April 2012 Archives


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Frankenstein

JohnBFrankenstein is a brand new work of interactive fiction written by Dave Morris and released using the inkle platform. Based on the original novel by Mary Shelley, this modern narrative weaves a captivating story that takes advantage the mobile platform to deliver a strong visual impact along with its interactive elements. You are both reader and player in this experience (though more the former than the latter), choosing directions for your character to take and shaping the narrative in ways that are both subtle and obvious. The end result is a visual and textual masterpiece that you will be thrilled to experience.

FrankensteinReading/playing Frankenstein is similar to reading a book, and navigating the touch interface is as natural as shuffling papers on a desk. As you read the story, choices will appear on small slips of paper at the bottom of the screen. Pick the option you're most interested in seeing, then give it a tap to see what happens. The next portion of the tale immediately slides forward, pinning itself to the previous piece of parchment to form the next link in the continuing narrative.

The story begins in the late 18th century as Victor Frankenstein is about to complete his famous creation. The rest unfolds from there, following the events surrounding the creature's escape and beyond, including a time where you are the monster yourself. Instead of presenting binary decisions that paint obvious aberrations in the narrative, Frankenstein tends to employ more subtle strokes that shade events in a particular direction. Decisions still branch out like any choice-based narrative, but instead of hitting dead ends or meeting with formulaic outcomes, Frankenstein feels as if it customizes itself based on your preferences, making it more like a story that accepts user feedback than a traditional novel or game.

FrankensteinAnalysis: Frankenstein represents what a novel might be if it were invented in the 21st century, utilizing modern technologies to produce a pleasing interface and a wonderful visual design without sacrificing the art of telling a story. The inkle team (which includes Joseph Humfrey and interactive fiction author Jon Ingold) wanted to do something different with the interactive narrative. The genre of Choose Your Own Adventure narratives, of which Frankenstein is certainly a member, usually features sets of choices that allow the reader to pick what happens next. See an option, make a decision, turn the page/click the link, then read the outcome. While there's no denying that can be a wild ride, it's more of a game than a story, as it's about the choices, not necessarily the plot. With Frankenstein, the story takes center stage. Instead of directing the plot you influence it. Even though the options are just as clearly laid out, the outcomes aren't as polarized, making this one of the most organic CYOA narratives so far.

There's a very fine literary line authors of text-based games have long been following, one that crosses philosophical territory on many occasions. Games are about interactivity, allowing players to make choices and experience outcomes. Literature is about telling a story, one where the author directs everything and the reader follows along. The latter allows for a more meaningful tale to be told, but when you're actually involved with a narrative, the experience can run more deeply. How can you take the emotional impact of a structured narrative and allow the player to interact? Can it be done without destroying the heart of either medium? Frankenstein takes a guided stab at the heart of those questions. It's more of a book than a game, but you can't deny the interactivity it presents, all without the heavy cost of losing a substantial story.

Leaving the philosophy aside, Frankenstein manages to provide a smooth, almost tactile user interface that looks phenomenal on the mobile screen. The artwork placed throughout the chapters is gorgeous and really adds to the atmosphere. There are even extras to peruse, including background behind the art as well as the original novel by Mary Shelley!

Frankenstein is being marketed as a new book app for tablets, the modern day evolution of the hardback novel. In the end, it absolutely succeeds at that, providing a strong and well written story that draws you in like a best seller, but sprinkling on just the right amount of interactivity to make it more personal. A great interface, a great story, and a great experience from beginning to end.

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.


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (32 votes)
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TrickyThe Dark Room: Round 2Did you really think that you had truly escaped The Dark Room? Fool! Simpleton! Clod! You have but crashed through the floor into what can only be described as a Darker Room! And your ankle is broken! How about that? And your actions are probably just going to fracture it further! Commandingly Deep-Voiced Australian comedian John Robertson is back to taunt you a second time, as you try to escape The Dark Room: Round 2, a continuation of his darkly-comedic YouTube puzzle adventure. The rules are the same as before: make choices by clicking on the highlighted annotations, and be confounded by the illogic of it all. Robertson's commentary seems a bit angrier this time around, but it is no less hilarious to slink from dead-end to dead-end, being castigated all the while. And also, as before, one of the paths will lead you to the possibility of a super-best ending whose solution we're probably going to need to crowd-source. All in all, The Dark Room: Round 2 has all the elements to brighten your day. But your day will not be brightened because you're in a dark room.

Play The Dark Room: Round 2


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Cannon Cat

BryanIt was once the dream of man to fly through the sky as the birds. Now, a cat is dreaming of it too. David Ngo and Don-Doung Quach, rocket scientist turned game designer and a programmer respectively, decided to bring some of their nerdiness to the iOS marketplace in the form of an action adventure game. Cannon Cat follows the story of Meo in his quest to save all the skyfish from the clutches of Evil Emu and his flightless bird army. A determined cat has never looked so cute being fired from a cannon, and it will fly straight in to your heart, free of charge. After eight months at the scratching post, a high-flying adventure is born that 'haz mad skillz' to go with the fantastic visuals and wonderful story for all ages.

Cannon CatThe survival of this cute cat crusader and his mission is all dependent on your timing and tapping skills. One tap anywhere on the screen will send Meo flying in the direction the cannon is facing. Making it to the warp hole with the help of some power-ups and freeing all the trapped fish are your top priorities. Some power-ups include a shield, a time slowing device, an auto-save function, and an ability that increases the size of the fish. Just make sure not to waste the help by missing your shot or running into too many helicopter penguins. No matter how you approach this game, the simplistic mechanics and controls make it easy to master and such a delight to play. It can be put on hold for a few weeks and when you pick it back up again, it will be like you never stopped playing.

With the feel of Angry Birds weaved into the gameplay of each level through fish collection (instead of pig destruction), you get something that is addicting without even trying. Sure, you can attempt to save all your fishy friends, but going back later for them is another appeal of playing through Meo's high-altitude struggle again and again. Most first games from a fledgling company have a few hiccups and bugs yet Loqheart took their time so Meo and his cannon companions wouldn't have any misfires. The puzzles and obstacles perplex and test your reflexive skills on every shot and provide a great casual experience that shouldn't stress you out too much. You will come for the acrobatic action, but stay for the adorably dressed feline, cute sound effects, and colorful environments. If this is just a sample of their skills in the casual gaming arts then you should be looking forward to any new games they catapult to the mobile markets!

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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180

DoraHold on to your whiskers, because Electronic Arts is about to show you exactly how touch-based mobile gaming should be in the stellar stealth title Spy Mouse. Kindle Fire, Android, Nook Tablet, or iOS, this furry little fugitive is ready to go wherever you do and do whatever it takes to bring home the gold. Or in this case, the cheese. Slink around homes, warehouses, secret bases and more as you avoid all types of ferocious felines who will patrol and give chase if they spot you. We're not just talking your garden variety Garfield here either... everything from ghosts to mechanical monstrosities to super villains have been feline-ized and have their own unique abilities to contend with. Look on the bright side... at least you don't have any ill-tempered sea bass in your way.

Spy MouseYour mission? Get all the cheese in each level and get out! Once you've nabbed the cheese, the escape hole will open up (or the safe house to store your cheese if a level has more than you can carry), and you'll have to make a break for it. Just drag a path on the screen and your mouse will follow it, but beware; each cat has a route that they patrol as well, and if they spot you, they'll chase you down. If you've been spotted, you can duck inside nearby mouse holes, colour-coordinated to link to others, or stand your ground and try to dodge out of the way at the last moment. Done correctly and quickly, your pursuer can be tricked into crashing into the wall and will be momentarily stunned just long enough for you to scurry away.

Fortunately, you're not entirely helpless either. You can make use of your environment to get around safely, whether by hopping in and out of holes, flipping on the television to bewitch easily amused kitties, or even downing a super-hot pepper to put some pep in your step. Typically, your time only impacts your score, so you can go as slow as you like to plan your move. Watch the way each cat moves, wait for them to stop and snooze in a cozy warm space, or just high-tail it if you're feeling daring. If you get caught, you'll have to start the level all over again, but a true secret agent just straightens his bow tie and tries again.

Spy MouseAnalysis: Spy Mouse is one of those rare games that makes you feel like the developer really "gets" it, that touch-screen gaming doesn't have to be all about gimmicks to be good. Because Spy Mouse isn't just good, it's great. With its sharp visuals, high production values, and strong sense of character and charm, the game practically oozes professional design from every facet. The artwork and animation alone would make it worth the price of admission, but the game's strength also comes from its exceptionally easy to grasp gameplay that makes it something anyone of any age can enjoy. (Note that the game is rated Y for non-explicit cartoon violence, just to be safe. The more you know.) The different cat types you'll encounter make for some welcome strategy, and the "boss" stages are a great addition.

Is it simple? Well, yes. In fact, some players might find it too simple. Unless you're aiming for perfect scores and every award on every level, Spy Mouse just isn't that difficult and most players will probably breeze right through it in an afternoon. You'll enjoy all the time you spend with it, especially if you're looking for something vibrant and casual to entertain you, but it's unlikely you'll find much challenge in the experience and be left wanting more as a result. Still, Spy Mouse is one of those beautiful little gems that you can point to and go, "This. More like this, please." You'll wish the 70+ levels were doubled, but while it lasts Spy Mouse is simply a stupendous casual gaming experience, paws down.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an iPad (1st 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 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (451 votes)
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joyeMonkey GO Happy 5The monkeys of Pencil Kids' Monkey GO Happy series enjoy a symbiotic simian relationship with gamers: they sit around making pathetic faces in absurd puzzle scenarios, and gamers use their point-and-click skills to figure out how to make them happy, whereupon the monkeys gyrate around in merriment and hopefully bring a smile to the gamer.

The latest game, Monkey GO Happy 5, is rather short (only 15 levels plus a bonus) and on the easy side, with rather straightforward predicaments and a changing cursor to identify hotspots. The shooting mini-game has no time limit, so you can keep trying to shoot targets until you meet the goal. The series' quirky art and music are in great form, and like in previous installments, a new monkey character is introduced.

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

This game works perfectly as a silly start to your morning, a quick coffee break, or a last wind-down when you're too tired to brain any longer.

Play Monkey GO Happy 5


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Mobile Monday

JohnBWhat's big and green, carries a pair of shoes in its teeth, and has a fondness for fondue? We have no idea, but that sounds like someone we'd want to meet! That person would probably also be interested in our latest round of mobile game news. Because, you know, who wouldn't?!

tinythief-p.jpgTiny Thief readies 2 steel UR hart - Taking a page from both point-and-click games as well as stealth titles (see: Tiny Bang Story for the former, Beat Sneak Bandit for the latter), Barcelona-based studio 5 Ants has teased a few more levels in its upcoming game Tiny Thief. And it looks so good, we might end up being the thieves (you know, because we'll "steal" it away to play all the tim— dah, forget it!). Watch for this thief in the night to hit iPad and PC later this year.

angrybirdsspace-p.jpgGet angrier: Angry Birds new levels! - It's only been a few weeks since the latest Angry Birds game, Angry Birds Space, has graced our mobile devices, but Rovio has already rolled out an update, adding ten brand new levels and tweaking the in-app purchases a bit. Not only that, but the Mighty Eagle has been tweaked, and when you download the update, you get a pack of 20 for free. As if you needed another excuse to play Angry Birds, right?

pocketplanes-p.gifPocket Planes digs deep - NimbleBit is responsible for several iOS games that will take hours productivity from your life and turn them into gaming fun time. See Tiny Tower for a great example (it also won our Best Mobile Simulation or Strategy game of 2011!). Along the lines of that micro-managing simulation, Pocket Planes is currently in the works, putting you in control of flights that carry the cutest passengers all around the world. Now, missions have been added to the in-beta game, pulling it one step closer to your next crazy addiction. No release date for Pocket Planes has been announced yet, but we'll hop on it the minute we can throw our money at NimbleBit!

junkjack-p.gifJunk Jack kicks in the upgrades - Remember the Minecraft/Terraria-like iOS game we took a look at last year called Junk Jack? Well, the pixely crafting game continues to evolve, and the most recent update is one of the best ever. In addition to loads of bug fixes and new mobs such as mummies, frogs, zombies and more, universal support has now been added, meaning no more awkward scaling for iPad owners! Oh, and you can also farm and cook in the new update, which always goes well with mining! The full list of new things is impressive, so if you haven't nabbed the game yet, you really should give it a shot!


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (22 votes)
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Botanicula

DoraRobert Kirkman's beloved "everything you love is doomed" zombie disaster comic series shambled out of ink and onto our televisions in 2010, and now they're here to take over your computer. The Walking Dead is a new episodic adventure game series from TellTale Games that delivers a gut-punch of uncomfortable violence and viscera rendered in gorgeous, gory detail. The story follows a new character, Lee, who is on his way to prison in the back of a police cruiser when the zombies hit the fan, so to speak. Waking up seriously injured from a crash with no allies to speak of is bad enough, but with the undead in hot, shambling pursuit, there's no time for self pity. But is there time for honesty? Your choices will determine Lee's survival and that of those around him in this frenetic, grim adventure.

The Walking DeadThe game plays half like a traditional adventure game and half like an interactive movie. During exploration sequences, you'll use the [WASD] keys to walk around and the mouse to interact with things whenever an option pops up when you pass it over an area. Depending on the level of difficulty you choose at the start of the game, you may not get much indication of what you can interact with unless your cursor is right over it, so search everywhere. When talking to people, you can either use your mouse scroll wheel or the number keys to select dialogue options, but don't take too long since what you say has a big impact on how things play out, and many scenes require you to pick your choices quickly.

During certain scenes, however, you won't get much chance to parley, and you're going to want to think and act quickly. In addition to needing to follow onscreen prompts to deal with zombies, such as rapidly hitting a key to push one away, you'll also have to be able to aim and attack in certain situations by pointing the cursor at a likely target (oh, say, the head) and clicking to strike or fire. Almost more important than staying alive, however, is gaining the trust of the people around you. After all, when the chips are down, if nobody believes in you, you're going to be stuck with the Sno Ball while everyone else gets Twinkies.

The Walking DeadAnalysis: So how is the beloved apocalyptic franchise as a game? Well... pretty good, actually. The combination of traditional adventure gameplay with quick-time event style sequences won't appeal to everyone, but in this case it tends to work more than it doesn't. You never really wind up feeling safe, always waiting for the proverbial you-know-what to hit the fan, and the action is always brutal and frantic when it occurs. Playing with the choice for minimal in-game help largely makes the whole experience a lot more immersive since talking to people is a lot more tense and realistic if you aren't sure if they're buying what you're selling, or if it'll come back to haunt you. On the downside, there are definitely times where the game really does feel like a glorified digital Choose Your Own Adventure title, with the few true puzzles spaced far apart. And no, figuring out that a battery-powered object needs batteries and for them to be properly inserted doesn't count as a puzzle.

The game is, of course, not without its frustrations. The hot-spots for interactivity can be very small and not cover entire objects, making it easy to miss them with your cursor, doubly so in the more frenetic scenes. The game can sometimes be too dark, so you can miss objects simply because they don't stand out. The artsy sweeping camera angles can sometimes get in the way of navigation. And Lee... tends to fall down a lot. Yeah, his leg's hurt, and that cracking sound when he tries to bend over to pick something up is wonderfully gruesome, but after the fourth time he falls on his keister you'll start expecting the sad trombone music to kick in with a wah-wah-waaaaaah.

The Walking DeadThe Walking Dead is, largely, very well written. Some characters never really evolve from characters to people. If there's anything to really be said against it, it's that the truth surrounding Lee remains, at least by the end of the only episode available at the time of this writing, so maddeningly vague that his whole character is sort of up in the air. Ultimately, I chose to play him as a good guy, and time will tell whether The Walking Dead decides to stomp all over that. The voice acting is on the whole top notch, with some particularly robust performances to make up for the lacklustre ones. The game is also kinda unexpectedly beautiful, full of expressive characters, and brilliant use of lighting and camera angles.

I admit, I was a little skeptical of TellTale's ability to handle this series. Not from a technical standpoint, but, well, we are talking about source material that includes decapitation with scissors. That being said, even I was a little stunned at how up close and visceral this game was willing to be. The Walking Dead is exceptionally gory, but also very, very violent in a way that both never lets you relax and forces you to get your hands dirty. It's close, and it's personal, and it emphasizes the "survival" part of "survival horror". Fans of the comic and television series will appreciate seeing familiar faces make an appearance, but by the end of episode one Lee and Clementine will have grown on you quite a bit. This first episode ran me close to three hours, and left me wanting more. The Walking Dead embraces and then devours the brains of its source material in big sloppy bites, and succeeds in spite of its flaws to deliver a hard-hitting, visceral adventure.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version
Also available from Steam

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the full version
Also available from Steam


(4 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Azkend 2

joyeThe match-3 genre is one of the most oversaturated in casual gaming, so how does a new game stand out from the pack? It should have art that's easy on the eyes, cut scenes that aren't ridiculous, levels that mix things up so you never get bored, cinematic music, customizability, and replay value. A collaboration between 10tons and MythPeople does it all in Azkend 2: The World Beneath. You play a remarkably cool-headed woman whose schooner gets dragged down a maelstrom, and the match-3 sections represent her attempts to fix various pieces of gear to help her get back to civilization.

Azkend 2An improvement over the original Azkend released in 2008, The World Beneath is exactly the same in both its iOS and download versions, with the exception that the iOS version contains the option for left-handed controls in the options. The general match-3 motif of drawing a line connecting three or more like tiles to clear them from the board is the common thread, but depending on the level, you may need to use matches to kill bugs, clear fog, stop fires, or change colors. Puzzle levels occur every so often, wherein you must carefully match all the tiles on the board to each other with no refills. As you progress through adventure mode, you'll collect active and passive power-ups that you can equip in your inventory to help you. You can only have one of each equipped at a time, so if you're having difficulty with a challenge, tweaking your power-ups can make the difference.

In between chapters, you'll be treated to a nicely voice-acted cutscene featuring hand drawn art, with which you will get better acquainted through a detail-matching mini-game. A small aspect of the scene will appear in the upper right corner, and you need to find it in the art.

Azkend 2Analysis: There's a fine line between addictive simplicity and dull repetition in a match-3 game. By tweaking the requirements every level in adventure mode, the game never gets into a rut. In later levels especially, the game gets quite challenging, with an unforgiving timer. As you get in the danger zone, the music even changes to "the killer's calls are coming from inside the house" mode, as if your adrenaline weren't high enough already.

The two special modes add additional game time and replay value. Medals mode is simply an opportunity to replay the 60+ levels of story mode to earn medals, and you can play the levels in any order once unlocked in story mode. If you are in the mood for a little no holds barred, no gimmicks match-3 challenge, timed mode fulfills that: two minutes with no power-ups, get your score as high as you possibly can. It adds up to a lot of bang for your buck.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on a new iPad and a MacBook. 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 3.1/5
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Rating: 3.1/5 (33 votes)
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BenVivid RacersSet in a neon world faintly reminiscent of Tron, PostBeta's Vivid Racers is a colourful racing game with a unique twist to it. As usual, you'll accelerate using [up], but rather than the [left] and [right] keys directly steering your car, they'll switch you one lane in that direction. Each of the six tracks has 5 lanes, but turbo boosts (activated by driving over them) and traffic mean its not as simple as sticking to the inside lane at all times. It's a clever concept, like an advanced version of slot car racing, and even comes with the ability to build your own course. There are minor frustrations, such as the controls being relative to each vehicle, the tiny size, and the tendency for vehicles to respawn in the same lane as you, but these are somewhat balanced by an easy difficulty curve. For anyone really struggling, an included track editor allows you to create and race on your own course instead. If you like the idea of driving round a track at 200km/h but traditional racing games leaves you spinning in circles, PostBeta may just have invented the perfect game for you. It's easy to understand and easy to play without compromising on challenge or fun.

Play Vivid Racers


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (22 votes)
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The Kite

elleIn the Ukraine, nearly half the population endures domestic abuse at some time in their lives; it is the women and children who suffer from this physical and emotional tumult most often. Masha is one of those women and, tonight, she has finally hit her tipping point. After a violent fight with her husband, Masha's son has gone missing along with The Kite which he loves so much.

The KiteIn this provocatively portrayed adventure game from Anate Studio, help Masha in her harrowing night by pointing and clicking through the somber environment to gather the tools and courage needed to reach her son. With the exception of [P] to pause and access the menu, all controls are confined to the mouse, with different functions for the right and left buttons, and a drop-down inventory keeps items handy. The changing cursor mechanism works well to indicate interactivity with people and objects or where a scene can be exited; explore each scene by moving your cursor over everything. Gameplay resembles an escape-the-room game: solve a few puzzles, determine how to get past obstacles, and just get out of there to find the missing boy.

The puzzles and situational riddles are truly enjoyable yet can be tinged with annoyance in a couple instances, a couple quirks in the interface or design accounting for part of the challenge. In one case, the click points for closing a drawer and for taking an object out of it are too close, which is misleading. Later on, the particular order of operations in another puzzle might leave you baffled. During dialogue, a clock with spinning hands marks your wait; this might pique your impatience yet it also sets the pace to one that matches Masha's persistent hardship. Topping off its affecting visuals, the game's soundtrack—all Beethoven—sets the tone and adds a poetic element to the overall mood of the experience. The Kite is short, about an hour for the average player, yet its impact is much longer lasting.

The KiteAnalysis: Game designer Anatoliy Koval and artist Tanya Medvid effectively employ Naturalism in their art and story; this results in a quiet beauty that softens the edges of melodrama, keeping it from being an eye-rolling soap opera. Just as you're perhaps looking sideways at Masha, wondering how she can stand upright with such a weak spine, you're compelled to keep playing, to see more, to spectate, and to wish for a happy solution to the problem. Soon it becomes clear: people in abusive domestic situations are clouded by their circumstances and do not have the perspective of a better situated outsider who can come along and see so clearly what they ought to do. Lack of education, financial dependence, psychological exhaustion, knowing only this way of life, and an apathetic society trap them in a cycle of abuse. Masha doesn't comment on that, though. She knows one thing: find her son.

There is something about art that defies description, that makes it all come together and, simply, work. For The Kite, it is its heart. Nothing is crassly or gratuitously added merely to appease players; Koval and Medvid clearly love their game, value their work and care about its design. This investment in the game and empathy for their characters transmits to us, the players. It's not just about the message or the gameplay, the story or the art. While The Kite has a fair amount of shortcomings, its merits make it engaging and enjoyable, contrarily, considering the subject matter. The few flaws in the diamond don't stop it from being a gem even if they do distract from its luster.

Although it's very stark and sordid, The Kite succeeds in being also beautiful, headily atmospheric and moving. Stunning, even. If Thomas Hardy was around today as an Indie game designer, I don't doubt this is the kind of game he'd make. Whether Masha faces a better fate than Tess of the D'Urbervilles, I'll leave to your own discovery.

UPDATE: The latest build of The Kite, version 1.2e is now available on Desura (look under "releases" in the right hand column). Version 1.2e fixes a hotspot issue, described in the review, and has a much improved English translation.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

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


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (840 votes)
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TrickyCovert Front 4When we last saw Kara, protagonist of the Covert Front series, the turn-of-the-century badass espionage expert had just escaped a Zurich prison compound, and hijacked the plane that would take her to her next destination: Lisbon, Portugal. She remains hot on the trail of Karl Von Toten, the German scientist whose discoveries could tip the balance of this alternate universe's World War. It's time to save the free world. Karol Konwerski, Mateusz Skutinik, and the rest at Pastel Games bring you to the climactic finale of Kara's mission in Covert Front 4: The Spark of Life, another episode of wonderful point-and-click adventuring.

Use the mouse to interact with the scene, clicking on an area when the icon changes to a hand to indicate you can do something there, or that there is something to be picked up. Some scenes are wide, and can be scrolled over by moving the cursor to the sides of the play screen. Kara's inventory is stored at the bottom of the screen, and clicking on an item will either activate it, or ready it for use. And considering you'll have lugged half a Craftsman tool chest of items by the end of the game, it's pretty convenient.

Play the entire Covert Front series:
Covert Front 1Covert Front 2Covert Front 3Covert Front 4

Analysis: It has been a while since we've gone into the world of Covert Front. By our calender, she's been flying that plane for three years now! Still, the time in development was obviously well spent, since Covert Front 4 is another polished entry in what has become a classic casual gaming series. The style of the installment has clearly evolved with the developers own, creating a work that fits perfectly with its predecessors, while undeniably exploring new, even fantastic, ground. The tone and quality is set in the first minutes of gameplay, as Kara coolly fixes her malfunctioning aircraft and sets down on an enemy airfield without breaking a sweat. Skulking about in rural daylight is a different kind of tension from the dark alleyways and creaking mansions Kara has explored in the past, but you will still look over your shoulder at every chirping bird and creaky door.

Covert Front 4All the hallmarks of the series return, for good or for bad... mostly good. The uniquely shaded art-style once again perfectly captures the seedy cloak and dagger atmosphere of a world at war. The puzzles are as deviously conceived as ones you would expect from the makers of Submachine (and some of the screens late in the game definitely have the feel of that series wink wink). They puzzles are heavy on the hot-spot hunting, but having to examine every screen for hidden alcoves and secret compartments is exactly what you would expect from a spy game. Still, a little more guidance would have been appreciated though, especially for one particular puzzle where an action must be repeated several times for an effect to take. Additionally, while the sound effects and well-placed sparse bits of music are perfect at keeping things ominous, the voice-acting for the series remains quite bland.

Covert Front 4: The Spark of Life is not for beginners, either to adventure gaming or to the series. Even those who've played the previous installments might want to run through them again to refresh themselves of Kara's universe and mission. Still, it is definitely the finale that the series deserves and that fans have desired. The only thing missing is "Kara Will Return in... From Lisbon With Love", at the end of the credits, but perhaps that would be asking too much.

Play Covert Front 4

Read all our Covert Front series reviews and walkthroughs...


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Rating: 3.8/5 (107 votes)
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JeremyLittle LocationsPlatformers are one of the most popular game genres, and are almost never done well. The controls are sticky, the jump physics too strong or too weak, the levels so obtuse only a diehard perfectionist could ever beat them. Not so with Nolan Cooney's entry in the recent Ludum Dare 23 competition, Little Locations.

Our hero is a plucky little boy with a purple baseball cap whose only desire is to catch all the blue orbs he can. Nothing new there. But the twist of Little Locations is that when you fall off a platform, instead of a rage-inducing kill screen, you're sent to another world! There are four in all, each with 23 orbs to collect. Move and jump using the [arrow] keys and press [0] to mute the sound. Each time you switch worlds, your inventory will remember how many orbs you've collected there, but you'll still need to start at the beginning of the world each time.

Cooney manages to create a no-nonsense game with great physics and interesting backdrops that is challenging without being utterly impossible, all in under 48 hours. That being said, this is not an easy game and anyone playing on a limited schedule will find it hard to beat. Still, there's more than enough here to satisfy hardcore and casual platform players alike.

Play Little Locations


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Rating: 3.6/5 (57 votes)
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TrickySuperhero PizzaEvery hero has a weakness. Worse than Kryptonite. Worse than the color yellow. Worse than lead-pipe wielding butlers. That weakness is... Pizza. Many a bank robber has gotten away because of a random craving for crust, cheese, and tomato sauce. So it'll be up to you get those pizzas out quick and hot. Superhero Pizza is a time management simulation about serving up deep dishes and thin crusts to the brave and the bold.

Bursting with colorful animation and personality, Superhero Pizza is an incredibly polished experience. It doesn't really have the same kind of depth as others of its ilk, and indeed, the most challenging aspect is remembering which corn, scallops, chili-pepper and BBQ sauce pizza you placed in what oven. Overall though it is the kind of game that's best played in short bursts, it makes for a very nice introduction to the time management genre for younger players, while still retaining enough humor and challenge for gamers of all ages. It's sure to deliver fun in fifteen minutes or less.

Play Superhero Pizza


(3 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Kyhkyh_escape_title.pngEscape. It's a word that quickly and efficiently describes the basic goal of so many games. Escape the enemy, escape the room, escape the time limit. For Tom 7, it's an entertaining, Adventures of Lolo/Chip's Challenge inspired game. There's no background given, no story you're playing out, it's just a pure and simple puzzle game. But it's not just the built-in levels that will have you scratching your head, it's the ease of creating and sharing your own (plus playing others') that can really challenge you.

Move the character around with the [arrow] keys, and activate switches by simply bumping into them. There are also a number of other objects to interact with, which you learn through the 22 tutorial levels. These are the levels that are actually part of the game and not considered 'user-made'. While they are labeled tutorial, don't think they'll all be a walk in the park. As you progress, they increase in difficulty to the point where the last few give you a good hearty challenge. Hearty like a stew except instead of filling your stomach, it fills your need to push blocks around.

Don't let the mere 22 levels deter you from trying this free game out. (Did I forget to mention that it's free?) Where you'll get the most bang out of the game is the over 2,000 user-made levels. While this feature in games can lead to a random mess of a list, each of these levels has been ranked using several different aspects such as difficulty and style. What really comes in handy is the sorting feature which not only includes the ranked characteristics but also allows you to sort alphabetically by author, title or on whether or not you've completed it. With all these easy-to-use abilities, it's hard to get lost in the swarm of levels.

While Escape might not be the prettiest game to look at, it's sure to offer you miles of fun. You can just play by yourself, going through the long list of offerings, or you can whip up a challenge of your own to share with the community. Be you a passive or active participant, you're sure to get hours of entertainment out of this game.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the free full version

LinuxLinux:
Download the free full version


(7 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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ChadEscape the Bunker: 1944Imagine yourself serving as a communications officer in the German Wehrmacht, during World War II, doing your duty in an underground bunker. After developing a mysterious sickness, you are quarantined in solitary confinement. That was a few days ago, and you haven't heard from anyone (including the mysterious Dr. Klein, who put you here in the first place) since. Sound intriguing? It is, and with the release of Escape The Bunker: 1944 by LeviW, you can experience it firsthand. But, you know, in a non-terrifying-life-ending sort of way.

Something has chased you deep into this bunker. You lock the door behind you, and now, you're all alone, have no idea what happened to everyone else, and are completely unarmed. You think you're safe, though, so there's that. Unfortunately most of the doors are barred, and judging from the sounds coming from behind them, you want them to stay that way. If you keep looking around, maybe you'll find a way out...

Escape the Bunker may remind you of Doom or Return to Castle Wolfenstein in both style and in setting, though don't expect an arsenal of weapons at your handy disposal. This one's all about the silent horror atmosphere. Use [WASD] to walk in the four main directions and slide the mouse around to look at your surroundings. You'll find clues and documents that tell the game's chilling story as you play, and be sure to pay attention to the messages that pop up when clicking on objects, as they only appear once.

The visuals scroll by with buttery smoothness, and both the music and sound effects set a dark, despair-filled mood. There's a strong "things that go bump in the night" feel, so if you want the full experience, turn the lights off, and turn the speakers up. Escape the Bunker: 1944 is a chilling story-driven horror game that will make you want to hug something soft and cuddly when you're done.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

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


(7 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Dark Dimensions: Wax Beauty

DoraYour continuing search for Dark Dimensions, places of such great emotional torment and anguish that they've psychically altered the landscape like the world's largest collection of The Cure memorabilia, leads you to Silvertown, ME. True to form, things are looking dark indeed when you are immediately beset upon by ghostly apparitions pleading for you to "save them from the wax" shortly after your arrival... and I don't think they're talking about a spa treatment. Dark Dimensions: Wax Beauty by Daily Magic Productions is a wonderfully creepy (and just a tad corny) hidden-object adventure that delivers a weird and wonderful experience with twice as many haunting, tortured living wax creations as you need for a sound night's sleep. Pleasant dreams!

Dark Dimensions: Wax BeautyAs it turns out, at the rotten core of the whole thing are Luciana Costello and her brother, Sebastian. Luciana dreams of winning her town's beauty pageant and the accompanying scholarship as prize, but her jealous brother seems determined to stand in her way. But how do you get from a little sibling rivalry to a massive earthquake and a creeping shroud of sentient wax that appears to have taken over the town? I mean, I had some pretty epic disagreements with my brother and sister, but we never quite got to the "bitter evilness that condemns an entire village to unholy darkness" stage. Explore the town to uncover the truth behind the mystery, and the strange, sinister wax museum. Just click around to interact, and your cursor will change when you're over a place you can do something with. Find objects, solve puzzles and hidden-object scenes, and do your best to avoid getting immortalised in wax... it isn't as flattering as you might think.

Analysis: Dark Dimensions: Wax Beauty might just be the most hilariously over the top hidden-object horror adventures to date. I mean... they're always a little campy, but one of the first things you see in Wax Beauty, apart from a chasm of hands dismantling a bridge, is a freaking doom gate complete with flocks of bats that looks like it belongs outside of Modor, the Deep Roads, or maybe Shayol Ghul. It's glorious. Story-wise, while nothing that's ever going to climb the bestseller list alongside Stephen King, Wax Beauty at least manages to keep things interesting by pulling out a few unexpected twists and turns as you explore. The series has adopted the new fad of using actual people for their cutscenes, and for the most part, this works... all right despite some awkward pauses. The actual, physical actors tend to look the part and emote well enough, but it looks like their performances were recorded in another language, so the tone of voice and pauses the English voice-overs use don't always fit with what you see the actors emoting.

Dark Dimensions: Wax BeautyThe hidden-object scenes tend to have a lot of mini "puzzles" in them, objects that can only be acquired by combining something onscreen. While this does provide a bit of extra lovely brainwork over simply staring at the screen, some of those combos can be a bit... odd, and the frequently dark or skewed perspectives rarely help. Fortunately, while the rest of the gameplay is only standard for an adventure game, it's still a lot of fun. Though it doesn't do anything revolutionary, Dark Dimensions: Wax Beauty still gets the most important thing done right; it entertains you. It's a beautiful game, and the moody, otherworldly locales are packed with tons of great detail that keeps you on your toes as you explore. If you want something really innovative or challenging then you might find Wax Beauty doesn't deliver enough of either category, but as a means to unwind and lose yourself for an evening it's a top-notch adventure for fans of drama and high camp horror. It is unfortunately somewhat on the short side, with an average playthrough potentially lasting between three to four hours. As always, try the demo before you buy, but if you're looking for a spooky, weird adventure, give this one a look. And then give any wax museums you might drive by in the future a pass.

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

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

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


  • Currently 3.4/5
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Rating: 3.4/5 (22 votes)
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TrickyBattle For AsciionIt's usually the blocky pixels of the arcade and the NES that usually comes to mind when thinking of retro gaming. However, one should never count out the American Standard Code for Information Interchange. Yep, we're talking about ASCII, and anyone who cut their teeth on an IBM PC Compatible knows that it's not just for NetHack. Battle For Asciion, an arcade space shooter by Relevo Video Games, is a tribute to those beautiful worlds of text, and a satisfying sci-fi yarn to boot. Waiting around on the title screen will reveal the hilariously convoluted storyline: how General Zoltrax has gone rouge, joining forces with Technodroid empire who holds the Asciion system, the universe's one source of omnifuel, hostage, and how Ace Pilot Chris Sans must fly his starfighter through the Gamma Inversion cannon defenses to launch a strike to the core, and so forth. Really though, the most important thing to remember is that shooting stuff will make stuff go boom.

From the flicking semi-colon engine flares, to the optional scan lines, to the bleeps and bloops of its awesome (and downloadable!) soundtrack, Battle For Asciion was designed with a lot of love. Obviously the aesthetic is the most unique thing about it, but the hardcore gameplay is solid as well. Battle For Asciion does have an unfortunate flaw in its lack of an autofire option. There's no way that any keyboard ever hooked up to a CGA monitor would be ever able to stand the kind of mashing this game will require. That aside, Battle For Asciion is a fun shoot-em-up wrapped in a wonderfully nostalgic presentation. It's sure to leave you...

( ^ _ ^ )

Play Battle For Asciion


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Rating: 4.4/5 (93 votes)
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BenSpring MarblesIt's finally spring and time for some sunshine! For anyone still stuck indoors watching the rain, Rincom9 has you covered with Spring Marbles, a light, cheerful puzzle game that will brighten even the most overcast day. Across 28 levels, your aim is to clear each board of marbles, with the catch that they can only be removed in specific groups. The cards on the right side of the screen will show you what groups you'll need to make, so it's just a matter of figuring out how to remove them from the shape on the playfield by clicking and dragging over the marbles you want to take away. Keep in mind that you can create groups horizontally even if the diagram shows you need them vertically, and vice-versa. Gameplay is intuitive and entirely mouse controlled, and the crisp graphics and clean UI mean there's never any confusion about what you're meant to do... just how to do it. Puzzle or logic fans will love this one, and it's a welcome reminder of why we all look forward to spring's arrival.

Play Spring Marbles


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Rating: 3.5/5 (38 votes)
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JeremyBob's Midnight AdventureHey, you know what's fun? Going out in the middle of the night with your dog, into a dark wood looking for adventure, with absolutely NO adult supervision! Just remember your boy scout training and you should be okay. Wait... where's the section on "witches" again?

So it goes in the latest addition to the spot-the-difference genre, Bob's Midnight Adventure by Konstantin Timofeev. In this relaxing storybook tale, you follow Bob as he adventures into the night to find the secret of a strange medallion. Like most difference games, you have two screens with two cursors. When you find a difference, click to resolve the two sides. If you get stuck, just click the hint box at anytime. You have two freebie hints to use immediately, but if you run out and wait awhile, a hint will flash on the screen, something that will irk the more serious difference players. The game also features three difficulty modes; easy, medium, and hard, but this is mostly superfluous. The point of the game is really just to immerse yourself in the visuals by Azarkin Pavel, which are wonderful and look like something from an award winning children's book.

At ten screens and 5 differences each, don't expect this game to fill up an entire day, more like 10 or 15 minutes. Perfect for sitting with the kids or cuddling with your pets after a long day at work and immersing yourself in another world for a while.

Play Bob's Midnight Adventure


(11 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Kimberlykimberly_raraextremestarboxing.pngAdmit it, you've always wished you were a star, trailing your planets along with you around the galaxy, using them to punch out other stars. Now you can realize this dream with a new fighting game Ra Ra: Extreme Star Boxing. Created by Matt Thorson for Ludum Dare 23, Ra Ra is a simple, silly two person game. Grab a friend and use [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move your star around the screen. The planets continually orbit around the sun, so you must maneuver yourself so they thwak your opponent until you achieve victory or die trying. As you fly through space, the planet orbits become more and more erratic as they try to keep up with you. Though sometimes the controls feel sluggish, that is more than made up for by how satisfying it is when you get a good hit in. Add a groovy soundtrack and a scorecard, and you've got yourself an amusing little diversion.

Play Ra Ra: Extreme Star Boxing


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Rating: 3.3/5 (33 votes)
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BryanOld Man BabyThe riddle of the sphinx has tested many peoples puzzle solving skills for centuries, and now it's testing your platformer skills. Made during the What Would Molydeux game jam, Andrew Brophy and crew presents Old Man Baby where you jump and crawl as a man who must change in between stages of his life to solve puzzles. You have to take baby steps when starting out, but don't worry because your glory years will set in pretty quickly.

From the cradle to the glowing, pixel portal, you move around with the [left] and [right] arrow keys and jump (when possible) with [X]. Each stage of life has various abilities, such as the baby being unable to jump but can handle long falls without dying. The old man, however, dies falling from almost any height, but can use the spring pads to jump highest of every all the ages. You have to get the character into the portal as a particular age to clear the level, and that can only happen by walking through the fountain waterfalls. The game was made in 48 hours so it's on the short side, but it is a nice puzzle platformer to spend a few minutes. The animations are smooth, the 8-bit pixel graphics give it a moderately retro feel, and the controls are simple and easy to master. If this were to get an update with more levels, it could take up a good chunk of your afternoon, but for now, it's a tasty appetizer.

Play Old Man Baby


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraAs summer approaches, it's a bad time to be a gamer if you're trying to exercise any sort of self restraint whatsoever on your purchasing. You would think the indie developer community would take pity on you, but no, they're just as merciless as their big-name counterparts, and as a result, we have a whole bunch of really amazing games coming down the road finally available for pre-order. And we wouldn't have it any other way. We've also got an update on your favourite evil bunny murder game, and a playable demo coming very soon for the detective game starring everyone's favourite persnickety purple pony. We've even got a contest running where you can win a copy of an upcoming indie game! (Check below for details!)

Are you psyched?... not yet? Okay, get in position... SUNSHINE, SUNSHINE, LADYBUGS AWAKE! CLAP YOUR HOOVES AND DO A LITTLE SHAKE! Awwwww yeah, it's on now!

HomeHorror Comes Home Surprise! Pre-orders are now available for Benjamin River's upcoming horror adventure game, Home, is finally available for pre-order! The game will be released for Windows digitally on June 1st 2012, and for just $2.00 USD you can get a copy, or for $20.00 USD plus shipping get a special collector's edition that comes with all sorts of neat physical goodies. The game, which follows you as you awake in unfamiliar surroundings, is billed as a "murder mystery with a twist" that lets you decide what has and will happen. Sound good? Heck, sounds great.

My Little InvestigationsDeveloper is Best Pony Remember My Little Investigations, the upcoming Phoenix Wright inspired adventure game based on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic? Well, get your detective's cap ready, because the game is about to be ahoof! Developers Equestrian Dreamers have just announced that on May 5th 2012 you'll be able to download the first case of the game to play, which is essentially the demo. Free, of course! The game, which follows Twilight Sparkle as she solves mysteries with the help of her friends, has come a long way since its initial concept, and really showcases the tremendous talent and dedication of the fan community. Check out our interview with one of the developers for more information, and the official site for preview videos of everything from gameplay to the voice actors.

PoacherShotgun, Meet Update If you've already tried Yahtzee Croshaw's metroidvania adventure download title Poacher, you might be interested to know that the game has since received a substantial update that even includes customiseable keyboard controls, achievements, and an easy mode, on top of the standard bug fixes. Poacher follows belligerent "hero" Derek Badger who falls down a literal rabbit hole one night and winds up in a conflict between two warring underground factions. Combining action and platforming with humour and violence, it's a great free little title to check out. And then go play Art of Theft because it's my favourite and I said so.

Torchlight 2As If Millions of Wallets Cried Out in Terror Let's get right to the point; pre-orders for Torchlight 2, the upcoming sequel to the original action-packed RPG roguelike adventure are finally available! While the release date is still currently set at a rather nebulous "Summer 2012", you can pre-purchase the game for $19.99 USD now on Steam (and receive a free copy of the original for yourself or a friend), or on Perfect World. Who's excited?! I am excited. Browse the official site to learn more, and check out all the gorgeous screenshots and gameplay footage to get yourself ready.


Do you know an upcoming indie project or some community gaming related news you think deserves some attention? Send me an e-mail with LINK DUMP FRIDAY in the subject line at dora AT casualgameplay DOT com with the info, and we'll judge it with the all-seeing glare of our own self-importance for inclusion in a future Link Dump Friday article!


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Rating: 4.2/5 (91 votes)
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ArtbegottiSlipeFish and chips. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. What do they all have in common? Aside from being better when served with a small amount of hot sauce, all of these things are pairs that are great together. VillaVanilla brings us another kuh-lassic example of things that go well together in the clever action game A Trashy Love Story, in which a garbage bag longs to be reunited with its garbage can lover. You know, that old story.

Much like a real plastic bag on a windy day, the garbage bag in our fairy tale can float around each level by using the [left] and [right] arrow keys, get a little lift by pressing either key repeatedly, or fly upwards by tapping both keys alternately. Each level is a maze of earth and pipes that can be safely touched, but keep an eye out for wicked waterfalls, burning wires, and penetrating spikes that can puncture a bag's dreams. If you can reunite the bag with the bin, you'll secure the win, but grabbing the music note hidden in each level can help you unlock some extra-tricky bonus levels.

Sure, it's an odd gimmick to have such an odd pairing of characters looking for love, but somehow, the mechanic of tapping the arrow keys to get the bag airborne feels right, as though you're fanning the bag yourself (perhaps with an old pizza box). The difficulty picks up at a very comfortable rate throughout the game, and you can always skip ahead to another level when you get stuck. The timing mechanism in this game isn't exactly logical, especially after the checkpoint dandelions come into play (deaths before dandelions reset the timer, but deaths after hitting a dandelion start you off with an increasing penalty each time you die), but the times only serve as a personal achievement, so they can be safely ignored. Sometimes love means doing whatever it takes for whomever you love, sometimes it means extra hot sauce. If you're ready for a charming love story between companions you've always ignored, give this game a shot. Then, recycle it and show it to a friend.

Play A Trashy Love Story


(17 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
| Comments (1) | Views (398)

180

DoraWhen does work feel more like play? When you're working for Papa, of course! Now, Flipline Studios can keep you on the clock and at the grill on your iPad with Papa's Burgeria HD, the first mobile port of their amazingly popular time management simulation series. While fans who have played the original Papa's Burgeria game will find the gameplay here mostly very familiar, this iPad edition combines elements from newer installments in the series to beef itself up and serve one delicious (and greasy) experience you can now enjoy on the go.

Papa's Burgeria HDIf you're new to Papa's restaurants, don't worry; running one all alone is surprisingly simple. Customers will enter the shop at the order station, where you jot down exactly what they want on the curiously specific burger of their dreams. From there you move to the Grill Station, where you slap down patties and cook them to the desired doneness, flipping them for an even sear. Lastly, you'll visit the Build Station, where you carefully design your meaty masterpiece according to each customer's specifications, dragging each ingredient into place and trying to get it both centered and in the proper order. Done right and quickly, and you'll get a happy customer as well as a bigger tip that can go towards buying helpful upgrades and decorations between levels. You'll even unlock new ingredients as you go! All of this is handled neatly with your finger (please use a spatula for grilling in real life) as you swap stations at the tap of a button, and drag ingredients and order slips around the screen. Which doesn't mean to say that it's easy, since, as anyone who has ever worked the line will tell you, things are going to get hectic very fast, and when you're juggling six orders at once you can't lie down on the job. That is, unless you're playing this game in bed. In which case you can. iPads are awesome.

While I did experience some minor slow-downs on my first generation iPad, Papa's leap to iOS is largely very well done, mostly because the series feels like such a natural fit for the touch-based controls. The setting and concept is of course virtually identical to the original free browser game, the addition of unlockables, store customisation, minigames, and more from more recent games like Papa's Pancakeria really helps round the whole experience out and make it harder to put down than ever before. It's gorgeous, vibrant, and even more addictive than the perfect golden french fry. Turns out you can fry burgers just as well on an iPad as you can on your computer. Uh... I don't mean literally. Please don't put raw meat on your iPad. It voids your warranty and ensures your e-mail gets circulated and laughed at around Apple HQ. Not that I would know anything about that, of course.

Play Papa's Burgeria (free browser version)

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an iPad (1st 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.


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Rating: 4.2/5 (57 votes)
| Comments (5) | Views (365)

BryanNano KingdomsWell, would you look at that, another kingdom is in peril and you must defeat the king's power hungry son before it is too late. Nano Kingdoms makes you a loyal army commander to the king who must fight his away across the kingdom to gain allies, and prepare for the final confrontation. Defensive strategy games are pretty common and widespread across the 'interwebs, but the boys at Trutruka managed one that will peak your interest if you don't mind a little micro-management. Defend your castle with villagers and warriors alike while wielding magical spells to give you an extra edge in combat. Everyone in this casual RTS kingdom is in trouble so heed the call of duty on your computer or a mobile device to crush the evil!

Just click on the type of soldier you want to deploy and it will be built in front of your castle. You upgrade your castle with different warriors and buildings by clicking on it, provided you have enough resources to do so. Certain buildings allow you to train better warriors or help you to collect the necessary resources for their deployment. Manage your resources well because you don't want your ill-trained villagers to fall prey to your enemy's deadly archers. The battle is over once either castle loses all of its health and a score is given based on the length of the battle. A healthy balance of offense, defense, and magical spell bonuses are the keys to winning each skirmish so you can hurry to end the evil Alexander.

The game presents a rather unclear story to tie all the commanders together, but when playing a nice, casual strategy game like this, you don't really need a story to keep you going. The ambient soundtrack is entrancing and makes you yearn for renaissance times as your white doll warriors clash in static yet beautiful landscapes. There is even enough difficulty spread throughout the game so you will not run out of worthwhile foes as you close in on Alexander's walls. Another big plus side to this fun flash game is that it has eight levels which you can try out all the commanders on and it is completely free for both browser and mobile platforms, with an iOS version on the horizon to boot. You can waste away a rainy afternoon defending a quaint castle while your chores sit to the wayside and feel no remorse.

Play Nano Kingdoms


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Rating: 4.1/5 (190 votes)
| Comments (11) | Views (3,987)

BryanEscape Series #6: The ShackHave you ever wanted to wake up mysteriously in some odd cabin in the woods as your next vacation? Of course not! That is just plain freaky and Shawn Tanner continues his escape series by testing your wits to escape a god forsaken lake-side cabin in Escape Series #6: The Shack. Scrounge together whatever you can find to solve puzzles so you won't have to spend another second in this shady shack.

Just point and click with the mouse to pick up items and navigate any conspicuous places in your confined quarters. You may be timed in your escape, but relax and go slowly or you may miss obvious objects or hints in your frantic rush. A nice usage of nautically themed puzzles gets you tapping out Morse code and helping a mini-boat find the lighthouse's signal. The few puzzles there are will fire off quite a few synapses to get you to solve those puzzles as quickly as you can handle. Tanner really knows how to deliver a compelling escape game by keeping each installment fresh and engrossing.

Who knows what lies in the dreary darkness, but you shouldn't stay around to find out! The lighthouse is your only beacon of hope and you need to find a way there. Get crackin'!

Play Escape Series #6: The Shack

Play the entire Escape Series...


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Rating: 4/5 (47 votes)
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JeremyTiny WizardSo you're a wizard who lives on an itty-bitty little planet and you like to build massive towers in your spare time, you say? Well, we all need our hobbies. In Tiny Wizard, an inventive little arcade shooter by Hannes Rahm for the recent Ludum Dare 23 competition, your lovely castle has been invaded by all manner of ghosts and ghouls and if you want to see peace again, you'll need to conjure up all your best magical powers (and your snazziest wizard hats) to beat them back.

Move using the [WASD] keys and attack using the [left] mouse button. Press [spacebar] to cast a special magic attack and [F] to lob bombs. Finally, use [tab] or [1],[2],[3] to switch between different wizard hats, which each hold unique abilities. Though the game advertises itself as "tiny," really it's huge. There's no level cap and all floors are randomly generated, making it infinitely long in theory, though many will find it quite challenging by level 10. There's also no save function or pause in Tiny Wizard, which will make it hard to play for more than a few minutes at a time, but considering that it was made in under 48 hours, it's quite an achievement, and some great silly, shoot-y fun.

Play Tiny Wizard


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Rating: 3.8/5 (52 votes)
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JeremyArmy of AgesHere's a short synopsis of Charles Darwin's Origin of the Species, in case you don't have six dollars for the Cliff's Notes: Adapt or die. Now, that's all well and good for Dodo Birds and Humpback Whales, you might say, but what does that have to do with me? In Louissi and Mapoga's polished strategy game, Army of Ages, you begin as a lowly stone age clan when advanced alien insectoids invade your world. You'll have to evolve through five ages before you finally have the strength to take down the hive.

Each stage in your evolution will offer you first and second tier
build paths. To make money for units, upgrades, and turrets, you'll need to kill aliens and collect water. To collect water you need to build gatherers. There are only three wells you can gather from and the farther the well from your base, the more money you get for the water. But, if you can't push the alien horde far enough from the water source, your gatherers will be slaughtered. Each time you kill an alien invader you gain experience points. Build up enough XP and you can call on special magic attacks, and, most importantly, evolve to the next stage, which will open up stronger units and turrets to bring victory.

Army of Ages is built upon a great story and features a surprising amount of unit variety (Dragons!) and well balanced upgrade costs for a 30 minute flash game, but the game does have one annoying feature which can make the game seem impossible on harder settings: when you evolve, all your units and turrets disappear, but the aliens who were just attacking you don't, and you will have to quickly rebuild your army before they reach your base. Tip: right before you evolve is a great time to cash in on your magic attacks to clear the map and give yourself some breathing room to rebuild.

That being said, Army of Ages is one of those games that you almost feel guilty playing for free, since it's so well done. But there is always a flip side to a good game: it has to end sometime, and 30 minutes isn't enough time to do this idea justice.

Play Army of Ages


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (104 votes)
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ArtbegottiFracuumHey, com'ere. Wanna see a cool top-down shooter, made in 48 hours for Ludum Dare 23? Come closer. Fracuum is a quick-fire maze romp by Tyler Glaiel in a world that can be best described as infinitely funnel-shaped, as every step you take toward the center of the screen zooms you in to the next layer of the game. You can move your tiny, boxy ship with the [arrow] keys, and shoot your gun with [spacebar] after you've picked it up. Take another step closer, because your ultimate goal is to reach the center of the universe, one colored layer at a time, but the maze-like nature of the world means you might need to blindly back out a layer in order to progress or pick up some extra loot. Think you can make it to the middle and defeat the final boss? Please back up, you're standing on my foot.

Play Fracuum


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Rating: 4.3/5 (48 votes)
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Weekday Escape

elleHere on JIG Street, we live by a different set of rules. Even so, the Weekday Escape house is the kind of place that the neighbors whisper about: "Did you know they made me solve a riddle before they'd let me use their bathroom?" "Seriously? Like, who does that?" Our kids play with Russian nesting dolls and regularly hide the TV remote behind wobbly pictures just for laughs. Here, our family pets are Nyan and Wan, the mischievous feline-canine duo in Cogito Ergo Sum's winsome escape adventures in which Nyan always manages to get locked outside. But where did it all begin? To find out, let's go back a bit to Balcony Escape.

Balcony EscapeIn characteristic Cogito Ergo Sum style, Balcony Escape begins with a short movie of Nyan sneaking out for a bite of cat grass, all too oblivious to our warnings (we already know the outcome, after all). Now trapped outside, she needs to contact Wan who, despite no opposable thumbs, will attempt to unlock and open the door. Just like in Balcony Escape 3, you'll need to search about for useful objects and clues to codes: click to grab, double-click to examine. Likewise, each has to relearn their special abilities, only once you find their respective skill books.

Even without a changing cursor, pixel hunts are rare because of a well-designed interface and clean graphics. Additionally, for such a light-hearted and whimsical game, Balcony Escape is great at scaffolding a plethora of puzzles—you'll employ logic, math, spatial reasoning and anagram rearrangement to get that door open. It's just enough to tickle your brain without outright baffling your senses. There's Japanese characters in a few instances, but they have no bearing on puzzle solving and the rest of the story is aptly translated to English. Since it's a short game, you'll be more likely to use the "save" function to test out both endings than to take a needed breather.

The puzzle solving is fun, but the best reason to play a Nyan and Wan game is to take in the cheerful story and fill up on good humor. Nyan and Wan's expressive personalities bubble out of the game and into our hearts, leaving us all warm and full of "Awww," feeling like a happy community family. You need to borrow a cup of sugar? Of course! Just let me decipher this color code to open the cupboard and....

Play Balcony Escape


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Rating: 4.1/5 (105 votes)
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TrickyPirateersYo ho! Yo ho! A Pirateers life for me! A top-down action adventure game by Labu Games, Pirateers tasks all you rascals, scoundrels, villains and knaves out there with proving to the rest of the world that you're the alpha and omega of swashbuckling. You'll have to take on navies, rival pirate fleets, every merchant on the coast, and deadly mythological creatures, if your one non-patched eye ever hopes to see the Neptune's Eye, the biggest collection of doubloons ye could ever conceive. Ahoy!

Most of your time in Pirateers will be spent maneuvering and battling with your ship. Use [A] and [D] to rotate your ship's direction, [W] and [S] to increase or decrease your speed, or the respective [arrow key] to do the same. Your cannon balls are launched from both sides of your ship with [spacebar] or a click of the mouse. Destroyed enemy ships will drop loot, collected by steering your ship toward it, or mousing it over. Loot can be sold in marketplace, for gold that can be used to purchase special weapons (fired with [shift]) or ship upgrades. Various bounty missions can be accepted with the [Z], [X], [C], and [V] keys, or with a click of the mouse. Scattered amongst the loot though, will be maps... maps that might just show the location of hidden troves, or maybe, just maybe, a clue to the Neptune's Eye.

Pirateers has a lot going for it. With its expansive game world, cast of colorful characters, and large number of quests, it recalls a stripped down version of Sid Meier's Pirates. It has a good balance between the immediate goal of slowly improving your ship, and pacing the endgame goal of the search for the final treasure. There are a couple of barnacles on Pirateer's hull: the difficulty curve is a little too front-loaded, some of the mission-types start feeling grindy after a while, and the game's grammar/spelling, not great even at the beginning, degrades ever more as time goes on. Still, maneuvering on the high seas, smashing hulls with cannon-fire has an undeniable appeal. So, pillage, plunder, rifle, and loot away, me hearties!

Play Pirateers


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (101 votes)
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ElleOut of WindEverything was fine and dandy for the small village of windmills until, for inexplicable reasons, they ran Out of Wind, a catastrophe considering all village life is centered around these gust-fueled contraptions. The villagers' lives now hang in the balance unless someone (you, in fact) can repair the gears and bring the mills back into working order in this pretty physics puzzle game by Lampogolovii.

Initially, fixing the windmills is a basic procedure; you're given a set number of gears in varying sizes and your job is to place them just so. You'll know you did right because the graceful arms of the windmill will wave their happy gratitude at you. Matters soon require more intricate solutions, though, involving lights needing power and forges for building new gears. A degree in engineering isn't required—some scrutiny and experimentation is all it takes to succeed in each of the twenty levels. This size makes Out of Wind just right for filling leisure time but a bit disappointing in terms of longevity, so those craving Mensa-level challenge could feel slightly glum. Still, it's well-designed and a breeze to play without need for tutorial albeit someone did find herself not grasping the forging concept all that quickly. It does feel familiar and simple in notion, especially to those who play a lot of physics-based games. Players of hybrid adventure casual games have probably encountered mini-games of the same venue. In fact, if the style and mechanics seem akin to A Magnetic Adventure, it's because both games have designers in common.

Like arranging a pattern of dominoes merely to set them falling in a harmonious sequence, a lot of pleasure comes from getting those gears to turn and the windmills operating. If gazing at the spinning mechanisms wasn't enough, gentle sounds and music by Ahura might possible lure you into a trance, so be advised: do not play while operating heavy machinery. Leric's artwork and color palate of warm spring pastels bolsters the effect for a game that brings both peace and cheerfulness while stimulating that "need to fix it" gene in all of us. When thereafter everything is just fine, you can rest on your laurels knowing you saved a village. No Don Quixote, but adored nonetheless.

Play Out of Wind


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (81 votes)
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Kyleplanet161.pngSoldier Hinds, hero of the Empirion War, has had better days. Captured by the evil alien emperor Zordak, the noble soldier must now plot his escape from a tiny prison planet in Miniboss Studios' puzzle platformer, Planet 161. Using your [arrow] keys to move, [A] to jump and [B] to shoot, you'll manipulate blocks, use problem solving skills and platform your way to the wormhole in each level that brings you closer to freedom.

Created for the Ludum Dare 23 Jam, Planet 161 isn't just a great game for something created in under 48 hours. It's a great game full stop. Using three very different types of guns that allow you to manipulate your environment in different ways, Planet 161 dishes out cramped levels that unfold in complexity, offering up a few pretty compelling exercises for the gray matter while not suffering from being overly difficult. While it would be wonderful to see this pixel art gem fleshed out to a full length game, what we are treated to now is a perfect little lunch time treat chock full of charmingly blocky pixels, intriguing puzzle design, and a gameplay twist that leaves us wanting more.

Play Planet 161


  • Currently 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (42 votes)
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BenTurbo KidsDid you like Canabalt? Then Eugene Yailenko's action-packed racing game Turbo Kids may garner your interest. It expands on the successful "one button" formula by adding a second button, used for powerups, while keeping the same run'n'jump gameplay fans of the genre know so well. Use the [X] key to jump and [C] to shoot... movement is automatic, so just stay on your toes. You can fire freezing snowflakes at runners in front of you to temporarily slow your opponents, but they can do the same to you as well as take advantage of power-ups in your path. These (upgradeable) power-ups are found through the courses, including opponent-slowing snowballs, speed boosts, and a slightly confusing rocket attack which switches your position with the runner it hits. After you complete a race, you can spend any coins you earned to increase the strength of these abilities.

As one of the titular Turbo Kids, you have the option to compete through either Championship Mode, racing through the snow against 7 others to a fixed finishing line, or Marathon Mode, a time trial of sorts where your goal is to reach the front of a pack of 50 in the fastest time possible. Simple yet casual and fun, Turbo Kids embraces the snowy setting with some colourful graphics for a speedy, icy adventure that's great to pass the time with year 'round.

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The Vault

Tricky Things have been pretty tough this spring on Tricky Farm in JayIsGamesVille. First, I wasn't able to get enough invite responses to save ol' Bessie. Then, after forgetting to check in every seventeen minutes, the whole sorghum crop dried out. Worst of all, the only gifts my neighbors have been sending have been "Plague O' Locusts" mystery packs. Oh well. At least, I know I can always look to the JIG Archives for a bumper harvest of fun. This week, we have some gateway strategy games that are sure to take your mind off any agricultural trouble.

  • ProximityProximity - Proximity, by Brian Cable, came out in 2004. It looked as primitive then as it does today, but the first time playing it, I just knew that it was something special. A simple turn-based game of numbers, tiles, and placement, Proximity takes some of the best aspects of Risk and Go, then reformulates them into something special all its own. An HD version of it placed in Microsoft's Dream Build Play competition, and would eventually be released as a launch title for XBox Live's Indie Games, and its long awaited sequel was released there last year to great success. It is one of the few casual games for which I would gladly overpay a sketchy online German Import/Export business to get a physical copy for Family Game Night, and it is a must-play for all fans of European-style board games and/or hexagons.
  • Climate ChallengeClimate Challenge - It may be a little late for Earth Day, but there should always be time for a serious, nuanced look at environment science, especially when it's this enjoyable. Climate Challenge, a simulation developed by Red Redemption and funded by the BBC, is one part Sim City, one parts,Ayiti: The Cost Of Life, and just a dash of Diplomacy to keep things interesting. Informative without being preachy, and factual without being dry, Climate Challenge tasks you with balancing the often contradictory goals of a cleaner environment, a strong economy, and high personal approval ratings. Offering all the challenge inherent in any game that tackles issues with no easy answers, Climate Challenge's fast-paced, thought-provoking gameplay would find as worthy a place in a classroom as it would on your favorite games list.
  • StarShineStarShine - Good morning, StarShine! JayIsGames says hello! A sparkling puzzle game by Hero Interactive where angular rays are just as important as those of astral bodies, StarShine requires just enough trial-and-error to be happily frustrating, and just enough strategy to make each solution supremely satisfying. The starry fireworks of StarShine are as beautiful as the complicated patterns you'll be launching by the final level. Good thing there's such soothing music and visuals, since juuuuust missing the final star of a level cannot be good for your blood pressure. In short, StarShine is pretty, challenging, and pretty challenging. Check out its sequel too!

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


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Rating: 4.5/5 (21 votes)
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Epic Astro Story

BryanSpace... the final frontier. You never would have thought it was so pixelated out there. Kairosoft takes a crack at a sci-fi simulation with its latest installment to the "Story" series of games. As some of the first intrepid humans to blast off and colonize a new planet, the actions you take help to expand your influence throughout the galaxy. The best way to influence these extraterrestrials is to attract them to your planet like its a tax-free shopping mall. Those aliens literally buy anything you can give them, especially chocolate cake and fine jewels. The aliens' spending habits, the exploration of your planet, and missions of peace to others are the best ways to help your colony prosper. You can't start a colony all by your lonesome so make sure your treat those octopians real well.

Epic Astro StoryAs is customary with most Kairosoft games, you get an assistant to help you along in your planetary expansion. You explore your world in hopes of expanding territory for more construction space or possibly meeting aliens in need. The simulation is not limited to just managing your buildings, because scouting out new resources and fighting indigenous baddies to gain more funds is essential to the process, too. All of these actions are done by putting your finger to the touch screen and tapping away at anything you want. Actions that will improve your planet cost a hefty chunk of change so sending your colonists across the galaxy isn't very cost-effective early on. Finding a good balance between the management and exploration is the real challenge built into a sim game like this.

As your colony grows, the need to research better technologies becomes necessary for the advancement of your economy. These tech developments benefits not only your citizens, but the resources you can produce to impress all those curious aliens and equipment for your explorers. Sure, you can attract a lot of tourists if you build enough attractions, but you have to explore your planet or others to recruit new colonists to your cause. Some recruits are made to work the factories while others are natural explorers, but they will follow your orders no matter what. These colonists can become the best in the galaxy, but you have to level them up with more money so they get the boosts they need. The decisions and planning that go into effectively utilizing these colonists are vital to advancing quickly and making loads of space cash.

It's easy to ignore the copy-paste style of gameplay and mechanics from other Kairosoft games when you are fighting evil robots and watching aliens spend money on anything you've got. Not to mention, the addition of an updated combat system from Dungeon Village is a welcome sight. The retro pixel art, characters with pun-filled names, and cutesy alien races keep the Story games a delight to play. Management simulation games are not everyone's cup of Tang, but the casual space action is nice when you have a free minute or two on your hands.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an HTC Evo 4G 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.


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Bloom Defender

McVeetyYour sacred grove is being desecrated! Evil spirits once again threaten the balance of a peaceful woods in Bloom Defender, and it's up to your green thumb to stop them. This charming tower defense title by Juicy Beast has sprouted up out of your browser and is now available on your mobile device!

Bloom-Defender.jpgFive varieties of tree-towers are at your disposal. Simply drag a seedling from on-screen flowers to plant them on the stage. In addition to the unique abilities of each tree, you are equipped with five spells that attack the evil spirits directly, inflicting them with debuffs. As spirits are defeated they provide water that can be used to plant more trees, or upgrade existing ones. Each stage has between 10 and 20 waves of enemies, complete with mini- and end-bosses.

While the gameplay does not differ from the browser edition, Bloom Defender translates well to mobile. The control scheme is perfect for touch interfaces, and, for some, will feel more natural than the mouse. All building, upgrading, and spell casting is done with simple drag, drop, and hold motions. The sound effects and music do lose some charm on such small speakers, but this is a minor setback on what is otherwise an excellent port.

The strategy elements in Bloom Defenders are simplified to a core level. There are no complex tech trees or special tower combos. However, most stages limit what varieties of trees are available, making placement very important. You can sell back poorly placed trees for nearly full price, allowing for a great deal of experimentation. Despite the lack of complexity, the 36 levels remain challenging to the end. Pair this simple strategy formula with delightfully cute graphics and you've got a winner for everybody.

Play Bloom Defender (free browser version)


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Rating: 4.5/5 (43 votes)
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Radiant Defense

BryanHexage, creator of Evac and Everlands, pits your human military prowess against endless alien swarm in this mobile tower defense game, Radiant Defense. Defense of your spiral reactor (which looks oddly like a stove burner) is the number one priority since it keeps out those pesky invaders from, you know, destroying all humans. Radiant Defense definitely keeps elements that you would always expect from the tower defense genre, but you remove the predetermined path and get the ability to create the path they will follow to their doom (hopefully). Lasers will fly, aliens will die, and the entire time your fingers will be nimbly working to hold off a rather comically bad invasion story unfold.

Radiant DefenseAt the start of each level, the alien's path is shown via a line of purple squares and you can set up your defenses accordingly. You cycle through the defenses on the bottom on the screen and put them on any black space called a "module" by double tapping the open space. Some modules are already placed on the level while each wave gives you more to place wherever you want. Turret upgrades and placement can be done on the fly and before invasion waves start so that the last minute rocket turret can save your reactor from extraterrestrial eradication. After holding back the final wave of the level and your spiral reactor is relatively unscathed, the level is completed and you move on to more difficult challenges.

The game makes you glad that the tower defense genre hasn't gone completely stale due to its saturation across the internet and mobile marketplaces. The player-created paths is the most enjoyable part of the gameplay because you have even more control of the battle than normal. This little-used path creation mechanic is enhanced by the Geometry War-esque vivid colors that make the game so 'radiant'. Each enemy has its own unique stats and defenses so the defense of your reactor is always changing for added difficulty. The tiny comedic quips weaved into each level between the Commander and Alien Leader adds another level of enjoyment to keep you more invested in Earth's defense. The game is depressingly limited to one mobile market at the time of this review, but there is hope on the horizon when it gets ported to Android and iTunes App Store soon. The radiant universe is a great addition to your tablet gaming experience so the three dollar charge is perfect when it has such a high replay value and multiple defensive strategies to utilize.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on a NOOK Color. 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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Lawnmower Challenge

JohnBThink you have it rough cutting the lawn every week? Try navigating mud pits, crazy fences, locked gates, hidden keys, one-way doors, and dozens more obstacles, all out to make your simple chore a lot more complex. Lawnmower Challenge from Lunar Enigma presents a classic sort of puzzle game set-up that's similar to titles like Wonderland in nature. Your goal is to cut the tall grass, but getting the mower to each square can take more time than the actual cutting!

lawnmowerchallenge.jpgLawnmower Challenge takes place on an isometric grid with handy touch controls on the bottom corner of the screen, one side allowing you to move, the other to start/stop mowing. Tap an arrow to move in that direction, and if you've got hold of the mower, you'll automatically chop tall grasses as you pass by.

The mower can't travel over muddy terrain, however, so in order to help it across, you'll need to strike out alone. Pick up bags of seeds and carry them back to dirt patches to plant grass, turning the mower-impassable square into a mower-friendly one. Locked gates and one-way doors are just a few of the other types of obstacles that will stand in your way, and much of your time in Lawnmower Challenge will be spent dealing with these troublesome roadblocks so you can get to bits of grass all around the screen.

As if actually getting the grass cut wasn't enough of a challenge, this tidy little puzzle game also puts a bit of pressure on you to complete stages using as few steps as possible. Sure, you can blaze through and take the long way around every fencepost and dirt patch, but if you want a gold star, you'll need to make efficiency your top priority. Fortunately, there's no timer to contend with, so you can sit, stare, think and plan as much as you like.

lawnmowerchallenge2.jpgAnalysis: Lawnmower Challenge Is exactly the sort of simple, retro-styled game puzzle fans love to devour. It sticks to its roots and doesn't dare stray from the most basic concepts, preferring to keep you focused on conserving steps and figuring out how to travel around each stage.

There's something pleasing about cutting grass in a mobile game. You don't have to suffer through the hidden stones, blazing heat, oppressive sun, or gawking neighbors, but you still get the satisfaction of a neat, trim patch of green when you're done. And to be honest, most of us would get very little grass cut if we had to trouble with all the puzzles we have to contend with in Lawnmower Challenge.

Visually pleasing and simply satisfying, Lawnmower Challenge is an utterly enjoyable and challenging puzzle game for your mobile device. Later levels get painfully complex, but you'll be so engrossed in the puzzle solving you'll soldier on, no matter the frustration. And best of all: lots of amazing updates are planned for the future, including new seasonal levels, new obstacles, co-op mode, and an avatar customization shop!

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.


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Joining Hands

elleForests are dark, scary, forbidding places with a reputation for having mystery, horror, and nefarious beings lurking around every bend. It's a concept that's firmly cemented in popular culture as well as ancient lore, so who would want to travel there alone? Not the Peablins nor any of the sweet little creatures who need the comfort of a friend in 10Tons' mobile puzzle game (also available as a Mac/Windows download), Joining Hands.

Joining HandsHelp the Peablins and their friends join up by moving each around the puzzle grid until all free hands are locked together, bringing much comfort and lighting the path toward the next section. Things are complicated by the varying quirks of different Peablins, and the ideal link—or isolation where needed—is often far from obvious. Yet, controls-wise, this task is so effortless on the touch screen that it's practically second nature.

Each of the 10 chapters has 18 levels totaling 180 puzzles that progress from rather easy to the verge of a head-thumping conundrum. At times the difficulty curve is wobbly but you can usually skip to the next chapter after solving six levels; so if you want to play at a faster pace, that option is welcome. Joining Hands shares a lot with the Flash game that was inspired by it, Happy Dead Friends, yet it is much more complex and lengthy, perfectly suited to mobile devices, something you can put down and easily pick up again wherever you find yourself empty-handed and in need of a diversion.

Note: Although there are downloads available for Mac and Windows platforms, the mobile version of Joining Hands was played for this review.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

MacMac OS X:
Download the demo
Get the full version

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an iPhone 4S. 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.


(13 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Doodle Jump

JohnBOne of the early hits on the iTunes App Store and a strong leader in Android game sales, the Doodle Jump games quickly turned into the definition of a successful mobile game. As of the end of 2011, over 15 million copies of the arcade game have been sold across various marketplaces, and it has remained one of the best-selling iOS games since its launch. With such a simple premise and creative visuals, it's no wonder Doodle Jump has gained such enormous popularity. Now, with mobile markets still growing, Doodle Jump's various incarnations have spread to include NOOK and Kindle Fire!

Doodle JumpPlaying Doodle Jump is as simple as holding your device and tilting it. The little green Doodler jumps on his own, hopping at a constant rate no matter what's going on. By tilting the device, you can influence where he goes, the ultimate goal being landing on platforms to climb higher and higher. Depending on your flavor of Doodle Jump, different enemies, obstacles, and items can be found along your journey, from rocket ships to snowballs to spider webs and ghosts. If you fall, you start your ascent over again, but it's all in the name of fun and high scores, and you won't be able to stop jumping until your batteries run dry.

There are several variations of the core Doodle Jump game, not all of which are available for every mobile device. The core gameplay is the same, no matter which version you own, but the visuals will have a distinct flair and a lot of the enemies and items will be different. No matter the flavor, though, you can't go wrong with Doodle Jump!

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.


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Mobile Monday

JohnBThere's always something exciting just around the corner in the mobile world. Actually, there's probably three or four things just around the corner, along with a dozen or two more around the corner after that! And let's not even think about the other corners you passed while walking to this corner. What were you doing in this dark alley, again?

Slingshot RacingGrappling with the concept - Cars with grappling hooks? What sort of Sparta! madness is this?! The good kind, fair player, the good kind. Crescent Moon Games and Snowbolt Interactive recently teased the upcoming iOS racing game Slingshot Racing that plays a little differently than you might expect. Instead of directly controlling cars on a track, each vehicle has a grappling hook you'll use to slingshot yourself around the raceway. Awesome, right? It's a bit like the early iOS darling Asterope in concept, though the visuals are something different and the level layouts will be much more "earthly".

Kingdom Rush updateKingdom Rush expands its kingdom - As if walking away with Game of the Year in our recent Best of 2011 feature wasn't cool enough, Kingdom Rush and Kingdom Rush HD developer Ironhide Games has detailed a few updates to the iOS version of the tower defense game that should be live any day now. The list includes retina enhanced visuals for owners of the new iPad to enjoy, a new stage, the Rotten Forest, and six new hero units with special abilities that could greatly alter your strategies. It's time to jump back in and remember why this game stole your afternoons away for weeks at a time!

DeepworldDeepworld, a steampunk Minecraft - What if you took Minecraft (or, really, Terraria) and set it in a steampunk world? Developer Bytebin Studios had that exact thought, so the team created Deepworld, a 2D MMO with all the crafting and harvesting you could shake a pick axe at. The game is still in alpha but plans to add a dynamic ecosystem, steam-powered vehicles and machines, social game modes, and cross-platform play between iOS and Mac. Very ambitious, and very intriguing! In the meantime, try out Junk Jack for a great 2D Minecraft-alike for iOS devices.

Rivals for CatanCatan you dig it? - Just teased by USF Software, Rivals for Catan takes the Catan card game (which is a remixed version of Settlers of Catan) that features the same sort of territory building gameplay you would expect, only in a more simple format. Not a lot of information has been released yet, but the game will be universal and support both local and online multiplayer. And it will probably own your life when it's finally released!


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Rating: 4.5/5 (201 votes)
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JeremyCastle TalesWhat do a rocket scientist, brain surgeon, and nuclear physicist have in common? You don't have to be any of these to play Castle Tales. Though, an elemental understanding of Newtonian mechanics will certainly help you beat the more than 60 levels in this cute physics puzzle game from Rigolab.

In each stage, you click on haystacks, green-shrubs, and other obstacles to let the physics of the game guide your prince and princess toward the purple portal, dodging pink dinosaurs, sharp tacks, and gravity itself along the way. The mechanics of the game are simple, but the upbeat graphics and smooth physics make for a relaxing ride.

Castle Tales is not a hard game with a capital "H," but it does have its own set of increasingly challenging scenarios that will have you clicking the retry button more than once. But they are almost never frustrating and usually give way to a light chuckle as the solution dawns on you. Life is hard sometimes, who said our entertainment had to be, too?

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Rating: 4.7/5 (77 votes)
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ArtbegottiGunbrickLook at the size of my face. That five-year-old mugshot, 50 pixels by 50 pixels, has all the space you need to play Nitrome's latest puzzle platformer, Gunbrick. In each of the game's ten levels, you roll the gun-brick using the [left] and [right] arrow keys, and fire your gun with the [up] arrow (alternatively, [A], [D], and [W] work as well). With pits and enemies blocking your way to the exit, you can only go so far just by rolling, but you can use your gun to propel yourself as well! If the gun is pointed down, you can shoot to propel yourself upward. If the gun's pointing left, you can shoot to propel to the right, and vise versa. Don't forget that on the opposite face of the gun, you've got a shield to protect yourself from enemies and traps. The trick to solving each level is figuring out the proper orientation for your ship before making your move, so be sure to think about how each roll and propulsion can affect your play. It may be tiny, but Gunbrick is a big puzzle adventure. (Unless if you cheat and play the game in the larger frame... but what's the fun in that?)

Play Gunbrick (enlarged version)


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Rating: 4.7/5 (23 votes)
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MacGuffin's Curse

JohnBIt was supposed to be a quick and easy heist. Break in to the museum, snag the Lupine Twine Amulet, sneak out. Profit! But then, something unfortunate happened: Lucas MacGuffin put the amulet on. With the amulet permanently attached to him, Lucas now had the unfortunate ability to turn into a werewolf whenever he was exposed to moonlight. On top of that, the entire city went into lockdown as a result of his bungled theft. Making delicious lemonade out of those lemons, though, Lucas turned his misfortune into a boon, using his lupine skills to work his way through town in a sokoban-style puzzle adventure. MacGuffin's Curse, from Jolly Rover creator Brawsome, is one of those light-hearted, funny, challenging and visually gorgeous games you won't be able to put down.

MacGuffin's CurseLucas in human form can do all sorts of things, from swimming through water, activating panels, and opening doors with his fingerprint-covered human hands. When he steps into the moonlight and transform into a werewolf, he gains the ability to shove blocks around and smash piles of rock. The furry beast can't cross water and can't open doors, though, so in order to work your way through the game's 150 rooms, you'll have to switch back and forth, playing a sort of single player version of The Lost Vikings.

Even though it takes place is a surprisingly open world, most puzzles in MacGuffin's Curse are of the sokoban variety, challenging you to turn off barriers, push blocks to hold switches, sneak through windows, and the like. Laced throughout the levels are thousands of lines of dialogue and descriptions, encouraging you to examine every piece of scenery you walk by and talk to every person you meet multiple times. To make the distractions even more tempting, the visuals are amazing, like a living parody of a noir mystery graphic novel, and the music is something to get lost in.

MacGuffin's CurseAnalysis: MacGuffin's Curse draws a lot of inspiration from several decades' worth of cult-hit and best-selling video games. Classic adventure fans will recognize the sense of humor from the good old days of point-and-click graphical adventures, and the room and puzzle design has subtle undertones of the original The Legend of Zelda. Rounding off the high notes are the game's healthy quest system, unlockables, easter eggs, and incentives to keep playing even after you beat the game. MacGuffin's Curse is so full of joy and happiness, you can't help but have a good time while playing it for hours on end.

There's really nothing to harp on with this smartly made game. Some of the visual design seems as if the perspectives are in conflict, though that hardly affects your enjoyment or the game's playability. The strict grid movement is occasionally a bother, as there's no free motion, just the four main cardinal directions to keep things nice and crisp. But, most sokoban games control like this, so again, it's hardly something to call up and complain about.

Every moment of MacGuffin's Curse is enjoyable, from the first few lines of dialogue to the end credits (and beyond!). It's a puzzle game with a personality you won't forget, and it's got plenty of content and humor to keep you happily entertained for hours on end!

WindowsWindows:
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kobodeluxe.gifJohnBBased a decade-plus old arcade game called XKobo by Akira Higuchi, KoboDeluxe from Olofson Arcade is an updated and enhanced version of the original arcade shooter, porting the concept and gameplay over to modern platforms while introducing better animations, high resolution visuals, additional control options, a difficulty selector, and more. Whether you want a nostalgic arcade fix or are looking for a sturdy action challenge, KoboDeluxe will absolutely satisfy your craving.

KoboDeluxe plays like a classic arcade shooting game, only instead of fighting swarms of enemies as you travel through space, your goal is to take out maze-like pipe structures by blasting their central node. You can't just swoop in and fire, though, as there are winding walls and nodes protecting each core. Clear layers of walls by destroying nodes, all while avoiding weapons fire coming from each node as well as roving enemies and objects that are looking to end your day. It's intense, but in a (barely) manageable, highly enjoyable kind of way!

Your ship fires from forward and rear guns simultaneously, meaning you can either take out targets above and below you or, if you turn to the side, to your left and right. This creates a great dynamic in which you must work a strategy into your attacks, weaving in and out of danger as you position yourself for precise strikes. Most of the time, you can clear sections of wall by lining up several nodes in your sights. Other times, it's up to your skills as a pilot to pick off individual enemies as you work your way to the core.

Several levels of difficulty in KoboDeluxe allow you to customize the punishment to suit your mood/skill level. Start with something easy, allowing you to absorb a few hits before you die, then move on to the more difficult (and classic) modes to get a real feel for what the game can offer. KoboDeluxe is a fantastic game, and a very faithful port of the original. It's the sort of title you have to learn to master, and when you do, your hours of fun have just begun.

WindowsWindows:
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Mac OS XMac OS X:
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LinuxLinux:
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Rating: 4.5/5 (31 votes)
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DoraRistorante AmoreWhat can you do in a month? Well, if you're developers Cyanide Tea, you can make an entire visual novel with one big surprise for NaNoRenO ((Inter)National Renai Game Writing Month). And if you're Lily, the earnest but butter-fingered protagonist of the free indie download game Ristorante Amore, a month is just long enough to feel like you're stuck in a rut. She's 22 years old and she feels like she's going nowhere waitressing tables at her uncle's restaurant, though the eclectic staff at least provides some entertainment, and maybe even a little romance. After all, isn't that what they're there for?... right?

Like any visual novel, there's a lot of reading involved in Ristorante Amore as you follow the story and interactions between characters. Whenever a choice pops up, just click the one you like. If you missed some text, you can use your mouse's scroll wheel, if you have one, to cycle back through it. Right-clicking will open a menu that will not only allow you to change the settings, but also save and load your game whenever you like. The first portion of the game is a rather lengthy prologue that centers around Lily and her growing relationship with one of the three fellows she works with, but afterwards... uh, well. You'll just have to play to find out.

Ristorante Amore is a strange little game. It's on the short side, and the player interactivity is definitely on the low end of things, with only a moderate amount of choices to be made. For some people who demand a lot more depth and choice, it might come off as a little shallow, and it would be hard to fault them for it when the prologue is so straight-forward, if well presented. The real story is definitely unique, however, and more than a little clever. It's an interesting spin that manages to put visual novels (and arachnophobia) into an entirely different light, and with nine different endings to nab post-prologue, it's an impressive little piece of work, especially considering the short development period. Auro-Cyanide's art is vibrant and expressive, and Camille deserves some sort of digital high-five for taking such a tired old genre and putting a new spin on it. If you're a fan of visual novels, you should definitely take the time to check out this quirky title and get to know its actors. They just might surprise you.

WindowsWindows:
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LinuxLinux:
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gearworld.gifJohnBA lonely, lost robot wakes up to find itself floating towards a strange island. It has no memory of where it came from or what it's doing, but as the little raft touches stable ground, it does what any amnesiac creature might do: runs forward to see what's out there. Gear World may not be the most original concept this side of Cave Story, but the hyper-difficult platforming action and carefully designed levels more than make up for the conventional setting.

As a little robotic square, you only have a few tricks up your sleeve to get you through the traps ahead. Walking and jumping are the staples, but an ability that allows you to turn into a gear to climb up walls and ceilings marked with orange teeth adds a new dimension of control. It also adds a new dimension of challenge, as navigating the vertical world suddenly becomes possible, but extremely precarious. Fortunately, you have unlimited lives to use as you run into spikes, electricity beams, and other dangers time and time again.

One of Gear World's other major gameplay mechanisms are the "up" icons you can touch for a temporary, single-use extra mid-air jump. These are placed strategically in levels where you'll need an extra hop to make it through, though pulling off the acrobatics will take precision and practice alike. In addition to these jump icons, you'll also come across checkpoints and switches of various sorts, the former saving your progress and the latter opening new paths to explore on the way to the exit.

Gear World succeeds at being a smart and challenging platformer. It doesn't try to reinvent any basic action gaming concepts, preferring to throw tough jumps and tricky maneuvers into your path to see how well you deal with them. There are even two endings to discover, the better of which you get to see if you collect all of the thunderbolt icons in each level. If you think missing a jump eight times in a row because you bumped your head on a pixel is an acceptable level of frustration from an action game, Gear World is a great diversion for your weekend afternoon!

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
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Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.


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Rating: 4.3/5 (493 votes)
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elleGarden DoorThere's a door in the garden and it leads to... secret places, such as can only be imagined by the artistic whimsy of Mateusz Skutnik. Finding this Garden Door is not your quest, though; discovering all the hidden surprises and clues that will help you open it and pass through is the premise of this short, picturesque point-and-click escape.

Anyone who knows and loves Skutnik's 10 Gnomes series is going to feel right at home navigating in this garden. For the rest of us, it'll take a little more practice. Also, your sight memory is just as important as your ability to scan your mouse about the screen looking for interactive areas (the pointer will change to a hand to let you know you've found something). And Garden Door does feel much like an escape game crossed with 10 Gnomes and infused with full, vibrant color and the soothing sounds of bird song. It's a beautiful break, no matter where you are, a chance to wallow in the garden and toy with some odd yet intriguing riddles—a bit of springtime tranquility and discovery.

Play Garden Door


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PuppetShow: Return to Joyville

JohnBThe living, walking, ne'er-do-gooding puppets are back in ERS Game Studio's latest hidden object adventure hybrid, PuppetShow: Return to Joyville. The latest in the PuppetShow series goes back to the beginning to visit what is possibly the most imprecisely named place since Greenland. As an unnamed detective, you are here to help the old and decrepit Felicia who has traveled back in time to save her father, the maker of living puppets, and her younger self from the terrible fire that started the whole mess. Armed with tomorrow's newspaper, you immediately set forth to fix what is broken so you can get yourself back to the (not-as dismal) future!

PuppetShow: Return to JoyvillePuppetShow: Return to Joyville situates itself a few seats closer to the adventure section in the theater of casual hidden object games. You'll spend more time exploring, picking up items, and solving puzzles than you will sifting through crowded screens of unusual items, which definitely works in the game's favor. Some puzzles function as little mini-games (mini-mini-games?) that only take a few moments to complete, but breaking up the detective work is an important part of the experience, as it can get pretty intense dealing with freaky automaton puppets that inhabit the town. Seriously, who thought living mannequins were a good idea?

Analysis: ERS Game Studio knows its casual adventure games, as evidenced in the previous PuppetShow releases, as well as nearly two dozen other games like the Dark Tales series or Redemption Cemetery series. The formula stays pretty similar for each title, sticking close to a horror theme while wrapping hidden object puzzles around a reliable adventure backbone. Even with an obvious design, PuppetShow: Return to Joyville spins a great tale with a fantastic atmosphere.

PuppetShow: Return to JoyvilleSome of the puzzle solutions in Return to Joyville sit on the border of obtuse, mostly because the game requires a specific item to solve a riddle, even though several other objects in your tool belt would do the job just as well. The hint system (and in-game strategy guide in the Collector's Edition) do a good job smoothing over those rough edges, and three selectable difficulty levels allow you to customize the challenge to your liking. Hidden object scenes are short, easy, and unfortunately repetitive, as you'll visit identical areas multiple times to look for key items.

If you're not familiar with the first three PuppetShow games, you don't have to worry about playing catch-up before diving in to Return to Joyville. The story is self-contained enough to keep you interested even if you don't know the first thing about the series. The level of challenge will suit just about everyone, especially since you can change it on the fly, and the animations and visuals are the usual top-notch ERS fare. It may be a predictable experience, but even if you know what to expect, that doesn't change how good it is!

A Collector's Edition is also available. It contains bonus gameplay, an in-game strategy guide, wallpapers, concept art, a soundtrack, 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: 4.7/5 (101 votes)
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DoraTalesworth Adventure: The Lost ArtifactsRisking your life is serious business, you guys, especially when we're talking about going up against an evil wizard called "Boneyard". Just stop and think about how one would get a name like that. Probably not by being a domino champion. But if the reward is right, even the laziest of men can be spurred to action, and with his own coffers empty after years of hard partying and no work, Questy reluctantly sets out to save us all once again with the promise of some sweet, sweet treasure to keep him in the lifestyle he's been accustomed to. If only he wasn't dumber than a sack of hammers. Sean Gailey takes us on another puzzle adventure in Talesworth Adventure: The Lost Artifacts, starring Questy once more. Also available in zesty iPad flavour!

The goal is simple; see Questy safely through each level by helping him gather keys and treasures while avoiding hazards and enemies. The catch? Questy moves along a path blindly, only changing course when he hits a wall, and he'll run right into monsters and pits, or even just around in circles. Fortunately, you can direct him by placing obstacles or incentives like gold down on the path to point him where he needs to go. Just click on an icon on the left side of the screen, and then click anywhere on the path to place it, and hit "Go" to watch Questy trundle onwards. Since Questy is a fine red-blooded barbarian fellow, he'll always turn towards any gold he sees, which can help keep him out of trouble or herd him in the proper direction. Handy, since traps, monsters you'll need the correct weapon to defeat, and other perils (that's right, PERILS) are standing in Questy's way of collecting the three artifacts he needs to defeat Boneyard. If you need to make adjustments, just hit "Stop" and you can move any placeable around.

The Lost Artifacts is, in concept, essentially the same game as its predecessor Talesworth Adventure Episode One, though with a big visual upgrade and a few new elements for your puzzle pleasure. The path plotting puzzling (c-c-combo!) remains as satisfying as ever, allowing for the sort of thoughtful gameplay you can pick up and spend a few turns with whenever you have time. Or whenever you want to make time for it, since the iPad version can go wherever you do, and the fantastic colourful SNES-ish graphics look great on its display. (Although for my money, I do miss the adorably blocky style of the original game. Atari-lookin' trolls for eva.) If you enjoyed the first installment, you'll definitely like this one, and while it might feel a bit like "more of the same", I'd call it more of a well-deserved upgrade. The story is a nice addition, as are the different locales, and the game overall feels a lot more ambitious while still keeping that same deceptive accessibility that makes it easy to pick up. Simple in concept and challenging in execution, Talesworth Adventure: The Lost Artifacts is a beautifully designed and addictive puzzle game that packs on the charm and character for one heroic experience. (Pec Oil not included.)

Play Talesworth Adventure: The Lost Artifacts



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JeremyThe Last Shelter.jpgListen up, Colonists! Do we have our laser blasters? Check. Heavy guns? Check. Rocket launchers? Sure. Bug spray? Uh....

In Tofee Games' new stylish and challenging addition to the tower defense genre, The Last Shelter, a habitable planet has been found after years of searching and it's time to put down roots and start building energy collectors. But there's a catch, as there so often is in sci-fi-themed tower defense games: you are not alone. You'll have to battle it out against spiders, scorpions, armored beetles, and all manner of creepy crawlies if you are going to survive.

In each stage, you start out with a small amount of energy and a limited choice of where to place three different kinds of guns... weak, but rapid firing blasters (100 energy), slow but powerful heavy guns (150 energy), and devastating but expensive rocket launchers (250 energy), all of which can be upgraded as you progress through each stage, and more upgrades are unlocked. The challenge comes in gun placement. You can only place turrets in spots that have access to thermal energy, which amounts to only a small fraction of the map. Do you place the heavy weapons closer to the base, or nearer to the energy collector?

If things get real tough (and they will), you have the ability to call in air support, in the form of conventional bombs or nukes. But use them wisely, because you will have a long recharge time before they become available again. If you do manage to beat back the relentless insectoid onslaught, you will be rewarded with experience points to go towards upgrading your turret armor, reload times, resell value, as well as valuable enhancements to your bombs and nukes.

The most frustrating, and unique, thing about The Last Shelter is its sheer challenge. Even on Easy it can seem close to impossible to beat. And, while it could have clearly benefited from more turret choices and upgrade paths, it does push the limits of both casual and flash gaming in creating a stylish and professionally made free game that will have you playing and strategizing for days beyond that initial lunch break session.

Play The Last Shelter


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Rating: 4.1/5 (103 votes)
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Kyhkyh_waitingforthesun_title.pngThe anticipation of springtime can be summed up in the title of TomaTea's newest escape, Waiting for the Sun. But we're not the only ones in need of sunlight after a winter, as you'll discover in this title. A shorter point-and-click experience in their long line of games, you are simply in one square room with only four walls to explore. The puzzles are clean, simple and logical with no leaps of logic. To help you along the way, a bright ball appears on the end of the cursor to indicate hotspots. For times when you find yourself needing more than just one weekday escape, this one will surely help keep you satisfied.

Play Waiting for the Sun


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraStars. And cheeses. And infinite towers filled with squishy monsters to cleave in twain. And princesses. Hm, dunno about you, but that sounds like a good time to me. This week's Link Dump Friday features several upcoming projects well worth training your beady little gaze upon, as well as a whole group of very talented people... one of whom isn't even old enough to legally drive yet! That's right, we're about to make you feel really inadequate... one ten-year-old game developer at a time.

Cheese Dreams DemoCheeeeeeeeese DREEAM-AH Did you know Nitrome now does demos? Well they do! Now you can play the demo for a new Cheese Dreams game, the original of which you may remember from way back in 2008. Why is this important? Well, in addition to allowing you to experience even more Nitrome awesomeness between major releases, you can take the time to play titles before they're done and help out with feedback of your own. The demo itself is fairly extensive, with plenty of secrets and surprises to find as you bounce around and explore, so give it a try and see what you think of the new engine, and then let Nitrome know about it.

Knightmare TowerJuicy Beast Gets Medieval On You We love Juicy Beast, as there's no better sure-fire cure for the blues than to play one of their weird and wonderful titles. Well, start limbering up those fingers, because there's a new one on the horizon! Knightmare Tower is a bizarre, bouncy launch action game where you fly up through a tower, slicing and dicing enemies in order to save princesses as you soar, earning new items and upgrades as you go. As expected from Juicy Beast, you can see from the new gameplay footage that it not only looks great, but also like the sort of thing that would be hard to put down. Keep your eyes peeled for this one!

HomeWhere the Horror Is Benjamin Rivers' upcoming horror adventure game Home has received a major site update, as well as a downright unfair but intriguing teaser in the addition of a Twitter account maintained by the game's protagonist. Home will be available this summer, and it looks like an opportunity to pre-order might be just around the corner, which I would appreciate, since if I don't get this game soon, I might die. For more information on this unique and compelling title, check out our interview about Home with Benjamin himself, or the official website.

Indie BuskersBuy the Busk We've talked about the Indie Buskers before, a talented group of indie game developers who were using your ideas to create four games over a single weekend in April. Well, the Game Jam is now over, and it's time for you to enjoy the fruits of their labour! Until the end of April, you can purchase the five titles created, which include a Pac-Man tower defense game and a time-travelling stealth game, for whatever price you wish. If they reach their $10,000USD goal, they'll release the source codes too! Check out the games by clicking on each developer's portrait on the side of the site, and help feed a developer and support this kind of jam for the future.

Games for Blind PeopleJust... Something in My Eye What were you doing when you were ten years old? You know, apart from waiting to get older so you could eat ice cream sandwiches for dinner and stay up past ten on a weeknight. Well, ten-year-old Dylan Viale is not only smart and talented, but he's also got a heart as big as a whale. For his school science fair, Dylan used GameMaker to create a game called Quacky's Quest that relies on sound rather than visuals... all so that he could share his love of games with his grandmother, who has been blind for decades. Yeah, that's right. Kids these days, all thoughtful and clever and making us look bad and whatnot. (I made my Grandma play Primal Rage with me when I was ten. Does that count?) Not only is this touching, it also shows that kids are thinking about the sorts of people who aren't usually considered when games are in development. Read the full story here. Congratulations, kiddo. You deserve it.

Do you know an upcoming indie project or some community gaming related news you think deserves some attention? Send me an e-mail with LINK DUMP FRIDAY in the subject line at dora AT casualgameplay DOT com with the info, and we'll judge it with the all-seeing glare of our own self-importance for inclusion in a future Link Dump Friday article!


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Rating: 4.7/5 (179 votes)
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Botanicula

DoraIt's easy to forget that being the little guy doesn't always have to mean getting your lunch money stolen or having sand kicked in your face. Game of the Year 2012Sometimes it's not about who's biggest, but who's willing to take the chances and do the most for the things that are important... even when it gets a little scary. Amanita Design's playful and stunning new point-and-click adventure Botanicula follows five tiny but determined forest sprites who are determined to save the last seed of their beloved tree from invading dark parasites. Packed with charm, rich design, imagination, and both humour and a bit of creepiness, it's the sort of adventure you can't help but be swept away in and root for the little guy every step of the way.

BotaniculaIn most ways, Botanicula plays like a typical point-and-click title. Moving your mouse around the sides of the screen will reveal arrows you can click to move to other locations, and your cursor will change if you pass it over a spot or creature you can interact with. Some objects require you to do more than just click; you can pull on switches, for example, or turn cranks by clicking and performing the appropriate mouse movement. If you move your cursor to the top of the screen you can check what you're carrying, as well as any items you should be gathering for your current objective, and moving it to the bottom will allow you to save and load your game, or change the settings.

Best of Casual Gameplay 2012Though under attack from an unknown menace, the massive tree you'll explore is still teeming with life. Weird, sometimes slightly alarming life, but life nonetheless. The myriad of little creatures you'll come across are often more concerned with their own tiny existences, but will sometimes help or hinder you. Whenever you encounter an obstacle in your story progression, you'll usually be given a visual list of items you need in your inventory at the top of the screen. As you explore, you'll come across various obstacles that need to be dealt with, and each of your intrepid band of heroes can be clicked on to try their hand (... twig... leaf?... uh... butt?) at helping out in certain locations. Not everyone will always be helpful, but hey, it's the thought that counts. Don't you wish you had a buddy who was always willing to plug something with their keister for you?

BotaniculaAnalysis: Botanicula is, in a word, gorgeous. It's also engrossing, delightful, and creative, but first and foremost, it's a beautiful game. The expressiveness and detail packed into each little creature is really remarkable, and the storybook environments are a joy to explore. Just because a particular area doesn't have anything relevant to your current objective doesn't mean you shouldn't explore; click around and you'll find oodles of little secrets that exist only to surprise you and provide a bit of extra magic. It's this attention to detail that makes Botanicula so incredibly rewarding to experience, and when you combine it with the game's stellar original soundtrack you have an otherworldly little tale that feels like a dream. Sometimes even a nightmare, since the farther your heroes venture the worse the parasite infestation becomes, and the game is definitely not without its creepy or even frightening moments.

In terms of gameplay and puzzles, Botanicula operates on its own logic, though not particularly difficult, and you're going to have to be open to experimenting in every screen. Since there are no words or even any real directions, all you can really do is try whatever you can think of and click around until you get a feel for what needs to be clicked in what sequence. In most cases, this works really well. Paying attention to your surroundings and how they react to your actions is all you need, and figuring out what each creature wants or needs is very rewarding. It's just unfortunate that Botanicula's effort at mouseplay sometimes get in the way of that reward. In particular, some of the puzzles that rely on mouse movement and physics to get past can be frustrating. Which is unfortunate, since in a game as surreal and lovely as this, annoyed is the last thing you want to be when the rest of the experience seems to be working so hard to draw you in.

Still, once Botanicula gets its hooks into you, even those infrequent irritations won't be enough to get you to stop. Just when you think you've seen everything, Botanicula pulls out something new. A new creature with its own bizarre biology. A place where fish swim through the trees or frogs serenade you. A holiday celebration. It's all so strange and wonderful that it's almost impossible not to want to see more. Botanicula is an amazing journey and has more than a little magic to share with you if you're willing to explore. You'll enjoy every hour you spend with it, especially if you take your time to hunt down all the little surprises hidden in each area. It's the sort of game you can find yourself grinning like a dope at. Highly recommended, unless you have something against having joy in your life. In which case, stop reading my articles, Mr Ebert.

Play Botanicula (Flash demo)

WindowsWindows:
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Get the full version from GOG.com

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LinuxLinux:
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JeremyRomeo GOGOAh, marriage. If you're so inclined, you've probably had your share of difficult in-laws, skyrocketing wedding costs, and unfair laws blocking the road to wedded bliss. But have you ever had to sneak past sword-wielding guards, pesky ladies-in-waiting, and make deals with large green ogres just to see your beloved? In Romeo GOGO!, a charming new physics puzzler by Flashchaz and Rocanten, you must navigate Romeo through 32 separate stages before you can finally put that diamond ring on your Juliet's finger.

Press [spacebar] to move Romeo forward. Use left-click and hold to blow bubbles to bridge gaps, levitate, or push enemies out of the way. Press [C] to summon a lightning bolt to break wooden planks, light cannons, and ignite bombs and press [Z] to send an anvil raining down from the sky on awestruck enemy knights. There is more than one way to beat each level and when you do, you will receive a satisfying smooch from your betrothed.

Romeo GOGO! features charming graphics, a cute story, and a forgiving learning curve, which will make this otherwise lovely game too easy for some players. But for the 9-to-5 warriors out there in need of a light chuckle, Romeo GOGO! will provide some nice coffee break distraction and water cooler conversation long after the honeymoon is over.

Play Romeo GOGO!


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Rating: 3.5/5 (48 votes)
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TrickySwitchTo quote the Buddha, "Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future. Concentrate the mind on the present moment." Well, you'll have to ignore that advice if you want to make any progress in Switch, a puzzle platformer by Scott Addelsee, Jemma Barnard, Kate Fierek, and Tom Saunders. About 2/3s of the game will have to be spent in the past or the future, actually. You see, in each level, using the [arrow] keys, you must find three keys, one each in the past, the present, and the future, then take them to the exit door. To do so, you'll switch between the three eras with [Z], [X] and [C], respectively. A bridge unfinished in the present may be complete in the future. Likewise, a currently empty pedestal might have had a key on it in the past. Be warned: You have a limited number of "switches". Trial and error will be in play.

Though it was made in Flixel, Switch doesn't feel like it. In fact, it might be best described as what Sonic CD would play like, if it was made by the designers of LIMBO. The moody atmosphere and spooky aesthetic are Switch's strongest feature, from the eerie serenity of the past, to the disjointed present, to the vaguely totalitarian future. While the temporal puzzles are cleverly designed, the limits on "switching" unfortunately get in the way. Having to plot your moves certainly adds to the challenge, but the player should be allowed to explore such an effective setting to their heart's content. Not every game is improved by a medal system. Also, the jump physics are, in a word, wonky. If you can look beyond these issues, though, Switch has neat ideas behind it, and is well worth a chunk of your time.

Play Switch


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Rating: 4.6/5 (178 votes)
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TrickyAchievement Unlocked 3Think you're the master of unlocking achievements? Have you already earned a good 350 in other, lower-numbered, flash games? Well, get ready to more than double that score, since in Achievement Unlocked 3 there are 400, yes, 400 achievements available for the little blue elephant avatar that could. He'll really have to earn them, though, since he'll need to battle his way through a hamster habitat from heck. Armor Games' John Cooney and Jimp are ready to give you all the puzzle platforming you love, and all the surprises you'd never expect. The only question is, how fast will you fill the list?

Best of Casual Gameplay 2012Achievement Unlocked 3's story, if you can call it that, starts with our beloved pachyderm trapped in a terrarium ruled by the malevolent Hamster King. You can tell that that the king is a villain since he cares only for pellets and nothing for earning achievements. Move and jump with [WASD] or [Arrow keys], exploring, collecting coins, triggering boxes, dying, regenerating, changing clothes, getting drenched, catching on fire, and any other number of insane activities that will help you fill your list. More to the point, coins can be traded at a vending for the pellets the king so desires. Give enough to him, and he'll start unlocking more of the habitat's pathways. Will you be able to overthrow this terrible tyrant? Well, if so, you can be there'll be an achievement for it.

Achievement Unlocked 3Analysis: Whatever it is you love about the Achievement Unlocked series, Achievement Unlocked 3 has more. More achievements. More rooms. More things to collect. More options. More characters. More everything. Some may be wary of the addition of a plot, however threadbare it is, but worry not: The Hamster King is a wonderful addition who gives you all the motivation you need to complete your quest. Conceptually, a chatty, humongous hamster is the perfect choice to antagonize a silent, tiny elephant, and he is given some hilarious dialogue. On the mechanics side, the ability to sort the achievement list to highlight those currently-in-progress or in-close-proximity is a big help when trying to figure out what needs to be done for those last lousy one-percent. Also, "collect pellets for new rooms" works quite well at keeping things fairly non-linear, while still allowing for a guided progression of exploration. It would be nice if the trade-ins happened a little faster, but hey, elephants are nothing if not patient.

Achievement Unlocked 3 eschews the minimalist graphics of the previous two in the series, instead having an aesthetic more akin to Elephant Quest. Jimp's art is varied, gorgeous, and colorful, like a living cartoon, but without the sleek lines and bold colors we've come to expect, something feels a little... off. This is not the series we're used to, which is both good and bad.

Play all of John Cooney's Elephant games:
Run Elephant RunAchievement UnlockedThis is the Only LevelObey the GameThis is the Only Level TOOAchievement Unlocked 2Elephant QuestThis is the Only Level 3Achievement Unlocked 3

The "joke" of the original Achievement Unlocked, was how a simple one room game with simplistic graphics could be overwhelmed with a hilariously large number of achievements granted for literally every action you could do. However, the gaming world has surpassed it in the interim. 400 achievements? Isn't that about how many Team Fortress 2 has? How can satire stay relevant when real life keeps moving the bar? Since Achievement Unlocked 3's game world is exponentially bigger than the previous ones in the series, 400 somehow feels merely a "large" number, rather than a "hilariously large" one, especially since you can earn a chunk even before you take your first step. There will come a point when you're really concentrating on firing hamsters through a basketball hoop, and then start to wonder how exactly the series got to that point. Achievement Unlocked 3's trunk is packed with content, but it's starting to get pretty crowded in there.

Even if Achievement Unlocked 3 feels less incisive of a parody, it is still a massively entertaining game. John Cooney knows how to make settings that beg to be explored, and Achievement Unlocked 3 is no slouch. And, of course, seeing a long list of achievements get ticked off one by one is as satisfying as it has ever been. Whether you are stomping on hamsters, or running a marathon on a treadmill while inexplicably on fire, or accelerating yourself into a patch of ceiling spikes for the hundredth time, there is still pure gaming joy to be found in watching that little blue elephant trundle around. Achievement Unlocked 3 is a little different from what we're used to, but it fully earns its place alongside the authors' other achievements in Flash gaming.

Play Achievement Unlocked 3


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Rating: 3.4/5 (39 votes)
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MomentumBryanPlatform games commonly require a fair amount of jumping to move around, but the author of this unique platformer, Tom Scheper, decided that jumping is the new walking. As the title implies, Momentum is your best friend and you can bound from platform to platform while dodging spikes and collecting colored candy orbs using that speed. Your character is willing to risk his life to feed his sugar rush and continue bouncing around to the finish. That is quite an addiction.

Since the jumping is taken care of, you move around using the [left] and [right] arrow keys. Holding one direction longer builds up more momentum while pressing the direction opposite of your movement acts like a mid-air brake. You can collect candy along the way, but if you want to break his habit, just head to the big, blue exit circle.

The difficulty curve frustrates in a good way that may keep you playing no matter how much you dislike the hyper, bouncing character on screen. The rather comical voice over for each time you die can be entertaining at first, but you will probably want it muted after your 25th consecutive death. The simple gameplay, bright graphics, and difficulty curve give the game a weird charm that you can't help but give a chance. The game may not be for the casual platform gamers out there, but if you are looking for a challenge, then this little physics gem is for you.

Play Momentum


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Rating: 3.8/5 (68 votes)
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SonicLoverGolemThe intro of Golem, an atmospheric little escape by OK Interactive, gives you the details straight: you're locked in a museum in Prague, and if you want out you'll have to bring to life the remains of the famous Golem of Prague that's on display somewhere within. To do so you'll have to solve some puzzles throughout the museum, gather some clues about the magic of kabbalah, and put everything together. Navigate by clicking the square icons near the edges of the screen, or on open passageways in front of you; keep an eye out for the changing cursor. Click things to interact with them, and be prepared to take a lot of notes. If you have something worth using, click it, then on what you want to use it on.

Not everything about Golem is perfect, but lots of things are. On the upside, it's got generally well-designed puzzles, moody graphics and music (we have Oscar Remius to thank for the latter) that perfectly complement each other, and a bit of historic background as well; on the downside, the clickable areas don't always properly overlap with the visuals, and there's no way to save your progress—which is especially inconvenient for a game with two endings. But overall, it's a journey worth taking. And either way, who can pass up an opportunity to resurrect an ancient golem?

Play Golem


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Rating: 4.6/5 (179 votes)
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Kyhkyh_nonosparksgenesis_title.pngWith a little innuendo stirred into the mix, Beardshaker Games brings a humorous take to nonograms (also known as picross) in NoNoSparks: Genesis. Most of the gameplay consists of solving the puzzles, and each puzzle you solve creates an element in a brand new world, which gives the game a Doodle God feel.

It starts out with the simpler things like sand and fish, but you eventually work your way up to bigger, more advanced puzzles and creatures (and then some). With easy-to-use mouse controls and an amusing pseudo-story, this will surely satisfy your picross needs while putting a smile on your face.

Play NoNoSparks: Genesis


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Bitter Sam

GrinnypBitter Sam is... well, bitter, and justifiably so. His grades are failing, he was stood up at the altar, he still lives with his mother, and now some mad scientist has kidnapped him and is lowering him down some sort of hole through the levels underneath his lab. Sam's only lifeline to the surface a thin thread that is easily snapped, forcing him to dodge dangerous obstacles as he drops deeper into the Earth. Thus is the premise of Bitter Sam, an amusing physics drop/avoidance tilt puzzler from Moon Active, which charts poor Sam's progress as he falls farther away from the sunny skies above.

grinnyp_bittersam_screenshot1.pngThe mechanics of Bitter Sam are as simple as simple gets. As Sam falls through the scenery, it is up to you to help him avoid obstacles such as sharp rock shelves, breakable wooden shelves, nasty razor shelves (which will not only kill Sam but will cut his lifeline if not avoided correctly), and rotating wheels which can crush the poor guy if he's caught between them. Along the way Sam can pick up helpful power ups such as an inflatable pig (just go with it) which can help him break a stone or razor shelf, steroid injections for the pig which can turn it into a giant, red, raging boar, and a heavy anvil that drags Sam quickly through the level while destroying anything in its path. Each area has 20 levels of avoidance madness, and each level contains a mysterious gem which Sam must also attempt to collect while avoiding the numerous and painful looking ways to die.

Points are given for making it to the bottom of a level, finding (and retrieving) crystals, and for completing a level without bumping into the walls or other obstacles. Once you've conquered all 100 levels you can still go back to try and get the crystals if you missed them, or achieve that mythical perfect score (which involves both finding the crystal and making it through a level without any bumps). With so many stages to fight through (and the promise of more in the future) Bitter Sam is an amusing little time waster for the iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch that's only going to get better with time. And besides being fun, don't you want to help a poor schlub like Sam earn a little ray of happiness from time to time?

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


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Rating: 4.8/5 (239 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypThere's something about creeping down dark corridors, ancient and mysterious symbols and objects littering the walls and floors, that makes Egyptian tombs so irresistible, whether they be in movies, games, or even real life. Now beloved room escape designer Kotorinosu is back and has set its latest attempt in a place that looks like Indiana Jones, Lara Croft or the Mummy would be right at home in. Welcome to Sphinx! (Cue spooky music)

SphinxNavigation through this tomb could have been extremely complex if Kotorinosu hadn't created another elegant solution: each room in the tomb is a "one-wall" puzzle, everything in the room can be accessed by facing the front of the room, so that moving from place to place is as simple as moving forward or backwards, without any rotation to confuse the player. The puzzles themselves are Kotorinosu's usual mix of logic and use of found objects, involving a lot of observational skills. While the puzzles haven't reached the heights of complexity found in other works from Neutral (remember the hand-held game found within Lights?) or Valentin Sagrario (I still have nightmares about the radio puzzle in Sagrario's Room Escape), they are pretty challenging and more importantly fit beautifully into the overarching themes that dominate the game. The inventory system is easy to master and there is a save function if you feel the need to walk away for any reason, hopefully not a ragequit but you never know.

What makes Kotorinosu escapes rise head and shoulders above the pack is the care that goes into expressing a theme throughout the game, whether it be the shapes, reflections, or in this case the pictures and symbols of ancient Egypt. Kotorinosu's puzzles and solutions are quiet, elegant, and echo the theme as well, creating a massively entertaining experience that is so much more than "throw a bunch of random puzzles into a four-wall room" that permeates so much room escape design. The delicate balance of theme, puzzle, solution, and space gives Kotorinosu games a unique feel that makes them so popular and so fun to play. Time to get your inner Indiana Jones (or Lara Croft) on and brave Sphinx! Promise, there are no snakes.

Play Sphinx


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (159 votes)
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JeremyUtopian Mining.jpgHave drill, will travel? Good, because the people of Utopia need your help after a storm has ravaged their once prosperous city. In Utopian Mining, a short mining simulation game by Schulles, you play an adventurous little robot whose motto is "Drill, baby, drill!" Move and drill using the [arrow] keys and press [X] to interact with buildings and people. Save your progress by pressing [X] each time you pass the Tree of Memory, next to the repair shop. Sell your ore and earn money to recharge your batteries, upgrade your drill rig (which will let you to drill longer and deeper), or repair any damages.

Watch your battery level, which drops while travelling underground, carefully as you play; if you get stuck underground without any juice, you'll have to be rescued at a cost of 250 pounds and any ore in your hold. Don't forget your heat levels either! Dig too deep without the right upgrades and your rig will quickly take on damage. When your health bar reaches zero, you'll have to be rescued at the same cost as when your battery dies. If you like, you can play through the missions and rebuild the city, or just drill to your hearts content. It's up to you. If you are brave enough, you might even reach the Core.

Utopian Mining will be too short for most players and the concept is nothing new—perhaps you've heard of Mega Miner or Motherload or this little game that rhymes with "Pinecraft"? But, for those that aren't in the mood to build 1:1 scale replicas of Rivendell or the Starship Enterprise and just want to, you know, dig Utopian Miner will provide just the right amount of casual fun to keep you occupied for an afternoon.

Play Utopian Mining


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Rating: 4.3/5 (255 votes)
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elleelle_kveendolnitza_image1.jpgAh, the search for legendary places of magic! The impetus for many a good adventure story, movie and game. It all starts with legends of ancient beings who mastered the secrets of time and space. But ancient beings, being wise or perhaps merely selfish, always ensconce their great knowledge far from dull eyes of the searching masses never to be discovered. Or not before the charming hero of our story—Nicolas Cage? Harrison Ford? No, Triton!—arrives on scene. For no one knows what it is or where it is, but all wish to find Kveendolnitza.

To do so in this puzzle and exploration game, just point and click your way through an Escher-esque city of stairs and pathways, using wits and ingenuity to get past doors and unusual creatures. This surreal world created by Jacek Szleszyński is a beautiful sight, worth playing, if for no other reason, to ogle every visual delight. Even the ambient sounds and serene music are an aural treat. Yet the gameplay is also enjoyable for the discovery aspects as well as the pleasure of solving a few light puzzles, including a touch of arithmetic and astronomy (just as you would expect from those sagacious ancients!) They're nothing to take you out of the moment, needing just a bit of thought to solve, although you will rely just as much on trial and error. An occasional bout of lag might momentarily pause click-efforts, yet it's rare and brief if it occurs. Similar in concept to Samorost or Hapland, although very unique in its own style, there's plenty of interactivity in Kveendolnitza, both for amusement and to aid Triton toward his goal. In most cases, the clues are apparent and everything works perfectly although there is at least one spot where you'll need precise pointing to activate the area properly.

Contrary to what reading Jules Verne might lead you to believe, not all quests will successfully uncover hidden worlds or mystical oracles. Two possibilities await you: you could reach the end having nothing more to show for it than a few extra fingerprints on your mouse—or you just might, if you're clever enough or lucky indeed, discover Kveendolnitza for yourself. As for what comes next after you find it, well, that's what sequels are for!

Play Kveendolnitza


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (299 votes)
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Kyleisawherstandingthere.pngBoy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Girl turns out to be a festering, shambling undead corpse that wants to eat boy's brains despite, oddly enough, being in love with him too. Boy then decides to put girl zombie in a cage so they can be together but he gets to keep his brains and, well, life. Thus is the story set for the simple yet endearing platformer, i saw her standing there from Krang Games.

It's tough going when the love of your life is a ravenous member of the walking dead. Clearly the two of you want to be together but for that to happen you'll have to use the [arrow] keys to move and jump in order to get your zombie lover to follow you into her cage. Of course, she's not the only zombie around, and so you'll have to dodge the hordes of undead you don't love, eventually using the [space] bar to shoot them dead (or... um... deader) if you are lucky enough to find a gun.

Clean and simple graphics, and a cheery acoustic soundtrack provide a back drop for a sweet storybook love story told in platform game form. The action is manageable enough to appeal to a broad audience, while still providing a few tense moments to keep you engaged. Meanwhile the story unfolds neatly with the gameplay, telling a tale that is whimsical, and ironic, and in some ways touching.

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The Vault

DoraDo not attempt to adjust your monitor. We control the horizontal, the vertical... the cat saturation. That's right. This week's Vault is about games that feature those little furry balls of mercurial moods, small animal murder, and vomit. Lots of vomit. Usually sometime in the middle of the night so you don't hear it, and placed just so that when you do step on it on your way into the bathroom in the morning, it's already cold. Hurray!

  • Robot Wants KittyRobot Wants Kitty - Robot has wanted a lot of things, but in the beginning Hamumu's mechanical metroidvania platforming machine just wanted a little ball of kitty cuddles for his own. Presumably to love and pet and call him George. The goal is to get to the cat, which sounds simple since you can see him right away, but actually involves tracking down special power-ups and abilities to navigate your way past all the hazards and enemies to him. A heavy amount of adorableness earns this one extra points, but Robot Wants Kitty really is the pitch-perfect casual bit of metroidvania to brighten your day.
  • Sushi CatSushi Cat - If I could believe my cat Milo was fat because of love and not... well, fat, maybe he wouldn't be on a diet right now. Joey Betz's arcade game about a little blue cat who must eat all the sushi he can to fatten up to reach the girl of his dreams has a lot going for it. In addition to being gorgeous and silly, it's also a very unique little spin on a physics title as you drop your cat down a Pachinko board, watching him bounce around, eat sushi, and get fatter. Sushi Cat has a few sequels, and after just a little bit of om-nom-noming you'll wish there was even more.
  • Space KittehSpace Kitteh - Our Casual Gameplay Design Competitions always seem to bring out a lot of wild concepts and talent, and Zach Archer and Miles Johnson were no exception when they made this little... action... platform... physics... thingy. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to travel to other planets, navigating their gravitational fields, and rescue the kitties on them. A noble pursuit, as I'm sure you agree. The biggest challenge in Space Kitteh comes from mastering the controls, which is something it shares with many other games, but the reward for your patience is a clever and unique game with a great visual style well worth experiencing. In... spaaaaaaaaace! Oh be quiet, you knew it was coming.
  • Flash CatFlash Cat - Naturally, when you want a swanky racing game about a cat zipping along away from aliens and such on a giant robot spider-mabobber for a vehicle, you call Nitrome. Or Grant Imahara, because he sounds like he'd be all over that. While it lacks the tight maneuverability of, say, other racing games I've never played because my sole experience with car games comes from Grand Theft Auto and Mario Kart, Flash Cat delivers that over-the-top colourful experience you've come to expect from Nitrome packed with charm and character. You'll need to exercise some patience with this one, as it takes a while to really get the hang of, but fans of surrealistic cat racing need look no further for their fix.
  • Copy Cat: A Painter's PuzzleCopy Cat: A Painter's Puzzle - Mofongo Studios' painting puzzler might not have whiskers, but they know that the worst kind of cat is a copy-cat! And by that I mean you, since you're the low-down, no-good copier in this instance. Your job is to recreate images you're shown with the paints at your disposal... with only a handful of colours you'll need to shape, mix, and manipulate to do so. Copy Cat is one of those weird, stylish little games whose unique but still simple premise makes it the sort of thing you can find yourself wasting an hour on, after only meaning to "check it out for a second". With a level editor to create masterpieces to confound other would-be forgers, it's a purrr-fectly neat little way to train your brain in a puzzle of a different sort.

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: 4.6/5 (27 votes)
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Temple Run

VictoriaHave you ever watched an Indiana Jones movie and thought "I could totally do all of that stuff. Easy!"? Well, thanks to Imangi Studios, creators of Temple Run, you can give it a shot! Just don't expect hundreds of thousands of adulating fans, actual fortunes gained, or a fine battle-worn fedora to suddenly appear on your melon.

TempleTemple Run is played from a third person perspective as you follow the hero running from an unknown danger. Swipe the screen to dodge, jump, slide, and change direction when a bend in the road appears. Be timely about it, because just like other jump and run games, one early/late move could mean the end of your little jog. Each time you play, the level is randomly generated and you're given a set of objectives to complete; things like collecting a certain amount of coins or running for a certain distance. The longer you run, the harder the level gets. This can be both fun and frustrating, because when you lose it can feel as though you've lost a lot of progress, especially if you have a hard time getting that far in subsequent plays!

Temple Run is a slightly different sort of arcade game, and not just because of its 3D layout and emphasis on being a handsome action hero. There are coins to collect, items to buy, and epic power-ups to use to help you stay alive and running. It's definitely a nice change from the majority of mobile games on the market. If you're searching for a fun action game, or if you're just a fan of Indiana Jones, make sure you check this one out!

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


(8 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Majesty

VictoriaMajesty: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim from HeroCraft is a mobile port of the fantasy strategy game first published in 2000, with a sequel following almost a decade later. Fans of the original will immediately fall in love with the mobile release, and anyone new to the series will find plenty to like about this portable-friendly title!

majestyfantasysim.jpgAs was the norm at the turn of the century, most PC strategy games took several pages of design from popular releases such as StarCraft and Age of Empires. Majesty does the same, but it introduces a different control mechanism and brings in a fantasy setting to create a very different sort of experience. Your job is to manage resources (including economic and scientific), command troops and workers, and build structures that allow you to grow as a kingdom. Everything is handled quite elegantly with the touch screen, but instead of directly moving units around, you place flags that encourage them to do different tasks. Some units will head out and work all on their own, such as the ranger automatically exploring new terrain, but most need some sort of incentive before they'll leave their huts.

Completing quests is the focus of the game, and there's quite a variety of them to be found, especially when considering this is "just" a mobile game. In addition, there are plenty of unexpected happenings you'll need to deal with, such as trolls robbing caravans or the kingdom's gold transforming into cookies! It's a surprisingly epic game for such a small package, and it made the leap to the mobile world without so much as a stumble.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on a Motorola Atrix. 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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Cut the Rope: Experiments

McVeetyOm Nom returns, hungry as ever and with more puzzles than you can shake a rope at. Zeptolab's continuation of their hit puzzler Cut the Rope was previously released for iPhone and iPad and is now available on all your favorite mobile devices. Cut the Rope: Experiments includes 125 new physics puzzles set across five new settings in a professor's laboratory. The goal from the original returns: get the candy into Om Nom's mouth by slicing through dangling ropes and utilizing environmental objects. Old favorites like bubbles, whoopie cushions, and automatic ropes return in addition to new tools like rockets, suction cups, and projectile rope-darts.

Cut-the-Rope-Experiments.jpgThe gameplay will be familiar to those who have played the original. The first set of levels is a comprehensive recap of returning mechanics. The following sets each introduce a new kind of object to the puzzles. Ropes attached to suction cups can be touched to release them from the background and then re-stuck, allowing for far more mobility than in the first installment. Dart ropes can be fired at the candy to catch them from free-fall, and bottle rockets provide forward propulsion. Gameplay has moved past free-fall physics to a full, open physics puzzle experience. Social elements including achievements, leaderboards and hidden photographs that can be found and shared on Facebook have also been added.

The new objects and characters are interesting on their own, but many levels may feel too familiar to returning players. The weight and buoyancy mechanics are especially fun to play with, but most exciting puzzles are those that combine all the new tools. Aiming rockets at automatic ropes and using darts to prevent the projectile from defusing underwater is quite the challenge. The promise of more levels is enticing given the quality of Zeptolab's new levels for the original. If you felt like something was missing from the first game or just can't get enough rope-cutting in your life, this one is worth picking up.

Play Cut the Rope (original browser demo)

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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Dibbles: For the Greater Good

JohnBThe needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, right? Or, perhaps more accurately, the needs of the upper classes outweigh the needs of the plebs. No matter how you dice the words, the point is it's ok to sacrifice a few little guys so the bigger, more important ones can survive. The mobile port of the browser game Dibbles: For the Greater Good illustrates just that, providing a charming and intelligent Lemmings-like game that just might make you rethink this whole "needs of the many" business.

Dibbles: For the Greater GoodIn each level, red ant-like dibble troops will march out of a hut and mindlessly stroll about the stage, stepping right off of cliffs or walking into spikes if they happen to be there. So, being the wise player that you are, you get to save them by sacrificing a few to perform the task of guiding the others. Use totems at the bottom of the screen to teach individual troops to do things like form bridges, block deadly falls, dig through the soil, or splat themselves against the wall so the rest can climb up the side.

If you've ever played Lemmings, you'll feel right at home in Dibbles. The improvements in the control scheme won't go unnoticed, as instead of manipulating troops directly, you place commands on the map itself, which makes so much more sense. The challenge level is fairly average, if a bit low, so don't expect too much hair pulling. What it lacks in difficulty, Dibbles makes up for with crazy feats of selfless sacrifices, all in the name of the king!

Play Dibbles: For the Greater Good (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.


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (85 votes)
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joyeMaze-a-Pix LightConceptis really knows how to transfer your favorite pen and paper puzzles into Flash versions, and now they're trying out one of the most basic genres there is: the maze. But unlike the boring mazes of your childhood, which when completed just looked like a doodled mess, by completing these mazes you're drawing pixel art at the same time. If you've ever wanted to draw Che Guevara but lacked the artistic skill, Maze-a-Pix Light can make that dream come true.

You can simply click and drag to create a path from the in arrow to the out arrow, or to save some strain on your arm you can click anywhere from your current position to the next junction to draw a line. Doubling back or clicking outside of the path will leave faded lines which you can use to indicate the wrong way, but when you finish the puzzle, they'll disappear, leaving the nice image you've created. The upper left contains buttons to undo, redo, check, restart, and save your puzzle.

The coolest pictures don't usually make the trickiest puzzles. Many of the intricate pictures don't have a lot of blank space, so that severely limits both the length and number of dead ends. It takes no more than a couple of minutes to beat even the toughest of the 30 levels. Rather than a challenging brain teaser like most of the games in the Conceptis Light series, this is more like the similarly kid-friendly Dot-a-Pix Light: a little zen break for your tired grey matter. The most fun part of the game is trying to figure out what the picture will be before you finish it.

Play Maze-a-Pix Light


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Party Crashers Tower Defense

JohnBDon't you just hate it when a bunch of brutes, nerds, bullies, and ten feet tall Greeks show up at your party unannounced? Party Crashers Tower Defense plays on that most basic fear humans have shared since the invention of chips and dip. You've only got so much food, so it's your job to defend the party from invading party crashers!

Party Crashers Tower DefenseParty Crashers TD plays out like most tower defense games, providing you with a small stipend you can use to purchase units to place on the battlefield alongside the path waves of enemies will follow. In this case, you have ball players, cheerleaders, muscle men, guitar players, and more on your side, each regularly attacking enemies as they walk by. You can upgrade and sell units with a few taps on the screen, and placing more is just as simple. Occupy choke points on the map with powerful units so you can deal the most damage to the increasingly tough waves of enemy party crashers as they march by. Protect your tables of food, dude!

Party Crashers is the sort of game that grows on you. It seems rather awkward at first attempt, as the control scheme doesn't seem optimized for quick touch screen use. You'll adapt to that easily enough, though, and when you do, this quick-play casual strategy game will be much easier to enjoy. Despite its lack of flair or innovation, you'll find it's got all the right elements for a fun, light-hearted, tower defense experience that's especially suited to anyone new to the genre!

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.


(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Totemo

JohnBBinding spirits to totems isn't the sort of activity you find on your daily to-do list. With the logic puzzle game Totemo, however, you'll do it dozens upon dozens of times, all with just a few taps on your screen! It's a rare puzzle game that isn't directly inspired by the match-3 genre, and it's from the team that brought us Evac and Everlands, so you know it's got more than a few things going for it.

TotemoSpirits come in several shapes and colors and occupy a grid space on one side of the screen. To eliminate them, tap a spirit, then tap another one in the same row or column. Distance doesn't matter, just as long as there's nothing between the spirits (they can "see" each other). The number or method for matching will vary depending on the type and the totems, but the central focus of the game is figuring out how to remove straggling spirits without leaving orphans behind.

Order becomes supremely important, and each of the stages has a solution you'll have to puzzle out with logic and a bit of trial and error. It's as much about finding a strategy as it is solving a puzzle. Once you work your way through the main story, survival mode unlocks to challenge you to solve puzzles with a strict time limit. It's got atmosphere, it's got charm, and it's got a great presentation, especially for a simple puzzle game. Totemo has "win" written all over it!

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.


(18 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Sea Star

BryanIf you mixed Robot Unicorn Attack with a great big helping of Jetpack Joyride and threw it all into the ocean, this incredibly colorful arcade game would jump up and smack you with a rainbow. Sea Stars gets your finger tapping to help these cute undersea creatures swim and jump past obstacles that would otherwise ruin their good time. Hothead Games made sure you wouldn't miss out on the fun by putting the app in every mobile marketplace. Just dive right into their vast ocean home so you can begin a journey that ends only when you put the app down.

Sea StarsAll it takes is your finger and a touch screen device to be a star of the sea. Hold down or tap the screen to make your aquatic buddy dive, and release to jump. The longer you hold, the higher you'll fly out of the water. Your job is to dodge mean jellyfish to pick up coins, power-ups, and play with all of your ocean friends along the way. Each aquatic buddy gives you an ability to make maneuvering and catching those slippery coins even easier. The game's mechanics may not be that deep, but the addition of missions and achievements during your runs add even more incentive keep swimming with Dante and pals.

It is a great feeling to find a game like this can take a simple idea and make such a wholesome experience. The child-like art attracts casual mobile users to the cutesy sea creatures while the mission and achievements can bring a more hardcore audience. No matter your gaming background, Sea Stars has plenty to keep you swimming since all the extras can be unlocked by coins or the total distance you travel. The game does incorporate micro-transactions if you are tired of grinding for coins to get the sweet rainbow narwhal. Nothing is more heart-warming than watching a smiling dolphin chase a flock of rainbow birds. True story.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an HTC EVO. 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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Hard Lines

JohnBDrawing a page from the classic arcade game Snake and mixing it with a little modern knowhow, Hard Lines aims to be the end-all nom-fest for lines that collect things to grow larger and more windey. It will easily replace similar arcade games you could find for your mobile device, as its got enough content, creativity, and attitude to keep you entertained for hours!

Hard LinesThe basic gameplay of Hard Lines revolves around controlling a neon snake-like line that can move in four directions around a grid. Collect the glowy things (their real, official name!) as you guide Lionel around the stage, avoiding the walls, his own body, and any other lines meandering about the course. Borrowing some inspiration from the light cycle game from Tron, you can kill other lines by tricking them into crashing, usually by trapping them or by making sharp turns in front of their path. The line-on-line violence is intense!

Hard Lines does some interesting things with its multiple modes of play, including limiting you to short sessions, pitting you against a dozen or more enemy lines, and forcing you to focus on killing opponents or gathering glowy things. These creative and usually crazy experiences add loads of variety, and the game's overall attitude puts a newer, hipper face on the classic genre. The most pointlessly fun bits are the quotes lines utter when they're defeated. Even though they're little more than colored streaks on a screen, somehow their shouts of "Let's do this thing!" and "Pwned!" make them seem a little more realistic and a lot more entertaining!

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.


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Mobile Monday

JohnBWhat's going on in the mobile world? It's time to find out! Mobile Monday is evolving, setting the individual game features loose for their own spaces in the spotlight in exchange for news, updates, previews, sales and more. Now you get more mobile reviews while keeping an eye on the biggest and most exciting happenings in the mobile world. Sound like a fair exchange? Good, because here we go!

Burrito Bison iOSBurrito Bison to iOS? - Juicy Beast recently teased a mobile port of one (or both?) of its launching games in the Burrito Bison series, Burrito Bison and Burrito Bison Revenge. Which game will get the touch screen treatment? When will it happen? We don't know! The one thing we do know, however, is that both Burrito Bison games are great, and they'd make excellent portable diversions. Check out our review of Burrito Bison Revenge and start getting pumped!

The Last Rocket e-bookThe Last Rocket e-book diary - One of our not-so-secret favorite arcade games released for iOS in 2011 was The Last Rocket, a charming and challenging retro-style game from Shaun Inman. Numerous updates have hit since our September feature, but we're not here to discuss that. No, we're here to talk about Shaun's e-book release Lift Off: The Last Rocket Development Diary. The DRM-free ePub works on any mobile thingie you can get your hands on, including iOS and Android devices. It reads like a diary of notes detailing the process of creating the game from inception to release. A nice peek into the secret underworld of iOS game development!

starcommandtease.jpgOh, you tease! - Star Command is the sci-fi simulation game you have been wanting your entire life. Manage your spaceship as you recruit crew members, work on your craft, explore the universe, and defend yourself from hostile aliens. It's the playable Star Trek we've been dreaming of, and the development team behind the upcoming phenomenon, Warballoon, has just released a brand new teaser trailer. Go check it out, and ready your iOS and Android devices for a summer release!

spelltowerupdate.gifSpellTower gets U-P-D-A-T-E - If you missed SpellTower, the lovely and stylish word game from Zach Gage, you missed a very special sort of game. Updates have been slowly trickling out since the initial release, but this latest one adds many cool new things. For starters: local multiplayer via Bluetooth, iPad retina support, optimizations for iPhone 4, and a collection of minor fixes and extra finishing touches. SpellTower is easy to love, and you should start your addiction as soon as possible!


  • Currently 4.1/5
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Rating: 4.1/5 (535 votes)
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Virtual Villagers: Origins

GrinnypFor millions of time management and simulation fans, the opening is unmistakable: a ragtag, desperate group of people fleeing the volcanic destruction of their home wash ashore on the mysterious island of Isola, a place of wonder and magic. With that prologue began one of the most popular and best-selling village sims of all time, Virtual Villagers. Now available for all iOS devices is that very first adventure, Virtual Villagers: Origins, lovingly designed by Last Day of Work.

virtualvillagers_origins_screen1.jpgVirtual Villagers: Origins is essentially Virtual Villagers: A New Home re-tooled for the touch screen mobile device. The premise is pretty much the same: your small group of people (guided by you) must learn how to provide food and shelter for themselves, all while researching scientific advancements that will allow them to expand their settlement, support a larger population, and solve the many mysteries scattered about the island. Simply dropping a villager onto a task, set their preferences to that task, and keep them on it until they work on their own. Before you know, you've got a lovely little settlement full of happy people. Assuming they don't die from disease or hunger!

virtualvillagers_origins_screen2.jpgVirtual Villagers: Origins consists of 16 different puzzles to achieve, ranging from the simple (finding a clean water source) to the complex (producing the magical "golden child" who will bring peace and fortune upon your villagers). The village, tasks, and puzzles are pretty much the same as the original PC release, with a few neat additions. You can use excess tech points gained by your little people researching at the lab table to buy fun new upgrades. Time Warp, for example, moves the game ahead three hours, while Grant Youth de-ages a villager by 35 years. You can even make villagers faster or masters at their trade, something that would take ages to accomplish without the little boost.

Virtual Villagers: Origins is completely free, though there is a small banner ad running across the top of the screen. If you want to move the game forward at a faster pace, some micro-transactions are available to purchase extra tech points and the like.

For those who already love the series Virtual Villagers: Origins is a nostalgic look back to the beginning. For those who have never played it is a fun, free, and above all portable introduction to the origins of the mysterious land of Isola and its magical inhabitants. Either way Virtual Villagers: Origins is an adventure not to be missed.

Update: (May 08, 2012) — Update for Virtual Villagers: Origins is live! New ways to spend tech points...make bigger tribes!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an iPhone. 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 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (94 votes)
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Legend of Grimrock

JohnBLegend of Grimrock from Almost Human is a retro-styled first person dungeon crawling RPG that borrows liberally from the classic genre and updates everything for modern gamers to enjoy. From the visual overhaul to the lax but somehow intriguing storyline to the stripping of complex menu screens and stats, Legend of Grimrock will easily capture your attention and hold it for hours on end, whether you're an old school RPG master or a casual gamer looking for a little diversion.

Legend of GrimrockBack in the late '80s and early '90s, the computer role playing game was going through one of its most golden ages. A sub-genre of RPGs emerged during this time and gained a strong foothold with titles like The Bard's Tale and Eye of the Beholder. These games featured party-based combat and a first person viewpoint that allowed players to see things through the character's eyes. Even though you only "moved" one still image at a time, taking notes, drawing maps, and sifting through mounds of treasure was somehow twice as exciting in this brand new first person world.

Legend of Grimrock styles itself like those RPGs of old. You move one scene at a time, turning and walking using on-screen controls or the keyboard. Your party is shown on the right, with equippable weapons slots below their health and hidden menu screens a button's press away. As you move through the dark underworld, you'll spot items on the floors, secret switches hidden amongst the rocks, locked gates, doors, buttons, and, naturally, swarms of enemies. Combat is handled with simple mouse clicks, all you have to do is make sure you're outfitted for the task and you'll emerge victorious.

Legend of GrimrockNaturally, party creation and stat management is part of the experience, and even though Legend of Grimrock doesn't have an avalanche of choices to contend with, there's still plenty here to enjoy. As you level up, you can spend skill points on abilities for each of your characters. The higher a stat goes, the more skills are available to you, adding proficiencies for armors, weapons, spells, and thieving abilities.

Analysis: Legend of Grimrock does a great service to the gaming community by reviving most of what we love about a genre that hasn't received much attention for a decade. It keeps everything straightforward and easy to understand, opening the door and inviting in players who didn't grow up with a Commodore 64 in their bedroom. Even seasoned CRPG veterans will love Legend of Grimrock, as the game was lovingly designed and expertly balanced to provide challenge, suspense, discovery, and plenty of monster killing/looting!

Legend of GrimrockPart of the modern upgrade bestowed upon Legend of Grimrock is a great audio/visual package. The lighting effects are superb, and the enemies are rendered with frightening details that make you want to kill them even faster. Minimal sound effects create a hauntingly realistic dungeon environment. You'll want to play with a headset if you can, as this makes it easy to pinpoint the location of enemies as they scurry by or listen for opening doors as you trigger various switches.

If there's any area that Legend of Grimrock falls short, it's that too much of the genre's expected complexity has been removed, something you only start to miss later on. These sorts of games traditionally have a steep learning curve which gives way to complex but highly enjoyable stat and character management after you've dropped a dozen or more hours into the title. Without the mass of mysteries to contend with, Legend of Grimrock makes itself easy for beginners to hop right in and start playing. The trade-off is once you get your foot in the door, you don't have nearly as much control or customization options as you might with a more intricate title.

Well-rounded, easy to play, and classic RPG sensibilities in just the right proportions. Legend of Grimrock hits all the right notes in its attempt to recreate a classic genre for a new group of players. It's got extremely high replayability, and some great updates are planned for the future, including a map editor! Jump right in for plenty of combat, secrets, and giant spiders!

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version
Get the full version from GOG.com

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


  • Currently 4.9/5
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Rating: 4.9/5 (20 votes)
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Shira-Oka: Second Chances

DoraHow do you feel about high-school? In Shira-Oka: Second Chances, a visual novel simulation from Okashi Studio, an angel (the best angel) named Satsuko gives you a chance to relive your life. Literally! After waking up from a particularly horrible fever, you discover that you've actually flown back in time to the start of high school years before. Faced with the opportunity to remake your future as you see fit, how will you change your life? Throw yourself into your studies? Whip your body into a sports superstar? Or maybe you'll try and connect more with the people you never got the chance to know before? Make the most of it in this massive game packed with replay value.

At the beginning of the game, Satsuko walks you through character creation and introduces you to skills and traits, both of which you'll get a chance to upgrade later on from your meager beginnings by spending the points you gain from certain life events. How well you do at certain events and how people perceive you comes down to your various statistics, which covers everything from your skill at school subjects to fashion sense. Choosing to do different activities will cause some stats to rise and others to fall, and how big of an increase you get depends on how well you do.

Shira-Oka: Second ChancesOf course, you can't spend all your time in your bedroom waiting for life to come to you. Eventually, you'll gain the ability to talk to Satsuko by clicking on her angel wing icon and schedule time out at the different locations you've unlocked. While it's easy to forget about this, it's really the only way to interact with people more and advance their individual storylines. Satsuko will let you schedule as many days as you like in one go, so make a point of filling your calendar at the start of each month so you don't fall behind. Eventually, you'll be able to grow closer to the various characters you meet, and doing so will allow you to explore their stories and experience new subplots. There are a lot of endings in the game to uncover, some with more difficult conditions than others, so don't neglect your statistics in favour of partying.

Unlike most visual novel simulations, Shira-Oka takes place over a staggering four years rather than just a few weeks or months. In that time, you'll encounter numerous events with varied outcomes, new characters, and have the chance to succeed stunningly or fail miserably. Even if you do meet with failure, however, Satsuko isn't ready to give up on you yet and will rewind time back to the beginning of the game again if necessary. While this does mean you'll have to play and build up your skills and relationships all over again, it adds an interesting wrinkle; nobody remembers you, but you remember everything. If you do need to restart time, you may find yourself able to use your foreknowledge of the future to help yourself or other characters... or just get in a little extra study time before exams, since Satsuko places a lot of weight in how well you do in school. But you know, maybe angels who can't hold down a job themselves shouldn't throw stones, hmmmm?!... wh... no, Satsuko, I was only kidding, don't cry... aw, geez... angels, man.

Shira-Oka: Second ChancesAnalysis: With a massive cast, tremendous length, and some really impressive production values in the form of animation and voice acting, Shira-Oka: Second Chances is probably the most ambitious indie visual novel around. The basic concept, that of a high school romance/simulation has been done to death (though not always in ways you would expect), but Shira-Oka's presentation and time-warping plot helps it stand head and halo above most others. Admittedly, while having Satsuko rewind time all the way to the start of the game whenever you fail at a critical point can get repetitive, Shira-Oka's willingness to let you play with your foreknowledge of events in clever ways helps keep things interesting, especially combined with all the random events that can pop up.

Shira-Oka: Second ChancesStat management, unfortunately, winds up being more than a little annoying and even intrusive at times, to the point where it can feel like work. Juggling the constant raise and decline of each statistic with your mental and physical health is stressful enough that it makes the constant comments from the peanut gallery about your appearance come across as shallow. You'll meet a lot of characters to interact with and get to know better, however, so chances are good you'll find someone you like. I found Aya to be almost inhumanly obnoxious, for instance, and Hiroshi exceptionally creepy, but you might be a little less inclined to roll them up in a carpet and throw them off a bridge. (A little less inclined.)

But while the sheer staggering length and depth of the game may put off players looking for something a bit more straightforward, visual novel aficionados with a yen for complexity and a hefty chunk of replay value will throw their arms around it. There is a lot to see and do, and seeing the lives of other characters play out around you as you progress through the years can be both rewarding and even a little bittersweet. Suffice it to say, you can expect to encounter a lot of surprises as you play and get to know characters, and if you have the time to get into it, it can be hard to put down. Shira-Oka: Second Chances will demand a lot of your effort, but is one of the most involving and rewarding visual novels you can make a date with. Clear your schedule and give the demo a try. Shira-Oka: Second Chances is packed with drama, humour, romance, and even some fascinating cultural tidbits... we should all be so lucky to dream of standing on an eggplant Mt Fuji and turning into a hawk one day.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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

KyhERS Game Studios has decided to add more to the fairy tale story of their Spirits of Mystery series in Spirits of Mystery: Song of the Phoenix. Again take the role of the princess of the Dragon Kingdom as you set out to save your groom-to-be of the Phoenix Kingdom. Take down the sinister wizard of dark magic who's trying to turn the wedding of your dreams into a nightmare. It's time to put on those hidden-object/adventuring boots and kick some evil butt!

kyh_songofthephoenix_screen1.pngYou saved the day, your family and kingdom in Amber Maiden, so now it's time for your happily ever after; you're set to marry the handsome Thyrian and unite your two kingdoms to create peace across the lands. Only there's one problem... another witch has conspired against your happiness, having your fiance kidnapped so that you can't marry, bring the kingdoms together and maybe live out a normal princess life. Maybe. You never quite know if another sequel's in your future, which usually just spells more trouble.

Song of the Phoenix offers the usual fare for a hidden-object/adventure hybrid as far as game mechanics. Use your mouse to navigate through each scene or to manipulate objects, as indicated by the changing cursor. In addition to the usual journal and hint meter, there's also a Golden Phoenix device that can be used in certain locations to hunt for magical symbols. Hidden-object scenes, on the other hand, come in two forms. There are the regular old scenes that we're all used to with the list of objects to find, but then there are the ultra cool silhouette scenes. These work differently in that you're tasked to find the objects that correspond to the silhouettes that you're given. But it's not just finding them, you then use those very objects back on the scene which leads you to find other objects until you arrive at the ultimate one that ends up in your inventory.

kyh_songofthephoenix_screen3.pngAnalysis: There's a lot going for Spirits of Mystery: Song of the Phoenix. It has amazing graphics, decent voice-overs and a wide range of difficulty in its puzzles. That's not even getting into the hidden-object scenes, which as previously mentioned, are not only interactive, but also have more of a sense of realism to them (at least as real as an adventure of a princess in a magical land can be). If hidden-object games are going toward scenes that aren't just a laundry list of items to find, then sign me up for more!

What's also great is that this game offers three levels of difficulty. There are the usual 'casual' and 'advanced' which differ in refilling time for the hint meter and also in whether interactive areas will glimmer, but then there's 'hardcore'. This insane difficulty not only has a slow filling hint meter and absense of glimmer, it also mostly gets rid of the hints that are usually given in areas you can click with the magnifier cursor to let you know what kind of object you need to use there. So just in case you thought these hybrid games were getting too easy, here's one that'll give you more of a challenge.

With all these great things going for it, the part of Song of the Phoenix that doesn't measure up to the rest is the storyline. It's nice to have the addition of the love interest in the mix, but the bad guy just seems like a rehash of the villian from the first game. There's just not as much excitement as you would expect from a great setup given the attention the develpers obviously gave to the other parts of the game.

All-in-all, ERS has created another enjoyable hidden-object/adventure title that shows them moving forward in the genre by adding new and interesting elements to the gameplay. Song of the Phoenix promises many, many hours of fun, and I'm sure I won't be the only one hoping for a third Spirits of Mystery.

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

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

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


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (104 votes)
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MeaghanMy Life is YoursOne of life's tragedies is that of losing a person you love dearly. Whether it's your mom or your dad, or even your dog! In My Life is Yours, a puzzle platform adventure game, a man gets a chance to get back the love he lost, but the two of them have to outmaneuver Hades to get their second chance at a happily ever after. Created by Katie Chironis, Duncan Boehle, Connor Fallon, and Val Reznitskaya over the course of 48 hours for a recent Global Game Jam in which it took 2nd place for the Peoples Choice Award, My Life is Yours takes you to the bowels of the Underworld to explore the old adage that "love conquers all."

To move your character through the levels use your [arrow] keys to move left, and right. The old fashioned [WASD] set-up also works. To jump you can use your [space] bar, or use [W] or the up [arrow]. Switching between characters requires one to die for the other to live and the element used to die greatly affects the form your other half reincarnates as. If your character dies by earthen spike, then you will be a solid form able to push the heavy blocks. Fire will bring you back as a human torch and can shatter glass. Air will allow you to be blown this way and that by air currents. Water allows you to slip through fencing. If you are currently in the form of a specific element you will be able to pass through that same element unfazed, except in the case of the spikes. Your goal is to reach the doorway at the end of each level, and on some levels there are two doorways available. Only one of your characters needs to go through a door and if you get stuck at any time you can press [R] to restart the level.

The inspiration for the game comes from the classic tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, though the game plays out differently than the myth itself. The addition of the elements and their uses in the game gives a greater depth to each level and the switching between characters adds an extra dimension to the puzzle solving. One thing that feels lacking is the length, with the whole game taking anywhere between five and ten minutes to complete. However, the brevity doesn't detract from the beautifully crafted levels and backdrops. If anything, it's a smart move to make you want and demand more which is really all any game maker wants. Sometimes you don't need an hour long game to make you sit back and feel pleased with yourself for a job well done, especially with a game that can make you reflect on what lengths you would go to in order to hold onto the one you love most. "I see. You are an adventurer, perhaps?" Well, are you?

Play My Life is Yours


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zaga33.gifJohnBZaga-33 is a minimalist roguelike created by Michael Brough in one week but later refined into a more polished product for Windows, Mac, and iOS devices. It ditches almost all of the traditional roguelike customs in favor of focusing on just a few gameplay elements for an ultra-refined experience. No stats to track, enemy lists to memorize, or equipment to manage, just pure and simple power-ups and combat!

Each of Zaga-33's single screen levels is filled with enemies of various types, a few power-ups, green walls that form mini-mazes, and a glowing exit portal. Your job is to make it to the exit portal. What you do between start and finish is up to you. There are power-ups you can grab that do things like freeze enemies, fire lasers, teleport you to a new location, or nuke a small area. Those are always nice to have, but more often than not, you won't be able to just march over and grab them. The enemies have their own unique patterns they follow, and because you only have a few hit points for the entire game (no regenerating, no levelling up), it's best to avoid combat whenever possible. For this reason, your stay in Zaga-33 will be quite different than most roguelikes.

If you're clever, you can work your way through from beginning to end in about five or ten minutes. Until then, though, you'll have a great time puzzling and strategizing your way through the levels. The turn-based nature of the game makes it surprisingly tactics-heavy! There is also a final boss and an ending of sorts, rounding out the perfectly enjoyable mini-adventure that is Zaga-33!

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the free full version


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stealthbastard.jpgJohnBBam! Caught ya! Being stealthy is something we all do when creeping around the kitchen at night, going for that last piece of cake before anyone else in the house gets a crack at it. In Stealth Bastard, a stealth platform game from Curve Studios, moving around unseen is what it's all about. Instead of getting busted and forfeiting half a slice of cake, though, you get blasted to pieces by a robot laser the size of your torso. Ouch!

Stealth Bastard is built around doing quick runs through shadowy, robot-infested, super-secure corridors and rooms without getting seen. You can crouch and hide in the shadows when something with "eyes" is nearby, but as soon as the coast is clear, hop out and get moving. To make it to the exit, you'll need to open doors, control elevators, hack consoles, and wind your way across moving platforms, all without being seen. The faster you make it through, the better your time will be, and completion scores are tallied via an online high score board, so you've got real incentive to get out there and shave a few seconds off your time.

The visuals in Stealth Bastard are superb, and the game makes heavy use of lighting effects to set an atmosphere of intrigue. In addition to the standard pack of levels, you also have access to the community-made database of stages as well as an editor to craft your own. There's no shortage of challenge, action, or sneaky espionage stuff to be had, all for the asking price of absolutely nothing!

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

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


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Rating: 4.8/5 (75 votes)
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MeaghanChoice of ZombiesZombies have always held a special place in the heart of the masses. Not just through fear, though obviously there's a twinge of terror lurking in your mind at the thought of what might actually happen if zombies existed. There's also some type of perverse endearment that has arisen for the flesh craving walking dead. With this in mind Choice of Games writers' Richard Jackson and Heather Albano have decided to tackle a zombiepocalypse in their new zombie RPG narrative, Choice of Zombies. Like its predecessors (So many choices) Zombies is given to you as a choose your own adventure text with more twists and turns than you can imagine. Grab your zombie survival guide and click on in. (Also available for iOS and Android!)

Mirroring previous Choice games, Zombies plays out with a basic explanation of events before you're thrust into adventure. Through the story you are given the option to choose one of several options on how to respond to a person or react to a situation. At the start you'll be asked to pick your gender, give a name (you can choose whatever you want!), pick a career from a provided list, pick a hobby from a list, and pick one weakness from a provided list. While you start off with a base of 50 for every stat, once you've chosen from all these things your stats will change accordingly. Your stats are also changed by the choices you make through the story. There are eight different stats and also a zombie kill count on your statistics screen. At any time during the narrative you can access your stats screen to see what they are. You also have the option to restart the story at any time, however doing this means you start with a clean slate and all new stats.

Clearly, if you're not a fan of any type of reading (whether it's books or a review for a game) you'll more than likely pass by this zombiepalooza without so much as a blink of the eye. However, for those with an ounce of imagination, some free time, and that pique of interest for something different, you have come to the right place and you will be rewarded! The writing is not only engaging but it displays how much thought and time the authors spent making this a great tale. Your response choices range from timid victim striving to merely survive to running headfirst into danger, armed to the teeth and cackling diabolically the whole way. It's worth taking the extra time to play through the entire story then restart and try different choices. There are multiple endings, different people you can save, and more chances to beat previous zombie kill scores. With so many layers of play to enjoy this game earns its worth with the replay value and enthralling plot lines that keep twisting and turning. Choice of Zombies is a great way to get your zombie fix and give your paranoid brain even more escape route ideas for when the zombiepocalypse does strike. Maybe taking a chance on this narrative will be what ultimately saves your life!

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Rating: 3.3/5 (71 votes)
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MeaghanMonsters' Den ChroniclesLetting you know now: Don't expect any The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly references. In fact, I won't even make any Robin Hood references! Though that may be difficult when trying to describe Archer's Oath, a neat physics shooter by Iconic Studios where you're a shadow-faced vigilante using archery to save people from hanging. Through 25 compelling levels and four different types of arrow it's your duty, nay privilege, to bring justice to the land! To shoot, choose your arrow then click on the area you want to shoot toward and let go. To curve your shot click on the line and move your mouse down the dots toward the archer. Don't take too long aiming, since people will only hang so long before they kick the proverbial bucket. Of the four arrows at your ready are the explosive arrow, which blows things up; the padded arrow, which pushes obstacles and levers; the ricochet arrow, which bounces off surfaces (including people); and a normal arrow that can stick into a surface then catch and hold falling objects. Trust me, you'll need all these arrows to puzzle out the obstacles that start springing up in your path.

At times the mechanism to curve your shot can feel arduous, and sometimes it's difficult to predict exactly how your ricochet arrow will fly. These minor squabbles get sidelined by some morbidly funny facial expressions as well as levels that require more than just a casual glance to solve, and a safe way of placating your desire to be an archer. While you may not jump on a shield and slide down a rain splattered staircase while shooting with the most perfect of aim, you will get the pleasure of slicing a rope in twain with an extraordinary shot. And saving an innocent person, can't forget that. Now all we need is H. John Benjamin and this game is perfect.

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Rating: 3.8/5 (45 votes)
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Kylepassageoflife.pngIn this simple one-button platformer from NTFusion, you navigate your heart through the Passage of Life.

Using your mouse and your [spacebar], build bridges and jump your way through decisions like making friends, gaining knowledge and even falling in love. You'll be able to nab knowledge to protect yourself (literally, since it'll keep you from taking damage), friends to keep you going (and add to how much time you have on the clock), and even money to help you speed through life... though is that really what's important? You may not necessarily plumb the deeper questions of life, the universe, and everything, but at least you'll get to enjoy a colourful twist on the run-as-far-as-you-can genre. Fun, challenging, and well produced... and it's refreshing to play a game that isn't just killing all the bad guys.

Play Passage of Life


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Rating: 4.4/5 (90 votes)
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Tripod AttackBryanThe end of the world or apocalypse scenarios are something you see played out a lot in video games, but a classic spin like this is refreshing. With a hint of Orson Wells's War of the Worlds, Anegmetex Software's Tripod Attack puts you in control of the invading alien machines as it tears through the human resistance in this action game. The human race will throw everything its got at you so your mouse hand better be ready to wipe them out.

Your laser is the only weapon you have and you activate it by clicking the left mouse button. The laser aims wherever your mouse cursor is so hold down the button down for some extraterrestrial destruction. The tripod is on a fifteen day conquest where each day ends after you destroy 100% percent of the militant population. The game is pretty brief at fifteen levels so it will only provide a minor distraction, but a challenging distraction nonetheless. The visuals are top notch for such a small flash game, but with great visuals come tons of blood and violence. Upgrading your tripod and choosing your targets carefully each day of your conquest adds more depth to the short experience so taking over earth isn't too boring. The fate of earth is in your metallic pincers and they are not looking to shake hands.

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Link Dump Fridays

DoraDo you know what the internet needs more of? I mean, besides the important stuff. Games, that's what! And you may be sitting there thinking, "Yeah, those lazy ol' developers should start churning out even more games faster for my entitled butt," in which case, quiet you! But you might also be thinking, "You're right, and I want to add my own inestimable talents to the pool, but I'm scared and confused and I don't know how!" Shhh, baby, shhh. It's okay. Let me cradle you and coo gentle reassurances as you take in our videos from the 2012 Penny Arcade East Expo for inspiration, and let the wisdom of Extra Credits' James Portnow wash over you in our interview.

Indie MegabothMo' Like Indie MegaAWESOME This year if you were lucky enough to roam the halls at the Penny Arcade East Expo in Boston MA, you might have caught a glimpse of a familiar figure scuttling about in the background suspiciously. Fear not, for it was our own valiant Steve who ventured forth to accost the fine folks at the Indie Megabooth, and compile this video of the strapping young developers he spoke to detailing who they are, and what delicious gaming they're creating for us to funnel into our greedy gullets. A super special thank you to not only the developers who were kind enough to chat, but also our dear Steve, who dun good. Thanks, Steve. You can have an extra helping of gruel tonight before we put you back in your carrier.

Ponycorns Nominated at Canadian Videogame AwardsSissy's Magical Success Story You remember Sissy's Magical Ponycorn Adventure, right? The game five-year-old Cassie made with her father Ryan of Untold Entertainment? Go play it now. We'll wait. And then when you've reformed from your mushy puddle of d'aaaaaaww, put your hooves together because the game has been om-nom-nominated twice at the Canadian Video Game Awards! Awwwwww, yeah! The game has been nominated for Best Social/Casual Game and Best New Character (Sissy) and is a finalist in both categories. That sounds pretty sweet to me! Congratulations, you guys! And may I say, you have excellent taste in colourful cartoon equines.

The Dark RoomStill Dark, But Bigger If you like being sassed while you play, and games that cheat, then you'll definitely want to check out John Robertson's YouTube based escape game The Dark Room. And if you have sampled its sassy delights previously, you might want to do so again, since the game has since received a substantial update and is now a lot bigger than it was! Blending clever puzzles with comedic wit, it's a unique, surreal, and hilarious experience... provided you don't mind a little nonsense and some mockery, of course.

Felicia Day's FlogIt's Like a Blog, But Felicia-y-er Felicia Day, she of the covetously shiny hair and professional nerd culture enrichment superheroine, was kind enough to include a link to us in her recent installment of her (nearly) brand new blog show over at Geek & Sundry, so it's only fair we return the favour with a link to her Flog. Geek & Sundry, as it happens, is a brand new channel packed with videos and weekly shows about the sort of things you love; video games, comics, books, and how Felicia gets her hair so shiny. (Is it powdered children's wishes? I bet it's powdered children's wishes. FELICIA.) Felicia's Flog airs every Monday and if you're a lovely person, you'll tune in to watch it and the rest of the shows at Geek & Sundry as well.

Interview!
Continue reading for an interview with James Portnow of Extra Creditz!


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Rating: 3.7/5 (64 votes)
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ElleCabbage ManiacTake a red-eyed, flea-bitten crazy rabbit in pursuit of innocent cabbages, add a wide assortment of hazards to avoid and obstacles to get around and what do you have? Cabbage Maniac, a springtime themed puzzle platform game from Airomagic. To reach your goal—one perfectly delectable green cabbage—a few devices are at your disposal.

First off, you have helicopter ears which allow maneuvering (via [WASD] or [arrow] keys) around deadly thorns, fireballs and other threats. Next, carrots can be ingested and then spit back up with [space], useful for depressing buttons and lowering gates. Restart with [R] when needed. Gameplay resembles Pursuit of Hat spliced into All That Matters although this doesn't match their charm and polish. Flight isn't the most responsive means to getting around yet there's a certain appeal in regurgitating carrots (or is that just me?). Twenty-four levels progress nicely in difficulty without becoming impossibly hard but it's nice knowing the level skip button is there. Even sympathy for the poor panicky cabbages doesn't diminish the enjoyment of finding the way through to munch them up.

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Rating: 4.5/5 (78 votes)
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TrickySuper VillainySuper Villainy, a sci-fi arena shooter by Rob Almighty, offers a solution to the question that has stumped comic book readers for generations: When the various arch-nemeses dotting the globe finally get their act together and follow through on their threats of global thermonuclear destruction, what exactly is step two of the plan? Answer: Have a solar-system spanning battle royale to determine once and for all, who is the baddest of the bad. So bring out your henchmen, your death-bots, your demonic skulls, your... aggressive flying toasters? Whatever. Only one can remain to maniacally laugh over the bodies of their fallen foes.

In Super Villainy, you move across the space-scape with [WASD] and aim your constantly firing weapon with the mouse. Holding the mouse button down will enter a bullet-time state that makes avoiding enemies easier. [Spacebar] will release a special attack in all directions. Blasted enemies will drop coins that can be used to purchase upgrades between rounds, as well as to hire minions to fight along your side. Each level has different challenges, and lead up to a boss fight with your four rivals. So, good luck at being bad!

Super Villainy is a solid arena shooter with a few features that differentiate it from the pack. It seems to have a lot more freedom it its gameplay than is typical for the genre. Part of that may come from how the setting is the wide void of space rather than a cramped colliseum, but adding in that little bit of non-linearity where you can decide what order you take on your rivals counts for a lot. Super Villainy is just long and just complex enough to be satisfying, without wearing out its welcome. So try it out! Also... KNEEL! KNEEL BEFORE THE MIGHT OF DR. PUNCHYBLOOD!

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Rating: 3.7/5 (106 votes)
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JeremyEvoke.jpgSpot-the-difference games are a dime a dozen, but in the right hands they can be a work of art. Ronnie Pence's Evoke provides a surreal and artistic twist to the genre with ten different "planets" that offer dreamy mirror worlds in a state of subtle disarray. Luckily, you are there to bring balance back to the cosmos with the click of your mouse.

Each world gives you seven differences to find, with the option of skipping to the next once you've found four. Helpfully, there's a cursor opposite the screen that mirrors your movements, and the soothing ambient soundtrack by CBREEZ will make you want to put your feet up and lean back in your chair. Don't lean back too far! The game screen is too small at times and you may have to do some squinting to pick out the more subtle misplacements. While a "mute" and "skip level" button occasionally threaten to jar you awake from an otherwise perfect dream, the overall tone, artwork, and music make Evoke casual gameplay with a capital "C."

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Rating: 4.5/5 (78 votes)
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MeaghanDino ShiftHear that rattling? Look at your cup, quick! Is the liquid vibrating ominously? No? Oh, well that's probably because this isn't Jurassic Park. This is Dino Shift, a brightly colored puzzle platformer by artist Tyler and developed by FuzzyMintGames.

Use the [arrow] keys to move around, and head to the platform at the end of each stage once you've completed the requirements. You, as a cute little dinosaur, have to run through thirty levels and collect three different colored blocks by swapping colors yourself. Press [Z] to become pink, [X] to become green, and [C] to become blue. At the top of your screen will be a specified number of blocks you must collect, and it's your job to do so while avoiding spikes at all cost. Flaming balls and little menacing mimicking baddies will also try to ruin your day. While at times Dino Shift feels a little slow or as if the requirements for blocks are a bit overstuffed, it dazzles you with bright colors and the happy, cartoonish animation. It might lull you into the idea that the game is going to be as safe as picking flowers in the field. Wrong! Don't be deceived by the adorable outer layer, for in the depths of the levels challenge awaits you eagerly! Now that you've been warned, go be the best color changing dinosaur you can be!

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Rating: 4.3/5 (108 votes)
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Weekday Escape

elleNyan and Wan are back and—so typical!—Nyan's stuck out on the balcony and needs Wan's help. There's more than one way to rescue a cat, of course—all of them very entertaining and extremely cute—in Cogito Ergo Sum's escaping sequel, Balcony Escape 3.

Balcony Escape 3It seems poor Nyan is always finding herself locked out while Wan can only laugh and say, "You are at it again." That is after Nyan finds the pass code for her smart phone so she can call him which means a few things need to happen. Step one: as Nyan, poke around the balcony uncovering hints and useful objects. Step two: as Wan, search around the kitchen and living room to do the same. All with one goal: let Nyan back inside the house. Although there's no changing cursor, there are other features that make interactive areas and grab-ready objects more apparent including, but not limited to, a cleanly drawn design and clearly marked clues. Just like in other Wan and Nyan adventures, each has a characteristic ability that helps to solve problems and radiates their personality. Three endings—easy, normal and happy—increase both the game play and the charming story.

Here is a feel good game, sweeter than anything Pixar, where every corner of the world is smiles and happy pastel colors. Yes, the puzzles are much too easy. Even amongst the typical Cogito Ergo Sum fare, this one offers the least challenge to avid escapers, yet it still bubbles over with appeal and charm. Who can stop from chuckling at Wan and Nyan's antics? A cheerful, encouraging chime each time you find the right answer is almost as irresistible. Playing Balcony Escape 3 is like a daily affirmation for life: the simplest things can be the most enjoyable!

Play Balcony Escape 3


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Rating: 4.3/5 (141 votes)
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JeremyBilly Makin Kid.pngSometimes a good story isn't necessary to make a good game. Case in point: Slab Games' new tower defense offering, Billy Makin Kid. Why Makin Kid, you ask? Because Billy is the last man left on the earth after super-evolved apes have taken over, and to defend himself against the hordes of flying monkeys and angry gorillas, he has to spawn children and turn them into defense units, apparently without the aid of a single female. Makes no sense? It doesn't matter, because the game features some great twists on the tower defense genre, from the way you create units to the types of towers themselves, which aren't towers at all, but Native American totems.

While the game lacks a coherent story, it has a clear objective. As Billy spawns new children inside his teepee, you're expected to defend Billy's spawning ground against a boss who is kept locked up in a cage. summon soldiers by clicking on their icon and then on a wooden totem to plop them into the game. You need a certain amount of kids as they spawn periodically to summon defenders, not to mention some gold, so keep an eye on your resources and mouse over any dropped gold to pick it up. Hit enough times by ape enemies and the cage will break and the boss will be unleashed. If you can't recapture the boss before it reaches the end of the map, you've lost. Fortunately, you can craft new kinds of units from raw materials dropped by enemies. Click on a dropped treasure chest to open it, and then on your inventory in the bottom right to open it up and drag items together to combine them. This allows for plenty of surprises along the way and describing them would only ruin the fun. Perform well on a level to get gems you can spend on upgrades between stages.

Like another game it most closely resembles, Kingdom Rush, you will have a wide variety of ways to upgrade units, abilities, and totems, all of which are well balanced. But, unlike Kingdom Rush, BIlly Makin Kid doesn't give you a choice of difficulty and there aren't any special modes to unlock. Still, the game's ability to craft bigger and better units as a group (freeing the player from the tedious work of upgrading individual units), plus its unique map settings and setups, will be enough to satisfy even the most jaded of tower defense strategists.

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Rating: 3.9/5 (68 votes)
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JeremyNew World.jpgIt seems the folks who hired you to farm this barren, lifeless rock forgot to mention the skeletons, zombies, and exploding ghosts who like to come out at night and make your life a living hell. At least they gave you this grenade launcher.

In New World, an action-packed farming sim by Louissi, you use the [arrow] or [WASD] keys to move a Johnny Appleseed-like fellow along the circumference of your world, pressing [Z] to throw out seeds and eggs, and using your shovel to raise or lower the terrain in the best way to help your plants and animals flourish. But, when the sun goes down, the nasties come out and you'll need to trade your shovel for a shotgun or other heavy weapon to stay alive, picking up coins from your fallen enemies as you go.

When daylight comes, you can spend the overtime pay you earned blasting away the undead to buy seeds, eggs, ammo, and upgrades for your guns, health, and other abilities. By now your hard work is paying off and trees have sprouted along with the first signs of life. Later, when you have the money, you can unlock two other creatures for your eggs to evolve into.

One drawback for those that prefer the farming side of things, is how fast night comes and you have to pull out a machine gun before you can get back to tending your crops and cattle... though for those that prefer to run-and-gun, there is a special survival mode with no farming. Fortunately, its lovely artwork, retro sound effects, and multiple upgrade paths and weapon choices make this unique sim about space farming a clear winner.

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The Vault

DoraWhat do kids like? Like... Mickey Mouse and neon coloured food and making nonsensical noises over and over and over, right? That's cool. We can dig it. And when it comes to our littlest readership, we don't neglect them either! Whether they're made specifically for ankle-biters or just the sort of easy to embrace enjoyment you can get whether you're five or fifty, here are three of our favourite kid-friendly games. Pull your little one a seat at the keyboard, or just pull out your footie jammies (I know you still have them, just like we all remember how to give Cootie Shots) and enjoy them yourselves.

  • The Blue BeanieThe Blue Beanie - Daphne Lim's stunning and heart-wrenchingly adorable point-and-click adventure about a little white forest dweller who loses his favourite blue cap one day was an immediate hit with our readers. Just a few minutes of play will show you why. A lack of dialogue doesn't hamper this expressive little tale, which will appeal to fans of light-hearted whimsy and lovers of interactive art alike. It's not particularly long, and the puzzles are fairly simple, but it's the perfect size to send you off into your day with a squee in your heart and a satisfied, dreamy smile on your face.
  • PiecesPieces - Soybeansoft's adorable, squeezable little Metroidvania entry into our 5th Casual Gameplay Design Competition embodied not only the given theme of "Upgrade", but adventure, platforming, and exploration to boot. You're tasked with helping tiny Proo, who has crash-landed her father's spaceship on a planet that causes her to forget how to do everything... even walking! To get all the spaceship parts, you have to first help Proo relearn things by tracking down the little creatures that live on the planet and observing how they move. It's a gorgeous, bouncy little game that could wring a smile out of the most hardened of hearts. The relatively low level of complexity makes it a perfect introduction to the genre for young gamers, and an easy way to lose an afternoon to boot.
  • QuestionautQuestionaut - Kids usually resent any attempt at "edu-tainment", typically because the product is great at "edu" but not so much at the whole "tainment" bit. Fortunately, when Amanita Design is on the job, you know you're in for one gorgeous, surreal ride. In it, your goal is to track down a wayward flying hat in your magnificent hot air balloon which is fueled by... you guessed it; knowledge! (Yes, Twilight Sparkle is jealous.) To ascend higher, you'll have to solve not only puzzles on each bizarre landing, but answer the questions posed to you as well. It's beautifully animated and exactly the sort of off-beat adventure anyone can enjoy, even if some of the questions are a little odd.

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!


(9 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Treasure Swipe

JohnBAges ago, a mighty wizard built a castle to guard his secret treasures. Then... he vanished, leaving all that booty just sitting around. Monsters noticed the unguarded treasure, too, and started out to nab it. If only they knew of the force they would have to reckon with when they got there: your fingers. Treasure Swipe is a frantic mobile arcade game laced with unlockables and coated in a slick presentation worthy of your best touch screen device!

Treasure SwipeEach level contains ten waves where you'll fight with the bad guys to get to the loot first. Treasure are on the left, monsters come from the right. Swipe vertically on treasure chests to unlock them, dealing "damage" with each hit until the lid gives way. Bags are somewhat softer and require horizontal swipes. Enemies, on the other hand, have different personalities, speeds, and armor ratings, and you've got to stun or kill them so you can keep working on opening those chests. The problem is you don't have unlimited swiping power, an ability that slowly drains with each hit. So, by conserving moves and picking up blue potions as often as you can, you can hope to stay in the game wave after wave, just to get a chance to fight the big bad boss guy(s) at the end!

Piles of coins fall between waves in Treasure Swipe, and you get to collect and use them on upgrades in the shop. You'll quickly max out some of the stats, but figuring out which order to beef them up is a small part of the survival strategy. You'll need everything to be just right to face stronger waves, tougher chests, and bigger enemies. Boss battles are unique in that you aren't told what to do, you just have to start poking/swiping and hope you figure it out. You might lose a few times at first, but for some reason, you never mind.

Treasure Swipe has a lot of action, and there's a little bit of RPG-style upgrading to balance that out. It won't take you too long to slash your way through the major waves, but unlockable modes and equippable relics give you reason to keep plugging away until you master the game. It's frantic, riotous sorts of fun, without any in-app purchases or other gimmicks to ruin the experience. And it's one of the few iOS games that will make you sit up and play like you mean it!


(5 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Word to Word

JohnBOne area where organic intelligence beats artificial intelligence every time is finding abstract relationships between two or more things. That, and explaining exactly why Glee is still on the air (although that still baffles most human brains). Word to Word plays on our noggin's ability to associate conceptual ideas by presenting you with two lists of words. Your job is to pair them up, tapping a word on the left and matching it to a word on the right. You can't move on until everything is correctly paired up, so you have to think both inside the box and outside of it at the same time!

Word to WordWord pairs can be obvious or fairly obtuse, but you can always work out which ones go together by process of elimination. Does "design" go with "architect" or with "web"? "Star" with "twinkle" or "spangled"? You can only find out by eliminating other matches to see what's left. Word to Word makes things a bit easier by disallowing blatantly incorrect word pairings while allowing possible answers to slide, even if they're wrong in the grand scheme of things.

The free version of Word to Word comes with an impressive 40 levels, while the full version has over 320 (available via in-app purchases on some markets). Unfortunately, the difficulty level is pretty flat, so no matter which puzzle you're working on, the challenge is about the same. Whether that's too high or too low depends on your skill with word meanings, but it should be just about right for most people. Either way, Word to Word is a slightly different sort of word puzzle game that's easy to play and never gets old!

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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Oregon Trail

elleIn 19th century America, everyone has gold fever. "Westward 'Ho!" was the bugle call of the day, as families hitched up their wagons and journeyed forth on the often 2,000 mile trek in search of riches in gold, silver and unclaimed land. But you know the story already; chances are you also played some version of the iconic resource management/adventure game, The Oregon Trail, as a kid. Now you can share in the '49er nostalgia wherever you go because GameLoft's release of this classic game is available on all mobile devices.

Oregon TrailPlaying The Oregon Trail vacillates between a multitude of mini-games that test your reflexes (such as hunting, fishing and wagon repairs), reacting to obstacles along the trail (including bandits and eagle attacks), interacting with historic figures who issue side quests as well as trivia, and a fair bit of watching scenery pass by as you progress. All this is perfectly suited to the touch screen although at times you'll even ford rivers using the tilt function of your device.

Before starting out, you're given the option of instant play or regular play. In regular play, choose your profession and wagon type to determine starting bonuses. You can also name your spouse and kids but don't get too attached to them; death from disease and disaster on the trail was not uncommon. Much of this is mitigated by supplies you can purchase in settlements and general stores for coins (easily earned through mini-games and side quests) or cash (an in-app purchase) if you want to keep things on the easy side. Yet if you select "easy" mode, your arrival at Oregon intact is virtually guaranteed no matter what the circumstance or how readily supplied you are. Those who prefer to gamble on their mortal outcome—and by turns encounter more minigames—can select difficult, hard, or extra hard mode ("Yer as likely to stumble upon Atlantis as reach Oregon!")

Oregon TrailAnalysis: The trek along the Oregon Trail was long and arduous in real life, and some of that is reflected here, especially if you choose a more difficult mode and move at a slow pace. If you're the impatient sort, watching as eye popping cartoon scenery passes by may quickly lose its appeal, despite the superb quality of graphics. Even so, the mini-games and bonus quests pop up often enough that you'll be watching in anticipation for such random outcropping of events. Enough strategy and decision making are involved—as in choosing routes, outfitting your wagon and bartering—to bolster a strong sense of accomplishment each time you arrive at a fort or resting spot.

There's a great deal of active enjoyment in the gameplay itself yet, admittedly, for those of us who hold warm memories of the original educational game, the major portion of charm comes from the iconoclasm of the game title "The Oregon Trail" itself. Even so, all ages will have fun with this blend of arcade and adventure. There's enough new-fangled attributes to keep game savvy preteens and teens satisfied, too. Along with an upbeat tone and humor, mixed with just the right bits of real time strategy and informative clips, it pans out to be an entertaining venture that captures the pioneering urge in all of us.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an iPhone 4S and Kindle Fire. 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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Snow Drop

DoraDifference Games sends their lovely and slightly macabre Twisted Fairytales on the go with your NOOK or Kindle Fire in Snow Drop, a tile-matching re-imagining of a classic tale. You know the one. Boy meets girl. Boy loses girl. Boy meets other girl. Girl turns out to be wicked queen. Wicked queen is also wicked jealous and wants to be the fairest of them all. There also might be some heart eating and slaying. I dunno, man, fairytales are hardcore!

Snow DropIn some ways, Snow Drop is almost a bit more interactive storybook than it is actual game. Depending on what level of difficulty you choose, you'll be presented with a series of images on tiles, which are then flipped over. Tap a tile to flip it rightside up, and then find and tap its match so both of them vanish. The more tiles you match in a row, the higher your score and multiplier, while mismatches will net you a small point penalty. Points aren't important here, however, beyond something to gloat about. Once you've cleared all the tiles, you'll be rewarded with the full image beneath and a snippet of story.

While there's nothing really wrong with the matching gameplay, the emphasis here is clearly on the story and art. Compared to the likes of Goldilocks or Robin Hood, Snow Drop plays it relatively straight with its source material. Apart from a mention early on of the Wicked Queen wanting to eat Snow Drop's heart (which trumps anything I have ever threatened anyone else with), it's a great choice to read with your kids. While it does feel like the narration was rushed towards the end in a "... and then everything turned out okay anyway" sort of way, at around fifteen to twenty minutes for a playthrough it's perfect bedtime story length. Which is fortunate, since if you ever wanted a surefire way to get sweet dreams, the richly hued and surreal fantasy artwork contained herein would be the way to do it. It's creative, abstract, and even kind of adorable in the way that makes you feel even worse about your own shameful rudimentary stick-figure capabilities. (Not that I'm projecting.) Snow Drop isn't particularly challenging or groundbreaking, but it is an absolute stunner of an interactive storybook that's perfect for people looking to relax. It's even got a more appropriate and realistic ending than the original did. Now how many fairytale remakes can you say that about?

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on a Kindle Fire. 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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RoboFlu

BryanThe early morning car ride, the smelly waiting room, and scary needles are the worst part of a trip to the doctor. Let's face it; robots have it easy when it comes to medical care! Defective 'droids get their medicine in quite a shocking way in the mobile word game RoboFlu. You think electroshock therapy wouldn't be the best method of healing, but those viruses need to be purged somehow, right?

RoboFluTo remove sick "cells" from the robots, tap letters on the grid and combine regular blocks with infected blocks to spell words, then tap "submit". Valid words are instantly zapped away, curing these 'bots one shock at a time. There's no countdown clock or anything, so you can take your time spelling bigger and better-scoring words. Once you clear the infection, your next patient will come in, sick and ready for you to work your magic!

RoboFlu doesn't offer any crazy extra modes outside of the main game, but with multiple levels of difficulty and a large dictionary of recognizable words, it's easy to play until your brain gives out. The adorable (yeah, I said it) robots are another excuse to keep playing, as you'll always wonder what the next one will look like. An easy interface and plenty of challenge, RoboFlu has all the elements that make up a great mobile word game!

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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Nintaii

VictoriaSometimes the best things in life are simple. Nintaii is one of those things. Similar to the mobile game Brain Cube and the browser game Bloxorz, you control a block on a maze-like stage and must guide it to the exit hole by tipping it end over end. We say "guide", but really we mean "plot a complex path through a nigh-impossible obstacle course"!

NintaiiAt first, it seems easy enough to shove a 2x1 block through a hole, but you'll soon find that each level requires quite a bit of planning. In some levels, you simply have to manipulate the block on a flat stage, whereas in others you need to toggle switches to clear a path. There are over 100 levels in the full game, providing plenty of challenge for anyone made of stern enough stuff to plow through to the end.

On small phone screens controlling the block can be a bit difficult, but overall it just takes some getting used to. You'll often find yourself trapped in an impossible situation and are forced to restart the level. It's frustrating, yes, but with high-difficulty games of this nature, frustration can be a part of the package. If you're not a fan of having to work a little to find the answers, Nintaii might be a bit too much for you. Otherwise, settle in and get ready to work out complex solutions for complex puzzles!

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.


(6 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Traffic Wonder

VictoriaAs gas prices continue to rise, preserving fuel is an issue that's on almost everyone's mind. In response, YoAmbulante has created Traffic Wonder, a game built around the concept of finding the most efficient routes possible to save that precious flammable liquid we all depend on!

Traffic WonderEach level begins with a screen full of roads, buildings, and cars. Your job is to draw paths for the cars to take so you can match them up with buildings of the same color. It's not about finding the shortest route, however. Cars can collide with each other if they cross paths, so you need to watch their direction and location to make sure no fenders get bent out of shape. Until you get the hang of the timing, you'll probably see more crashes than successful trips! Later in the game more features are unlocked, such as stop signs that can halt cars or vehicles that travel at different speeds.

Traffic Wonder certainly isn't the first game to utilize directing traffic as a gameplay mechanism, but it's implemented very well and allows you to plot out paths ahead of time instead of jumping to do everything on the spot. This gives it a distinctly puzzle sort of slant, which becomes even more apparent when you factor in having to monitor fuel usage. A great mobile game that walks a smart line between genres so it can please twice as many players!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on a Motorla Atrix. 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.


(13 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Whale Trail

JohnBSo, whales can't fly, right? Keep that in mind while playing Whale Trail, a colorful one button arcade "cave flying" game that has recently spread from iOS devices to include other mobile markets. Baron von Barry is chasing Willow the Whale, and in order to escape, she has to take to the skies, staying afloat by collecting bubbles scattered throughout the clouds. It's cute and colorful,

Whale TrailTapping the screen in Whale Trail causes Willow to float up, not down, while releasing allows her to move towards the bottom of the screen. Colorful bubbles are drawn all over each section, and in order to get them, you'll need to follow some precise (but occasionally forgiving) patterns through dangerous terrain. The dark Thunder Bros. clouds are out to get you, and one touch from their electrifying fog will give you reason never to bump in to them again!

Whale Trail adds itself to a rather crowded genre, but it manages to stand on its own thanks to a delightful presentation and some cool extras like mid-air loops and the nigh-invincible Frenzy mode. A series of over 30 challenge levels have been added, with more promised in the future, that really make the game shine. Good length, great visuals, easy gameplay and a respectable level of challenge that increases appropriately as you continue playing. Whale Trail is a winner no matter how you look at it!


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (70 votes)
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Dooors

SonicLoverOpen the door and get to the next room; repeat as necessary. That's the goal of DOOORS, a cute little escape puzzler from our old friends at 58 Works, the team behind games like On-Sen, Kalaquli, and Evolution.

DooorsThere's no four-wall navigation in DOOORS; it's just you, your inventory, and a single screen with a numbered door in the middle. Touch things to interact with them and see if you can solve the puzzle in each room to get the door open. Sometimes you have to touch, sometimes you have to drag, and sometimes you have to do things that would be downright impossible with mouse and keyboard, so keep your mind open. Highlight inventory items by touching them, then use them on-screen; there's no examining or combining items.

DOOORS would be very high on the list of games that showcase the versatility of the iOS platform. Just about everything about it is done right: the puzzles are as clever as anything else we've seen from 58works, the graphics are nice, the audio doesn't get in the way, and there are no control issues anywhere. The game autosaves, so if you've played before just pick "Load Game" and start from any level you've already seen until you've conquered all 50 levels (and possibly more coming, seeing as how the last fifteen were added in the latest update).

Now then... who's up for opening some doors? Or should I say... some DOOORS?

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 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (30 votes)
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Poacher

TrickyThese days, Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw seems to hop back and forth between being a notable indie game designer who also does hilarious game reviews, and being a hilarious game reviewer who makes notable indie games. Certainly Chzo Mythos remains one of our highly rated favorites. But Yahtzee has always been willing to try something different. Case in point: the creation of Poacher, a Cave Story-styled high-difficulty action-adventure platformer with Andy Capp look-alive Derek Badger as its star. A simple night out hunting bunnies and trespassing on estate of the local lord, leads Derek to a fall through a literal rabbit hole, landing smack dab in the middle of an ancient conflict between the underground Spirit Kingdom and their malevolent enemies, Dark Lords. Will he be able to get up to the surface before his wife starts readying the rolling pin? That's up to you, guvnor.

PoacherDerek's movement is controlled with the [arrow] keys and jumps with the [spacebar]. Derek has his trusty shotgun with him, which fires in the direction he's facing. Soon after starting, Derek will acquire the ability to launch spirit grenades with [C]. These grenades can deal powerful blows and are useful for destroying crystal. Enemies and spikes will drain Derek's health, but he can recover by chomping on the pudding and sausages inexplicably strewn about the cavern. Enemies drop coins which can then be spent on various upgrades. Go deep enough and soon you may discover the dark secrets of the abyss... or better yet, earn a few quid!

Analysis: Poacher is hardly an experimental game, but it does feel like an experiment on the part of the author. Obviously, as Yahtzee's first work in Game Maker, there is going to be a period of feeling out what the engine can do. More than that, though , this is probably the first game that the author has done that could be called action-oriented. There's an exhilarating sense of a designer treading new ground, and that exhilaration helps to make up for what flaws the game has.

PoacherThere are certainly a number of clichés in Poacher, but they balance each other out so well that an intentional sense of fusion feels at play. On the one hand, there is a vaguely epic story of fantasy conflict running in the background. However, when combined with a ridiculously ordinary protagonist, who can't be arsed to pay attention to the backstory, the seriousness deflates. Poacher becomes a case study in how to integrate successfully integrate humor into a work that is not strictly a comedy. For instance, one of the main baddies of the game are rabid rabbits. Now, you don't need Monty Python to tell you that making something cuddly be unexpectedly vicious will get you a laugh However, taking a good look at these things, with their blood-caked mouths and glowing yellow eyes is definitely enough to freak one out should a pack of them descend on you. It can be difficult to mix horror and humor without one dominating the other, but Poacher pulls it off, with a heaping helping of metroidvania along for the ride.

No one's first work in a new engine will be perfect, and there are stumbles to be found here. Having the keys so close together makes for awkward action, and it's a guarantee at least a half dozen times that you'll shoot when you want to jump, and vice versa. This wouldn't be so bad if the respawning enemies and finicky jump puzzles didn't keep you constantly on your toes. For someone who rails against artificial difficulty in his reviews, there was quite a bit of it here.

Undoubtedly, Yahtzee's work with Zero Punctuation will give Poacher a certain publicity that it would not otherwise have. However, its notability is not unearned. Poacher is a solid exploration game with a twisty story, some funny jokes, a couple effective scares, and a satisfying host of secrets to unlock. It is not a perfect game, but it is a very interesting one, and it needs no more justification than that.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

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


(1 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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keylugger.gifKeylugger (Mac/Win, 2MB, free) - A puzzle platform game where your goal is to carry a heavy key to the keyhole by jumping and tossing it across the stage. Thrown keys travel in a horizontal line until hitting a solid object, then they fall straight down. Unburdened by the key, you can jump a little higher, allowing you to work your way through each stage using a combination of platforming and careful key tossing. A very well-designed game with some great levels to complete! (Note: You need to click the link marked 'Keylugger' after visiting the link above to download the game.)


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (940 votes)
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DoraMinty Fresh AdventureDestiny? Who needs it! Colgate's Cutie Mark might signify powers over time and space, but all the perky blue pony really wants is to be... a dentist. Which means that hourglass has got to go. Fortunately, everyone's favourite rhyming enchantress Zecora has a solution; if Colgate can track down the ingredients for a potion, she'll be able to "undo" her Cutie Mark. The problem? It's located deeper inside the dangerous Everfree Forest... and inside the mouth of an enormous monster! Colgate does what any good unicorn dedicated to good hygiene would do; she sets out with her enormous toothbrush (don't ask questions) for a platform adventure... Mark Sprague's Minty Fresh Adventure, that is!

Use the left and right [arrow] keys to move around, and the [Z] button to jump, while [X] attacks with Colgate's toothbrush, as well as interacts with nearby characters. To perform a long range attack if Colgate has enough magic in her blue bar, double-tap the left or right [arrow] key and quickly press [X] to hurl your toothbrush, sending it spinning out in front of you Darth Maul style to take out any enemies. When her magic bar is full, press and hold [X] and [C] at the same time until she begins flashing to "Clock Up", unleashing a spell that temporarily freezes all enemies as well as allows you to move even faster. Colgate can also draw a little inspiration from a certain Italian plumber and take out foes by jumping on top of them. Beating baddies adds to your high score, which is spent at a shop run by a certain someone, where you can pick up items to improve your abilities or provide... other effects. You can move back and forth between areas to build up points if you need to. If Colgate takes three hits, she'll have to start over from the start of the area you just entered, so make sure to chow down on any apples you find to replenish health. Oh, and you might want to steer clear of any Poison Joke flower you come across. And cockatrices. And timberwolves. And... well, let's just say we hope you're not just putting on a show when it comes to collecting that ingredient, my little pony.

Minty Fresh AdventureAnalysis: Packed with references, surprises, and humour galore, Minty Fresh Adventure is not only a great silly homage to the source material, but a vibrant and enjoyable game in its own right as well. Mark Sprague reaches impressive new heights in his Pony Platforming Project with this installment, which is impressively animated and considerably more complex than the first few trials. While players who have "joined the herd" will probably get the most out of it by recognising certain characters and references, Minty Fresh Adventure is fun and bright enough to be enjoyed by anyone looking for something light and silly. With multiple endings and secrets to uncover, it's a simple to play but surprisingly robust little game that can keep you occupied longer than you might think at first encounter.

The controls, unfortunately, are a little awkward at times; triggering Colgate's long-range attack can sometimes be accidental, or difficult to pull off in a pinch, making you wish it were bound to a separate key. It's also disappointing that for a pony, she's not particularly fleet of hoof, and as such the platforming and combat in general doesn't feel as smooth or natural as it might otherwise be. Fortunately, the developer is still working on this game as of this writing, and you can look forward to even more tweaks (and some new surprises) in the next big update. As it stands, Minty Fresh Adventure is still an extremely impressive example of fan-born dedication, and speaks very well indeed for Mark's future prospects as a developer. So come on... who needs semi-phenomenal, nearly cosmic powers over time itself when you can satisfy Equestria's need for fresh breath and shiny teeth?

Play Minty Fresh Adventure!

[Thanks to an anonymous reader for sending this one in, and to Mark Sprague for allowing us to host it!]


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (551 votes)
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BryanFancy Pants Adventures: World 3A man with pants so fancy he never has a moment to rest. His adventures have taken him all throughout the squiggly realm to use his acrobatics for the good of all. The Fancy Pants Adventure series brings to the table some of the best platforming action you can have in a browser. The fancy pants man has come along way since World 1 and he has definitely added some sweet, new tricks to his repertoire. Do gravity-defying wall runs, jump off some walls, and even cut up some enemies with your fancy new weapon!

Best of Casual Gameplay 2012Control this fancy man in his quest by using the [arrow] keys, specifically [left] and [right] to move, and [down] to duck. Jump around using [S] and swing your mighty sword with [A]. The sword doesn't come into play until later, but it will be your best friend against the baddies you will face. The controls have been upgraded to give the fancy pants man better control over his wall jumps. Different directions result in different jumps. The enemies have taken a few lessons from their past beatings and compiled quite a diverse group of friends. From gun shooting rats to smelly pirates, you can beat them with your sword or jump on their evil, little heads. Everything you do is in the name of fanciness!

Play all the Fancy Pants Adventures:
The Fancy Pants AdventureThe Fancy Pants Adventure: World 2The Fancy Pants Adventure: World 3

The game has matured a great deal since its roots as a basic action adventure platformer. Movement has become smoother, the visuals have become more detailed, and the dangers have become...well...more dangerous. The variety of enemy types provides a difficult challenge and the boss battles make for an even more engaging experience. The exploration is enriched by adding stars, secret rooms, and challenge rooms for you to find in your newest quest. So, put on the fanciest pants you own and experience the latest installment in Brad Borne's charming adventure series.

Play The Fancy Pants Adventure: World 3

This latest adventure is also available for mobile devices.


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Weekend Download

JohnBThere are games you love, games you hate, games you love to hate, and games you love to love. Why aren't there any games you love to hate to love or hate to love to hate? Or, is that where the Build-a-lot series goes? *rimshot*

loveplus.gifLove+ (Mac/Win, 40MB, free) - Love is tough, right? Some platformers can be tough, too. Love+ happens to be a little bit of both worlds, meaning it's... tough and tough! Similar to VVVVVV in both looks and general design, Love+ puts you in control of a simple little character that can jump and place spawn points anywhere he can stand. Your next task is to thread your way across a dozen or so levels, all without running out of your stock of 100 lives. It's not as easy as it sounds, which is exactly why you're downloading it now!

keylugger.gifKeylugger (Mac/Win, 2MB, free) - A puzzle platform game where your goal is to carry a heavy key to the keyhole by jumping and tossing it across the stage. Thrown keys travel in a horizontal line until hitting a solid object, then they fall straight down. Unburdened by the key, you can jump a little higher, allowing you to work your way through each stage using a combination of platforming and careful key tossing. A very well-designed game with some great levels to complete! (Note: You need to click the link marked 'Keylugger' after visiting the link above to download the game.)

gametitle.gifGame Title (Mac/Win, 1MB, free) - A minimalist action adventure sort of game that technically doesn't have a title, Game Title can be loosely compared to a dungeon crawler without all that complicated stuff like hit points or an inventory. March through the caverns one step at a time, picking up weapons like cats and bombs to deal with the enemies you encounter. It's a very simple and short kind of experience, but charming in an old school kind of way.

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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ThePalmofZoroaster

KyhRevealing a few more of the 1000 doors offered in the title of the series, House of 1000 Doors: The Palm of Zoroaster drops you back in said house to put you through another series of puzzles and adventure quests as the indomitable author/spirit soother, Kate. Offering the same quality of product as the previous installment, Alawar has brought us another great hidden object/adventure hybrid, just in a more sinister, unsettled portrayal of the house.

kyh_thepalmofzoroaster_screen1.pngKate finds herself dropped in the strange yet familiar place in the House of 1000 Doors, but now, something is different. It is no longer in its immaculate condition filled to the brim with rooms that one could describe as 'stuffy'. The house is now under attack by evil fire spirits which plague not only itself, but also many of the locations around the world that it is connected to. Right the destruction around you and squash the evil emanating from the Palm of Zoroaster to once again make a safe haven of the house.

Having the same game mechanics as Family Secrets, use your mouse to move through the locations and interact with the scene. Aside from the normal cursor, the mouse changes to three other forms to let you know how you can use a particular area/object. There's the regular cursor with a spinning tail, which means this is an area to use another object, the hand, which indicates the ability to pick up an object (whether to put in your inventory or to use somewhere else on screen), and the pointing arrow which will take you to a new place all together. Along with the first two cursors mentioned, hidden-object scenes also have the magnifying glass which will open a subscreen to search through. The scenes themselves are fairly interactive, having several objects that need to be revealed or put together in some way.

kyh_thepalmofzoroaster_screen2.pngAnalysis: Alawar has put together another great tale of the House of 1000 Doors. Keeping the backstory and gameplay that worked so well in Family Secrets, they expand upon it with a darker feel to this familiar setting. As before, this is a game where you can play around with the supernatural without the worry of jump scares or overly frightening scenery. It sticks to the formula that made the first game so enjoyable, but sometimes it's so close, The Palm of Zoroaster feels more like an expansion rather than a true sequel.

It's great to see this title keep up the high quality the series started in, and the addition of using the map to transport to other locations is much appreciated. Let this be a lesson to adventure game developers out there (hybrid or otherwise): lots of backtracking does not equal fun, give players some way to instantly transport to where they want to go! It's also nice to see that they've kept indicators on the map to tell you which locations you're able to perform actions in. While you still have to figure out what those actions are, coupled with the teleportation ability, this feature makes for a smooth playing experience.

In the collector's edition you'll experience about an extra hour and a half of fun, plus the added benefit of carrying the story out to a more explained ending (cliffhangers, why?). And if you can also help out a resident of the house, all the better! House of 1000 Doors: The Palm of Zoroaster provides hours of hidden object and adventuring fun in a well told and compelling story. When the ghosts of a supernatural story are in need of a savior, you can't help but want to right the wrongs that stopped them from resting in peace.

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:
Not available.
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.


  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (53 votes)
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TrickyMagic SafariMagic Safari, a physics puzzler by Conmer Game Studios, stars an ape in an umbrella hat that drives a tiny car. Really, that mere fact is probably enough to convince most of the internet to check it out. But those less enraptured with simian propelled automobiles should also give it a try.

It's based around driving through levels that you can affect with four commands: [1] Destroy (which causes a cool explosion) [2] Gravity (which causes non-car things to get all floaty) [3] Shape Change (which transforms square objects into circular ones) and [4] Magic (which will reverse the gravity of the car). Considering that there have been games based around each of those commands individually, putting them all together makes for some interesting puzzles. Just execute all commands to clear a path for the vehicle, and then click on the car to drive on through to the next level. Pressing the number keys on your keyboard acts as a shortcut to changing commands, and note that you cannot cast commands while the car is in motion.

At only twenty five levels, Magic Safari goes by pretty quickly, and, by the end, you'll be wishing the ape would step on the the friggin' gas a bit when you know you've solved a level. On the other hand... ape in a tiny car. Lest we forget.

Play Magic Safari


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Rating: 4.3/5 (87 votes)
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ElleHappy Dead FriendsSure these friends are dead. But are they happy? No. Absolutely not. What makes dead friends happy? Holding hands of course! In this grid puzzle game by Gluk, move the creatures so that each is joined hand-in-hand with his friends; no one should be left empty-handed if you want to have many Happy Dead Friends.

Along with the grid itself, this feat is made by challenging by various factors including: some creatures are immobile, some can only turn in particular directions, some want to be alone and so on. In terms of brain tickling puzzles to work around, it's very reminiscent of Monsterz-Chainz of Friendz from Casual Gameplay Design Competition #9 and, although it's similar in gameplay and mechanics to the iOS game, Joining Hands, which inspired it, Happy Dead Friends is well-made and has enough unique qualities of its own to keep us smiling. With its forty levels plus a level editor and achievements to earn, there's plenty here to endlessly occupy your zombie social networking skills.

Play Happy Dead Friends


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Rating: 3.8/5 (64 votes)
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Ink BattleMeaghanAttention all bibliophiles: One of your worst fears is coming true! There's an attack being staged on books by some brainless dope who left an ink bottle open in the library and now the long prophesied war between books and ink has arrived! Hah, kidding! Well, only slightly kidding. In Ink Battle, an addictive typing tower defense game by Hyptod (also the creator of Alxemy), sinister ink blots are on a single minded mission to destroy any and all books. It's up to you to use those years of typing skills you've amassed to stave off this most horrifying battle.

The way the game works is simple and part of what makes it such a blast: Through twelve levels you must type the words shown on your screen in the comment box as quickly as you can then hit enter. The more words you type correctly the more mana you get which in turn allows you to build up a bigger defense. After each victory you receive money to purchase upgrades with, and ultimately the more you buy the better equipped you are to defeat those darn blots. To use your boosts and units you need only look at your mana bar to find the name of it then type it in and hit enter.

Despite the delightful fun this game provides it does have a drawback: There's only one level of difficulty. While this doesn't detract from the overall fun of the game it does make it much shorter and less challenging for those people who you would think were born with a keyboard attached to their fingers. However, how fast you can type is only a small facet of the areas that deliver entertainment. It's enjoyable to see how many words you can type before you destroy the other tower, it's maniacal laughter worthy to see how many Special units you can have on the screen, and with each different upgrade you'll be hard pressed not to crack a smile at the different forms your Special battlers will take. After all, who doesn't want to see an Armored Gandalf show up like it's the Battle of Helmsdeep and he's got a missile made out of rulers and pencil to back him up? Silly ink blots, you shall not pass!

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Rating: 3.3/5 (81 votes)
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BryanBloopers 2The little buggers from Bloopers have gotten a colorful sequel that drops the dark, brooding look while retaining the fun. Bloopers 2 is a physics projectile game that improves on its predecessor's gameplay in all the right areas. User interface, player controls, and art style are some that come to mind. The product is a clean and casual experience that is a nice foot-in-the-door for those unfamiliar to the physics-based puzzle genre.

You need to launch these furry, orange guys into the colorful gates by aiming the shot with your mouse and clicking. The angle, direction, and power of the shot all depend on your cursor location and its distance from your cannon. Once all the gates are closed then the level is complete and more fuzz balls are waiting to get shot off into those warp gates. Unlike its predecessor, there are no high scores or stars to prove your puzzle mastery, but there are unique shots to use like homing rockets and cannonballs. Nothing more satisfying than watching some cartoon explosions, right? Your only challenge is to close all the gates before you run out of projectiles so the hardcore physics puzzlers might not get a kick out of this one. However, if you're looking for a "go-to" for a quick diversion or some carefree puzzle action, give Bloopers 2 a try.

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Link Dump Fridays

Dora2012 keeps on keepin' on with more and more games to get excited about. It's almost like the internet is one vast candy store, and the creativity of the developers, and all we have to do is recline on our glorious dais and let it funnel into our greedy gullets. Jee panwa waffmula chone patogga che lickmoomoo, ha ha.

On The Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 3The Precipice of Awesome When Penny Arcade announced they would not be finishing their hilarious and twisted RPG adventure series On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, my heart broke a little. Fortunately, Zeboyd Games, erstwhile creators of Cthulhu Saves the World and Breath of Death VII have stepped up to the plate and been tasked with completing the last two games. The third installment is on the horizon, and the official website is now live for your perusal pleasure with a ton of screenshots. Number three will be available for the princely sum of 2.99USD on PC, Mac, XBOX, iOS, and Android this summer. Though I still pine for the fjords (represented here by the stellar artistic stylings of Gabe and Tycho's effortless gift of dialogue), I'm thrilled to see the series get picked up again, and I think we all owe Zeboyd Games a nice muffic basket.

StasisNo-One Can Hear Your High-Pitched Girly Screams Horror; the best, or the bestest? Get ready for a creepy-crawly, terrifying sci-fi adventure with the upcoming indie title from Christopher Bischoff, Stasis. The game follows John Maracheck, who wakes up covered in slime on the floor of a seemingly abandoned research facility, with only one thing on his mind... finding his family. Stasis bills itself as "a story about an ordinary man in an extraordinary situation", and when done right, that can prove to be an extremely effective vehicle for impactful storytelling. Make sure to check out the official site for trailers and screenshots, as well as more information, and then get ready for some scarin'!

BotaniculaSay Goodbye to Your Free Time On April 19th 2012 Amanita Design is going to give you enough good vibes and sweet dreams to last a year or more when Botanicula is finally released. The gorgeous point-and-click exploration adventure follows five brave little tree creatures who set out to save the very last seed of their beloved home tree from an infestation of dark parasites. Amanita has always had a knack for infusing some truly amazing emotion and a sense of wonder in their titles, and Botanicula is going to be no exception if the trailer and screenshots are any indication. I can't imagine a better possible way to put you in a good mood for a really long time, as well as fuel up on the whimsy and fantasy people sorely need more of in their lives.

Superbrothers: Sword & SworceryAdventure on the Electronic Computer If you read our review for Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery and longed to get your artistic adventure on but were hampered by your lack of iOS to play it on, despair no longer! On April 16th 2012, the game will release on PC, with a Mac version to follow later on. You can expect it to be more or less a straight port, with some minor changes to make it fit the computer better, but trust us when we say that if you've never played this, you're going to want to check it out. It's one of the most surreal and unique adventures around with an incredible knack for drawing you into its world and environments.

Shadowrun ReturnsDon't You Ruin This For Me These days, it seems like Kickstarter is the go-to source for game funding, especially after the shocking success of Double Fine, and it's easy to get cynical when developers start showing up with hat in hand one after the other. But then someone tells you they want to make a new Shadowrun game and your eyes get all dewy and nostalgic and you completely forget about all that trendy cynicism because, holy gooses, Shadowrun! Jordan Weisman, the creator of the mysticism-meets-cyberpunk RPG series played tabletop and on SNES and Genesis consoles for decades, has announced the series' return to the digital age with Shadowrun Returns for the PC and iPad and Android tablets. (Mac to be added if they exceed their goal.) Currently close to being funded on Kickstarter, it promises "a graphically rich 2D turn-based single player game with deep story interaction, meaningful character development, and highly-contextual tactical combat". If you're a fan of the series, this is great news, and if you've never played but enjoy fantasy elements in a dark and seedy modern setting, this could be right up your alley. Hit up the Kickstarter page to learn more.


  • Currently 3.7/5
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Rating: 3.7/5 (59 votes)
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MeaghanErlinEErlinE, a puzzle platform adventure game from FedeehSevenfold, features a bewitching ingénue trying to save her home, Aurla. With the help of her ever present companion, who could easily be mistaken for a bulldozer in disguise with all the pushing and shoving he provides, she must brave a terrain filled with spikes and lasers to save her world from evil that has seeped through portals that were supposed to keep that stuff gone for good. In this besieged magical world waiting for a hero, it's up to you to throw caution to the wind and charge headfirst into danger. After all, who else but you could possibly save such a gorgeous landscape that has no other champions to defend it?

Use the [WASD] keys to move through the ethereal landscape and reach the portals that will transport you to your next challenging level. Spikes and lasers are your greatest foe, though in later levels you'll have to contend with globular creeps and a solid star dropped from the same spot as the laser beams. You can switch between your hero and her companion by pressing the [E] key. Left clicking the mouse button will release a little ball of magic that not only can push far off buttons, but has the strength to shove boxes that will be oh so needed as you go through the levels. Don't worry about holding the mouse down when you throw out the magic ball, and make use of the benefit that it lasts for several seconds and has a fair range it can travel. There are 20 levels of increasing difficulty and creativity to tackle. If you find yourself stuck there is a refresh button to reset the level. However, be careful with the home button. If you want to go back to relive an earlier level all later level progression disappears beyond the level you select and you will have to go through each level again(!)

ErlinE is a charming break from the usual zombies or escape the room type set ups. Navigating through the game is, for the most part, very straight forward and it's easy to determine how best to get to the portal at the end of the level. One of the few drawbacks is the finicky play of the little helper. While the speed and height of jumps come in handy, he has a strange floating mechanic that if you fail a jump you appear stuck and you have to let go of the controls until you can attempt the next leap frog mission. Apart from that, the game successfully delivers a story line that resonates with the adventurer in all of us, an enjoyable soundtrack, and stunning terrains that might make you look around your room thinking "Hmmm, where's that charcoal pencil?" If breathtaking imagery, well crafted levels, and a sprinkle of magic are your type of thing then ErlinE is exactly what you've been needing to make your day that much better.

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  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (240 votes)
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Kylestealthhunter2.pngWhen a shipment of nuclear materials goes missing the fate of millions could be at risk and there's only one thing standing between them and total nuclear annihilation; you. In a RAC7's stylish stealth game, Stealth Hunter 2, you play as an unnamed agent that has tracked the stolen nuclear materials to a heavily armed fortress, and it's your job to sneak in, find out who's behind this dastardly plot, and stop them.

At the beginning of each mission you'll be given a host of objectives ranging from sneaking into heavily guarded areas to finding top secret plans. Navigating your unnamed agent through these missions is simple, using the [arrow] keys to move about with [spacebar] acting as a general purpose action button and [shift] allowing you to sneak around in silence. Meanwhile, a helpful tutorial system helps guide you through the several mini games that do a great job of changing the pace.

Ominous music and well crafted visuals set the stage for this surprisingly engrossing stealth action title. Control over your character is smooth and seamless, and seems to mesh perfectly with a difficulty that keeps this game fun and challenging while still not seeming too terribly hard. All of this is accompanied by a story that is at once generic, but still fairly well told with nice little details like eavesdropping thrown in to enhance the experience. Yes, it uses an isometric perspective which is always awkward thanks to foreground objects getting in the way and a somewhat awkward learning curve when it comes to getting used to your arrow keys, but Stealth Hunter 2 manages to make these issues seem at least tolerable. So if you're hungering for the feel of creeping past trained arm guards and dodging the watchful eye of security cameras from the comfort of your own browser, Stealth Hunter 2 is definitely something you'll want to check out.

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  • Currently 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (346 votes)
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joyeInnkeeperIf life gives you lemons, make lemonade, and if life gives you a reputation for an infestation of evil preternatural vampiric creatures, make a resort location and capitalize on the notoriety. Specifically, the family who star in Innkeeper are dealing with the legend of the aswang, a kind of demonic beastie from Filipino culture. They're also dealing with building and outfitting rooms, upgrading amenities, attracting customers from rednecks to Men in Black, and dealing with all kinds of hotel simulation gameplay you would expect. Can you help them take it all the way to a five star rating?

Unlike most sim games that are set in a make-believe, generally vaguely American world, Innkeeper is emphatically set in a real place: Siquijor, Philippines. This is perhaps the most significant aspect of the game. As you progress through the game, the character Hilaria gives you a rundown of the various types of aswangs in Filipino lore, but you'll also pick up quite about the country just by reading the short bios of each family member in the information section. Without taking itself too seriously, the game manages to satire both Filipino internal society and its international reputation. The game also delights in references to other Flash gaming hits and internet memes. This gives it a good balance of local color and global appeal.

Getting a really excellent simulation game within the confines of the typical Flash game dimensions is tricky, but Innkeeper wisely keeps the overall scale of the game down, with a maximum of six floors even at the very end of the game. The excellent, although unskippable, tutorial does a good job of explaining the complicated but efficient interface, and the game makes a great use of space generally. Some balance issues remain. Although the developer has tweaked some of the random chances, the relative difficulties of the various quests remain uneven. The room service area is particularly bad, largely because there is only one elevator and so deliveries get held up. However, this doesn't detract from the game's essential fun. Only one mystery remains: why do all the guests leave the hotel before nightfall? Maybe Sequijor really is a creepy place.

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Rating: 4.7/5 (29222 votes)
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joyeFireboy and Watergirl 3: Ice TempleDoes your right hand know what your left hand is doing? More importantly, can you make your right hand and left hand do two very different things with precision, all while putting your brain to work solving puzzles? That's the challenge of Fireboy and Watergirl 3: Ice Temple, by Oslo Albet. Your left hand controls Watergirl. Your right hand controls Fireboy. Together, through the magic of your keyboard, they will platform their way around 36 chilly levels.

If you haven't played the series before, you'll want to start with the two beginners tutorial levels, which will explain the basics. Use [WASD] for Watergirl, and [arrow] keys for Fireboy. Some elements, such as light rays and angled mirrors, are carry overs from previous installments and are explained in these tutorial levels. For those familiar with the series, there is an ice tutorial to explain the new hazards. Ice slows down Watergirl and speeds up Fireboy, but Watergirl can go up icy slopes while Fireboy cannot, and neither can jump on icy surfaces.

The overall goal of getting Fireboy and Watergirl to exit together through their marked doors remains the same, as does the importance of grabbing the red and blue gems wherever you can, and of course, you'll want to do it as fast as possible. The number of gems you grab and how fast you do it combines to give you your score. Even if you're not ambidextrous, most of the levels can be completed playing one character at a time, although naturally that way is slower. You can also make this game into an unofficial local multiplayer game if you can get a friend to control one half of the keyboard. Laptops with external keyboards plugged into them work especially well for playing as a team; one person takes the laptop keyboard, the other the external one. Not that I have any reason to know that. Ahem.

Play all the Fireboy and Watergirl games:
Fireboy and Watergirl: The Forest TempleFireboy and Watergirl 2: The Light TempleFireboy and Watergirl 3: The Ice TempleFireboy and Watergirl 4: The Crystal Temple

The fact is that even if you do cheat use out-of-the-box thinking, the puzzles are a fiendish challenge all their own. Some levels require careful planning, others precise timing, still others adroit platforming skills; many, especially in the later levels, require all three. But the game's snowflake-shaped level select menu grants the player access to many different levels quickly, which allows you to try various levels any time you find yourself getting stuck or frustrated. Fireboy and Watergirl 3: Ice Temple is as much of a gem as the ones you collect in it.