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July 2012 Archives


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Rating: 4.1/5 (75 votes)
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DoraAwesome Tanks 2So Loki's got an army, and the Avengers have a Hulk, but you? You got a tank, bro, and an awesome one to boot! In Emitter Critter's arena shooting sequel Awesome Tanks 2, take control of the mean green machine once more and fill your enemies full of lead, destroying them all and the spawners on each level to win. Use [WASD] or your trusty-dusty [arrow] keys to steer, and aim and shoot with the mouse, avoiding enemy fire as you attempt to blast them into shrapnel. Make sure you destroy crates, too, since you can find power-ups in them in addition to the coins your enemies also drop, which you can spend on upgrades and weaponry between stages.

Like its predecessor, Awesome Tanks 2 isn't exactly deep or full of fancy book learnin', but its bouncy soundtrack, vibrant style, and fast-paced, simple gameplay makes it a fantastic dose of action whenever you need it. It kind of makes you wish the game has a versus mode, since pitting two tank armies with different abilities against each other would be a lot of fun considering how varied the tanks can be. Though Awesome Tanks 2 feels less like a sequel and more like an upgrade in terms of content it provides over the original, you'll find a greater variety of weapons to purchase and more challenging levels overall, including slightly more reasonable prices for your upgrades this time around. It's quick, explosive fun that comes with a level editor for you to design devious gauntlets for your friends to run through, and is proof that sometimes simple is just what the doctor order. In this case assuming your doctor likes explosions and massive property damage, in which case you've probably been playing too much Team Fortress 2.

Play Awesome Tanks 2


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Rating: 4/5 (54 votes)
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DoraSnowdriftThe end of the world comes not with a bang, but with a whimper and a shadow in Placeable's eerie horror adventure Snowdrift. Sam is an old man who has managed to hold out against a sinister living darkness that has overwhelmed the rest of the world, eeking out a lonely existence day to day in a cabin in the snow-carpeted woods. Survival depends not only on finding food and water in the barren landscape, represented by the bars in the top corner of the screen, but also keeping enough wood stocked to stoke his fireplace and keep the darkness at bay at night. If you venture out after nightfall, you have a better chance of encountering animals to hunt, which becomes a necessity as you slowly strip the more easily found berries from bushes, but your lantern has limited fuel to keep things lighted and safe. Use the [arrow] keys to move, [Z] to interact/confirm, and [X] to open the inventory. There are three possible endings to discover, centering around Sam's actions and whether he answers the door whenever it's knocked at. A knock at the door in the middle of a sentient, evil night? Sure, answer it. What could go wrong.

Snowdrift has, hands down, some of the best atmosphere you may ever find in a horror game, especially one with this sort of visual style. Unfortunately, an overall lack of polish from a few persistent bugs and lack of a pause feature, to say nothing of a much needed proof-reader, makes this feel more like a concept than anything approaching a full game. It's unfortunate, since the surreal supernatural premise is so eerie it actually is genuinely scary, and makes Snowdrift the sort of thing you'd love to see expanded on in the future with a larger scope and more attention to detail. Which might happen, since the developer intends to create a sequel rather than updating this incarnation. With more to do and a cleaner design, Snowdrift could have been a serious contender, but as it stands this little Twilight Zone-esque concept of a game is still worth checking out if you love atmosphere and otherworldly creeps.

Play Snowdrift


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Rating: 3.5/5 (52 votes)
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DoraA Void for MachineryMan. Robots. Always havin' existential crises and what not, amirite? In Folmer Kelly and Tom Wright's melancholy little puzzle platformer A Void for Machinery, you control a lonely little robot searching for something through a hostile landscape. Use the [arrow] keys to move and [X] to jump, pushing blocks and flipping switches to help you get over or around obstacles and trying your best not to land on anything hazardous. Fortunately, if you get violently disassembled, you'll just start the area you entered over again. It's like if Astar came out of retirement to star in a browser game. ... anyone else remember Astar?... man I'm old.

There isn't really that much new about A Void for Machinery, since it is, in essence, an extremely simple puzzle platformer about pushing things and trying not to die. Without doubt, however, the game is absolutely beautiful, and has a sort of effortlessly engrossing visual style you really want to lose yourself in. The downside is that both jumping over hurdles and pushing blocks can be frustrating... the former because getting up over a small bump you should just be able to hop onto can be finicky, and the latter because blocks can slide and don't always fall the way you need them to if you don't have the proper momentum going while you push them. A Void for Machinery was created to showcase what Stencyl can do for Newgrounds' Stencyl Jam 2012, and though fairly simple and familiar, it's an exceptionally lovely little exercise with a seriously professional design from two creators we hope to see even more from in the future.

Play A Void for Machinery


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The Vault

DoraIt's elemental, my dear Whoever! (Is it Alonso? Please let it be Alonso.) This week, the Vault is overflowing with water, flames, and tiny bearded frozen men. But there's no need to panic, since that's perfectly normal... ish! At least, it is when we're looking at some of our favourite games that bend the powers of the natural world. It's designed for those of us who used to lie awake at night throughout primary school, wishing we had the ability to harness the wind so we could drop buckets of deadly hobo spiders on stupid Jimmy Jones for stealing our favourite Pog slammer during recess even though the teacher said she couldn't prove he'd done it even though you know he totally did. I mean... so I hear, anyway.

  • Ice BreakerIce Breaker - While they'll never replace Erik, Baleog and Olaf in my heart, there's just something about the grim looking little bearded vikings in Nitrome's physics puzzle series that's hard not to love. In each game, your goal is to swipe the screen with your mouse and carve away the frozen vikings from the ice they're trapped in so they drop safely to the boat waiting below, presumably where they are revived with gentle cooed reassurances and warm fuzzy blankets in the viking way. Nitrome's games are always gorgeous, but Ice Breaker packs a particular charm with its simple gameplay and cartoonish style that makes it hard to put down, especially when it fits so perfectly inside any sized break you might have. Plus, with the upcoming iOS edition, you'll find better visuals, bosses, adventure, and more. There's no time like the present to get (re) acquainted with these grumpy little marauders and remind yourself why Nitrome is so good at what they do.
  • FireBoy and WaterGirl: The Forest TempleFireBoy and WaterGirl: The Forest Temple - Oslo Albet's puzzle platforming series has been wooing fans since 2009, despite the fact that it requires some serious individual dexterity for each hand. You control FireBoy and WaterGirl individually but also simultaneously, with different keys on the keyboard used for each character. The goal is to get them both safely to the exit in each level by helping them work together to overcome the different hurdles in their way, and keeping them out of dangerous elements that oppose them. The series boasts some seriously clever (and devious!) design, but despite the challenge never winds up feeling unfair. It delivers a brisk, good-looking little adventure that adds just enough new wrinkles as you play to keep you interested without overloading its core concept. The result is a game that sizzles more than it fizzles, and will keep your fingers and your brain fit.
  • The Pretender: Part OneThe Pretender: Part One - Everyone loves a magic show! You know, right up until your soul is painfully torn from your body and hurled into another dimension. Launching Pad Games' puzzle platforming series about a Victorian stage magician who bites off more than he can chew has long been a favourite of mine. Your goal is to find your way back to our world, rescuing the souls of your audience along the way, who were scattered throughout elemental realms when your tricks misfired after a magical book you find turns out to be sorely out of your league. Each stage allows you to transform into different elemental creatures with various abilities, such as allowing you to float or burn through things, and you have to harness these abilities in specific order to best proceed. The game has an elegant simplicity to its style that makes it easy on the eyes, and its clever concept stays neat and tidy throughout rather than overburdening you with piles of powers that might have cluttered things up.

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


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Rating: 4.1/5 (31 votes)
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Little Red in Danger

elleOh, Little Red Riding Hood. You with your crimson cloak, guileless observations, and boundless naiveté, how do you do it? Somehow you find yourself Little Red in Danger again, trapped inside Grandmother's house while untold peril lurks outside. You're asked to "wait here like a good girl" because it is so very dangerous outside. But, should you listen? That's the pressing question in IDAC's mobile escaping adventure: to discover just how and when to safely exit this quaint abode.

Little Red in DangerPlay by tapping the screen, finding items and hints hidden across the room, and trying to escape from the house you were locked inside. Clues and puzzles scattered everywhere add up to plenty of in-depth exploration. Be precise where you tap; a surgeon's touch will prevent your missing essential clues. Utilizing your inventory is intuitive: tap once to highlight an object then tap the screen where you want to use it; double-tapping brings inventory items into closer detail and is also useful in certain interactive areas. Keep in mind there are two ways to exit and both bring happy endings—well, one is happy only for the wolf whose appetite is whetted by blood red head coverings.

Players familiar with Gotmail's browser-based escape games will recognize many a characteristic Gotmail trait—both good and not-so-good—in this release from the developer's mobile franchise, IDAC. Little Red in Danger especially succeeds at creating an intriguing environment that you really want to play around in; the neato graphical style is even worthy of being wallpaper on your mobile device. The design is well-drawn and eye-pleasing so that the smaller screen is never itself an impediment to immersion in the setting. Conversely, the means to navigate these deceivingly serene surroundings are not so user friendly: pixel hunting is an uninvited guest here at Grandma's house.

As a welcome plus, Little Red in Danger does a great job of challenging your sleuthing skills, often putting your inner Matlock to the test, requiring you to rethink possible solutions and recheck doubtful areas more than once. At times it proves frustrating as any mis-tap means missed information, so if you prefer more affable escape-the-room games, this one might not be for you. On the other hand, for those who enjoy creative means for problem solving and an Engrish-faceted scenario to quirkily wrap it up, Little Red in Danger has the perfect basket-full-of-goodies just for you. "So, do you think you can get out of this alive?"

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the HTC Incredible 4. 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
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Rating: 4/5 (48 votes)
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TrickyJump MeIt's always interesting when a developer takes a familiar mechanic, then remixes it to make a new kind of enjoyable puzzle. Case in point: Jump Me, a simple idea puzzle game by Ozzie Mercado. It's likely that the game would have never have been made if versions of checkers (or draughts, if you're the kind of chap who's okay with the madness of pronouncing it as "drafts") hadn't been kicking around since ancient times. But that allows Jump Me to be different enough to feel fresh, but familiar enough to easily learn.

In each level, the goal is to move each piece into an outlined area, completing the puzzle. Use the mouse to select a piece, then click the arrow to indicate what horizontal or vertical direction it will go. Pieces can also "jump" other pieces. Pieces that move a single space cannot immediately be moved, but jumping a piece will allow it to be moved again. Jump Me only has fifteen levels, but after the requisite tutorial, it wastes no time getting to the challenging stuff. The aesthetic is minimalist, but clean (though the close quarters mean you'll occasionally select a new piece when you meant to click an arrow.) Jump Me is a fun and challenging diversion for puzzle fans to check-er out on their coffee break.

Play Jump Me


(6 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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2-Bit Bub

DoraThey say you can't keep a good dog down, and the spectral polter-pooch Bub seems to be proof positive of that. Too bad he's been keeping himself entertained playing with bones from the local graveyard... bones the zombies will rise at sundown to claim if he doesn't bring them back! 2-Bit Bub is a free action puzzle platformer (of sorts) for your iOS made by Laika to promote their upcoming feature film ParaNorman. As Bub, you'll have to hop, chomp, swing and sling your way through levels trying to snatch the supernatural zombie bones by flinging yourself through the air on ghostly floating rings. Which is pretty impressive when you think about it. I mean, I'm not a dog person, but even I have to admit I don't think either of my cats could be mustered to care about stopping a zombie apocalypse, even if they were the ones who caused it.

2-Bit BubTilt your device left or right to make Bub trot around the screen, and drag your finger down from the top of the screen to make him launch himself in that direction. If a ring is in his path, he'll bite down on it and hang there until you launch him again. Of course, not all rings are alike, and some will behave in different ways. Each level has three optional stars for you to collect to improve your score, but what you really want is that zombie bone floating somewhere onscreen. If you make a mistake and can't proceed, tap the pause button to reveal the reset button so you can start the stage over. Currently, there are only thirty stages available, but you can look forward to more available when ParaNorman hits theaters on August 17th.

2-Bit Bub is, by and large, a very simple little game, but it's the sort that gives you hope for advergames as a whole because it's so darned gorgeous and fun. It looks and sounds absolutely beautiful, and while the gameplay is very basic and straightforward, there's a nice degree of challenge to it that makes it well worth the price. Which is, y'know, free. It did feel a little sluggish at times on my first generation iPad, which can make some of the timing tricky, so you'll want to pay attention to patterns and plan things out. A pedigreed example of an advergame done right, 2-Bit Bub is a ghoulish good time with style to spare to make up for the fleas. Do ghost dogs have fleas? I bet they do, and they're probably impossible to get rid of.

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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Mobile Monday

JohnBWhat's that, boy? You smell new mobile games on the horizon? Well by all means, then. Fetch! Fetch from the future my time travel-enabled pet canine! And while you're at it, find us a good pizza. Oh, and the ending to Breaking Bad, I'm dying to know how it all wraps up. You know, if you've got time.

puzzlequest.jpgMore Puzzle Quest is coming - For Puzzle Quest developer Infinite Interactive, the last few years have been filled business mergers, strategic partnerships, and other business buzzwords you might find in a Dilbert comic. All of that has settled down now, and the studio is back to its independent status and ready to return to its roots. Namely, its puzzle RPG hybrid roots! When asked about the possibility of more Puzzle Quest in the future, Infinite Interactive founder Steve Fawkner said "...if you shook a Magic 8-ball and asked ... it would probably say 'all signs point to yes!'". Sounds good enough for us! Commence the happiness feelings!

flight-p.pngFlight coming soon - Good news for lovers of the browser game Flight! In just a few days, a mobile port of this charming browser game will materialize, bringing with it all the challenge and charm of the original, now with a touch screen! Playing as a girl wishing to see her mother for Christmas, you toss paper airplanes in a variety of locations, guiding it through the air in the hopes it will make it to its destination. Watch this space for a full review the minute it's available!

baldursgate-p.pngBaldur's Gate coming to iPad - Can't wait for September to begin? We can't imagine why, at least, until you've finished reading this note about Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition coming to iPad in September! The improved remake of the classic '90s RPG was first teased months ago, but a release window has finally been nailed down. The updated release will feature a new adventure in a new area along with three new characters: a monk, a half-elf mage, and the blackguard Dorn Il-Khan. Oh, and multiplayer matchmaking has been improved, along with plenty of enhancements for the touch screen interface. Let the impatient countdown timer watching begin!

lili-p.pngAdventure game Lili unveiled - From an ex-Gears of War developer, Lee Perry, and his new studio BitMonster Games, Lili is an upcoming mobile adventure RPG hybrid that looks too stunning to be "just" a portable game. The team licensed Unreal Engine 3 for the release and aims to make a game filled with exploration and discovery, one that's enjoyable for nearly everyone to play. Sounds like a grind-free fun-time adventure to us, and we're excited to see more!

Got some delicious info on an upcoming mobile release, current event, or other tasty news tidbit? We want to know! Send an e-mail with "Mobile Monday" in the subject line to johnb AT casualgameplay DOT com. We'll sift through the submissions and feature our favorites on a Mobile Monday article! Keen!


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Rating: 4.6/5 (24 votes)
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Great Big War Game

KimberlyWhat do you get when you combine a bumbling commander, an unexperienced captain, and the sound of gunfire? You get Great Big War Game, a war themed turn-based strategy game by Rubicon, sequel to Great Little War Game. The enemy is approaching. Do you have what it takes to fight back?

Great Big War GameEach map in Great Big War Game is based on a hexagram tile system. Each unit has a specific number of tiles they can move per turn, as well as a range of fire. Climbing up or down a cliff takes more movement points, and can increase or decrease your line of sight. Just tap your unit to see how far it can go that turn, touch and hold the unit to see how far it can fire. These are important tools when planning your strategy, as you can also tap and hold enemy units to see if you are stepping into their range of fire. Depending on the level you can have a barracks, factory, airbase, and a boat yard available for your use, with units ranging from scouts to tank killers. Each have a specific role to play in your defense or attack mission. You have to be versatile to retaliate against whatever your enemy throws at you!

There are four modes to choose from when you start Great Big War Game: campaign, skirmish, pass and play, or online play. If you are new, I recommend starting with the campaign, as it gives some gameplay tips and introduces units at a good rate so you can understand how they work before you have a whole aresenal to choose from. There is also an extensive in game manual to help you with the finer points of the game. In the campaign mode, your level objectives change as you progress, while the objective in skrimish mode is always to wipe out the enemy however you can. To play online, you have to create a free account, but then you are able to play with friends or strangers cross platform.

Great Big War GameAnalysis: Great Big War Game plays a lot like a board game. The turn-based play is nice as it gives you time to think about your moves. There is also a one move undo button, so if you tap the wrong square, or rethink your move, all is not lost. The fact that attacking doesn't end your unit's turn helps make the strategy all the better. This allows you to run in, take a shot, and run back out, and is a great tactic for taking out stationary units. The varied terrain throughout the levels adds yet another layer of depth to the game.

Though the cartoons between levels are supposed to be funny, I personally found them to be a little off-putting. Please be advised to save your game and not just turn your device off, as I lost progress in this way. You can easily save anytime by hitting the pause button and then selecting the save game option. The music and sound effects are very fitting for the game, but if you get tired of them, you can turn them off in the option menu. One of the great things about the game is the size. It really is great big. You get an involved single player campaign, and multiple maps to skirmish on. If that's still not enough for you, addition maps are available as an in app purchase.

Great Big War Game is a solid entry in the world of strategy games. With so many units to utilize and terrain to consider, there are many different tactics to pursue. Be prepared to shell out long amounts of your time strategizing in front of your screen. War has never been so much fun!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an iPad 2. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.


(12 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Atic Atac

TrickyOriginally released in 1983 by Tim and Chris Stamper's Ultimate Play The Game, Atic Atac was one of the most heralded games for the ZX Spectrum. A top-down action-adventure game, it was the deceptively simple looking tale of an adventurer trapped in a haunted castle who must battle his way from basement to "atic" to find the keys that would let him escape. As the 80s turned to the 90s, Ultimate Play The Game would evolve into a little company called Rare and the Spectrum would cease production, but a group of enthusiasts would keep the art of the Speccy alive even today. A group of them, Retrospec, have developed a remake of the no-longer-available classic. And so, here it is: Atic Atac, offered now to addict and challenge a new generation of gamers.

Atic AtacAlthough you can customize the controls in Atic Atac's menu, the default setup using the [arrow] keys for movement, [shift] to fire, and [ctrl] to pick up items works quite well. You start by choosing one of three classes of hero to play as, each with their own strengths and weaknesses and access to specific kinds of secret tunnels. The Knight can quickly fire spears in the direction he's facing, the Wizard can fire a ball of energy that will bounce around the room, but only one at a time, and the Serf who can fire each of a pair of spears that will return to him after being thrown.

You must explore the castle from atic to basement cavern, staying alive long enough in each room for the doors to open. Staircases will lead you from floor to floor, as will a misplaced step on an open trapdoor. Keys will open gates of the appropriate color, and possessing certain items in your inventory will fend off the deadlier (and likely-to-be-key-guarding) monsters. Though the layout of rooms remains the same, items will appear in different places in each playthrough. Your health, represented by a slowly consumed roast turkey, will reduce over time, but can be replenished with a variety of foodstuffs found around the house. Only the most skilled will be able to assemble the Golden Key of ACG and escape!

First, a caveat: This reviewer wasn't alive in 1983, let alone a Spectrum ZX owner, and even if he were, he'd probably be more obsessed with that walking egg with boxing gloves. Thus, accuracy of adaptation is not something that we'll attempt to assess. But, speaking as a modern type of gaming reviewer guy, Atic Atac is a polished piece of work, and an incredibly addictive experience for any era. The furious combat is reminiscent of early Legend of Zelda dungeons, while its exploration aspects invoke such classics as Gauntlet and Adventure for the Atari 2600. Of course, Atic Atac also replicates that specific brand of retro difficulty, hailing from a time where gamers were expected to happily draw their own maps, and just go along with the idea that dropping a clawed hand to distract a hunchback or whatever was a perfectly reasonable puzzle. It should be no surprise that Atic Atac was an inspiration for the similarly obtusely-difficult UK game show, Knightmare. No matter: whatever old-school quirkiness Atic Atac has is balanced by the clear love that both the original and remake designers had for their creation. Put a Duran Duran cassette in the tape deck, cue up a few Fifth Doctor serials, and prepare for a first rate "atic" crawl.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

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


(14 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Dedale

MeaghanWhat springs to mind when someone says the word "maze"? Probably not an image of a butterfly dancing along a series of colored tiles to the sound of piano keys. Sergey Mohov, on the other hand, envisioned exactly that, turning the butterfly and piano vision into a gorgeously styled maze puzzle game by the name of Dédale. With music provided by Fractures, it is up to you to brave 100 levels of tile coloring, butterfly leading, maze escaping fun.

DedaleYou'll only need your brain and a mouse for this game (or your brain and a few fingers for the mobile version). Simply left click on the starting tile and drag across the spaces where you want the butterfly to move, changing each square's color as you pass. Every tile needs to be crossed to complete a level, and in early stages you can't backtrack, so plan ahead! Later on, you'll encounter new tiles that require alternate strategies to deal with, such as large tiles or tiles that need to be passed over twice.

Dédale is the perfect type of game to play at any time of day, but most especially when you're feeling like you need a respite from the chaos of the world and want a piece of calm to settle into. The endearing butterfly and the soothing piano notes will certainly help lull anyone into a sense of ease and security. There is no dying, there is no time limit to constrain your thought process; there is nothing but the joy of using your noggin' to move on to the next challenge. So turn off your phone (unless that's where you're playing the game), maybe close the curtains, and grab a cup of something warm and soothing because the world can wait while you and the butterfly traverse the enchanting music painted maze that Mohov has created.

WindowsWindows:
Download the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Download the full version


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (26 votes)
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Dark Strokes: Sins of the Fathers

GrinnypThe story of Atlantis is one of the oldest legends in western civilization, and it holds as much fascination today as it did over 2,000 years ago. Whether it be an allegory on hubris, a thinly veiled reference to the destruction of Thera, or an overblown tourist trap in the Bahamas, the story still resonates even today, especially in Alawar's new adventure hybrid Eternal Journey: New Atlantis.

Eternal Journey: New AtlantisAmrite Stone, the heroine of the story, is an archaeologist working on the newly discovered ruins of Atlantis with her fiancé Michael. The first building uncovered, the temple of Mars, has been shielded with a handy geodesic dome allowing for an archaeological dig without all that pesky scuba equipment (or, at this depth, all those expensive submersibles). Pretty soon, though, the story takes an unusual twist, and next thing you know Amrite is participating in a rollicking sci-fi adventure that travels to some pretty unexpected places. If this doesn't say much about the story, well, that is deliberate as there are some pretty interesting plot twists that are better experienced first-hand. Here's a hint: pay attention to the word new in the title.

Eternal Journey: New Atlantis has the basic bells and whistles of most adventure hybrids, a changing cursor to indicate different areas of interest and navigable areas, a bottom-loading inventory, a refilling hint timer, a handy notebook to keep track of the story, sparkles of light to highlight items to explore (which are absent in the advanced mode), etc. While there are some interesting hidden object scenes and puzzles in the game, the emphasis here is on the adventuring aspect. Best of all is the map feature which allows instant jumping around without a lot of tedious back-tracking.

Eternal Journey: New AtlantisAnalysis: First of all, it's a refreshing change not to be battling demons, ghosts, ferocious dogs, or psychotic witches in Eternal Journey: New Atlantis. Instead, what Alawar has produced is a fantastic science fiction adventure that journeys far beyond the "traditional" Atlantis. Think less Atlantis and more Stargate: Atlantis, although the story itself is not related to that beloved TV series.

The production values are everything you would expect from Alawar, including the usual stunning graphics and haunting soundtrack. Amazing animations also contribute to the adventure but stunning graphics and animations are not exactly uncommon. What is uncommon these days is what Eternal Journey: New Atlantis delivers in spades: a fantastic story! Most adventure hybrids have a storyline that could be summed up in two sentences and the ending can be seen usually within the first 20 minutes of play. Not so here, as Alawar has taken great pains to create an involved and involving adventure, but we shouldn't be surprised, these are the folks who brought us the Snark Busters series and Dark Strokes: Sins of the Fathers.

Eternal Journey: New AtlantisThe hidden object scenes, what there are of them, are definitely up to snuff with a lot of interactivity involved, including "secondary" scenes hidden within the main hidden object scenes. The adventuring aspect is top-notch and rates with the best of the hybrids and is a fantastic complement to the amazing story. Where the game falls down, if only a little, is in the mini-games and puzzles which are all very familiar and at times a bit too easy. Considering the quality that is present everywhere else, though, this is a minor quibble.

Eternal Journey: New Atlantis is an amazing science fiction adventure wrapped up in an exquisite bow. The two modes of play ensure that a wide range of adventure fans can enjoy this marvelous story in all its glory. Time to forgo the ghosties, ghoulies, and long-legged beasties and set off for a kick-butt adventure to the stars! Or the bottom of the ocean. Whatever!

A Collector's Edition is also available. It includes wallpapers, extra gameplay, and a built-in strategy guide. Remember that Big Fish Game Club Members pay only $13.99 for Collector's Editions, 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 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (207 votes)
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ChadShapeFitTetris has been conceptually reverse-engineered again, and this time, you already know what pieces you get to work with in advance. However, instead of letting gravity take its course, and dropping your blocks into a rectangular box to form lines, you will need to drag them into a geometrically designed frame that could be a letter, numeral, or symbol. ScrollGroup's newest production, ShapeFit offers you a truly casual tangram puzzle game experience, as there aren't any time limits to worry about or stress over. Your only goal is to solve the puzzle, and fit all of your puzzle pieces into the shaped frame.

The game is entirely driven by the mouse, which makes this a great game to sit back, relax, and just let the logic portion of your brain and index finger go to work. The puzzles appear to be deceptively simple, but you may find that just isn't necessarily the case. A strategy you might employ is to look for unique sections of the enclosure, that may seem to have only one part that seems workable; and yet it is actually a combination of multiple pieces that will solve your dilemma, and still alow you to fit the rest of your parts in. You can also get hints, should you find yourself stuck, but only three per level, so use them sparingly. ShapeFit isn't for players that are solely looking for flashy graphics, or exquisitely composed music, but it isn't trying to be. It is a simply-designed, clever puzzler, that lets you exercise your gray matter, and that can be a good thing, too.

Play ShapeFit

Thanks to Cyberjar88 for sending this one in!


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (29 votes)
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1000000

DoraDear reader, I love you, but I also resent you a little bit, because writing this review for Eighty Eight Games' insanely addictive arcade dungeon-crawling retro iOS game 10000000 means I had to put it down. Which, when we're talking about a glorious, fast-paced hybrid like this, is the last thing you want to do. You control a hero who wakes up in a dilapidated castle full of monsters, from which he can't escape unless he racks up a whopping 10000000 total points by tearing down corridors full of treasure and enemies for as long as possible. With everything from dragons to demons to goblins to freaking ninja in your way, do you stand a chance of ever escaping? More importantly, given how gloriously fun and hard to put down this game is, why would you want to?

10000000Our hero, upon entering the dungeon, immediately begins running to the right until he hits an obstacle. Enemies, chests, and locked doors are all dealt with by swapping tiles around on the grid, matching the appropriate icons to attack, get keys, items, and even wood and stone. There's no time to sit and think your moves out, however, since time is constantly running out, and if the edge of the screen catches up with you, your run will come to an end. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, because it will let you return to your castle's main hub, where you can spend the wood and stone you gathered on rooms that will let you upgrade your equipment and skills, or get perks, with the gold and experience you've earned so far.

10000000 is simple. Simple like a fox. With its retro style and "just one more run" style of quick gameplay, it manages to hit that perfect sweet spot of arcade action that turns it into the sort of thing your fingers will be itching to reach for whenever you have a free moment. (And even when you don't have time to spare.) The upgrades and mini-objectives will appeal to achievement fiends, which helps take the sting out of how very grind-y the game is by design. It's not particularly deep or complex, and players who don't find high scores particularly gratifying may be put off by how repetitive the game honestly is. But if you're looking for a game with all the arcade addiction of Bejeweled liberally spiced with endless dungeon crawling goodness, upgrades, monsters, and flashing lights and sounds, then 10000000 is more than worth the price of admission. I know what I'm doing once I finish writing this, and it's not "going outside to be a productive member of society". Thanks a lot, 10000000. I can check out anytime I like, but I can never leave.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

Mac OS XMac OS X:
Get the full version

LinuxLinux:
Get the full version

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the 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 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (35 votes)
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Cavenaut

TrickyPeru, 1950. Strange signs have appeared in the misty mountains. You, a famous spelunker, head to the area to investigate them.. Such is the humble premise of Cavenaut, an exploration-based action-adventure game by Bruno Marcos. Don't think that the ruins of Machu Picchu will reveal their secrets so easily, however. Snake, Bat, Spike, and Spear stand in your path, and if you hope for mysteries to be unraveled, you must be quick of both mind and fingers.

CavenautViewing the area from a top-down perspective, move your character with the [arrow] keys. You're going to want to start by heading to the right to pick up the shovel, a useful tool that will help you clear out loosely packed dirt and other parts of scenery. Wield it (and any other items you find) in the four cardinal directions with [WASD]. While it's best to discover the mechanics of Cavenaut for yourself, generally you will explore ruins, finding artifacts which will unlock new areas for you to explore. In addition to the general darkness of unmapped territory (which goes away as soon as it is explored), hazards such as the pattern-following snakes, the random-walking bats, the straight-line shooting arrows, and extending/retracting spikes will kill you if you so much as graze them. Expect death, and lots of it.

With a challenge level that's brutal, but fair, Caveanut has the addictive quality of the most punishing of retro-styled games. Is every playthrough somewhat an exercise in masochism? Yeah, probably. However, frustration is counteracted by constant sense of progression. Death only sends you back to the beginning of the screen, and since each step you take will often reveal more of the danger within each room, it never feels like your efforts are wasted. At its best, Cavenaut feels like a magnificent long-lost Indiana Jones Atari game, capturing in equal parts the excitement and danger of exploring a place long hidden from human eyes. Cavenaut loses itself a bit in the mid-game, with a number of water-flow puzzles that require just a little too much pixel-perfect reaction time, and a few "Oh wait, that wasn't the friggin' final level?" moments. That said, Cavenaut is a very clever kind of game that takes its time in building to satisfying conclusion. You'll need a hundred lives to complete it, but they'll all be good ones.

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

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


  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (20 votes)
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Surface: The Noise She Couldn't Make

DoraVictim, or killer? That's what you have to discover in Elephant Games' hidden-object adventure adventure Surface: The Noise She Couldn't Make. When a young girl is found lying unresponsive by the roadside in the middle of nowhere, a bloody knife beside her despite a lack of wounds, and not carrying any identification, the hospital turns to you in desperation. As a psychic detective (snicker, snort!) you'll have to use your unique abilities to enter the helpless girl's mind and see why she's a prisoner of her own thoughts. If you don't succeed, not only will TLC not make a terrible reality show about you, which could be seen as a sort of reward actually, but it's unlikely your Jane Doe will survive. Can you navigate the minefield of symbolism and mystery in her head to save her? And does she really deserve saving?

Surface: The Noise She Couldn't MakeJane Doe's brain is a confusion jumble of surreal imagery, but the dangers are very real to her, and so it might seem to you, since it quickly becomes apparent that someone or something doesn't want you helping the girl. You'll have to stay on your toes as you hunt for clues and solve puzzles, dealing with Jane's physical symptoms as they pop up in the real world by fixing the psychological manifestations of them in her dreamscape. Since this is a dream, few things function the way they should and you'll encounter mazes, obstacles, and locked doors of an unusual type. Fortunately, if you get stuck, you can use the hint function to get pointed specifically towards your next step, or skip troublesome puzzles altogether. Even more helpful, the map will show you any locations you can actually do something in and let you travel there instantly with a click. Plus, if you gather the glowing blue flowers hidden throughout the game, you'll be able to spend them on decorations for your superfluous magical detective's office because... well... just because, okay?!

Surface: The Noise She Couldn't MakeAnalysis: Despite the goofy "psychic detective" premise, Surface: The Noise She Couldn't Make stands out as one of Elephant Games' most intriguing and beautiful titles to date. The design of Jane's dreamworld is gorgeous, full of secrets and lush visuals that makes it especially fun to explore, and the concept of a person's mind manifesting as a town unique to their psyche for you to traverse and solve mysteries in is very clever. The story is a little slow moving, broken up by long chunks of backtracking and item hunting that kind of drags, especially when the clues you'll encounter about Jane's troubled past are a lot more interesting. Because the game takes place in a dreamland of imagery and symbolism, some of the obstacles and item uses are sort of deliberately goofy and illogical, which won't appeal to every player. On the plus side, this does mean that a lot of the puzzles you'll encounter are quite creative, if on the weird side.

The tone of the whole game, from setting to story, sort of wavers between 14 year old dramatic teenage girl wishful fanfiction and... grim. But if you're willing to take that with a grain of salt and can handle some illogical item uses and pacing issues, Surface: The Noise She Couldn't Make is actually an extremely engrossing game. It isn't perfect, and the subject matter won't be to everyone's tastes, but players looking for a more unusual and creative game will want to try the demo. It's on the lengthy side, and the heavy emphasis on its unusual story makes it stand out from the pack. Imaginative, dark, and more than a little weird, Surface: The Noise She Couldn't Make is an unusual game that will take a certain sort of player to appreciate it, and is well worth checking out.

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

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

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


  • Currently 3/5
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Rating: 3/5 (219 votes)
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DoraTurbo GolfYou know, as morbidly amusing as watching a man's hopes and dreams visibly crumble because of a little white ball rolling two centimeters to the left of a hole can be, golf isn't really what you'd call exciting. turboNUKE aims to change all that however with Turbo Golf, doing away with the slow, methodical approach to the sport and cramming it full of running, wild swings, upgrades, and more.

The goal is to get your ball into the hole before anyone else does, and to do that you'll need to hit it from one end of the screen to the other, running after it whenever it lands to belt it again. Aim your shot with the mouse, and click to fire when the power meter is where you want it. Along its arc, the ball will nab coins you can spend on better equipment in the store, but when it hits the ground your golfer will sprint up to it so you can whack it again. Terrain like sand traps and the rough will hinder you, but you can use power-ups once per hole to get a bit of an edge. When the ball is close to the hole, you'll have to put it in the same way. Of course, the other golfers are going to be doing all this at the same time you are, and the fastest one to sink their ball wins. I have to tell you, I'd watch a lot more golf if it were less polite clapping and more grown men stampeding around, flailing clubs and hooting like gibbons. But then I also say the same thing about American Idol.

Turbo Golf is exactly the sort of weird, chaotic wonderfulness you'd expect from turboNUKE, and though it can start to feel a little repetitive, it's also surprising how fun these relatively simple gameplay changes to the sport are. The course designs are fun and silly, rendered in the team's signature cartoonish style, and if you already enjoy golf games and aren't a stickler for rules it's also kind of compulsively playable. Turbo Golf does just enough to feel like its freshening the familiar gameplay up, and is packed with unlockables and upgrades to boot. So go ahead. Channel your inner Happy Gilmore and give it a little tap-tap-tap-a-roo.

Play Turbo Golf


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (52 votes)
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DoraElemental BalanceEarth! Air! Fire! Water! irRegular Games! By your powers combined, I am... a physics puzzle!... okay, so maybe it's not as dramatic as the cartoon show, but this way you aren't subjected to the spandex booty shorts or the green mullet. Elemental Balance puts a new spin on a tried-and-tested concept by throwing different elements into traditional physics-based puzzling. Your goal is to clear a particular item on each level by setting and detonating bombs that will blast it around into what will destroy it. Through each of the themed sets of levels, new elements are introduced that have an impact on the way the pieces work.

Just click onscreen to place a bomb if you have one available, then hit [spacebar] or click the button to prime them for detonation. Then, it's a matter of just clicking on the bombs to set them off, and if you have more than one placed, you can detonate them in whatever order you choose. Elemental Balance has a whopping 48 levels, some of which are more interesting or clever than others, but the unique spin it presents on the physics puzzle genre makes it worth checking out. Frankly, I'm just disappointed the Earth stages don't let you play with Brawndo to manipulate the plants... it's what they crave, after all. Later stages get extremely complex, tossing fuses and multiple elements into the mix, and since the game allows you to easily fine tune bomb placement or reset at a snap, it never really becomes that frustrating. Elemental Balance is still, at its core, a very familiar game that could have implemented its ideas in even more effective or creative ways, but if you feel like pretending to be an extremely ineffectual Captain Planet for the day, it's a solid little experiment in elemental mayhem.

Play Elemental Balance


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (55 votes)
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DoraDeadly Neighbors 2Most of us don't have much quarrel with our neighbors, I would hope, but even when we do take offense to them blaring The Safety Dance at 2:00 AM or drinking milk straight from the carton in their underpants on the front lawn, it usually doesn't devolve into a violent free-for-all. Usually. Nerdook's Deadly Neighbors 2 is a turn-based strategy game of disputes gone wrong as you control a family out to bring the hurt down on their neighbours. (Yes, with a "u". Leave me alone. It's proper.)

Create your pack of battlers, choosing from a variety of classes with different strengths and weaknesses, and then duke it out on the field (or in this case the yard) by maneuvering your family around screen turn by turn. The active character is denoted by a white ring, and blue squares are spaces you can move to, while red squares are occupied by enemies you can attack. Reduce your opponents to zero hitpoints to win and earn coins to unlock more classes, and upgrade points to toughen your own team up or allocate new abilities.

Deadly Neighbors 2 allows for the sort of casual strategy battling that's easy to leap into whenever you have a few moments, though you might wish it had done away with its coin-based unlocking system for a more traditional experience points/level up model. It feels like it's made to be played and enjoyed in bite-sized chunks, and if you like a more streamlined, pared down version of the combat found in Final Fantasy Tactics, then Deadly Neighbors 2 might be for you. Just remember, kids, this isn't the sort of behaviour you should be emulating. Or fashion.

Play Deadly Neighbors 2


(8 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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MANOS - The Hands of Fate

JohnBBased on the B-movie of the same name, the one famously riffed by the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew so many glorious years ago, MANOS - The Hands of Fate is a retro-styled platform game from FreakZone that may very well be as punishing as the film itself. In a different sort of way. Armed with a few guns and an impending sense of "doom", work your way through the game's enemy-infested levels in an attempt to best your own speedruns. The Master would be pleased if you got a high score.

MANOS - The Hands of FateUsing a set of virtual controls, move Mike left and right on the screen, jumping and firing his gun with the buttons on the right. Timing is everything, and MANOS is packed with things moving, from snakes to floating eyeballs, bouncing liquor bottles to whatever those shiny hovering tumbleweeds are! You only have a few hit points to spare, and once your lives run out, you have to start over from the first stage. Fortunately, a few power-ups can be found to aid you, such as hearts and 1-UPs strewn about the coins and gems. Just shoot the hand statues and collect away!

Depending on your history with MST3k or B-movies in general, you'll probably walk into the MANOS - The Hands of Fate experience with different expectations. You don't need to know a thing about the original film to enjoy the game, it just adds a new layer of happiness when you can imagine Mike, Tom, and Crow suffering through along with you. There are plenty of references to delight MST3k fans (though never enough to please us MSTies), so keep your eyes peeled!

The only real downside to the MANOS game is the fact that it's a precision-based platformer attempting to skate by with virtual controls. The jury is still out on whether or not this is a good idea, and if you ask us, we still don't think virtual buttons are an acceptable substitute for a good physical gamepad. However, MANOS makes the best of what it's got, and if you're up for a double dose of punishment, Torgo will be happy to talk to you about Master all evening long. He'll even throw in some creepy passes at your wife for free!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the iPad 3. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraErmahgerd, you guys! This week we have a whole plethora of things for you, including the opportunity to win one of the site's favourite classic indie adventure games, ponies applebucking each other across the room, the Fluffy Dimension, and endless terrible deaths! It's like Christmas in July, only more confusing!

MachinariumCONTEST: I For One Welcome Our Adorable Robot Heroes Essentially, I'm a terrible person who can really only muster up my top levels of excitement for games that involve terrifying things or fine feathered freaky friends, but even I have to admit that the Amanita Design hit point-and-click adventure Machinarium is both amazing and adorable. So let's give you a chance to put some metallic sunshine in your day by giving you the opportunity to win one of three free copies of this story of love and robots! To enter, just play the free flash demo and leave a comment here. If you haven't already experienced Machinarium, you'll definitely want to... the game isn't one of the community's most beloved titles for no reason. Rules: Entries must be submitted by August 3rd, 11:59 p.m. EST (GMT-5). Winners will be notified by e-mail shortly thereafter. Winners are selected randomly. One entry per person only. You must be at least 13 years of age or older to enter. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. UPDATE: And the winners are: David B., Iena42, shjack180. Thanks for playing, and you'll be notified by e-mail soon!

Quantum ConundrumReturn of the Fluffy Dimension Quantum Conundrum, or as I call it ever since I started watching Star Trek this past week on Netflix, "Being Imaginary Best Friends With John de Lancie", is a great little cartoonish first-person puzzler that revolves around you as a young boy trapped in the house of your uncle, an eccentric inventor. You must use a device that allows you to swap dimensions around you to manipulate your environments along the way if you ever want to find your way out and rescue your marginally grateful and uncle. It's fun, it's weird, John loved it in his review, I loved it since I picked it up because I do what John tells me to do, and if you've already bought and loved it too then you'll be thrilled to hear there are two upcoming DLC packs due out later this year that will add even more content to the game. The packs will, unfortunately, cost you an additional $2.99 USD apiece on top of what you've already paid, which is a little disappointing, but The Desmond Debacle (July 31st) and IKE-aramba! (August 28th) will definitely be welcome if you're already a fan.

TriNow You're Thinking With Triangles We've talked about the upcoming first-person puzzle platformer TRI before, but now you can play the demo! The game, coming for PC and Mac, is an absolute trip to behold and a blast to play, as you create triangles that allow you to explore and manipulate your environment in a variety of strange and useful ways. The pre-alpha release video on the official site showcases the game's groovy style and theme, as well as how you can use your TRI power to spawn and tweak triangles to do everything from let you stick to walls to shift light and much more. If you like unique indie adventures with a heavy emphasis on puzzle and exploration, this is definitely one for you.

Fighting is MagicParty Cannon, I Choose You! You're getting closer and closer to your dream of forcing your favourite colourful cartoon ponies to beat the hay out of each other, you monster! Progress marches on for Fighting is Magic, the upcoming totally free fighting game based on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, and since we last checked in quite a few new things have been revealed. There are a ton of My Little Pony projects out there in the works, but few can hold a candle to the degree of polish and professional detail in Mane6's work, and the most recent video showing combat and combos is a prime example of this. The animation is fantastic, and while initially you'll only be able to play as the show's primary pony cast, you can look forward to a total of seventeen ponies in the roster eventually. (Although the confirmed lack of Discord makes me sadface.) Stay tuned for more updates, and keep yourself in fighting shape for the eventual release!

The Banner SagaMaking Stabbing Look Pretty The upcoming episodic adventure strategy RPG The Banner Saga is one of those games you can yearn for as much as you dread, because you know it's gorgeous and is absolutely going to devour your free time. This week, you can snag a preview of how combat is going to look thanks to the art direction in this blog post, which more than showcases the cinematic animated style the development team is trying to keep throughout the entire game. It's particularly interesting because it showcases some of the thought process behind designing it... chances are not every player will notice or appreciate the care that goes into deciding whether the tables are messy after a viking feast, but it's minor details like that which bring a whole new depth of subtle life to the game.

You Chose WrongIt Doesn't Count If You Keep Your Finger On the Page If you're old enough to remember a time when your imagination was your graphics card, then prepare to get all wistful and whatnot as you browse You Chose Wrong. This wacky and delightfully morbid little Tumblr highlights the many, many, many possibilities for failure and death that came about when you picked the wrong path in the classic Choose Your Own Adventure books. From the weird to the horrific to the silly, it's a fantastic little trip down memory lane and proof positive that whether games are on a console, your browser, your desktop, or your bookshelf, their creators love to do horrible things to you. Aw.

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 (65 votes)
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TrinnMystery Shack MysteryDisney's Gravity Falls is about a small, rural town in Oregon where strange, occult happenings are an undercurrent to every day life. But for two of its denizens, Dipper and his sister Mabel, the outside world is out of reach when Grunkle Stan accidentally locks them in the attic of his museum/home/bizarre curios shop. Now it's up to you to help them break free in this point-and-click adventure game, the Mystery Shack Mystery.

Play as either Dipper Pines, the intelligent and insatiably curious young adventurer, or as his adorably goofy sibling Mabel. Each character offers a slightly different experience while you collect items, search for clues, and most importantly, escape! A changing cursor helps to eliminate most of the pixel hunting and a hint button exists to offer a useful nudge if you need it. The game isn't particularly difficult or long, and Mystery Shack Escape probably would have been a more fitting title given the lack of any one overlying mystery. However, these shortcomings are counterbalanced by a bunch of laughs, secret easter eggs for fans of the show (including a very esoteric coded message), and some inventory-based puzzling that's suitable for kids and inner children alike.

Play Mystery Shack Mystery


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Rating: 4.6/5 (51 votes)
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elleDibbles Pro PackIf you just finished playing through every dibbles game you could get your hands on and still haven't had all your demanding puzzle needs met, then Dibbles Pro Pack is the next logical step. Gameplay remains the same: set action stones to order the procession of the dibbles, constructing a path to ensure the king's safe passage to his destination.

Harkening back to the initial red demise environment, this pack of 33 all new levels is more like an intermediary between the earliest and the most recent Dibbles installments—not as troublesome to figure out as the latter but more challenging than the first game in The Podge's addictive puzzle series. Same old setting, different problem-solving scenarios, plus the user friendly features of the newer titles mean all your puzzle whims can now be met.

Play Dibbles Pro Pack


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Rating: 3.9/5 (53 votes)
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SonicLoverReisen seriesReisen. If my Google searching is reliable, it's a German word meaning "to travel". And that's certainly what the star of the Reisen series, Sneedle's lovely 10-episode adventure puzzler with hints of escape, has tasked herself with doing. (The preceding link and the image link go to a list containing links to the ten games. The play buttons below link to the individual games.)

The Reisen series catalogues the tale of a small red-headed girl named Jitter, who recently lost her parents to the war (World War II, most likely) and wants to go see her grandmother. This is easier said than done, as at the story's beginning she is confined to a bunker far away from where her grandma lives. If she wants to make the journey, she'll have to be cunning and resourceful, doing everything from trekking through dark forests to pole-vaulting over deep water to getting guards drunk.

Every game in the series can be played (almost) entirely with the mouse, using an interface many should be familiar with. Navigate by clicking the yellow arrows, and click on objects to interact with them and sometimes pick them up. If something is in your inventory (the column of circles on the right), click it to select it, then use it on the environment-- or on the "+" in the corner to examine it up close. Your goal varies from game to game, but just focus on doing what you can and you'll get there.

This is a series with good points and bad points, like many others. The visuals are relatively unimpressive, the puzzles are okay in the logic department, and pixel-hunting can get annoying, although it gets much more tolerable later in the series. What really makes it worth playing, though, is the story. Jitter's tale is an epic one; she meets many allies and enemies throughout her journey, and has her share of both comedy and tragedy, plus a few philosophical discussions about war and humanity.

If you've got a large block of time to kill and don't mind mature subject matter, playing the Reisen games back to back is a good idea.

Play Reisen ep. 1
Play Reisen ep. 2
Play Reisen ep. 3
Play Reisen ep. 4
Play Reisen ep. 5
Play Reisen ep. 6
Play Reisen ep. 7
Play Reisen ep. 8
Play Reisen ep. 9
Play Reisen ep. 10


  • Currently 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (157 votes)
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TrickyBlackwood PrologueCostis doesn't remember how he got here. He doesn't know why the world keeps changing around him. And he certainly doesn't know the man in black who seems to be following him. But every little boy knows when it is time to explore, and so he will. For better or worse... Blackwood Prologue is an interactive art adventure by Blake Mann, that takes you inside the mind of a kid who just might be seeing his future in his dreams. Move Costis with the [WASD] or [arrow] keys, and click the pieces of dialogue to advance the story. There are also 6 hidden orbs to be unlocked by performing certain actions.

It's kind of hard to judge Blackwood Prologue as is. Certainly it has a marvelous atmosphere, and moments that manage to be both evocative and unsettling. However, like its inspiration Coma, there's more symbolism and eeriness than plot which makes it lean heavily to the "art" side of the "interactive art" descriptor. Certainly we have seen works that use the premise of dream logic as a crutch for vague or half-developed ideas. However, as the title states, the game is a prologue, and presumably the foreshadowing will pay off in the full Blackwood title the author currently has in development. For now though, Blackwood Prologue is an immersive, sometimes scary walk through a beautiful dreamscape, and hey, maybe that's enough.

Play Blackwood Prologue


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Rating: 4.6/5 (156 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypHaretoki is back with another escaping gem that turns room escaping conventions on its head. Sometimes Sunny Block brings a refreshing charm and gameplay to the escape game genre.

Sometimes Sunny BlockSometimes Sunny Block appears at first glance to be (and actually is) a basic one-room escape. The furnishings are sparse and utilitarian as this room is definitely not a "living" space. There is the standard navigation bars and an easy to use inventory, although the game could also have benefitted from a save feature and perhaps a music clip. Unfortunately this is not the game for the color-blind, as nearly every puzzle features color in some way. Haretoki packs the room with some delightfully entertaining and original puzzles which we've come to expect since Sometimes Cloudy Challenge, the game that featured an escape from a rotating room.

One of the things that makes Sometimes Sunny Block stand out from the rest of the room escaping pack is the use of a found object in no less than four different puzzle solutions, bringing an elegance to the form that is rarely seen. Robamimi once used an abstract artwork as a dual solution, but how many escapes can claim four? While Sometimes Sunny Block is not terribly difficult, the charm of finding new and interesting ways to solve the puzzles within the strange room create an atmosphere that definitely can compete with the well-established designers of the field.

Play Sometimes Sunny Block


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Rating: 3.9/5 (75 votes)
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TrickyEffing Worms 2The Effing Worms are back? Quick! Call the House Atreides! Call Beetlejuice! Call Kevin Bacon! Wait... We're the ones controlling them? Never mind then. Lets wreak some havoc! Effing Worms 2, an arcade action game developed by Effing Games, has the player guiding the actions of their very own huge voracious annelid. And man, those puny humans have never looked so tasty.

Use [WASD] or [arrow] keys to steer your worm left and right, as well as to speed up or slow down. Generally, gameplay will consist of choosing the right time and place to surface and chow down. Though gravity affects you when not underground, building momentum and using your wings to "swoop" up and down can keep you aloft for longer. At the bottom of the screen is your hunger/health meter. Take too much damage or fail to eat enough to offset your hunger pains, and it's game over. After eating a certain number of enemies, an upgrade will be unlocked, giving you the choice of two modifications to your collossal beasts. The further you go in the game, there'll be larger numbers of enemies with better firepower, but you can always stay below and much on a few lizards for health when needed. Despite its subterranean star, Effing Worms 2 can't really be called a particularly deep game, but it has that visceral kind of DESTROY EVERYTHING! fun that will never stop being addictive. There's no real goal beyond eating, growing, and upgrading, but adding those little bits of customization to your creature is strangely satisfying. At the very least, Effing Worms 2 should help players de-stress as they munch their way through a coffee break.

Play Effing Worms 2


  • Currently 4.5/5
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Rating: 4.5/5 (46 votes)
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JeremyMoontype: Episode 2Flex those metacarpals, because the moon is in danger from alien invaders and the only thing standing between it and utter distruction are your typing skills. I really do hope you were one of those kids paying attention in 7th grade typing class and not just playing Math Blasters, because the entire human race is depending on it. Moontype: Episode 2 by Chman is a fast-paced action arcade typing game where you need to keep enemies from destroying our beloved moon by quickly blasting them out of the sky. Just type the name that appears over an enemy's head and hit [enter] to fire a rocket at it, and try to keep them at bay across each stage. Your moon can only take a certain amount of damage, so you'll want to keep any baddies and their own fired projectiles at bay by typing as quickly as possible to take them out before they reach you.

The game features smoother graphics than the original, a choice of difficulty settings (Hurt me plenty!) and, for the more mathematically minded, a numpad typing mode, which will blow most players out of the water. In fact, anyone who beats even the easiest of these levels deserves an honory Administrative Assistant degree from their nearest accredited community college. Throw different play modes, like survival and quick race, into the mix and you have a great little game that'll keep you playing long after you beat all the regular levels and have been fired from your cushy middle management job for playing video games instead of, you know, working. If your boss does happen to walk by, you can say you're practicing your typing, right?

Play Moontype: Episode 2


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

joye Woodhead may be developed by a studio called Terrible Games, but never fear: that's just an example of the kind of sarcastic, hipster-ironic humor that the game uses as its backdrop. If you're a fan of The Onion, you'll love the interstitial newspaper headlines between the levels, but even without that, this is one of the most accessible yet challenging, straightforward yet never repetitive block sliding puzzle games out there, and the game takes full advantage of the strengths of the iPhone for its interface.

WoodheadThe core of the game is swiping left, right, up or down to make Woodhead go that direction. You'll have a star-marked goal to head for, a couple of shiny jewels to pick up along the way, and a goal number of "strokes" to beat in order to make par, like golf. Manage to pick up all the jewels at or under par, and you'll three-star the level. Three starring a level unlocks secrets and bonuses, but all you have to do to move to the next level is to get Woodhead to the star. This is generally pretty easy, and enables frustrated players to move on when they're stuck.

If it were simply sliding around a tiled board, it'd be pretty boring, but Woodhead includes an impressive number of other elements, such as keys and locks, expendable "friends", spikes and black holes, sticky goo, and more. In levels with friends (all of which can die with no penalty), the blocks all start the level asleep and can be woken up or put to sleep with a tap.

WoodheadAnalysis: The game requires a significant amount of spatial intelligence and planning skills to excel. You have to do things like place blocks or unlock locks the moment you pick up the item, so you have to be able to envision all the steps you're going to take towards the end of the level right then. This is exacerbated by the lack of a one-move-back undo button. All you can do is restart the level, even if you just made a swiping error at the last moment.

The snarky humor of the cutscenes and newspaper headlines between levels won't be to everyone's taste and may offend some. Again, it's really similar to The Onion, so you should have a good idea of what to expect based on your reactions to that website, or check out the screenshot for an idea. But even if it's not your cuppa, a simple tap to skip and you're back in smooth, relaxing, puzzling goodness.

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the iPad (3rd Gen.). Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.


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The Vault

TrickyI don't know much, but I do know this: When taking a vitamin or other pill with water, you should lean your head down rather than up, since, as most pills tend to float, the physics will take it to the back of your throat making it easier to swallow. Oh. And I also know that the JayIsGames archives is packed with a number of wonderful hits from the past. That knowledge is probably more relevant. This week in The Vault we'll dive into the action-packed advergame housing market, pick puzzling peculiarities from a pack of nearly-parallel photographies, and guide an adventurous stickman through an obstacle course designed by one of our favorite mad geniuses.

  • Mansion ImpossibleMansion Impossible - The greatest twitchy real estate arcade game ever produced (and, indeed possibly the only one), Mansion Impossible, by 3Form, is pure mindless fun. Admittedly, there's not much strategy beyond buying low, selling high, and clicking fast. Still, slowly clawing your way up to affording the giant mansion on the hill has all the capitalistic joy of triumphing in a competitive family game of Monopoly. Interestingly, Mansion Impossible also functions a bit as a cultural artifact for the 2005 real estate market, where home values could always be counted on to rise, and it was believed that investors only bought what they could afford. A version made with the cynicism brought by burst of the housing bubble would be very different indeed, one thinks. Economic realities aside, though, an iconic graphical style and bouncy sound effects gives Mansion Impossible a freshness that is timeless, whether things are Bearish or Bullish.
  • 6 Differences6 Differences - Photography works so well in browser gaming, that it's a surprise that we really don't see it more often. Oh sure, it seems to have the market cornered on the "Creepy House With A Mysterious Secret Point And Click Horror Game" genre, but to really get a feel for the possibilities, all one needs to look at is 6 Differences, by Case. Packed with gorgeous scenes ranging from shining cityscapes to dingy billboards, it may be the most beautiful spot the difference game ever produced. Mixing photos with ethereal animation gives 6 Differences an other-worldly quality, showing off an Earth very much, but not quite, like the one outside the window. Uncross your eyes, and take a good look.
  • Escape from Rhetundo IslandEscape From Rhetundo Island - Rob Allen is probably best known for his Hapland series of games (and, of course, the banner he made for a certain awesome casual gaming site), but all of his creations are worthy of acclaim. Case in point: Escape From Rhetundo Island. Though there's still the stick figure to guide and protect, Escape From Rhetundo Island mixes the pointing and clicking with a little Lemmings-styled strategy. The puzzles require careful timing, and the stickman seems particularly suicidally overconfident this time around, but it all comes together to make a game that's just frustrating enough to make the triumph of beating it extra sweet.

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


  • Currently 4.6/5
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Rating: 4.6/5 (185 votes)
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elleClickPLAY Quickfire 2Ninjas... aliens... hedgehogs. They're FAST. How fast, you ask? Click into ClickPLAY Quickfire 2 to find out. Your only goal is to find that "play" button as quickly as possible —that means plenteous finger convulsing mini-games and neuron buzzing puzzles to keep you sock hopping through 20 levels. Each scene asks for a different action: spot the difference, play roshambo, put the story scenes in order, find all the rotten tomatoes... just the sort of silliness you'd expect from NinjaDoodle.

Play the entire ClickPLAY series:
Click PLAYClick PLAY 2Click PLAY 3Click PLAY RainbowClick PLAY Rainbow 2Click PLAY Quickfire 1Click PLAY Quickfire 2Click PLAY Quickfire 3

As in ClickPLAY Quickfire 1, this follow-up in the popular ClickPLAY series offers no other help than the sound of a clock counting down or classic jukebox rock-n-roll to set the pace. The only impediment to making your score soar is the speed of your thinking-to-clicking reflexes. Instantaneous responses are required for the highest total. Your reward, besides the grin-inducing pictures both zany and cute, is 18 bonus levels for more energetic fun. It's fast. You'll have a blast. The time won't last. So click "play!"

Play ClickPLAY Quickfire 2


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

DoraIt's alive! Aliiiiiiiive!... or, at the very least, a free word puzzle for your iOS thing by Xether Labs, which is almost as good as the unholy flesh monstrosity you stitched together while playing God achieving sentience. The concept of Frankenword is simple. Using the two word clues onscreen, figure out what bizarre new term you're about to coin by dragging letters into the appropriate spaces from the pool of available options. Once you succeed, you'll be treated to a definition for your new creation that makes a bizarre sort of sense, or be prompted to make your own. You have a limited pool of hints available, though you can earn more by plugging the game on Twitter or Facebook if you're into that sort of thing.

FrankenwordFrankenword is sort of the perfect little party game, practically begging to be passed around a group of people after dinner as an actual physical board game. It'd be a perfect fit, but as it stands, the digital incarnation is still pretty excellent at providing laugh out loud moments when played with a friend. It's exceedingly simple, to be sure, and it's a little disappointing whenever the game asks you to come up with your own definition, since the silly ones provided with the app for the rest of the words are part of the reward. These are the times when the title really showcases how clever it can be, despite its very simple premise and gameplay.

It's easy to sit down and burn your way through the 100 free stages currently available in a short period of time despite a few frustrating stages where the clues don't really feel like they adequately or commonly describe what your solution is supposed to be. An additional whopping 600 stages are available as optional in app purchases, with more free batches planned for future updates. But even if you don't spend a dime on it, if you enjoy casual, silly wordplay Frankenword is one lurching word beast you won't mind encountering.

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 4/5
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Rating: 4/5 (65 votes)
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JeremyOverhaulTower defense games are everywhere these days. It's enough to make you wish you could turn that rickety old stapler in front of your desk into a snazzy Gauss rifle and blast away all the junk and get right to the good stuff. Well, Ed 'Ryzed' Ryzhov and Konstantin Groshkov have just what you need, the aptly named Overhaul, a slick new hybrid that mixes up match-3 and tower defense to blast away your workaday blues.

In Overhaul, what should be a routine mining operation on a newly discovered planet goes awry when the local populace, a mix of insectoids and robots decide its time for you to hit the road. Your mothership in orbit drops down modules to help protect your mining vessel. But before they can be activated, three of the same have to be matched in rows to create a level one module, combining three first levels to get a level two, and so on. You better have a good memory, however, as the abilities of the different blocks takes awhile to get down and the labeling of the modules isn't always intuitive.

Still, the backdrops, animations, and SFX are just right and it can be really satisfying to see your fully upgraded lasers drilling down to the core of the invading bugs and bots. Even the atmospheric soundtrack by THESANDS does its job, giving you something to bounce to between enemy waves, and heightening the tension when the battle is on. Overhaul is firing on all cylinders, as will you long after this turbocharged defense game is over.

Play Overhaul


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (117 votes)
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BenPortal QuestIf I invented a fantastic new type of gadget, I'd sit in my room and play with it all day. But that's not science, and in Yury Grigoryev's new puzzle platform game Portal Quest a minimum wage lab worker—that's you—has ended up in a deadly testing lab with today's new toy, a portal gun. Your goal is to escape the lab, moving with [WASD] and firing your portal gun by clicking the mouse. The portals are linked, so walking into one sees you emerge from the other, allowing unusual ways around a room.

Portal Quest takes obvious cues from both Valve's Portal and Portal: The Flash Version, but distinguishes itself with short, snappy puzzles and a clean pixel-art style of its own. Portal veterans will appreciate the way complex rooms end up with simple solutions and players new to the concept will also find a solid puzzle game in front of them. It's missing GlaDos, and cake, but makes up for it with 30 levels of perfectly pitched brainteasers. It's hard to overstate my satisfaction.

Play Portal Quest


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Mobile Monday

JohnBA few big names are rolling out exciting mobile projects in the coming weeks, and not just big names in the mainstream gaming world! Sega's got some news to keep us cool through the summer, while Nitrome and NimbleBit have some pieces of excitement of their own to share!

icebreaker-p.jpgNitrome to break iOS ice - Nitrome, the folks who make pretty much everyone's favorite pixel-gorgeous browser-based diversions, is preparing something special. Specifically, it's a mobile version of Ice Breaker built from the ground up for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch! All we know so far is that great things are planned and that the game is approaching completion. Ice Breaker iOS will support Retina displays and feature upgraded visuals, an explorable map, bosses, unlockable secrets, and a "proper" adventure. Ready to slice some ice?

nonosparks-p.jpgNoNoSparks Genesis going mobile - Love picross but want more laughter with your logic puzzles? NoNoSparks Genesis, the browser game from Beardshaker, arrived just a few months ago to fill that gaping hole. Now, the team reports it is working on a mobile version of the picross game specifically for iOS devices. No juicy details as of yet, just some excited players eager to get some puzzles solved!

jetsetradio-p.jpgJet Set Radio going mobile - Dreamcast owners and retro gaming fans will no doubt recognize the name of one of the most stylish graffiti-tagging arcade stunt games from the 90s. Now, Sega has announced the series will get both iOS and Android versions for the upcoming HD reboot. The portable Jet Set Radio looks almost identical to its console counterparts, but with the added bonus of using pictures you've taken as in-game graffiti. Look for the new Jet Set Radio games in the next few months!

pocketplanes-p.gifPocket Planes flies onward - For all of us still helplessly hooked on Pocket Planes, news of this update won't exactly be a surprise. But for everyone who managed to take a break, NimbleBit recently rolled out an update for our favorite casual sim, fixing a few bugs, tweaking a few gameplay items, and an in-game guide to help give new players a little push in the right direction. Be sure to check out our Pocket Planes review if you still haven't grabbed the free game, then look into our Pocket Planes walkthrough and Pocket Planes trading post when you're ready to go that extra mile.

Got some delicious info on an upcoming mobile release, current event, or other tasty news tidbit? We want to know! Send an e-mail with "Mobile Monday" in the subject line to johnb AT casualgameplay DOT com. We'll sift through the submissions and feature our favorites on a Mobile Monday article! Keen!


(14 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Cthulhu Saves the World

joyeJust when Cthulhu was about to destroy the world, a mysterious figure appeared and locked away his powers. Only by becoming a true hero could he get them back, according to the narrator. Unfortunately for the world, Cthulhu took some courses in fourth wall breakage back at R'lyeh Tech, and he hears what the narrator says. Thus, Cthulhu embarks on an epic turn-based RPG quest in which Cthulhu Saves the World... so he can destroy it! Along the way he'll acquire a groupie, be stymied by dancing zombies, investigate cow abductions, and show a bunch of hideous terrors beyond the ken of man's pitiful mind what's what.

Cthulhu Saves the WorldCthulhu Saves the World really does a good job of boosting the strengths of classic turn-based RPG games and minimizing their weaknesses. Enemies get stronger every turn, and your MP recovery for beating them lessens, giving an incentive to end battles quickly, thus providing some of the urgency that this style of combat can lack. While the game utilizes random encounters, there's a limited number per dungeon, so if you're going crazy trying to find the exit in a dungeon, at least your frustration isn't exacerbated by constant interruptions. You can save at any time, and there are helpful exit-hinting torches in some of the more maddening mazes. The one uncorrected weakness of classic RPGs is in save slots: the mobile versions have a mere four, which makes it difficult to have a couple different games going at once.

Cthulhu Saves the WorldFor this kind of retro, walking around maps, random encounters with turn-based battles kind of game, a controller is usually the ideal form of input. Adapting it to a keyboard isn't difficult, but adapting it to a touchscreen is much trickier. For the mobile versions, Tinkerhouse went with a primarily swipe based scheme with a few big on-screen buttons: an A button which generally functions as confirm, and a B button which generally functions as back. It's fair to say that it never feels as natural as either a keyboard or controller set-up, and when playing the game for a few hours at a stretch it can do a bit of a number on your hands, but it's hard to think of a different approach that would have avoided these drawbacks without having drawbacks of its own. For many players, the portability of a touchscreen device will outweigh these negatives anyway. This is a great game for playing a few battles on the bus or tweaking your party while waiting in line.

Cthulhu Saves the World is modestly advertised as having six to ten hours of gameplay, which for its price tag would be amazing even if that was all you got. Most players will find far more than ten hours of content here, however. Not only did the regular mode take your obsessively completionist reviewer much more than ten hours (must read every bookshelf!), but that's not even counting the bonus modes. Cthulhu's Angels, for example, contains all new dialogue, totally different all-female party, and many other surprises. Highlander mode gives you a one member party, and Overkill mode rockets you to level 40 so you can experiment which different skill sets, putter around maps looking for missed treasure, and other exploratory stuff.

Cthulhu Saves the WorldAnalysis: Zeboyd Games originally released Cthulhu Saves the World for Xbox Live Arcade several years ago, followed by a Windows version which was met with much rejoicing, selling more in the first week on Steam than it had in months on XBLA. Now, Tinkerhouse has made an authorized port to iOS and Android devices, and it's a great treat having this gem of an RPG on the go.

For a game about a cosmic horror who literally drives enemies insane before destroying them with tentacle attacks and whose avowed goal is to annihilate the entire world, it's surprisingly gentle. Kind of... sweet, actually. While the pixel art visuals of some of the enemies are certainly grotesque, there's nothing here that will haunt your nightmares, and the script and plot seem almost designed to make you want to reach into the game and give Cthulhu a big cuddle-wuddle, just like his groupie Umi. The satire is never mean-spirited and the developers obviously love what they're sending up. It's funny, yes, but it's also a game that leaves you with a smile on your lips and a warm feeling in your heart. It may horrify a few Lovecraftian purists, but most fans will be charmed, and turn-based RPG devotees will adore it.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (via Steam)

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

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an iPad and on Windows. 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 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (28 votes)
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I Wanna Be The Guy: Gaiden

AdamBI Wanna Be The Guy was a small indie platform game released by Kayin way back in 2007. If you're wondering what took so long to get a sequel, you probably never played the original. A quick refresher: you could be killed by falling apples. You could be killed by apples that fall upwards. If you avoided the apples, a cloud could drop out of the background... and kill you. And that would be how you got past one screen.

iwbtgg.jpgI Wanna Be The Guy: Gaiden lives up to its precursor's exceptionally difficult, exceptionally unpredictable, and exceptionally funny legacy, and it delivers in spades. Not to reveal any spoilers, but there are no less than three different ways to die between starting the game and selecting the first level to play. But enough about ways to die, what can you actually do in this game?

You play as The Lad, an intrepid hero who must — for some ultimately unimportant reason — make his way through some of the most difficult stages you will ever see grace your screen. To aid you, you have both jump and double-jump, and trickier terrain can be traversed by hitting [C], which will launch a grappling hook that can come in handy in several situations, the least of which being to swing across gaps. The hook can also pull you up to higher platforms and in special cases be used to grab and hold items. Your gun also comes into play, a small peashooter which fires a relatively weak but infinite number of shots, while holding [X] charges your weapon into a super-shot able to knock out enemies with a single blow or to activate certain (and of course, unmarked) triggers.

Though this game is quite short, at three frustrating levels, the sheer difficulty stretches the playtime quite considerably. At this stage, the length seems only temporary. From the blurb accompanying the release, we can expect more episodic content to come, and from the creativity and inventiveness shown here, the following installments should be well-worth anticipating.

Analysis: A lot of games like to hold your hand and whisper to you "No, honey, don't go any further until you have the key for the chest in the next level, you'll need it." I Wanna Be The Guy: Gaiden does the opposite. It will show you a key and a chest and both items can kill you by flying across the screen and smashing you in the face for no reason. Then the roof will fall on you and the ground will turn into killer, pointed spikes. If you get past that, who knows what will happen next?

The beauty here is the uncertainty and unpredictability of it all. Even if you know where to go and what to do, there is no telling what will happen next. Many is the time I've stood completely still, looking at the level ahead and weighing up which inanimate objects may kill me and how before I progress (and then get killed). If it sounds frustrating, it's really not, at least in my experience. I'd get so pent up with anticipation during the obstacle course that the inevitable death would make me laugh — every time. It's almost a relief to be treated like this, the game doesn't care about you, not one little bit. It just sits there and makes you wonder, can you get past that zone? Is it worth... just one more try?

WindowsWindows:
Download the free full version

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


(3 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Project 83113

DoraThe brutal Machines have been running the show for a long time, but hope for the enslaved arrives in the form of furry, pink, multi-armed and multi-gunned Belle, the star of NC Soft and Fabrication Games' iOS title Project 83113. Using her acrobatic platforming talents and flair for action, Belle will run and gun her way through hazardous levels full of metal enemies in a race to the core to take them down once and for all. Though short and perhaps a little tricky to get the hang of, it's a slick and stylish sci-fi blast packed full of lasers, explosions, and, most importantly, the cute.

Project 83113Controlling Belle is simple in concept, but requires some quick fingers to master. She'll continue running left or right when you swipe in that direction and stop if you press and hold on the screen. Swipe up to jump, and tap and hold while she's in mid-air to slow her fall by gliding. Swiping downwards will cause Belle to slide underneath any obstacles, and she can wall jump by swiping away when she's clinging to the side of something to boot. If all this sounds fairly rad for one little pink critter, wait, there's more! Belle will automatically fire at any enemies in her path, and tapping on them will unleash a bigger blast that will drain some energy, while hitting the bomb icon will devastate almost anything on-screen. Destroyed enemies will release green light that can restore Belle's health, represented in the top-left corner, but if she takes too much damage she'll respawn at the last checkpoint she passed. If you're having too much difficulty making it through a stage alive, you might want to replay previous levels to nab more crystals you can spend on weapon upgrades, or keep your eyes peeled for blueprints you can use to build bigger guns altogether.

Platforming on a touchscreen device is kind of a tricky beast to wrangle, and as clever and responsive as Project 83113 is, if it's your first touchscreen platform rodeo you might find it hard to get the hang of. Fortunately, there's no real penalty for dying other than getting booted back to earlier in a level, so you can spend some time mastering Belle's moves without ever feeling like you're failing. The game is gorgeous and full of flashy action, despite a feeling of repetitiveness to some of the levels, and managing to nab all the medals for a level always feels like an accomplishment. On the downside, it would have been nice if the story had been better integrated into the game itself rather than left as unlockable tidbits, and the crystal pieces you'll gather versus how many you need for upgrades will probably force you to replay stages a lot unless you feel like shelling out for a bunch of them through an in-app purchase. With fantastic style, tons of action, and flair to burn, however, if you're up for the challenge, Project 83113 is a remarkable little action platformer well worth checking out.

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 (35 votes)
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Skyborn

TrickyClaret Spenser doesn't care much for the outside world, she's happiest working in her airship repair shop. Machines are easier to deal with than the aristocracy of her floating city or the winged Skyborn race that conquered the humans generations ago. But, of course, her brother just had to sell the family shop and promise her hand to that cravat-wearing rich boy. And that rich boy just had to be on board his air ship when Claret decided to "borrow" it to make her escape. But hey, while she may need more than elbow grease to get out of this jam, a girl handy with a rivet gun should never be underestimated. Skyborn, an RPG from Dancing Dragon Games, is a unique whirlwind of a fantasy-steampunk adventure that demonstrates just how far the RPGMaker framework can be pushed in the hands of talented designers.

SkybornThe basic mechanics of Skyborn are typical for the JRPG genre. You lead a party of characters exploring different locations, interacting with NPCs, completing quests, fighting enemies, gaining experience points (XP) and developing skills. Use the [arrow] keys along with [Z] and [X] for movement, interaction, and accessing the status menu. Intuitive mouse controls are also available if that's more to your liking.

Battles are turn-based and prompted by encountering visible enemies roaming about the map. A unique threat-based system determines how enemies interact with you, so depending on your party's actions enemies will focus attacks on characters that appear to pose the most danger. Once killed, enemies do not respawn until a location is left. A nice touch is the battle-difficulty adjuster, which should alleviate frustration for those in it just for the story and give a challenge boost for those here for the monster bashing. Other unique elements include "Exploration Points", glowing bits of scenery which reward examination with XP, and the Augmentation system which Claret can use her to upgrade weapons and armor with various jewels and items.

Analysis: Skyborn aggressively wants to make a good first impression. Upon starting the game, you are blasted with an enormous quantity of quality: beautiful music, gorgeous art, an intriguing storyline, and a fully realized steampunk world. Relatively short for an RPG (about 10 hours of content), Skyborn keeps all its pistons firing throughout the whole experience, and it makes for an exhilarating time. Part of the game's immediate success comes from its characters. They're fairly archetypal, but intensely loveable, Claret in particular. If Lucca, Agatha Heterodyne, or Kaylee got to star in their own game, one has to think it would look at least a little like this.

SkybornOf course, the wonderfully expressive character art that accompanies the text does at least half of the work. They give storyline conversations a wonderful sort of visual novel-styled gravitas that adds a lot to storyline depth. (The comparison is particularly apropos: while text-heavy is probably too strong a term, Skyborn is certainly not text-light.) True, many of the NPC and enemy sprites feel a tad generic, and the steampunk elements are much more unique than the fantasy ones. However, the world of Skyborn captures the essence of the living, breathing, slightly dingy beauty of an industrial city as well as any of its 16-bit styled inspirations. Also of note is the game's beautiful (and original) background music. Release a soundtrack CD, stat!

Skyborn's plot is as captivating as its world, though the character archetypes in play admittedly make some of the twists predictable. Then again, good writing can breath life into even the most rote of storylines, and that is not something Skyborn lacks. Dialogue is crisp, and factions of the fictional world are allowed to develop and clash in a way that's complex without being convoluted. Things sometimes get a little lost during dungeon crawling/maze sections, though the complaint there would be that they're unnecessary and a little confusing to navigate but not at all dull. A slightly artificial lengthener for a fairly linear, fairly short, and fairly easy game. Still, it's hard to complain about having more monsters to shoot rivets at, and overall, Skyborn keeps the pace fast right up to its rollicking conclusion. Some plot threads aren't entirely tied off, but hopefully that's so that a sequel can be made. Pretty please?

Skyborn is, above all, stylish, but not in a way that gives its content short shrift. Rather, it gives players what many most desire in a role-playing game: a peak into a world different from our own, but filled with characters that we can adore, and stories that we will remember. Highly recommended to anyone with even the slightest love of RPGs.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 3.5/5 (25 votes)
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TrickyRobotOh, DHTML. We may not ever quite fully understand your often alchemical javascript manipulations of the DOM of HTML, but as long as Brent Silby keeps making awesome arcade games within your framework, you'll always have a place in our hearts and twitchy fingers. His latest is Robot, a cool little retro shooter where Robot must fly and Robot must blast untold hordes of Alien Invaders. What's more, Robot must protect his pack of adorable Baby Robots. And since, as everyone knows, Baby Robots are Alien Invaders' favorite food, Robot is not going to have an easy time.

Move Robot with the [WASD] or [arrow] keys and fire to the left and right with [ZX] or [NM]. Surrounding him is a number of Baby Robots, who will generally follow Robot's movements, with just enough random wandering to keep things interesting. Aliens will attack from the sides of the screen, and you must defend your brood. The game ends when either all of you Baby Robots have been destroyed, or when Robot loses all of his health. Knowing when to throw yourself in front of an attack, or when to sacrifice one of your babies will be key. New forms of enemies with new behaviors are constantly introduced, meaning players must change their strategy on the fly, which gets pretty exhilarating.It's hard to identify a specific inspiration for Robot, which is probably to its credit. Certainly bits of Space Invaders, Robotron, Defender, even a little bit of Galaga are present, and fans of those will have a lot of fun with this. Really though, Robot is its own creation and its classic arcade fun is a wonderful addition to Silby's body of work.

Play Robot


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Rating: 4.5/5 (30 votes)
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Anna

JohnBNight after night, you dream of her. Anna. But... they're not dreams, they're nightmares. And now, you find yourself staring at the very house you see each night in your sleep. This isn't a dream, but it isn't quite real, either. Welcome to the haunting world of Anna, a first person horror adventure game by Dreampainters that will leave you too frightened to turn your back on a dark corner for the rest of the night.

anna.jpgAnna plays out from a typical first person perspective, allowing you to freely move and look about each area. To interact with or examine things, simply click when the cursor changes to a small target. If the cursor switches to a hand, hold the right mouse button and drag to manipulate the object you've just taken hold of. The inventory can be accessed by a middle click on your mouse, and from there you can combine items, examine them, or grab them to assist you in solving a puzzle or two.

Things move at a slow sort of pace in Anna, presenting you with a handful of things to examine at once while challenging you to not only be observant, but to be curious, too. Take a closer look at everything you see, try to pick up objects even if they don't seem so portable. You never know when a short scene will be triggered or what effect your actions will have on the broken, frightening world around you.

Analysis: Anna isn't the sort of game that flings zombies at you from behind barred doors or splashes screaming faces on the screen when you're focusing on a puzzle. This is a much more subtle and insidious type of horror game, the kind that can really get under your skin and haunt you deep inside. The story and setting lay the groundwork for the spookiness, putting you in a world that isn't quite real and gets even less real as it progresses. And as you discover more of the story behind this house you're in, you start to feel like you're in a very unsafe place. But you can't get out, you can only go forwards. Yipe.

anna.jpgWhat Anna gets oh so right in terms of atmosphere and puzzle design, it tends to skip over some of the more invisible aspects, namely the interface. While moving around is smooth enough, any time you want to use an inventory item or interact with a piece of scenery, it feels as if you have to click more than you shouls. No keyboard shortcuts to be found, just slow mouse menus that many similar games have replaced with button combinations. It's an awkward barrier when you first start the game, and even a little ways in you'll find it somewhat frustrating. But eventually it all sinks in, slowing down your pace and actually adding to the deliberate, haunting nature of the game.

One of the more curious aspects of Anna is that it features three possible endings, each depending upon how mad your character is at the end of the game. In other words, the more paranoid and frightened you get, the less appealing your ending may be. This means you'll probably want to play through the game multiple times to get the different endings, bumping up the total play time to around six hours or so.

An incredibly chilling game with a story and setting to match, Anna is a superb indie horror game that's best played with the lights on. And friendly people in the house to watch your back.

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


(11 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Echoes of the Past: The Revenge of the Witch

DoraThis time it's really witches! Some evil witches! Or at least, a witch. Turns out, they don't really appreciated being thwarted on multiple occasions, and this particular one has used her considerable bag of tricks to bring tragedy upon an entire kingdom. Since the court magician is powerless, it falls to you to be a bad enough dude (or dudette) to track down the ten magical gems necessary to power a staff that can restore the land in Oneon's hidden-object adventure Echoes of the Past: The Revenge of the Witch. Now with ten times more magical MacGuffins!

Echoes of the Past: The Revenge of the WitchTurns out the kingdom would have been been 100% evil shadow minion free if only the ruling house had sprung for a mouse, since that's all you need to click around and solve puzzles or gather clues. ... or, okay, I guess technically your magic, sassy talking mirror who provides hints might be some help too. The witch isn't just going to kick back with a cup of newt bile or whatever witches drink, however, and as you play and search the kingdom you'll constantly have to deal with her interference. Her magic can turn inanimate objects against you, make hellhounds out of puppies, bar your way, or even craft cunning magical locks to prevent you from getting the tools you need... although I might offer that any devious supernatural puzzle you can circumvent simply by waiting a moment or two and then clicking a "skip" button has some flaws in the design.

Echoes of the Past: The Revenge of the WitchAnalysis: Come on, who doesn't like a good ol' fashioned witch thwartin'? I mean, aside from the witches themselves. Though Revenge of the Witch doesn't necessarily offer much new to the tried-and-tested hidden-object/adventure genre tango, or even the plot, it does present it in an exceptionally clean and well done manner. The beautifully drawn environments have a wonderful air of magic and mystery about them, and fans of slightly darker fantasy will enjoy getting lost within it and dealing with the troubles that pop up. The hidden-object scenes that require you to put items back where they belong are a nice touch, breaking up the usual gameplay, and the puzzles and item uses are all nicely logical. Revenge of the Witch is, by and large, a very well made game that, apart from a faint graininess to the already dim visuals and a few obnoxious minigames, is easy to get into and play.

What it isn't, unfortunately, is particularly challenging regardless of the difficulty setting you choose. It's the sort of game you pick up if you're looking to relax for a while, where the puzzles are all straightforward and everything you need to get past an obstacle is usually close by. Chances are if you try the demo you'll find yourself breezing through it, and diehard fans of the hidden-object adventure combo might find this one a bit too familiar, but if you want is something well made, packed with magic, and full of breezy entertainment, you'll want to check this out. It even includes a puzzle editor as a bonus feature in the Collector's Edition, which might be a first. The plot is fast moving with a few little twists to keep you on your toes, and should have more than enough haunted suits of armor, creepy talking child drawings, and bizarre amoeba minigames to satisfying even the most eccentric enthusiast. You guys are weird.

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 4.2/5
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Rating: 4.2/5 (48 votes)
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Fieldrunners 2

JohnBThe tower defense genre has been around for years, punctuated every so often by the release of a game that sets a new standard. One of the first for the browser world was Desktop Tower Defense, and for the mobile market, an early heavy-hitter was the original Fieldrunners. Developer Subatomic Studios took a few years to do it, but the team has finally rolled out a worthy sequel with Fieldrunners 2. Expect more maps, more variety, more units, more enemies, and more rewards with this stunning release that will rewrite the way you think of the tower defense genre on iPhone.

Fieldrunners 2Fieldrunners 2 pits you against wave after wave of fieldrunners, disposable enemies who crowd the level trying to make it across the screen. By buying and placing towers with different abilities, you can slow and eventually halt their progress, upgrading and deploying more units when the enemy creeps bump up their game. You can place towers on certain locations on the screen, and if the level has a more open design, you'll actually use them to block the enemy's progress, creating a gauntlet that pummels each foe as he weaves his way through the maze.

Instead of just static levels with waves of enemies, Fieldrunners 2 mixes things up with a variety of stage themes, each with a different goal and method for victory. Survival stages operate just as you might expect, throwing loads of enemies your way and forcing you to deal with them for as long as you can. The same goes for time trials and traditional wave-based levels. Puzzle stages are rather unique and require you do things like funnel enemies into certain areas or defeat them with particular towers. Later levels get even more creative with goals, turning the Fieldrunners 2 experience into something of a puzzle game instead of a typical tower defense title. But, you know, there's plenty of the latter to go around!

Fieldrunners 2Analysis: Fieldrunners 2 spent years in the incubator, but it was worth the wait! This sequel managed to outdo its predecessor in almost every way, something very few follow-ups can claim. The design is more free-form and varied than the original, and it draws a lot of inspiration from the waves of tower defense games that have hit over the last few years. Even with the new elements, Fieldrunners 2 doesn't betray the proven defense formula, it merely complements it with a number of welcomed extras.

Here's the only real downside to Fieldrunners 2: no native iPad version, at least, none at the time of writing. Naturally, you can use the iPhone version on your iPad with no problems, but scaling the graphics doesn't look so pretty and is no substitute for a true iPad release. As with the original Fieldrunners, expect the big screen version to be released at some point in the future. In the meantime, break out your small iOS devices.

Three levels of difficulty can be selected before starting each stage, allowing you to earn more cash and points if you're up to the challenge. If not, no one's going to laugh at you for choosing the casual setting. We promise. No matter your mood, no matter your skill, Fieldrunners 2 has something to satisfy you. It stands out as one of the most full-featured and satisfying tower defense games on the mobile market!

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

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.

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


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Rating: 4.2/5 (29 votes)
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TrickyWaterfalls 3: Level PackPrepare to go with the flow once more! The ethereal beauty of MoonMana's trippy puzzler is back in the Waterfalls 3: Level Pack. This expansion has everything we loved from the original: Psychadelic visuals, experimentation-based physics gameplay, and that trance-y soprano on background vocals.

As in the original, most of the mechanics aren't spelled out. Since the difficulty of the level pack pretty much starts where the original left off, new players might want to start with an earlier installment to get their bearings. In general, though, the goal of each level is to direct various flowing colors into the designated receptacles (usually denoted by the shapes swirling in the energy). Do this by using the mouse to place flow-affecting objects including gravity directors, bouncing barriers, and the obligatory portals. Don't forget to use the walls! The receptacles will take a little time to fill up with energy, and display a check-mark once filled. Filled receptacles will take a little time to drain, so players have a little leeway to move objects around, should the level require multiple receptacles filled. It's a very zen experience, and these 25 levels perfect for those looking to destress a bit (though those links at the bottom of the game-screen are a little awkwardly placed). Overall, with all due respect to T-Boz, Left-Eye and Chilli, this is one pack of Waterfalls you should start chasing ASAP.

Play Waterfalls 3: Level Pack


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Rating: 4/5 (105 votes)
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TrickyThe Little Girl Nobody LikedOnce upon a time, Deirdra Kiai developed a small piece of interactive art called The Little Girl Nobody Liked. In it, the player advanced the story of the little girl by clicking either the little girl, or the group of friends encountering her. Different patterns of clicks lead to different paths the story could take, each playthrough taking about 20 seconds to finish.

Even with a good six or seven endings, the whole thing took only a couple of minutes to experience completely. However, they would be good minutes. With its soothing narrator and background music, The Little Girl Nobody Liked was a picture-perfect picture book of a minigame with a streak of subversiveness to match its adorable charm. True, some of the readership of the awesome casual gaming review site that featured it, might question if it truly "counted" as a game. But such differences of opinion mattered not, because other readers got themselves some milk and cookies, wrapped themselves in their favorite blanket and really enjoyed The Little Girl Nobody Liked, before settling down for a truly great afternoon nap. The End!

Play The Little Girl Nobody Liked


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Rating: 4.5/5 (111 votes)
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elleThe WishThe Wish is something pretty and sweet, a greeting card interpretation of gaming created by BeardShaker Games, played for sentimental reasons rather than a yearning to exercise arcade skills or acute thinking. In a brief twinkle of game time, guide a falling star along its descent from the sky and gather as many or as few other celestial lights along the way as you desire.

There's very little gameplay here (for that, try Music Catch). Instead, the goal of The Wish depends on your outlook—dabble with some lovely images while listening to a soulful, guitar-led song, momentarily test your reflexive mouse moves or share a kind thought with loved ones on your Twitter feed or Facebook page. However you approach it, this tiny piece of interactive art is best appreciated with lights dimmed, distractions off and thoughts on good things. "Can a bigger falling star make a bigger wish come true?"

Play The Wish


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Rating: 4.3/5 (59 votes)
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ArtbegottiJ-J-JumpNitrome's second entry in their 50x50 pixel experimental series requires you do a very simple thing: Listen to a Van Halen song for six hours straight. Study its words. Heed its message. Don the hairdos. Only when you master the song are you able to fully understand the nature of J-J-Jump, a fast-paced platformer with a light puzzle twist. (Note: Van Halen not required.)

As the flood waters rise beneath you, you've got to climb the towers using the [arrow] keys and avoid enemies and obstacles to reach the flag at the end of each level, generally somewhere above your starting point. Yes, jumping is a major part of your ascent, as well as double-jumping and triple-jumping and beyond, but there's a restriction to make the game just a bit more interesting. At any given time, you're allowed to use the [up] key to make jumps only five times. Your remaining jumps are indicated by the arrows at the bottom of the game. You can restore your stockpile of jumps by picking up flashing orbs and passing by checkpoints, but you've still got to ration your jumps carefully to make it to the top. (Jumps made by springboards will not count against your stockpile.)

The tiny size may not be the best playing environment for a game where precision movements are key (particularly in later levels when you have to weave in and out of enemies), but it works well to illustrate that it's definitely possible to cram a quality game into such a small space. If you want a quick challenge, you might as well jump!

Play J-J-Jump (enlarged version)


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraBe honest. Between Steam's annual wallet-devouring sale monstrosity and prepping for our 10th Casual Gameplay Design Competition, you haven't had much free time, have you? Well, fortunately for you this week's Link Dump Friday is going to shove not only entertainment but delicious nutrients down your face-hole! Drama, adventure, zombies, and more await.

The Binding of IsaacCONTEST: Congratulations, You Win Wrongness! If crudeness, violence, and a whole lot of gore doesn't make you cringe, then this week's giveaway is for you. Edmund McMillen's The Binding of Isaac is a brutally hard and brutally gross action roguelike where you control a boy named Isaac as he journeys deep into a cellar full of unspeakable monsters and traps trying to escape his mother. It's creepy, it's freaky, and if it doesn't offend you it can be yours because we're giving away five free copies of it. To enter, just play the free flash demo (which, as you should guess, is not for kids) and leave a comment here. If you already own The Binding of Isaac but not the expansion, you can choose to win that instead... just make sure you specify in your comment what you want! Rules: Entries must be submitted by July 27th, 11:59 p.m. EST (GMT-5). Winners will be notified by e-mail shortly thereafter. Winners are selected randomly. One entry per person only. You must be at least 18 years of age or older to enter. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. UPDATE: And the winners are: jestensli, auratwilight, Kirbypowered, spaceloaf, and madeleine. Thanks for playing with us! :)

7 Grand StepsBoard Games and Begetting Mousechief, creators of the quirky and original board game/RPG Dangerous High School Girls In Trouble! is making a comeback with their upcoming PC/Mac title 7 Grand Steps. Billed as "part board game, part interactive narrative", the game will be a turn-based title in which players take control of a family across generations, where the choices you make and the fates themselves determine your rise or fall in a myriad of ways. Having had the good fortune to play an alpha version, I can tell you that the game is a little intimidatingly complex on the surface, but most certainly unique and engrossing in that way that only Mousechief can deliver. Look for 7 Grand Steps to hit later this year!

The Evolution of PC GamingYou've Come a Long, Long Way, Baby Been a PC gamer for a while? Then prepare to get all glassy-eyed and nostalgic with The Evolution of PC Games, a short video by Reverse Enginears, that takes you on a visual and audio journey from the past to present day. Showcasing everything from Zork to Duke Nukem to Portal, it's a fantastic and eye-opening example of how far gaming has come in almost every aspect, and is both great as a way to make yourself feel really, really old, and simultaneously really, really falsely superior to anyone who wasn't born when you were playing the original Elder Scrolls games. All it needs to really make it complete is some indie games, but maybe that's a project for another young enterprising enthusiast?

Torchlight Asset Theft UpdateYou And the Point Aren't In the Same Hemisphere In an update on the Torchlight asset theft situation, and an instance of less "missing the point" and more "trying desperately to obfuscate the truth", Serena Zhang of EGLS, the developers of Armed Heroes responded to a thread on TouchArcade claiming they hadn't done anything wrong. She mentions "similarities between several small monsters", when in fact it's outright duplication down to the misspelled file names of everything including landscape items, and seems to think that because their game is "an action MMO role-playing mobile game" where "the platforms, but also game mechanics, engine support, scenes and techniques employed in Armed Heroes Online developing are all largely different from Torchlight", they've done nothing wrong. She even points out that Torchlight shares many more gameplay similarities to titles like Diablo and Fate, to which we can only say... well... yeah... but drawing inspiration from a title is hardly the same as ripping out that game's content and claiming it as your own. That's Buffalo Bill territory. You can read the entire thread here, which includes an admirably moderated response from Runic Games president Travis Baldtree. Hopefully this all gets ironed out peacefully soon, but don't hold your breath.

V Motion ProjectMove Your Body to the Music Combinging the collective talents of a variety of professionals across many fields of expertise, the V Motion Project came to life on the large exterior wall of a building somewhere in Auckland, New Zealand recently. Using a couple of Kinects, a Mac and a PC, some audio software and a whole lot of wizardry and magic, this creative team produced not only an innovative visual instrument, but also a performance for lucky onlookers and a music video, so those of us who were not there can enjoy it, too. One of the lead developers of the tech behind this awesome spectacle is none other than Jeff Nusz, whom you may remember was the winner of our CGDC #2 with his entry, Sprout. So, it's no surprise to see more magic spring from his fingertips. Read behind the scenes, watch the video, then download the track for free.

Gourmet GamingThe Zombie Apocalypse is Delicious We've featured them before, but purveyors of digital-turned-delectable gaming foods Gourmet Gaming has just turned out two delicious new recipes inspired by The Walking Dead PC game to help keep you fit and fighting when the dead are breaking down your door. The St John's Dairy Farm Biscuits and the Energy Bar will keep you going right up until your brains are sucked back like a lumpy slurpee. Gourmet Gaming's recipes are delicious and easy to follow, and I personally recommend Minecraft Mushroom Stew and Persona 4's Aiya Rainy Day Special Mega Beef Bowl. Allez cuisine!

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!


(4 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Follow the Rabbit

JohnBThose crafty rabbits. From Bugs to the waistcoat-wearing White Rabbit who's always late, you can pretty much bet each and every one of them is up to something nefarious. In Gamaga's new mobile puzzle game Follow the Rabbit, this is most certainly the case. As the action begins you watch as a cuboid bunny hops down the path, a sack of coins leaking gold with every bounce. Being the helpful villager that you are, you take it upon yourself to follow the rabbit, collecting coins and solving some fiendish puzzles along the way.

Follow the RabbitEverything starts out innocently enough with some simple exercises to teach you how the game works. Tap and slide your finger on the screen to move, sliding upwards to jump and occasionally interacting with elements on the screen with some well-placed taps. You can hop through blocks with a quick jump, shove blocks that are in your way, and use balloons to get a bit of a lift, but enemies are to be avoided at all costs. Eventually you'll make it to the exit door, but later in the game, you'll have to guide multiple characters to different exits, all while collecting as many coins as you can in the process.

Follow the Rabbit is expertly paced, and with well over 100 levels to work through, there's plenty of space to increase the challenge in a gradual manner, never overwhelming you but always keeping you motivated to play just one more level. Oh, and then there are those happy-fun visuals, a perfect fit for the mobile market, right alongside games like Cut the Rope and Pigs Will Fly. Find the Rabbit is a prime example of what a mobile game should be, as it grabs you immediately and refuses to let go until you both find the rabbit and obtain a perfect score on every level.


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Rating: 4.2/5 (67 votes)
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ArtbegottiFat Slice 2How would you like a nice slice of pie? You name the flavor, you can have a slice. All you have to do is cut it for yourself in Aaron Neugebauer's Fat Slice 2, an action puzzler where you've got to make some slick slices to get your just desserts.

Just like in the prequel, your task is to click and drag your mouse through each shape to slice it down to a more digestible size. You can make your slice between any two open edges, and your slice is allowed to curve, so you have more freedom with your cuts than before. You can't slice through white borders (though they can be cut off with a bit of planning), and you need to avoid letting the bouncing white balls hit an active slice, or else your progress may be knocked back. Cutting the size of the field to the specified quota unlocks the next level, while doing so in fewer slices gives you more slices of deeeeelicious pie. Just be careful, because later levels hold devious twists like flickering white borders and neverending pies! Grab another cup of coffee and don your best fork, since this pie-fest only ends when you conquer Fat Slice 2.

Play Fat Slice 2


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Rating: 3.6/5 (41 votes)
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KimberlyMonster Must DieWho can resist helping cute little creatures rid themselves of the monsters in their midst? No one, that's who. Which is why you should play Monster Must Die, a cute little physics puzzle game developed by Alex Orlyanskiy, Lex Lyan, and Aleksey Gulev.

There are four types of critters for you to control, each a different color. Each has its own ability that is activated when the creature is clicked, such as floating upward or exploding. You must use the abilities to eliminate the monster that is on each screen, most often by bopping the monster on the head with one of your creatures, all while collecting fruit. Collecting the fruit isn't necessary to pass the level, but adds an extra challenge for those who are looking for it. There are a few hidden achievements that will win you additonal creature artwork, which is accessed through the main menu. Between the lovable artwork, groovy soundtrack, and 24 levels to play, Monster Must Die will provide you with a fun-filled physics based break.

Play Monster Must Die


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You Are Games

Reader ReviewThe following is a selection of favorite games compiled and reviewed by JIG community member, Wally. It is also one of the winning entries from our previous call for submissions for community favorites, for which Wally will receive some gifts from us of his choosing. Thanks to everyone who shared their favorites with us! Look for more community favorites in the coming weeks.

  • IbIb - With shades of Yume Nikki, this creepy RPG Maker adventure shows just how effective minimalist gameplay can be. You play as a 9-year-old girl visiting a museum with her parents, when suddenly you find yourself alone in a strange alternate environment. The museum's art is a central part of the journey, which works perfectly given the game's experiential nature. The cold, retro visuals along with the eerie music combine for a more compelling experience than most mainstream horror titles. Ib taps into the nightmarish undercurrents of youth in such a way that it feels familiar, or at least it did for me. The lack of challenge doesn't really detract from the game, instead helping to sustain the atmosphere. With well-written characters and an unsettling tone that knows how to pace itself, Ib is a surreal adventure that places high on my list of odd.
  • HydorahHydorah - Ever felt like punching the screen after losing for the 40th time? I have, but in the case of Hydorah, the frustration was worth it. Made by retro-gaming specialist Locomalito after 3+ years in development, this ambitious horizontal shooter hearkens back to the days of arcade quarter-munchers (Gradius, in particular.) Just like in the arcade, there is only one difficulty setting. I thought the first level was challenging enough--but then the second level came around, and I had to forget any notion of a gradual difficulty curve. The game plays smoothly, however, and there are a few save points scattered about which evens out the madness somewhat. The startling amount of polish kept me coming back for more--few, if any, indie shooters reach the standards set by Hydorah. The graphics are a brilliant homage to the late 80's/early 90's arcade, and the soundtrack is easily one of the best ever found in an indie game. Why this is freeware in the first place, I'll never know.
  • BotaniculaBotanicula - Not many games can get by with sparse gameplay and practically no written words, but Amanita Design has somehow accomplished that very feat with Botanicula. Charming, beautiful, fantastic are just a few of the words one might use to describe it. Playing as five minuscule forest creatures, you're tasked with finding a way to save your tree from a group of dark, spider-like invaders. As a point-and-click adventure, the mechanics are not very deep, but that's hardly a problem when you're immersed in the incredible ambience of the game world. In virtually every screen, there's something to look at or fiddle with or listen to. The later stages are darker, but nonetheless very intriguing. There's a lot of quirky ideas scattered about in Botanicula, and while most events don't follow logic, it still makes sense in a dreamlike kind of way. I think I'll go back and get lost in it a second time.

If you would like to share your own favorites with us and the JIG community, choose 3 or 4 of your favorite games that have been previously reviewed here and write a short paragraph for each describing why each is on your all-time favorites list. When you're done, send it to our You Are Games mailbox, the address for which can be found on our Contact page. If chosen, we'll contact you and reward you with some nice gifts of your choosing.

While we welcome any comments about this particular selection of games, we do ask that if you need any help with individual games, or wish to comment on the games featured here, please post your questions and comments on the respective game's review page.


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Rating: 4.5/5 (163 votes)
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elleDibbles 3: Desert DespairDibbles are nothing if not self-sacrificial, especially when their pharaoh is in mortal distress. They'll lay down their lives in all manner of deaths to convenience their highness' salvation out here in the excruciating desert heat. If you enjoyed the previous incarnations of The Podge's puzzle series, you'll be glad to know that Dibbles 3: Desert Despair continues the fun while ramping up the challenge.

The premise is simple—order the demise of plucky red dibbles via command blocks in order to get the king to the goal—yet obstacles such as spiky cacti and quicksand make success anything but straight-forward. Luckily, you can "reset" as often as needed or, if you reset often enough, you'll be given the option to "skip," saving that level for another time. There's 44 levels all told, each replete with high production values and a user-friendly interface because we do like our luxuries and extras to make gameplay go smoothly. A new command, melt, adds an atmospherically appropriate new twist to go along with bridging, booming and bungeeing action but Desert Despair is still basically more of the same, which is great for fans of classic arcade lemmings games. For those who are itching to problem solve and will wait patiently as their directives are carried out, Dibbles 3: Desert Despair delivers enjoyment at your command.

Play Dibbles 3: Desert Despair


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Rating: 4.4/5 (165 votes)
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TrickyFlood FillThe Four Color Theorem states that for any separation of a plane into contiguous regions, producing a figure called a map, a maximum of four colors are required to color the regions of the map so that no two adjacent regions have the same color. This fact might seem of non-trivial interest only to geometricians and cartographers, but, fortunately for us, developer OneFifth noticed another interesting property: it makes for quite a nice basis for a simple idea puzzler! That game is Flood Fill, and there's no doubt it deserves a place on your browser gaming map.

In each level, click the mouse to fill in areas of the map with one of four colors: blue, green, orange, and pink. Switch between colors by clicking them, or using [1234] or [ASDF] as keyboard shortcuts. Each level is finished when all areas are filled in, with no two adjacent (which is to say, meeting at a side, rather than a corner) regions sharing the same color. All levels are proven a 1976 brute force proof to be doable in four colors, but a gold star can be earned by using fewer. Flood Fill isn't particularly complex, but it's surprisingly engaging. It's a premise that could probably be sustained for longer than the 20 included levels. We could probably quibble about the aesthetic value of neon, but hey, the background music is catchy. So few games offer you the chance to make like Piet Mondrian in the comfort of your desktop, and Flood Fill will fill a coffee break quite nicely.

Play Flood Fill


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Rating: 4/5 (69 votes)
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Weekday Escape

elleWhen it comes to getting stuck in need-to-escape situations, Cogito Ergo Sum's Wan and Nyan can always be counted on to be at it again. Not only that, they do it with so much effusive good cheer and winning personality that it never gets old. No one can fault them for their constant entrapment, either—the absence of opposable thumbs does put one at a disadvantage door-opening wise, especially when doors are insistent on being locked while dogs and cats are prone to forgetting their special skills. Which is why, in Balcony Escape 2, your assistance is needed anew.

Balcony Escape 2You begin on the balcony, helping Nyan solve a few puzzles in order to phone Wan. From there, you'll switch into the house to guide Wan through even more code-breaking fun. Explore each area by using the arrow buttons to turn; click on (or double-click if it's in your inventory) any object you'd like to examine. In some cases, a clue or puzzle is only available after performing certain other steps, so don't give up too soon on something you thought was unattainable. There's no changing cursor to indicate hotspots but the design is simple enough to eschew pixel-hunting. The puzzles are usually easy to figure out, with some clues verging into spoiler territory, yet there's enough variety and discovery to remain interesting while providing a full serving of gameplay.

The scenario in Balcony Escape 2 is typical of what you'd find in the charming pair's other escapades, yet it stands out on its own in two regards. First, although still far from overly difficult, it contains a puzzle that's trickier than most. Cogito Ergo Sum knows it, too, since an additional hint is provided if you choose "Yes" when prompted. Even so, that extra clue won't simply be handed to you then and there; you'll have to do some extra work to get at it. The second notable feature can only be described as Detarou-esque—it seems a little out of place here and will leave you pondering the allusion but it's amusing all the same. As always, the pleasure of escaping with Wan and Nyan is as much about their interactions as solving affable-yet-clever puzzles. Which is another thing Wan and Nyan can always be counted on: leaving you with a smile on your face.

Play Balcony Escape 2


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Rating: 4.3/5 (76 votes)
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JeremyFlooded VillagePirates love water, villagers not so much... it tends to drown them. Luckily, you're there to bring some well needed balance to the situation in this charming new puzzle game, Flooded Village, by Yoeri Staal with art by Pixelchunk, that comes just in time to fill all your pirate-themed puzzle needs for the day.

To advance through each stage, you'll have to channel water past plants and through pirates, without drowning the poor village bystanders. This is easy enough early on, when all you need to do is click on sand blocks to destroy them and let water pass through. Later, when villagers appear in the game, you can click and hold to create sand blocks and protect villagers. Farther along, you'll get more fancy gear like pipes to play around with, and mother nature will makes things hard for you by freezing your pretty water channels unless you direct them just right to beat the frost.

Flooded Village manages to be a relaxing, yet complex game. You get points at the end of each stage based on how fast you were able to finish it, which is great for speed freaks who need a little extra thrill, but most players will be satisfied with just figuring out the most interesting channel layouts to make their little flooded kingdom thrive. With 30 levels to play around with, there are plenty of opportunities to play village engineer for an afternoon.

Play Flooded Village


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Rating: 3.9/5 (20 votes)
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TrickyBristlies Players PackWho are those small round creatures there? Bristlies are their name! Bouncing themselves to who knows where, physics is their game! Max Postnikov's cute furballs are back for another round of rope-cutting, cannon-shooting, force-field activating, glass-breaking, color-coded container puzzle fun in Bristlies Players Pack.

Gameplay is nearly identical to the original: by manipulating the environment with the mouse, guide each Bristlie to the crate of the proper color. After a few levels to reintroduce the concept, Bristlies Players Pack becomes quite the standard expansion-pack; which is to say, harder levels and more of them, 27 in all. Players will need quick clicking and proper timing to use all the tricks the engine will allow. Indeed, a few levels will appear nearly impossible before the "a-ha!" moment finally strikes. New players may want to start with Bristlies Classic, but those familiar with Cut The Rope-styled gameplay will be happy to play this varied and polished collection starring everyone's favorite Koosh Ball-like thingies... of the oollll' west.

Play Bristlies Players Pack


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The Vault

DoraSilent sword-slingers, stoic space marines, and catsuit-clad spies already get a whole lot of attention in the gaming world, so in this week's Vault we're going to take a peek at some of the more... unusual protagonists to be found in our favourite games. From a blue pachyderm whose only goal is to cavort endlessly for your own sense of digital accomplishment to a dour hermit who can quite literally give himself a leg up on any obstacle, there are a whole lot of gaming stars out there you probably aren't going to cross paths with on the street anytime soon.

  • Achievement UnlockedAchievement Unlocked - Being forced to caper, leap, throw yourself on beds of spikes and perform other stunts all for a reward you'll never be able to touch might sound a bit crazy, but jmtb02 knows that for a lot of gamers achievements are next to godliness. Your task is to try to figure out how to unlock the game's whopping 100 achievements by controlling a little blue elephant and trying everything you can think of, from sitting idle to dying as many deaths as possible and much more. It might sound a bit mindless and silly, but in its way Achievement Unlocked is almost more of a puzzle than anything else, and wrapped up in jmtb02's signature glorious style for one addictive package. If you haven't already found out why players love it and its other installments, get ready to kiss your productivity goodbye for digital gratification.
  • Little WheelLittle Wheel - You don't have to be big or challenging to make an impact, and One Click Dogs' point-and-click adventure is ample proof. As the sole functioning robot in a silent mechanical metropolis, our hero Little Wheel has his work cut out for him when he finds himself reactivated after a chance lighting strike and sets out to revive his civilization. While extremely short, and definitely easy owing to a hand-holding gameplay style, Little Wheel still succeeds and makes an enormous impact because of how thoroughly engrossing it is. Its sense of style and artful storytelling is superb, and the perfect sized "make you smile" adventure to set your day on the right track.
  • The Company of MyselfThe Company of Myself - Some people are party animals and social butterflies, while others prefer to hang out one on one or with a good book. Still, when most of us say we like our alone time, we don't hold a candle to the star of Eli Piilonen's puzzle-platformer. He says he doesn't need anyone, and maybe it's true, since he can create phantasmal copies of himself to help him get back obstacles. More than just a simple brain teaser, however, The Company of Myself manages to tell a thoughtful, creative story that may not be particularly cheerful, but is certainly impacting. It's the sort of thing that can make you a little introspective, and if you want to know even more, you can continue the story in its companion piece/prequel Fixation.

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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Hanger

JohnBHanger, the browser release from A Small Game that's all about swinging ropes and broken body parts, has made its way to iPhone, and it's just as outrageously arcadey as ever. If you've played Hanger 2 or Hanger 2: Endless Level Pack, you'll know exactly what to expect in this wild romp through twisty terrain, as the mobile version takes the best from those releases, remixes it a little bit, and tosses you loose to see what you can do. Expect to see a lot of severed legs and game over screens before you get a decent score in this game!

HangerHanger's premise revolves around swinging on a rope to see how far you can travel through different caves or how efficiently you can make it to the exit. Using the arrows on the left to control your swing, get some momentum going, then tap the button the right to clear your rope, cutting you loose for a few moments. When you're ready, tap the button again to attach a new rope, timing it just right so your swing continues and you don't graze the ceiling or floor. If you smack into a solid object too hard, you're liable to lose a limb or two. You can swing as long as you've got an arm, torso and a head, which is quite a feat if you think about it, but in general it's always better to keep your body intact. Good advice for real life, too!

The iPhone version of Hanger is a true mixture of the browser releases, including endless levels and the traditional goal-based stages. The layouts often vary, though, and other new elements have been added as well, such as achievements and high scores via Game Center. It's an inexpensive and often wildly surreal game that will give you hours upon hours of enjoyment. And remember: if you don't play Hanger, it probably means you're one of those people who hates bubble baths and thinks ice cream should only be eaten on special occasions...

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


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Rating: 4.4/5 (344 votes)
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DoraThe Fog Fall 4Life after the end of the world may be harsh, gray, and frequently involve eating unidentifiable meat or expired canned goods (mmm-mmm!), but at least you have a reason to smile because the next installment in Pastel Games' gloomy-but-great point-and-click adventure series has arrived. In The Fog Fall 4, your relief at seeing another person is shortlived when a blow to the back of the head knocks you unconscious before helping themselves to your gear. Turns out post-apocalyptia is as unfriendly as ever, and if you want to find your equipment and continue your journey you'll have to uncover some secrets and appease the locals. Click around to navigate and interact with things, dragging objects from your inventory to the play area to use them, or on top of one another to try to combine them.

Play the entire Fog Fall series:
The Fog Fall 1The Fog Fall 2The Fog Fall 3The Fog Fall 4

Like its predecessors, the fourth installment in this eerie series serves up some of the best atmosphere around, believably painting an end-of-the-world scenario where everyone is out for themselves and rules don't apply any longer. Navigation can be a bit tricky since area transitions aren't always clearly indicated so that you can end up lost or going in circles. Fans of the series will know to scour every inch of areas for changing cursors to indicate an interactive zone, but it still feels somewhat clunky and a little disorienting... which, you could potentially argue, fits the mood and setting. Items you can grab onscreen or otherwise interact with are a lot more obvious this time around, and as a result, you won't need to strain your eyes or click around like a maniac. It feels like it fleshes out the setting quite a bit more thanks to the arrival of new author Daniel Gizicki, and The Fog Fall 4 is yet another engrossing and tricky adventure into the eerie world you love to visit, even if you wouldn't want to live in it.

Play The Fog Fall 4

Thanks to Cyberjar88 for sending this one in!


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Fade

KimberlyThe year is 1937. It's a dark time in the city. Fade Haven has fallen prey to a rat burglar who is robbing the town of its precious diamonds. Is there anyone who can help? Time to call in Detective Pete! But of course, he needs your help. Team up with the super sleuth in Fade: Case of the Stolen Diamonds, a unique puzzle game for iPad by Treetop Games. Can you recover all the diamonds and bring the thief to justice?

FadeOn each level, Pete the mouse continuously walks in one direction, turning (or dying) when he hits an obstacle. It is up to you to get him safely to the exit while recovering diamonds the thief has dropped. On each level, anything that is bright white can be faded to gray by touching the screen. When an object is faded, it's just as if it's not there. Pete can walk right through brick walls and bullets and spikes become harmless. When you collect enough diamonds, bonus levels are unlocked, and if you pass all of them you gain access to different game modes.

New mechanics are seamlessly introduced as you progress, and the fade mechanism alone allows for all sorts of interesting puzzles. If you stop fading when Pete is still in a wall, he will be stuck until you fade again. This is great for adjusting your timing to avoid bullets, for example. Or fade the bricks underneath Pete, and he can walk under obstacles. In later levels you get a bunny buddy who you can send to push buttons for you, or drop him into a pit and walk on his head to get across!

Fade is one of those games that takes a simple concept and develops it into an increasingly complex experience. And it does it very well. Many levels take a steady hand and precise timing, and it can be frustrating to know in your head how to solve a puzzle but not be able to translate it to the screen. Thankfully, levels can be skipped and returned to later. The noir style art and music add a depth by giving the game a setting, if not a deep storyline. With it's innovative gameplay and clever puzzles, Fade: Case of the Stolen Diamonds blows a breath of fresh air into the puzzle genre. What are you waiting for? You've got a burglar to catch!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on an iPad 2. Game was available in the North American market at the time of publication, but may not be available in other territories. Please see individual app market pages for purchasing info.


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Gunman Clive

JohnBYour frontier lass is being kidnapped! Get your revolver and head out the door! Gunman Clive is a sidescrolling action/shooting game by Bertil Hörberg, starring you versus a bunch of bad guys. Utilizing some fantastic 3D visuals in a two dimensional world, you will have the pleasure of shooting your way through the strangest old west town you've ever seen, complete with moving platforms and loads of enemies. Oh, and watch out for ducks, those things can be deadly!

Gunman CliveThe on-screen controls allow Clive to move left and right, but you'll also need to duck under bullets and climb ladders, not to mention basic jumping and shooting actions. Enemies are usually marked by their blue color, though expect to see a few surprises as you work your way through the town and beyond. The bad guys play it smart and like to duck behind crates, take refuge on high platforms, and just generally make your day a difficult one. Fortunately, you get to eat cake (which replenishes your health) and collect pistol power-ups to diversify your shots, allowing you to reach enemies without putting yourself in harm's way.

Gunman Clive is a very simple sort of game, and it sticks to its arcade roots unapologetically. The unique sketch-like visuals that scroll across the screen really turn the experience into something cinematic, and the action is surprisingly intense, especially for a game controlled with virtual buttons. It's a short but wild action game that's a smart purchase no matter which mobile device you own!

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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Mobile Monday

JohnBHackers and thieves dominate the mobile news this week, but if you think it's all doom and gloom, perhaps a rumor about some mistreated pigs getting their revenge will brighten your spirits?

angrypigs.jpgAn Angry Birds spin-off? - According to the mobile news site Pocket Lint, Rovio is planning on releasing a new game later this year that turns the Angry Birds franchise inside-out. This time around you get to play as the pigs, protecting the eggs they've taken from the still-upset fowl. The news could just be a rumor at this point, as Rovio doesn't seem to have confirmed or denied it, but continuing the franchise that made the studio so successful would be a natural choice. In the meantime, there's still Angry Birds Space and Amazing Alex to enjoy!

armedheroes.jpgiOS thievery continues - A little game called Armed Heroes was recently set free on the Canadian iTunes App Store, and Travis Baldree of Runic Games immediately noticed something looked a bit familiar. Mostly that every one of the game's assets was lifted from Torchlight, the studio's independently created RPG. That's not a cool thing to do, obviously, and Runic has contacted Apple and requested a takedown. Only the game's visuals were lifted, not any of the underlying code or game mechanics, but it's still a blatant misuse of intellectual property, and hopefully Apple will handle the situation before too much damage is done. Read more about how cloned mobile games hurt indie developers.

hackeriap.gifHacker hacks iOS IAPs - Do you get annoyed with all those in-app purchases? Well, one hacker finally got fed up and decided to do something about it! In brief, the IAP hack tricks apps into thinking they're communicating with Apple's servers, but in reality, it's transmitting the data elsewhere, handing over the keys to your iTunes account in the process. So, even if your ethics allowed some wiggle room, seeking out this little hack is a very bad idea. Best to stick with the old fashioned (and non-thieving!) methods!

Got some delicious info on an upcoming mobile release, current event, or other tasty news tidbit? We want to know! Send an e-mail with "Mobile Monday" in the subject line to johnb AT casualgameplay DOT com. We'll sift through the submissions and feature our favorites on a Mobile Monday article! Keen!


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Rating: 4.8/5 (26 votes)
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La-Mulana

JohnBBack in 2005, Takumi Naramura released a retro-styled exploration game called La-Mulana. Starring an archaeologist professor named Lemeza, it introduced modern players to an aesthetic not seen since the days of the MSX home computer, bringing with it all the convoluted puzzles, items, and high level of difficulty retro gamers love. Fast forward to 2012 for the worldwide release of a graphically enhanced update to La-Mulana that carefully reworks the look and feel of the old game to spruce it up for a new audience. Nigoro has done a fantastic job with the new La-Mulana, and the translation to the slightly-less-retro modern version is almost flawless!

La-MulanaAs with all platform games, Professor Lemeza has a small set of standard moves useful for getting around La-Mulana's world. You'll mainly be concerned with simple walking and jumping actions, not to mention Lemeza's trusty (but short) whip. Soon, you learn how to use computer programs for your laptop, a device that allows you to load helpful apps a few at a time. Watch your memory, though, as you can't have everything equipped at all times. You also gain access to items like the hand scanner, new weapons, weights for holding down pedestals, and other, more creative objects later in the game. Finding and gathering items is just one of your many pleasures in this lengthy and challenging game. But first, you have to find them!

La-Mulana is a special breed of exploration platformer (a.k.a. metroidvania) that deals in heavy-handed puzzles and unusual item conventions that most players take for granted. For example, in La-Mulana, you have to buy a special item before you can read signs. You are also denied health restoration drops, save points are far away from each other, enemies respawn as soon as you leave the current screen, and your weapons are very limited. You have to keep your wits about you and look before you leap, both figuratively and literally. There's no room for error in this dangerous world.

La-MulanaAnalysis: We mentioned the release of the original La-Mulana game back on an early Weekend Download feature, and to be honest, we're still very much in love with the game. This updated version is a textbook example of how a "remake" should be handled. The core game isn't changed (apart from one or two minor alterations), and the presentation is bumped up only marginally, the equivalent of taking an Atari game and sprucing up the sound and visuals for a SNES release. The translation is off in some areas, but you probably won't notice unless you're the kind of person that looks for those things.

In some ways, La-Mulana feels like it throws too many elements into one bag and leaves you to sort out the mess. There's the platforming element, the crazy puzzles, the trial-by-death method for solving riddles, the multi-step process for locating, reading, decoding and understand glyphs on the wall... Then there's shops, equippable items, the computer and its inventory of programs, and NPCs to talk to. It's almost like a platform adventure game trying to be something of an RPG, but it stops well short of adopting too many peripheral gimmicks. Yes, La-Mulana is a lot to digest at first, but once you figure out what's going on in the game, you wouldn't want to give any of it back, especially not after you see how challenging these ruins can be.

La-MulanaThat brings us to another major point: La-Mulana's difficulty. This isn't a game for the faint at heart, but the danger of death doesn't come from tricky jumps or cheap kills. Instead, the challenge is rooted squarely in the game's stark simplicity and its refusal to spell everything out for you. Why send a warning message that pulling a lever might drop the conspicuously looming statue from overhead when it can just deal the damage and turn you into a more observant, cautious player? In effect, La-Mulana trains you to be a different sort of gamer, a much less cavalier and invincible warrior, but a much smarter explorer.

La-Mulana takes a bit of time to grow accustomed to, but once you do, it's one of the best exploration games around. Featuring over 20 hours of play time, this game has the ability to completely overtake your week, immersing you in a world of traps and treasures, hissing snakes and perfectly timed whip lashes.

Note: The 2012 update of La-Mulana is available through Playism, a Japanese download service that recently launched in English, and Good Old Games. The classic version of La-Mulana, without the remade visuals and music, is still available from AGTP. Simply download both the game and the patch and follow the installation instructions.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version (via Good Old Games)
Get the free classic version (via AGTP)

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


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Uplink

TrickyGreetings, NEW EMPLOYEE! Welcome to Uplink Corporation, the world's foremost "Computer Security Professional"-For-Hire service. Now, in this, the technologically-integrated futuristic world of 2010, there are all manner of data retrieval and investigative missions that need accomplishing, and we are certain the gateway hardware we sold you is up to the task. Of course, someone might find that system useful in wreaking all manner of havoc. But we at Uplink have full faith in both the morality of our employees, and our legal team's proven success at disavowing any knowledge of those who get caught. Oh. And one last word of warning: Watch out for Andromeda Research. We can't prove anything, but hackers who cross them tend to end up disconnected. Permanently. Good luck!

UplinkA cinematic simulation of hacking that owes more to Wargames and Sneakers than Kevin Mitnick and Adrian Lamo, Uplink: Hacker Elite is a quality and influential bit of cyberpunk intrigue. Originally released by Introversion Software in 2001, and streamlined into the Hacker Elite version for the US market, the latter is now available for purchase from the lovely indie and retro game outlet GOG, and it's a worthy addition to any gamers library.

The interface of Uplink is uniquely stylized one. Largely textual and utilitarian, it's reminiscent of a cross between the Jurassic Park computer system and a 1980s BBS. Expect a whole lot of shiny progress bars, random phone animations and password hackers that will lock in one letter at a time. Along the top you will find the in-game date and time controls (generally, the game takes place in real time unless sped up by you), a series of bars that will let you allocate CPU to various programs you run, and a world map that shows the bouncing route your connections take. Along the bottom are buttons that will display your software, hardware, memory, and financial details, and on the lower left there are the e-mails you receive. Generally, gameplay will consist of dialing the Uplink Internal Server to accept missions, hack into the proper server, bypassing the security, accomplishing the designated task, deleting all evidence that you've ever been there, then disconnecting to collect your reward. Of course, the computers of the world are protected, and if you take too long or fail to cover your tracks well enough, the FBI or worse may soon be knocking at your door. Money can be spent on upgrades and new programs which will allow you to hack higher levels of security. As time goes on, a dangerous conspiracy is slowly revealed, and you'll have to decide whether the color of your hat is white, black, or somewhere in between.

UplinkAnalysis: As mentioned above, Uplink has had massive influence on the hacking sim sub-genre. Classics of casual gaming like Exploit, SlaveHack and Digital: A Love Story owe Uplink a great debt, as does, for that matter, any game which sets the player in front of a fictional interface to crack. Make no mistake: the sandbox-world of Uplink is vast, and might be quite imposing to those who find non-fictional computing enough of a hassle. However, Uplink should appeal greatly to that certain kind of techie mind that loves exploring and playing with unfamiliar systems to unlock their secrets. Certainly Uplink has a lot of in-game documentation prepared for players who find themselves lost, but the game will be most enjoyed by those who don't mind diving in before learning how to swim. Quick thinking is a requirement, as is some patience: the story is a measured tale of technological intrigue with little action not taking place on a computer screen. But its complexities grow to match those of the mechanics, making for a singular gaming experience.

Conceptually, Uplink is nearly perfect. The question, then, becomes how well the implementation has fared since 2001. The premise intentionally defies any attempts at graphic superiority, making for a timeless kind of HUD. Menu navigating feels a little kludgey, particularly when you have a number of windows on the screen that you must left-click to move, and right-click to place, when every instinct in you is expecting to be able to drag-and-drop. Also, while Uplink is a single-player game that only uses a network connection to use in-game ICQ, it's not hard to see how the stylized realism confused by someone peeking over your shoulder (and if you think that's paranoid, just ask Steve Jackson.)

UplinkA few other things worth mentioning: Uplink: Hacker Elite only allows one save file per character, and it will be deleted should your game end. In practice, you are usually given ample opportunity to cover your tracks so that will never happens, and it adds to the supposed realism, but it still feels like gimmicky. (Of course, as fans have noted, there's nothing to prevent you from backing up your save file yourself, which seems apropos in a meta kind of way.) Finally, why don't there seem to be any females in this game? There were girls on the internet, even in 2001, right? Where's Acid Burn? She once hacked the freakin' Gibson!

Overall, Uplink is a true classic, and the package offered by GOG is an excellent deal. Sure, you won't be getting the original obsolete-even-at-the-time copy-protection code-wheel or the piece of paper that could only be found by cracking open the back of the jewel case, but the downloadable Bonus CD is packed with extras (some only TRUE hackers will figure how to unlock), and the awesome soundtrack is probably worth the price of purchase by itself. Highly recommended, especially for those who like their games immersive.

From now until July 19, get several great indie games for 50% off at GOG.com, including Uplink and Gemini Rue! See the full sale list.

WindowsWindows:
Get the full version

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


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Tiny Wings 2.0

JohnBThe darling little arcade flying game for iOS, Tiny Wings, has just gone through a metamorphosis, turning itself into twice the game it used to be and spawning a native iPad version in the process! Tiny Wings 2.0 is sort of a sequel to the original, but creator Andreas Illiger decided to release it as a free update instead of a standalone app, allowing owners of Tiny Wings to grab it for free. And like mama always said, free is better than fooling around with in-app purchases.

Tiny Wings 2.0The basics of Tiny Wings are easy to grasp. Our feathered pal wants to fly as far and high as possible, but with such a big tummy and such small wings, all the flapping in the world isn't going to get him very far. That's where the gently rolling hills come into play. Sliding along the landscape, the bird can launch into the air using the conveniently-sculpted ramps. While in the sky, tap and hold the screen to quickly descend, timing your fall to hit a downward sloping section with extra momentum. That speed translates into a higher and longer flight the next time you launch, so the more jumps you nail, the better off you'll be.

Using the same basic gameplay setup, Flight School is the main draw for Tiny Wings 2.0. Instead of flapping solo, you'll compete with three of your siblings to see who can reach your mama at the end of the island. The fastest bird gets the fattest fish! You'll also run across the new rubber flowers, watering holes, and 15 hand-designed levels. On the more technical side of things, Tiny Wings 2.0 now supports Retina Displays and iCloud synchronization. And don't forget the separate iPad-native Tiny Wings HD app, which happens to include single-device multiplayer where you can compete for a high score with a friend!

Tiny Wings 2.0 is a great update to an already great game. The basic setup is similar to games like Wavespark and Dillo Hills, but the oh-so cute visuals will easily win you over. Best of all, if you already own the original game, all you have to do is update it in the app store to experience all the new content!

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 4.3/5
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Rating: 4.3/5 (210 votes)
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Trickyir/rational ReduxWhen one wakes up in a featureless white room, apparently at the whims of a malevolent steam-punk artificial intelligence, the first instinct is to escape. But... why? What's your argument? Can you justify your actions? Such is the question posed by ir/rational Redux, a puzzle adventure game by Tom Jubert, of Penumbra story-telling fame. Propositional logic has never felt so intense!

Though it has the apparent trappings of a graphical adventure game, the real meat of ir/rational Redux is in its unique language-based argument system. Click to progress the story, until you come to a bit of propositional calculus you must pass. Don't worry, it's easier than it sounds! Choose the correct statement from the drop-down menus to fill in the missing lines and complete the argument logically. (It has been noted that some systems may not display all options automatically, so you may need to scroll these lists with the [arrow] keys.) If you need assistance, you can ask your brain for a hint by clicking in the upper-right corner. No doubt the central premise of ir/rational Redux could have come off as incredibly dry, but overall this is a supremely engaging work. A unique brand of dark philosophical humor is present throughout, and the puzzles manage the right balance of posing a challenge to advanced logicians, while remaining welcoming to the novice. One nitpick: The somewhat-crude mid-game tangent about Australian gaming politics feels out of place, more suited to one of Yahtzee's rants rather than an ontological mystery. That said, while playing ir/rational Redux, you truly get the feeling that you're playing a game that's something different and something special. It may not be for everyone, but it's hard to argue against giving it a try.

Play ir/rational Redux


(13 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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The Wages of Darkness

TrickyWhat happened, Marina? Where is everyone? Is this the facility's drainage tunnel you're in? Why won't the lights come on? If it's a primary power failure, they're going to enact Protocol 13. If you don't make it to the shelter before that happens... well, it's best not to think about that. Or those sounds of wet slithering you hear emanating down the pipe... The Wages of Darkness is a horror adventure game developed by Baron for April's Month of AGS Competition. It was given the top prize (presumably because the judges were too scared not to), and has since been streamlined and polished into this wider release.

The Wages of DarknessThe theme of the competition was "Distorted Senses", and The Wages of Darkness certainly has those. Controls will be familiar to most adventure gamers, but since much of the game takes place in utter darkness, you will rely heavily on the dynamic label that shows you what each surface feels like as you mouse over it. Right-click with the mouse to examine items, and left click to interact with them or add them to your inventory. Once there, they can be clicked to be used on something in the main game window, or combined with other inventory items. Right clicking will deselect an item. Players should appreciate that Wages of Darkness has several difficulty modes: Easy (where it is impossible to die), Difficult (where taking too long at critical points will lead to your death), and Intense (where the time limits are even more stringent, if you're in to that kind of thing).

Tactile sense is difficult to convey in a video game setting, but The Wages of Darkness makes a decent stab at it, and it makes for some surprisingly effective horror. The atmosphere builds as you grope around in the darkness, looking for something, anything that will help you fend off those gurgling creatures you hear clawing their way after you. Horror is often at its best when the monstrosities are left unseen. Of course, the sort of blind object-finding the game relies on probably couldn't sustain a much longer game: even if the frustrating dread of being unable to find an object as the wet gnashing of teeth get ever closer is one of the most nerve-wracking kinds of Adventure Game situation, we can probably all agree that pixel-hunting gets old fast. However, Wages of Darkness takes only about ten minutes, which is just the right length for this stomach-punch of horror (even if it's ending is undercut by some questionable voice-acting). If its goal was to make players uneasy about turning the lights off, well then, mission accomplished.

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: 4.5/5 (33 votes)
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DoraHeroes Rise: The ProdigyWhen almost everyone is a superhero, it can be hard to get a chance to shine, even if you're packing some powers yourself. As a nobody struggling to make ends meet in Millennia City, you've always dreamed of flying with the Legends, but you've never really been given the opportunity to make a name for yourself... until now. In Heroes Rise: The Prodigy, a new text-based RPG from Choice of Games and writer Zachary Sergi, control the actions and fate of an up-and-coming superhero... yourself! Claw your way to the top by harnessing your abilities and making a name for yourself, become embroiled in bitter rivalries with other heroes and villains, find romance, mentor a side-kick, and a whole lot more.

As you play, the game presents you with multiple choices for everything from combat scenarios to social interactions... just pick the one that best suits the character you're trying to play. The decisions you make alter not only the course of the narrative and how people perceive you, but your stats as well, which can be viewed at any time by hitting the "show stats" button above the text. Once you make a choice, there's no going back since you can only choose to restart the entire game rather than skip back to an earlier chapter, so give a little thought to each situation before you take the plunge. If you run out of either Health or Power, you'll die, and you might want to keep an eye on your funds as well as your friends... and enemies.

Analysis: If you love high camp plot twists, corny superhero names, and have always wished it were socially acceptable to run around the city at night in spandex that leaves little to the imagination, then Heroes Rise: The Prodigy will be right up your alley. Complete with Aunt May style maternal figurehead, it delivers a lengthy and surprisingly action-packed tale with memorable characters, dramatic moments, and some very cool scenes to play your part in. Some of the scenes can be a little eye-rollingly corny, which is kind of par for the course in, y'know, comics, but the game still manages to tell a very cool story in a unique universe. There are even a few unexpected plot twists you'll have to contend with where you might have to make some choices that sting a little if you want to uphold your personal values.

The downside is that the choices you're given often feel extremely limited, which is kind of ironic when you consider the outfit publishing the game. You're often only given two or three options for a situation, and sometimes not enough information to ever really feel like you're making an informed decision, which is great news for those of you wishing to role play as Cross Your Fingers and Hope For the Best Man. Which, by the way, The Prodigy has a very "on rails" feel to it that might feel too constrictive for some players, but also allows it to tell a more focused, interesting story that a narrative that needed to account for more variables might not have been able to deliver.

For all these minor quibbles, however, Heroes Rise: The Prodigy is still really impressive. It's a long, hefty heroe's arc with a ton of replayability that is heavy on storytelling and flashy drama. There's even some fairly big hinting for an inevitable sequel down the line where you can hopefully continue to claw your way to the top of the Powered Pack. Action-packed, engrossing, and just plain fun, The Prodigy is a great piece of choose-your-own-adventure style gaming that is well worth making a date with.

Play Heroes Rise: The Prodigy (free browser demo)


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Rating: 4.3/5 (25 votes)
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DisillusionJohnBCreated in 72 hours for a recent game jam, Disillusion by True Valhalla is a short, somewhat abstract platform adventure that focuses heavily on atmosphere and exploration. You begin with a sword and a vague goal in the back of your mind: go to the end of the world and find the Holy Artifact. If you don't, your people won't survive. Sounds like motivation to us! You quickly head out into the hazy world, ready to tread down branching non-linear paths, defeat enemies both small and gargantuan, and pull off some tricky jumps with the greatest of ease.

Disillusion borrows a lot from the metroidvania genre, though don't expect fancy upgrades that let you bend the laws of physics or anything. The gameplay is squarely focused on allowing you to roam freely. There are usually multiple paths you can follow, each with its own set of dangers and rewards. It's a short adventure, but a very high quality one for a game created in such a short amount of time. The jumping mechanics might be a little too "floaty" for some players, but once you get the rhythm down, you'll settle in for a fine lunch break-sized game.

WindowsWindows:
Get the free full version

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


(15 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Grim Tales: The Wishes

JohnBGrim Tales: The Wishes is the third in the series of Grim Tales hidden object adventure releases from Elephant Games. Featuring an absolutely chilling storyline, Grim Tales 3 plays like an epic tale filled with puzzles that are sprawled out across the detailed landscape. Items and points of interest are practically in every corner, and while you search for the pieces you need to continue through the game, a surprisingly terrifying plot is unfolding right before your eyes.

Grim Tales: The WishesBrandon is having a rough time, what with the demons and witches and all. His mother notices he's been acting strangely lately, mumbling something about paying for his sins, setting wrongs right, and, oh, there's the whole looking like a pale-faced centuries old corpse thing, too. That's when you witness the chilling scene where a shadow creature erupts from the closet and takes Brandon away. You rush to inform Brandon's mother, your sister Luisa, but she's vanished, too. Now that your blood is flowing, get ready for an intense storytelling ride.

Grim Tales: The Wishes shares some basic design points, story elements, and characters with both Grim Tales: The Legacy and Grim Tales: The Bride, and the similarities are all very welcomed. The game is structured like a casual adventure with a dozen or more rooms to explore at a time, each littered with puzzles, mini-games, and a hidden object scene or two. To gain access to certain areas or solve certain riddles, you'll need to pick up items and carry them around in your inventory, often hunting for most of a chapter before you get to solve a puzzle you saw early on. It's a bit overwhelming at first to see all of these unsolved mysteries and have no clue how to complete them, but the plot of Grim Tales grabs you from the start, so while you're feeling a bit lost, you'll also feel a bit intrigued as well.

Grim Tales: The WishesAnalysis: Grim Tales: The Wishes is the perfect way to do a sequel. Elephant Games kept only the most desirable elements from the previous games while bumping up the immersion and puzzle challenge, two things you rarely see done so well in the casual hidden object genre. If you have a high definition monitor, you'll also get treated to some fantastic visual effects along with a few surreal animations. When you first lay eyes on the living puppet, you'll know exactly what we mean!

One thing Grim Tales: The Wishes mercifully offers: three levels of difficulty. As with many hidden object games, you're often presented a choice between casual and expert modes, adjusting the hint timer, cursor changes, and those telltale "sparklies". With Grim Tales, you get three modes, the easiest of which offers loads of hints and suggestions, while the hardest takes away the hint feature altogether, doesn't allow you to skip mini-games, and gives you absolutely no clues during play. You may not think much of this at first, but when you see that Grim Tales is a difficult game even on casual mode, you'll realize this game actually has the ability to challenge you!

Its name may not carry the weight of bigger franchises like Drawn or Mystery Case Files, but Grim Tales: Three Wishes deserves a spot on the top shelf. You know, if your computer had shelves and if the location of those virtual shelves had any meaning. It's an outstanding casual adventure experience with balanced gameplay, excellent visuals, and a story that just keeps twisting and turning as you play.

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
Collector's Edition


  • Currently 4.8/5
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Rating: 4.8/5 (123 votes)
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DoraBlack BoxThe developers we feature here don't tend to ask a lot from us in return for the content they put out. They're like magical internet elves, cobbling games rather than shoes while we sleep. Black Box, the latest puzzle from On of Eyezmaze, is the first title from the much loved developer that will cost you a little something if you want to play it all the way through. Donate a dollar or more by clicking on the appropriate button within the game, and you'll be given a password that unlocks the whole thing, since only the first half is available to play for free. Please do not post the password Best of Casual Gameplay 2012in the comments. After all, wouldn't you consider a dollar a more than fair payment for someone who has given you over eight years of entertainment for free? If you don't want to donate, you can still play through the first chunk, but trust us when we say you'll definitely want to know where this one is going... it's just that odd.

The actual game is what you've come to expect from Eyezmaze... a surreal little gem full of strangeness, wonder, and an almost unhealthy level of cuteness. Just click to interact, and try to figure out what to click on and when in order to advance through the game. Some objects can be dragged around the screen as well. Like all of the developer's games, Black Box is more than a little weird, and will success will depend on experimentation rather than logic unless you hail from some bizarre robot dimension. The game itself is actually a bit longer than most other titles from On, and unfolds like some crazy Rubik's Cube crossed with a Rube Goldberg device. If you want to help fund the next series of Grow games, or just give a little thank you to someone who has made you smile for free so many times, then you surely won't mind the small entrance fee to yet another beautiful, silly, and imaginative puzzle from our friend Eyezmaze.

Play Black Box

Thanks to Cynthia for sending this one in.


(7 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Amazing Alex

JohnBStrap on your physics shoes (moon boots?), it's time for some quirky Rube Goldberg-like contraptions! Amazing Alex is the latest offering from Rovio, the well-known creator of the Angry Birds series. This new offering is a physics-based puzzle building game not unlike Crazy Machines or The Incredible Machine, though everything has been greatly scaled down to make it more fitting for a casual audience.

Amazing AlexIt's playtime for Alex, which loosely translates into "contraption building time"! This kid's got a grand imagination, and his room's absolutely packed with gadgets, gizmos and toys. Maybe this is where the world's hidden object games get their items from? By dragging and dropping pieces from your inventory, you can help solve each level's puzzle, with goals ranging from moving bouncing balls to a target to popping balloons with scissors, funnelling things through pipes, and using retractable boxing gloves to cause more widespread kinds of destruction.

Seasoned mobile gamers may have noticed that Amazing Alex bears some resemblance to Casey's Contraptions, a game released earlier in the iTunes App Store's life cycle. The resemblance isn't accidental, as Rovio purchased the rights to the game and reskinned it to create Alex's world. While Amazing Alex might not be a new game, per se, it's still packed with things to do, featuring over 100 levels, starting off with a lengthy tutorial and slowly increasing the complexity and difficulty of puzzles. Even better, you can unlock a level editor to create your own stages to share with friends or to use to taunt your enemies.

Physics games like this have been done before, and they've been done better and more creatively. But with the power of Rovio behind it, Amazing Alex is going to get a big push into the mobile gaming scene. And thanks to its ease of use and somewhat hand-holdey gameplay, it's easily accessible by even the most casual of gamers, young and old alike.

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


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Rating: 2.8/5 (71 votes)
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Rich Rich LipGrinnyp"Get your motor running, head out on the highway, lookin' for adventure, and whatever comes our way..." Visions of scenery flying past in a smooth ribbon, wind whipping through the hair, the gentle purr and throb of the engine, motorcycles have long been associated with a sort of wild freedom and adventure, so it's rather poetic that they have become the central theme to Bianco-Bianco's newest room escape, Rich Rich Lip, which features several bad-boy, tricked out motorcycles that could have come straight out of Neo-Tokyo.

Rich Rich Lip features a nicely rendered three dimensional space in which to explore along with the aforementioned road hogs and some tricky and amusing puzzles, all accompanied by a throbbing, kick-ass soundtrack that makes the gamer feel as if they were flying down a highway to nowhere while actually being stuck in a rather small room. A changing cursor indicates hot-spots and cuts down on the pixel hunting, while easy navigation bars allow for smooth movement about the neon-decorated space. There's even an homage (read: rip-off) of Tesshi-e's customary happy coin, two escape scenario endings. Unfortunately, there's not a visible save feature, so to get both escape scenarios you have to play through twice.

Bianco-Bianco, author of the Dr. Ichie series of escapes, and of First Love (a collaboration with Robamimi), has jettisoned their usual themes of either sentiment or horror and just gone with simple, stripped down room escaping with no theme other than the pretty, pretty bikes. Rich Rich Lip is not a long escape, but one that is an amusing break that will get the heart thumping along with the road-rage music that would fit in beautifully with a capsules/clowns rumble. Let's roll!

Play Rich Rich Lip


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Rating: 4.2/5 (101 votes)
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TrickyPerspectiveYou don't remember your master getting so old. Of course, even when she found you, abandoned by the side of the road, she wasn't young, but the years seem to weigh heavier than before. But today is a special day, and you both have special plans. And to make them happen, all you'll need is a little change of Perspective. An artistic puzzle platformer by NFyre, Perspective is a short but challenging game about forcing yourself to look at the world in a new way.

Move with the [arrow] keys and jumping with [Z], your goal is to move your canine self to the doorway at the other side of the level, and enter it with the [spacebar]. The central puzzle mechanic is the "Perspective Flip", activated with [X]. When triggered, safe objects will turn into harmful ones and harmful objects into safe ones: coins transform into spikes, angered birds transform into floating stationary blocks, pushable crates transform into snakes, and vice versa. Completing each level, then, requires careful timing of perspective changes, let alone your jumps. Later levels will have you unlocking doors with collectible keys, and controlling two canines at once, Tealy and Orangey-style. At times, Perspective can get quite challenging, even punishing. The somewhat-slippery controls means there's not a whole lot of room for error in your movements, and those prone to rage-quitting after dying a half dozen times on a level should probably stay away. Those with that particular streak of platform masochism, though, will find a lot to like. The text plays upon just the right note of melancholy sweetness, and the soothing retro visuals and music should prevent the player's blood pressure from getting too high. Some will love it, some will find it frustrating. It all depends on your... well, you know.

Play Perspective


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraI'm sure you're all busy ticky-tacking away at your magical developmental tools for our 10th Casual Gameplay Design Competition, but let's take a moment to appreciate everything that's coming our way. Like prizes. And airships. And pyromania. (No, not that kind.) And ponies. And freeware. You guys. You guys. You're so talented and creative, I just wanna pinch your little cheeks and lock you in my basement and force you to toil for my enjoyment! It renders the frames and releases the game or else it gets the hose again... kidding! I'm kidding. I would never kidnap a developer! At least, not while I was still in the public eye.

BasketBelleCONTEST: Sports and Heart and Soul You look like you could use a little motivation. Fortunately, that's where Michael Molinari's surreal sports odyssey BasketBelle comes in. The game follows a young boy and the relationships he has with his family, documented in strange style as he squares off on the court against a series of beasts and platform puzzles in his quest to bring home something precious. To enter for your chance to win one of five free copies, just leave a comment on this entry telling us what your most inspiring video game moment was. Rules: Entries must be submitted by July 20th, 11:59 p.m. EST (GMT-5). Winners will be notified by e-mail shortly thereafter. Winners are selected randomly. One entry per person only. You must be at least 13 years of age or older to enter. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited. Update: Congratulations to these winners: wakamo, Shudog, rockydennis, AlbinWesley, limivu! Thanks for playing with us. :)


Little InfernoPlaying With Fire is A-OK Get ready to be intrigued yet creeped out when you watch the trailer for the upcoming title Little Inferno from the newly formed Tomorrow Corporation. Due out this winter for PC, Mac, and Linux (as well as Wii U!), the game is about... well... burning things. Details are sketchy on gameplay at the moment, though the site promises "an adventure that takes place almost entirely in front of a fireplace", and seems to be about burning things to stay warm in a world where the snow hasn't stopped falling in years. It definitely has a strange vibe to it, and if you're a fan of World of Goo you might recognise Kyle Gabler's influence, since he along with Allan Blomquist and Kyle Gray have combined their Planeteer powers for this one. If you're a PC user and you'd like to have access to an early beta, you can purchase the game now for 15.00 USD and learn its secrets, as well as gain access to the final build when its released. Fire, kids, and creepy implied dystopian futures? Sounds like a winner to me!

A Nation of WindLucy in the Sky With Monster Jellyfish Freeware, you say? Sounds good to me... and even better when coupled with airships, gods, monsters, and floating islands! In Jameson Wilkins' shooter/real-time strategy game, A Nation of Wind you'll set sail for unfamiliar skies as you commandeer an airship and attempt to both establish and defend colonies in the sky, appeasing deities and battling enormous monsters that will rise up to challenge you. It looks absolutely gorgeous, and digging through the archives of screenshots should definitely serve to get you excited, especially if you're a fan of big monster battles... don't you think this one looks and sounds like it has a sort of Skies of Arcadia vibe to it? The game is currently playable, and is nearing a public release now while it's being worked on in closed alpha, but hopefully we won't have to wait too much longer before we get to explore and unit this strange new realm.

GreenlightGreen With Indie If you're an indie developer, getting the bigger digital distribution platforms to pick up your game can be frustrating and difficult, but Steam is aiming to put the decision in the hands of consumers with the upcoming Steam Greenlight. Soon, developers will be able to post screenshots and other information to the service, which customers will then vote on, allowing Steam to, theoretically, use their community to decide what gets released based on the positive response. Scheduled to launch at the end of August of this year, this could be a great thing for indie developers struggling to get noticed by the company, as well as allow us, the players and loud mouth reviewers, to see and support some awesome content we might not otherwise get to. The details are still being hammered out, but Greenlight could mean some very good things for us.

OuyaThe Console is Dead, Long Live the Console! It's easy to regard Kickstarter projects with a certain degree of jaded skepticism, especially ever since, after Double Fine's smash success, gaming projects pleading for funding have been cropping up left and right. Well, now it's time for hardware to take the plunge, and it seems like for one company it's succeeding beyond their wildest dreams. The upcoming Android-powered Ouya Console has made a whopping $4,000,000.00 USD at the time of this writing... in under 48 hours. The Ouya console could potentially change the way gaming works for your television, allowing developers to create for it as they see fit as long as some portion of whatever they are making is free. This means that you could eventually be playing all sorts of indie games you already love in your living room on a big screen. To say that people are excited is a bit of an understatement, though Ben Kuchera has offered this cautionary editorial. What do you think? Are you excited or wary for the Ouya? Or, like me, are you just disappointed upon finding out that Ouya isn't a new Hatoful Boyfriend?

Adventure PoniesMy Little Platformer Comic Con is in the air, and the fine folks over at the Hub, generous purveyor of colourful cartoon equines that they are, have a little something special for you. Unlocked by inputting the code HUBMLP8BIT, Adventure Ponies is a retro action platformer where you control each of the six stars of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic in turn while they track down the Elements of Harmony one at a time. Gameplay is pretty simplistic and consists of bouncing through levels until you find the element you're looking for, and then doing tiny 8-bit battle with a baddie from the show. The controls and jumping feel sort of fiddly and unresponsive at times, and it's definitely repetitive, but as a special thank you to the fans who helped make the series the massive success it is and turned my bookshelf into a tiny pony playground, it's a pretty nifty thing. Though of course I'm forced to ask... WHERE'S MY LYRA?! (And which one of you folks is sending me the Comic Con wall-eyed, muffin-loving pegasus you know I need?)

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 (392 votes)
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DoraSeedlingIn Connor Ullmann's action adventure Seedling, you come from... unusual beginnings when the wind itself breathes life into you. What follows is a quest for self discovery and shiny things as you soon discover you were created with purpose. Solve puzzles, journey across the land, delve deep into dungeons, battle huge bosses, and more in this homage to classic Zelda and other classic 2D adventure games.

Use the [arrow] keys to move, and tap [X] to interact, or to swing your sword when you get one. Double-tapping [X] quickly while you're moving will also cause you to Best of Casual Gameplay 2012sprint in that direction, which can be handy in avoiding certain enemies. Your health is represented by the green blocks in the upper-right corner of the screen, and they turn red as you take damage, but regenerates whenever you enter a room. If all the blocks turn red, the room you're in will reset and you'll be teleported back to its entrance. You won't have much when you start out, but as you search dungeons, you'll begin to find useful items befitting a true hero. Later on in the game, opening your inventory with [I] or [V] will let you choose which two weapons you want to lock to the [X] and [C] keys from your growing arsenal. Of course, you'll also find danger and puzzles as well, since no hero's journey is complete without a whole lot of peril.

SeedlingAnalysis: If you've been a gamer since classic NES or even just original Gameboy era, chances are Seedling is going to hit you right in the nostalgia without pulling its punch in the slightest. I'm not even necessarily talking about the obvious retro style, which looks and sounds great thanks to some classic tunes from Rekcahdam, but in the way it plays and feels. From the simple, easy to grasp gameplay to the designs and layouts of the dungeons and monsters inside them, Seedling is a love letter to the golden age of gaming. Of course, this means you can expect golden age annoyances to pop up as well. Figuring out exactly what you're looking at can sometimes be difficult, and even with the light treasure night cycles and some dungeons dim enough to be hard on the eyes for some players.

Trundling around the many different areas and dungeons as they become available to you as your inventory grows is definitely satisfying, especially given the way the difficulty scale on puzzles and the scope of your environments grow the further you progress. Combat can feel a little clunky in a distinctly old-fashioned way, mainly due to how simple the controls are, though for the most part you'll find patience and patterns are the key to victory. Games like Seedling tend to come under intense scrutiny for their nostalgic concepts and presentation just as much as some people embrace it for them, but even if you weren't more than a sparkle in your momma's eye when games like this ruled the plains, Seedling is still worth checking out. It's beautifully made and surprisingly engrossing, with a world you'll definitely want to know more about and an adventure well worth taking. You might see some of the plot twists coming, but Seedling succeeds more than it fails and might just make you feel like a kid again. You know... a magically constructed, destined-for-greatness-or-ruin kid like we all used to be once. Memories.

Play Seedling


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Rating: 4.4/5 (172 votes)
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Reader reviewGame Over GopherThe following is a reader review submitted by Dsrtrosy:
Game Over Gopher by the edugame makers at the New Mexico State University Learning Games Lab is a seriously cute, seriously fun tower defense game. Your job is to defend the garden's one and only carrot from marauding gophers... not by killing them, but by feeding them until they explode into rainbows! Yep, rainbows.

At the start of most levels, you'll need to use basic graphing skills and coordinates to click and figure out where the gophers will be coming from. You'll be given a graph and a pair of coordinates that reveal a location on it, and clicking on the proper spot will plot your path. Drag towers and launchers to points along the path where they'll be able to reach the gophers that will trundle towards the carrot. Towers cost rubies, however, which you'll need to mouse over when they drop from a rainbow'd enemy. Of course, if you need more rubies faster, you can place special Ruby Drills at certain points on the graph and they'll periodically spit out a gem if you've placed them correctly... just look at the numbers below the drill icon before you place, and use the graph to figure out where they belong. Keep an eye on the action, since an un-munched carrot is the best kind of carrot.

As you progress, you get more and more goodies, from carrot launchers to iceberg lettuce (which, you guessed it, freezes gophers as they eat). The towers are minimally upgradable, but what makes this game special is the truly fun way in which junior high graphing skills are brought to bear on gameplay. An important aspect of your strategy is having enough rubies to pay for new towers, upgrades, bombs and more. Ruby drills are free, but have to be placed on specific coordinates on the graph. If you don't keep track of the next available drill, you might find yourself out of rubies, and once an area has been mined completely, the drills disappear.

The strategy in the game isn't difficult, but the cuteness plays a major role. Despite the inability to speed the gophers up, you can send a new wave early and increase the challenge in that way. And it has a nice difficulty curve, with more and tougher waves in each level, as well as some pretty funny boss gophers. While this might be a better game for kids, I admit it quenched my thirst for something new in the TD genre. It's easily worth a lunchtime game break.

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You Are Games

Reader ReviewThe following is a selection of favorite games compiled and reviewed by JIG community member, Cornelius. It is also one of the winning entries from our previous call for submissions for community favorites, for which Cornelius will receive some fabulous prizes of his choosing. Thanks to everyone who shared their favorites with us! Look for more community favorites in the coming weeks.

  • Z-TypeZ-Type - Nothing blends the fast-paced world of blowing up invading ships with typing like Z-Type, a shooter from Dominic Szablewski. Wave after wave of enemies approach you while you attempt to keep them at bay using nothing more than your WPM. Also, this game quite possibly could have the simplest instructions ever: "Type to Shoot!" Average ships require average words, larger ships are dispatched using a much broader vernacular and incoming missiles are destroyed with merely a single letter. Making your way through the standard game is fairly simple, especially for the skilled typist. For a real challenge, try the "Expert" mode and see just how long you can survive!
  • Fantastic ContraptionFantastic Contraption - Move a ball. Using wheels and sticks. That's all you need to do. Oh, did I mention you need to get it up a hill, over a wall, and across a gap with limited space to build your "contraption?" If you've ever had one of those moments where you thought it would be fun and cool to build a complex machine to perform a simple job (and honestly, who hasn't?), then this is for you. Play through 21 brain-straining levels and see just how far your imagination can go!
  • Treasure AdventureTreasure Adventure Game - Treasure hunters beware! Prepare to be immersed into a massive platformer filled with nearly endless discovery. Robit Studios gives us Treasure Adventure, an epic open-world side-scroller where you travel from land to land in search of wonder and hats. Explore hazardous caves. Journey high into the trees. Uncover secret passageways. Talk to your grandma. This quest-based adventure game is filled to the brim with prizes and pitfalls alike, guaranteed to keep you glued to your keyboard for hours.
  • HaplandHapland - Hapland. Nothing much more can be said. It is quite possibly the ultimate culmination of the point-and-click and puzzle game. A series so awesome that it even spawned an exclusive JIG banner game. You are a stick figure. An entire land of interaction surrounds you. Your goal is simple: open a portal. To where? No one knows. But getting there is not easy. Nearly every notable item on the screen is clickable, and the results of each click can vastly vary depending on the order in which they're clicked. Even not getting the proper solution gives you a sense of satisfaction, as changing the way you do things can give you a completely different outcome. Even after completing the game you feel the need to start over and see what else you can do. The entire Hapland series is simply a must-play for both completionists and/or anyone that considers themselves a "casual" gamer.

While we welcome any comments about this particular selection of games, we do ask that if you need any help with individual games, or wish to comment on the games featured here, please post your questions and comments on the respective game's review page.


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Rating: 4.7/5 (53 votes)
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TrickyLee Lee's Quest 2The original Lee-Lee's Quest left players with a lot of unanswered questions. Will Lee Lee make peace with his cubey neighbors? Will Loo Loo manage to ditch that blue psychopath who keeps barging in to the neighborhood castle to "rescue" "her"? Will developer Marcus Richert run out of snarky fourth-wall breaking dialogue? Answer: NEVER!. Everyone's favorite awesomely delusional platform hero type guy is back to go on another adventure/mook killing spree in Lee-Lee's Quest 2!

Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move, jump, or duck. You have the ability to wall-grip and jump, and you'll probably need to use it. Gather shovels, fruits, and power-ups to collect points. Bop on enemy's heads to kill them, or, when in possession of a bomb power-up, press [S] or [down] to drop an explosive, then get out of the way! Oh, and make sure your sound is on. There's some dialogue you're going to want to hear.

The first Lee-Lee's Quest mined most of the jokes that could be used to parody a generic platforming world, so the sequel takes the route of direct commentary on specific overused elements and situations. It makes for much sharper humor, and, indeed, the incisiveness may just cross the line from parody to true satire. Whether Lee Lee is questioning who in the audience is really surprised by the appearance an Atari-esque section, or complaining that the random camera zooms just make the background look bad, or just going off on a tangent about whether an Anime-styled power-up is pandering and/or racist, he has a comment for just about everything.

This constant lampshading of tropes could have gotten old fast, but Lee-Lee's Quest 2 has a couple of things working in its favor. First of all, there's Joshua Tomar doing the voice work. This reviewer's admitted fanboyism notwithstanding, he does as stellar a job as in the first installment, giving Lee Lee just enough self-awareness to be snarky, but just enough obliviousness to make his macho bathos hilarious, and likewise giving all the enemy polyhedrons just the right tinge of world-weary anger. Secondly, there's the fact that, all humor aside, Lee-Lee's Quest 2, perhaps entirely by accident, turns out to be a solid, challenging, way above average platform game. It's almost a paradox: For a game to mock, say, meaningless power-ups, or ultra-difficult platform paths that lead to underwhelming hidden rewards, the game must therefore include them. But the mere fact that exploring everywhere and doing everything will lead to genuinely hilarious dialogue, makes such elements meaningful and rewarding. Of course, that's probably giving too much analysis to a game where grabbing a pineapple is as likely to give you a gimp suit as points. On the downside, certain later parts of the game rely a tad much on Unfair Platformer-styled tricks, but they are never belabored, and, in any case, are just funny enough to be forgiven. In short, Lee-Lee's Quest 2 is everything fans of the first could have wanted in a sequel. One can only hope that a bloated, unneccesary trilogy-completing third installment is on the way

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Rating: 4.7/5 (23 votes)
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The Promised Land

MeaghanIn this age of over population, it's hard not to daydream about having a nice little town all to yourself. But unless you're a billionaire, chances are the only way to experience the feel of colonization is through the gracious world of casual gaming. The Promised Land from Boolat Games is a pleasant simulation building and strategy game similar to Virtual Villagers that hands you a piece of uncharted land ready to be plundered. As an adventurer, you're off to find the elusive spring of eternal happiness and build yourself a town that could rival even the most advanced of civilizations!

The Promised LandJust after you land in this new, uncharted world, you get to work utilizing your four little helpers to do all of your bidding. Simply click, drag and drop villagers to assign tasks, bumping against the edge of the screen with your cursor to scroll across the map. There are a number of different professions to specialize in, including farmer, worker, builder, artisan, and scientist. A farmer will always be more productive when farming, for example, whereas a scientist will fumble a bit when set to a task like mining. Specializing in one area means your people will get more work done at a faster pace, so naturally it's a good idea to keep workers as focused as you can.

While watching over your minions, keep track of their hunger, happiness, and health, three stats that slowly decrease over time. Villagers are pretty smart and will take care of most major problems as they arise, but you can always click and drag them around to speed things up a little. As your colony expands, you must build houses to make sure each and every person has a place to call home. Homeless villagers will stand around listlessly, which not only gets in the way, but it doesn't help you obtain your goals, either!

The Promised LandBuildings are also a part of The Promised Land, and over the course of the game, you'll work with a number of different types of structures. Most require you study a topic at the laboratory before you can build them, and even when you have the technology, it always costs a certain amount of resources to get something built. Fortunately, earning resources is far from a boring affair. You can either complete the tasks listed at the bottom of the screen, or send out your ships to barter for goods with other colonies. But beware: pirates are all over the place, and they'd love nothing better than to get a hand or two on your stuff! Using your ship's cannons, you can fight them off using an Angry Birds style mini-game, pulling back the fuse to knock pirates from their perches.

Analysis: Much like the Virtual Villagers series or the more overlooked Floating Kingdoms, The Promised Land is a game that will have you looking at the clock and thinking, "Where in the world did my day go?" There's so much going on that there's never really a time when you can sit back and feel like you're adequately stockpiled on supplies. There's always this item or that item that needs to be made or collected, this building or that building that needs to be built or upgraded. But, you know, since you're low on resources, you'll have to do a few trading trips first, and we all know what that means: pirate cannoning time!

The Promised LandAs with most casual sims, The Promised Land is all about managing the small details as you work towards a greater whole. The trading aspect is a notable departure from the usual formula, and it really sets this game out from the other offerings in the crowded genre. Combine that with a colorful visual presentation, characters that are filled with personality, and a poppy sort of active soundtrack and you've got one of the most fulfilling and varied sims on the market.

Clearly, any fan of resource management games will be squealing with glee at this new (and highly addictive) addition to the genre. Even if you're new to sims, you can easily pick up the basic ideas and quickly tackle that pesky quarry or garden. Here's to celebrating your summer right and having a little piece of a world to call your own!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


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Rating: 3.8/5 (95 votes)
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Ben
Super Big Gun AdventureHello Sir. That's a super big gun you're carrying. And right over there are some super Big Bad Guys. Why not do me a favor and take them out... oh, look at the recoil on that thing! You've fallen right into the lava. Well, who hasn't that ever happened to? Dry yourself off and try again.

In nfyre's physics-based platform shooter Super Big Gun Adventure, you are a pariah of the Gentlemen's Council, who became jealous of the length of your gun immediately after giving you said weapon. It is super big, after all. Now the Council is out to kill you as you try to navigate their headquarters, a building inexplicably filled with deadly lava and spikes. Move and jump with [WASD] or the [arrow] keys as you make your way to the door at the end of each level, and click your mouse to fire your gun at any enemies along the way. Rather than bullets, the gun fires a spray of noxious black liquid, and the recoil propels you around at such speed it can also be used to lift yourself into the air, useful for getting past those huge lava pits. The game centers around this mechanic, setting it apart from most shooters, and it's a similarly fun change from the pixel perfect jumping some retro platformer games require.

Super Big Gun Adventure is quite short, with only 12 stages, but regardless of what the Gentlemen's Council think, size doesn't always matter. Although cheap and possibly off-putting innuendo is plastered on during the ending, the smooth gameplay, solid physics, and responsive controls make for an enjoyable time waster and perhaps leave the way open for a lengthier sequel. Bravo!

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Astronaut Spacewalk

JohnBAstronaut Spacewalk by Jorge Hernandez is the closest most of us will ever get to taking a no-tether trot in outer space. The delightfully complex and detailed simulation game gives you a screen filled with controls and a few simple missions to complete, then sits back and watches while you climb the impossibly high learning curve. It will take hours, not minutes, to learn how to maneuver your lone astronaut, and until you do, you'll probably feel confusion, bewilderment, and possibly a touch of anger. If you stick with it, though, you'll discover a game that shares the joys and wonders of space exploration tempered by the realism of science, and it's a wonderful experience indeed.

Astronaut SpacewalkThe first step to understanding this game is to take a look at the screenshot. See that green grid overlaying the action? Those are the controls. Two dozen grid spaces that fill the entire screen allow you to move about freely in space, control the camera, and perform a few other actions. The in-game manual gives you a quick overview, but since most of your time with the game will be spent learning what these spaces do, it's helpful to draw out a paper map and keep it next to you for quick reference.

Your suit takes care of which jets to fire to move in different directions, all you need to do is tell it which way you want to go. To move forward, backwards, left, right, up and down, use the modules on the left side of the screen. Pitch, roll, and yaw controls are on the right, allowing you to roll side to side, tip yourself head up or head down, and rotate around a central horizontal axis. The central panels control the camera, and you'll find the all-important "null" command in the top left corner of the screen. This useful button fires your jets so you come to a standstill, allowing you to get your bearings. Using it really drains your suit's electricity, though, so make it an absolute last resort.

Astronaut SpacewalkMissions in Astronaut Spacewalk range from simple "head to the waypoint" drills to repair missions and inspection outings. Simple things in concept, but getting the job done means you have to pilot yourself around complex machinery, hold yourself at awkward positions, and do everything in a timely manner before your suit's oxygen, fuel or electrics run out. Tense? Yes. Challenging? You bet. Totally worth every moment spent memorizing and practicing? Absolutely!

Analysis: Astronaut Spacewalk is beautiful but complex, frustrating but relaxing. It's a grand collection of opposites smacked together so they work as one, condensing the experience of a space walk into a mobile simulation. It's also quite a beautiful game to behold. You'll get to see some great views of Earth and our moon, as well as space shuttles, artificial satellites, solar arrays, and a host of other perfectly-rendered orbital devices. Jorge Hernandez really went all out working on the visual detail in this game, and that level of immersion makes the game feel like a real journey through space.

The downside, as you probably already guessed, is the learning curve. This isn't a game you can pick up and beat in just a few minutes. In fact, all you'll probably be able to complete in a few minutes is how to properly orient yourself to your next waypoint. The missions are long and numerous, and they're unrelenting, as well. This isn't a game that makes things easier for you. It's a game that challenges you to learn and put that knowledge to use as quickly as possible.

Astronaut Spacewalk is absolutely mesmerizing. It has the ability to completely surround you with its environment, making you almost believe you're the lucky scientist floating around in the EVA suit. It's an intense game on its own, and if you have even the slightest love of anything space-related, it's pretty much your training simulation dream come true.

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


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Rating: 3.7/5 (133 votes)
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BenCamp PineHaving sworn to help other people at all times, you'll extend that oath to include aliens in Camp Pine, a new point-and-click game by Selfdefiant. You take the role of a boy scout, who meets a stranded alien at camp. Playing much like an escape game, your goal is to find the necessary items to get the alien's spaceship back in the air, at which point you'll be awarded a well earned merit badge. Clicking items will variously examine, collect, or use them, depending on context, and navigation is mostly through clicking the sides of the screen.

With only one pixel hunt — in the dark, for a lightswitch — Camp Pine mainly relies on traditional 'find X to use on Y' puzzles. These are never obscure, and although genre veterans might find the game to be on the easy side, it's a fun, coffee break sized distraction without the frustrations of illogical puzzles or hard to find items. Besides, there aren't many Scouts who can say they've helped an alien home. Are you prepared?

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Rating: 4.3/5 (98 votes)
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Weekday Escape

elleIt's a simple concept—a single setting sprinkled with a smattering of puzzles—yet it's one of the things that Robamimi does with singular perfection. So when Robamimi presents One Scene 4, another installment in this deceptively modest escape-the-room series, you know before you start that it's going to be splendid.

Robamimi: One Scene 4As is standard in every Robamimi escape, gameplay is smooth and precise: click on interesting spots, exploring all angles of this solo wall for clues, and breaking codes until your find your exit. A hint system nudges you when you're stuck, but if you're searching for a strenuous cerebral challenge, you won't find it here. Although, in one instance, a clever touch of misdirection might make you reconsider your conclusions and the multiple creative puzzles have enough thinking involved to stay interesting, it is perhaps too easy peasy overall.

Combined with a scenic design, classic jazz tunes and Robamimi's flair for quality, it all rounds out to be a very pleasant playing experience. When all you want is a gentle mental pick-me-up during a five-minute respite, One Scene 4 is an irresistible snapshot of relaxation and fun. It may be simple but it's often the simple things that bring the most enjoyment.

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Rating: 4.1/5 (124 votes)
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elleThe Freewill Cycle: Volume 1 (Redux Edition)You wake up on the floor, disoriented, and lean against a nearby table for balance as you stand. Perhaps a sign you enjoyed yourself a bit too much last night but, somehow, you don't think so. Something just doesn't feel right. First of all, where is everyone? What happened? Where are you? More importantly, who are you? Thus you commence your search for answers in The Freewill Cycle: Volume 1 (Redux Edition), a revised and refurbished point-and-click adventure created by William Buchanan and available exclusively here at Jay Is Games.

Just like in the original version, this revamped first installment of a two volume game series blends puzzles into narrative in a style that's clearly reminiscent of The Journeyman Project and Myst. Apparently alone on some sort of spacecraft, explore each room searching for clues on how to escape this unearthly and portentously empty metal edifice. Follow your cursor, which can usually be relied upon for help as it changes direction wherever you can turn or back up and morphs into a magnifying glass or closed fist (in most cases) when you can examine or interact with an object. Items you pick up are stored at the bottom of your screen; just click and drag an object from your inventory to where you want use it. As in real life, the areas of interactivity for these objects is limited by their function; a key will only fit precisely in a keyhole, for example, and a glass should be set squarely on a flat surface.

Although adhering to the same basic structure and gameplay as the previous edition of The Freewill Cycle: Volume 1, navigation, story and scenery have all been improved to render the game as, according to Buchanan, it "should have been." Old puzzles have been modified and new ones added. There are also additional user features such as "save" and "mute" buttons, as well as text labels of items and interactive areas, if you select "Casual Experience" mode before beginning the game. Even so, the "Director's intent" mode—played with lights out and headphones on—is recommended for maximal immersion! As many details have changed and the story has been expanded, those familiar with the initial release of volume 1 still have much to discover and enjoy here, including a new ending that better paves the way for volume 2.

The Freewill Cycle: Volume 1 (Redux Edition)Analysis: While the scenario, setting and some of the puzzles are essentially the same as the original, a first effort by Buchanan—who was, at the time, a novice to game design—this "redux" edition of The Freewill Cycle: Volume 1 is very nicely transformed. It compares well, on a smaller scale, to those aforementioned classic adventures which inspired this creation. The original is categorized as an escape game yet this version, while in many respects not wrongly dubbed an escape, is more aptly described as a narrative adventure for how well it builds plot, utilizes characterization and integrates literary devices into the experience.

This is evinced by the need to consider and synthesize what you read as well as in the setting: inanimate and relatively sterile yet it's sullied by insinuation. A feeling of foreboding follows you every step you take and is imbued by the spacey-spooky soundtrack and hollow tone of your footfalls. Everything you read has subtle indicators and allusions, useful for problem solving your way out as well as making conjectures, mulling over possibilities and postulating theories—all while leaving you full of questions. It's short. You'll wish it was longer, but the next installment (which is on the near horizon) promises fulfillment.

While certainly improved from the first effort, this second version still contains some flaws. Navigation is somewhat cumbersome, especially at first before you're familiar with the surroundings. If you're not careful, it's easy to miss an integral item or area, leaving you wandering through rooms, wondering what you're missing or whether you're going crazy. That issue can be compounded by somewhat picky hotspots which, as mentioned above, require you to be precise in using an item lest you think it's unusable. Finally, while the excess of information in the notebooks and emails is great for fleshing out the story, it can be misleading, especially if you get caught up in details and miss a hint. Frustration over these parts has the potential to spoil the experience so, if you find yourself in that situation, it's a good idea to take a break then come back to play again. You should play twice, anyhow, to encounter both the "bad" and "good" endings. After walking away, you might realize you're thinking about it more than you expected.

The Freewill Cycle: Volume 1 (Redux Edition) has that sort of lingering aftereffect, a mark of a good gaming experience. It's not just the music that will be stuck in your head when you're done; the infinite abyss of space and time keeps many a poor soul awake a night in contemplation of the unthinkable.

Play The Freewill Cycle Vol.1 Redux

[Note: the game file is 14.4 MB; it may take several moments to load fully.]


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Rating: 3.6/5 (40 votes)
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TrickyRun RightY'know, one of these days the Earth-shattering apocalypse is going to start in the east. And then, boy howdy, all those left-averse building-leaping parkour free-runners are going to feel pretty foolish when they take off in the wrong direction. But the jetpack-wearing weapon-wielding dinosaur star of John Cooney and Jimp's new jump and run and gun action platformer knows that in the world of casual gaming, it's usually a good idea to Run Right.

Starting on the west coast of America and heading east, the goal is to run your dino through a variety of major metropolitan areas. Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to move your character, jumping to avoid spikes, meteors and pits. Holding [W] or [up] will fire up your jetpack, allowing for a little more air time. Question Mark circles will trigger a random consequence spun at the bottom of the screen. There are humans trying to run right alongside you. While they'll prove no obstacle for your dino feet, blasting them with a weapon by aiming and clicking with the mouse will explode them into a mass of coins. Collect them to purchase upgrades between levels, including speed-boosting vehicles, extra rocket fuel, and the most important upgrade of all: the jaunty top hat.

While definitely an innovator, Jmtb02 is also a master of casual gaming remixes, taking familiar premises and putting his unique spin on the concept. Run Right is no different. In some ways, it is a refined combination of the frenetic fun of both Canabalt and jmtb02's own Treadmillasaurus Rex. However, along with the always-welcome chance to squish a few puny humans, Run Right gives a palpable sense of progress that many games of its ilk lack. Ticking off each city as you travel from coast to coast makes for a minimal, but satisfying narrative arc. It would have been nice if the different cities were a little more distinct: After all, one should never miss an opportunity to depict a Triceratops chomping on the St. Louis Arch. Jimp's art is amazing, as always, though its cartoonish qualities highlight the wackier elements in a way that could be misconstrued as pandering to random internet humor. Dinosaurs may not be as overdone as zombies, pirates, ninjas and kitties, but the minute they jump on a penny-farthing bicycle, you have to figure someone's already selling that t-shirt. Kidding aside, Run Right is a solid running game with tight controls and charm aplenty. Run right to it, right now!

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Rating: 4.5/5 (157 votes)
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DoraTrophiendsAchievements, awards, whatever you want to call them... as a gamer, you love trophies. You just do. Many of us are willing to do almost anything for a taste of sweet, sweet digital glory, and Ralph Damiano's (ForTheLoss) latest puzzle platformer Trophiends is going to put that dedication to the test. Your goal through a series of progressively maniacal stages is to get to the trophy at the end. Or, y'know, trophies, since everything is better with friends, and after you've learned the ropes you'll be controlling multiple characters who all move simultaneously. Which might be hard enough if not for the fact that each level is littered with hazards that will put a serious cramp in your victory. Can you handle being both fleet on your feet and trying to wrangle a safe path through spikes, motorized ramps, power-ups, and more? After all, everything's better with a buddy... even if it is explosive death!

Use the [WASD] or [arrow] keys to control whatever characters you have in the level, and hit [R] to restart if you get yourself stuck. Each stage has its own unique design, so you'll want to make note of things like spikes, switches, floating platforms... and... is that TNT? Seriously? The benefits for whatever these guys signed on for had better be amazing. Regardless, your goal is to get each character to its correspondingly coloured trophy. If more than one character is present, everyone moves at the same time in the same way, though some stages have little floating power-ups you can snag that will As long as at least one character manages to avoid exploding into a shower of pixels, you'll still pass the level no matter how many bothans pixel dudes died to bring you your victory. Of course, if you want to get a perfect score and eventually unlock something special, you're going to want to try your best to make sure everyone lives and gets a taste of glory.

Trophiends is one of those games where a little planning can go a long way, and simply diving headfirst into a stage without taking proper stock of your surroundings is a good way to get as'ploded. Each stage is carefully, cleverly designed so that it can be finished in a minute or two... as long as you plan ahead. The mechanics here aren't necessarily new, but they're balanced out by such a great simple presentation and a handful of clever additions that it doesn't feel stale. The controls will definitely require you to be more than a little precise with your jumps, but then again, slow and steady wins the race... you know, except if you're standing on a keg of dynamite and there's a spike headed straight for your squishy head. With a level editor to torment your friends and some cunning co-operative puzzle-solving and platforming, Trophiends is a colourful, challenging break from your day. After all, we get by with a little help from our friends.

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The Vault

DoraWe casual gamers tend to have a very close relationship with our mouse. Not only is it our only means of using our computers until we can all surf with elaborate gestures while wearing sunglasses and trenchcoats like we're in the Matrix, but it's also all you need to play a point-and-click game, which is arguably one of the most popular style of games around. Whether you're simply solving puzzles or going on an adventure, your mouse has got your back, and on this week's Vault it'll be your trusty steed through three very different point-and-click titles.

  • Bars of Black and WhiteBars of Black and White - Gregory Weir has a reputation for being inventive, and this stark and somewhat unsettling little escape is one of the best examples. You find yourself in your apartment, though unable to really remember the last time you went outside, and when you discover an unusual device, you realise there might be something bigger going on than your own homebound boredom. Bars of Black and White plays on your emotions, evoking subtle paranoia more than actual fear, and the simple presentation works with the slowly unraveling story rather than against it as you search your apartment for clues and a way out. It's not difficult, but like all of Weir's work, it's well worth experiencing if you want to think a little about your life and what it means to you.
  • Gretel and Hansel: Part OneGretel and Hansel - Sometimes, when classic fairytales go wrong, it can be so very very right... presuming you're already a little twisted, that is. In Mako Pudding's reimagining of the classic tale, the star of the story is Gretel, who overhears her wicked stepmother's plans one evening and has to find a way to escape to safety with her dimwitted brother Hansel. As part of a planned trilogy, with chapter two now available, Gretel and Hansel is definitely a little out there and rife with black humour, gorgeous style, grim situations, and the sort of surreal, creepy stuff that makes old fairytales a little more freaky than their modern counterparts.
  • The Great Kitchen EscapeThe Great Kitchen Escape - Usually escape games are content to just lock you in a room with a few obscure puzzles and items and be done with it, but Pastel Games took things a step further by trapping you inside an entire house across a series of games that are each stranger than the last. As the first in the Great Escape series, you need to find a way out of the kitchen by hunting down clues and objects of use, which would be a lot easier if the place didn't seem like it was designed by a Saturday morning cartoon character. Played on its own, The Great Kitchen Escape is short and not particularly difficult, but chained together with the rest of the rooms it remains a vibrant, weird, and wonderful escape from your own day.

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


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Rating: 4.8/5 (28 votes)
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Outwitters

JohnBOutwitters is an asynchronous multiplayer strategy game from One Man Left, the creator of the equally captivating mobile game Tilt to Live. Outwitters takes place on a hex grid and stars three races of characters, each with a handful of unique units. By steadily moving soldiers across the board, deploying specialist healers, scouts, and the like, each team vies for control and the ultimate destruction of the other side's base. It's the most intense experience you can have with chubby pink soldiers and a field full of fish fighters!

OutwittersYour currency of choice in Outwitters are Wits, a catch-all number that dictates just about everything you do. Starting with a small spread of troops, you can move units during a turn at the cost of one Wit each. You can also create new troops, but that costs a lot of Wits, making it something you have to save up for. Soldiers number in the half dozen for each team and come with a variety of strengths, weaknesses, and special abilities. Basically, each side will have a weak, fast moving unit, a strong, tank-like unit, healers, long-range units, and so on. It's almost like a rock-paper-scissors type of situation, just with a little extra complexity.

Outwitters is a multiplayer-only game, but that's where the whole asynchronous part comes into play. Start up one or several games at a time and you are automatically matched with an opponent. You take turns moving units, and when a turn ends, the actions are sent for the other player to see, sort of like the old play by e-mail games. You're not playing a live, simultaneous game, which makes things a bit slower but also much it more tactics-oriented in nature. A good analogy would be setting up a chess board on a table in your home. You never sit down and play, you just make a move each time you pass by, hoping your roommate has made his opposing move when you do.

OutwittersAnalysis: Outwitters looks absolutely adorable, and that's going to be a big reason many mobile players will end up grabbing the game. It's also very easy to get into, as you don't have to worry about memorizing unit statistics or anything like that. Just create a game, do some experimenting, and after a bit, you'll know exactly what's going on. Over the course of a dozen or so new games, you'll refine your tactics until you've got Outwitters down to a glorious turn-based science!

The only drawback to Outwitters is that it takes time to play. Not large chunks of time, but frequent bites of time, sort of like a real-time simulation game akin to Pocket Planes. Outwitters doesn't have a single player option, so you can't just sit down and roll through a game. You can only start up a few multiplayer games, make some moves, and come back later to see if your opponents have done their thing. Instant gratification goes through a bit of a delay, but there's always local multiplayer and the rare player who sits down and makes moves while you're online.

Now for the in-app purchases. Outwitters is free by default and includes several maps, full access to the various multiplayer modes, and one of the three teams to play as (the fish-based Scallywags). You can grab two packs, one for each of the other teams, and get access to new characters and a few additional maps. You can also grab a single pack that gives you access to every current and future team pack the developer releases, which definitely isn't a bad deal. Outwitters is absolutely playable and enjoyable without indulging in the in-app purchases, but they add quite a bit of value if you end up getting hooked on the game.

Despite its somewhat stalled gameplay due to the multiplayer-only setup, Outwitters still manages to be a thoroughly interesting game. The tactics you'll employ are simple to implement but difficult to master, and it requires a certain subtlety you'll only gain after dozens of rounds. The single player campaign mode is sorely missed, but there's still a lot to love about the game. And the best part is you don't need to be a tactics master in order to enjoy it!


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Nihilumbra

DoraIn Beautisoft's hauntingly lovely puzzle platforming adventure for iOS Nihilumbra, you take control of Born, a small creature of no real significance. Or at least, that's how the Void you spring from expects you to behave. But somehow, Born senses something beyond the nothingness from which it was created and dares to escape into a world in which it doesn't belong. The world in which Born finds itself seems cold and indifferent, and the Void isn't willing to let Born go without a fight. Do you have the courage, cunning, and reflexes to help Born finds its place in a world in which it doesn't seem to belong? More importantly... do you have the colour?

NihilumbraNihilumbra offers two control schemes, but you'll probably find the on-screen controls to be most responsive. Simply hold the left or right arrows to move, and tap the up arrow to jump. As Born explores and moves through different environments, you'll unlock new colours you can use to paint the landscape with that will effect it, and you, in various ways. Blue, for example, can be used to make an icy path for momentum or to help slide heavy objects, while green can turn the earth lush and springy beneath your feet. Just tap on the icon in the upper-right corner, choose your colour, and paint along surfaces with it.

Nihilumbra is one of those games that will really need to resonate with you to get the full impact out of it. There's a heavy emphasis on narrative in it, on evoking emotion through simple sentences and even the gameplay itself, and when you combine that with the striking artistic style and formidable atmosphere you have a game that can suck you in with ease. The controls, unfortunately, don't always feel as fluid and responsive as you want them to be, especially in chase or other finicky action platforming sequences, and as a result, it makes the game difficult at times in a way that will probably lose it a few players. If you have both patience and reflexes in ample measure, however, Nihilumbra's clever concepts and storytelling can make it stand head and shoulders above the rest with a substantial amount of gameplay to boot. Equal parts challenging and beautiful, if a little pretentious at times, it's one of the heftiest and most engrossing platformers you can find. After all, don't we all want to find a place where we belong?

Thanks to Aurum for sending this one in!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on the 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: 3.8/5 (269 votes)
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Locker EscapeYou're a typical nerd. And yet you have somehow managed to avoid getting shoved into a locker... until now. Stepping in to defend a new student from a bully, you quickly find yourself trapped. Can you escape?

Theme interpretation: "Following the Escape theme (and the fact that I've always wanted to attempt to make an escape the room game), I created a game in one VERY small room. A nerd stuffed in a locker... can you escape your fate? And is there more going on behind the scenes?" -ShockTheToast.

Play Locker Escape


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Rating: 3.7/5 (378 votes)
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InterlockAn escape the room game where you're not the only person who wants to escape.

Theme interpretation: "I was interested in extending the usual escape the room game theme by putting someone else in the room who also wants to escape, but who it might not be a good idea to release - given context by being part of a larger narrative, which you don't often see in room escape games." - FumbleMouse.

Play Interlock


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Rating: 4.4/5 (1231 votes)
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Risk Subway EscapeUse your Mouse to point & click on the rooms. Find objects and use them to help you escape this scary subway!

Theme interpretation: "I love escape games, and when I found out about this competition I was wondering what can I make. And when I was in metro going home I invented the theme!" -Nikolay Marchenko and Alina Oleinik.

Play Risk Subway Escape

Tao


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Rating: 2.9/5 (97 votes)
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TaoHelp the girl escape reality by meditating. The real world is sometimes amazing, but being in it all the time is often quite tiresome. Help the protagonist empty her mind by systematically preventing her thoughts from disturbing her meditation.

Theme interpretation: "The theme is "escape." I decided that taking it literally is not the most interesting way to go, so I thought what other ways of escaping I know. Then I thought of my favorite book, Tao Tei Ching, and it came to me: we escape the reality by meditating, and in doing so gain more control over it. Isn't it the best kind of escape there is?" -Sergey Mohov.

Play Tao


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Rating: 3.4/5 (160 votes)
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TrainIn a world of repression, you managed to stand out and survive the changes. It is not a safe place, but now you stand a chance to survive. Can you activate the machine in time and escape to another dimension?

Theme interpretation: "I have always dreamed to make a good game and this competition showed up as the perfect occasion for me. Also the involvement of Mateusz and his team has been an even bigger step forward in pushing my motivation in order to finish my entry in time.

In my game I interpreted the theme in a way that could be considered to be standing out of the classical interpretation since major part of the inspiration came from one of Mateusz' appreciated games, the "10 gnomes" series. It seemed very close to my field of game making possibilities, so I went out there and shot the scenes.

While building the game the way I considered the best this new idea to contribute into fitting inside the theme crossed my mind which was the plot, well inspired by the magic word "escape" which I embedded through the occurrence of inter-dimensional traveling, seemingly your only mean to escape from the world I've set the scene into.

And since then I've been always telling to myself "you can do it!" and here is the result! :D" -Teodor Stelian Ionescu.

Play Train


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Rating: 4.4/5 (877 votes)
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Treasure Island EscapeEscape from a treasure island as fast as you can! Click the hand pointers to move around the island locations and use the mouse to interact with objects, gather items and assemble a few of them to make useful tools.

Theme interpretation: "In the first order I was inspired by the Great Room Escape game series created by Mr. Skutnik. These games are short but great adventure games with nice puzzles and I didn't make ever before such a game. So this competition was a big chance to make an escape point-and-click adventure game. Besides programming, this type of game requires also a good story with some puzzles in it and that was another big challenge for me. I also wanted to draw all graphics on my own with all locations in a fictive world, items, objects and so on. At the end, I had only a month to make all that because I lost all July on summer vacations. As a result, here is my first escape adventure game and I'm very satisfied with it." -Srdjan Susnic.

Play Treasure Island Escape


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Rating: 3.3/5 (83 votes)
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The GrimoireAlone in a library, you find a mysterious book that quite literally draws you in. You'll have to learn every lesson it contains if you ever want to be seen again.

Theme interpretation: "Within the context of the game, the player has come across a book of magic that traps any reader inside it. They must master the spells and lessons of the book before it will let them escape.

I tried to run with the idea of the player being someone who is literally trapped in a game-like environment, so they're not only playing someone trying to escape something, but playing someone who is forced to play a "game" of sorts to escape something." -Jonathan Birch, of Star and Tree.

Play The Grimoire


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Rating: 3.8/5 (200 votes)
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EuridisseyFollow an ancient myth inside this pyramid, solve the puzzles and get free of this sand tomb!

Theme interpretation: "The theme, "Escape" can be easily seen in Euridissey, as this is a Submachine-esque Escape the Room game. It also shows the oppresive ambient caused by the piles of sand everywhere through the pyramid, and the written messages that you find scattered." -Ratolibre1.

Play Euridissey

Game Design Competition #10Armor GamesArmor Games

Announcing Casual Gameplay Design Competition #10!!

The CGDC turns 10 this year with this competition and we are very excited about our partners this time around. Armor Games has once again pledged their unwavering support, Mateusz Skutnik with his Pastel Games crew will be providing a unique opportunity to those who participate, and the Casual Gameplay team will once again produce the competition and provide support for the community. Together this promises to be one of our most unique and exciting competitions ever!

Mission
Design a browser game that incorporates the theme (see below). You may use any browser-based technology platform you are comfortable with (Flash, Unity, Javascript/HTML5, etc.). If we can embed your finished game file(s), you may use that platform to design and develop your game.

CGDC10 Theme: ESCAPEFor the 10th Casual Gameplay Design Competition, we are calling for entries designed to incorporate this theme: ESCAPE. You are free to interpret that any way you choose, but because of Pastel Games' involvement this time (see "Feedback" below), we're hoping that the competition will produce some great point-and-click, escape game adventures. Judging will include an evaluation of how well the theme is represented in your game, so we ask that you submit an explanation of how the theme inspired you to create your game when you submit your entry. Use your imagination and be creative. We will select the best entries submitted to represent the competition just like we have done before.

Feedback
Something new that we're doing this time is based on our partnering with Mateusz Skutnik and his Pastel Games team. Besides creating all of the competition artwork this time around, Mateusz has pledged to provide feedback and coaching for all of the competition participants. They will critique each individual entry and offer suggestions for improvements. This is a great opportunity for game designers to get a private consultation from the design team behind some of the best Flash-based, point-and-click, escape/adventure series, such as Submachine, Daymare Town, and Covert Front.

The Prizes

  • 1st place:
    • $1,000
  • Armor Games Awards:
    • $500 - to each of the top 3 Flash games for a non-exclusive license to appear at Armor Games.

Deadline
The deadline for entries is
Monday, September 03, 2012 at 11:59PM (GMT-5:00).

Sponsors
We thank our sponsors for their kind support:
CGDC10 sponsorsArmor GamesPastel Games

Casual Gameplay Design Competition #10Friends of Jayisgames: Please help spread word of this competition by Tweeting this announcement, sharing on Facebook, or by posting a note along with a link to this entry on your blog or website. Feel free to use this banner to link back to us. We need your support. Thank you!


A list of rules and requirements for entry and for judging follow...


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Rating: 4.3/5 (31 votes)
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100 Floors

SonicLoverDing! 47th floor. Now it's time to solve another puzzle that'll grant you access to the elevator car once again. Such is the progression through 100 Floors, a somewhat familiar escape puzzler by Tobi Apps Limited.

100 FloorsThe core concept of 100 Floors is simple. On each floor you're presented with a single screen containing an elevator door that you've got to figure out how to open. Tap, swipe, pinch, and do other things that your mobile device is capable of doing until finally the level is clear. If you pick up something, tap it in your inventory, then on the screen to use it. If you're getting frustrated, you can also tap the red "home" button to return to the main menu, or the blue "reset" button to restart the level.

"Wait a minute," I hear you exclaim. "Isn't this just DOOORS with an elevator and a bunch of new levels?" To which I reply, "Yes. Why, is there something wrong with that?" And there isn't. DOOORS had a good formula, and 100 Floors doesn't ruin it. Some of the puzzles lack polish—such as one where you have to be really good at tapping the screen rapid-fire—but they are creative and make good use of the device's capabilities. Plus, it's hard not to feel like a genius after cracking a particularly puzzling level.

100 Floors is a free app and is available for both iOS and Android devices. The team at Tobi Apps Limited is still adding puzzles to the game, but at the time of writing, the Android version features 70 floors, while the iOS version has 90. So go ahead and give it a try. I'll see you at the top floor!


(5 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Billy the Painter

JohnBBilly the Painter is a simple one-trick puzzle game built around filling empty spaces of floor with bright splashes of paint. Billy is tasked with painting the dull warehouse floor, and for the most part, he's gotten it all done. Some strategically-empty spaces are still around, though, and it's your job is to fill them as completely as possible. Paint spreads on its own, so all you need to do is tap the screen and a dab of paint grows into an ever-widening circle. As soon as it hits a border, the level ends, so time everything just right and you'll be well on your way to a career in floor painting!

Billy the PainterBilly the Painter shares a lot in common with games like Just Half and Trap!, but it takes things in a slightly different direction. The challenge lies both in starting your paint circles in the exact center as well as starting subsequent paint droplets at the appropriate time so they all reach maturity at about the same time. Mis-time just one tap and the level will end much sooner than you intended, and since you only have three lives, you've got to play it safe.

The only real downside to Billy the Painter is that it doesn't attempt to do anything beyond this one mode. Play as far as you can before losing your lives, start over from the beginning if you quit or die, and shoot for the high score. No extras or achievements, trophies or mini-games, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. When you want a focused and good-looking spatially-aware puzzle game, look no further than Billy the Painter!

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


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Mobile Monday

JohnBA little cross-mobile porting to go with your Monday mobile games, sir/madam? Allow us to recommend the 2309, it is a good vintage. Secret game announcements and peeks into our mobile history are also good vintages.

tinywings2-p.jpgTiny Wings 2 creative teaser - File this under "wow that's one of the cutest things ever". Tiny Wings creator Andreas Illiger recently set loose a teaser trailer for the Tiny Wings sequel, Tiny Wings 2. Instead of showing gameplay, concept art, or a bunch of weirdo flashing bits of text, we get to see a hand-made music box playing a little tune along with a bird sliding along the slopes. Even more exciting than the creative video: Tiny Wings 2 is due out July 12!

spacechem-p.jpgSpaceChem available for Android - SpaceChem! SpaceChem! SpaceChem! Yesss! The amazingly complex and equally satisfying puzzle/alchemy game SpaceChem from Zachtronics Industries is finally available for Android devices. SpaceChem launched in early 2011 and made its way to iPad later in the year, keeping its crazy good gameplay intact. Note that SpaceChem Android may not be compatible with older devices and is designed for tablets with a resolution of at least 1280x800. Somewhat limiting, but when you take into account the complexity and scope of the game, you'll understand why smashing it into a tiny screen isn't so feasible.

osmos-p.jpgOsmos iOS multiplayer mode - Hemisphere Games, creator of the absorbing puzzle game Osmos, recently announced that the iOS version of its game will receive a brand new multiplayer mode. How will this work? We don't know! Will it hit other platforms? Perhaps! When will it be released? Soon! Will we ever know more? Probably one it's released!

wheresmyperry-p.jpgWhere's My Perry? On Android! - It seems like just a few days ago we were reviewing the iOS version of the Where's My Water? follow-up Where's My Perry?. Actually, it was just a few days ago! Now the game is also available for Android devices, with all the puzzles, levels, contraptions, and Phineas and Ferb characters intact.

bttf.gifLast Week in Mobile Reviews - Can't hover on the JIG website every Monday with your finger poised over F5? Never fear, here's a quick recap of what we featured! For starters, Dolphin Up was released for iOS, a port of the lovely browser game Dolphin Olympics 2. We also reviewed Doodle Fit 2 and Creation HD for iOS devices, the former an ambitious sequel to the original puzzle game, the latter a creative take on the Doodle God theme. Finally, we checked out Dungeon Ascendance for Android, finding it a fantastic roguelike for mobile devices. Oh, and Kingdom Rush is now available for iPhone. That's all, carry on!

Got some delicious info on an upcoming mobile release, current event, or other tasty news tidbit? We want to know! Send an e-mail with "Mobile Monday" in the subject line to johnb AT casualgameplay DOT com. We'll sift through the submissions and feature our favorites on a Mobile Monday article! Keen!


(5 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Howlville: The Dark Past

JohnBHowlville: The Dark Past is a lightly-flavored science fiction-themed hidden object adventure game from N-Tri Studio. Featuring a balanced mix of puzzle solving, item hunting, and adventuring, Howlville manages to be a hidden object game without feeling like a rehash of the games that came before it, touching on common elements found in the genre but focusing intently on smart puzzles that really challenge the player. The result is something light and casual, recognizable but still different enough to offer mounds of enjoyment.

Howlville: The Dark PastThe protagonist Rachel lost her father when she was a child, and she's been searching for him her entire life. Gaining access to some "secret archives", she learned he was one of two scientists investigating a strange artifact in the town of Howlville. Something went wrong, though, and the town has since been declared off-limits, its location hidden from the public. Rachel eventually found the classified city only to be thrown in a mental institution shortly afterwards. Now she has escaped, and as the game begins, she's on her way to Howlville. As you probably guessed, things only get weirder from this point on, what with all the mad scientistry and whatnot...

Howlville (the game, not the place) is laid out in a series of small sections blocked by puzzles that require multiple steps to complete. As you explore each area, you'll pick up a number of items to keep in your inventory, most of which have logical uses later in the game. You'll also complete a number of mini-games to gain access to new areas, such as completing fuses to light up rooms, or gathering certain numbers of unusual items so you can open locked boxes, cabinets, and the like.

Howlville: The Dark PastHowlville features frequent hidden object scenes, all of which are packed with interactive elements to create a much more dynamic feeling. Instead of staring at a list, staring at a scene, then clicking, you get to move things around, pick up items and use them on things, or shift things around to uncover previously hidden objects. It's quite a small addition to the hidden object experience, of course, but it manages to chase off the dry feeling and get you more interested in the game.

Analysis: Howlville: The Dark Past sticks with the established hidden object formula, but it does so without sinking too deeply into it. The story features a smattering of elements we've all seen before, such as mysteriously vanishing grandparents, a protagonist from a mental institution, and a dark, semi-haunted town to explore. But Howlville is almost parodical in nature, lightly skimming the surface of the hidden object genre just as an excuse to deliver a series of wonderfully-constructed puzzles.

The story and setting are simple but interesting, but the visuals do manage to stand out as being crisp and easy to see. The game doesn't support widescreen, however, which is a bit of a shame seeing as how it looks so good. Most of the time you'll be so focused on the unique mini-games and strange puzzles you won't be thinking about things like aspect ratios or black bars on the side of your screen.

Simply enjoyable is a good way to describe Howlville: The Dark Past. The game doesn't veer too far in any particular genre-defined direction, allowing it to maintain its likeability without alienating any type of player. It's got gameplay where it counts, though, and both the in-game puzzles and mini-games and are some of the most satisfying puzzles around!

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
Get the full version

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


(4 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Dark Heritage Guardians of Hope

KyhJust when you thought secret societies were a thing of the past (literally, ha!), World-Loom brings them back to you in full force in their hidden-object adventure hybrid, Dark Heritage: Guardians of Hope. With some unique visuals and a good puzzle-to-hidden-object-scene ratio, Dark Heritage will have you feeling like Tom Hanks as you chase down a mysterious killer. You know, if Tom Hanks were a woman.

kyh_darkheritagegoh_screen1 .pngProfessor Child has contacted you about helping him put together a special medallion. He thinks he's found the Philosopher's Stone and needs your wits to assist him in his search. Unfortunately, when you get to his office, he's nowhere to be found. What's happened to him? You travel to the United Kingdom to get to the small, desolate Cannon Rock Island to seek him out. It's prophesies and magical spirits for you as you get to the truth of the island's past.

Dark Heritage's controls work as most hidden-object hybrids do: click to interact with an area, a changing cursor will indicate what kind of interaction is available and sparkles appear (in both difficulties) to showcase a hidden-object scene. All objects needed will be listed at the bottom. Items in red require extra actions to reveal them, those actions indicated by a changing cursor over the scene. For many of the puzzles in the game, you have to find missing parts, which are found in other locations. While you can often interact with the puzzle beforehand, the exact instructions for the puzzle will not appear until all the missing items have been put back.

kyh_darkheritagegoh_screen2.pngAnalysis: World-Loom has made an interesting experience with their unique mix of graphics. While most of the game is drawn in the way of many similar titles, Dark Heritage also includes live action cut scenes as well as a few mixed scenes that are reminiscent of Return to Zork. But behind the graphics there still lies a solid game with 3-4 hours of play in the standard edition.

What is uniquely offered in graphics seems to have taken away from the story. There's little mystery in what's going on and the main villain leaves a distinctly nondescript taste in your mouth making it seem more like you're traveling puzzle to puzzle instead of fighting him in the end. Despite this, the puzzles are varied enough to keep you entertained as you make your way through the game.

Dark Heritage: Guardians of Hope has a lot going for it, and while it's not perfect, it shows that World-Loom is another promising casual game developer. Try it out and see if you can uncover the mysteries of the Chosen One, Cannon Rock Island and the Philosopher's Stone that every character you meet seems to go on about!

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

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

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


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Rating: 4.1/5 (50 votes)
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TrickyJump FaceWhatever happened to all those ANSI faces that sprinkled the BBSes of times gone by? Well, it seems that one grew up, learned a few more expressions, and hooked up with developer Ozzie Mercado. Now the little guy has gotten a second shot at the big time by starring in Jump Face, a one-button puzzle platformer. Brakes not included!

The goal in each of Jump Face's 50 levels is to guide the titular face to the lovely flower. Each level of the game begins with [spacebar], setting Jump Face into motion. He can't stop, but will turn corners when he reaches them, and is quite good at sticking to walls and ceilings. Jump by pressing the [spacebar], but be careful: Jump Face will maintain his forward momentum. Without a surface to bounce onto, Jump Face will fly off into Jump Space. Optionally, [left] can be used to slow Jump Face for more precise jumping, and [right] can be used to add a boost of Jump Haste. Floating Arrows will change Jump Face's direction, and Portals will teleport him to a new location. Watch out for spikes, diamonds, and blocks that will disappear after being touched! Jump Face is a delightful skewing of common platform game mechanics, and timing so many jumps will undoubtedly frustrate some at first. A more comprehensive in-game tutorial would have helped. Those who survive the initial rage-quitting impulse, though, will find a charming little game with some neat puzzles. At the very least, the emotions Jump Face displays are easy to love. Overall, Jump Face has a bit of a steep learning curve, but it's just the thing for genre fans wanting a change of Jump Pace.

Play Jump Face


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Quantum Conundrum

JohnBQuantum Conundrum is a light-hearted puzzle adventure game from Airtight Games. Taking pages from releases like Q.U.B.E. and, of course, Portal, Quantum Conundrum pits you against a series of challenges that require some fine manipulation of physics in order to solve. In this case, you have the dubious honor of being able to switch between four unique dimensions that affect everything in the game in a different way. Work your way through your uncle's mansion as you help him attempt to solve the riddle of where exactly he's gotten himself lost this time!

Quantum ConundrumJust as you arrive to see your dear old uncle professor Fitz Quadwrangle, the crazy inventor disappears and is lost in some strange pocket of a dimension elsewhere in the mansion. He can still communicate with you (through the voice of the inimitable John de Lancie), but as far as offering you tea and scones, he's going to have a rough time. So, donning a special Inter-Dimensional Shift glove, you learn how to control the very fabric of space-time with the press of a few buttons. This could be a more entertaining visit than you had originally hoped!

Quantum Conundrum controls like most games of its nature, allowing you to look around freely with the mouse, move with the [WASD] keys, and jump with [spacebar]. You can pick up and manipulate a number of smaller objects with a [left] click, a skill you'll soon put to use as you weigh switches down with crates, flip buttons, activate cloning mechanisms, and so on.

Quantum ConundrumNow for the good stuff: dimensional warping. By powering devices throughout the mansion, you can activate your IDS device so it can toggle between dimensions on the fly. It starts out with the fluffy dimension, an ability that, when active, makes everything as light as a cloud. This allows you to carry things like safes with the greatest of ease. Later, you get to use the heavy dimension, turning nigh-weightless objects into immovable blocks. Then there's the slow and reverse gravity abilities, which you probably understand just by reading their names. By switching between these dimensions, you can solve the game's various puzzles as you work your way through the mansion, listening to your uncle's ramblings the entire time.

Analysis: Like a Saturday morning cartoon (if you're old enough to remember those), Quantum Conundrum is bright, quirky, friendly and easy to understand. You can hop in and start succeeding almost without effort, and the puzzles later in the game are more an exercise in persistence than raw logical deduction. The dimensional shifts are executed flawlessly, and it's something of a surreal experience to press a button and make everything around you dense and indestructible or slow down to a crawl. There are also a number of collectibles and funny narrative moments, giving you even more reason to keep plugging away, stage after stage.

Quantum ConundrumIt's worth noting that one of the lead designers on Quantum Conundrum, Kim Swift, is partially responsible for both the first Portal as well as Narbacular Drop, the "original" Portal project whose team was hired by Valve to work on the first game. It's very easy to see the design similarities between the two games, though the physics by which puzzles are solved are completely different. Plus, you're not trapped in a testing facility with a mentally unsound computer intelligence taunting you at every turn, so things always look a bit brighter.

Quantum Conundrum does fall flat in a few areas, one of them being the flavors of the different dimensions you can activate. Video games have been around for several decades now, and sometimes we players feel like we've seen just about every gimmick in the book. Until something like Portal comes along to twist things in a delicious knot. Quantum Conundrum, however, chooses to utilize very well-worked gameplay alterations instead of shoot for something unique, so instead of mucking about with portals or peanut butter trousers (there's a free idea for you, game designers!), you get to make things heavy or light. Great. Sounds exciting. To be fair, it is sort of exciting, but when you strip it down to its bare bones, it's all the same stuff we've seen before, wrapped in a prettier package.

Although it may not be as original as the games it emulates, Quantum Conundrum is an enjoyable experience that balances its difficulty between a casual learning curve and time-tested gameplay gimmicks. The atmosphere is lighter and easier than most first person puzzle games, and even though there's only five or six hours of playtime to be had, new content is planned for future updates, so the game will do nothing but get better as time goes by.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo (via Steam)
Get the full version (via Steam)

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


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Six Gun Saga

ChadStrap on your pistols and saddle up, pardner, there's a new card-based strategy game in town! From Cryptic Comet, the maker of Solium Infernum, comes Six Gun Saga, a game that combines cards, heavy strategies, and all the fierceness of the wild, wild west. Choose your boss then go at it with guns-a-blazing! Build up your town (or sell your cards) to make money, and form posses, then use them to collect victory points by defending story cards or just blow your opponent's men away! Turn by turn, you will either play as, or match wits with some famous characters like Wyatt Earp, Dirty Dave Rudabaugh, and others.

Six Gun SagaYou and your opponent(s) will relive the glory of the old west by assembling posses to wage war on one another. The goal of the game is simply to earn a set amount of Victory Points before your rival does. In order to do that, you will need to move your posses out of the bunkhouse onto a story card and hold them there for as long as you can. It's not as easy as it sounds, since you not only have to contend with enemy bullets but also real world problems like cash flow. If you cannot afford the upkeep for your gunfighters, you won't be able to keep them around, and you'll find yourself en route to Boot Hill.

Six Gun SagaControls are simple, using the mouse to do just about everything. The game is turn-based with each turn divided into four phases: upkeep, main, draw, and the turn's end. The very first thing you'll do is make sure your ledger is balanced, paying upkeep costs for certain cards with the amount of gold in the bank. If you can't afford the payments, you'll have to raise the cash by selling cards until you break even. Once the main phase begins, you can create or move posses, play cards in your hand, or start a gun fight by playing something as a poker card. There are even card actions you can utilize to directly and immediately affect the gameplay. The draw and end phases then sweep in to tidy things up, and the game continues until the turn limit is reached or one boss has earned enough victory points to win the game.

Six Gun SagaAnalysis: Six Gun Saga masterfully mixes the concepts and gameplay of a collectible trading card game with poker and incorporates the entire mixture into a spaghetti western motif. The artwork on the cards has been exquisitely drawn, and the music could be ported right into the soundtrack to a Clint Eastwood western and not miss a beat. Many of the characters portrayed on the cards are famous gunslingers from history and fiction, like Doc Holliday and English Bob (a character from 1992's Oscar-winning movie 'Unforgiven'.) The rhythm of the gameplay is fluid, and there seems to be a real satisfaction when you win a poker game/gunfight, that you may not think would meld as well as it does in a card game.

You should prepare yourself to lose a few times to the AI before you taste success. The learning curve on this game can be considered challenging. The game does come with a extensive manual, but it reads like a textbook and can be a struggle to get through. Unfortunately, the game offers no in-game tutorial, which would be a great benefit to it's players. You are left to your own devices to figure out what the best strategy is to win. However, once you get the hang of it, Six Gun Saga can play like a good game of chess, and give you a great gaming experience. Best of all, fans of the western genre will enjoy being transported back to the Old West, without the fear of being 'gut-shot', being hanged for cattle rustling, or contracting a nasty case of smallpox.

WindowsWindows:
Download the demo
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Mac OS XMac OS X:
Not available.
Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.

Pocket Planes Strategy Guide Hints and Tips

Besides obsessing over the latest Nimblebits casual simulation game, Pocket Planes, we have also been working on writing and compiling the very best strategies, hints and tips for you to get the most out of your game playing experience. Be sure to visit our Pocket Planes Strategy Guide, Hints and Tips Walkthrough to help maximize your BUX and coins revenue in this fantastic free game.

Also, be sure to join our Flight Crew (#JAYISGAMES) to participate and win fabulous in-game prizes like rare aircraft and valuable BUX. There's a new global event going on at all times, so there's always something new to do and explore in Pocket Planes.

Read our Pocket Planes Strategy Guide, Hints and Tips Walkthrough for more information.


  • Currently 3.9/5
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Rating: 3.9/5 (59 votes)
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elleLlama in Your FaceHere you are, bouncing up and down on your trampoline, minding your own business, and along comes one of those intrusive zoo visitors invading your privacy. Well, you're a llama, so do what you do best: spit. They want to get up in your space? Then they get a Llama in Your Face right back. Just use your mouse to aim and click to spit. Keep spitting until you slime up every silly kid, grandma, clown and other intruder before they reach your cage and bum out your health. If your aim is precise and timed well, you can improve your score by making combos—hitting multiple visitors without missing means extra money for you (yay!). When you miss, however, your combo is gone (boo!).

While this shooter, created by Peter Sperl and Simon Parzer, has basic gameplay formulated on a simple idea, it's super fun and surprisingly engrossing. Over 18 levels including an arena mode, which continue to increase in difficulty at a steady pace, are made more interesting by upgrades and consumables such as multi-target, spit guns, battle cry, power-up helicopters and more. You'll need to plan ahead and use strategy because, as you progress, the right upgrades can make all the difference. Sadly lacking is a level select button to let you backtrack and reform your tactics, and that might become a source of frustration. But if you are instantly charmed by tiny-yet-detailed graphics and jumping, long-necked wooly tylopodas, then the fun of projectile spitting is equally difficult to resist.

So, go ahead, enjoy your llamaness and all the salivating it entails, just case you ever worried, "What would I do with a llama face?"

Play Llama in Your Face


(6 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Flux Family Secrets: The Book of Oracles

JohnBThe Flux Family Secrets series started back in 2009 with Flux Family Secrets: The Ripple Effect, followed by Flux Family Secrets: The Rabbit Hole just over a year later. Now, after a longer than usual wait, the third game in the series has arrived: Flux Family Secrets: The Book of Oracles. Skunk Studios has produced an equally high caliber game with Flux number three, continuing the story precisely where it left off and telling a hidden object-laden tale with a side of lush visuals.

Flux Family Secrets: The Book of OraclesEven though the series has a rich back story, you don't necessarily need to be privy to it in order to play. The opening cinema gives you a brief overview, and for the purposes of enjoying the plot and gameplay, it works out just fine. The protagonist Jesse and her family are in charge of protecting the flow of time. She discovers their less-than-perfect history, though, and tries to escape back to her "normal" life. Instead, she ends up even further in the past and has to fix a time ripple before she can get back. Things get even more complicated from there, introducing the G.E.M. machine, new members of Jesse's family, and more, creating a somewhat confusing but still interesting story to follow. But hey, who said life would be easy when time itself is destabilizing?

Gameplay is structured around hidden object scenes and casual adventure-style exploration. Poking your cursor through each scene, you'll pick up loads of objects that fill in shadowy slots in your inventory. Occasionally you'll find a key item and it stores itself a little differently, allowing you to click and use it on areas later in the game. You're given a few scenes to wander around in, but a few puzzles always prevent you from traveling too far, keeping the game in time with its strict storytelling layout.

Flux Family Secrets: The Book of OraclesAnalysis: Rounding out a well-liked trilogy has to put a lot of pressure on the developers. On the one hand, fans want more of the same formula, but on the other, if you don't innovate, you run the risk of drowning. Flux Family Secrets 3 plays things close to the norm, not really walking far from what you would expect, but still delivering on high points like visuals, puzzle complexity, and sheer volume of hidden object scenes.

Speaking of those item laundry lists, Flux Family Secrets piles on the object finding scenes in thick hillocks, crafting both a main game and most of its sub-scenes out of a similar mold. For a game so steeped in a hidden object motif, you would expect them to be finely polished pieces of point and click glory, yes? Unfortunately, that's not always the case, and you'll find a number of occasions where Flux Family Secrets falls victim to the usual list of hidden object flaws: unfairly obscured items, dubious objects that only vaguely resemble their listed name, and obtuse puzzles. That's not to say the game misses the mark, it just stumbles over the same problems as most games out there, and because the rest of it is of such good quality, the imperfections stand out more than usual.

Flux Family Secrets: The Book of Oracles takes a fine storyline void of traditional spooky themes and crafts a spunky hidden object adventure around it. It's loaded with charm and stocked to the brim with items to find, games to complete, and puzzles to solve. It may not quite live up to the oomph presented by its predecessors, but it's still a heavy-hitting hidden object game you won't want to miss.

WindowsWindows:
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necrogaia.gifJohnBNecro Gaia is a short arcade defense game from Lazy Brain Games, creator of a few other freeware indie games such as Mecha Spider Island and Infernal Edge. This intense little release puts you in control of a small blue planet called Terra, a lovely little Earth-like rock orbiting a sun that is traveling to another galaxy. You have to stay along for the ride, but the trouble is, all sorts of dangerous things are floating in the blackness of space. By changing your orbital position as well as summoning some temporary planetary friends, you can help Terra survive her journey to her new home, defeating the all-consuming Necro Gaia in the process!

Necro Gaia controls using just the [spacebar] to orbit and the mouse to drag and drop planets from your inventory. Some planets fire shots, other offer health or other tactical advantages. Either way, you must collect crystals to keep your mana full, as placing planets can be a costly affair. In addition to all of this, Terra casts a long shadow in space that slows down enemies in its gaze. This can be useful for halting oncoming asteroids or, hint hint, making certain enemies vulnerable to attack. We'll leave the rest for you to figure out!

Necro Gaia offers a whole lot of solar orbiting and planetary defending, all playable with a few buttons and absolutely no hassle. The experience only lasts about ten or 15 minutes, but it's a tense and expertly paced experience that will make you feel like a planetary hero once it's all over!

WindowsWindows:
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Try Boot Camp or Parallels or CrossOver Games.


(7 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Grim Facade: Sinister Obsession

DoraWhen people show up dead and hanging in a meat freezer, chances are "natural causes" don't factor in unless you have a very liberal definition of the words. It's murder most foul (or at least, the maid thinks so) in Grim Facade: Sinister Obsession, the new hidden-object adventure from ERS Game Studio The maid has worked for the Conti family for years, and when she stumbles across a notebook that appears to detail the murders of three women, she calls you, a local detective, in desperation. It seems like everyone's got motive, and it doesn't look like this idyllic countryside is as safe as it seems to go poking your nose around in. Will you be able to solve the murders without becoming another footnote in the bloodstained notebook yourself?... well... I have faith in you! You might not be any Jessica Fletcher, but you got this.

Grim Facade: Sinister ObsessionSinister Obsession has three levels of difficulty depending on how much of a challenge you want, though the basic gameplay remains unchanged. You'll search for clues around the Conti family estate and the surrounding countryside, gathering items to solve puzzles. Make sure you keep an eye out for any gold coins as well, since money talks... or at least, can be used to buy items you'll find useful to your investigation. Click on the screen to interact, and wait for your fan to open fully to use the hint or skip functions, and watch for any fans lying about that can be saved as instant hints when you need them! Some hidden-object scenes will just have you track down a bunch of a particular item, while others may force you to hunt by silhouette and solve puzzles to gain access to other things you need.

Analysis: Okay, look. Nobody's saying murder isn't bad, but come on... there's something about solving one that makes for some solid entertainment. Sinister Obsession is packed with the usual plot twists, cheesy revelations, and, uh, plucky canine companions, and high production values wrap everything up in one pretty package. The character animations are a little... unsettling at times, but the artwork is gorgeous and the environments are packed with movement and detail that keep them from feeling like static images.

Grim Facade: Sinister ObsessionSo what's the downside? Repetition, and lots of it. The game has no problem making you repeat hidden-object scenes almost back to back, so they tend to wear out their welcome fast. It's a shame, since the rest of the standard adventure gameplay is actually pretty enjoyable, if peppered by the usual nonsensical scenarios of strange items with stranger uses. There's a nice variety to the gameplay as a whole that helps keep it from feeling too by rote, but there are definitely times when it feels like the game is dragging its feet and padding the gameplay a bit.

At over four hours or so for your average playtime and packed with puzzles and corpses, Grim Facade: Obsessions is a gruesome little murder mystery that's definitely worth checking out. Diehard gumshoes may find it a bit too predictable in places, or irritated that the game occasionally doesn't seem to take itself too seriously. For the rest of us, however, who want a case packed with high camp and drama to solve along with some seriously lovely designs, will want to take a trip to Italy with it and at least try the demo on for size. So go on. You know you want to. Solve ALL the murders!

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


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

DoraIf ever a game made you want to stand up and cheer as much as it makes you ache a little at the same time, Michael Molinari of Studio Bean's BasketBelle definitely fits the bill. Blending puzzles with accessible sportsplay and a strong emotional heart beating at the core of its surreal tale, BasketBelle uses sports and striking dreamlike gameplay to tell the story of a family and the things that bring them together. More than a simple strange basketball puzzle game, however, BasketBelle is a game about the things we're willing to do for the people we love, and why.

BasketBelleUse the left and right [arrow] keys to move, and hold the down [arrow] while running in any direction to execute a slick slide to carry you under obstacles. Tapping the up [arrow] will cause you to fake going up for a jump shot, which can come in handy if you have an opponent intent on blocking you from the real thing. To actually let the ball fly, hold [X] to jump, and release it in midair to hurl the ball in the direction you're facing. If the ball hits an obstacle during certain stages, it'll vanish and you'll need to grab another to try again, but since basketballs can also be used to push the yellow walls if thrown against them, you might need to break a few basketballs to make an omelette. Or, uh. Something. The objectives for each area can change, from one on one basketball to puzzle platforming, but sinking baskets is usually the key to victory. Don't worry... it isn't really as complicated as you might think, and chances are you'll be slinging like a pro even if your only prior dunking experiences were with donuts.

BasketBelleAnalysis: Sports can be very important to some people, and if you're not into it yourself, you never really understand why. It's easy to get distracted by the surface aspects of it and not realise what a very real emotional connection it can make with someone, and BasketBelle manages to communicate this better than anyone else. Since Michael Molinari is already known for the sort of work that gives you what scientists call the feels, this probably comes as no surprise, but the focus on family love and dynamics instead of the typical romantic ones is unexpected... and honestly a little welcome since it touches home in an entirely different way. The striking visual style and swanky soundtrack infuses everything from gameplay from the cutscenes with an otherworldly vibe, but the delicate handling of the narrative is where BaskeBelle really shines. The cast and the world around them are full of emotion and personality, and the abstract design works exceptionally well.

BasketBelle is mostly very responsive and easy to get the hang of, though when called upon to do any sort of platforming within a time constraint you can wind up frustrated with how awkward the jumping can sometimes be. You might also wish the game had some sort of level select, since you can only pick and choose from the start of each chapter and not the individual stages they contain. It's an odd mix of genres that requires a bit of experimentation to master, but I'd be lying if I didn't say something about sinking a tricky shot wasn't immensely satisfying. BasketBelle is strange, surreal, and at times a little frustrating, but the unique style and gameplay combined with the story that feels straight out of a less gothic Neil Gaiman novel will make this one a real winner for the players it speaks to, and well worth checking out.

WindowsWindows:
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LinuxLinux:
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  • Currently 4.7/5
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Rating: 4.7/5 (347 votes)
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DoraMonkey GO Happy Marathon 3You know, for how smart and resourceful everyone says monkeys are, they sure aren't very good at keeping themselves entertained. Pencilkids brings their sulky simians back for another installment of point-and-click puzzle shenanigans in Monkey GO Happy Marathon 3. Select your monkey and jaunty chapeau, and then click around through the variety of stages you'll encounter, trying to figure out what will bring a smile to your little sad sack each time.

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

By now, Pencilkids has their primate-powered puzzlers down to a science, and this installment is just as polished as you've come to expect. Some of the solutions to stages don't actually seem all that funny or entertaining, which makes you wonder why your monkey seems to think they're so hilarious, though we do live in a society where Dane Cook keeps finding work, so maybe we're not the best judges of humour. Quick, weird, wacky, and cute, Monkey GO Happy Marathon 3 provides a bite-sized bit of kid-friendly puzzling to brighten your day. You know, provided those aren't those face-eating monkeys. Which, they're not... right?... guys?

Play Monkey GO Happy Marathon 3


  • Currently 3.8/5
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Rating: 3.8/5 (48 votes)
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KimberlyWizard WallsIf you're a troll or goblin, don't mess with the wizard in Wizard Walls, an action defense game by NSBrotherhood. This wizard will protect his sheep at all costs! Use your wand (mouse) to draw up to three magical walls in the air to deflect stones thrown by the enemies. The goal is to draw your line at the correct angle to bounce the rocks back to the baddies. A successful hit will knock them out of the game, thus protecting your herd of sheep, or various townsfolk. There are five different scenarios to perform your magic, each with a different set of people or animals to keep safe.

As the levels progress, things get more frantic as more and more creatures try to take you down. You earn money for killing enemies, which allows you to purchase upgrades such as healing power, fireballs, and different wall types. To use these, you can click with the mouse or use the numbers [1] through [5] as hot keys. While Wizard Walls does start to feel repetitive, it is chock full of charm, and its crazed line drawing gameplay will definitely keep you amused.

Play Wizard Walls


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Link Dump Fridays

DoraSometimes I like to think that in the future, highly advance civilizations will find records of our indie games and wonder just what the heck was going on inside our heads... but in a good way! We've got another contest this week for you to win a copy of a brand-new indie hit, a mini-review of part two in a series of episodic zombie adventures, surreal violence, Alphas, and more!

Thomas Was AloneCONTEST: Thomas Was A Prize Mike Bithell's story-telling puzzle platformer Thomas Was Alone is generating a lot of the old buzz in the gaming community, and for good reason. Our very own download czar John Bardinelli called it "a little indie masterpiece that does great things with narrative and minimalist artwork." So now we're giving you a chance to get it for free! In order to win one of four free copies of the game, just try the free downloadable demo for Windows or Mac and leave a comment here about it. Rules: Entries must be submitted by July 13th, 11:59 p.m. EST (GMT-5). Winners will be notified by e-mail shortly thereafter. Winners are selected randomly. One entry per person only. You must be at least 13 years of age or older to enter. No purchase necessary. Void where prohibited.

Update: WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER!
The winners of a free copy of Thomas Was Alone are:
David B
spycat811
Isi
Nightwisher
You will be contacted via e-mail shortly. Thanks for reading!

Hotline MiamiCall Me Call Me Any, Any Time I... I just... I don't know. The trailer for the upcoming retro-inspired action adventure Hotline Miami inspires so many feels, though perhaps chief amoungst them is "What the heck did I just watch?" The game, made by Jonatan S�derstr�m and Dennis Wedin under their new moniker Dennation Games, follows you as the protagonistin 1980s Miami, where you've been receiving horrible messages on your answering machine urging you to commit acts of violence. It looks and sounds like something that Quentin Tarantino and Suda 51 might have made, and for those of us with particular tastes, this could be a very good thing. The game promises hard-hitting, violent action, a surreal plot, and "impossible situations", and is definitely worth keeping an eye on it if you have the stomach for it.

AnnaSurely Nothing Bad Ever Happened In an Idyllic Meadow Get ready for first-person horror adventuring! Dreampainters is about to release Anna, a short point-and-click game for PC based on an authentic local folklore tale in Italy, recounted to the developers first hand by locals as well as some good old-fashioned research. The game looks to be heavy on atmosphere as you explore an abandoned sawmill in a deceptively peaceful countryside, solving puzzles and eventually confronting the strange presences that linger to get one of three possible endings. It looks absolutely gorgeous, and the heavy emphasis on mood and tone is something a lot of horror adventure fans will appreciate. Look for Anna to hit soon from digital download services once negotiations have been finished!

ScrollsAlphas, Start Your Engines! Hold on to your whatevers, because Mojang's strategic fantasy card game Scrolls has just entered the Alpha phase! What does this mean for you? Well, if you signed up for the chance to be in the Alpha, it means you should start watching your e-mail for a potential invite. For the rest of us, well... we'll have to wait for the Beta, since no new Alpha testers will be added to the list. Like Minecraft, Scrolls will become publicly available during the Beta, at which point you can purchase it at a deeply discounted price and continue to receive updates (and new scrolls for your character!) as development continues. Can Mojang make lightning strike twice and repeat their success with Minecraft? We'll find out soon enough.

The Walking DeadEpisode Two: Mini-Review Since TellTale's second installment in their gory horror adventure game series The Walking Dead is mechanically identical to the first, here's your mini-review of Episode Two: Starved for Help. While it shares the same issues with tiny, frustratingly located hotspots, Starved for Help is in a sense more visceral than the first game. Not just in regards to the violence, which is in itself really brutal and uncomfortably intimate in most cases, but in its story. It focuses more on the interplay between the survivors, and really succeeds at presenting choices you'll struggle with because there is no right answer that will make everyone happy. You'll potentially see some of the plot twists coming a mile away, but Starved for Help delivers big time on all the same action and unflinching violence of the first game, while developing its cast in ways that make you connect with them even more. Highly recommended.

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!


  • Currently 4.4/5
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Rating: 4.4/5 (119 votes)
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DoraGleanWhat is it about tunneling through huge, hazardous, dark, smelly places with the constant threat of death and cave ins that we love so much? We're talking about mining, of course, and in the grand tradition of games like Motherload, Zupergames gives us their own spin along with some platforming-style gameplay in Glean. You'll be guiding a plucky little drill-equipped mining bot through a series of lonely planets rich in precious gems and minerals ripe for the taking. Stranded far from home and low on supplies and fuel, will you ever be able to help our hero build what he needs to get home? Or is he doomed to becoming just another rusty hulk of space-junk?

Use [WASD] or the [arrow] keys to move, jump, or double-jump and glide, and hold down the [spacebar] to activate your drills so you can bore through dirt to get at valuables. Just don't do tunneling around all willy-nilly... the deeper you go, the more you might find, but as the temperature rises you might get bitten in the mechanical tookus by your greed. The ore and gems you find can either be sold for upgrades and the like back at your ship on the surface, or processed underground on the fly to get more fuel or repair yourself. Glean isn't a concept we haven't seen before, which may make getting used to the controls a little tricky, but the additions of the story and the galaxy map keeps it from feeling stale. With its great presentation and simple, addictive gameplay, Glean is a familiar but welcome treat for fans of mining games, and friends to lost little robots everywhere.

Play Glean


(10 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Dolphin Up

JohnBHave you been going through Dolphin Olympics withdrawal over the last few years? Don't worry! Series creator Alan Rawkins has been hard at work on a tasty little surprise: Dolphin Up, a mobile version of the water-based stunt game, now prepped and ready for your iOS enjoyment! It's all the splashes, all the high scoring, high flying acrobatics of the browser games squished into the palms of your hands. Plus, there's plenty of that squeaky, jittery, uh, clicking and whistling... sound... whatever you call that noise dolphins make. It's got that!

Dolphin UpDolphin Up takes the refined tricks-based sandbox formula from Dolphin Olympics 2 and translates it neatly to the touch screen. Swimming through the salty blue sea, tap the left side of the screen to turn left, or the right side to turn right (you can switch to a more free-form touch-based system in the options menu). Pick up some speed, then leap out of the water, performing as many flips, spins and other tricks as you can before landing a perfect re-entry. The more stunts you perform, the more points you get and the more speed you gather, allowing you to leap higher out of the water, giving you even more time to pull off cool acrobatics. Who knows, maybe if you're skilled enough, you can leap to the moon? Or even further?

Dolphin Up features plenty of achievements to unlock and secrets to uncover, all obtained through persistent, creative play. You can choose between free swims and timed dives, the former allowing you to play without a time limit and the latter ending after a two minute round. No matter your mode, the basic idea is the same, and you'll be amazed at how captivating it can be seeing what kind of tricks you can pull off with each jump.

Dolphin Up is a fantastic update to an already-classic browser game. The visuals have been improved while keeping the best aspects of the previous games intact, including fish followers, dash rings, and a few other niceties. As with its predecessors, Dolphin Up never over-complicates things with crazy gimmicks, it's just you and the sea, performing stunts over and over again. And that's exactly what makes it so much fun!

Play Dolphin Olympics 2 (browser)

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


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You Are Games

Reader ReviewThe following is a selection of favorite games compiled and reviewed by JIG community member, Vern. It is also one of the winning entries from our previous call for submissions for community favorites, for which Vern will be showered with fireworks in honor of the US holiday this week (and some free games, too!). Thanks to everyone who shared their favorites with us! Look for more community favorites in the coming weeks.

  • LovedLoved - In real life, you follow orders. Why? Because then you don't get fired or kicked out of school or put in jail. It's a lose-lose situation, and it sucks! In Alexander Ocias' Loved, disobeying orders is not only a totally viable choice, it even rewards you with a lifetime of philosophical musing, and I don't mean the kind you get when you're behind bars. Loved has a clear, minimalistic art style that complements its decision-and-response gameplay and its unnerving storyline. Something about the game is both compelling and repulsive; from the very first identity-denying choice, the game pulls you into its strange, empty world. It's worth a playthrough, if not two or more, since it has a few easter eggs for more dedicated players. Give Loved a go — and do NOT fail.
  • Superbrothers: Sword and Sworcery EPSuperbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP - We saw Sword & Sworcery described as mythopoetic psychocosmology & we were like man, I have no idea what that means, but I'm totally down with that. While I can't pretend to understand some of the portmanteaus that the Sword & Sworcery team uses to describe its work, I can say that it is nothing short of awesome. Sworcery's gorgeous pixelated visuals, surreal fantasy adventure, anachronistic humor and unmistakable style combine to make an indie gem. If all that didn't convince you, maybe the presence of a philosopher dog and a dancing nudist bear-man will. The game itself lasts just a couple of hours, or maybe a couple of weeks (it contains a mechanic that monitors the phases of the moons but which can be cheated or side-stepped), but its simple gameplay and enjoyable characters will entertain you the whole way through. Beware, though — you'll use ampersands for weeks after you play.
  • EndeavorEndeavor - Knytt-likes are dime-a-dozen in this day and age, sure, but the story backing up endeavor is totally worth the time it takes to play through it. Starring a dwarf with a couple of jerk brothers, endeavor sends you on the quest to access your parent's treasure. Only problem is, your stubby legs can't send you nearly high enough to reach, and on your way to collecting mysterious jump-enhancing fruit you fall the long way down from your lofty home. Down below is a vast and beautiful world, inhabited by beings such as the mystical MALOR... While the gameplay in endeavor is nothing to write home about, the world of the game feels appropriately huge and fantastical and the story is really enjoyable, if a bit predictable. Besides, any opportunity to be a dwarf is totally worth it, especially if it doesn't involve building complex lava traps.
  • Dead Like AntsDead Like Ants - Your mother is the queen, and she has given you — you! Of all your sisters! — the responsibility to negotiate with five creatures threatening the safety of your people. Even through the text-only gameplay of this interactive fiction piece, the experience of your character is beautiful and detailed. IF games always seem willing to push the envelope when it comes to interesting and unexpected narratives, and Dead Like Ants is no exception. I can't say much without spoiling the story and ruining the experience, but I can say that there are no games of guess-the-verb to be found here. The gameplays never ruins the flow of the storytelling and the characters are believable and intriguing. Dead Like Ants makes seeing through the eyes of an ant seem right ... even if what ends up happening might seem wrong.

While we welcome any comments about this particular selection of games, we do ask that if you need any help with individual games, or wish to comment on the games featured here, please post your questions and comments on the respective game's review page.


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Rating: 3.5/5 (103 votes)
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DoraGreen LoveIt's not easy being green, and Green Love isn't always a walk in the proverbial park either. In Begamer's point-and-click puzzle adventure, you're not trying to make a rainbow connection. Instead, you'll need to reunite two star-crossed (or in this case stork-crossed) amphibious lovers separated by an act of bird.

Click on objects in each screen to try to clear a path to safety for our hero, dealing with hazards and obstacles by sussing out the correct order to click. Green Love's adorable visual style, humour, and simple gameplay make it a nice fit for a break in productivity, or for any little'uns you have running around, though some of the chances for failure feel a bit arbitrary and poorly explained or identified. You also might want to ensure you get a good look at your frognapper. But if you believe in the pursuit of love, no matter how slimy and wart encrusted, then Green Love makes for a sweet and swampy little escape from your day.

Play Green Love


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Rating: 3.8/5 (43 votes)
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ChadHelp MeLonely, stuck on an unknown planet and trapped in an underground cavern with no foreseeable way of escaping sounds like a pretty bleak situation, doesn't it? Unfortunately, that is the station in life that a little blue space creature is stuck with, and it is your job to rescue him and return him safely back to his ship in ConmerGame's new physics puzzler, Help Me! Luckily, you aren't totally without resources... you can use three of the alien's friends to help you along the way, each one of them having their own unique powers. All you need to do is figure out where they can be best utilized in each level.

Using the mouse, you only need to select which alien hero to use. Click once to select them, again to drop them into the caverns, and then once more to activate their ability. At your disposal is the volatile Dr. Boom, whose explosiveness can either be used to destroy yellow objects or to move other aliens or blue objects. The always attractive Mrs. Gravity employs her talents by being able to reverse the weightiness of any situation, and more specifically, objects that might assist (or prevent) the escape of your little friend. Finally, there is the magnetic Mr. Pull, whose sole purpose in life is just to touch his marooned blue buddy, lug him to the golden tractor beam, and back to the safety of their ship. In order to earn a three star award on each level, placement and timing can be fairly exacting, so if that is your motivation, you might need to replay a few levels. However, if you are looking for an entertaining physics challenge, this game is a lark. Design-wise, the aliens are amusing and perky-looking, and the background music and sound effects can only be simply described as 'fun'. Physics game and puzzle game fans will probably find a lot to like here.

Play Help Me!


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Rating: 4.7/5 (134 votes)
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Weekday Escape

GrinnypIf you play through all of the Tesshi-e escape games sooner or later you will run up against the mysterious Mr. Y, a "friend" who has a predilection for inviting you over only to lock you into, and force you to solve your way out of, a room. Whether it be his children's bedroom, a random room in his house, or a strangely empty space, Mr. Y has the room escaping goods all ready to go. Isn't it nice to know that, even though having recently moved, Mr. Y is still ready to challenge you with Escape from Mr. Y's Room 3, the latest by Tesshi-e, just in time for Weekday Escape?

Escape from Mr. Y's Room 3Escape from Mr. Y's Room 3 is packed with a bunch of fun new puzzles as well as some old favorites. Navigation is smooth and easy and the room is so sparsely furnished that despite the lack of a changing cursor there is very little pixel hunting. An amazing new feature involves color-based puzzles that are color-blind friendly (simply click on a colored item and it helpfully announces its color to you) and even more surprisingly there are two endings that both feature a happy coin.

Escape from Mr. Y's Room 3 features all that is good about Tesshi-e room escape design from the beautiful backgrounds to the easy-to-handle inventory. With this, their 75th game, Tesshi-e (and Mr. Y) continue to amaze and delight room escape fanatics everywhere.

Play Escape from Mr. Y's Room


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Rating: 3.9/5 (32 votes)
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DoraSimple Motions 2You wouldn't think physics puzzles could be described as "funky" or "grooveadelic", but Atom-Soft's Simple Motions 2, the sequel to the oh-so-mellow original, definitely qualifies. Drag and place badges with different effects onscreen so that when you press start and your roly-poly critter falls into play, they'll follow along a path that (hopefully) leads them on a path to the red flag, snaring all the stars along the way. This time, however, you've also got to contend with other rolling creatures that need to be dealt with according to each stage's directions. If you don't succeed the first time, you can simply drag your badges around and try again, though getting the best score depends on completing the level in as few attempts as possible.

Pressure? Hardly. Like its humble predecessor, Simple Motions 2 combines simple visuals and a groovy soundtrack to make its gameplay feel thoughtful and relaxing in a way that suits it perfectly for coffee breaks, lunchtime, or really just, y'know, whenever. It succeeds as a sequel largely by keeping the original gameplay intact while adding in a handful of new elements that keep it from feeling like a complete retread, though you may need to experiment with these a few times to really grok how they should be played the first time 'round, since their descriptions aren't always that descriptive. But as a means to enjoy some simple and simply engaging physics puzzling trussed up in a pretty little package whenever you need a break? Simple Motions 2 is the perfect choice.

Play Simple Motions 2


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Rating: 4.2/5 (87 votes)
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DoraTo What End48 hours might not seem like a lot of time, but for Michael Molinari (OneMrBean) and Chelsea Howe, it was enough to create this surprisingly evocative little piece of experimental interactive-art-meets-platforming, To What End, made for the Global Game Jam. You control purple puzzle piece leading a troop of happy, bouncy puzzle friends across a simple, idyllic little landscape with the [WASD] or [arrow] keys, which is also how you start the game incidentally. Your friends will follow you as you jump around... right up until something prevents them, and as the sun begins to sink below the horizon, you begin to realise you might have to leave some of them behind if you want to keep going, since the game ends when the day does.

But where are you really going anyway? And is it going to be worth it if you have to get there alone? That's what Chelsea and Michael are trying to make you think about, and whether they succeed is largely up to you. The visual style here is very clean and sparse, and yet surprisingly lovely at times, and the way your friends will sometimes leap and play or cuddle up to you in certain spots manages to infuse otherwise emotionless set pieces with a lot of personality. The gameplay here is exceptionally simple, but you do have decisions to make as you head towards whatever "the end" of the game is to theoretically win, which is usually the point in these sorts of things... right? Some may find it a bit patronizing, or not much of a game at all, but To What End is a tiny little experience that aims to make you think and feel about what's important in your life. Sometimes, it can be a lot simpler and a lot closer to where you begin than you might think. After all, some things are best when we get to experience them with the people we love.

Play To What End


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Rating: 4.1/5 (74 votes)
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Kyhkyh_zakari_title.pngOh look, it's a cute bunny doll! Aww, isn't it fuzzy? Wait, what the... who would do that to a stuffed animal?!! Come on, folks. It's Detarou. Did you really expect anything different? That's right, they've sprinkled some more of their bizarre escape game magic in their latest title, Zakari. Can you blame them, though? It's like we can't get enough of the craziness. I mean you, not we... I, uh, only played it because I had to. (That was believable, right?)

You'll have a changing cursor to help you identify hotspots and an inventory to interact with, as is usual in Detarou games. And of course there's the all helpful save feature, which will assist you as you discover all three endings (assuming you remember to use it). While their humor isn't for everyone, those who do play it are promised some code deciphering, ninja kicking and Panda revenge!

Play Zakari


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The Vault

DoraJust because you don't have any dragons to rout, or super-villains to web up, or darts to play with your rotund needy cousin doesn't mean you're not going to get a dose of action in your day. That's what you have us for! And while we could get your heart racing by filling a jar with deadly hobo spiders and tossing it into the shower with you, or strapping you into a Saw-like contraption where you had to chew your leg off or be forced to watch the entire series of Steven Seagal: Lawman, apparently our lawyers think it would be safer just to give you a list of some really cool games instead. Feh. So here's your games... but... if you ever want to go do wheelies in the parking lot of a Dunkin Donuts in front of the cops after totally overdoing it on iced mochas, you know who to call to feel truly alive!

  • The Last CanopyThe Last Canopy - You guys, sometimes you really bum me out. I can be rockin' out, feeling pretty good about myself, and them all of a sudden I remember the sort of content you just spurt out effortlessly for our Casual Gameplay Design Competitions and I remember how woefully inadequate I really am. Wan Hazmer is a great example of this, and after spending just a little time with this shooter that took him both first place and the audience award for our 5th competition, you'll see why. Blast bosses and soar through a ruined world where only one tree remains, and you control a fairy with special powers trying to return a bird to its nest. It may sound cute and girly, but with its rich design, fast-paced gameplay, and unique setting, this "bullet heck" shooter is more than deserving of the time it'll steal from you.
  • Fat CatFat Cat - Interwebs and cats go together like peanut-butter and chocolate (or chocolate and chocolate if you have a peanut allergy), so you knew this had to be on the list somewhere. Nitrome ladles up some sumptuous style and arcade shooter action in this game about a flying pudgy feline with a tendency to explode, and a smaller, flying, blasting kitty tasked with getting him safely through each stage. The catch? You control them both simultaneously, with mouse and keyboard, and calling it tricky is an understatement. If you feel up for the challenge, Fat Cat is an undeniably silly and gorgeous way to get a bit of arcade into your afternoon.
  • Chibi KnightChibi Knight - If you're looking for a game with all the sword-swinging action of yore that gets you right in the hhnnnnnngh!, then look no further than the aggressibely adorable action-platformer from BoMToons and the cutest narrator you could ever hope for. Control a tiny hero out to take down big beasts, with upgrades aplenty, and save the kingdom from certain doom. Chibi Knight is on the short side, apart from a bit of level grinding, but its stellar vibrant presentation and unusual voice acting makes it the sort of game for which you can forgive a lot, especially given its ability to turn your frown upside down... by brute force if necessary.

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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Doodle Fit 2: Around the World

BryanYou may not have the dreams or, let's face it, the cash to travel all across this wondrous world, but Namco Networks America is giving you a taste of Earth's various cultures with Doodle Fit 2: Around the World. Starting your journey in the good 'ole US of A, solve puzzles by fitting Tetris-style pieces into uniquely shaped grids that look like pixelated cultural objects. As you see the sights and pass the tests, the puzzles become so foreign and complex that it will take a keen mind to master every challenge.

Doodle Fit 2: Around the WorldThe gameplay is pretty straightforward: you must put all of the pieces into the grid by tapping and dragging them into place. Find the right solution at your leisure, but sometimes, there are multiple ways to complete it. The game tells you how many solutions there are when you finish a puzzle, but you only need one solution to pass. We all get lost sometimes, so If you ever mess up, you can swipe the blocks off of the grid or just shake your device and it will clear the entire board. You are given unlimited chances and even some helpful hints if your brain is churning a little too much.

Most puzzles games can be quite punishing on the mind, but Doodle Fit 2 gives you plenty of chances to have fun without halting your progress. By tapping the lightbulb button in the upper right corner, you can use one of your 20 starting hints to help you along. There are a set number of hints you can use on a level, but if you run out, the in-app purchases of extra hints will cost you some real cash instead of some in-game currency. In each new country, three puzzles are available for you to try, so if one isn't working well for you, you have two others to take a crack at. Cultural anthropology was never really that interesting, but turning the idea into a casual puzzle app is!

Doodle Fit 2: Around the WorldAnalysis: Doodle Fit 2 is jam-packed with 200 puzzles for you to enjoy while adding loads of crayon drawn visuals and diverse music to match the international feel of the game. If the music wasn't international enough, some puzzles even have educational tidbits about the object you are making. Everything about this game is interactive from the spin-navigated globe to multiple game modes for all players. It may seem like the game is catered more towards a younger audience, but some of these puzzles can leave pro puzzlers stumped.

Doodle Fit 2 suffers from the same problem many touch screen games fall victim to: the fact that your hands aren't transparent. The pieces are very strict with their placements, so if you aren't absolutely precise, it might be rejected and stash itself back in your inventory. It may hurt your scores in time attack mode, but it's a minor complaint when such a small app gives you so much free content to enjoy, such as the level editor and the ability to play puzzles made by other Doodle Fit players!

Namco really has a sleeper hit with Doodle Fit 2. It has a lot of potential thanks to its community features, yet the single player game doesn't suffer as a result. It may not be the next Draw Something, but it will be a hit with anyone who needs to feed their puzzle cravings. A port to Android could be a possibility in the future, but for now, only all-powerful iOS owners will have the chance to play this insightful addicting game!

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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dungeon-ascendance

KyhHey all you roguelike fans! Oh, and those of you who are also interested but maybe just haven't taken the leap yet, you should listen too because Seramy Games' Dungeon Ascendance could be what turns your interest into love. Available for your lovely Android device, it's a roguelike that offers its levels in easy to digest chunks that allow you to choose a different class before each one. Because there's nothing like getting down to the 20th level and regretting your choice of a mage. (Why is my HP still so low!?) But don't let the structure scare away you veterans; the challenge of the game packs quite a punch.

kyh_dungeonascendance_screen1.pngYou are a hero. Your goal is at it always has been: head into the deadly dungeon and defeat the evil master of monsters so they'll stop bothering the local townspeople. (Don't you remember the days when you could play in your front yard in peace?) By choosing your battles carefully and handling your hit points and magic points with a frugal eye, there'll be no problem in leveling up enough to take down the Dungeon Master.

The controls are fairly simple and all the information you could want is quite literally at your fingertips. Move your character around by tapping an empty square. Tapping a square with an item on it will automatically pick up that item (which may result in it also being used, depending on the item). Monsters work the same way, but you must first be standing in an adjacent square before tapping it will cause you to perform a melee attack. Abilities and potions, once in your inventory, are used by tapping them. Not sure what's what? Pressing and holding over an icon will create a pop-up window with more in depth information. It certainly helps out when you're not sure what the dripping red skull on the spider's stats mean.

kyh_dungeonascendance_screen2.pngAnalysis: While unlocking characters and making your way through the increasingly difficult dungeons is enough to keep at the game, where it's most compelling is in the long, long list of achievements. Found that dungeon too easy? Well how about doing it without using your Heal ability? It's the strategy of it all that helps keep this from being a generic roguelike. Pick a class, pick a dungeon, now complete it with the limited supplies you're given. Plus, when you eat some food to heal yourself, any creatures who've taken damage will also take the opportunity to heal themselves a bit. (What? Monsters with some sense of self-preservation?!)

What the game lacks is sound effects and music. Sure, you can set it to vibrate every time you tap something, but without the aural stimulation, it can be hard to really immerse yourself in the game. At least the chunky visuals help to make up for it by keeping a retro feel that so many of us fans of the genre are familiar with (check out the Credits to see where some of the neat tile art came from).

Sure, it's possible to sit and kill several hours on this game in one sitting, the structure of playing one level at a time with one class at a time makes it a great choice for those who need something they can pick up and drop easily. Is it a good game for your fifteen minute coffee breaks? Yes. Is it a good game for the twelve hour road trip to attend a wedding you don't really want to? Yes, definitely. And with the ability to transfer your progress from the free demo to the full version, there's no disadvantage to trying it out first.

Note: Since this review was written, Dungeon Ascendance has been updated to include sound and music as well as upscaled graphics for tablet devices!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on a Droid Razr. 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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JohnBKingdom Rush iPhoneHey there strategy and tower defense fans! Just a little note to announce a bit of good news for iPhone, Android and iPod Touch owners. Kingdom Rush, the so-awesome-it's-mega-awesome tower defense game from Ironhide Games, has finally made its way to small-screened iOS and Android devices, following Kingdom Rush HD for iPad and the browser version of Kingdom Rush last year. The game stands out as one of the best defense/strategy game on the planet, capturing two awards in our Best of 2011 feature, including Best Browser Defense or Strategy game along with Game of the Year! If you haven't tried it in one of its incarnations, you owe it to yourself to correct that mistake immediately!

Play Kingdom Rush everywhere!

Play Kingdom Rush


(6 votes) *Average rating will show after 20 votes
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Creation HD

joyeWelcome to another meeting of the society for combining things with other things. ("Hear, hear!") You may have enjoyed some previous games of this type such as the ever-popular Doodle God series. Well, we have now discovered a new game of this type called Creation HD - Back to Earth, from Egyptian developer Accorpa. In this game, you begin with four things that are not combined with other things in any way. But by combining these things, we can come up with other things to combine into still other things with an end result of 235 things!

Creation HDCreation HD uses the large screen of the iPad to its advantage by giving you a big open area to combine stuff in. This is especially helpful towards the end of the game where you can place a few promising elements on the screen and then drag new items out to try different combinations one by one. A helpful hint function also helps keep things from being tedious.

The plot (you're a scientist who traveled forward in time to a world where everything has been destroyed and needs to be recreated) is rather thin, and some of the artwork looks like it could have been borrowed from other sources. But the real reason you're here is for the pleasure of going from earth, air, water and fire to yogurt, cement and revolution, and this game gets that puzzle aspect just right!

NOTE: This game was played and reviewed on a New 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

JohnBSo, how's your summer going? If it's not summer where you live, we're coming over for a few weeks. Whatever it takes to get away from this heat. As a rule, any environmental temperature higher than that of our internal body temperature is a bad idea. So far, we've been hanging out playing mobile games with a fan blowing in our faces. So, seriously, we're coming over.

punchquest-p.gifRocketCat on a quest to punch - Did Mage Gauntlet capture your heart? Could you not get enough of Hook Champ or Super QuickHook? Neither could we, which is why we're jazzed to hear RocketCat is working on a brand new game, this time a retro-styled sidescrolling brawler called Punch Quest! As a barbarian pummeling hordes of enemies, you get to tap your way to victory using very simple touch screen controls. Not only that, but you can ride a dinosaur that shoots lasers out of its mouth. We swear that's the truth, so keep an eye out for some epic pixel-fueled adrenaline.

simogogame.gifSimogo gives us a riddle - Simogo has done nothing but tickle us giddy with its mobile releases so far, starting off with Kosmo Spin, moving to Bumpy Road, and most recently dropping in Beat Sneak Bandit. Now, its next game is in production, and the team has begun releasing a few teasers to set our brains a-conjurin' in the form of an ARG of sorts. Here's what we know: the game uses a new control method, it isn't level based nor is it endless, and they are "getting help within the anthropological field" to make it. Intrigued? Us too. Which is exactly why you should check out their site for a few other hints and suggestions on where to find more information!

outwitters-p.jpgOutwitters to outwit soon - From the creator of Tilt to Live, Outwitters is a colorful turn-based multiplayer strategy game coming in just a few days to iOS devices. Each team of pirate fish (the default units) has five unique characters that can be spawned and sent out to occupy the other player's base. Additional unlockable teams include a robot army and the ultra-cute Adorables, which makes us think the game could involve a lot of cross-species hugging. That, or it's a bit like UniWar meets Starcraft, which is absolutely fine with us!

Got some delicious info on an upcoming mobile release, current event, or other tasty news tidbit? We want to know! Send an e-mail with "Mobile Monday" in the subject line to johnb AT casualgameplay DOT com. We'll sift through the submissions and feature our favorites on a Mobile Monday article! Keen!


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Rating: 4.6/5 (21 votes)
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Lucky Rabbit Reflex!

DoraIn Lucky Rabbit Reflex!, a vibrant visual novel life simulation from Roxanne Chen of Studio Super63, you control a plucky young heroine who has transferred to a new school in her final year. It's a chance to reinvent yourself, but it's also a chance to potentially find romance... if you can get close enough to any of the guys in your new social circle, that is. Packed with humour, charm, and some genuine heart, Lucky Rabbit Reflex! is a warm, engaging, and blissfully drama-free experience that's easy to get into a very hard to put down.

Lucky Rabbit Reflex!There are five (... or more... ) potential fellows for you to cozy up to, and each of them is looking for something very different in a girlfriend. However, the path to success in your love life and your new school depends on a lot of things, from doing well at studies to balancing friends, school clubs, and a part time job with the other important aspects of your life. Each day, you can select an activity that will potentially lead to an increase in one of your skills... as well as a bit of stress. Don't worry, you can always relax if you need to cool off for a bit. On the weekends, don't forget to refer to your diary to check out any job opportunities if you want to increase your cash flow, but you'll need to be qualified for it first. Don't neglect work or the school clubs... you never know who you might meet, or what it might lead to if you dedicate yourself to it with a little elbow grease.

On Saturdays, you can take some time to yourself to shop or unwind, as well as check up on fashion and e-mails, but you'll also be able to call up the people you know to hang out. In addition to maybe getting to know one of the potential bachelors a bit better, this is also your chance to build and strengthen friendships with the other girls you'll meet in school. Since you can save or load by right-clicking to open the menu, don't be afraid to retry certain scenes if you don't get a favorable response to your choice... it's not cheating, it's... looking out for number one!

Lucky Rabbit Reflex!Analysis: Lucky Rabbit Reflex! is one of those rare games it's impossible to be in a bad mood while playing. From its polished presentation and expressive characters to its bouncy soundtrack, it's effortlessly enjoyable and addictive. What sets Lucky Rabbit Reflex! apart from so many other visual novels, however, is how instantly likable and genuine its cast seems. Roxanne's writing is enviably natural, creating believable dialogue that makes everyone you'll encounter feel like people rather than characters, and you'll want to get to know them as a result. This even extends to the heroine herself, which is a welcome touch. It's just a shame that there's no option for girl-girl romance for players who might not want only heterosexual choices, which will, for some people, definitely limit its appeal. Similarly, you might want to avoid this one if mild casual profanity or the use of words like "retard" in a negative sense offend you.

Speaking of romance, however, Lucky Rabbit Reflex! earns some high marks for actually making something that feels like a relationship rather than a one-sided chase sequence. In most cases, telling the guys what you think they want to hear is a bad idea, and they all respond much more favorably to honesty and are a lot more entertaining as a result. On the downside, it often doesn't feel like there are enough different events for the guys or the gals. Certain scenes will repeat word for word if you decide to hang out with people, which is a bit of a disappointment considering how often it happens. During one playthrough, I was given the option to walk Merle to the bus stop three days in a row, and each time resulted in exactly the same exchange. I also did personally feel that at least one of the relationships was a little creepy, largely due to how it was presented, but that may come down to a matter of personal taste.

Lucky Rabbit Reflex!The problem with a lot of life simulations is that balancing statistics and stress usually winds up being more frustrating than fun, but somehow Lucky Rabbit Reflex! manages to neatly sidestep that by being both streamlined and forgiving. It's remarkably easy to balance your heroine's stats out, and this lets you relax and enjoy the game without stressing over, well, stress. Handy, since getting the best endings for most of the guys generally requires performing exceptionally well in particular areas. In general, however, you'll find that it's usually pretty obvious how to keep meeting up with people and triggering new scenes, so you likely won't find yourself floundering around waiting for something to happen like other titles.

Lucky Rabbit Reflex! isn't as deep or complex as other titles, but it's accessibility and snappy writing stands a good chance of winning over everyone from casual fans to diehard otome-fanatics. It's decidedly light on drama, and is the perfect choice for putting a smile on your face... especially if you're looking for something with a lot of replay value. Though even the "best" endings for each guy feel a little abrupt, Lucky Rabbit Reflex! still offers a ton of content and charm for multiple playthroughs that means it's well worth making a date with.

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SQUIDS Wild West

JohnBRole playing games aren't an uncommon sight, and neither are fling-based arcade games. But if you combine the two, throw in a dash of strategy, dozens of fish/cephalopod puns, and layer on some gorgeous artwork, you've got something truly rare. SQUIDS Wild West is the follow-up to the original SQUIDS game, combining a number of gameplay elements into a casual game that can ride two seahorses at the same time!

squidswildwest.jpgA lot of critics compare the SQUIDS games to Angry Birds, but this isn't entirely accurate and, honestly, doesn't do SQUIDS the justice it deserves. The game takes place in a top-down perspective and puts you in control of four squids at a time, each with his or her own personality, stats and abilities. You move by pressing on a squid and drawing back, stretching its tentacles to create a good snap that will send them flying off in the opposite direction, collecting items, opening treasure chests, and damaging enemies in the process. You have limited traveling power per round, and once your entire team has a go, the enemy gets to have its turn, so there's just as much strategy at work here as there is arcade skill and blind luck.

Each level has a set goal, ranging from defeating all enemies to making it to the exit point or something unexpectedly in-between. Before each stage you can pick your party, mixing and matching the different classes to form a proper posse that can tackle the challenge at hand. Healers, for example, tend to be weaker on the attack but can heal friendly squid by bumping into them. Shooters have a nice ranged special ability, and scouts can travel long distances with each move. You can level-up these party members, equip them with hats (some of which bestow stat upgrades), and purchase items in the store using pearls you collect in the stages, so there's a nice RPG flavoring to soak up in addition to all of the action and strategy.

squidswildwest2.jpgSQUIDS Wild West deals with terrain as well as enemy and party placement, and you have to be just as aware of your surroundings as you are your hit points. Urchins are often sitting around the stage, just waiting to damage anyone (friend or foe) that happens by. Exploding coral, swirling vortices, and bottomless chasms that swallow all who slip off the side must also be dealt with, making SQUIDS much more than just a "use the most powerful moves to win" sort of game. You have to exercise subtlety, you have to employ smart tactics, and you have to use your items wisely!

Analysis: SQUIDS Wild West is the result of developer The Game Bakers tweaking the original formula based on player feedback. The core of the experience is the same, but plenty of new things have been added, including twice as many missions as the first game, new enemies, four new heroes, new helmets, rideable seahorses, and a handful of other new gameplay bits.It's the very definition of a good sequel, and best of all, you don't even need to be familiar with the original SQUIDS to get a kick out of this one!

For all its attention to being casual-friendly and incorporating elements from many genres without watering down the experience, SQUIDS Wild West still takes a little time to get into. It's charming and unique when you first start playing, of course, but the game's real strengths don't set in until you're several levels in and start unlocking new characters, seahorse mounts to ride, and deal with smarter enemies. At this point, you'll see that SQUIDS isn't messing around when it comes to smart gameplay or creative content.

SQUIDS Wild West It's a remarkably well-polished game that looks gorgeous and is an absolute joy to play. No level grinding and no frustration, but there's still challenge and character improvement to be had. The SQUIDS series is a prime example of what happens when a developer loves their game so much, they actually pour their hearts into making it the best product it could possibly be.

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


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On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode 3

DoraIf you work at a place called the Startling Developments Detective Agency, there are things you just get used to seeing. Unholy mime cults. Time-traveling dinosaur super spies. Hands imbued by the purest of all urine. But even Tycho and Gabe might not be prepared for what happens when the ancient book, the Necrowombicon, goes missing right around the time hostile creatures start flooding the streets of New Arcadia and reality starts trying to tear itself apart. If this is all in a day's work for them, they'd better have some seriously shiny benefits packages. Zeboyd Games teams up with pop-culture icons Penny Arcade to deliver a delightfully twisted and off-kilter turn-based RPG experience in On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness: Episode Three. While the first two installments were originally developed by Hothead Games, no experience with them is necessary.

On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode 3Move your intrepid party with the [WASD] or [arrow] keys, and interact with people or objects by hitting [enter], while [tab] or the [spacebar] opens up a menu where you can view your characters' status or save your game at almost any time. Almost any time, I say, because it's sort of hard to concentrate while getting beaten in the face, and that's something the Startling Developments Detective Agency apparently has to deal with startling regularity. I don't know why. It's not like Gabe's an antagonist and Tycho's an insufferable elitist or anything. All battles can be seen as monsters on the map, and when you encounter one, you'll automatically engage in fisticuffs. Some of these challenges will come with special conditions that can help or hinder you, such as more powerful enemies or a boost to your own strength.

These fights are traditionally turn-based, with heroes and enemies attacking according to the gauge at the top of the screen. Regular attacks are free, but special class abilities need to be used with Magic Points, which accumulate one per turn throughout the course of the fight. These Magic Points don't carry over to the next battle, but upon victory your party will be returned to top health, so there's that. Additionally, your items can only be used a certain number of times per battle until you upgrade them. If you want to get even fancy, or just survive, you'll want to learn how best to take advantage of Class Pins, which can be equipped to add new skills and the like to different characters. Dare you unlock the masterful prowess of the Elemenstor... the Gardenar... or... the Slacker?!

On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode 3Analysis: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness is a series that's had its fair share of bumps in the road, with the first two installments being made by a different development team. Episode Three is, to say the last, a vastly different beast from its spiritual predecessors, and there are certainly going to be things you'll miss from those titles if you were a fan, such as the ability to create your own character. That said, however, taken on its own merits, Episode Three is still a very robust and likable little title that manages to capture the breezy dialogue and story of the previous games without feeling like it's straining too hard in the process. The balance between absurdist, frequently vulgar humor and an occasional attempt at serious storytelling isn't always a perfect one, but the game still manages to pull off a lot of funny moments and some intriguing plot developments that build on the world and the characters within it.

On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode 3Unfortunately, the lion's share of the gameplay that comes down to crawling across maps battering enemies can tend to drag a bit. It feels less like exploring in a traditional RPG adventure and more like hammering a blockade apart bit by bit to get to the next portion of the story. There's just not enough to do outside of battle when you're not watching characters talk. The battles themselves, however, do tend to feel pleasingly strategic, especially when special conditions come into play. Figuring out the proper way to take on a big fight is satisfying, and seemingly impossible challenges can be handily dealt with if you're kitted out in the proper Class Pins beforehand. Since there're no random encounters, there's also no grinding, so you have to think about every fight you come across if you're having trouble and adjust your strategy accordingly.

On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness Episode Three will, for a lot of players, live or die by its combat, and if you don't enjoy the fighting then chances are you'll feel the game start to drag a bit before long. I found myself needing to take breaks from its relentless battles, but I also kept coming back to it. Fans of strategic RPG gameplay will definitely find a lot to sink their teeth into here, and it's hard not to find yourself compelled to keep discovering more about New Arcadia and the heroes and weirdos within it. If you played the first two games in the series then chances are you'll find yourself wishing you could have had the opportunity to continue your own adventures with Gabe and Tycho, but Episode Three still delivers a robustly challenging and frequently funny old-school RPG experience that's heavy on wit, offense, strangeness, and retro style.

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