in its path. Stop, well, stops monsters for a brief period, while gain temporarily boosts stats for your towers. Upgradeable skills round out the game's customization offerings, allowing you to boost your three tower types or fiddle with the amount of gold or "lives" you have.

Analysis: Although they're two very different games, Monsters TD may remind you of another side-scrolling monster-defeating tower defense game, Monster Castle Defense. This one is quite a bit simpler, however, focusing your attention on tower upgrades and placement as opposed to stat management and customization. It's an easier game to get into, and an easier game to complete, as well.

Monsters TD stumbles in two general areas: difficulty, and learning curve. While it's very easy to play the game without any sort of tutorial, learning what towers do and what stats change with each upgrade takes time. Unfortunately, none of this information is available from the main game, you have to stop playing and access the in-game guide to do research. As far as difficulty is concerned, Monsters TD keeps things locked down, restricting your choices and thus your chances for failure. For example, you can only place towers in certain areas, eliminating one common avenue for forming your own strategy.

Aside from an interface hiccup or two, Monsters TD is a good looking and highly enjoyable tower defense game well-suited for casual strategy fans or anyone who isn't looking for a tough challenge. Not only do you get to protect our world from a monster invasion, you get to do it with lasers and potions and rockets!

Play Monsters TD


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Rating: 4.1/5 (176 votes)
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Weekday Escape

ElleSearching for the top offerings the escape-the-room genre can produce is not unlike playing an escape game; sometimes you dig really deep before striking treasure. This week we followed leads that were somehow overlooked the first walk around and turned up this little gem of a game, Sapphire Room Escape by TeraLumina. So practice your whistle for the hi-ho work song because we're off to mine some treasure. There's no need to deck out in hard hats and headlamps, though—this escape takes place in a fashionably-appointed apartment.

Sapphire Room EscapeIt's not TeraLumina's first appearance in Weekday Escape. Remember Diamond Penthouse Escape 2 and Ruby Loft Escape? The premise is much the same this time around as well. Click the grey bars at the bottom and sides of the screen to move about and a pointing hand will appear for your cursor on interactive spots. Make your way around all four walls, gathering clues and corundums to earn your exit. Inventory is in plain view at the bottom of the screen; highlight an item and then click where you want to use it or select "about item" for a closer examination. Barring an irresistible urge to gorge your booty bag with gems, you won't need all eighteen sapphires to escape, just deductive reasoning and puzzle-solving savvy. The always affable changing cursor serves as a visual clue to minimize pixel hunts. Still, closely scanning scenes from corner to corner will prevent your missing important hints or furtive jewels.

It's also easy to get lost in the details: overstuffed bookshelves line two walls, tanks of aquatic life draw the eye and esteemed works of art fill every nook. This includes Michelangelo's David in all his statuesque, fig-leaf-less glory so be aware or see bare! It's quite hoity toity with even classical guitar music building the upscale atmosphere (wonder what the monthly rent is on a place like this?) While not quite polished enough to win away our allegiance to such favorites as Robamimi and Kotorinsou, Sapphire Room Escape is sparkly enough to catch our notice.

Play Sapphire Room Escape


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Rating: 3.8/5 (46 votes)
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DoraWorking StiffsWhen they told you that you were working in a dead end job, you probably didn't think they meant the slavering, moaning, undead-eating-your-brains kind of dead. InsaneHero, Biscuit Locker, and Peter Baron team up to bring you a corporate game with bite in Working Stiffs. It's your job to use your mouse to guide these 9-5 unsung heroes down through a towering office building filled with zombies. Without George Romero around to provide complex metaphors for humanity's decay and self-destruction, it's up to you to get as many people as you can to safety on each level. It's also a great way of telling if you're secretly a terrible person by administering the following test; the first time you saw one of your little pixel minions beg to be shot when they were bitten, did you giggle a little? Congratulations, we're both officially awful. Hooray!

Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to scroll the map, and click and hold to make people follow your cursor. People will automatically dismantle barricades and pick up items or weapons as they run into them. Of course, they'll also die automatically if they run into zombies, so you'll want to stay on your toes and keep them moving as best you can. After all, a dead co-worker is a soon reanimated and bitey coworker. If a creature is in range and one of your stalwart B-movie heroes has ammo, as denoted by the number above their head beside their name, they'll attack. Each stage will get progressively more complex, with more obstacles and missions to complete, and even super-powered bosses. Fortunately, you'll also encounter Just keep your wits about you and use your environment to your advantage; you can push certain objects around to make blockades, frighten zombies off with flames (either with a torch or by setting yourself on fire... if you have an extinguisher), venture into places zombies won't go, and more.

While you wouldn't necessarily call a game about mowing zombies down new, Working Stiffs does approach the concept in a novel way. The "sheep herding" gameplay is an interesting idea, and one that would be a lot more appealing if your people were just a wee bit smarter. As such, Working Stiffs winds up being a game where the patient and the cautious will succeed. It helps if you think of each stage as a puzzle rather than a standard zombie shooter; go slow, plan ahead, and try not to get brains all over you. Working Stiffs deserves some credit for trying something different, and with its dark sense of humour combined with its lovely pixel aesthetic, it's definitely worth a try. Just remember, kids; say "no" to cat pictures.

Play Working Stiffs


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Rating: 4/5 (163 votes)
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Kyhkyh_thespellbreakerquest_title.pngEveryone grows up hearing stories. Most of them come in the form of tales of princesses, witches, evil monsters and a savior in the form of a prince/fairy godmother/hobbit. Now you can truly immerse yourself in such a story and experience a fairytale in the making with Playtinum Games' latest point-and-click adventure. The Spell Breaker Quest - A Prince Ivan Adventure puts you in the shoes of our valiant Prince Ivan, who must save his sisters from a sinister, evil... well, you'll find out. You'll travel through magical lands across the kingdom helping out some of your subjects who in turn help you out (adventure games, after all, run highly on tit for tat).

Much like their previously reviewed game, Adventures of Veronica Wright: Escape from the Present, use your mouse to interact with each scene and the menus at the bottom. Inventory is less clunky than Veronica Wright, just click the picture of Ivan to open it up. Highlighting an item gives you a quick description (and a possible clue on where to use it), then clicking 'Use Item' allows you to use it with the environment. And how do you know where to use something? Why, with the help of a changing cursor! And Prince Ivan needs all the help he can get what with a snarky crow who only offers cryptic clues for each area, and not always for the parts you want. But despite your less-than-helpful sidekick, there's a big adventure (with automatic saving in case you need to take this game in multiple helpings) ahead of you with witches, puzzles, coin minting, potion making and, of course, princess saving. Plus, what's a fairytale without a little love? Give the game a go and assist Prince Ivan in creating a happy ending!

Play The Spell Breaker Quest - A Prince Ivan Adventure


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Rating: 4/5 (22 votes)
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Steampunk Player PackDoraLovers of goggles, decorative cogs, and swanning about... unite! The time has come for Booblyc's Steampunk Player Pack, another collection of physics puzzle goodness packed with all the gasmasks, top-hats, and, yes, steampunk you love. Once again your goal is to save the "good" hero by clicking and removing obstacles so he touches the ground safely, while at the same time making sure any ominous looking black-suited baddies are blown away.

The original Steampunk didn't really bring anything new to the genre, and neither does this collection of user-made levels, but what it does offer is some fiendish and remarkably clever stages wrapped up in the game's signature style. Some levels feel like they were perhaps better thought out than others, with certain stages giving off a "this looked cool" vibe as opposed to "this is actually carefully designed", but the level of creativity here is more than a little impressive. (Especially since anything other than "square tower" tries my patience when I'm building with Lego.) Steampunk Player Pack is a simple but solid addition to any day, and a welcome escape from your boring, mundane, non-essential clockwork-wearing life.

Play Steampunk Player Pack


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The Vault

DoraFor those of us who can barely walk a straight line without somehow managing to hurt ourselves on stationary inanimate objects, being forced to not only do some precision jumping but also solve complex conundrums while doing so sounds like a bit of a nightmare. Of course, we're not puzzle platforming protagonists, so all we have to do is try to ensure our little digital avatars die as few times as possible from the safety of our computer chairs. Which, I suppose, sort of makes us a much lazier, ineffectual, pajama-pant wearing anti-GLaDOS. ... what a frightening thought.

  • ClosureClosure - Tyler Glaiel's darkly expressive game proves that with enough thought and planning, you can use any media to tell a really effective story. From its dissonant, unnerving soundtrack to its sketchy presentation, its an extremely striking little title, and one that it's hard to talk a lot about without ruining the surprise and effect. The game revolves around manipulating light and darkness to get through levels safely to the exit, but don't be fooled; there's a lot more than that going on. While the platforming itself occasionally feels a little stiff, Closure is still one of those games that can manage to snare you from the get-go, and if you're in the right mood to play it, it can be one of the best and most atmospheric experiences you'll have right in your browser.
  • ContinuityContinuity - Sometimes the best games are the ones that are surprises, and when Nils Stefan Bertil's ingeniously slick little game popped up online nearly three years ago, it more than blew a few minds. Each stage in Continuity is made up of a series of "boxes", and it's up to you to arrange them so they line up properly for our hero to run from one to another, gathering keys for doors, and swapping their positions to make new paths open up. With its sleek, simple presentation and brilliant mechanics, Continuity went on to win the top prize in our Best Puzzle Game of 2009 voting, but also spawned a sequel that looks more than right at home on iOS, where all the swiping and leaping really shines. It's proof positive that sometimes all you really need is to have one little idea to knock people right off their feet.
  • SpewerSpewer - Vomit is adorable! Or at least it is if we're talking about Eli Piilonen and Edmund McMillen's joyously bizarre, slippery and squelchy little game. You play a blissfully ignorant and perpetually thrilled sentient pink blob who was grown in a lab and must harness the awesome power of your truly potent puke to solve various puzzles and reach the exit. Puke that you must also gobble back up again. Gross? Yes. Shamelessly fun, wacky, and bouncy? Absolutely. Spewer is a personal favourite of mine and is a perfect example of the way a game can really succeed when it embraces the unusual wholeheartedly and is lovingly crafted to boot. Definitely a game for puke connoisseurs, or just fans of surreal, exuberant, gross-out platforming.

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: 4.7/5 (1302 votes)
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DoraPapa's PancakeriaFlipline Studios' Papa is taking over the world, one digitally delicious time management simulation at a time, and this latest installment is his most soft, fluffy, and golden-brown-est endeavour yet! In Papa's Pancakeria, you're once again wrangled into running Papa's latest restaurant venture for him and the hungry customers headed for your counter don't care how inexperienced you are. Earn new toppings, even entirely new menu items, and decorate the shop to your heart's content... provided you can keep all your hungry customers happy, of course.

Don't worry if you've never flipped a flapjack; the first day has a tutorial that walks you through the basics. You've got three stations to contend with; ordering, grilling, and topping. It goes without saying that your customers are very particular about how they want their food, and you'll have to grill and then build to their specifications. If someone wants three pats of butter, for example, you can't just plop them down willy-nilly; you'll have to place them (and every other item) to cover the pancakes as evenly as possible. You'll definitely want to keep your customers happy, since the tip money they give you can be spent towards upgrades to make your life a little easier, or cosmetic enhancements like hats and posters. (That way when a customer is furious at you, you can just go, "Yeah, but how about this sombrero, eh? Eh?" That'll go over awesome.) Between stages, you'll also get a chance to play mini-games if you like, spending golden tickets for a chance to earn more cash or prizes. Of course... pancakes aren't all you'll have to contend with slinging if you want to make it to breakfast shop royalty.

Papa's PancakeriaAnalysis: The Papa's series has been around for a long time, and it's always impressive whenever a series like this manages to keep going without feeling like it's just spinning its wheels. Flipline obviously knows the core gameplay that players love, and is absolutely amazing at dressing it up in new and interesting ways to keep it from feeling too samey or changing so much that the game loses what made its predecessors so great. While not that different in gameplay from other Papa's titles, Papa's Pancakeria introduces just enough to make you want to keep playing. The mini-games are mostly simple affairs, some better done than others, but the provide a nice break between levels.

Of course, it goes without saying that Papa's Pancakeria is also gorgeous. The visual style has barely changed since its humble cheesy beginnings, but is still as vibrant and colourful as ever. Don't let the cartoony style make you think it's easy; it's as easy as ever to overestimate your griddle-guardian capabilities and wind up with a bunch of burnt goods. (Mmmm, charred on the outside, raw on the inside! Just the way I like 'em!) If you didn't like the Papa's games before, this one won't offer up much to change your mind, but for fans of the series it's another great, high-quality installment packed with all the breakfast goodness you could want to get your stomach growling. Make ready your pancake flipper and don your paper hat... and then maybe draft a letter to a union or something because if this is how Papa gets all his employees, it's gotta be illegal.

Play Papa's Pancakeria


  • Currently 3.6/5
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Rating: 3.6/5 (52 votes)
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TrickyFuturecadeWe can be so wrapped in the everyday use of technology that it become difficult to recognize how miraculous it truly is. Anyone with an internet connection can do dozens of things that the richest robber baron of a hundred years couldn't dream of. And yet, even in the midst of this plethora, science still moves forward, at a rate and to goals that, when reached a century hence, will be astounding to modern society. We are allowed but the merest glimpses of the possibilities that the future brings, so when the London Science Museum puts some of those glimpses in the form of Flash arcade games, that's something worth noticing. Futurecade, developed in conjunction with Preloaded, is a quartet of slick science games that show the future's so bright, you'll have to wear shades... for all the neon, if nothing else.

The presentation of the games are very similar, even if the gameplay isn't. All are controlled with the mouse, however. In Bacto-Lab, you must drag your bit of E. Coli to collect DNA in the proper sequence. Robo-Lobster has you guide your gang of, uh... robo-lobsters keep the harbor safe, by clicking the incoming unexploded mines. Cloud Control sees you controlling ships and circling grey clouds to brighten them, so as to better reflect sunlight. Finally, there is Space Junker where you guide a ship that protects orbiting satellites by clearing the debris from their path. The high scores of each game are added together to create a final ranking. Will you reach the rank of Science Master?

Analysis: Futurecade is similar to the exhibits that inhabit many Science Museums, London's presumably included. The presentation attracts the eye, the flashing lights and movement keeps one interested long enough for the desired bit of knowledge to be imparted, and, though you soon will move on to another installation, you'll definitely enjoy your time. Each of the individual games have their strengths and weaknesses, but putting them together like this makes up for each one's lack of depth. It's not quite like having a home version the Museum of Science and Industry, but it comes darn close.

FuturecadeRobo-Lobster is probably the strongest of the works included, but let's face it, when your game stars Robo-Lobsters, you really have to work at messing that up. The fact that the premise, that Robo-Lobsters exist and are out there defusing bombs, is the most blatantly "Mad Scientist" of the four certainly helps, as does the gameplay, which is the most challenging of the four. Another highlight is Space Junker which, despite its loose control scheme, plays like what Asteroids would be, if the guys at Atari had spent the day playing defense games and watching Planetes. Less inspiring, but still fun, is Cloud Control, a game whose low difficulty level detracts from interesting gameplay, and Bacto-Lab, which takes a great premise and cool science, then weakens it with poor controls.

One of the best parts of Futurecade is the follow-up text each of the games has. It can't help but feel a little tacked on, but it shows the extent to which the developers integrated the educational aspects in the gameplay. It's nice that each game ends with a question. Is it dangerous, or even immoral, to meddle with the functions of viruses? What tasks are we comfortable handing over to machines? Is the solution to global warming pumping more chemicals into the air? And so on. Futurecade is only an introduction to these concerns, however that's exactly what it wants to be. It is an entertaining collection of minigames, yes, but also an insightful one, and best of all, nothing of either is sacrificed for the other.

Play Futurecade


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Rating: 4.1/5 (108 votes)
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Kyhkyh_shoppingcarthero3_title.png(Do not try this at home, kids... or adults... well, really anybody.) Ladies and gentlemen, presenting a stuntman for all ages. In his third incarnation, it's Shopping Cart Hero 3! An amusing launch game from Monkey Want Banana, but it's more than just a reskin of the previous installments. Not only are there three worlds to launch your (what can only be assumed) stolen shopping cart, there are also boss battles sprinkled in the mix. How exactly to beat them is up to you to figure out. With dozens of upgrades to increase your stunt-performing abilities and add a bit of flair (I'm in love with the glittery streamers), there's plenty to keep you busy for a good hour or two. Earn fame and fortune (mostly fortune) as you become a stuntmaster. Your groupies await...

Play Shopping Cart Hero 3


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Sleepy Jack

VictoriaSleepy Jack is the tale of a young boy's dreams told via a graphically-lush arcade shooter. You play as Jack himself as he races through various landscapes, battling enemies in order to achieve the goal of getting a good night's rest. Throughout the levels you must collect "Zs", which ensure that you get a restful sleep. If your Z meter runs low, you wake up and lose the level!

Sleepy JackThe gameplay of Sleepy Jack is a unique blend of puzzle racer and shoot 'em up. Pick between three kinds of controls: classic, which gives you three buttons to control direction and speed, a touch-based set-up, and a control scheme that uses the accelerometer to move and the touch screen to attack. All of this is carried out with a gorgeous visual presentation that looks fantastic on mobile devices.

Sleepy Jack features 40 levels to race through along with a good variety of weapons and enemies to play with. The visuals are by far the game's most stunning feature, but it also represents a genre that doesn't have a strong showing on any mobile platform. If you're looking for something a little different or just need a faithful arcade fix, Sleepy Jack is your dream come true.


(12 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Quell

JohnBAs far as puzzle games go, the simpler and the more mind-bending, the better. Quell takes that idea a step further and adds a shining, stylish visual package to the mix, encouraging you to keep playing not just because you're hopelessly addicted, but because you honestly enjoy staring at your mobile device.

quell.jpgQuell is a puzzle game that's all about sliding water droplets around. Tap and flick your mobile device's screen to set a droplet in motion. Droplets keep moving until they come in contact with a solid object. Your goal is to collect the tiny drops scattered throughout each stage, utilizing some wonderful game mechanics and avoiding obstacles like nasty spikes in the process. Sometimes you'll work with multiple droplets, sometimes you'll combine droplets, sometimes you'll sacrifice one droplet so the others can complete the stage. You'll have to invent a number of strategies to work through the levels, and there are dozens of puzzles to keep you challenged for hours.

Quell is a beautiful game, both in design and in visual appearance. The mechanics are simple but provide a good mental workout, all while gradually increasing the complexity to keep you intrigued. It's a phenomenal puzzle game that's just waiting to be explored!


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

VictoriaEver feel like a small fish in a big pond? Well, Grow can help you reconcile that feeling. You play as a small fish in a variety of habitats, ranging from a tiny jar to the less-than-tiny ocean. Your mission is simple: eat anything smaller than you so you can get bigger! In some levels you will have to eat a certain number of fish to progress, while in others you must simply survive for a certain amount of time. Neither of these will be easy tasks. This game throws a variety of enemies at you, each with their own special powers, such as the ability to draw you in and take a bite out of you.

GrowBut have no fear! Throughout your journey you will be provided with boosts to help you out, such as a power-up that makes you larger for a short period of time. And if you fancy parting with a bit of cash, you can buy permanent power-ups via in-app purchases in the game's item shop.

Grow is the sort of game that will appeal casual gamers of any age. The gameplay is simple enough that a young child can master it, but challenging enough that an adult can stay entertained through the almost eighty levels that this game provides you. It's the perfect game to grab and keep on your mobile device for quick plays here and there, whenever you have a few minutes to spare and are in the mood to eat things smaller than you are!


(11 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Bag It

JohnBEating food is fun. Making food is fun. Growing food is work, but it's fun. Buying food can even be fun. But what part of obtaining noms is the least entertaining? Bagging your groceries. (We would have also accepted "paying for food".) With Bag It!, a game we originally mentioned when it was released for iOS, stuffing packaged foods into a paper bag finally has some reward to it. You still have to be careful, though, because crushed eggs in a mobile game are even more disappointing than in real life!

Bag ItThe basics of Bag It! are somewhat similar to Tetris: shapes come in from the top of the screen, and you have to make them fit snugly together. Here, though, those shapes are foods, each with its own personality and durability rating. You have to arrange everything so the sturdier items are on the bottom and the more delicate items on top. It's a bad idea to set a watermelon on top of a breadstick, for example, but you can usually get away with orange juice on top of milk. Rotate and slide items to fit them in, then wait nervously as everything settles and you (hopefully) move on to the next level.

Bag It! is a gorgeous mobile game, and the HD versions scale everything up to size quite nicely. There's plenty of content to enjoy, with dozens of levels and even more challenges to complete. Nice little touches such as bonuses or penalties when pairing "friendly" or "unfriendly" foods really make you think. You won't have an easy time with Bag It!, and it demands perfection instead of sloppy "close enough" moves, but stick with it and you'll be rewarded with plenty of groceries and plenty of unlockables!


(5 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Carcassonne

VictoriaNot all games are created equal, and Carcassonne is a great example of how game makers are constantly striving for innovation. For the uninitiated, Carcassonne was originally a German board game created in 2000 where players work together to build a medieval world. There are different kinds of tiles, such as roads, fields, cities and combinations of the above. During each turn the player is given a single tile, and must line it up with a tile on the board. After placing the tile, the player may optionally place a "meeple" on it, which means that points will be assigned for that tile. Players are given limited meeples, so placement must be done strategically.

CarcassonneThis mobile adaptation of Carcassonne faithfully recreates the board game experience, which is saying quite a lot if you've ever seen a board game conversion gone wrong. The biggest advantage is having Carcassonne on the go, allowing fans to get their fix even when no one is around to get their caravan handed to them. The AI is great, and having the scoring taken care of for you is worth the price of admission all on its own, as there are a number of apps in mobile marketplaces dedicated just to Carcassonne score keeping!

For a fraction of the price, Carcassonne mobile gets you the full package you can play on the go, all by yourself, without keeping track of anything but your own moves. A great addition to any device, whether you're a fan of Carcassonne or have never touched a board game in your life!


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Mobile Monday

JohnBWhen you think of a "mobile" game, you probably think of a stripped-down, broken version of what could have been a big and meaty game for a PC or console system, right? Well, this week's selection of games aims to prove you wrong. Three titles that migrated from larger platforms but gained content in the process. Is that some sort of magic?!

tobehookshot.jpgTobe & Friends Hookshot Escape (universal) - This is the Tobe game you've been waiting for! Tobe & Friends Hookshot Escape has unlockables and addictive gameplay down to a science, as it's perfectly tuned to keep you playing and wanting more, more, more! The core idea is simple: the screen scrolls up, and you've gotta keep climbing to stay alive. Tap the screen to use your hookshot to grab onto ledges and pull yourself up. But hang on a second! Unlockable characters have different abilities than the default Tobe, and there are gems to collect, enemies to negotiate with, and equipment to unlock as well. The pacing is expertly done, and between rounds of climbing, failing, and climbing again, you'll do nothing but think "how can I go higher?!".

lume-ios.jpgLume (iPhone/iPod Touch) - Did you miss the 2011 PC debut of this lovely little point-and-click game? Don't worry, you probably weren't the only one. Lume managed to stay under most folks' radars despite being gorgeous, challenging, and a-friggin'-dorable. Now's your second chance to dive in, and the iOS release is just as good as its desktop big brother. Grandpa is away when the power to his home goes out. You arrive and must do whatever you can to get things flowing again! Plenty of puzzles to solve in a traditional point-and-click format, and the touch screen makes a fantastic replacement for a cursor. Lume HD for iPad is also available.

aaaaa-ios.jpgAaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! (Force = Mass x Acceleration) (universal) - Oh, what's that? It's been too long since you've hugged the side of a building you base jumped off of just so you could get a few points? Owlchemy Labs wants to fix that with a nice and faithful port of Dejobaan Games' PC game AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! A Reckless Disregard for Gravity. Not only does AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA come at the top of every alphabetical list of games ever made, it also features some "wicked tight" tilt controls (is that the phrase the hip kids are using?) and the same in-your-face attitude as the original. Great game made a little bit better by putting it in the palms of your hands. For extra coolness, stand on top of a building, look down, and play the game. Exciting!

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.


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

JohnBScience has proven that water physics are some of the most entertaining gameplay mechanisms ever created. Forget things like realistic friction models, voxels, endlessly generating worlds, and being able to rewind time. Capturing, deploying, and just messing around with gooey water is where it's at. Vessel, a new steampunk puzzle platformer from Strange Loop Games, builds most of its gameplay around liquids, using them as both mindlessly flowing matter and as something you probably never expected water to do: become semi-intelligent!

vessel.jpgLet us introduce to you Fluro, the liquid automaton invented by M. Arkwright. In essence, a Fluro is water (or another liquid) gathered around an intelligent "seed" that takes its own humanoid form, able to walk, think, and interact with objects in its vicinity. Work performed by a Fluro is flawless, and they never get tired. Even better, if a Fluro is injured, the form can be rebuilt using nearby liquids. In short, if you've got work to be done, you should consider Fluro.

The Fluro, however, get a little out of control, and if Arkwright is going to finish his greatest invention — a building-sized creation known as The Accelerator — he's going to need to get things running smoothly again. Apart from the usual movement and jumping skills, Arkwright also gets a backpack capable of storing and spitting out liquids in small streams. He also picks up Fluro seeds that are hydrophilic and will form living Fluro if given enough liquid. With all that at your disposal, it's time to go solve some puzzles and get this thing working again!

vessel2.jpgAnalysis: Vessel is the kind of physics platform game you love to scratch your head over. The game is divided into different furnace rooms which are connected via dark tunnels and ladders. You can also hop between rooms by clicking icons on your map. It makes for a very open, free-feeling experience while allowing you to focus on tasks at hand. You'll never feel stuck, which is vitally important in a game like this.

Great steampunk visuals and a gorgeous dynamic soundtrack (by Jon Hopkins, no less)? Check! Everything looks a little dark at times, but it's fitting, and the liquid monsters you encounter have a lot of personality. Vessel does suffer, however, from a common problem many physics-based platform games succumb to: floaty controls. Jumping, moving, climbing ladders, etc. can be terribly imprecise at times, something that isn't really a problem as much as it is a mild nuisance.

All in all, expect almost a dozen hours of gameplay out of Vessel, which feels like just the right amount for a game of this type. The puzzles are perfectly balanced to make you feel clueless then triumphant, and the gameplay complexity slowly increases as you play. An excellent debut from indie studio Strange Loop Games!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo (only available through Steam)
Get the full version (scroll down to purchase)

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


(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Fantastic Creations: House of Brass

elleEven before computers and smart phones, mankind loved to dream up gadgets. Some men merged science with imagination to invent light bulbs, create telephonic conversations, or write stories about extraordinary voyages. Likewise, in the 1880s, Edwin Cogglethorpe built many Fantastic Creations to amuse and convenience; the House of Brass being his wildest and most elaborate. Yet Cogglethorpe's attempts to live forever in a hermetically sealed, windowless, fully-automated home had one big downside: it left him trapped, alone with only mechanical animals and robots as company.

elle_fantasticcreations_houseofbrass_image2.jpgThis steampunk fantasy adventure hybrid from GameInvest could have easily come from the imagination of Jules Verne or H.G. Wells if they were in the game design business; the furnishings have Captain Nemo appeal while fanciful machines echo the Time Traveler's handiwork. Amazement and curiosity bring you to the now powered down and deteriorating House of Brass where upon you must escape, your steps dogged along the way by an adversarial robot housekeeper and multitudes of overly complicated contraptions. The fantastical structure is chock-full of strange rooms including a gallery, a planetarium and even a zoo (all mechanical or steam powered, by the way.) Soon you'll be asking, "Just what kind of place is this?"

Despite the elaborate environment, navigation and interaction take only a simple click wherever you want to move, grab an object, play a mini-game, or inspect an area more closely. A changing cursor helps with this but your explorer's skills are also needed. The House of Brass is built for discovery, every room full of interesting things and puzzles to work out. You'll encounter, and repeat, the familiar but there's several more unique puzzles such as a gorgeous planetary orbits game and a series of charming clockwork theatre productions. Hidden object scenes are few and require you find twelve of an item genre to allow focus on the search rather than reading and rechecking a random list of things.

elle_fantasticcreations_houseofbrass_image1.jpgAnalysis: House of Brass is extremely enjoyable if you love exploration and discovery with plenty of mini-games to reward your powers of deduction and reasoning skills. On the other hand, those who prefer the standard hidden object game will be disappointed. In the main story campaign, I counted only five or six different hidden object scenes and revisited only a few of them. On the other hand, almost every room is filled with mini-games. In the case of the zoo, you're called on to repair several broken mechanical animals by solving a small puzzle for each. Meanwhile, after finding a slew of bird books stashed in all sort of places around the house, you'll need to arrange them in order but, in that odd quirk of physics common to adventure games, by moving one book, two others are moved as well.

While adventuring and puzzle-solving are the main focus of Fantastic Creations: House of Brass, the narrative elements of the game are noticeably light. Cut scenes are almost nonexistent; the story progresses visually as you discover the full structure of the house and through Cogglethorpe's explanations. Although you are asked at the beginning to keep your sound on for the best experience, it's only a good experience of you want to hear a cogged old centenarian blathering on at your every move. Fortunately, there are separate volume controls for sounds, music and voices, so your preferences can be matched. I recommend treating yourself to the Collector's Edition if you can; in it you'll have access to the prologue, letting you see the house in its prime, and replay the mini-games to your heart's content. The back story is even more interesting and compelling and being able to revisit the mini-games increases replay value.

elle_fantasticcreations_houseofbrass_image3.jpgWithout the title to give it away, your first impressions would lead you to believe this a sequel to The Clockwork Man. It all has a fantasy meets steampunk feel as if you've been granted admission to tour a museum of oddities. Sarah Winchester's mansion has nothing on this place in terms of architectural eccentricities. The hands on mechanics of the mini-games will draw you in and your efforts at exploration are rewarded with the sordid revelation that living forever has no good effects on sanity. It's a Wellsian lesson worth a second study.

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

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

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


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (60 votes)
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Mari0

JohnBWhat happens when you give Mario a portal gun? A mish-mash of two extraordinarily recognizable games — Super Mario Bros. and Portal — with a whole lot of extras. Mari0 puts you in control of our favorite pixellated plumber as he goes on his famous adventure from the mid-1980s, only this time, he's got the power of portals on his side!

mari0.gifIt's pretty easy to imagine what Mari0 is like if you've played the games it's based on. With the keyboard, use [WASD] to move, [shift] to shoot fireballs or run, and the [spacebar] to jump. Simple, right? Now, to use the portal gun, aim with the mouse and use the [left] and [right] mouse buttons to create red and blue portals respectively. When you enter one portal, you emerge from the other, maintaining the momentum and motion you had when stepping inside. You can use this ability to slingshot yourself to crazy heights, slip through narrow passageways, or send mindless goombas to an easy lava-based doom.

The best part of Mari0 is that it doesn't stop with a simple "Mario plus portals" premise. In addition to the original levels from Super Mario Bros., you can also play through custom stages based on levels from Portal, as well as make your own puzzles using the easy level editor. Also: customizable character colors, 33 different hats, and downloadable map packs. And if you're really hungry for something crazy, try the four player co-op mode for a massively entertaining experience.

mari02.gifAnalysis: Are you sold yet? Thought so. There's very little, if anything, not to like about this ambitious cross-copyright-infringing game! Playing the original Super Mario Bros. levels with a portal gun is an amazing experience. Just like Super Mario Bros. Crossover reinvented a classic game by giving you new abilities, so too does Mari0 add a little vim and vigour to a very well-worn game. And when you throw in all the new levels, extras, unlockable cheats, and a level editor, you know you're in for a good time!

The only — we repeat, the only — down side to Mari0 is the control scheme. Moving Mario around is already a handful, but when you add aiming and firing a portal gun to the mix, you get something that requires four hands and three keyboards (a rough estimate) to comfortably navigate. It takes some time to get used to everything, even if you sit and customize the controls to your liking. It's just one slight drawback to enjoying a complex but full-featured game!

Creating Mari0 was a fantastic idea. Releasing it for free (including the source) for all three major operating systems and with so many customization options was an even fantastic-er idea. Get ready for a game that's going to blow you away three times: once for being Mario, once for being Portal, and once for being Mari0!

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the free full version

LinuxLinux:
Download the free full version


(14 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Depths of Betrayal

DoraWhat's that? You built a super-powered sentient mechanical monstrosity with no weak points? I just don't know what went wrong. In Artogon Games' hidden-object adventure Depths of Betrayal, you receive a letter from your old friend and professional bad-idea-maker Professor Morgan, who wants your help in his experiments to create "perfect artificial intelligence". You arrive at the train station just in time to see the very train you were supposed to board crash rather spectacularly, and an enormous metal construct carrying off an unconscious man. Things get even grimmer when you discover a familiar photograph with a number of faces crossed out left at the scene. Will you be able to stop the beast before it's too late? Is your friend still alive? And really, when has building unstoppable mechanical giants with wills of their own ever been a good idea?!

Depths of BetrayalDepths of Betrayal is at its core hidden-object game, but approaches the gameplay in a markedly different fashion from most other titles. Each area will have a number of places that, when clicked, will pop up with a radial menu of items you'll need to find nearby. Objects in the menu with a red outline are items that need to be "created" somehow, such as by combining a stamp with an envelope or Garfield with lasagna. Track down each object, plunk them in the menu, and bask in the glow of accomplishing a simple task with a random assortment of completely unrelated items! The cursor changes to show interactive areas, things to look at, and people to talk to as you move it around. A good chunk of the puzzles you'll encounter will show up as sneakily locked box mechanisms in your inventory, marked by a decorative border; just click on them to get a close-up view to tinker.

Analysis: With big animated cutscenes, quality voice acting, and a heavy emphasis on its steampunk-ish plot, Depths of Betrayal is a remarkably cinematic game. It's a refreshing change from games that make you feel like you're just clicking through a series of static images... which, well, you are, basically, but they could still put a little effort into trying to get you engrossed. While the first area you'll encounter is relatively bland, the further you go the more the game opens up with some absolutely stunning and dynamic environments. It really is one of those games that grabs you more as you play, sprinkling bits of secrets and plot developments around just when you think you know exactly what's going on to make you go hmmmmm. You'll traipse all over a suspicious city, a suspicious jail, even a suspicious castle owned by a suspicious alchemist... suspiciously! It's all a surprising amount of fun, and feels like the sort of thing that would have been great as a movie starring Robert Downey Jr, Willem Dafoe, and... Jack Black as the mechanical giant. Look, shut up alright, Jack Black is awesome.

Depths of BetrayalThe lack of more traditional hidden-object hunting makes this one feel strange at first, but what it actually means is the game feels, as a whole, less restrictive even though it's just as linear as any other title. Of course, at the same time it can be intensely frustrating to be staring at an object you should be able to just pick up, but can't until you've gathered a bunch of arbitrary, unrelated things. It's still weird to use a cookie, a pumpkin, and a bunch of nails to be granted access to looking in a basket, but it beats staring at a stagnant messy scene with a list for a long time. Because of this, Depths of Betrayal actually winds up feeling like an adventure game, though it does take a while to get rolling.On the downside, none of the actual gameplay feels particularly unique. The puzzles will likely be pretty familiar to you, and while the carefully structured play and helpful hint/skip buttons mean you won't ever get stuck, there also isn't much of a challenge to speak of. However, It's a fantastic choice for people who want to go on a big, adventurous mystery with a geriatric protagonist who spends all day thinking up complicated, humorous ways to express his shock in the most elaborate manner possible.

At around four hours or so, it isn't the longest game on the market, and the gameplay, while refreshingly different from other hidden-object games, might also be a bit too different for die-hard fans of the original item list scavenger hunt style. But if you give it a chance to flex its mechanical muscles, Depth of Betrayal is a surprisingly engrossing story-based adventure that's well worth checking out. Give the demo a try and see if you prefer to wait for the Standard Edition, which isn't yet available at the time of this writing, but just remember; the last thing a world needs is another hyper-intelligent super robot running around. Seriously, I think Sarah McLachlan just did another commercial about them shot to sad guitar music. Stop building them.

A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains a bonus chapter, art gallery, strategy guide, and more. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions (or 2 club credits), and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.

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

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


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Weekend Download

JohnBIt's blasts from the past(s) time! We dug up several games previously featured on Weekend Download to see how they've fared over the last few years. Some of them have vanished (oops), some of them have stayed the same, and some of them have grown into bigger, better projects! Take a look at some of the neater upgrades some of our classic games have gone through.

doomrl2.gifDoomRL (Mac/Win/Linux, 80MB, free) - We wrote about this game way back in the dark ages of 2008. So much has been changed since then, including Mac support and a fantastic graphical update (no more ASCII), it's well-worth talking about again. Besides, there's so much badassery in DoomRL, you'd be crazy to overlook it. Combining a classic roguelike game with the action, music, enemies and items from Doom, this surprisingly casual-friendly game is just the perfect mix of two distinct genres. Adventure through over two dozen mostly random floors as you pick up items and ammo, blast your way through soldiers and undead minions, and manage an inventory of weapons, including the massively-awesome chainsaw. Even if you can't stand roguelikes, you should totally give DoomRL a try. It just might convert you!

zatikon2.gifZatikon (Mac/Windows/Linux, 27MB, free) - The turn-based strategy game from Chronic Logic was first mentioned in 2008. Since then, this little baby has spawned a few expansions that turn the original experience into something far more awesome! Zatikon takes place on a grid where units move, attack and defend in a more complex version of chess. Create your army from a massive stack of units, including ranged fighters and characters with fantastic special abilities, then march onto the battlefield and get ready to take out your opponent. Zatikon itself is as free as nachos, but there are a few inexpensive add-on packs that more than double the units and content of the core game. The most recent of these, Zatikon: Legends, does just that, adding more than 30 units and several brand new game modes.

sugarcube2.jpgSugar Cube : Bittersweet Factory (Windows, 45MB, demo) - It was a bright and sunny morning in late 2010 when we wrote about the sugary-cute platform game from Korean developer Turtle Cream. Now, Sugar Cube is all grown up and ready for a full adventure! Not wanting to end up in a baked sweet, one sugar cube makes a break for it and tries to escape the factory. His getaway is complicated by an odd gameplay mechanism that causes every square the cube touches to flip. Sometimes, flipping a square adds platforms to walk on, while other times, it obstructs your passage. By creatively manipulating the screen you can make it to the end of each level in this very good-looking puzzle platformer. Much has been added since the original demo was released, including new mechanics and loads of brand new levels!

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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Glow Fish

JohnBDr. Urchin has kidnapped Coralline! Oh no! But hey, you're the bodacious glowfish, precisely the underwater dweller who can rescue her. The lushly-illustrated action adventure game Glow Fish is filled with exploration, unlockables, and size-related nomming challenges similar to flOw. Gameplay is focused on rescuing your friends from water creatures and gathering them up to make yourself larger and more in charge. With a handful of buddies tagging along, you can activate a shield that will dissolve enemies smaller than you, and even if a creature is twice your size, you can take it under control with a few smart circling maneuvers.

glowfish2.jpgGlow Fish features almost 50 levels of exploration, friend-finding, coin collecting, secret discovering, exit unlocking action. Boss battles punctuate the pace nicely, and unlockable Super Chums give you special abilities that can drastically alter how you play the game. You can even upgrade Chums using the coins you collect, encouraging you to go foraging beyond what the maps show you.

Glow Fish is a fine example of perfected casual entertainment, featuring gameplay that's easy to learn but quickly gets more complex as needed. Couple that with the fantastic visuals and you've got a game that's begging to be devoured.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Mystery Trackers: Black Isle

DoraReporters, man. They're always getting in trouble. Ben Urich, Bill Smithback, and now Sarah, who vanishes in the most dramatic fashion possible while doing a report on the famous, though apparently deserted, Black Isle. (No, not that one.) Naturally, it turns out "deserted" needs to have those quotation marks around it, since you arrive on the scene just in time to see a sinister cloaked and masked figure perform what looks like some pretty spectacular dark magic. You're all on your own as you try to unravel the mystery and rescue Sarah, but that's not the same thing as being alone, and it's soon pretty apparent someone doesn't want you to succeed. Mystery Trackers: Black Isle is the latest installment in the hidden-object adventure game series by Elephant Games and blends high drama with creativity to burn to deliver one big, explosive adventure well worth the price of admission.

Mystery Trackers: Black IsleWith three flavours of difficulty to fit your playing style, you'll be trekking all over Black Isle, thwarting increasingly elaborate attempts on your life as you search for Sarah. While most of the gameplay is about what you'd expect in a hidden-object adventure hybrid, you will also need to use some of the items you'll gather during your wandering to solve hidden-object scenes. If an item is noted in purple on your list, that means you'll need to use something in your inventory to get to it. While there's no journal this time around to keep track of clues and plot points, the world's most adorable hint frog is back to guide you, and of course you can skip the puzzles you encounter if you get stuck.

Analysis: With Black Isle, Mystery Trackers firmly cements itself both as one of the most creative and cinematic series around. Like The Void and Raincliff, Black Isle delivers a delightfully campy mystery adventure. While some of the acting is more than a little hammy, it's one of those games that manages to really convey just how much fun everyone had making it. From its gorgeous design and environments to the constant cinematics and over-the-top plot chock full of conspiracies and the paranormal, Black Isle is simply a big, fun game. When mysterious explosions and lightning bolts and eerie warnings start popping up all over the place you don't have the option to call in Nick and Monroe, and you're going to have to put on your big kid detective pants and solve this one yourself.

Mystery Trackers: Black IsleIf Black Isle ever disappoints, it's that it feels like there's an awful lot of backtracking to be done, the game as a whole just isn't that challenging, and the hidden-object scenes are a little bland visually. But while the gameplay itself is mostly your standard go here, use arbitrary item there affair, Black Isle still manages to keep you engaged because of how hard it works to keep you on your toes. New plot developments are always popping up, things are always trying to kill you, store windows are foretelling your bloody death when you glance into them... you know, all that good stuff. The puzzles are mostly just variations on standard types you'll have seen before, but they are, at least, both plentiful and varied.

Players who prefer their games more on the straight-laced, serious side may find Mystery Trackers: Black Isle and its occasionally over-the-top campy drama and plot twists a bit too silly. If, however, you want something big and vibrant that works hard to entertain you every step of the way, as opposed to merely just providing four or five hours' mindless distraction, then this is definitely a game with a demo you should check out. It would be nice to see a Mystery Trackers title where the level of complexity in the gameplay matched what you get in the plot, but for fans of the genre who like a lot of flair and energy, Black Isle is easily recommended.

A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains a bonus chapter, art gallery, strategy guide, and more. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions (or 2 club credits), and collector's editions count 3 card punches of 6 total needed for a free game.

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

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


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Rating: 3.5/5 (123 votes)
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Kyhkyh_mayangod_title.pngThe world is coming to an end. Fortunately, you're enlightened enough to transcend your mortal form and become a god. The only thing standing in your way is the broken seal that'll open a portal to the land you will rule. In BeGamer's latest point-and-click puzzle, Mayan God, it's your job to... um... point and click around each scene to help you move onto the next area. If you're lucky, you'll appease a friendly spirit who will share their fragment of the seal along your journey. Some areas of interest give off a sparkle to help you out, while others very nearly blend in with the scenery. But fearnot, brave soul, there's no way to kill yourself or wind up in a dead end, so click away in your quest for godhood!

Play Mayan God


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Rating: 3.6/5 (42 votes)
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TrickyPlanet BlirpYour astronaut team has waited months for this moment: finally stepping on the fabled and mysterious Planet Blue. Of course, your commander has assured you that the planet is a barren wasteland, containing absolutely no malevolent aliens of any kind, and thus you are all in perfect safety... Well, guess what? Planet Blirp is a fun little action shooter from Helmet Games. As side-scrolling arena shooters go, it's a little by the numbers, though it does have some cool features that separate it from the pack. The story line is clever, there's a nice variety of mission objectives, and the way your companions will join you in blasting once you've rescued them is a cool touch. Downsides are a steep learning curve where challenges start getting too brutal too early, and some glaring typos in the script... "YOU LOOSE"? Geez. Anyways, even if Planet Blirp feels familiar and is definitely heavy on the grindy, it remains a solid shooter and an excellent time-waster.

Play Planet Blirp


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraIt's March, which is an exciting month, because there's a whole lot of big gaming things happening this year in it! While most of you are going to vanish the minute March 6th rolls around, some of us are girding our loins for the 13th, with grim expressions like we're Grey Wardens heading off to the Deep Roads. (And then there's this which I'm trying not to get too excited about because if nothing happens then I'll have to drag myself sobbing and howling to Bioware's doorstep. Again.) But! It ain't all triple A titles that're in the news, folks! Here's some things to get excited about.

ResonanceThat's A Fine, Strong Name For a Dwarf You know Winter Wolves, right? Fine purveyor of top-notch visual novels and simulations? Well, check dis out; Loren the Amazon Princess is an RPG that's coming down the pipe soon, and it looks stunning. Blending tactical turn-based battling with a massive story and cast of characters, not to mention a ton of romance options, it looks like it's going to be a great indie fantasy game and is well worth keeping an eye on. Especially if you like improbable female clothing. Be sure and try out the demo, available in Windows, Mac, and Linux flavours!

The Banner SagaStart Growing Your Stoic Beards Now Stoic Studio, a new company made up of three ridiculously talented souls who originally emerged from the eldritch wilds of Bioware, has recently announced their new game The Banner Saga, coming later this summer. Billed as "role-playing meets turn-based strategy, wrapped into an adventure mini-series about vikings", which is really just about everything you could ask for (apart from people to stop wearing those awful Skeletoes things), it looks absolutely stunning, and you should check out the announcement trailer right this second. If, like me, your issue with strategy games is that they frequently tend to feature a departure from story and focus solely on the combat, you'll find that this looks like it was made with you in mind since it promises "decisions with real consequences in conversations with people you'll actually care about". Fingers crossed, guys, but this looks beautiful.

Fighting is MagicThe Best. Possible. BRAWL. A lot of popular things wind up getting fan projects that sound really cool and ambitious but never see the light of day, so the continual and impressive progress on the My Little Pony fighting game, Fighting is Magic, is really something to get excited about. Since the last time we peeked at them, they've chosen a voice actress for Rarity (one of the best ponies), uploaded her stage's background music, and recorded another livestream video showing off all the progress so far. If you haven't seen any of the actual gameplay yet, then that last link is definitely worth checking out. Now that's some serious brony talent! Still no release date, but this is looking better all the time.

Minecraft 1.2Diggy Diggy Hole Big news, blockheads! The latest Minecraft update, 1.2, is now live! The full notes are available here, but there are a bunch of really interesting things to be found this time. (And, if you're like me and avoid the snapshots, will be entirely new to you.) For instances, mobs now have rare item drops, ocelots have been introduced along with a new jungle biome, and mob AI has been tweaked and improved overall. The villagers have also gotten a significant tweak to their AI, allowing for basic things like getting inside out of the rain and dark, and reacting to... zombie sieges! That's the best kind of siege, you know. Remember to back up your saves before updating, and especially backup your worlds too if you run a server like I do.


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joyeThe Dark RoomTo put your mind at ease, you will not be eaten by a grue in The Dark Room, but as you struggle to escape from this fiendish and hilarious YouTube-based puzzler you'll probably meet with a number of other unfortunate ends. Such as accidentally gouging your own eyes out, electrocuting yourself on a light switch, or growing a really unattractive beard. And all the while, you'll have to deal with the taunts of Australian comedian John Robertson, who has some choice words for your promiscuity with walls after you grope in the dark for the light switch. "Now even the walls don't respect you. And they are capable of respect, but not for you. Not anymore."

At the risk of tautology, dark room is dark. You can't look around. You can't check your inventory. You can't go north, or to Southampton. You could try weeping, but that might not get you very far. You can't even see your own tears. It's a dark room. You might try thinking outside of the box, but... "Thinking outside the box would only help if you were inside a box, but you're not, you're here. In The Dark Room."

The Dark RoomIf you've never played a YouTube game before, the game relies on annotations (pop-up links) to lead you from video to video. Most of the endings require nothing more than a determination to click everything clickable and a sharp eye for hidden annotations, but the "100% Best" ending does require downloading a certain video and performing some basic editing on it, something that is possible to do with freeware you may already have. (Without spoiling too much, the "Best" ending isn't actually that good for you as a character, as you might expect from the sadistic host, so the satisfaction of it is more the sense of accomplishment.)

Robertson made the game as a clever self-advertisement for his comedy shows, and for the most part it functions to advertise himself simply by being wickedly funny. There is one video labeled "sell out" that is an explicit advertisement, giving dates and locations for upcoming shows, but you can certainly just skip that video if you're not interested. The language is fairly salty, and there is described violence, but visually the game isn't offensive, so you'll be alright with headphones on if you have to consider others in the room. The experience is somewhat akin to You Find Yourself in a Room but the antagonist is rather a good old-fashioned human bully, albeit wittier than most. Robertson has also been adding more content, such as a Valentine's Day section, and the "Best" ending promises a sequel, so this is definitely a game to watch. But you can't watch.

Because you're in The Dark Room.

Play The Dark Room


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Rating: 3.7/5 (35 votes)
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TrickyMs. Particle-ManMs. Particle-Man Ms. Particle-Man! Showing off all that Silverlight can! What's it like? Pretty good! Ms. Particle-Man! A fun little work from Picobots where the quest for the Higgs boson particle takes on the guise of a 1980s arcade game, Ms. Particle-Man is so aggressively science-geeky and displays such love for its inspirations, that nostalgia tripping is almost inevitable.

Ms. Particle-Man likes switching up its gameplay, so it's a good idea to play through the tutorial. Generally though, you move the Ms. with the [arrow] keys to collect sparking bits of energy. Going off one side of the screen will teleport you to the other. Avoid the flashing obstacles to stay alive, and build up momentum to make your way across the purple paralysis patches. Some levels feature gravity, and thus have more of a platform feel. During those, hit [spacebar] or [enter] to jump. Each set of levels features a final boss, where you must use an accelerator pads to collide with an elementary particle, all the while searching for that elusive Higgy B.

Ms. Particle-Man is one of the first works programmed in SilverLight to have the feel of a real game instead of an extended tech-demo. Depending on your opinion of flash, this is either a triumph or something that doesn't matter at all. Like they say, it doesn't matter what the talking dog has to say, it's the fact that he talks at all that's impressive. Of course, it helps that Ms. Particle-Man is a really enjoyable game. An inspired combination of Pac-Man, Secret Collect, and the entire avoidance genre, it has the hardcore challenge and cartoonish humor that would keep the quarters inserted for hours. Über-Sensitive controls, slippery platform corners, and a stingy distribution of lives mar the experience, but whenever the screen triumphantly fills with PARTICLE GET!, all is forgiven. Ms. Particle-Man works as both a game and a proof-of-concept for the platform, and when they meet, it's a happy land!

Play Ms. Particle-Man

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